Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. Don't sue
Hunt Me Down
Max was running late. What else was new? She'd spent the most part of the night pacing the apartment like a caged animal, feeling even more restless than usual. Normally, she would have gone out and raced her feelings away but her Ninja was out of petrol. Yes, she could steal some, but nowadays petrol was even better guarded than money. She felt better going about it when Alec was there to watch her back.
Max froze in the middle of drying her hair. 'Did I just really think that?' She shook her head to chase the unsettling thought away and went back to getting ready for work...
So, with her Ninja temporarily out of commission, a blurring trip to the Space Needle was her second best option. She had done it before. It was liberating. Roaming over the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, running faster than humanly possible and jumping across break-neck distances with the ease of an acrobat. It soothed something inside her, almost as much as the time at the top of the Needle that followed.
But last night some idiots had broken into a bank and tried the all-out getaway with the sector police chasing them all over the city. They must have felt cornered or something and had abandoned their van and hidden somewhere in the city.
That police scanner Alec had given her had been very useful these last few weeks, keeping track of what the cops were doing was a good tool for a cat burglar. This time the foreign thought didn't even make her pause.
Anyway thanks to those inept bunglars, the entire Sector Police was out tonight conducting a search of the city. That meant not only double the amount of hoverdrones than usual but also that helicopters were combing the city, lots of them, making the sky look like a damn disco. There was no way she could get all the way to the Needle without being spotted and this wasn't the moment to risk the exposure.
So Max had been up for hours, pacing the apartment and cursing everything in sight. Because tonight she had needed to 'do' something. There had been something wrong with her and she'd had no idea what. If she hadn't just passed her heat two weeks ago she would have sworn that was what was happening, but she had already passed her good five days -five days! It had never been that long- locked up in their apartment, all windows locked, doing push-ups and taking freezing showers... and having some of the most disturbingly erotic heat-induced fantasies ever. Once again Max tried to push away the thought of 'who' had been the star in those. That was why Max couldn't understand why her skin had felt too tight, and all her senses were tuned to the fullest.
After hours of turning and tossing about, once she had actually made it to the bed, she had fallen into a restless sleep when the sun was already coming out. And when barely an hour later OC had tried to wake her up so she wouldn't be late to work, Max had growled at her -yes, growled!- and OC had left the room in a huff muttering something along the lines of "Growling at Original Cindy! Well she's not covering yo ass with Normal if you're gonna growl at her!"
So now Max was running around the apartment, trying to make it into work before noon, and trying to come up with a really good excuse to feed Normal.
Max closed the door behind her and wheeled the bike outside the building. She was adjusting her bag on her back and didn't pay attention to where she was until the moment she stepped into the road. Then all the hairs in her body stood out and a shiver ran down her spine, making her raise her eyes and freeze.
There in front of her was something she had only ever seen on TV... and in her most primal dreams. A huge, sleek, slender, black panther with bright yellowish eyes fixed upon her was standing in front of her. Its head was lowered and its shoulder blades stood out over it, giving Max the impression that is was studying her and it was ready to pounce on her the second she moved.
Max felt her muscles tense, readying for flight, at the same time that a voice in her head told her not to run, not to become prey. 'What are you talking about?! I'm already prey!' she screamed in her head.
The panther raised his head a little -when did it became a he?- and sniffed. Max shuddered, the action not noticeable to the naked eye, but she noticed the slight change in her own scent it provoked. But it wasn't fear. Not that she wasn't scared. She was, and her scent had already reflected that. No, this was something else. The sight of this panther was calling out to something inside her and, whatever it was, wanted out.
The panther sniffed again and Max could have sworn the movement of his mouth was the closest a panther could get to smirking, and his eyes twinkled. Was he laughing at her?
Max let the bike go and it fell to the ground with a loud scatter, startling a few passers by -which completely baffled Max because none of them had even blinked at the weird appearance of the panther- but neither Max nor the panther paid attention to it.
Very slowly, Max reached up to take her bag off, knowing she would need freedom of movement for whatever it was that happened next. The bag fell onto the bike and Max took a small step towards him and then stopped, waiting for his next move.
The panther mirrored her movement and waited for her. Max caught on and took another step, and then another when he moved, and in a few steps they were standing next to each other in the middle of the street.
The panther looked pointedly up to her face and then lowered his, and Max knew what he wanted. With all the sensual grace her DNA gave her she fell down on all fours and again she thought the panther smirked at her. A part of her was terrified at him and horrified at the way her primal side was enjoying the playacting. It was screaming at her to run, to escape.
But the part in charge right now didn't even want to think about that. It was a part that had been silenced for eleven years and it was starving. The hunger in her had found a way out and there was no going back.
And the most surprising part was that Max didn't know if she wanted to hunt or be hunted.
The panther seemed to feel her doubts because he got even closer, nuzzling her neck playfully before rubbing his body along the length of hers.
The contact made Max shiver again. His fur was incredibly soft against the skin of her neck and waist, where her top didn't cover, and she found herself wishing she was naked. It didn't matter she was in the middle of the street; she wanted to feel him all over. A satisfied purr escaped her lips, Max felt it rising from deep down her throat and she wanted him to hear it.
The panther purred back and then nipped at her jean covered butt.
Max's head snapped to look at him and the sparks in his eyes made her mind up for her. She wanted to be chased. Max smiled wickedly at the panther and ran off down the street, blurring into an alley to the right, the echo of his roar ringing in her eyes and Max laughed, knowing he was coming for her.
Max got to the end of the alley and jumped up to a fire escape and climbed up to the roof. It looked like her night urges where going to be realized now. The moment her feet touched the roof she heard a growl. Close, too close. Max looked to the other side of the building and there he was, waiting for her. How had he gotten up there so fast?
So, he wanted to play?
She could play.
She turned back again and ran parallel to the rail, gaining momentum with each stride. The end neared. She jumped. A black blur to her right told her he was still after her. The thought gave her wings. Max never stopped, rolling over herself when she touched the ground in the roof across the street and kept running straight ahead. The sound of his paws hitting the roofs setting the rhythm of her heart. Fast, really fast.
Something caught her eye to the left and she bounced, grabbed at the scaffolding below her and used it to change the direction of her jump mid- air. She landed softly on the street, not making a sound, and darted into a new alley, trying to lose her shadow. It was a narrow passage and the buildings on both sides were tall, making it really dark even on the middle of the day.
Max felt his presence rather than saw him. It was as if no matter how fast she was, he was faster. No matter how high she jumped, he jumped higher. No matter how skilled she was, he was better.
Max came out of the alley and was faced with a junction. She was trying to decide which way to go when the panther jumped over her head landing in front of one of the streets, blocking her way. Max sprinted for the other one. The first chance she got she went high again. If she couldn't lose him in the labyrinth of the streets of Seattle she preferred the open expanses of the roofs.
He was behind her an instant later. Sometimes content with chasing her, sometimes driving her flight by blocking specific routes.
Max let her mind go blank, the only thing in her head right then was how good it felt to just run. Not because she was chased, by now the hunt had become somewhat of a playful race. And not because she had to, but because she could. She felt the adrenalin rushing through her system, making her almost giddy with the excitement. Max felt alive in a way she hadn't felt in a long while. She jumped over the railing, the next building half the height of the one she just left, and she flexed her muscles preparing for the landing. The panther, being heavier, was falling even faster and Max was struck speechless at the sight of him.
The way his muscles bunched and unclenched with each movement, the way the sun reflected off his spine, the way his eyes shined with merriment... Everything about him was beautiful. And the graceful, sensual rhythm of his stride had her almost gasping for breath.
As if feeling her intent gaze, he looked at her and bared his teeth in a feline smile.
Not knowing how, Max found herself in the edge of the city, with the woods only a jump away. She hesitated, Max didn't like the woods. Too many memories, all of them bad. The panther stopped beside her and, once again reading her reluctance, rubbed himself on her legs, her hand falling on him naturally, petting him, before walking to the edge of the roof and turning to look at her. His eyes wide open, trusting and asking.
Max walked towards him, very slowly. When she was a few feet away he jumped down. Max kept walking to wards the railing and looked down. He was mid-way to the woods and looking up at her. Max stared at the woods and then back at him. She could feel his pull inside and that part of her that could read him knew he needed her to follow. So she did.
He waited for her, standing still until Max reached his side and then rubbed her leg again. He started to walk towards the woods, taking small steps, waiting for her to walk with him, making sure she could feel his contact the entire time.
Max had stopped paying attention to her surroundings. The heat coming off the panther was soothing her fears and memories. She followed him wherever he wanted her to go. They walked side by side for a long while before he stopped in a small clearing and laid down, closing his eyes.
Max looked around then, and her heart skipped a beat. She knew this place. She'd killed her brother here. Her heartbeat raced like she'd been struck by lightning, the thunder of it was booming in her chest. Her breathing became ragged, she felt a lump clogging her throat, her vision blurred with tears. She hadn't heard him move, the sound of her panic overpowering anything else, but suddenly he was back by her side. The touch of hi warm body brought her to her knees, sobbing now. He nudged her down and she let him, laying on her side. He curled himself around her, his head nuzzling her neck again. Max clutched at him, desperate for comfort.
Why was this happening now? She thought she'd finally come to terms with this when she'd told Alec about it. That night she had felt her actions validated by his acceptance and reassurance that she had done the right thing. But did she really believe it? Had she really accepted that killing her brother had been the right thing to do, the right thing for him? Alec thought so, but Max had to recognise that the part of herself that agreed with him was too buried inside her to be heard, and the only thing she had heard until now was the 'normal' voice telling her it had been wrong. Max knew that now, because her primal part had come out today.
Max gasped and the panther raised his head to lock eyes with her. For the first time Max noticed the hazel tinge of his eyes, but it was the way he was looking at her that made her realize who the panther was. Max had seen that look before, twice. The first time she ignored it because he wasn't looking at her. And the second time, that night in her apartment, after hours of talking, she hadn't known what it meant because she'd ignored him the first time. But she knew now.
Max caressed his head tenderly, her tears drying in her face, and with a rasping voice because of her breakdown she breathed out one word, "Alec."
Max shot up in her bed, gasping for breath. Her face felt damp and she knew there were tears on her cheeks. It was dark outside and the room was in shadows, but Max could hear someone else's breathing in the room with her, and there were two different heartbeats. She looked to the corner closer to her bed and he was there, crouching, looking at her, obviously startled to see her awake.
She knew she should be mad at him for lurking in her room, watching her while she slept. But her dream felt too real, it was too recent, and the only thing she could do was smile at him, amused at the way it seemed to freak him out.
"I just had a dream about you," Max said softly, still smiling.
Alec had been startled to see Max smiling at him when he'd expected her to kick his ass for being there without permission, or at all for that matter. Her words made him smirk, a smart-ass remark on his lips and a wicked twinkle in his eyes, but Max didn't give him the chance to talk.
"You had the most beautiful and smooth black fur," she said dreamily.
Alec's comeback died in his lips. "Black what?" His eyes widened in surprise. "Are you sure you were dreaming about me?" he asked dumbfounded.
"Oh yeah, it was you," Max assured him.
"You've been crying," Alec observed.
Max wiped the tears from her face, and then patted the mattress beside her. Alec hesitated for a moment before joining her on the bed. This night was nothing like he'd expected. Maybe he had picked the perfect night to talk to her.
"Well, why were you crying?"
"It's not important, I'm good now. What are you doing here?"
Alec shifted in the bed nervously. He felt better talking about her dream. "No, come on, tell me about the black fur thing, if you don't want to talk about what made you cry. What do you mean I had fur?"
Max knew he was trying to distract her from the real reason he was there, but for the moment she could go along with it. "I was dreaming I was racing across the rooftops of Seattle with a black panther," Max explained. "A black panther with laughing hazel eyes."
"Laughing hazel eyes? I don't have hazel eyes, they're green. And they're not laughing... mocking maybe," Alec huffed.
"Yes, you do. They're hazel, and it's not only the eyes. He 'was' you. He wanted me to go somewhere I didn't want to go, and he knew just how to get me there. He challenged me, chased me, and was there for me when I needed him. Just like you do. I'm sure if you had to do that, you would've done pretty much the same to get me where I needed to go."
"I thought you said it was somewhere I wanted you to go?"
"Yes, but you wanted me there because I needed to go," Max clarified. "You're pretty much the only one in my life, except OC, who isn't afraid to tell me the truth. I like that."
"Really?" Alec drawled, showing his disbelief, "Because my body can attest to how much you don't like it when I do just that."
"Baby," Max chuckled.
"I'm not, you're just a bitch," Alec shot back good-naturedly, earning a mock-glare from Max.
"So, are you going to tell me what are you doing here?"
"Hmm... I just-" Alec stopped mid-sentence, his face losing all playfulness, his voice turning serious. "I was laying in my bed, and I couldn't sleep, I had too many thoughts going round in my head." Alec leaned back against the headboard and put a pillow on his lap, playing with it. "Remember, about a month ago, when you got that temporary cure?" Alec saw Max tense and rushed on, "Of course you do, sorry. I just... that night I was at Crash with Asha and, of course, we were talking about you guys." He didn't really want to mention Logan, but the guy was a part of this and there was no point skirting around the issue.
Max hadn't been expecting him to mention Logan. It surprised her. She forced herself to relax and scooted backwards to sit beside him. The truth was she hadn't even thought of Logan in the last few days. It had been a conscious effort on her part the first two days, but then he'd just slipped away, a bit more every day... every time she was with Alec. She smiled at him, encouraging him to go on.
"Well, I didn't believe Asha when she wished you guys all the best," he said sarcastically, "it's always been obvious she wants him." Alec didn't want to say the name. It tasted bitter on his lips. "So I called her on it and then proceeded to put down your relationship," Alec smiled apologetically when he saw Max's frown. "My point is that I told Asha you guys would never work, and that you were going in circles, never coming out and actually saying what you wanted... who you wanted. And how I would never do that, you know, that if I loved someone I'd tell her."
Alec hesitantly looked at her, needing to see her reaction to his words. Surprisingly, she didn't look like she wanted to jump out off the bed and start yelling and kicking him. Actually, she was looking at him with an almost knowing smile.
Max had been hurt and mad at his words at first but, by the time he'd finished, she'd had a flash of the way the panther was looking at her at the end of her dream. Apparently, it had been more than a dream, or at least, more than her idea of Alec in a dream. It really had been him. They had some kind of weird connection and her dream had been more real than she'd thought.
She wasn't sure what to think at first, but her dream gave her the clue she needed. It had felt right to be in his 'arms'. She smiled at Alec.
"Last night it suddenly hit me that I was being a hypocrite, because I do love someone... and I haven't told you. So I decided to come over and remedy that."
"You already had," Max said cryptically.
Alec frowned, "I had?" he asked. "You mean the panther thing?" When she nodded at him, Alec added, "What panther-me talked too?"
"You didn't need to. Hasn't anyone ever told you how much your eyes say? You only had to look at me."
Max leaned in closer to him, her head on his shoulder, her hand on his chest. Alec moved his arm over shoulder, hugging her to him. Feeling relieved at the way she had reacted.
"I love you, Max," Alec said into her hair, happy to finally have told her.
Max smiled into his chest, nuzzling her nose in it before planting a kiss over his heart. "I love you too. I can't believe it took me so long to see it."
Alec froze. He hadn't expected her to say it back. He knew she felt something, he'd felt it when they were together. But Alec had thought that he'd tell her and then Max would need some time to get her head and heart around it, to decide who she really wanted to be with. Alec had been ready to wait for her, because he knew that Logan had a big piece of her heart, even if they hadn't worked out. And he didn't mind waiting, because that time would ensure that when Max finally came to him it would be for keeps. Suddenly, he wasn't so sure he was glad Max had told him. "Max, please, don't think that it doesn't mean the world to me to hear you say that, but... are you sure? I mean, I know Logan-"
Max cut him off with her fingers on his lips. "Alec, I broke up with Logan a while back."
"I know," Alec said simply, startling her.
"You know? What do you mean you know?"
"I followed you that night."
"That night? The night I found Josh's pendant-"
"Yes, that night," Alec confirmed and Max looked apprehensively at him. "I was mad at first, I couldn't believe you would do that to him, or me." Alec knew his words sounded harsh, so he caressed her back while he talked, to let her know he wasn't mad now. "Remember I didn't talk to you for a few days then? But then I realized why you did it, and that you'd had good intentions even if you went the wrong way about it. But that's exactly the reason I want you to think about this first. You need to be sure-"
Max silenced him again, this time it was her lips on his that took his words away.
"I have, Alec," She said when she pulled back. "Believe it or not, I've thought about it, about you. A lot. And Logan's faded into the background. I wanted him to be safe, and cut him off my life, but once outside... I didn't miss him in it. And most importantly, since then, and thanks to you, there's this whole other side of me that's been coming out to the front and that 'panther-you' has finally released in me. And it's the side that's been missing all this time, especially since I met Logan. It's the part he wouldn't understand. I don't want to have to hide any part of myself again. I don't want him back."
Alec relished the look in her eyes. He had seen it in her so rarely before, he could see the cat in her looking back at him.
Alec smiled at her, his lips curving seductively and his eyes lighting from the inside. He was looking at her so intently, like he wanted to memorise every inch of her, like he wanted to devour her. Max's mouth went dry.
"So... you found your inner cat?"
Max purred delightedly.
"Do you think it wants to come out and play?" Alec pulled her down on the bed, leaning over her on his elbow, running a finger down her nose, mouth, jaw, neck, breastbone...
"I think that can be arranged."
Max snuggled against Alec, sleep claiming her, but before she fell asleep she opened her eyes and raised her head to look at him. "Alec?"
Alec looked down at her, "Yeah?"
"I'm glad you came into my life." Max smiled sweetly at him.
Alec smiled back at her, his heart beating fast in his chest. He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Go to sleep, Maxie," he murmured and then gave her a naughty smile. "Maybe you can go back to dreaming with me. Do you think we can get to mating season?" he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Max spluttered with laughter, "Dog!" She smacked his chest playfully.
"Panther, kitty kit, I'm a panther, remember?" Alec tightened his arms around her and they both settled down to sleep.
"And a really beautiful one..." her voice trailed off, sleep finally taking her.