Title: Mind Games
Category: Gen, Drama
Spoilers: Takes place sometime after Hello, Goodbye
Summary: Alec is forced to confront his demons, whether real or imagined, when he takes a bet with Sketchy to stay in a haunted house overnight.
Word Count: 2,669
Prompt: Alec spends the night in the most haunted house in Seattle. Many thanks to shadecat for the lightning fast beta.
Disclaimer: None of them are mine. Just having fun.
"Ghosts are there," Joshua had said. "It is a bad place."
Bad was a bit of an overstatement. The dump wasn't bad. It was just boring.
Alec leaned back into the faded old chair left in the center of the living room and propped his feet up on a busted coffee table. The abandoned building wasn't much to look at – peeling wallpaper with little white spots of mold, wet damp carpets that smelled worse than Joshua caught in the rain, and broken furniture that wasn't worth much aside from kindling gave the joint its signature ambiance. All in all, Easton Mansion wasn't much worse than his current accommodations.
"Well, this is a waste of a perfectly good evening," Alec muttered. He started to wonder if he should have conned Joshua into coming after all.
Just one night, he told himself. One long boring night and Sketchy would be wishing he'd never placed that bet in the first place. This was going to be the easiest fifty bucks Alec ever made.
"Sketchy, my man, kiss that fifty goodbye." Alec grinned, laced his fingers behind his head, and closed his eyes.
He had just begun to doze off when he heard a soft tapping. At first, it sounded like rats or roaches poking at the failing woodwork between the walls. But as the tapping continued, it became more urgent, persistent, until it reached a frenzied rapping.
Alec sat up and frowned. He gave the room a quick scan, his heightened vision piercing the darkness that pervaded the mansion. He caught every speck, every spore, every nasty little dropping, but he didn't see any critters. Hell, he didn't even hear anything scrambling through the walls.
He mulled over that oddity for a moment before filing the information at the back of his mind. Slowly, he rose from the chair and moved toward the sound of the rapping, careful to keep his footsteps light and quiet. The rapping was localized, concentrated past the stairway above him.
He stalked up the stairs one by one.
Alec paused at the top and stilled his breathing as he focused his hearing. The rapping continued, more of annoyance than anything else, but it was an annoyance he couldn't let slide. He was certain someone was trying to mess with him, but transgenics didn't scare easily.
At the top of the stairwell, the floor opened into a small foyer with a long hallway that stretched out on either side. A series of doors lined the hall, some open and some closed, with many broken and blocked. The rapping became louder and louder until he was sure he was right on top of it. Alec turned the corner and opened one of the doors.
For any normal person, the room looked empty. But Alec wasn't normal.
Shaking his head, he walked inside the room and grabbed the recorder that had been sandwiched between two rotten planks in the floorboard. He had to give Sketchy credit – nice idea, but lousy execution. If he was going to scam a scam artist, then he could at least put a little effort into it.
Alec shut the recorder off and slipped it into his shirt. He paused long enough to give the room a good once over. A little bit of blood, a few bug-faced transgenics, and some mood lighting, and Alec figured this dump would make a decent scare fest. He could just imagine the money to be made off people looking for an escape from reality. This place was a cash cow in disguise.
He chuckled, musing over the ideas that flooded his mind. He turned around and headed back to the hallway. Alec froze.
The door was shut.
He hadn't shut that door.
Annoyed, he stormed over to the door and jerked at the handle, surprised when it didn't budge. He tried again and again, throwing more of his strength into the motion. The doors in this place were brittle. They should be like paper to him.
He tore at the handle, nearly falling back as it dislodged from the door and broke into pieces in his hand. He scowled and threw the remains on the floor.
"That's perfect." He wiped the oil from the handle onto the arm of one of the room's chairs. Then he kicked out the door.
When he hopped into the hallway, he looked to the left and right, but the corridor was empty. He could have sworn it felt like someone had been pushing their weight against the door, but with the hall vacant, he wasn't so sure. He would have heard them dart into one of the open rooms or run down the stairs.
He couldn't be losing his touch. Not him.
Alec started a slow stroll down the hallway, working his way deeper into the second floor of the abandoned mansion. Sketchy had tried to sell him some nonsense story about how this place was the most haunted in all of Seattle, having become a slaughterhouse sometime after The Pulse. He was fuzzy on the details, but something about a bunch of innocents packed like sardines in a can between the walls before being wiped out by overzealous cops.
He had zoned out somewhere between the gassing and the ghosts that latched onto the living. Though, he certainly could use the story in his newest enterprising brainchild.
A flicker. Alec jerked his head towards it.
A wisp of a shadow flitted into an open doorway. He smiled, recognizing the brief flash as a female silhouette, and followed her into the room.
He slammed the partly open door flat against the wall and jumped inside. "Maxie, did you really think you could fool me?"
He stopped. The room was empty. Nothing but a long neglected bedroom stared back at him.
Quietly, he crept inside, searching every nook and cranny to see where she had hidden herself. If Sketchy had convinced her to try and set up a scam to scare him, it wasn't about to work. She wouldn't be able to hide from him long. As much as she didn't want to admit it, the two of them were a lot alike. He would be able to find her in a heartbeat.
Alec pulled back the tattered draperies that hung over the boarded windows. He ransacked the mound of dirty forgotten clothes in the corner, shoved aside the broken dresser, and flung open the closet.
"Okay, ha ha, very funny." He tossed one of the chairs aside. "You can show your pretty face now."
He did one more quick run through the room before giving up. As exhilarating as the thrill of the chase could get, Alec wasn't in the mood to play a game of cat and mouse tonight. He tossed a blackened trinket aside and started toward the hallway.
His reflection caught his attention.
Alec stopped in front of the mirror. It was him, through and through, from his tussled hair down to his polished shoes. There was no reason for him to linger on such a handsome face.
But he did. He started deep into the mirror, deep into his eyes, eyes that told a story that needed no words. They were raw and wild, yet dark and cold. They were the eyes of a killer, of an animal, of a monster.
The monster smiled a toothless grin.
Alec pushed away from the mirror and stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him.
He wasn't going to let his mind run free. He was just aggravated. That was all it was.
Satisfied, he walked down the hallway, heading back the way he had come. He kept his mind and body on full alert, attuning himself to every squeak, squeal, and rattle that quaked within the walls. As he reached the top of the stairs, he felt the hair on his neck spike, a chill running over his goose pimpled skin.
He wasn't alone.
"You can't run from what you are."
Alec spun around. He felt his heart bleed dry.
She stood before him just like he remembered her. Her delicate body, her scented hair, her wide, mischievous eyes, but instead of her pretty, gentle face, he saw nothing but anger, disgust, and hate.
"Rachel," he whispered.
He resisted the urge to reach out and touch her. He knew she wasn't real. He knew that for whatever reason, the synapses in his mind were misfiring and sending him hallucinations. He vaguely wondered if someone had slipped him a drug before he'd settled in for the night, but the thought left as quickly as it came. He couldn't focus or concentrate. Not with her there. Not with her standing right in front of him.
He moved to speak.
She shook her head. "Don't. There was nothing there. It was all just a game. It's always just a game with you, isn't it?"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything."
"Sorry can't change anything." She moved closer, each step deliberate and strong, herding him back toward the room with the distorted mirror. "Sorry can't change what you really are."
Alec didn't need to be told. He knew it was a mistake to mingle with humans. He knew he wasn't like them, that none of his kind were like them. It wasn't a mistake he would repeat. Now, this – it was all a cover. It was all protection.
Max thought otherwise. He didn't give a damn what Max thought anymore.
"I know," he said quietly. "It won't happen again."
She scoffed. "No? Is that what Ben thought?"
Alec felt his limbs grow cold.
She cocked her head. "You remember Ben."
He stumbled back and jumped in surprise as he crashed into one of the hall's ornate tables. When he looked down, a bloodied cloth lay at his feet. Though he knew he shouldn't touch it, the urge to examine it was too strong, pounding like a drum within him, rapping, rattling, thundering with an urgency that caused his hands to shake. Carefully, he reached down, fingered the cloth and opened it. A handful of pulled teeth, still wet and fresh, spilled onto the floor.
"Ugh." He covered his mouth.
"Do you think Ben could stop himself?" Her once dazzling smile twisted into a gruesome grin. "No. What's to say that you won't find some new game to play?"
"You're not real. None of this is real." Alec swallowed hard, pushing down the dryness that scratched at his throat. "Whatever's left of the gas is affecting my head."
"We're immune. You know that."
Alec turned his head, slow and controlled to face the cold voice behind him.
He looked into his own eyes.
He looked into Ben.
"So you're the psycho who's been wrecking my life," Alec managed to say.
"Your life?" Ben didn't laugh. He didn't smile. His stoic, empty face remained impassive. "We don't belong with them. We never did. Everything made sense at Manticore where we belonged."
"Doesn't matter," Alec said. "It's gone now. A guy has to do what it takes to get by."
"I did what I could to make it all make sense." Ben took a step forward. "How is that so different than what you do? How you make sense of the world?"
"Well, for one, I'm not out ripping people's teeth out of their skulls."
"You feel the itch. You feel it under your skin. You want to move, to hunt, to do what you're meant to do. Just like me."
Alec stepped back, but kept his gaze level with that of his dead clone. The wildness never left his eyes, yet the more he gazed at him, the more uncomfortable Alec became. This was more than just the eyes of a killer. Beyond that of an animal or a monster, the wild biting rawness was something unnatural, something beyond anything right in the world. It was something that he knew flickered somewhere in him.
Ben crept closer. "We have the same DNA, you and I. Do you really think with us being in different units makes a difference? Do you think that changes anything?
"I'm not you," Alec said.
Ben said nothing, but for first time since he'd caught his reflection, his twin smiled a knowing smile.
That was all he needed to do. Alec understood the silent message.
"I asked Max to kill me," he said, looming closer. "If you were decent, you would do the same. It's the right thing to do."
"I like my life," he said. But even to his ears, the answer sounded weak and hollow.
"You're broken just like me," Ben said. "It might not happen today, or tomorrow, but one day when you least expect it, you'll see. It will happen and when it does, there is no going back. And all the Rachels in the world will cry out in terror just at the sight of your hideous face."
Alec kept silent. He was acutely aware of Rachel behind him, coming closer while his twin loomed in front. Their thick, heavy presence was almost suffocating, like choking smoke, threatening to smother him if he remained passive.
Alec sprung into action.
He dropped to the ground and rolled to the side, slipping past Rachel's ghostly shadow. Without looking back, he booked to the stairway and flew down, not caring as his feet tripped over the mangled wooden stairs.
They were behind him, watching him, reaching out for him. He wouldn't let them take him. He wouldn't let them take whatever he had left of himself.
He smacked into something both hard and soft.
Alec bounced backward and hit the floor. As his senses returned, he looked up and stared as Max towered over him.
"Sketchy wanted me to come down and mess with you, but you seem to be doing all right without me." She folded her arms. "Scary ghosts too much for you?"
Alec brushed off his pants and stood. He took a quick glance over his shoulder, but nothing was there. No Ben. No Rachel. Just quiet stillness.
He breathed out.
When he glanced back to Max, he could see the expression on her face had changed to one of teasing to concern. Whatever attitude was there vanished, and she took a step forward, a frown touching her face.
"Did something happen?"
"Nothing I can't handle," he said with a forced smile.
Just by the way she sized him up, Alec knew she wasn't convinced. But she also knew better not to press him.
While Alec appreciated that, he knew that sometime soon, the questions would come. When that time passed, he didn't know how he could defend his sanity.
He wasn't crazy. He just wasn't.
Alec glanced down at his watch. "Well, look at that. Looks like I won the bet."
He flashed her a brilliant smile. Yeah, lucky him. But somehow he didn't feel so lucky. And he certainly didn't feel like a winner.
"Let's go," he said as he slung his arm around her shoulder. "Breakfast's on me. Or, I should say, breakfast's on Sketchy."
Max shrugged him off and rolled her eyes. His smile faded as he watched her go.
He glanced back to the stairwell.
Ben and Rachel stood there and waved him goodbye, each wearing matching grins. Alec turned his back to them.
As he exited the house, he felt a chill at his back. Inside the Easton Mansion, there were silent horrors, demons locked away from the naked eye, just waiting to pounce and expose themselves at the right moment. But for Alec, it wasn't the demons of old, real or imagined, that plagued his mind – it was the doubts that had taken shape and given a life of their own, molded into creatures that settled deep into the recesses of his transgenic brain. And one day, he knew those creatures would unlock a door that should never be opened.
He just hoped that day would never come.
If it hadn't already.