fic request & prompt & beta from lomer!
Title: The Sitter
Rating: PG - Gen - Alec & Cindy & OMC
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Alec narrowed his eyes at the child seated opposite him. This little punk wasn’t even making rudimentary calculations on probability. Even if the outdated trivia cards ever came into play, beating this zygote would be as easy as eating cake.
It was a real nice apartment building as far as nice got around here.
At least the view from the sidewalk seemed just fine. Alec kicked a glass crack pipe burnt black from use, and didn’t hang around to see if his shot made the goal lines of the sewer grate. Unless you pulled stakes and moved out of the city limits, all the garbage and the people that shed it had a way of seeping in no matter how hard one tried to clean up the neighborhood. He paused behind Cindy when the uniformed doorman stopped them from entering with a handheld metal detector.
The device went off over a large butterfly knife Alec liked to keep under his belt and shirt.
“Stupid phone.” Alec smiled broadly. “Gets me in trouble every time.”
“Let’s see it.”
Alec removed a cell in his jacket pocket whilst simultaneously sliding the knife up his sleeve. Holding his arms widely out in cheerful surrender; he struggled to maintain his polite smile even though the second pass roughly included an unnecessary verification of his crotch too.
“Okay.” The man nodded. “Have a super day.”
Squeezing in with Cindy through the revolving doors, he was surprised to discover a vast clear space overhead that made up the airy atrium. Outside of the real money that could buy some paradise far above the noise of the streets, the endangered species of the middle class didn’t seem to be doing so badly for themselves down in the trenches. Like everyone else, they had carved out their niche in the world. And like history had shown repeatedly, the bourgeois were successful at a lot more than survival. Alec took in the tacky waterfall and artfully recessed lighting. These guys always managed to have enough energy left over to beautify the dumps they salvaged. He had definitely noticed right away that there was a distinct lack of urine scent in the lobby and no pornographic graffiti to be found. Even the front windows and sidewalks were devoid of spray-paint in spite of the craptastic cherub statues that flanked the entrance at either side.
“Imagine that.” Cindy mumbled as their escalator moved them smoothly past the misting fountain. “Livin’ in a real house.”
“How do I score a place in here?”
“Not you, sugar.” She apparently felt no need to soften the blow. “You is what they call an ‘unlikely asset.”
“I’m a totally likely asset.” Alec muttered defensively.
“Baby, in this world you don’t get money if you actually need money.” Cindy took a wrong turn before she led them to the bank of chrome elevators. “No one is going to help our broke asses ‘cept other broke asses.”
Faux marble tile. Plastic potted ferns. Tasteful muzak.
“I think I know what this building was before the Pulse.” Alec gazed thoughtfully up at the massive mobile sculpture than hung enigmatically overhead. “I think it used to be an insurance firm… or advertisement agency… or I don’t know, something unkind—“
Alec stepped into the vomit free elevator.
“Speaking of assets—“
He had only come along because there had been a job promised him. A job that would leave him all on his own in a building filled with other people's unattended stuff.
“All you gotta do is hang out while I take my cousin out to this bridal shower party thing.”
Alec’s gaze flickered again over the short white skirt, barely buttoned blouse and ill advised heels. He had no actual physical proof that Cindy might spend some of her off hours as a prostitute but many of her clothing selections left him to presume it was a high probability.
“You ever been around…” Cindy asked. “…children?”
“Tons.” Alec nodded. “I even was one once.”
Cindy considered him doubtfully.
Alec understood all the weird looks. Who wanted to entrust their precious offspring to some freak that used to shoot at his peers as target practice? His own flippancy made him nauseous and heavy, drawing all his anxiety into an uncomfortable weight at the pit of his stomach. He backed into the corner of the elevator as comprehension of the task sickeningly sunk in. However, the sight of Cindy absently checking her makeup and arranging her hair made him stand up a little bit straighter. She wasn’t worried about a small child being left in the grips of some psychotic. There was a comfort in her utter lack of concern. There was an unspoken understanding that he was being trusted to protect a commodity that most Ordinaries considered more valuable than money.
Or at least a faith that Alec knew how to dial for emergency services should anything catch on fire.
He happily fixed his jacket and found a real smile again.
“Do I get to tell them what to do? I’m really good at telling people what to do--"
“It’s not a Them.” Cindy took two tries before she could unlock the door. “It’s just one itty bitty He.”
With the handy use of a spare key, no knocking was involved. Finally stepping inside the apartment itself, Alec felt a little bit more at home. While the outside facades had all been restored to middle class aesthetics, the insides looked like any other squatters doing the best they could. Although the view of the city was definitely above average, and the heating system seemed to actually work. Alec tested a kitchen faucet and frowned when scalding water arrived without even a moment’s delay. All other available faucets provided the same results. His awed appreciation shifted into irritation at the thought of his own crappy building that was lucky to manage lukewarm water once a week. That was if he got any water at all out of the bang and rattle of ancient pipes. It was then that it occurred to him that the apartment was fairly quiet.
A little too quiet.
He crouched down to lower his center of gravity and scanned the area.
“Oh come on now.” Cindy rolled her eyes. “If this is how its gonna be, then just forget the whole thing—“
“Wait!” Alec held up his hands. “At least give me a clue? Tell me where it’s hiding, that way I’ll have the advantage of surprise—“
“That boy was supposed to be outta that damn shower by now."
Alec stared at the closed door at the end of the hall. Cindy pounded on it a few times before letting herself in and briefly having a conversation he couldn’t follow. When she reemerged she seemed more than ready to get the hell out of there.
“That reminds me.” She pointed behind her. “The toilet gets backed up a lot.”
Alec watched Cindy perform some last minute primping before heading back towards the front door.
“So, how long are you gonna be?”
“I don’t know, depends on how bad the bride to be wants to forget she’s gettin’ hitched.” Cindy did a 360 degree turn in the hallway mirror. “Maybe you'll see us on the 5 o'clock news takin' our shirts off."
Alec gnawed at the inside of his lip and calculated just how long it would viably take to complete the trip downtown. Factoring in late buses and Cindy’s propensity for multiple umbrella drinks, he knew he was looking a much larger time frame. Four hours on the inside but most likely the entire afternoon.
His displeasure plain to see, he kicked a ventilation duct that hadn’t been fastened to the ceiling. An open plastic cart of tools rattled onto its side and onto the floor.
She handed over a printed schedule.
“It’ll be fun.” Cindy said. “And I know yer real handy with instructions.”
Alec perked. He knew how to follow instructions. Studying the printout he saw his ward was meant to be regulated on an hourly basis, broken up by smaller slivers of time indicating food rations. Alec shrugged, mildly impressed by some parent's maniacal need to delegate time. This wasn’t so different from back at home. All he had to do was stay on the clock and use firm phraseology. Besides that, what was there left to do?
He causally placed himself between Cindy and the door before she could vanish for good.
“So feed it, clothe it and make sure no one breaks in and tries to... uh, why would anyone break in just for one substandard zygote—“
“That zygote is my nephew-in-law.” Cindy impatiently explained over her powder compact.
“It’s probably going to do something on its own right? Like nappy time or some shit?”
“It’s ten in the morning, honey.” She removed the chain on the lock and used her keys to pry Alec’s hand away from the remaining bolt. “Think you’re all set on the sleep part.”
“B-But wait?” Alec used his body weight to slam the door back closed. “What if- What if it has to take a leak?”
“The zygote is also 8 years old.”
“So what? Are you saying 8 year olds don’t have to—”
“I’ll see you later.”
It was a pretty ominous sentiment to leave someone with on the other side of a door.
Alec felt his compressed nervousness peak when the last of the bolts slid into place. He pressed his face up against the wood so he could listen to her departure, the sound of her heels making double time towards the elevators just in case Alec might change his mind.
He let his hand fall away from the doorknob.
It was hard to find legal gigs that paid 20 bucks an hour. Especially sitting around in a bullet free environment while chugging back fruit punch packaged in convenient sippy boxes. Alec looked around warily at the well-stocked kitchen and the shabby chic upholstered furniture.
He’d made a whole lot less money in far less reasonable surroundings.
Alec carefully consulted the color coded spreadsheet he’d been provided.
His first scan of it indicated a strong emphasis on mathematics in the mornings, literature after a short lunch break, then musical theory that included some lab work with an actual piano. After than it was more study, an evening hour for yoga and then the day started as it ended: applied calculus.
Alec sat back on the comfortable sofa and put his boots up. Flipping the butterfly knife in his hand, he couldn't figure out where he could possibly fit in some breaking and entering between the packed time slots.
He glanced down the hall as the shrill singing coming from the bathroom grew more lively.
As far as he could tell, the plan also didn't include any contingencies that allowed for hours of free form karaoke in the can. Alec cycled through the various remote controls on the coffee table but not a single one of them turned the television on. Quickly bored, he made himself busy with a pile of unopened mail as he listened to the splatter of shower water, the plastic thud of dropped bottles and the occasional off-key song of the embryo.
The water stopped.
Taking a deep breath, Alec got to his feet and tried not to do some calisthenic bouncing. Although Max wasn't even currently in the same sector, he could almost hear the curt reprimand telling him to stow it. Warming up for physical confrontation apparently was only a normal thing to do in the practice yard and only when everyone else involved was worried about dying too. With a regretful look at the pile of juice boxes he’d left on the table, he wondered how long it would take to burn off all that high fructose corn syrup. He forced himself to stop fidgeting and worked his fists instead.
The kid was a lot smaller than he’d pictured.
“Hi.” The boy waved. “I’m Jimmy.”
With skinny limbs and big brown eyes that were too large for his face, he probably weighed a total fifty pounds soaking wet. According to the spreadsheet, it wasn’t even close to any bed times but there were already some flannel PJs covered in little cartoon robots with matching socks.
“Are you Mr. Alec?” Jimmy asked. “Auntie Cindy said Alec was coming over. Are you him?”
Alec noisy sucked a few more times on a juice box to make sure it was really spent. How easy would it be to pull a con on a little kid? Unfortunately, taking candy from babies wasn’t listed in the business plan.
“Yup. That’s me. I’m Mr… uh, just call me Alec.”
They both shifted uncertainly in the ensuing silence.
“So yer uh… yer Johnny right?”
“Jimmy. You wanna see my room?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“Wanna play a game?”
“Sure. I love games. Let’s play a game. You got one of them new play stations with 3-D displays? I know the software is pretty slow but they had a decent update of ‘Pitfall’--”
Alec watched the kid dash to a heaping stack of crap in the corner. To his mild shock, the box that was pulled free was an actual old fashioned board game. It was even the kind with a fold up paper display and little plastic pieces you had to move around yourself.
“What is this?” He flipped over the faded box cover.
“It’s the best game ever!”
Alec blinked down at the scrolling script that read: Trivial Pursuit
“No, no, you don’t want to play this. It’s idiotic pop culture and mediocre statistical knowledge that any moron could deduce as long as they stayed awake through any pre-school scholastic program- W-Wait, what are you doing?”
“If I roll first I get the blue piece!”
Alec had to think about that one twice before it clicked.
“If the ‘act of rolling’ gets you the blue piece than why roll at all—“
“I rolled 7! I get the blue piece!”
Alec thought fast.
The blue play piece was clearly the coolest piece to be had. He didn’t care how much he was being paid, he wasn’t playing Trivial Pursuit: The Even Lamer Version with some delightfully pink piece of shit in his hand. Alec narrowed his eyes at the child seated opposite him. This little punk wasn’t even making rudimentary calculations on probability. Even if the outdated trivia cards ever came into play, beating this zygote would be as easy as eating cake.
“If I roll second,” Alec shook the dice loosely in his fist. “I get the green one.”
“But you rolled a 5.” The kid informed him happily.
Alec watched as all the pieces were slid away like a jackpot and carefully placed on the opposite side of the board.
“That means you can only win if you answer all the questions.” Jimmy declared. “And you gotta take this piece.”
Alec had no idea what other game box the sparkly Barbie Doll fairy wand came from but that pepto pink hunk of plastic was looking better by the second.
“But-but the rules say, the rules say we have to—“
“Those rules are all wrong.” Jimmy explained. “I read ‘em, and I figured out how you really play and you have to play like this because that’s how the rules are.”
With a wipe of his nose across a pajama sleeve, the kid leaned over to collect Alec’s pile of motels. Was this game supposed to even have fucking motels? Wiping his sweaty hands on the thighs of his jeans, Alec fought back a surge of anxiety. Rules were rules. You couldn’t go around creating new ones. This little bastard was making them up and not even telling anyone else that happened to be playing.
Despite his better judgment, Alec started to kind of like this guy.
“It’s your turn.” The kid urged from his sprawl on the carpet.
“Wh-What do I do?”
“You roll the dice. Duh.”
Alec carefully controlled his breathing.
“Then what, Johnny?”
“If um…if you roll a 6, you win? But- But if you roll a 3 you lose! Like really bad.”
Alec nodded gravely in understanding. If bullshit was the game than he could play in the major leagues. With some regained confidence, he palmed the dice with the knowledge he could make them drop in any value he wanted them to. When the cubes clattered to a rest showing two sets of 3, Alec tossed his arms up in sweet triumph.
“Eat that, James!” Alec felt his mood pick up at the sight of his opponent's pout. “I won. What did I win?”
“You didn’t win!” Jimmy got up on his knees and started taking what was left of Alec’s tiny plastic real estate. “You got a 3!”
“You said I needed a 6!”
“No, you got a 3.” The kid had very little sympathy for the dilemma. “TWO 3s.”
Alec examined an empty juice box before tossing it aside.
“Does your mom keep any… any uh, whiskey around?”
“You’re not supposed to drink if you’re watching me.”
Alec reconsidered his options.
“So... what can I do?”
“Eat and watch TV?”
“Now we’re talkin’.”
cross posted to jam_pony_fic