The window was closed again.
Alec stared at the window and the blinking red alarm.
What the hell?
Spotting Logan wheeling past, Alec tapped the window. When Logan stopped in his tracks, Alec gestured towards the alarm before disarming it and slipping inside.
"I thought you said nine." Alec shut the window. He took an appreciative sniff of the air. Mm. Not pork chops or chicken.
"What were you doing at the window?" Logan asked, baffled.
Alec gave him a frown as he unbuckled his rigging. "You said nine, right?" He peeled back the blocking tape on his watch and squinted at its face. "I'm only six minutes late. That's not even fashionably. Should I go back outside and wait ten more minutes?"
"No, I mean..." Logan gestured towards the door, back to the window.
Alec rubbed the back of his neck. "That's for work. You know, ding dong, Jam Pony? The window's...that's my wind—" He hastily shrugged off his backpack.
"Aw, forget it. It was a habit. I forgot, all right? I don't even know why you bother with the alarm anyway. It's a joke." Alec veered around Logan to peek into the kitchen. "What's for dinner?"
"Pasta," Logan said absently. He kept looking at the window. "Some garlic bread."
Alec stirred the pot's contents with the wooden spoon that was inside. He noted the red sauce, the bits of ground beef. His stomach gurgled.
"It should be a few more minutes," Logan said, his smile faint, but genuine. He balanced two baskets of bread and wine on his lap. It looked like he already set the table.
Alec frowned. "Hey, I think Mount Cale is bigger than last time." The pillars of folders were taller and broader now. They took up the other half of the table.
"Been busy." Logan shrugged as he set the bread down.
Alec narrowed his eyes. "Doing what?"
"Porn," Logan said curtly. His voice was hard, warning the conversation, or at least that part of it, was over.
"Whatever you say, Heather," Alec muttered. He flicked an eye towards the computer desk; the gun drawer was shut. Damn it, Manticore should have considered X-ray vision for their test tube babies.
"Can you stir that for me?"
Alec jerked his eyes away from the gun drawer. He blinked at Logan, who nodded towards the pot on the stove.
"What? You're putting me to work?" Alec whined. "I've been pretending to work all day." He smirked at Logan's snort. He made a show of grumbling as he turned back towards the pot on the stove.
The spoon rattled around the sides of the pot. Alec stirred, occasionally sniffing the salty sweet smell of tomato and herbs appreciatively. Distractedly, he looked about because standing there, stirring felt too normal for a lab experiment like him. He ended up watching Logan's hands as they absently brushed across the table surface, looking for crumbs. Long, tapered hands skimmed across the grain, lingering at some spots, fingertips pressing lightly on—
"Uh yeah." Alec stopped staring and hurriedly dropped his eyes onto the pot.
"Is it ready?" Logan didn't look up as he detached the armrests so he could fit under the table. He pulled out a rolled up blanket from behind and set it next to him.
Alec stared blankly into the pot. "I think so?"
"Think so?" Logan echoed as he wheeled over. "Did the oregano soften up yet? I put a spoonful of brown sugar because the tomatoes were not ripe enough. Is it completely dissolved?"
"You told me to stir." Alec gestured to Logan with a sauce soaked spoon. "You didn't tell me to do a spectral analysis of the damn thing."
Logan chuckled faintly. Alec hated how it always died quickly like Logan wasn't sure how long it should last.
"Here, give me a spoon. I'll see if it's ready."
"I can strip down an M-9 blindfolded, recalibrate a Wen-Mak 14 laser scope with a toothpick, but this?" Alec griped.
"It's cooking, not nuclear physics." Logan's amusement lingered warm on Alec's skin.
"Close enough," Alec griped. "Cooking's too complicated." He scooped up a bit of sauce. He squinted at at the spoon, but he couldn't tell if any of the things Logan asked about had happened. He extended the spoon out. "Here. Taste."
Logan paused at the spoon inches from his mouth. And for a breathless second, Alec thought Logan would just lean in, close his eyes and nibble on the edge of the wooden spot, his lower lip glistening with sauce and—
"Thanks." Logan cleared his throat as he gingerly grabbed the spoon by its long stem. There was a brief tug of war before Logan gained the spoon. He slipped the edge of the spoon between his lips; Alec suddenly wanted to snap the damn spoon in half.
Alec stared, mouth dry as Logan closed his eyes briefly, his throat working as he lightly smacked his lips.
"I think it's done." Logan ran his tongue over his lower lip. He blinked up at Alec's choked sound. "Alec?"
"Done. Great," Alec managed. He nearly shoved his flushed head into the pot. "Looks done. Smells done. Great. I'm starving. Want me to bring it over?"
Logan looked at him strangely. "Sure."
Dinner was pretty good. Logan made some sort of funny screw shaped pasta and piled on a spicy, beefy sauce that left a slick, red pool at the bottom of his plate. Alec was describing Sketchy and his weird talking friend Herbal while he swept a piece of crusty bread across his plate to soak up the sauce.
"...so I think he said let's get something to eat, but I can't do lunch these days and he says something about the air and how it swirls around us and then—"
"You can't do lunch?" Logan echoed, interrupting.
Alec paused, the bread halfway to his mouth. He finished the move, popping the saucy morsel in before continuing.
"Yeah, they're not exactly paying us the big bucks, plus I got this," Alec pointed to the back of his neck with his fork, "to think about."
Logan grimaced. "It's finally starting to warm up. That scarf's going to look strange soon."
"No shit." Alec scraped the plate, herding the remains of his pasta for one last forkful.
"Thought you were getting leads to bigger payoffs."
"Been busy," Alec mumbled. He froze. He glanced over, but Logan only looked curious. "...With stuff. How about you?"
"What?" Startled, Logan blinked. "Me?"
Alec snagged a piece of bread. He snagged the now empty pot and started to clean the bottom off with his bread. "Been keeping busy? Any more side trips?"
"No. Like I said before. Just more porn."
Alec leered. "Anything interesting? New positions?"
"Missionary again, Heather?" Alec groaned. He cackled at Logan's sputter. "All right, all right." He sobered. "Seriously, need me squatting your place again anytime soon?"
Logan shook his head. "I wish I could explain, but —"
"You don't want my help. Got it." Alec tipped the pot towards him and studied the bottom of it. There was still some sauce left, but he ran out of bread.
Logan nudged his still full bread basket towards Alec.
"I can't take your help." Logan sighed. Alec looked up. "My friend Max..." He stirred around what was still left on his plate with a fork.
Logan's ceramic plate had a simple blue stripe around its circumference. It was exactly the understated yet overpriced piece Alec expected Logan to have. It was fancy and looked fancy, the kind where expensive food was often arranged on them with wasteful garnishes cut out of perfectly good vegetables. The forks were heavy with real silver. Even the wine glasses held a weight. But instead of wine, Logan unexpectedly served apple juice, nice and cold, crisp and golden in his fancy drink ware. He savored the sweet juice; it's been a while since he tasted apple juice.
"Alec." Logan's weary voice drew Alec out of his thoughts. "It's not that I don't want your help. It was never that."
"I don't get you," Alec muttered. "You're obviously getting mixed up in things, things that need you carrying a gun indoors, but you got something way better than a dinky gun sitting here eating your food."
"I can't risk putting you in the spotlight, Alec. Not with Manticore still watching."
At the mention of Manticore, the grumbling in Alec's stomach died down. He set the pot back on the table.
"Manticore is always watching," Alec told him. "I've been under their microscope since probably in the zygote stage." He swallowed. There was a bad taste in his mouth. "That's never going to change but it doesn't mean I'm afraid of them either." Alec shrugged. "And hey, it's not for free. I'm not cheap. Figured whatever it is you get me doing would pay a hell of a lot better than Jam Pony."
Logan studied him, his mouth pressed thin.
Alec's hand flew up to it. The yarn yielded to his clawed grip. It hung loosely around his neck. Shit, did he get sauce on it?
"What about it?"
"You still have it on."
Luckily, the scarf concealed the weird blush he could feel creeping up. "It's cold," Alec mumbled.
"Even in here?"
Alec dropped his hand.
Logan stared at him and how was it Alec never realized that stare was so much like Eyes Only? It was just as intense, just as steady and dissecting. How could anyone take one look at him and not realize Logan Cale was Eyes Only?
"What?" Alec rubbed the edge of the table with his thumb. "What about the scarf?"
"You never take it off."
Alec gestured towards the back of his neck.
Logan made an agreeing sound. "I get that. Out there, with Manticore. But in here?" He set down his fork, no longer pretending he was trying to finish his food.
"Alec, you don't even take it off here."
"That..." Alec lowered his hand from the scarf. "Don't read too much into that. I forgot, that's all."
"You've been here for almost an hour and it never occurred to you to take that off? Doesn't it feel warm here? You look hot."
"Why thank you. You're no ugly, either."
Alec unwound the knit around his throat; he had to flex his hands twice to get them to move. The wool pooled in his lap after sliding off his neck like a snake. Done, he opened his hands. He didn't know what Logan was talking about. The place wasn't warm. He could feel goosebumps prickling his neck.
"See?" Alec smirked. "Anything else you want me to take off?"
Logan didn't blush or get flustered like he normally did. The guy sat there, looking like a bag of puppies was just tossed in the river or something.
"Greg Stacks of Stacks Auditing has been skimming."
Taken aback, Alec stammered a "Huh?" He tracked Logan as he made his way to the other end of the table. He reached up for a folder flagged with a blue tab.
"He's under investigation for embezzling funds out of the very companies he was hired to watch over. He's finally going before a grand jury next week so chances are he's cashing in everything and skipping the country this week."
Nodding, Alec accepted the folder. "So he's got a stash probably sitting around, ready to go. Sweet." He quickly scanned the contents. "Looked like he already asked around for a ticket out of here. Carver, Simms, Bronck, Zeller, military..."
"Sooner or later, someone is going to say yes to the price he's offering."
It meant there was a big payout, most likely sitting in a bag somewhere and Stacks quietly shitting in his pants trying to outrace a grand jury. It was hard to buy off a grand jury even in today's economy. Stacks had better odds swimming the Atlantic to China with his ill-gotten gains strapped to his back.
Alec frowned. He held up the folder.
"You don't do this," Alec accused Logan.
"But you do." There was no recrimination in Logan's voice.
"Although," Alec thought out loud, "I rip him off and Stacks is stuck here with his date with the grand jury." Judicial orgy. Awesome.
"That's not why I gave that to you." Logan looked pained at the idea. "I just thought it's better to get a lead on a sure thing."
Alec waggled his eyebrows. "Am I corrupting you?"
Logan scoffed. He wheeled away to the living room.
Alec frowned at the plates. More accurately, at the food left on the plate across from him.
"You're still hungry?"
"I can eat." And so can you. Alec turned the chair and straddled it backwards. He rested his arms on top of it.
"Hey, what say I go give Stacks a visit and we celebrate with cake after? I know this guy who sells what the bakery couldn't over on Feber. They're a day old, but they're still pretty good—"
"It's okay," Logan interrupted. He gave Alec a faint smile before transferring to the couch with a wince. "I've got some more work I need to do."
Alec pursed his lips. "Aw, you're not like those anti-dessert people, are you? I mean, seriously, you don't need to watch your weight and the chocolate éclairs there are good. Hell, isn't chocolate supposed to be like an aphrodis—"
"It's fine," Logan said. He didn't turn around. Alec stared at his slumped shoulders. "I'm not a dessert kind of guy."
"You're not much of a food kind of guy either," Alec pointed out to the back of Logan's head. "Don't you ever like your own cooking?"
"Let me guess," Alec muttered, "You weren't in the mood." He rested his chin on his folded arms. "Are you ever in the mood?"
Logan didn't comment, but a tiny clicking-clacking filled the gap. Damn it. Guess he found the laptop.
Alec watched him typing away. He knew by the minute flex of Logan's shoulders he could feel Alec's blatant scrutiny. But screw it; Alec stared anyway at the pale neck and the neckline of a sweatshirt that seem to hang looser each time he saw the guy.
The typing stopped. "Stacks is out tonight for a black tie event. He probably won't be back until one."
The corner of Alec's eye twitched. "Was that a hint?"
Logan still wouldn't turn around. Alec wanted to throw something at his head to get him to look over.
"If you want me to go..." Alec bit his lower lip.
A tired sigh floated out from the couch.
"No. I just...this would be the best thing for you right now." Logan paused. "But I can have dessert ready if...if you want to come back here."
Dessert and Logan popped in Alec's head and suddenly, it was a good thing the guy was all the way over there. The offer to eat it off Logan's skin or off Alec's was at the tip of his tongue. Alec rested his forehead on top of the chair. Behind the chair's back, he pressed the heel of his hand down on the heat swelling between his legs. Ouch.
"Yeah," Alec almost groaned. "Dessert sounds great." He staggered up. "I'll uh...be right back."
By the time Alec returned, there was a faint smell of stewed apples and a spice he sometimes smelled in pies. When there were pies, that is.
The window, this time, was open, alarm off. Alec slipped inside, slid it shut before the late night air could whistle in. He set down the backpack. Maybe he'll catch Logan doing his Eyes Only thing, maybe he'll sit here, listen to that throaty voice, slip a hand down his pants and jerk off to the dulcet tones of truth, justice and—nah.
The computer area was unoccupied, as was the dining area, so it left the kitchen. Alec tiptoed in, catching Logan on the end of a conversation with his earpiece before returning back to whatever he left cooling on the lower table attached to the island. The wood looked new. He tried not to think about why a shorter table was added onto the kitchen island.
Alec bit his lower lip as he observed Logan snatching back a hand when the skillet proved to be too hot. Logan stuck a finger in his mouth, absently sucking the reddened digit as he scooped out mounds of golden fruit.
"What's that?" Alec asked hastily because watching Logan's lips pursed around the fingertip was both nice and increasingly uncomfortable at the same time.
Logan twitched and started to reach for something by his hip until he realized who it was.
"Wear a bell," Logan grumbled. He continued spooning fruit into two red striped bowls. Yeesh, even the bowls coordinated with the food.
Leaning casually against the fridge, Alec folded his arms.
"Since when do you carry your gun with you inside?"
"Not the first time," Logan reminded him.
Alec scowled. That's right. Even before tall, blonde and handsome broke in, before he was Heather, he was already Eyes Only, pissing a lot of people off. People with bigger guns. He eyed the holster Logan tucked between the side of the chair and his right leg. Logan wouldn't be able to get to it fast enough.
"Stacks panned out?" Logan asked, rousing Alec from his mental debate on which would be strategically better: a .45 gun attached to the bottom of the island slab or a shotgun under the dining table.
"Very." Alec nodded towards his backpack. "Maybe even enough to hit Chinatown after next week."
"Great. I think." Logan made a face; he didn't seem to find that good news like Alec did. He studied the two bowls on the counter critically as he coated the steaming tops with a topping.
"Was that supposed to be pie? I think they blew up on you." Alec screwed up his face. It sort of looked like pie except the crust was all broken on top.
"Cobbler." Logan explained as he nodded towards them. "Be better with ice cream, but with dairy at a premium these days, no one is making it."
It turned out cobbler was a juicy jumbled mix of fruit and crunchy nutty crumb topping. Each spoonful burst into a swell of spices and sugar. It was crunchy. It was sweet. It was pretty awesome.
As Alec licked his spoon front and back after every mouthful, he described to Logan Stacks's sorry security system.
"Most of his expensive stuff was gone," Alec said as he created another spoonful with the perfect ratio of fruit, crunchy stuff and juice. He popped the spoon in his mouth. He hummed.
"There's a bunch of blank patches on the walls. I'm thinking paintings. A couple of empty pedestals, too. Although I doubted he had anything as tasteful as your lesbian cases." Alec closed his eyes at the next spoonful; a heady mix of spices hit the back of his throat with a lingering warmth. He moaned. "Holy shit, what spice is that?"
"Nutmeg." Logan was staring hard into his bowl for whatever reason.
"Nutmeg's awesome." Alec frowned to himself when Logan wordlessly slid his bowl over. It was still half full. "You sure?"
Logan shrugged as he wiped his mouth clean with a napkin. Darn. Alec was about to offer to clean him off himself.
Alec hastily dropped his eyes into Logan's offered bowl. "Okay, cool," he said hurriedly before he scrambled across the table and freaked the guy out. "Uh, thanks. This is really good."
"Sounds like Stacks liquidated everything," Logan murmured. His brow furrowed. "He was planning to run after all."
"Maybe. Found a bag of krugerrands, maybe worth forty thousand in his wall safe."
Logan's brow deepened. "He's worth more than that. He must have paid off someone already."
Alec shrugged. "His house was stripped bare, so it looks like it." He studied Logan. "Bad news?"
It was impressive (and annoying) how quickly Logan schooled a blank expression.
"For the grand jury and the prosecutor." Logan's finger tapped lightly on the table. "I heard they worked hard to put a case together against Stacks."
Uh huh. Alec played along; he shrugged as he gulped another spoonful of dessert.
"If they were so gung-ho about stringing Stacks up, they should have had the trial early."
Logan's shoulders lifted and dropped, but Alec spied the tightness around his eyes, agreeing. "Too bad."
"Right. Too bad," Alec echoed. He listened to Logan's finger tap the table some more before he spoke up again.
"Oh yeah," Alec said casually as he scraped the bottom of the bowl clean. Damn, it went fast. "I got you a present."
"A present?" Even though Alec was heading for his backpack, he could hear Logan's eyebrow going up high. He felt Logan's gaze on him as he rummaged through his pack.
"Guess what I have?" Alec singsonged as his hand burrowed deeper through his loot. The coins tinkled as he searched. Krugerrands makes the best music.
"What for?" Logan sounded baffled.
Alec shot him an irritated look over his shoulder. Logan sighed.
"Fine. Uh, a new security alarm?"
"You're not even trying," Alec complained as he curled a hand around the roll at the bottom of the pack.
Alec rolled his eyes. "No."
Alec scoffed. "Since when do you wear jewelry?" He brightened. "Unless you're thinking handcuffs. Now there's a thought. I can get these fur-lined ones—"
"A book?" Logan threw in hastily.
"What? Ew, no." Alec leapt to his feet, brandishing the rolled up manila folder in his grasp. "I got you porn!"
Logan cautiously accepted his gift. "Thank you?"
"Check it out," Alec prodded. He smirked when Logan peered over his spectacles at him. "Nothing you haven't seen before, Heather." He shoved his hands in his pockets. "Come on!"
Muttering to himself, Logan tugged the rubber band off and carefully unfurled the roll cautiously like it was an IED. His eyes quickly darted through the pages. They widened. Logan looked up sharply.
Alec grinned back smugly. "Looked like Stacks had very naughty photos of some of the people in the prosecutor's office. He had them stashed between his other files in his office. He must have been blackmailing them so they would drag their feet about the grand jury." His smile faded at Logan's stare. "What?"
"I thought you were going to clean him out." Logan's gaze flicked to the folder then back up to Alec.
Alec shrugged. "Thought you might be interested."
Logan gave him a searching look. "Why did you think I might be interested in this?"
Thinking quickly, Alec waved towards the folders on the dining room. He cocked his head. "What's the face for?"
Logan took a deep breath. "You took a big risk."
"What risk? He wasn't hiding it anywhere special. It was in another safe in his upstairs office." Actually, Stacks hid his upstairs office, but Alec suspected that was a detail Logan didn't need to know.
"But you should have just gone in and out, not search for anything else. If he came back—"
"If he came back, found you, called the police—"
"And the police called Lydecker, what then?"
Alec stiffened. He violently shook out of it and glared at Logan.
"But what if he did?" Logan pressed.
Alec gnashed his teeth. "But he didn't."
"What if the security cameras caught you—"
"I took out all of the feeds—"
"What if you missed one?"
"I didn't," Alec declared, but Logan's mouth only pressed together tighter. His knuckles turned white around the rims of his chair.
"Alec, the slightest mention of you or your abilities show up in even a blog post and it'll get back to Lydecker. What then?"
"Then I'll blaze out of here to this magical place up north you called Canada, all right?" Alec snapped.
Logan's face shuttered.
"Yes, there's always that," Logan said woodenly. His mouth twisted before he abruptly turned away.
"Don't take the chance again." Logan squeezed the folder between his hands. He flattened it out and left it on the desk. He didn't look at it again.
"I keep telling you; this was not a big deal, all right? It wasn't exactly the highest secured place in the city. Hell, there was a couple—"
Alec started at the raised voice. He stared at Logan, hurt.
Logan seemed to sag into his wheelchair.
"Don't do this for me again." Logan's words were firm, almost commanding. Alec's chest flared when he realized he almost saluted Logan.
"Whatever," Alec muttered. He abruptly turned his shoulder to Logan as he stomped away.
"Alec. It's not, I'm not, worth—"
"Fine," Alec snapped before Logan could give him the damn 'Manticore is evil' spiel again. "No more favors. I heard you the first time." He snatched his backpack, whipping it over the shoulder in one sharp move. He needed to show up at Jam Pony early tomorrow anyway.
"See you around," Alec muttered. He stalked past Logan. He went out the door instead of the window. If Logan called him back, Alec didn't stick around long enough to hear.
The locker crumpled in the middle at the slam. Damn it.
Alec glowered into his locker and its stupid contents.
Stupid locker. Stupid badge. Stupid Log—
Someone on the other side of the row shouted angrily when Alec's punch popped open all the doors on the other side.
"Take it outside!" Normal bellowed from his area.
Alec grit his teeth. He spent the rest of that night on the roof, glaring at the light glowing out from Logan's floor. It was still on when he left for Jam Pony. Then some asshole in a car cut him off on the way to work. And he found a new hole in his right boot.
"Watch it," someone complained when Alec slammed his locker door again.
"Shut up," snarled Alec. The grumbling on the other side immediately quieted.
Original Cindy sighed as she materialized to his right. She pushed back the dark curls from her face as she scrutinized Alec. Her full red lips pursed.
"What?" Alec snapped. He didn't wait for an answer and yanked the locker door back open to block the disapproving frown.
"Back off," Alec muttered as he yanked his shirt off over his head. "This is the guys' locker side. No peeping." He threw his crumpled shirt into his locker as he grabbed a clean top.
"Original Cindy sees nothing she wants to see."
That only reminded Alec he still hadn't been able to recruit her and the urge to slam his door bubbled up. Then again, he didn't want her lousy information anyway. Did Logan want to go solo? Fine. He didn't care. If the idiot wanted to help scumbags like Bronck to beat him up in an alley, dump his body somewhere, his face torn up like...like...
The doors on both sides of the lockers flew open when Alec punched the bottom of his. Surprisingly, all he got was a couple of squeaks in response.
"You know Normal's going to take that out of your pay."
"Boo hoo." Alec snatched his badge, slung it over his covered neck. He glared at his bag though and its hideous neon green logo of a rider speeding away.
"Original Cindy doesn't know what's got your boxers in a bunch, but she thinks you better quit it before you wreck the whole damn building."
Alec wanted to wreck the whole damn building. He wanted to go over to a certain penthouse and rip certain computers off certain walls and...
The thread of anger in his chest snapped and left him breathless. Alec stared into his locker, suddenly feeling ill. He would never...no...
Alec shot Original Cindy a look. She cocked her head, folding her arms.
"There's a couple of bikes in the back if you still feel like tearing something apart," Cindy said, her face deliberately blank.
"Think Normal will take that out of my pay too?" Alec joked weakly.
Cindy snorted as she shrugged.
"Normal would crap in his corporate branded briefs if you start ripping locker doors off with your bare hands."
Alec pretended to rear back in horror.
"Normal wears briefs?"
"Hey." Cindy pressed a thumb over his hand squeezing the locker door. "Whatever got you pissed off; shake it off before you let the cat out of the bag."
"What cat?" Alec asked innocently.
Cindy drew closer. "The cat you're trying to rip off its hinges."
Alec discovered the locker door was buckling under his grip. Crap. His hand flinched open. He hastily dropped his hand back into the locker.
"You better straighten it out or it'll never close."
Alec's eyes zipped to Cindy. Her look sharpened. She nodded minutely to the messengers behind her.
"Most of us can't fold metal in half with our bare hands. Better fix that before someone notices."
A small hand, a fragile hand, dropped over his, unafraid.
"It's all right," Cindy murmured. "Original Cindy knows."
"Know what?" Alec whispered, his throat squeezing.
"Know Jam Pony won't be left standing if you really let loose." Cindy squeezed his hand. Alec stifled the urge to jerk away.
"No one's near," Cindy said, urgent and hushed.
Alec fidgeted as he flattened out the dents with his hand. Cindy's gaze on him seemed seared into his skin.
The locker door groaned. They both flinched. To Alec's surprise, Original Cindy stepped closer, her slim body blocking the view. She nodded curtly. Alec finished ironing out the dents with his bare hands.
Done, Alec stared into his locker. His shoulders flexed as he waited, anticipating, bracing to run.
Cindy tsked. "Was Logan being a fool last night?"
It startled a scoff out of Alec. "Guess Original Cindy does know."
Cindy rolled her eyes. She tapped a fist to his arm with a smirk. "After work." She sauntered away. She paused. "You're buying." She didn't wait for a reply, her hand waving over her shoulder in goodbye.
Alec stared after her, speechless.
"Wait. I'm buying?"
A dark hand reached over and stole the peanut out of Alec's hand.
"Hey!" Alec complained. "That was dinner."
Cindy gazed down at him, nonplussed. She popped the peanut in her mouth.
"Give Original Cindy the 411. Now."
Alec drew his peanut bowl protectively to him. He glowered at Original Cindy as she plopped down in a chair in front of him. He didn't offer to buy her a beer. There was a growing suspicion it would be a waste of time trying.
"You first," Alec returned. "Max and Logan."
Cindy shrugged delicately. "They're both stupid. Now they're stupid miles apart."
Alec blinked. "What? No, I wasn't talking about them as in them." His chest clenched at the words though. "I meant Max as," he gestured towards himself, "And Logan as..." He nodded towards the television.
"Max was Logan's superhero; he was the sidekick." At Alec's scowl, Cindy added, "Not Original Cindy's words." She studied Alec.
"So now you're taking Max's place?"
Bile rose up in Alec's throat. He grunted and focused on eating everything in his peanut bowl.
Cindy sighed. "This is why Original Cindy plays for her own team." She tapped her mug on the table to get Alec to look up. "You offered?"
"He wouldn't let me." Alec sparingly told her about Sparks.
"For real," Cindy said feelingly. "He's changed numbers on me." She frowned. "Even after I told him not to."
Alec had a feeling not many disobeyed Original Cindy.
"You been following him?"
"No," Alec said quickly. He glared at Cindy's smirk. "Maybe. Sometimes."
"Shut up," Alec muttered. "And to think I thought you were hot."
"Sugar, Original Cindy's flattered , but your balls are in the wrong place."
Alec's eyes widened. He reviewed their conversation.
"Wait, you're a lesbian?" Alec sagged into his chair. This was getting better and better. Five demerits, 494.
"I had this whole plan..." Alec gestured towards her with a weak hand wave. He squinted at her.
"Is this lesbian thing a done deal? I've changed a few minds befor—All right! All right!" Alec pretended to cringe when Cindy stood up. He snickered as she sat back down. Damn, he didn't see that one coming. No wonder Cindy ran cold on him.
"So you had a plan, hm?" Cindy drawled. "Thinking a little bit of loose lips between the sheets?" She glowered at Alec's leer.
Alec opened his hands. "Okay. I'll stop. I'll stop." He smirked at her. "It's kind of refreshing actually not to have someone fall over my gorgeous body."
"It wouldn't have worked," Cindy told him. She rolled her eyes when Sketchy greeted her with a holler by the pool table.
Alec scowled at her.
Smirking, Cindy gestured the space between her and Alec.
"As I'm sure you might represent the fine part of your species, Original Cindy is not interested in kicking it up with you."
Alec smiled bitterly. "Too science fiction?"
"Too Y chromosome."
Alec blinked. He recovered under the guise of drinking his beer. He set the mug down and studied Cindy.
"Are you sure? Because there's this thing I can do with my thumb—"
"Keep talking," Original Cindy warned, "And it isn't Manticore you have to worry about."
His stomach grew cold.
"Know about that too, huh?" At Cindy's shrug, Alec narrowed his eyes.
"What do you want?"
"Another beer," Cindy shot back easily before she gestured to the bartender. She pointed to Alec and mouthed "he's buying." She didn't seem fazed at Alec's glare.
"Another beer," Alec repeated. "That's it?"
Cindy thought for a moment. She smirked.
"Original Cindy would like some world peace. You and four eyes get on that, all right?"
Cindy threw a peanut at him. Alec caught it with his mouth. He crunched it loudly and belched in front of her. Sure enough, she threw a few more at him. He smugly caught them all, but when his eyes drifted to the television over the bar, his smile faded.
"So that's it?" Alec studied Cindy warily. "You don't want me to get you something shiny or sparkly every so often?"
"Original Cindy needs no fancy toys to pretty her up." Cindy scoffed. She sobered as she considered Alec.
Alec screwed up his face. "What?"
Cindy checked around them before she reiterated.
"How long you been out?"
Since Rachel, Alec wanted to say, but instead, he held up four fingers.
"Huh. After Max, then." Cindy popped a peanut in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "How long you knew Logan?"
Alec didn't think he really did. "Couple of months. Fall last year makes it five months, I guess, give or take."
Alec leered. "Working on it." His smirk faded at Cindy's scowl.
"Hey, the guy isn't exactly a social butterfly. I only finally got him trained to speak in more than monosyllables." Alec ran a finger across the scarred bar table. "And he's not exactly a sharing kind of guy." He jerked his head towards the television.
Cindy scoffed. "Original Cindy got the Cliff notes only because Max squealed." She folded her arms.
"So what are you going to do now?"
Alec poked the last peanut in the bowl around with his finger. He shrugged.
"He's doing his superhero gig alone," Cindy murmured. "What are you going to do about it?"
"What can I do? Oh, right. Nothing. He told me to stay out of it," Alec grumbled. He slouched into his chair, all too aware of the scarf around his neck. "Besides, I got my own shit I need to worry about."
Knowing eyes drifted to the side of his face. Cindy nodded.
"Saw it when Sketchy was taking your photo." Cindy pursed her lips. "That scarf's going to look pretty stupid in a few weeks."
Alec nodded glumly. "Tell me about it. I might have a place lined up in two weeks for a little scouring."
"Not." Alec opened his mouth wide and pointed towards it. He gave her sad eyes. Cindy sighed and chucked another peanut at him.
"I figured," Alec said while he munched, "I get my own business together then I'll keep popping up on his business." He tilted his bowl back and emptied the rest of the peanuts. "Sooner or later, he's gonna have to let me in on the action." He grinned cheekily at Cindy.
"I'll wear him down."
"Logan Cale's already been worn down," Cindy told him before she tossed another peanut at him. It bounced off his nose. "Original Cindy thinks you need a better plan."
Alec frowned. "For Logan?"
"Well, it's all I got," Alec griped. He tugged the scarf tighter around his neck to the point of choking. "I can't walk around with a 'Come get me' on my neck and Logan's determined to wear a 'Come get me' on his back."
"I told Max I would keep an eye out."
Max should have stuck around and did it himself, Alec thought darkly. He looked across to Cindy, thoughtful.
Slowly, Alec smirked.
Cindy narrowed her eyes at him.
"...at four?" Cindy made a face. "You sure?"
"I got bad Chinese food stuck at the bottom of my boot and grease in my hair from climbing free hand on a five story building," Alec hissed back as Cindy rummaged through her locker for her gear. She shot him a look. He rolled his eyes and turned around so she could change. He waggled his fingers at Tiffany, who had no such qualms about pulling her shirt off in front of him.
Cindy smacked the back of Alec's head before he could offer to help unhook Tiffany's bra with his pinky.
"Ow! Yes, I'm sure." Alec swiveled around after giving Tiffany a regretful look. "The Creds are planning to meet with the assistant DA Alonzo Polle at four to thank him for his ineptitude in handling the case against them."
"How much are they thanking him for?" Cindy whispered back as she wiggled into her bike shorts. After Alec manfully turned to stare at the ceiling, of course.
"About two hundred gran—No." The lump inside his jacket reminded him. "One ninety." He grinned, unrepentant at Cindy. At her nod though, his smile flipped.
"But you can't tell him that." At Cindy's eyebrow, Alec clarified.
"Look, you're dropping off Logan's stuff and going 'Hey, how ya doing' and bitch about being late and overhearing the Creds about some guy named Alzonso. Telling him how much is too specific. He'll get suspicious."
"Oh," Cindy drawled. "I thought it was because of that." She patted his chest, right over the nice twin rolls of hundreds.
"He doesn't care."
Cindy shot him a disbelieving look.
Thinking back to the leads Logan had casually dropped, Alec grinned cheekily. "I'm special."
"You're something," muttered Cindy. She grabbed her bike. She paused after shutting her locker door.
"You sure about this?"
Alec sobered. "He wants to go solo. Fine. But at least we can make sure he has one less skanky street corner to stake out."
A fist tapped Alec's chin.
"Maybe you are a little special," Cindy murmured, smiling. She ruffled his hair and got on her bike.
"No riding on the premises!" Alec called out gleefully after her.
"What he said!" Normal hollered through his cage. He bounced a packing tube off Alec's shoulder.
"Fourteen Pike street! Hot run!"
Three nights later, Original Cindy almost slammed the door on Alec's mud streaked face.
"Howdy!" Alec greeted loudly. He gave her a toothy grin.
"Why do you smell like a man's butt?" Original Cindy scowled. "And how the hell do you know where I live?"
"I followed you one time," Alec quipped. He glanced down at himself.
"Can I use your shower? Can't use Logan's; he might ask why."
"Like why you smell like something died multiple times in your mouth?" Cindy said archly as she covered her mouth. She stepped aside to let him in.
"Sewers." Alec stuck a finger in his ear. "I can still hear sloshing. I think half of Seattle's sewage water is in my ears." He raised his arms and sniffed his pits.
"I think I'm wearing the other half."
"You're disgusting." Cindy snagged a clean towel hung on a clothesline that ran across the kitchen. She dropped it over his head. "Your stench might be enough to drive the squatters out."
"The only way to access Conard's place was through the treatment duct in his basement." Alec winced as he stomped in, all squishy and squeaky. Cindy scowled. "What? You don't have one of those mat things to wipe my feet. Do you want me to take off my boots?"
"Original Cindy does not want to see your nasty, shriveled toes."
"Then can Original Cindy at least point out where her shower is?"
Cindy pursed her lips and pointed to a room to his right.
Original Cindy's apartment wasn't a penthouse, but it was still far better than the place he currently hold up in.
The shower's water came on after Cindy went out into the hallway and rerouted water from the main pipes. It was just a hose, with a small rain head attached, but the water was surprisingly hot and plenty. The water temperature made up for the drafty bathroom. Someone had hammered in a large piece of reclaimed drywall over some spots. It left the room in an irregular shape.
"So what did you get from Conard's?"
The walls were thin enough to hear Cindy. Based on what he remembered when he did the initial recon of her place, Cindy sounded like she was in her bedroom.
"The guy's more secured than a bank vault," Alec shouted back. He turned off the water. Unlike Logan, water was limited and shared in Cindy's building.
"So you didn't get anything?"
Alec scowled. He stalked out of the room into her kitchen.
"Of course, I got something," Alec huffed. "What do you think I am?"
Cindy rested on the doorway to the bedroom. She folded her arms and frowned.
Alec glowered. "Well?"
"I think," Cindy said slowly. "You are a very naked man dripping on Original Cindy's floor."
Alec peered down. Oops.
"When I said I didn't want to see your nasty toes," Cindy shouted at the hastily shut door. "It meant the rest of you too!"
"You should be more specific!" Alec sang out, snickering as he wiggled into the spare shirt he kept in his backpack. At the bottom, there were certain receipts for a certain politician having dinner with a certain drug dealer. Now it was up to Cindy to do the rest, maybe claim to find them crumpled in the trash.
"I made tea," Cindy called out. "Hurry up and get dressed before it gets cold."
"Tea?" Alec repeated blankly.
"What? Your kicked up DNA doesn't let you get cold?" The kettle in the kitchen whistled shrilly. "And there's a bedroll you can use tonight. Toss out your dirty stuff too. Mrs. Martin's kids downstairs washes stuff for two dollars. They can have it dry by morning for an extra dollar."
Alec stared at the bathroom door. He looked at the pile of clothes he dumped at the corner.
"Jasmine tea, fine?" Cindy shouted to be heard. "I have some of my old roommate's green tea too if you want that instead."
There was a wiggly feeling in Alec's chest just busting to get out. He flung open the door.
"You are the best," Alec announced.
A damp rag smelling of tea smacked him in the face.
"I thought I told you to get dressed!"
"I did! I got a clean shirt on!"
"Jeans count too!"
"...secretly pocketing the money of immigrants in exchange for a boat ride to another country. Only to be forced to jump overboard one hundred sixty miles off shore..."
"How did you manage to slip that one to him?" Alec said admiringly as he stared at the screen. Crash had fallen to quiet when the hack came on. Logan's altered voice rumbled clear to him.
"Complained about the dock master and his crummy slimy tips." Original Cindy looked smug behind her beer. "Original Cindy went all indignant about the man's grubby tips with the scribbled codes on his dollar bills."
Alec arched an eyebrow. "What codes? Oh, the ones I wrote on them five nights ago?" He scratched his jaw. "Huh, funny you had those in your wallet."
The two clinked their mugs together; they chimed like bells.
Eyes Only finished up with a parting surveillance photo of said dock master in a known vagrants' alleyway, pocketing the cash from Bronck's main thug.
Alec frowned. "When the hell did he take that photo?" Judging by the angle, it was street level, fairly close, like across the street with a stupid telephoto lens close.
Damn it, Heather.
"Sooner or later, you'll stop having Original Cindy pass notes for you."
Alec grunted. He glowered into his beer.
"He's going to figure out something's up."
"Give him the 411 on the deal before he figures it out himself."
If he hadn't already; Logan hasn't called Jam Pony for a messenger since day before yesterday.
"Maybe later," Alec mumbled. He huddled deeper into his scarf. "I gotta do something tomorrow."
Next to him, Cindy inhaled sharply.
"Is it tomorrow?"
"Yup." Alec stroked the scarf. His stomach churned in anticipation. "Tomorrow."