Summary: Temporarily taking care of an abandoned baby has implications for Max and Alec, both political and personal.
Notes: Title from "When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see / Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be" – Locksley Hall by Alfred, Lord Tennyson - thanks to both callmesandy and musesfool for the prompt and the challenge.
Max barely glanced at Alec as he wandered into her office. "I was beginning to think you weren't going to make it."
"You probably wouldn't have minded if I had missed it, Maxie," he answered wryly, but her tolerance for small talk was low anywhere near Command. "Got a call from Larry on the perimeter – he said he had something for me to check out."
"Please don't tell me he called you out there for another poker game," Max said, making a face, but she continued to look down at the map on the table.
"Nah, we might actually have to give him a raise. He finally found something."
"Is it useful?"
"Maybe in about ten years," Alec said. Something about his tone caused her to look up at him finally and notice that they weren't alone.
"Another one?" A flash of recognition in her eyes, she strode forward to peer at the infant in his arms. "It's one of ours?"
"There's no barcode, but that doesn't mean anything." He shifted the bundle slightly. "I sent Ginger to Medical with a stool sample and a cotton swab. We should know pretty soon." The baby gurgled, opening green eyes that seemed to see into Max's soul. They were eerily reminiscient of Alec's eyes. "I'm surprised you didn't smell us coming a mile away."
"You honestly think I'm gonna notice a little baby powder over the stench of Mole's cigars? Besides, I just thought you finally got around to taking a shower and putting on some deodorant." Max deliberately kept her voice light, knowing that if the baby was one of them, she would be extra-sensitive to noisy disturbances and any kind of tension. "You think there's room in the nursery?" The nursery had been an X-6's idea once word got out that any transgenic was welcome in Freak Nation and the babies started coming, two or three kids a month until it trickled to only one abandoned baby every month. Max still had each and every one checked out. It wouldn't do to take in an Ordinary kid only to have them die within a couple months of some kind of biohazard poisoning. She chucked the baby under the chin and grinned as the kid grabbed her finger. Without waiting for an answer, she said, "With those eyes, she could be your kid."
He stilled instantly and said roughly, "Not possible. You were my only breeding partner at that point in time and you know the results of that." Max understood the subtext underneath his statement and nodded in acknowledgement. He had made it a point to stay away from other transgenics after Manticore and before Terminal City just to avoid the possibility of another transgenic child in the world. She wondered how many breeding partners there had been before her and if there had ever been any children he didn't know, but it wasn't a topic that lent itself to casual conversation. She sensed his internal conflict, but she felt relieved when his eyes no longer reflected an emptiness. "And anyway, I wouldn't let someone leave my kid at the perimeter with Larry of all people."
"You wouldn't let anyone leave your kid period," Max said. He wasn't like Zack about never abandoing his unit, but he still believed in the idea of family. She glanced at the baby and sighed. "We're going to have to add more formula to the supply run lists. Thank God for cloth diapers and people being desperate enough to wash them as a job."
"Lisa will be happy though – you know she only suggested the nursery as a temporary option and she has a couple of families that want to adopt," Alec said, taking a bottle from Dalton as the kid entered. He promptly plopped the nipple in the baby's mouth.
Max touched the soft skin of the baby's cheek before she removed her hand. "You've been talking to Lisa a lot lately." She struggled to keep her voice conversational, but she felt a tiny spark of jealousy taking up residence in her stomach.
His mouth curled up with amusement, but he didn't address her tone. "She wants money for a school."
"We have a school," Max said, watching as he idly bounced the baby in his arms to soothe her fussing.
"No, we have a couple of guys who train anyone who wants to help defend TC. She wants a place where they can learn to read and do math and get whatever other training they need to go out and become apprentices to our people. Our geneticists and doctors aren't going to last forever."
"Do we even have any teachers?" When he nodded, she tilted her head. "Holing up in TC was never supposed to be more than a short-term solution, Alec."
"They like it here, Maxie. Haven't you noticed how much effort they're putting into cleaning up and rebuilding? Most of them are starting to think of this place as home."
Max knew the truth of his words, but no one had dared to say anything directly to her yet about staying on a more permanent basis. She rubbed her eyes. "Why won't they talk to me?"
"You're not the world's greatest people person, but mostly, you're too busy to see everyone thanks to the PR and political maneuverings of the Ordinaries. Besides, they know that I have access to you and that you might listen to me sometimes."
She laughed at the understatement. Alec was more than someone who had access to her, but his words were intended to make her laugh. As her second-in-command, he singlehandedly kept their economy going, had audiences with different factions of the transgenics to solve conflicts before they got out of hand, and was the first to volunteer for any kind of military op. She trusted him to tell her the truth and keep her honest when it came to the needs of the transgenics. And he never let their personal relationship interfere with their roles in Terminal City's burgeoning government. "Do you think the school is a good idea?"
"Yeah," he said. "Not only does it have long-term ramifications for our economy because of the trade, but it'll be a good way to keep the kids in line so we don't have transgenics wandering through the streets of Seattle, poking at Ordinaries until there's more trouble than we can handle."
She nodded and looked down at the infant. "What will we teach them, Alec?"
He briefly wrapped his arm around her shoulder and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "We'll tell them the whole ugly, unvarnished truth so that they have all the facts and can make the decision about who they want to be themselves. We're not Manticore, Max, and any kind of indoctrination would . . ." His voice faded as he shook his head.
She squeezed his shoulder comfortingly and waved at the map on the table. "You'll have to figure out which building should be designated as a school."
An intercom in the room buzzed to life. "Results are back on the baby. She's one of ours. Lisa's on her way to collect."
"Thanks, Jingle," Alec called, waiting for the intercom to die again. "I should go out and meet Lisa in Command."
"They'll send her this way," Max said. "Let me hold her for a minute."
Alec handed the baby and the bottle over, smirking at the way Max's expression softened. "Biological clock ticking?"
"You wish," she retorted. "And you?"
"Not so much, but you know I don't mind the effort," he leered, reverting back to pre-TC banter. With her hands full of baby, she couldn't do much more than turn a death glare on him.
Lisa, a pretty girl with red hair, knocked lightly on the open door. "Hey, Alec, I came to . . ." She saw the baby in Max's arms as Max turned to look at Lisa. "Oh, hi, Max, I didn't know you were here."
"It's my office," Max said. "Where else would I be?" Lisa winced at the smart-ass comment, and Alec put his hand on Max's back, putting a tiny bit of pressure on it as a warning. "Alec was just telling me about your idea for a school, Lisa. I was thinking that we should find you an official title and a position on the council since your interest is in the kids and we could do with someone who cares about the kids helping to contribute to the future of TC."
Lisa instinctively looked toward Alec before she met Max's eyes with a cautious smile. "I think I'd like that."
Suppressing the irritation at the way she looked at Alec, Max held the child out to Lisa. "Here you go. Alec will figure out the best building for a school and we'll make it a high priority. Maybe we can get it up and running for the New Year, but either way, you'll have a title and a seat on the council by the next meeting. Someone from Command will contact you with the details." If Max had her way, it wouldn't be Alec who made contact though.
"Well, bye, then," Lisa said, accepting the statement as the dismissal it was intended to be. Her gaze encompassed both of them, but it was clear that the soft farewell was mostly meant for Alec.
"Bye, Lisa," he said, but Max was aware of the possessive hand on her hip, a subtle gesture designed to reassure Max and show Lisa the truth. After Lisa noticed his hand, her smile wavered as she turned on her heel and strolled out with the newest resident of Terminal City. "You sure about that biological clock, Max?"
She elbowed him in the side, causing him to grunt in pain. "Like I would ever let you inflict Alec 2.0 on the general populace."
He used his hand to turn her body toward him, the predatory grin in his eyes intended only for her. "But imagine how much fun we'll have trying."
Ignoring the familiar stirring in her stomach, she smirked at him. "Maybe you should practice by yourself for a little while."
"Don't tempt me right now," he warned, stealing a kiss before he released her. She grimaced and tugged him toward the table. "Always working, Max. This is why no one thinks you're any fun."
"I hope you don't think that," she said flippantly, but as he bent his head down to study the map of the city, she had a momentary vision of what their child would be like, a smartass with his eyes and her laugh and their disrespect for authority. He would be a challenge like everything else in their lives, but she could almost see Alec as a father. The sudden hitch in her breath caught his attention and he looked up at her with a quizzical smile. "I was just imagining what your spawn would look like. It was creepy."
"Are you kidding? Our son would be awesome." He stood up, a familiar daring expression on his face.
Max ignored the implications of his pronoun. "And what if it was a girl?"
"Uh-uh, no girls. They're more trouble than they're worth."
"That's not what you usually say," she reminded him with a smirk.
"Dating a girl is way different than raising a girl."
The fact that he had actually thought about it startled Max, but she tried not to let her surprise show. "You just don't want another girl who could kick your ass around."
"Oh, Maxie, you're so cute when you're delusional."
"I don't have time to demonstrate all the ways that statement is wrong," Max answered. "But I hope you wind up with a whole troop of ass-kicking girls for that."
He chuckled. "Only if they're just like their mother."
Flushing at the implied statement, she frowned at him. Before she could say something, Mole knocked on the door and leaned on the door frame with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. "Look, boss, hate to break up the flirting, but Mouse is coming in hot with his supplies."
"Is he injured?" Max asked, already assuming command of the situation. She didn't wait to see if Alec followed, knowing instinctively that he was at her heels as they strode toward command. Currently, the future was easy to set aside in favor of the present, but both knew that the topic was far from closed.