Pairing: Max/White (sort of)
Spoilers: Through ‘Freak Nation’ I guess. No really big spoilers.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Summary: Of all the training Manticore gave her, keeping secrets is one of the things she’s best at.
Author’s Note: I totally mess with the timeline and Max’s age here. If you don’t like that please don’t read any further.
2009 – Max is eleven and escapes from Manticore.
2014 – Max is sixteen. White is twenty-two, married, with a newborn son.
2024 – Max and Alec buy JamPony.
2027 – Max is twenty-nine. Her daughter is twelve.
She’s a keeper of secrets. An actress. A soldier. A liar. Manticore taught her well. Alec, OC, Joshua, Asha, Logan…none of them have any idea of the things she has kept from them over the years. But there is one secret she will never tell. She guards it fiercely, deep inside, where all her dreams are hidden. This secret is hers and no one else’s.
She watches Gem play with her son sometimes, and wonders what it’s like to actually be a mother. She thinks it must be amazing to watch such a beautiful creation grown and change and know that you are helping to mold it’s future. She watches, and she thinks about the past and what kind of mother she might have been to the little girl she gave away so long ago.
She doesn’t intend for it to happen the way it does, at least not consciously. She’s a sixteen year old transgenic in heat and has no control over what’s happening to her body. She responds to her instincts and it changes her life. She gets pregnant. Thankfully a lady doctor at a free clinic that doesn’t ask too many questions monitors the pregnancy and helps her find a reputable adoption agency. She gives her child away. It is the hardest decision she ever makes.
She doesn’t realize who he is until their second encounter. He’s so far removed from the man she jumped outside that bar six years ago that she doesn’t know what to do or say when the realization does hit her. She doesn’t think that ‘Hi, my name’s Max. Six years ago we had sex outside a bar and nine months later I gave birth to your kid,’ is going to cut it. He’s the enemy. Afterwards, she doesn’t go back to TC. Instead she goes to the Space Needle, sits high above the city she loves, and cries. She cries for the childhood she never got, for the man she thinks he might have been once, and for the child that neither of them will ever know.
She takes his son. It is the second child she has taken from him, though he doesn’t know it. He curses her with every breath and sometimes she wonders what happened to change him into this bitter shadow of the man she remembers from that night. Of course, she’s not the same person she was that night either. She plays her part, fights her fight, and ignores the fact that just a day’s drive away is a little girl with her dark hair and his ice blue eyes who goes by the name Jenna.
She still finds it hard to believe that they won. There are days when she walks out of Terminal City expecting to be jumped by White and his goons. But it never happens. Manticore is gone, dismantled by the government and the breeding cult is wiped out, most of them dead, in prison, or in an insane asylum. She’s not sure how White escaped a jail sentence but she’s pretty sure his father had a contingency plan to keep his only son out of prison.
She knows he’s there every day she steps outside the gates to TC. She can feel him watching her all the way to JamPony. He stalks her all day long. He wants his son, but she’s gotten good at ignoring the fact that he’s always there. She could tell him where Ray is. It’s safe now. There’s no more danger for the boy or for her family, but she’s selfish. The years Manticore and the breeding cult spent chasing her cost her the most important thing in the world. If she can’t have her daughter why should he be able to have his son?
Alec is the one who finally found the cure for her. But it was too late for her and Logan. They just weren’t meant to be together. Five years is a long time to wait and love fades, especially when you can’t touch. Asha’s perfect for him and she’s happy that they finally found each other, in spite of his long running denial. When he finally gave up it was a relief. Of course, she’s had to deal with Alec saying ‘I told you so’ ever since.
She’s lonely though. She has her friends and they’re the best, but she longs for more, for the family that she once saw her clone with. She wants her daughter, she wants love. But for a transgenic it’s hard to find. There’s still a lot of prejudice and if she’s honest with herself, there’s always been someone in the back of her head. She can’t get his image out of her mind, even though that man doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no future down that road and it makes her sad that this is the way the world has made them.
She doesn’t leave Seattle often. Only once a year and always on the same day. She gets on her Ninja and speeds out of town, south, toward Tacoma, then further just across the state line to Portland. She stands out in the upscale neighborhoods she travels through, but she doesn’t care. For four years she had to rely on pictures, unable to make the trip because of the war, but now she never misses it. She always leaves her bike a block away and walks the short distance to the park where she knows they’ll be. They always know she’s coming. She always lets them know when she’ll arrive so they know when to be at the park. For an hour she stands, hidden in the shadows of several trees and watches her little girl, running, playing, having the childhood that she herself never got. It’s part of the deal she made when she gave her daughter to these people. She never interferes and she gets constant pictures, updates, and the chance to see her once a year.
"Who is she?"
The voice startles her and she spins around. She didn’t hear him approach, too focused on watching Jenna. The past two years she lost him when he tried to follow her. She wasn’t careful enough this time. He wasn’t outside TC when she left and she kept an eye out for him all the way out of Seattle. She never once saw him. "How did you find me?"
"I wised up. You always leave Seattle on the same day each year. The past two years you ditched me just before the city limits. I wasn’t going to let it happen again." He looks over her shoulder. "Who’s the girl?"
She turns back to where her daughter is still playing with her dog, tossing a ball for the golden retriever to chase while her parents watched. "She’s no one. Just a kid playing with her dog."
"You drove a long way just to watch some random girl play with her dog. Who is she, 452?"
She turns to him, practically growling. "My name is Max. And she’s not important."
"Then tell me where my son is and I’ll forget I ever saw her."
Just then she feels something hit the back of her legs and turns to see the ball on the ground behind her. Suddenly her twelve year old daughter is standing in front of her. Stunned she picks up the ball and hands it over.
"Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to hit you. Sometimes Max just misses."
"Yeah. My parents suggested the name. They said they once knew someone named Max who gave them something very special and that if I wanted a dog it had to be very special to me. That’s why we named her Max."
She can see the worry on the faces of Jenna’s parents and seeks to put them at ease. "Don’t worry about it. The ball didn’t do any permanent damage."
"Thanks for not being mad. Bye!"
She doesn’t turn around even though she can still feel him behind her. She’s trying very hard not to cry, but it’s the first time she’s ever spoken to her daughter and will most likely be the last. When she finally has herself composed, hidden behind the walls where Manticore taught her to store her emotions, she turns around. She knows what he’s going to say and he doesn’t surprise her.
"You have a daughter."
She can see him processing the new information and deciding how best to use it. Panic fills her. She has to protect Jenna. "Don’t even think about trying to use her against me. I’ll tell you where Ray is. Hell, I get him brought right to your front door. Just don’t…." She chokes on her words and prays that if she gives him what he wants he’ll leave her daughter alone.
"Done." He looks at her closely. "She’s what? Eleven or twelve? How old were you?"
"I was sixteen when I got pregnant. Seventeen when she was born."
"And the father? Does he know?"
"What do you think? I was sixteen and in heat with pretty much no other thought in my head than to mate. It was just some random guy." The lie flows easily from her lips. Her voice never wavers but he still watches her closely for any tells. She has none.
"I don’t believe you."
"Believe what you want. It doesn’t matter. I give you Ray and you leave Jenna alone. That’s the deal." She turns and starts to walk away when she hears him speak.
"You know, she kind of looks like Ray except for the dark hair."
She forces herself not to flinch and definitely doesn’t slow down or stop for fear of giving herself away. She just keeps walking, pretends he hasn’t just hit the truth on the head. Jenna does look like Ray. But White isn’t looking at her with the eyes of a father, so he doesn’t know, doesn’t see the truth behind his words. And to him it’s an inconceivable concept that her daughter might be his as well. He would never think of it.
She stops at the edge of the park and looks back one last time at the family headed toward their car. She’s surprised when White walks up and joins her again.
"She looks happy 452. You did the right thing."
She’s surprised by his words even though he won’t call her by her name. Comfort is the last thing she expected from him and she’s almost tempted to tell him the truth. But she can’t. She won’t disrupt Jenna’s life and she knew that he wouldn’t be happy unless his daughter was with him. Just like Ray. She gave her daughter a childhood, freedom, and a future. She won’t take it away by telling him that he is her father. "I know." She pauses. "You won’t…."
"You give me Ray and I won’t tell a soul."
She nods. His word was the best she could do. "Four days. He’ll be at your house Wednesday night."
The deal is struck. Her daughter is safe.
She’s a keeper of secrets. An actress. A soldier. A liar. But most importantly, she’s a mother and she’ll do anything she has to to protect her daughter. Even if it means bargaining with the devil himself. Thankfully, White’s not the devil.