Author: Shay (jracklesfan77, untold_story)
Show: Dark Angel
Genre: General, Angst
Summary: Alec doesn't know Max as well as he thought he did
The door slammed open, breaking his concentration.
He blinked. It figured. Who else would come bursting into the room expecting the occupant to drop everything and pay her some attention?
"Who's gone?" he asked tiredly. He couldn't fake his concern or his interest; there was none. Alec and Max had been at odds even more of late, and their last interaction ended in blows, heated words and a firm decision on Alec's part not to let her get to him again. Enough was enough.
And yet, here she was, coming to whine to him about the injustices of her life. How typical.
"Rook. He's gone. Left. Just got up this morning and told me he couldn't do this anymore," she said, planting her hand on her hips, face twisted in a scowl. "Whatever 'this' is," she muttered.
Alec wore his indifference well. "So you and lover boy had another spat?" Big surprise. When did Max not argue? If it wasn't Alec it was Logan, or in this case, Rook
"Ugh, you're impossible. It wasn't a spat. He just left!"
Alec snorted. "I'm sure you didn't do anything to influence his decision. He's just a spontaneous kind of guy, ain't that right?"
She had the nerve to look affronted. "What crawled up your butt today?"
"You've got some nerve, Max. Your love life bores me. Besides, why should I care? You don't need me or my advice, remember? I never have anything worthwhile to say and it's all a waste of your time, right? You couldn't have forgotten that already! I mean, it was just last night."
Max was taken aback at the bitter tone. The Alec she knew always took whatever she dished out and let it roll off of him like water. He was the happy-go-lucky Alec, the quick-to-grin, cocky, self-assured X5 she'd grown to depend on. The one who always let her yell and moan but always had a joke to lighten the mood. She didn't know this Alec, and she didn't think she liked him, either.
"No, Max, it's your turn to listen. You come blazin' in here, huffing that Rook left you. Same thing with Cade, and Logan last year. If you haven't noticed," his focus was intent on her face; Alec wanted to make sure he didn't miss her reaction, "the guys in your life? Tend to walk out on you. Don't you ever wonder why?"
Max sputtered indignantly but Alec put a hand up to stop her. "Nuh uh," he said, pointing at his chest, "talking here. Attitude, Max. It's all in the attitude. It's your way or the highway and most guys? Well, they prefer the highway." He shook his head before thinking to himself, 'God knows I would.'
Alec covered Max's mouth with his hand when she opened it to protest. "Truth hurts, Max. But you need a reality check, and fast."
Max ripped his hand from her face and shoved him back forcefully. "Shut up, Alec. You don't know what you're talking about. As usual," she spat.
Alec's temper rose. He was sick of the verbal abuse she so carelessly aimed at him. "Your attitude is enough to drive a man to drink...with more pleasant company. Why the others stayed with you as long as they did is beyond me."
Max stiffened. "Whatever. I'm leaving."
"No, no, we're not finished here," Alec protested, stepping in front of her and blocking her exit. "Rook's my friend, Max. He's easy-going, fun, loyal. What did you do this time?"
"Why do you think I did something? Yeah, I get that your opinion of me is less than stellar, but hey, I know I'm not perfect. But why is it my fault he left? You have no idea what happened."
A mixture of sadness and amusement crossed his face. After a moment of consideration, where Alec studied her, he just had to ask.
"Do you even know what happened?" She scowled but said nothing. He continued, "You barged into my office, interrupted me in the middle of something important to rant about your boyfriend leaving you out of the blue. Given your relationship history, it stands to reason that it was your fault."
"I don't care what you think. You're wrong." She went to move past him, but Alec blocked her in again, arms open wide.
"And you know what else?" he chuckled when her eyes narrowed in an obvious display of displeasure, "I know you don't care what I think but I'm gonna tell you anyway. I think that you were less uptight once. You've got friends and you've even landed a couple boyfriends. God knows you wouldn't have managed that if you always acted like this, so it begs the question," he paused a moment, watching as her eyes flashed in anger, "Where did you go wrong?"
He watches as her face hardened, eyes blazing and her lips pursed tightly. He wondered how far he could go before she snapped. Served her right for the way she treated him the day before.
"What is it, Max? You know, you're not the only one who has a hard time lettin' people in, but at least the rest of us don't attack without provocation. Manticore would be proud; your emotional perimeter defense system is stronger than ever."
That last comment struck a chord in Max, unearthed a memory she had long ago buried and forgotten. For all that Max was a tough bird, there were just some things that got to her. Her history of bad relationships was one of them. She hadn't thought much about it until a certain encounter with an ex-boyfriend one night in Crash. He'd pretty much called her a human fog bank; emotionally stunted and incapable of maintaining a meaningful connection.
So, to say that Alec was shocked at the expression that crossed her face would be an understatement. He'd expected fireworks; ranting, raving, hitting, possibly even spitting and hissing and sharp, pointy objects hurled in his direction. He'd never have expected Max's face to crumple, her shoulders to sag and the resulting vulnerable picture she presented. To her credit, she quickly covered the hurt, but Alec felt bad just the same.
"Look, Max," said Alec, apologetically, "I didn't mean-,"
Max straightened, her face falling into a familiar, blank, emotionless mask. "No, you meant what you said. And maybe you're right." She turned to the door. "I'm gonna go."
"Wait, Max," Alec tried, "I'm sorry."
He wasn't sure he needed to apologize; after all, what he'd said was true, but he hadn't meant to hurt her...exactly.
"Funny thing?" she offered. "We didn’t fight. He just left. In fact, we hadn't fought in weeks. I thought things were good with us. Stupid of me, huh?"
Alec didn't know what to say to that. He gave Max his undivided attention, waiting for her to continue with this rare confession.
"I told him I loved him."
Alec was floored. Here he was ripping into her for the uncompromising attitude and abrasive manner she affected with most everyone around her, and the reality was that she'd taken a leap of faith and confessed feelings for the guy. The same guy who had obviously decided it was too much for him.
"Guess he got the memo, after all. Max doesn't do long-term."
With those words she exited his office, leaving Alec in silence.