Author: Rana Eros
Recipient: Clare (clare328)
Word Count: App. 1800
Summary: "You would stand at the end, the beginning of something good."
Author's Notes: This is not the first or even second story I set out to write, but the first grew into a monster and the second wouldn't gel. Then a friend reminded me of the existence of the song "Maybe Mexico," by Russell Wolff, and this story kind of wrote itself. Sadly, it wouldn't go porny places, but I hope the skinny dipping reference makes up for that. Well, and the cars. Title and summary from "Maybe Mexico," speed beta by the mighty Eliza.
Figure Out This Thing
It ends with a whimper. Max has fallen into the habit of keeping mental track of everybody, and she notices that the number of transhumans has been regularly dropping. She asks Mole about it, who just looks at her for a minute, then pulls his cigar out of his mouth and sighs.
"Look," he says, "Terminal City was only ever meant to be a smokescreen. We get the humans of Seattle nice and worked up about this nest of monsters in their midst, then we start slipping out of the city. They're so relieved we're gone, they don't follow up on the rumors of things in the woods."
"Oh." She feels kind of stupid for not seeing it, and then for making the transhumans a part of her own fight for acceptance. "That's a good strategy. Sorry I screwed that up for you."
Mole snorts, starts sucking on his cigar again as though to take his own attention off what he's saying. "You didn't screw it up for us. That White motherfucker screwed it up for us, and it's probably only due to your pretty little human faces nobody's sent exterminators in here. We've had time to implement our plan."
"Oh," she says again, and he fixes her with a sharp look.
"Time to think about your own plan, you and your X5s. I think you know it's not a good idea to stay."
She does know that, actually. White's been suspiciously quiet since Freak Nation raised its flag, and she knows she can't take that as a good sign. She's been in negotiations with the city, but phrases like "military supervision" and "limited sector passes" and "tracking program" keep cropping up, and transhumans aren't the only ones who've been slipping away. When she thinks about it, she's always a little surprised and a little...something else that Alec has stuck around. Mostly, she tries not to think about it.
She has to now, though. Mole's confirmed her suspicions about what's happening here, and much as she wants to hold onto all of Manticore's refugees who've come to her, it wouldn't be fair to keep them in a clearly closing trap.
That begs the question of where and how to disperse. She'd like to pack everyone up and head to Canada, but even if she splits them into small groups, she thinks that'd fall under someone's definition of suspicious activity. It's possible they've already sent too many people to and through Canada; Logan mentioned some concerns, last time they talked. So she needs to come up with other options, only she's never even been to Canada. She's gone back and forth between Seattle and northern Wyoming, up and down the coast of Washington, but even Zack's mentions of Portland and San Francisco sounded so far to her, and what she wouldn't give to have Zack to talk to about this whole situation. She knows he'd say send everyone off on their own and cut off communication, and she knows she'd disagree, but at least then she wouldn't be responsible for making the decision entirely by herself.
"Hey, Maxie," Alec says when he gets back from patrol. "That's a long face."
"Been talking to Mole," she tells him, and wariness flickers through his eyes, there and gone. She thought he might know something, Mole trusted him before her.
"Yeah? What'd he have to say?"
"That he thinks we should clear out sooner rather than later."
Alec nods, watching her. She always forgets how serious he can look until he's doing it. "He's right."
"Yeah." It occurs to her she's heard him mention international missions for Manticore a few times. He's probably not the only one who's done them, either. In fact, of the transgenics, she's probably the one with the least relevant experience for a mass exodus out of U. S. borders. It's kind of galling. Still, she gets that it might be a touchy topic, so she waits until he's sitting next to her on the stairs in a corner of their makeshift command center. Then she nudges him with her shoulder and says, as lightly as she can, "So I was thinking you might have some suggestions about where to send people."
He's silent for a long moment, but not particularly tense, and then he nudges her back. "I guess there are a few too many of us for Canada, huh?"
She smiles at her hands, but god, hearing him say it makes it real in a different way. She's failed. She's losing her family again, losing her chosen home. She's going to have to settle things with Logan, which she's been putting off because he's...comfortable, now. Known. Mole's probably got a place for Joshua that she can't go, and it's not fair to want him with her just so she won't be lonely.
Fuck, she's going to have to say goodbye to her boo. She clenches her fists and clenches her jaw and stares hard at her hands, unblinking, because she's not going to cry here, damn it. Then Alec's putting his hand over hers, not trying to coax them open, just letting her know he's there, and he murmurs, "Come on, Maxie."
She gets up on her own, but she doesn't shrug off his hand on her shoulder, and she's glad when he lets her lead the way, even if she's not exactly seeing straight right now. Manticore trained them how not to betray that kind of weakness, so she manages to guide them to her room without anyone stopping them to ask what's wrong. It's just what was probably a cleaning closet before TC was abandoned, but it's hers alone, close to the hub of activity in case she's needed, but with a door between her and the rest of the world. She gets that door open, gets inside and crosses to her cot, dropping down on the blankets she had Original Cindy smuggle in for her.
"Freshly laundered and ready for company, boo," Original Cindy had said, raising her eyebrow and glancing toward Alec, who'd been on baby duty at the time, under Dalton's supervision. Max had rolled her eyes then; now she closes them, feels the tears roll down.
She hears Alec close and lock the door, then take the few steps to site beside her. He tentatively puts his arm around her, and she leans into him, holding on. She's got too much planning to do to let herself fall apart, but she'll hold onto him as long as he lets her. Which may not be that long, now. She swallows and blinks and manages to husk out, "Where will you go?"
He draws in a long breath, as though gathering his thoughts, or maybe he's just reluctant to answer. "I don't know. Someplace where it doesn't get so cold."
Max thinks of the deep snow on the ground when she and her brothers and sisters escaped from Manticore. She hadn't wanted to get separated then, either. "Warm is nice."
"I liked Mexico," he says softly. "The ocean was warm when I was there."
"You went swimming?"
"Amphibious maneuvers." He pauses, then says with a little more of his customary mischief, "And skinny dipping. Nearly got stung by a jellyfish in a really bad place."
That makes her laugh, and it comes out shaky and raw, but she feels better. She looks up at him, to let him see it, and says, "Think you'd be willing to risk the jellyfish again?"
He just stares at her for so long that she wants to fidget, look away, brush it off. But she wants this more, this chance, his company, so she waits. Finally, he smiles, a little uncertain, but genuine. "Yeah, I think I could probably be persuaded by the chance to see you wet and naked."
She snorts and pulls out of his arms. "Just for that, I hope you do get stung." Though the thought of him wet and naked is pretty promising.
He puts his hand dramatically over his heart and starts, "That hurts, Maxie, that really--"
She cuts him off by looping both arms around his neck and pulling him down with her as she stretches out on the cot. It's a little small for them both, but he curls into her and they make it work. He's quiet for a long minute, then whispers, "I'm sorry this didn't work out. I know you wanted us all to have a place."
"Yeah," she says in answer. She wants to say more, about family and home, but she's still not sure Alec really understands what she means by either of those things. She's finally figured out that most units weren't like hers, though she doesn't know what made the difference, why they were so close, why they decided to run when nobody else did. Maybe it was Zack, who doesn't even remember her now, whose place she hopes she found on a ranch far away from Terminal City. If so, then maybe that's proof that they all have a place. Maybe it's just not all together.
"For what it's worth," Alec continues, "I think you did pretty well. Maybe it couldn't last, but it's still been good."
And then there are the things Alec does understand, has always understood, even when she hasn't wanted him to. It's a different kind of comfort from Logan, one that keeps her on her toes. She pulls him a little closer and says, "I was thinking we could sneak out of Seattle, then steal a car and roadtrip to California. Maybe a Corvette."
Alec laughs against her, puff of warm air and soft brush of his lips against her temple. "Very inconspicuous."
"They'll be looking for inconspicuous," she says, sobering up a little at the thought of pursuit. At the thought, again, of what she's leaving. Alec brushes his fingers against her back, as though to remind her of his presence, of what she's taking. "If we go flashy--"
"They won't see us for the flash, I know." Alec moves again, as though settling in for the long haul. "I always figured you for more of a Mustang girl."
"That'd work too. Or a Camaro." They still have to figure out how to get everyone else out of Seattle, and where to send them. She still has to inform Logan of the plan. She still has to talk to Joshua and say goodbye to Original Cindy. Nothing's easier than it ever was, and Manticore is still making her life hell. It ends with a whimper, but lying here in bed with Alec, holding onto him and knowing he's coming with her, knowing they both get to find out where they're going on the way, she knows how it begins.