The fence looked like it was giving tetanus away for free.
The junkyard was abandoned a long time ago; the Pulse had made everyone scavengers and it couldn't compete. The fence that circled the defunct lot was twisted, rusted and mangled where the owners once tried to discourage thieves by threading barb wire through the gaps. Leaves snaked between the metal lines, spider webs that caught flies hung like sticky fat white drips everywhere.
Not the best place to be.
So why the hell was Logan Cale here?
Alec scowled. He used the tip of his k-bar to part the curtain of weeds to track Logan. He had to admit; it was hard to follow Logan's car. The guy drove as if he expected he would be tailed. Alec lost him a few times before winding up here.
Bouncing in his chair despite being belted in, Logan maneuvered around pot holes and uneven dirt. He stopped occasionally to look around his surroundings, take a breather before laboriously reaching a clearing to wait.
There were stacks of crushed cars to Logan's three, five and nine o'clock. They were tall enough to block the afternoon sun and like the other strange places Alec had followed him to for the past two weeks, Logan came alone.
The camouflage paint on Alec's face was practical. Many of the spots he followed Logan to were too out in the open. Hiding in the overrun foliage, perched on trees and crouched in ditches was often the best way.
Still, the paint sat heavy on his skin. It was a weight Alec wished weren't so familiar; it was a weight that usually accompanied the sensation of a sniper rifle cool and ready in his grip. Back then, there had been a need for concealment as well.
This time though, it was only for intel, Alec reminded himself. What better way to find your next job than from the big man himself? And hell, figuring out who was next on Eyes Only's shit list got him a day's lead before the vultures (aka Seattle PD) swoop in. Logan could keep his stupid secrets and his drama to himself so long as it kept lining Alec's pockets. As soon as he got enough of a list from following around Logan, he was going to cash in.
Something curled in his gut. It was the same feeling he got every time he found himself staring across a clearing, watching Logan with that damn gun holster tucked under his arm.
The Pelican .37 Logan carried was a joke. At fourteen rounds a clip with a short firing range, the only thing that it was good for was close range engagement. It was too light if Logan needed to pistol whip anyone; too heavy to balance one handed. Alec remembered how his hand had trembled when he shot towards him after Alec startled him.
As useless as the armor proved many times before, Alec thought Logan should have worn one anyway under his thick leather jacket. Unless the black leather hid a layer of plating, Logan appeared vulnerable, too exposed and cold.
His skin itched, remembering how warm Logan felt curled back against him; how cold and clammy his skin was before that.
Alec lowered his blade and let the weeds fall closed over the image of Logan. But the moment he lost line of sight, something inside his chest clenched and he quickly parted the weeds again to be sure Logan was still there. He was. Of course he was. Dumb ass.
Alec wasn't sure whom he was referring to.
Out of the corner of Alec's eye, there was movement. A shadow detached itself from the farthest stack. Logan spotted him two seconds after that.
Alec tensed. He crouched closer and squinted through his cover as the approaching shadow solidified into shape. When the figure stepped into the light, Alec relaxed.
The fine-boned Asian features drew a name: Matt Sung. The tall man was a repeat attendee to whatever secretive Eyes Only clubhouse meeting Logan arranged every other day.
From what Alec could find out, Sung was a detective stuck without a promotion for the past six years. He had a good arrest record, which was impressive in the post-Pulse times. But he stepped on too many dishonest and corrupt toes to rise up the ranks.
Alec cocked his head. He stayed low, on one knee as he scanned the area in case there were others listening too. He thought he saw a reflection flashing at the corner of his eye, but he spotted nothing. Even with his enhanced eyesight, he couldn't guarantee every shadow was truly just a shadow. He fidgeted as Sung closed the distance easily with his long stride. Alec's hand flexed as he eyed the crushed car stacks for movement.
Logan nodded in greeting. And nothing happened. No gunfire. No accidental stack toppling over. Nothing.
Alec scowled. They should have met somewhere else.
"You pick the nicest places," Sung greeted back jovially. His voice was low, but not low enough for Alec's ears. To his credit, Sung kept checking over his shoulder. The detective only carried a sidearm though. He didn't wear body armor either.
Alec frowned at Logan's weary voice. "A lot safer than a phone call. You never know who's listening."
Sung flashed a quick smile. "Wouldn't that be your boss?"
Alec perked up. Apparently Logan was keeping Eyes Only to himself.
"Or Big Brother." Logan accepted the large envelope. "This the evidence?"
"Mistakenly misfiled in the Civil cases section."
"Or deliberately," Logan muttered. "Bronck was known to have some badges under his payroll."
"Yeah. It's why no one knew I found this." Sung nodded towards it. He watched Logan pull the papers out. "Custom declaration forms for cargo heading to Vietnam and Dubai." He snorted, his face darkening. "As home entertainment."
"I doubt they're projection screens or blu-rays. Not on planes that large." Logan scanned the paperwork. "Three shipments already left last month. Damn."
"I'm still trying to find a list of what properties he owns. But all electronic paper trails were lost in the Pulse."
"He has to be taking off those planes somewhere close by, like a private strip." Logan frowned as he continued reading. "There's no indication of him owning or leasing an airstrip."
Sung scowled. "For the right price, no one's going to ask Bronck to complete his paperwork."
Logan grunted as he shuffled through the paperwork. "Did you find anything more about the shootings?"
Sung shook his head. "No witnesses."
"No witnesses as in..."
"As in no one saw anything." Sung sounded as frustrated as Logan looked. "Sorry."
Logan pinched the bridge of his nose. "Keep trying. Someone must have saw something. As for Bronck, my boss is going to keep the pressure up. Might force Bronck's hand. He's bound to slip up."
"Hey, you feeling all right?" Sung cocked his head as he considered Logan.
"Great," Logan muttered.
"Eyes Only found what he needed in Cape Haven?" Sung grimaced. "That was some report about the protestors. Half my department was suddenly reassigned elsewhere."
"Sorry." Alec was irked to see Logan was indeed sorry. "Anyone we should be concerned with? I could let him know and we could—"
"No. I was only saying. Making conversation, that's all. Did us a favor really. All the good cops stayed."
Logan stared up blankly at Sung before offering him a jerky nod.
Sung studied the top of Logan's head. He cleared his throat.
"You hear anything about him?"
Logan shook his head.
Sung exhaled. "Hell. That can't be good."
Logan grunted. His shoulders were stiff. He kept his eyes on the paperwork.
"I uh...haven't seen your other friend around either."
"Ah." Sung smiled sadly. "Probably for the best."
For whatever reason, Sung found the top of Logan's head fascinating. "Listen. Logan. If you ever want to talk. I mean...you know...we could grab a bite to eat or something like we used to..."
Logan blankly blinked up at Sung. He shook his head. "It's best if we're not seen together. Safer that way."
Shrugging, Sung slipped his hands in his trench coat pockets. He smiled faintly at Logan. "Safer. Maybe. But sure as hell sounds lonely."
The papers flapped wildly in the breeze as Logan shuffled them back into the envelope. "Better than dead." He nodded, unsmiling at Sung. "Thanks for the intel. Eyes Only will be interested in this."
"I'll keep working on getting that list. I got some people checking for witnesses to that other thing."
This time, Logan offered a wan, but genuine smile. "Thanks."
Sung stared at Logan. He reached out a hand to Logan's shoulder but changed his mind at whatever he saw.
"If I hear anything about him, anything at all, I'll call you. Okay?"
Logan nodded. "I appreciate it."
"Hey, man. You know you can call me out for just a couple of beers if—" Sung exhaled at Logan's negative.
"Better not. You know how much your wife and kids hates when you're late for dinner." Logan gazed up at the detective. He offered a half grimace.
"Thanks though, Matt."
Sung's shoulders dropped. "Yeah. All right. I'll call you if I have anything new."
Logan mumbled his thanks. He turned his wheelchair around and with a muttered, "Bye" he steered to his left.
Sung watched Logan for a moment, frowning after him. After a beat, the detective shook his head and walked away in the other direction.
Alec chewed his lower lip thoughtfully before slinking off to the left as well.
"... is a Streaming Freedom Video bulletin..."
Alec closed his eyes as he listened to the television on Mrs. Moreno's floor. He absently stroked the folds of faded wool coiled loosely around his throat. If he concentrated, he could make out the throaty syllables the deliberate mangling a digitizer couldn't hide.
" ...It cannot be traced; it cannot..."
It was good. If someone was pissed off enough to take a voice sampling, he or she would still need a baseline to filter out the distortion. And the broadcasts kept changing in color tone: black and white, blue. As riveting Logan's unblinking stare could be, it was hard to guess what he really looked like.
"...stopped and it is the only free voice left in the city..."
The roof was damp from the brief snow fall Seattle had in place of its endless drizzle. The staggered ledges of the roof glistened with ice crystals. Alec had to wipe frost off the two skylights on his part of the roof. Winter so far was determined to stick around, much to Alec's relief. The chill seeped through Alec's ratty aviator's jacket and jeans, but that's okay. The cold kept at bay the odd heat curling in his gut as he listened.
"...enterpriser Gerhardt Bronck..."
"You idiot," Alec breathed into the night. Apparently, Logan wasn't kidding last week about putting the pressure on. "Bronck again? Seriously?"
The rigging coiled by Alec's feet had collected snow from the past few days. Alec sat up and grabbed the lines. Ice flaked off. He paused.
"...you will be stopped, Bronck..."
Alec thought of the dark alleys he's trailed Logan to. He thought about Logan, driving off to Cape Haven, a kid as his backup. He thought of Logan telling him what had happened but really saying nothing at all. All of Logan's vague references building around him like a wall to keep Alec out.
The rigging dropped to the roof.
Alec folded his arms on the roof ledge. He rested his chin on his arms as he listened to Logan's hack finishing up. He smiled crookedly when Mrs. Moreno gave Eyes Only a tiny round of applause. Mrs. Moreno always had good taste although he didn't get her steadfast loyalty to the Tokyo Timberwolves. According to the ranting Chinese sports announcer, they didn't win enough games or have the cash to buy a slot in the playoffs. Alec had to admit their goalie—Mrs. Moreno's favorite player to cheer—reminded him a little of Logan with his mercurial hazel eyes and scruffy strong jaw. He didn't have Logan's cheekbones though. Or his mouth. Or his ass. Or his hand—shit, his hands, his rough skinned strong hands and that callous on his...
Hastily, Alec cleared his throat. He adjusted himself and checked the floor below Mrs. Moreno.
The light on Logan's floor stayed on even as the transmission switched back to Mrs. Moreno's beloved hockey.
"Gerhardt Bronck," Alec scoffed as he turned back aruond.
Of all the people to piss off.
Logan, Eyes Only, whoever, seemed determined to take down Bronck. And based on Cape Haven, the idiot most likely wanted to do it on his own.
Alec's mouth flattened. He rubbed his palms on his jeans.
Logan Cale was a trust fund baby. Of Cale Industries, no less. He was surviving well off the paranoid post-Pulse society with their hoverdrones. So Logan didn't need money.
A breeze went by and ruffled his bangs. Alec pursed his lips.
Was Logan bored? The guy had books everywhere, huge kitchen if he wanted to cook and enough money to buy his own entertainment if he wanted. And the way Logan looked, Alec knew finding entertainment wouldn't be hard although his stomach clenched at the thought.
The wheelchair popped up in Alec's head. His mouth folded downward. He twisted around and checked below again. Logan's light was still on. Alec wondered if Logan ever turned it off before midnight.
Alec glanced over at his rigging. He chewed his lower lip.
There was no reason to come by. No files, no names to find, nada.
Alec set his jaw. He locked his knees to rise. He hesitated as his eyes landing on his rigging again.
Logan had driven five hours to Cape Haven without telling anyone (Alec). Then, after killing four men in self-defense, Logan drove himself back.
Seemed like Eyes Only, or Logan Cale, preferred it that way.
Throat tight, Alec dropped back down on his ass. But he couldn't bring himself to leave either. He sat on the roof, staring until Logan's light finally flicked off.
The would-be sniper sagged to the floor without a sound.
Alec stood over the black garbed goon-for-hire. He had squatted on Alec's favorite spot: twenty meters high above ground in a decrepit office building that overlooked Seattle's bankrupted city zoo. The former tourist spot looked more like a jungle now with its overrun trees and wild ivy wrapped around the empty cages. The animals were long sold off; their watering holes now cess pools for trash and rodents.
"I was here first," Alec chided the senseless guy currently drooling on the stained carpet. His gun, a very impressive long range Russian Mako 53 with armor piercing bullets, stood with its long muzzle balanced on the sill.
Alec smoothed a hand over the sleek barrel. He admired the shiny scope screwed on top. The lens was thick; the metal was unmarred and even offered a night vision option. Awesome. It wasn't a piece he favored when he was in good old Manticore High, but he appreciated the quality of the import. Dismantled, it would get him a few bucks.
"Restitution." Alec toed Sleeping Beauty with his boot. The guy was out and should stay in the land of the senseless for another hour. Just enough time to wake up being arrested for whatever Alec can think of when he phones in his 'anonymous tip.' And with seven dislocated fingers, Alec was sure holding a rifle steady again was not in the guy's future. Boo hoo.
The guy's wallet had a few hundred dollars, and the lighter was gold plated. Alec made a face at the guy's counterfeit watch and screwed up his nose at the guy's shoes. There were limits to what he'll help himself to. Lifting subpar merchandise always left him feeling icky.
Alec pocketed the cash and lighter. He smirked. Not a bad haul. He glanced out the window. His smile dropped.
Immediately, Alec crouched on one knee and balanced the rifle in his grip. He took a deep breath to steady his hands.
Muscle memory was a bitch. His hands automatically fitted around the barrel and trigger; he aimed before he registered what he saw through the scope.
Alec recoiled from the rifle. He stared at it, breathing heavy before scowling down at himself. He gritted his teeth and forced himself to go back to the rifle.
Far away, their regular business done, Logan steered his wheelchair opposite of his informant. Alec watched the tiny figure as it rolled past the window, stuttered over broken pavement before disappearing out of his scope's range into the rundown car lot.
Through the scope, Alec watched Logan's car drive away. He watched it disappeared into the main road. He kept watching it shrink smaller and smaller until he couldn't see it anymore even with his eyesight.
After a few minutes, after seeing no other car followed it, Alec exhaled. He panned the rifle across the zoo one last time. Satisfied, he packed up the black duffle bag with the assault rifle and slung it over his shoulder. He blew a kiss in thanks to the guy slobbering on the floor and left to make a call to Seattle PD.
Logan looked tired.
Alec lowered the scope he dismantled from the Mako to consider the figure in the car. Like many times before, the vehicle parked behind a cluster of buildings currently housing half of Seattle's squatters. Sometimes the car was there for fifteen minutes, sometimes for hours.
Tonight, it looked like it was going to be the latter. Two hours and the informant Logan paid off with a wad of cash was still a no-show. Logan waited with an arm resting on the open window. He stared blankly out his windshield, his mouth pressed thin with stress.
Alec studied the angle of Logan's cheekbones and the almost purplish smudges under his eyes. He wondered if Logan had been 'in the mood' for anything lately or was there a row of peanut butter jars taking up space in his fridge again.
Perched on top of a stack of rusty shipping crates used as a hotel for the poor and notorious, Alec watched Logan's eyes slowly drift shut. He tensed but before he could do anything (what, he wasn't sure), Logan's eyes flew open. Logan shook his head then reached down for a battered thermos. Alec suspected it was coffee and judging Logan's grimace; it had gone cold.
Winter was not bowing out to spring in the city; it was still cold enough to draw chilled white puffs of exhale in the air. Logan wore his grip gloves, but Alec wondered if they were enough when Logan cupped his hands to his mouth and breathed on them.
Alec frowned. It was nearing three hours now and still no informant. Logan should give up and go home rather than wait for an obviously unreliable asset. But the last few times, he heard Logan repeatedly ask after the informant's little boy and sometimes, there is a phone number to a specialist along with the cash. Whatever the guy's sob story was, it was enough to make Logan wait in the shittiest part of town, past curfew for a pitiful amount of intel.
Logan Cale, bleeding heart.
It was tempting to march in there and point out to Logan that it was too cold for his source to show up. But that meant showing his face. It also meant there was a chance Logan Cale will stop showing his because the paranoid bastard would pack up and go off grid so he could do his solo superhero crap.
So Alec stayed put, like he has been for the past few weeks.
The night dragged on. Logan knuckled his eyes and waited.
And so did Alec.
The last place Alec expected was the County Morgue.
So far this month, Logan's been in alleys, abandoned lots, condemned buildings and one time, under a bridge that had way too many guys leering hungrily at Logan as he wheeled past. Alec discouraged a few, may or may not have kneed two pervs in the balls and most definitely relieved them all of their wallets.
So far, Operation Follow Logan Cale aka Eyes Only has been pretty profitable.
But a morgue?
Alec crawled on his belly through the duct that cut through the center of the building. The place reeked of pickles and hash and formaldehyde. He wrinkled his nose but stayed where he was, in a vent overlooking the main corridor.
His smelly stakeout was rewarded when one door opened, and the familiar sticky tread entered the corridor. The acoustics rang hollow. The wheelchair's creak echoed like the slow snapping of bones.
Alec huddled deeper into the folds of the scarf around his neck. Place was cold too.
A light click of heels followed the chair.
"...sorry," a woman sighed. Her voice carried a faint European accent. Her shadow on the black linoleum appeared slim and small.
"It had been a few months. I'd hoped I never have to call you."
Logan exhaled. "Me too," he said. He sounded resigned. He sounded tired.
Alec bit his lower lip. He wanted to drop down from the duct.
"In this case, no news was never going to be good news," Logan added wearily.
"They found him in a building slated for demo. If the police hadn't been checking for squatters, they wouldn't have found him."
"At least now we know for sure."
Logan's voice was flat. Too flat. A muscle in Alec's jaw ticked.
"There's a sister in Chicago listed but I knew you were asking around so I thought—"
Alec pressed his face to the vent wall. Logan didn't sound grateful.
"If it's any consolation, he didn't suffer long."
Logan's breathing was even, but Alec caught the hitch in his voice.
"You're not a good liar. I appreciate you trying, though."
"He....you have any idea who did this?"
"Yeah," Logan whispered. "Eyes Only has a pretty good idea."
"Logan, I'm so sorry. I didn't know him well, but I know he was a friend of yours. He seemed to be a good man."
"He was." Logan exhaled. "Can you make me a copy of the unedited autopsy report?"
"I'll be right back."
The quiet heels abandoned Logan. Through the vent, Alec could see the edge of one wheel, Logan's shadow stretched behind the chair.
"Damn it," Logan exhaled. The wheelchair creaked. "God d-damn..." Logan audibly swallowed as a distant door opened and closed. Brisk heels returned.
"I've also sent a copy to a Detective Matthew Sung. He's been inquiring as well."
"That's good. He wanted to help."
"Logan..." The woman hesitated. Her shadow overlapped Logan's. "If you want to talk..."
"I'm all right."
"Is there anyone you'll like me to call for you?"
"No." Logan was polite, but also resigned. "No one."
The concrete scraped Alec's jeans as he silently dropped out of the vent and back into the alley. He checked the skies. No hoverdrones. He tucked the grate deeper into the pile of trash bags, just in case.
The sun was hot overhead, a yellow gemstone in the sky. Somehow, it made Alec angry, especially when he thought back to Logan's voice. Like the sun had any right to be so fricking perfect today.
Alec peered around the building. Logan was making his careful way down the ramp, eyes pinned to the ground, his arms straining as he gripped his wheels while he rolled down the steep decline. When Logan reached the sidewalk where it evened out, Alec took a deep breath and took a step forward.
A young dark skinned woman with a bicycle blocked Logan's path. Before Alec could intercept the threat, Logan looked up and blinked.
Alec eyed the girl, who couldn't be more than her early twenties. She was petite with tightly wound dark curls, full lips and—not bad—an ass that made her jeans look like a million bucks.
His admiration, however, evaporated when she hugged Logan.
"...doing here?" Logan sounded surprised but not alarmed when she pulled back. Alec ducked back around the building.
"Got a call asking me to come down here to ID a floater."
Logan grimaced. "I heard about her seeing you when she was released from parole. Was it Diamond?"
Alec arched an eyebrow. Diamond?
The woman's face twisted. "Thought maybe it was my boo, but it wasn't."
Logan winced. He said nothing though.
The woman looked up at the building then to Logan. "My girl hooked up and then one day up and left. Never said why. She could have got herself back in jail."
"I could try checking around," Logan offered. At the head shake, he gave her a faint smile.
The girl snorted. "Aren't you too busy trying to save the world?"
Alec tensed the same time Logan did.
"Don't worry. Max gave Original Cindy the 411 before adios-ing to Canada."
"Oh." Logan rubbed his hands up and down his thighs. "You saw Max."
Alec pressed his mouth together. He strained to hear, but a truck went by and damn it, all he caught was something about an insurance job.
"So back on the bikes then, huh?" Logan nodded to the bicycle she held by the bars. "Normal still running Jam Pony?"
The woman gave a short laugh. "Unfortunately. Normal is normal; downright strange."
Alec screwed up his face. What the hell kind of name was Normal?
Logan gave her a strained smile. "Sounds like him."
The two stood on the sidewalk in awkward silence.
"Screw it," the woman finally said. "I'm just going to say it." She ran a finger across the bike's dented handlebars. "When I was in there, I heard about Bling...Logan, I'm so damn sorry."
There was another hug but even from where Alec stood, he could see how tensed Logan was.
"Thank you." Logan awkwardly patted her shoulders before she pulled away. "I should be going."
"Come by to Crash." The woman neatly stepped back into his path. "Everyone still hangs out there. You hear a lot, if you know what I mean. Messengers are the eyes and ears of this dump. Everybody forgets we're around when they blab out all their secrets."
"I'll keep that in mind." Logan nodded but even from here Alec could tell Logan wanted to leave. His hands clutched his rims the whole time.
"You better," the woman warned. "Max told me to keep an eye out for you. So stop changing your damn phone numbers and keep in touch."
Logan blinked when the woman stuck her hand out inches from his face. Alec bit back a smile when Logan, looking hunted, scribbled something onto a piece of paper.
The woman took it and reviewed it.
"This better be a working number," she warned.
Logan coughed and mumbled it was.
"I'll see you around." Logan made it sound like a question though. "You take care of yourself, Original Cindy."
Huh. The names were getting weirder and weirder. The name Alec was becoming the boring one.
"Damn straight. Original Cindy always looks out for her best girl; namely yours truly." Original Cindy bumped her tire against Logan's right rim. "Give Jam Pony a call. I'll make sure your packages to that fancy pad of yours stay intact."
Logan laughed, strained. "Good to know." He paused. "Bye."
"I'll see you around." The woman somehow made it sound both fond and threatening. She reached down and flicked Logan's messy bangs. Alec scowled. She went one direction, Logan the other, presumably to where he left his car.
Alec bit his lower lip. He glanced at both directions. Finally, he decided to change targets and trotted after the Original Cindy woman.
"Hot run! Which one of you losers want to earn your paycheck this week?"
"We get paid? Since when?"
"...zoom! He was spinning his tires like it was—"
"You! Carter and Main! Bip, bip, bip!"
"Market Street again? Dude, if those rats shake me down once more..."
"I said hot run! Bip bip!"
Wide-eyed, Alec stood at the edge of the wide doorway where his target ducked into. It was a cramped and noisy warehouse. There were posters, old and new, plastered all over the stained concrete walls. Graffiti filled in the rest.
People in bike gear, scratched up helmets and messenger bags veered around each other with what Alec could only assume was with practice because, geez, he couldn't tell if there was a certain direction those faded painted lines on the floor represent.
There was a guy inside a caged area, a mountain of packages behind him like his horde of gold. He wore a headset over his yellow head, a large plastic ID badge around his neck and black thick rimmed glasses uglier than Logan's replacement ones. His rust colored leather blazer squeaked weirdly even from where Alec stood as he waved a package at passing cyclists through the opening of his area. He was doing a lot of yelling that was being ignored or answered with good-natured jeering. Despite that, it appeared he was the man in charge.
Alec couldn't help but stared. No one was going by with a "Yes sir" or quailed at the verbal threats the boss threw out like exhales.
A messenger snatched the package out of boss's hands as he whizzed by, giving a chipper "Yeah yeah" when the boss hollered after him "No biking in the premises!"
"Calm down, Normal," Original Cindy drawled. Alec zeroed in on her. She changed into some bicycling gear herself. They did a way better job on her ass than her jeans.
"You're giving yourself palpitations, honey."
"Maybe I'll feel better if I fire you again?" Normal shot back. "You! Ten ten Caldor Street. Hot run! Customer's been calling me the past forty minutes asking where the fire truck is his stuff." He tossed a crumpled boxy package covered with Fragile stickers to Original Cindy. She caught it with a scowl.
"That street is the pits. Cops stop me every block," the woman complained to a tall guy with lanky dark hair that concealed most of his face.
"Maybe because you're pretty?" her friend suggested. He got an elbow. "Ouch! Hey, I'll go with you, all right?"
"You're not paid to be an escort, Sketchy!" Normal stuck his head out of his cage and threw a tube at him. "Chinatown!"
Sketchy grimaced to her. "Sorry."
Original Cindy sighed.
As they rolled their bikes past Alec, he decided to make first contact. He cleared his throat. The two paused and gave him a curious look.
"There's a store that sells those sandwiches in a roll on Canal," Alec shrugged. "Next door is a store that's been empty for years. The door between those two is a fake. It's an alley. If no one's in there, take it. It'll take you right through into Caldor and Hudson."
"You'll just be a couple feet away." Sketchy peered over Original Cindy's shoulder at her package. He grinned toothily at Alec. "Thanks, man."
Alec arched an eyebrow at the fist Sketchy offered. With a bemused smile, he bumped it. Sketchy made an exploding noise when their fists made contact.
"I like shortcuts." And less cops, but Alec left that part out.
Original Cindy hummed, nodding to herself as she studied Alec. Alec stared back at her as wide-eyed as possible but she didn't seem to buy it.
So it surprised the hell out of Alec when she abruptly asked, "You looking for a job?"
Alec blinked. He only wanted to find her, pour on some flirting and drinks and maybe between the sheets, coaxed out what she knew. He looked behind her. Normal was arguing into his headset. Two messengers began playing soccer with a box. The game ended when Normal stalked over and retrieved the package, muttering something about artwork, swords and gangs. The other two cheerfully flipped him off before heading out on their runs.
No one was in formation. No one was saluting. People were being yelled at, but they yelled back.
"Sure," Alec found himself saying. "Why not?"
Original Cindy shouted over her shoulder. "Normal!"
Normal popped out his head at the opening of his domain. "Why aren't you at Caldor?"
The girl grabbed Alec by the elbow. Surprised, Alec let himself be turned as she pointed to him.
"You're hiring!" she hollered.
Normal glowered at Alec then at Original Cindy. He shouted "Get to Caldor!" and ducked back into his cage. A beat later, he stuck his head out again, this time glowering at Alec. "Are you waiting for a special invitation?" And he dropped out of sight again.
"See you at seven sharp tomorrow." Original Cindy punched Alec on the arm. "Good looking out." And before he could introduce himself, maybe wrangle a beer with her, she left with her odd friend. Sketchy kept looking back at Alec and punching the air in some sort of victory sign until Cindy slapped the back of his head to quit it.
Judging how everyone else was, Alec quickly adopted a strategy..
"How do you do, sir?" Alec offered politely as soon as he trotted up to the cage. He extended out his hand through the gap "I appreciate the opportunity."
"Finally, someone with manners," Normal muttered but he didn't shake Alec's hand. He gave it a wary look. Alec lowered his hand and stood at parade rest.
"Hours seven to seven, you get three unpaid sick days, one day's pay docked for every hour you're late and if you're caught stealing our customers' packages, I call the cops no matter what's your sob story."
"Sounds reasonable," Alec replied as pleasantly as possible. But yeah, wow, seriously?
Normal grunted, but his beady squint through his glasses eased somewhat. "Okay then. Fill out the paperwork, Mister..." He frowned as he remembered. "I'm going to need a name, buddy."
Thinking quickly, Alec reviewed and discarded each one.
"Well?" Normal started to look cross again. Maybe that was his default face. "You got a name or not, buddy?"
A name popped up. Alec grinned.
"Oh yeah. I got a name."
Alec slowly made his way to the side of the building.
Three days. He'll stay with Jam Pony for three days. It should be enough time to charm his way into this Original Cindy's pants and secrets. This was just recon. He would make a better profit sticking to his da—oops—night job.
The line squeaked in his rigging when Alec halted. He stared.
His window was shut.
Alec set his jaw. All right, so it's been a few weeks. Still, the blinking red light by his shut window annoyed him. His stomach clenched. He debated kicking the window; let Logan deal with the alarms.
But then Alec saw the fireplace and the legs on the floor.
The alarm barely took a minute. Reaching Logan on the floor took less.
"Hey," Alec croaked. He half-crumpled on the floor next to Logan, lightheaded and oddly weak-kneed when he found Logan looking bleary-eyed up at him.
On the floor, bare feet extended towards the fire and still in his street clothes, Logan sat with his back propped against his couch. He stared at Alec for a long moment. His eyes lowered. He tipped the long stemmed goblet he cradled with both hands. It sparkled blood red against the fire. He drained it dry before offering a tiny, "Hey" in return. Then he fumbled for a wine bottle and refilled his glass to the top.
Alec's heart was doing some weird hammering at the base of his throat. He swallowed, but it wouldn't go away.
"Bad day at the office?" Alec asked lamely.
Logan grunted. "You could say that."
There was a lot Alec wanted to say but right now, he couldn't think of a single thing. Instead, he reached for to the bottle by the wheelchair. Another one, empty, rested against Logan's pale foot.
The bottle in his hands was nearly empty as well. Half an inch of alcohol sloshed pathetically in the bottle.
Alec scanned Logan's face, the flushed dots on his cheeks bright against the rest of his pallor. He glanced at the fire. There was a folder burning, the letters A, U, T, O, P disintegrating slowly in the flames. He tested the weight of the bottle in his hands. He finished the rest of the wine. Done, he settled down next to Logan.
"You can't get drunk." Logan rolled the wine glass between his hands.
Alec shrugged again. "There were times I wish I could."
Logan's hands shook. Alec plucked the glass out of his grip.
Alec tilted the glass towards the fire. He caught Logan's distorted reflection on the curve. He looked cold. He looked small. Yet Alec couldn't bring himself to get up to snag the fleece blanket off the wheelchair. He wiggled closer instead.
"Didn't think you were coming back," Logan mumbled. His weight rested against Alec's left shoulder then abruptly, he sat up straighter.
Alec missed the weight. He fiddled with the zipper on his jacket. "Yeah...well...I kind of got the craving for egg rolls. Got any left?"
Logan choked a laugh. "You were gone thirty two days. I think they're a lost cause now." He paused. "There may still be some in the fridge though."
Funny, Alec thought it was thirty three days. "Wait. Are you for real? I can eat almost anything but even that sound gross." He glanced sideways at Logan.
"Anything else in the fridge you in the mood for?"
Logan feebly waved towards the wine bottle Alec still had in his hands.
"Uh, anything you need a fork and knife for?"
Alec didn't wait for an answer. He grabbed the bottles and the glass and left them on the counter. He stuck his head into the fridge and—
"Dude, since when does MSG mutate that way? Is that pizza? No, I mean, was that pizza? Holy shit, you weren't kidding, you got a whole bunch of furry egg ro—"
"This was my fault, you know."
Alec's mouth snapped shut but he kept his head ducked inside. He didn't want to see Logan sitting there with whatever face that came with that crumbly voice.
"If he hadn't gone back to get my file out of her office, they wouldn't have followed him and grabbed him..." Logan sucked in his breath. He ran his hands through his hair. He bowed his head, fists trembling as they clutched his hair.
"I should have gone instead. I was still able to walk a little but he didn't think I should take the chance. Damn it, I should have gone instead."
Alec swallowed. He rested his cheek on the fridge's door.
"Then you would have been in the morgue," Alec mumbled.
If Logan was shocked Alec knew, if he even heard, it wasn't clear. His breath hitched. He sighed.
"First Max. Now Bling. All they ever do is ruin lives," Logan whispered brokenly but Alec heard him loud and clear. He grimaced.
Alec closed the fridge. Silently, he dropped down to Logan's side.
"I have to make this right." Logan stared at the fire. The folder crumpled to ash by now. His face twisted.
"I can't let his death be..." He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes.
Alec didn't know if he should say something: what or how was lost to him as well. But the look on Logan's face echoed too much when they first knew each other; when Alec was Dean and Logan was just wheelchair guy.
They sat there on the floor, the fire warm on Alec's face. He shifted, just a little, bumping shoulders. Logan tensed at first. But after a beat, he slumped against Alec.
"I am become Death," Logan whispered, head on Alec's shoulders, bleak eyes to the fire.
Alec flinched at the whispered quote.
The quote was Lydecker's favorite. Flashes of the footage of the trinity bomb flared behind his eyes, the glow on Lydecker's hard face as he showed the footage over and over to the tiny X-5s staring expressionlessly at the screen.
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
When Oppenheimer had translated the Bhagavad Gita, the atomic bomb had flared above the sky, changed the world, tipped the scales of war and fucked up every single mind of the human race with the knowledge of just how terrible they could become.
Lydecker called the X-5s his children, his terrible, beautiful atomic bombs. He meant it as his minced version of paternal affection. It left a tacky feeling whenever Alec remembered.
"You should all stay away from me." Logan closed his eyes against the fire's glare. Alec wondered if the light seeping through his thin eyelids show up as bomb flares.
Mouth dry, stomach twisting, Alec thought maybe saying nothing at all was the way to go. Because anything he wanted to say sounded too much like what Lydecker would say; Logan wasn't a custom ordered alphabet soup baby who needed to hear how he should suck it up. He sat there, aware of Logan's heat, the sharp jut of his shoulder, the way their arms lined up together. He felt Logan swallow convulsively against his shoulder.
"I think I'm drunk," Logan whispered.
Alec hummed. He rubbed his chin briefly against Logan's head on his shoulder. "Can I totally take advantage of you?"
"Not that drunk."
Alec felt Logan sagging further against him. Then he pulled away. But it seemed his body couldn't decide if it was staying upright or not as he sat there swaying and squinting.
"Come on." Alec wrapped an arm around Logan's middle. "Want a hand?"
Logan wordlessly shook his head. He squirmed out of Alec's loose hold and shakily hauled himself up into his wheelchair. Head still down, Logan gripped his rims, but he didn't push towards the bedroom.
"Come on," Alec murmured. "You're going to have a bitch of a hangover tomorrow."
"I should get back to work."
That again. Alec glowered. "No, you don't."
Logan squeezed his eyes shut. "Alec..."
"Look, take a nap, all right?" Alec hesitated. "Um...want me to stay?"
Startled, Logan looked up at him. "You don't have to."
"Yeah, well, you owe me a meal. Your fridge should be condemned." Alec trailed behind Logan. He watched Logan transferred to his bed to change before he went back to the kitchen. He dumped the food (because, yuck) and brought back a couple of water bottles. When he returned, Logan was already in his sweats, half asleep. Alec tiptoed to the nightstand to put the bottles within reach. He carefully plucked the glasses off Logan's face.
Logan's hand reached up and curled around his wrist.
"That's why I can't let you get involved," Logan murmured, his voice slurring. "They...if they know you're still here..."
"I'm not scared of them." Alec dug his heels into the carpet. He didn't pull his hand away.
"You're not. Not enough," Logan yawned. "I wished you were." He looked different without his glasses, his eyes naked, his face exposed and breakable.
"This world is screwed up, Alec. So many lost their lives. For me; because of me. I...I have to do something about it, make up for it..."
Alec tentatively wrapped his fingers around Logan's cool wrist. He wished it didn't feel so thin.
"Why," Alec asked, his throat tight, "do you have to be the one to fix it?"
Something flickered across Logan's face. His fingers loosened and pulled away.
Stung, Alec nodded towards the bottles on the end table. He sat down on the edge of the bed. "Take a couple of hours. Sleep it off."
Logan said nothing.
Alec quirked a smile at Logan. "Unless you are drunk enough..."
A hand reached up and feebly punched Alec in the arm.
Alec patted the hand and moved it to rest on Logan's stomach. "Get some sleep. You make an ugly drunk." He paused.
"Logan. Sorry about your friend."
Logan didn't say anything. He was already asleep.
He couldn't get his feet to move any closer. He stared at the open drawer and the white cloth over it.
A well-manicured hand with blood red fingernails reached for it.
Don't pull it off.
"If it's any consolation..." The white sheet slipped down the brow, revealing the smooth, lineless forehead...
Don't pull it off!
"He didn't suffer long."
The sheet tugged free off the vacant jade stare, the scars all over his face, the jagged slit under his thro—
Alec started. He lay there, heaving, dizzy for air.
"This was my fault, you know."
Alec could still taste the coppery tang on his tongue; arterial sprays tend to splatter if he wasn't careful. Blood gets into everything.
"I should have gone instead."
Shuddering, Alec lifted up his heavy head. He was curled against Logan's left hip, fists gripping a handful of Logan's sweatshirt. But before that registered or that he has a raging hard on trapped in his jeans, he saw Logan squinting at him, head up from the pillow, face unmarred, body warm with life.
"Alec, what are you doing on my bed? Are you all ri—mmpf."
Alec crawled up to Logan's mouth. Straddling his torso, Alec framed his face with both his hands and smashed his lips over his.
There was a stale yet sweet taste of wine when Logan gasped. Alec dove in, fingers cradling Logan's face, tongue darting in, demanding, begging, wanting...
There was a brief struggle before Logan's mouth softened against his, body sinking into the bed under both their weights.
Alec greedily drank him in, tasting and licking into the wet heat of Logan's mouth. His knees bracketed either side of a chest frantically expanding in and out. Logan's right hand weakly pushed at his chest before clawing Alec's shirt, pulling him in instead.
Growling into Logan's mouth, Alec arched against Logan's body, his erection painful trapped in his jeans. He rutted against Logan, seeking friction. His hands frantically roamed over Logan's jaw, his nose, the strong line of his throat. All whispering alivealivealive with each stroke. His searching fingers felt warmth and the sharp pinpricks of stubble. His mouth swallowed Logan's moans. Long lashes brushed against Alec's cheek, revealing a spark behind forest green eyes.
Alec made a sound in the back of his throat. He pressed burning eyes into the roughness of Logan's throat.
"Sh, it's all right..."
But it wasn't all right because Logan said it should have been him and he was going off to bad places alone and he was Eyes Only and he was Logan and...
Hands gripped him by the shoulders. Alec crowded in, humping frantically, devouring, mouth hungrily suckling wet velvet of tongue, tasting coffee, wine and...
Alec sprang off the bed backwards with a yelp. He crashed into Logan's wheelchair, his left foot tangled with its front wheel. He fell on his ass so hard, his knees rattled.
"Are you all right?"
Alec blinked up, his eyes tearing. A watery and very disheveled looking Logan sat up, staring at him over the edge of the bed.
"Shouldn't I ask you that?" Alec croaked. He extricated himself from the wheelchair and righted it. He ran his hands over the joints and wheels.
"I think you were having a nightmare," Logan said. He sounded as shaky as Alec felt.
"Me?" Alec looked up. He hastily looked away from Logan's shirt, one button missing, rucked up almost under his arms. His torso was flushed, stomach reddened from the rough texture of Alec's jeans.
Alec coughed, "I uh, you, um..." He gestured towards Logan's general direction. His ears burned as he listened to Logan straightening his clothes. Luckily, Alec was on top of the blankets over Logan's legs, otherwise Logan's top wouldn't be the only thing that needed straightening.
"You were muttering, talking in your sleep." Logan exhaled. "I tried to wake you but probably startled you instead because you, ah..."
Started kissing you, Alec supplied. His ears burned.
"You were saying 'alive, alive'," Logan offered gently and that made Alec feel worse. "Guess you thought I was someone else." Logan laughed awkwardly.
"What if I wasn't?"
Logan stopped laughing. "What?"
There was a tiny dent on the brake bar. Alec switched it on and off, testing its grip.
"Alec," Logan tried falteringly. "What did you mea—"
"I think your chair's okay." Alec slapped his hands on his thighs. He stayed crouched; his erection was still pressing against his zipper.
"How's the hangover?"
There was a pause. Logan grimaced. He groaned and sagged back into the bed. He folded fists over his eyes.
Alec winced. "That bad, huh? I'm glad I can't get drunk." He stood on his knees by the bed. "What's it feel like?"
"Like a truck repeatedly ran over my head before parking on top of it."
"Ye-ouch." Alec patted Logan on the shoulder. "Sucks to be you."
"Everything's a blur," Logan muttered. "I don't even remember when you came in."
Alec froze. "Yeah?"
Logan lowered his fists. His eyes were bloodshot when they traveled over Alec's face. "When did you come in?"
Why hung unsaid between them.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Alec crooked a smirk at him. "I thought I'd drop by and say hey. Found you gawking at the fireplace." His face felt strange when he grinned. "You did not make a pretty drunk. You were all octopus hands too, you tease."
"Did I say anything?" Logan croaked.
"Loads of stuff," Alec quipped. His smirk faded at the panic flashing across Logan's face.
Alec's eyebrows cranked up and down. "You were telling me poetry, how my eyes sparkled in the firelight, how my ass was hard like ro—"
A pillow bopped Alec on the chin.
Alec snickered. "Nah, man. You just sat there all mopey and broody. Very drama queen like. Kind of like that Heathcliff guy in one of your angsty books." He sobered. "You were pretty out of it."
Logan searched Alec's face. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Bad day."
"Looked like it." Ice lumped in Alec's chest. He cracked a faint smile. His hands squeezed together in his lap.
"You need to stay hydrated," Alec told him. The smile on his face felt like it was going to crack into something darker. His jaw clenched so he wouldn't be shouting.
"There's a bunch of water here." Alec's head jerked towards the nightstand. "Maybe some breakfast too?"
At Logan's gulp, Alec smirked. "Maybe not."
Logan ruefully patted his stomach. "I don't think I'm in the mood to eat."
"You never are," Alec muttered darkly.
"Nothing." Alec pursed his lips.
"So what was the bender for?"
A shadow passed over Logan's face.
"Bad day at the office," Logan whispered. He looked pained as he shut his eyes briefly. "I screwed up."
Alec wanted to curl up against Logan again. He wanted to feel the heavy weight of Logan's head on his shoulder again.
He didn't want to hear Logan like that again.
Alec hesitantly rubbed his thumb over Logan's closest hand, ironing out the chill just under Logan's skin.
"I would say sorry," Alec said quietly, "if you'll just let me know what it's all about. But I get you don't want to."
Logan's throat worked. "Not want; can't."
Alec pressed his thumb down on the back of Logan's hand and watched the white spot flushed pink with life.
"You think you can't," Alec mumbled. He felt Logan's gaze on him. Alec stretched his lips to a strained smile. "Yeah. I get it. Need to know. Not want to know." He got to his feet and bent over Logan. Carefully, under Logan's wide-eyed gaze, Alec brushed his mouth over the corner of Logan's mouth. He felt Logan's startled exhale on his cheek.
"Alec..." Logan choked. "Why did you..."
"I'm pretty sure you're sick and tired of people saying sorry to you all the time," Alec spoke over Logan. "Saying sorry doesn't fix anything." He flicked Logan's bangs like Cindy did. He smoothed the mess over, his thumb lingering to brush over a smudge under his eye.
"I can give you better than that," Alec whispered. He leaned in and kissed the corner of Logan's eye. "I can make you feel better if you'll let me. No 'I'm sorry', no 'if you need to talk'. None of that bullshit."
Logan curled a trembling hand into Alec's shirt. His fingers clawed worn cotton. He shook when Alec nipped the swept of his brow, tongued the curve of his cheekbone, nosed the fragile silken skin of his temples.
The fist on Alec's shirt tugged then splayed on Alec's chest.
"No. I shouldn't let you do this." Logan sat up, his hand on Alec's chest like he was warding off a big dog. "Alec, stop. Thank you, but you don't have to do this. This is too generous of you."
Alec's stomach knotted but he smiled wanly. "Like I said: I'm a saint."
A tired smile flickered in return. "And like I said: modest." Logan's hand lowered.
The absence of Logan's hand left an ache in Alec's chest he didn't expect. He rubbed at the hollowness absently.
Logan's brow knitted as he studied Alec.
"I gotta blaze," Alec said reluctantly. He got to his feet. His erection pretty much deflated at this point, but the fluttering in his throat still demanded to be let out. He wasn't sure if it'll come out as a demanding kiss or a rush of questions he knew Logan wouldn't answer. His jaw ached from clenching to dam the unknown tide.
"Drink the water, okay?"
Logan propped himself on his elbows now. His eyes, more alert, were glued to Alec.
"Are you all right?"
Alec wanted to fire the question back at Logan. He shrugged.
"Bad dream." Alec checked his watch. He blanched. Crap, he really did need to blaze.
"I'll see you later, okay?" Alec said hastily.
"Sure," Logan said slowly.
Alec hesitated. He sat back down on the bed edge again.
"No more benders, all right?"
"No more benders," Logan promised hoarsely. His hand lifted towards Alec. It dropped before it reached Alec though. "Thanks, Alec."
"Sure." Alec murmured. He opened his mouth but closed it again. "I'll see you."
"See you," Logan echoed but Alec was already climbing out the living room window.