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And In The Winter's Bitter Chill by alyse [Reviews - 14]
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Category: Dark Angel > General
Characters: Alec, Logan
Rating: PG-13
Genres: Angst
Warnings: None

Summary: Winter's come early this year. Logan tries not to read too much into that. Gen (although there might be a hint of Logan and Alec pre-slash if you squint)





Spoilers: It's set post Season 2, but the only spoilers are for The Berrisford Agenda and possibly for Freak Nation

Author's Notes: Written for restless_jedi in the jam_pony_fic ficathon. Prompt was: Joshua paints to remember. Alec plays piano to forget. Logan misses the past. Could be slash or gen.

Many thanks to kageygirl for the beta.

***

Winter's come early this year.

Logan tries not to read too much into that. It's not an ill wind that's whistling through Seattle's streets and it's not an ill omen that there's already snow on the ground in a city that's usually wet and mild, no matter how tempting it is to view it like that.

The weather serves its purpose. Fuel prices are up - inevitable in a fucked-up economy like this one - but even so the streets are virtually empty, people preferring to huddle indoors. No one's out but him and that means that no one notices him.

He's starting to like that.

It's still difficult to get as close to Terminal City as he would like. The Sector Police are out, but the weather keeps them close to their posts. It helps and it hinders. There's no lingering, not when the temperature is heading towards zero. No double or triple checking of sector passes, no hold ups. No one looks twice him and he passes by unnoticed, just another shapeless body, bundled up against the cold and in a hurry to get nowhere.

But it also means that the cops stay close to their posts outside Terminal City too, where the braziers burn bright and hot. There's no sneaking close to the wire, not tonight, and while there are other ways in - most of which he's sure he doesn't know about - he can't justify using them, not when he can't guarantee he won't draw attention and close off what could turn out to be a vital lifeline for the transgenics inside.

He's not that selfish. Not yet. So he watches. Watches and waits and hopes - for what, he's not admitting, even to himself. Some sign of life beyond the wire? A glimpse of light? A glimpse of dark hair and a smile?

There's nothing but the chill of the wind, stinging his face.

It doesn't take long for it to drive him back indoors.

***

He hears the piano as he heads up the steps to the porch, and his lips tighten with irritation. It figures that Alec wouldn't think twice about sneaking out, Sector Police or no. It also figures that Alec wouldn't think twice about letting himself in and making himself at home.

He lets the door swing - slam - shut behind him, and the music pauses for a brief moment, just long enough to show that Alec knows that he's there before it picks up again. The melody changes, no longer as angry or as strident as it was when he first trotted up the steps. The tempo's slower, like the lull before the storm, or the calm in its wake.

He doesn't recognise it. He didn't recognise the one before it either. With his upbringing and the hours spent sitting in too tight suits in chilly theatres with his parents, it's surprising that he isn't familiar with them but he'll be damned if he's going to ask. Instead he throws his coat down on the chair, throws some more wood on the fire and busies himself making coffee, letting the coffee pot clatter where it will as he heats up the water.

There's no hitch in the music this time, no matter how much noise he makes. It's an arrogant little dismissal and so Alec it makes his jaw ache, teeth clenched tightly against everything he can't - won't - say.

No, he won't ask and he won't acknowledge Alec's little game. Instead he clutches the counter, fingers digging in hard as he watches the steam from the pan rise into the chill air and pretends he doesn't notice.

But the message has been received and understood all the same.

***

In the end, it's good manners that drive him down into the basement. He can't find it in himself not to be a good host even when he's an unwilling one. Being gracious was another lesson driven home to him during his youth, side by side with an appreciation for fine music and finer wine.

And Alec, for all that it pains Logan to admit it, plays well. Better than Logan expects. Oh, he'd expected the technical proficiency; Manticore made them well, including - especially - Alec. It's the rest that surprises him. The fact that Alec plays with passion. With pain. With something actually approaching genuine human emotion.

That he doesn't expect.

And as the evening draws on, he finally starts to recognise some of the pieces, standards he'd seen played by many of the great concert pianists before the Pulse. Alec could probably hold his own against them, which bites harder than Logan expects. Just another reminder that Alec is apart, different.

Better.

He's not surprised when, partway through cooking supper, the music changes, becomes show tunes, bouncy little pieces that he knows Alec well enough by now to identify as a hearty 'fuck you' aimed in his direction. He ignores that too and sets one place at the table in a passive 'fuck you' back. Being gracious only goes so far.

The music changes yet again and the pasta sits heavily in his stomach. It's another melody he doesn't recognise, something sad and slow and filled with longing. It's softer and he has to strain to hear it, fork halfway to his mouth. By the time he comes back to himself, his food is cooling on his plate, congealing into something unappetising.

The music stops entirely while he stands at the sink, washing his supper dishes, and for long moments he stands there motionless, hands in soapy water, waiting for it to begin again.

It's when it doesn't that he goes downstairs.

"Hey."

"Hey."

Alec doesn't look up. His fingers are resting lightly on the keys and Logan wonders if Alec's even moved since he stopped playing. The silence hangs heavily in the air, strange not just because the piano is silent but because Alec is silent too. Logan's grown used to Alec's inane chatter and the absence of it makes him worry, more for what Alec is planning or the trouble that Alec can bring than for Alec himself.

Or so he tells himself.

Whatever the reason, Logan finds himself shifting uncomfortably on his feet, at a loss for how to continue this non-starter of a conversation. "So… How is everyone?"

"Max is fine."

Alec's voice is hollow and he still doesn't look up, his gaze focused instead on his fingers, which are trailing over the keys. He doesn't press hard enough on any of them to wring notes out of the old instrument but Logan finds himself biting his lip, bracing himself for a sound that never comes. Alec's fingers come to rest on the middle C, pressing a little harder this time but still not hard enough to make a sound.

"She says hi," Alec continues. Logan doubts that. If Max knew Alec was here, she'd already have come in, guns blazing, to kick his ass for sneaking out.

"Does she now?" He doesn't bother to shroud the doubt in his voice, letting the dryness speak for itself. He leans against the wall, folding his arms, a disdainful little pose that would work better if Alec would actually look in his direction.

There's no answer this time, but Alec's fingers are on the move again and it's starting to set Logan's teeth on edge. "And Joshua?"

"The Big Fella's fine. Mole's fine. We're all fine."

There's a deadness to Alec's voice that Alec isn't trying to hide and that's… worrying. Alec's fingers finally hit the keys, sending a discordant, jarring sound thrumming through the basement and then he slams the lid down, spinning round to look in Logan's direction.

It's that look - that half sullen, half challenging smirk that Alec wears when he's up to no good - that goads Logan into asking, "Including you?"

"I'm always fine, Logan." Another smirk but in the dim light Alec's eyes seem dead too, empty of everything, and that chills Logan. He can't help but wonder whether this is the face - this empty, lost shell - that Ben's victims saw before the end, before the photographs landed in Logan's inbox.

The thought is uncomfortable and it has him shifting in place again. But he's tired of backing down, tired of losing everything to Alec, and it's easy to blame Alec for everything - for the virus, for Max, for the death of Logan's hopes. That makes it easy, for once, to pin a matching smirk on his face, let the, "Right," drawl out of him, followed by, "Just felt like… dropping by, playing some tunes?"

He regrets his sarcasm even before Alec looks away. He should be better than this, better than Alec. Be the better 'man' and be gracious about it. He regrets it even more when the light from the stairs behind him falls on Alec's face and he sees that Alec's eyes are lost, not empty. Not empty at all.

He glances away as Alec shrugs. "Joshua asked me to pick up some of his paintings while I was here. Ones he left here when he… decamped to TC." Alec's fingers are stroking over the wooden lid and Logan can almost see the need singing through him, the need to throw it open and bury himself in the music once more. It leaves Logan off balance, like that jarring note is still thrumming through him.

"Oh." Logan drums his fingers against the wooden balustrade, feeling like a class A prick, but also feeling vaguely like he's been manipulated somehow. "I was planning on making coffee, if you want some?"

As apologies go, this one veers towards the pathetic and he winces internally even as Alec says, "Sure. I'll be up in a minute."

He half expects the piano to start up again when he reaches the top of the stairs, but it doesn't.

Logan doesn't stop but he's not running, no matter how it feels.

***

It doesn't take long for Alec to join him, materialising suddenly next to Logan as though appearing out of thin air. It should have startled him - may have been intended to startle him - but he's had almost two years' experience of Max. It takes a lot more these days to surprise him than a soft-footed transgenic. He doesn't say anything, just pulls two cups down from the cupboard and sets them on the counter, waiting.

Alec stands next to him, still unnaturally quiet. His eyes are guarded now, giving little away, although he doesn't meet Logan's gaze. Instead he drags his hand through his hair, then fiddles with his cuffs. The gestures make him seem ridiculously young, but with Alec that's probably intentional.

Logan's okay with the silence. It's not as if they have much to say to each other under the best of circumstances; they're hardly in the habit of sitting down with a cup of java and shooting the breeze.

When the water boils, he serves the coffee black - he's taken to having it that way as it's easier than remembering to get milk and there's little reason to remember milk these days. Max used to drink most of it when he had it in, and she's fallen out of the habit of dropping by just to talk. He tells himself that it's better that way. He never listens.

He doesn't know how Alec takes his coffee because he's never cared enough to ask but Alec doesn't object when he hands it over.

"Thanks." Alec's voice is subdued and, when he steals a look, Alec's face is tired, wearing years he doesn't have. It's harder than Logan would have expected to resist the urge to ask again whether Alec's okay, although it becomes easier once he figures that the answer will be the same. Alec finds it easy to lie. Logan finds it easy not to call Alec on them.

He shrugs instead, ignoring the little voice in his head that tells him he's acting childishly, acting like Alec in fact. "I figured that you could use something to warm you up before you head back." He keeps his tone polite, but the intent is there anyway, lurking behind his words. "At least the streets are quiet, with the weather."

"Ah, yes, the weather." Alec's tone is edging into flippant, and this is easier to deal with. It's easy - very easy - to get pissed at Alec. "You know, Manticore didn't exactly instil the basics of small talk into us so I'm at a bit of a loss. Tell me, Logan. Is there a set number of pleasantries we need to exchange on the weather before we can lapse back into uncomfortable silence? I figured you'd know these things if anyone did."

Yes, it would be easy to get pissed but there's a certain satisfaction in being gracious and not rising to the bait. He'll take his victories where he can. There are so few these days. "I'm sure that Manticore did what they could, Alec. In fact, I have no doubt that you can hold your own in any number of meaningless conversations. But please don't put yourself out on my account."

He sips at his coffee and ignores the snort.

"Which paintings does Joshua want?" The sooner he can pull them together, the sooner Alec can leave. "I'm not sure what he left, actually."

"Annie." Alec doesn't look at him, sipping at his own coffee, and the word hangs in the air between them, making Logan feel even more like a grade A prick.

"Why…?" The word stutters out and he swallows, tries again. "Any particular reason why now?" He likes the Big Fella - likes how Joshua embraces life, all literally puppy-like enthusiasm. Likes even more how Joshua can make Max smile when no one else can and Max stopped smiling long before she stopped coming around.

Alec shrugs again, still not looking at him. "I'm not sure. He suggested I come over here, asked me to pick them up if I did. And if Josh asks… Well, it's not like I can say no. All I do know is that he hid them before everything went down. Didn't want anyone to find them. I doubt he wanted to leave them either." He finally looks at Logan, eyes shadowed and mouth twisted. "But he needed to travel light when he moved into TC."

There's nothing Logan can say to that. He could say that he knows about travelling light when the cops are on your tail, but it would be a lie. Even fleeing from White, even holing up here, he took Eyes Only with him. And Eyes Only comes with his own baggage attached.

Alec's voice drops, becoming quiet, almost contemplative, as if Alec were capable of such a thing. "He says he's forgetting what she looked like." He snorts again but the sound seems hollow to Logan's ears. "If you ask me, that's a crock of shit. They built us with eidetic memories. We're like elephants - can't forget. Hell, for all I know, they could have used elephant. Let's just say that it's not beyond the realms of possibility."

He toasts Logan with the coffee cup, a mocking little gesture that's more than likely designed just to get Logan's back up. Logan's smarter than that and this is the second time that Alec's alluded to coming over here anyway. It piques his curiosity - contrary to what Alec might think, his sense of self-preservation is improving every day. He notices things now he never used to notice - things he never needed to notice.

"So you were just in the neighbourhood?"

Alec's eyes dart away, fingers tightening around his cup. Logan can't figure out whether Alec's not as good an actor as Alec thinks or if he's better than Logan has ever imagined.

Alec finally shrugs, one of those half shoulder twitches that roll off him like everything rolls off him. "Had some errands to run."

"In the middle of the night, in weather like this?"

"And again with the weather." And just like that, Alec is in control of himself again, all slick moves and sly smirks. Except for the part where he still can't meet Logan's eyes full on.

But Logan's nothing if not tenacious.

"It's been a while since you've played."

It's not a question, and it comes out nicely innocuous, although he watches Alec closely over the rim of his coffee cup.

It hits home, the muscle in Alec's jaw tightening. "Yeah. A year."

No, Logan's not stupid. He might not have a genetically enhanced IQ but he's good at connecting the dots. It's October, early to be winter, and he wonders how he missed making the connection before now.

There's nothing he can say. He can do this with Max - used to be able to do this with Max - but with Alec, he's lost. They don't connect. They never have and they never will.

He puts his coffee down on the counter. It clatters there softly but Alec doesn't even twitch. Alec's face is drawn but there's something there, something lurking behind that expressionless mask. Any second now, Alec will pull the smirk back on and for a split second, a moment of weakness, Logan doesn't want that.

It's easy to pull the scotch down from the cupboard and let it clatter onto the counter by the coffee cup. Easy to pull a couple of glasses down beside them and pretend, for the length of a heartbeat, that he and Alec are the kind of guys who sit down and shoot the breeze over a glass of the water of life.

Alec's looking at him as though he's lost his mind and maybe he has. He pours a couple of fingers into each glass anyway.

When he hands one of the glasses to Alec, Alec just stares at him, his expression wary and guarded before he finally takes it. Logan says nothing but toasts him silently, nothing mocking in the move.

The whisky burns as it goes down. He swallows, feeling the heat spreading through his chest, warming his belly. "For four months," he says quietly, "I thought Max was dead. No. I'd watched her die. I knew she was dead."

Alec is still watching him. His expression is unreadable, at least to Logan's eyes. "But you got her back." His tone is intent, even if his expression never changes. "Ra… Everyone else stays dead."

There's nothing he can say to that. Nothing that will make it better. Nothing but, "Drink up."

Alec pulls away and tilts his head to the side. There's an appraising gleam in his eye, like he's sizing Logan up, assessing him as he does any problem. His mouth twitches, that muscle in his jaw working again.

"In case the shorter hair and lack of breasts didn't clue you in, Logan, I'm not Max."

He bites back on the automatic retort and takes another sip of scotch. "I think Max prefers beer."

Alec swirls the amber liquid around the glass, eyes only leaving Logan's face to flick up and down Logan's body, the move both insulting and infuriating. Logan flushes and his lips tighten again; he doesn't miss the bitter amusement in Alec's eyes at that either. He reminds himself that Alec was engineered, and that everything - including his sexuality, his grace - was designed to be a weapon. Alec's never been above using weapons; he doesn't have Max's scruples on that score.

"I meant I'm not looking for a saviour, Logan." Alec smirks but there's no humour in it, not this time. "I don't need you to fix me."

"Because you're not broken."

The glass pauses at Alec's lips, and Alec watches him over it. He smiles and that's broken, all sharp edges and bitter lines. There are shards of ice in his eyes, dark and treacherous waters underneath.

"We're all broken, Logan. I figured a smart guy like you would have worked that out by now."

It's cold, so damned cold outside but for a second Logan thinks that it would be warmer out there than in here.

Then Alec smiles again, bright and sunny, the sudden switch disorientating. His eyes stay dark though, dark and focused on Logan as Alec throws back the scotch, throat working as he swallows it all down. The sound of the glass hitting the counter makes Logan jump and that, in turn, makes Alec's smile widen. His teeth are sharp and white and dangerous. He leans closer, whisky scented breath ghosting over Logan's skin.

"Thanks for the scotch, but I think I'll pass on the homosocial bonding, if you don't mind. I gotta blaze."

It's Max's phrase coming out of Alec's mouth, and that makes things surreal, twisting Logan up inside. It should be Max here, in his space. Max's eyes watching him that closely and Max's smile.

He misses that smile. God, he misses it so much it's making him stupid.

But it's not Max and Alec is already moving, stalking over to one of the battered armchairs as if he owns the place, all sleek lines and fuck you attitude. Alec's jacket is there, flung casually over the back of it, just like Alec has casually thrown himself all over Logan's life, messing it up with his presence, and Logan kicks himself for missing that, for being so unobservant. For missing all the signs.

It costs him. It will always cost him.

Alec grabs his messenger bag from the floor, half-hidden by the chair - another clue missed - and flings it over his shoulder. A roll of canvas slips inside and bumps against his shoulder before he pushes it back again. Once again, Alec is ten steps ahead of him, always ahead while Logan's left wallowing behind and wondering what the hell just happened.

There's another smile thrown in his direction, bright and sharp and knowing. "I'll tell Max you said hi." A casual hand wave - too casual - and Alec is gone, the door swinging shut behind him and cold air gusting through the room.

Logan's left standing in the cold draught, shivering.

The glass is heavy in his hand and the light in it shifts and shimmers, always changing.

He's not sure if the burn this time is the whisky.

The End






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