A/N: I have taken a few liberties with the timeline and some of the details…So, let's just call this A/U to explain anything that doesn't quite fit…It's close, but I know how detailed our memories are…
The sound of the phone ringing pierced the silent blackness of the night.
Max didn't sleep often, but when she did God help the idiot who tried to wake her.
Pushing herself up onto her elbows, she opened a sleep swollen eye and fished into her jacket pocket for her cell. Flipping it open, she looked at the display and shot straight up in bed answering the phone with a breathless, "Yeah?"
Yeah. a loud groan was heard and then It's time.
Max nodded dumbly before she realized that the person on the other end of the phone couldn't see her.
"Sorry. Uh…Did you call him?" she asked knowing the answer before she even asked.
No. He made his feelings very clear on the matter
Max shook her head, disappointed that she had been right.
Startled she answered, "Yeah. Right. Um. Good luck," she said pressing the phone between her ear and her shoulder and swinging her legs over the side of the bed, working her jeans over her feet and halfway up her legs before she stood up.
Luck? Luck? Do you know—AHHHHHHHHH—what this feels like!
"Right. Sorry. I'll see you there," she said before snapping the phone shut, ending the call.
She sighed loudly, slipping her boots on and grabbing her jacket, pausing only to brush her teeth before she headed out.
Raising her left leg and straddling her Ninja, Max felt some of her tension melt away as she Kick-started the bike, a smile dancing across her face as the engine hummed to life beneath her. She pulled on her helmet—a gift from Alec—which had become a necessity after the jampony incident and her face had been plastered everywhere. Initially, she had missed the wind in her hair, but after a few weeks she got used to it and actually warmed to the idea of being invisible beneath the tinted face plate. Besides, it had always been a bitch to untangle her hair after a ride.
She headed to his apartment first, hoping he wasn't alone, deriving some morbid pleasure at the thought of bursting in on his evening and kicking his ass in front of a girl.
Sadly, the apartment was empty. Max took a moment to look around, noting that the place was more of a disaster than usual. Her irritation rising, she looked under the sink for a garbage bag and spent a few minutes tossing the half-empty containers of rotting food into the bag. She looked at the expiration date on the milk carton and suppressed the urge to gag as her sensitive nose caught a trace of the stench through the plastic jug. She shook her head as she tossed it into the bag and tied it off before opening the window leading to the fire escape and throwing the bag outside onto the platform. Hey—she didn't mind helping out, but she drew the line at a trip to the dumpster.
Pocketing a CD that she had been wanting and that Alec just happened to have lying around looking unappreciated, she locked the door behind her heading back down to her bike.
Three bars, two pizza joints and a strip club later she still hadn't found him. She tried to imagine where else he could be at this hour. She didn't know of anyone he had been seeing, so she couldn't go knocking on doors. That only left her with one thought. It was a long shot, she knew, but even if he wasn't there, she wouldn't mind the trip.
Fifteen minutes later she stepped out of the window and onto the top of the space needle. She had once thought of it as her space, but she had run into Alec up here enough times to think of it more as just a place to think—no possessiveness.
She looked out at the city, noting absently that there was a brown out in Sector 8.
"Your sneak and creep needs a little work," a deep voice said dryly from behind her.
She spun around, her hair whipping in a graceful arc as she locked eyes with Alec.
"I guess so," she conceded feeling a little awkward now that she had found him. She was genuinely surprised to find him in such an obvious place.
He was leaning up against the side as far away from the edge as her could get. He was hidden almost completely by the shadows, and if he hadn't spoken, she may have missed him altogether.
She stared at him appraisingly. She had been in such a hurry to find him that she hadn't given a single thought as to what she was going to say. Suddenly uncomfortable, Max searched her brain for words—any words—to break the ice. It was clear by his continued stillness and silence that he was in no hurry to move this along. Squaring her shoulders to give the illusion of confidence, she walked over to him and picked up the bottle by his feet, examining the contents.
"Tequila? You don't drink tequila."
"Well, it is Cinco de Mayo…" he said by way of explanation.
She furrowed her brow, "No it's not. More like Cinco de Septiembre."
He waved his hand in front of him, "Close enough."
She smiled taking a sip herself before sitting down beside him, "Not bad," she said looking more closely at the label,
remembering the brand for her next tequila mood.
"It's imported," he said simply.
She rolled her eyes, "All tequila is imported, idiot. American soil hasn't produced a decent agave plant in more than ten years."
"Thanks for the trivia," he said sarcastically and silence fell between them once again.
He could feel her eyes on him, boring holes into the side of his face. Taking a deep breath and bracing himself for the onslaught, Alec broke the standoff and spoke first.
"So, it's 4am and you felt the undeniable urge to hunt me down and stare at me?" he asked his usual amusement blatantly
absent from his voice as he retrieved his bottle and took a long pull.
"I wasn't hunting you down," she said defensively.
He turned toward her, giving her a hollow look and she felt a chill go down her spine. She tried to chalk it up to the cool Seattle night air, but it was the emptiness in his eyes that did it. She had seen a look exactly like that once before on a face that was exactly like Alec's when Ben had been sitting almost exactly where Alec was sitting now. She pulled her jacket closed and folded her arms over her chest blocking out the chill.
"Really? Then what were you doing? Checking to see if I was tucked in properly?" When she looked at him with a furrowed brow, he smirked, continuing, "I saw you leaving my apartment."
"And I figured that if you needed me that badly, you wouldn't stop looking, so I decided not to hide."
"Looks like hiding in plain sight to me, Alec," she said putting her hands in her pockets and leaning back against the wall.
"What do you want Max?" he asked unhappily.
"You know why I'm here," she said knowing that it didn't take a genetically enhanced brain to figure out what the late night emergency was.
"Stay out of it Max," he warned—not for the first time.
"You won't," he said harshly.
She wasn't intimidated. She stood up, turning her back on him, letting the breeze cool her temper. It would not help if she was mad before they even got started.
"She's in labor," Max stated simply watching him out of the corner of her eye, trying to gauge his reaction.
"Who?" he asked, feigning ignorance.
"You know who, Alec," she said, beginning to pace, hoping to relieve some of the tension inside of her, "Mara."
"Mara? Mara…" He pretended to search his brain for a match, "Nope. Doesn't ring any bells," he said looking up at her with a sarcastic smile.
Exasperated, she walked over to him and kicked him on the underside of his thigh.
"Ouch! Goddammit Max!" He exclaimed standing up and backing away with an ungraceful limp, his hand rubbing over the spot
below his ass where she had kicked him.
"Don't be more of a dick than you already have been. Yes. Mara. Petite, pregnant redhead? X-5? Been living with Clutch since she arrived in TC?"
"I told you to stay out of it!" he said feeling his temper rise from a slow simmer to me, a light boil.
"Alec! Did you hear me? Mara is in labor! With your baby!" She said advancing on him, ready for a fight.
He held his ground, looking her dead in the eye and he pointed an angry finger right at her face, "That is notmy baby!"
She growled from in between clenched teeth. "Alec! We've been over this! They did an amniocentesis and they tested the DNA. She wasn't lying. The baby's yours."
He turned away from her pressing his palms over his eyes. "Shut up!"
She softened her voice and came up behind him. Tentatively, she put her hand on his back, trying to offer him comfort and she felt him stiffen underneath her touch. "Alec, talk to me. This isn't like you."
He spun on his heel bringing his face right into hers, trying to intimidate her, desperate for this to stop. "Isn't it? Aren't you the one who has spent the last six months following me around telling me what a fuckup I am? I mean, look how easy it was for Logan to believe that I'm the kind of asshole to steal another guy's girl. Is it really a bigger stretch to think of me as the type to leave a pregnant girl behind like it was nothing?"
"Yes! It is! Alec, Logan believed that lie because he saw us together. He saw us touching each other and talking intimately. He never once acted jealous about me hanging around with you. He was never worried about you. If anything made him believe we were together, it was his distrust of me."
"Right," he snorted.
She sighed, they were getting way off topic. "Alec, back before I met you, right when Logan and I were really starting to get things going between us, I went into heat. I tried to control myself, but I just couldn't, and I screwed some other guy."
Shocked, Alec tried to mask his reaction, but not before she saw it.
She nodded, reinforcing the truth of her last statement, and looked past him at the ocean in the distance. "I told him. And things were never the same. He said it was ok, and he acted like he understood, but he didn't." She looked up into his eyes. "Alec, he never believed my lie because he doubted you, he believed it because he doubted me."
He smiled, "Well, few guys would be able to resist you if you did make a move. I'm sure he always knew that."
She smiled, enjoying the lighthearted moment between them. "Just like I'm sure you're not just going to walk away from this baby."
He stepped back, scrubbing his hand over his face in frustration. Taking his hand away from his face, he looked out at the beauty of the city lights, letting the biting wind blow his hair haphazardly against his forehead. "I don't remember," he said finally.
"Don't remember what?"
He sighed, and turned to look at her. She was close to him. Closer than she usually stood and it made him uncomfortable. Resisting the urge to step away from her, he looked at her concerned face and felt himself giving in. "Mara. I don't remember her. I don't remember anything about her," he said embarrassed.
"What?" she asked the confusion marring her otherwise flawless face.
"Max, I've never seen her before. Not on training grounds or the mess hall or anything. I swear on your Ninja that I never laid eyes or anything else on that girl before she came to TC."
"Are you sure?"
"About not knowing her or not fucking her?"
"Either. Both. I mean, you did break records for time spent in Pys-ops and Reindoctrination…" she trailed off not wanting to push too much unpleasantness on top of whatever was already on the table.
He laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, I'm sure. I had three beautiful healthy X-5 females who I was ordered to impregnate—besides you," his voice sounded sad.
"What?" she asked genuinely confused.
"Look, not to make you feel un-special, but you weren't my only breeding partner.
"I wasn't?" It had never occurred to her that Alec had been forced to sleep with others during their 'courtship'.
"I didn't think about it really. Not until I got paired up with you and you were so opposed. I had just been following orders. Besides, after months of Psy-ops I was more than happy to do anything that didn't involve needles or blood or pain." He smirked, "I mean, it wasn't a bad deal, being ordered to have sex. Sounds fun right? It wasn't until you that I started to think about what exactly 'breeding' was going to entail. It meant that in a year I was going to have children. Little Alec's running around born into a life of slavery. It made me sick. I changed my mind, but of course, it was too late. They were all pregnant. But I couldn't let it go. So I went to each of them," he looked over at Max shaking his head, "You have no idea how risky that was."
"Yes I do," she said softly remembering what it took for her to trust Alec when they had first met.
"Yeah. They beat any ideas of nonconformity out of us pretty early, but I had to try. Turns out, they were just as scared. They were only a few weeks pregnant but had developed some very strong feelings for their babies—our babies," he corrected. He took a deep breath as he prepared himself for what he was about to say, "We all wanted the same thing—to stop it. So, I approached some of my former unit mates, some guys I could trust—had trusted with my life on more than one occasion. They set things up, and all three women had unfortunate 'accidents' during training which ended their pregnancies."
Max looked at him, watched the emotions play on his features as he told the tale. She couldn't imagine what it must've been like for him. Choosing to defy orders, knowing that it would probably mean his own termination when they found out.
"Of course, Manticore went down right after that, but still, it was the right thing to do. I wouldn't want to have kids when we're in
the middle of all this." He wasn't finished, but his voice sounded foreign to her now, and she looked up at him watching the tension and pain in his voice. "And if Manticore hadn't gone up in flames, it would've been worth it. If they had found out, yeah they would've killed me, but at least I would've gone out without leaving behind a legacy—or three—to take my place."
She nodded watching helplessly as he tried to control his emotions.
He looked back at Max, "But Mara wasn't one of them. I swear I never slept with her. She wasn't one of the three. I don't know why she keeps saying it's me."
"Alec I saw the DNA report. Hell, Deb did the tests herself. Alec that baby is a match to your DNA."
"I don't care what the tests said! I'm no father Max. I'm a killer. I've killed children. Murdered them. Looked them in their eyes and pulled the trigger without even blinking. I can not be a father."
"It was what you did not who you are. Alec it was your job."
"My job," he whispered as he was assaulted by images of his past.You were my job Rachel!
Loosing his tenuous grip on his control, he stepped into her personal space, the heat of his body warming hers as he brought a hand up her back and onto the back of her neck. His fingers traced her barcode as he brought his mouth down so that it hovered mere centimeters from hers. "Look at me, Max. Do you see it? Feel where my hand is and tell me you aren't scared. Tell me you aren't counting the ways I could kill you right now without moving my right hand more than an inch in any direction." His breath was sweet. She could smell a faint tinge of alcohol and it made her mouth water. She licked her lips, the action bringing her tongue a hair's breadth away from his own lips.
"I'm not afraid of you, Alec," she said breathlessly.
He breathed her in, not smelling her fear as he had expected. Why wasn't she getting it? Why didn't she understand? In his desperation to show her, he kicked it up a notch.
Fisting his hand in her hair he pulled her head back sharply, bending her backward a little, keeping her off balance. He brought his hand up under her breast, fingering her ribs. "What about now, Maxie? Are you cataloguing all the way I could kill you in this position? I could press my fingers down and I snap your fifth rib, puncturing your lung. That would be long and painful. You want something quicker?" he walked his fingers up her chest and along her jaw, caressing her cheek as he grabbed her face and forced her head to face him dead-on, "I could yank your hair in any direction and snap your neck in a way that made it look accidental." She did not react, she just held his gaze, not fighting. He remained undeterred. If anything her unnatural calm only encouraged him. Keeping his hold on her hair, he released her face and traced the line of her nose with his fingertips. "No? How about I could use the palm of my hand to push the cartilage of your nose up into your brain," he said in a tonelessly calm voice. He leaned down over her, his lips so close to her ear it made her shiver. He bared his teeth in a feral snarl, "Get it? Once a killer, always a killer," he said through clenched teeth as he released her, pushing her roughly away from him. "It's not what I did. It's what I do; who I am," he finished, glaring at her as his chest rose and fell as he struggled to maintain control over himself.
She caught her balance and stood up straight taking the three steps toward him that brought them face-to-face once again.
"Alec, I am not afraid of you," she said seriously.
"You know why I don't bring girls back to my place?" He asked exasperated. She just wasn't getting it.
That was an unexpected question.
She shook her head 'no' wondering where her was going with this.
"Because I have nightmares. Because it's dangerous to wake me from one. Because I once almost killed Biggs when he tried to wake me from a bad dream and the only thing that saved him was the fact that he was able to head-butt me which brought me into reality."
"So? So what if I had a kid and they had a nightmare and came into my room in the middle of the night wanting some comfort?
What if I reacted to the threat before I realized what I was doing? I could kill my own child Max. I could do it and it would be done before I even knew what I was doing. I could do it just like that," he snapped his fingers in front of her face, "and it would be all over. It's innate. It's instinctual. It's uncontrollable."
"Alec! That's ridiculous! You're looking for something that's not there!"
"No Max! I'm being realistic! I am NOT meant to be a parent. I don't want to do it. I won't do it." He shoved her roughly away from him again, desperately trying to illustrate his point. "So you go to the infirmary and you tell what's-her-name to find someone else. And while you're at it, ask her where she got my sperm, 'cause I sure as hell didn't give it to her." He turned away from her once again wishing she would just go. He had been fighting the urge to cry and he was rapidly losing the battle. More than anything he didn't want to cry in front of Max again.
"Ok. It's okay," she said wrapping her arms around him from behind and pressing her face into his back.
She felt his body jerk as the first sobs escaped him.
"Shhhh," she soothed holding him tighter.
Her phone began to ring startling both of them. She released her hold on him and reached down to answer her phone. They both knew what the call was going to be about. He turned around to face her and his hand closed over hers stopping her before she could get it all the way out of her pocket. "Don't. Not yet."
Unfazed, she looked up into his eyes. Red-rimmed, they looked so much more green than their normal hazel hue. He looked at her with pure emotion. There were no walls between them, no boundaries. For the first time in their relationship, Alec showed his true self to her. She swallowed her own sob as she felt his hurt entering her own chest.
She nodded as her phone continued to ring, turning off the volume and slipping it back into her jacket pocket while keeping her eyes locked on his tear-stained face.
Reaching up, she caressed his cheek, wiping at his tears with her thumb. Her own heart constricted at the naked vulnerability in his eyes and as if in slow motion, she moved into him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him into the warmth of her body. She felt his arms go around her as well and they embraced each other with an intensity that would've broken bones had either of them been ordinary.
Neither of them knew how long they had stayed up there, locked in each other's arms, but the sun had risen by the time they had descended the stairs—hand in hand—to face the day.
He walked her to her bike, taking note of the fact that she had worn her helmet.
"Do you want a ride?" she asked him, not wanting to push him.
"Hop on," she said getting on her Ninja and sliding forward to make room for him.
He climbed on behind her, wanting to wrap his arms around her waist, but settling for placing his hands gently on her hips.
He smiled to himself as he watched her twist her hair up, putting the helmet on and tucking the stray strands under.
Less than ten minutes later they were in front of his apartment and she turned the engine off.
"So," he said not knowing what else to say.
"Yeah?" she said pulling off the helmet and letting her hair fall around her shoulders, knowing that he had something he wanted to say.
"Thank you for understanding," he said glad that he was facing the other direction so she couldn't see his embarrassment coloring his cheeks.
"Just because I understand where you're coming from doesn't mean I agree with you."
He nodded, stuffing his hands in his pockets, "I know. I guess I mean thank you for respecting my decision."
She smiled halfheartedly.
"G'nite Max," he said stepping forward and planting a quick kiss on her cheek.
She smiled up at him but he missed it, having already turned around and headed toward the door. "Hey Alec," she called after him.
He looked at her over his shoulder, "Yeah?"
She pointed up at the sun peeking over the clouds, "Don't ya mean good morning?"
He smiled, "You'd better be careful, if you keep fixing my mistakes you'll never have time for a life of your own," he said disappearing behind the dilapidated door of his apartment building.
She shook her head, feeling pretty good about the progress they had made that night. She pulled the helmet back on and headed over to TC to check on Mara and the baby.
She pulled into the main gate, not stopping in the garage, she rode her Ninja through the streets, stopping in front of the infirmary. She dropped the helmet unceremoniously onto the seat of her bike and climbed the five short steps into the med-building.
The place was pretty well deserted, especially since there had been no problems with Familiars, or cops for a couple of weeks.
She wandered the halls for a few minutes not finding any occupied beds.
Confused, she started calling out to the staff, "Hello? Anybody here? Deb? Gem? Anybody?"
A moment later she heard footsteps behind her and she turned to see a puffy-eyed Gem approaching her.
"Gem, what's wrong?" She asked immediately sensing that something was wrong.
Gem's eyes filed up with tears for what was obviously not the first time that morning and she threw herself into Max's arms.
"Gem!" Max said holding her close, while trying to pull her head back so she could look at her, "Gem what happened?"
"Sh-She didn't make it," Gem said pulling back and trying to compose herself.
"What?" Max asked her voice barely a whisper.
"Mara. She died this morning."
Shocked, Max reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone, flipping up the display and seeing the 8 missed calls. "Oh my god. How?"
Pale as a ghost, Max nodded dumbly. Although it was rare, an amniotic embolism occurred when the lining of the uterus ripped
away during childbirth and amniotic fluid entered the blood stream. There was a 95 mortality rate. There was almost nothing that could be done, even if the patient was in a hospital and on an operating table when it happened.
Still unable to wrap her mind around the gravity of the situation, Max looked over at Gem and asked calmly, "What about the baby?"
"He's fine. 8 pounds 1 ounce. He's beautiful. Looks just like Alec," Gem said fighting back the tears that were pooling in her eyes once again.
"Where is he?"
"Upstairs. Joshua's watching him. We've all been waiting for you."
Max nodded again. She couldn't seem to stop nodding. This was all so surreal. "I want to see him."
The two women walked up two flights of stairs to a well-used nursery that some of the breeding program alumni had been using as they took turns running their impromptu day care.
Joshua was sitting on the floor cradling a tiny bundle in his arms, humming softly. He smiled at her as she walked in, "Hi Max."
"Hey Josh," she said kneeling down and looking over his arm.
"You want to hold him?" he asked her gently.
She nodded again and he placed the warm bundle in her arms.
"His eyes are blue," she noted absently as he looked up at her.
"All babies are born with blue eyes, they'll probably darken to a greener shade in a couple of months," Gem said. She'd been reading all kinds of baby books, learning what she could about motherhood. "Are you two all right? I should get back down stairs."
"We're fine," Josh answered for them both and she left them alone with the baby.
"I have to call Alec," Max said after a long period of staring into the face of his son. If she looked closely, she could almost see traces of Ben in his expression and she smiled in wonder, thinking about how special it would be to watch this baby grow up into a man.
"Biggs has been waiting at Alec's apartment for a couple of hours," Josh informed her, watching her reaction carefully.
That meant Biggs had been there when she dropped Alec off. "Biggs, huh?" she said smiling to herself.
Josh nodded, "Biggs say Alec will do the right thing."
"Maybe Alec thinks he is doing the right thing by staying away," Max suggested.
"You don't think Alec will be a good father?" he asked.
"Alec's good at everything. And right now he's perfecting his self-doubt."
"Hey," a voice interrupted from the doorway.
Max and Josh turned in unison to see Biggs watching them from just outside the door. "Hey Biggs," Max said searching his expression for any sign of what happened at Alec's.
He flicked his eyes to the left and quirked an eyebrow and Max felt her heart skip a beat at the implications.
"Hey Josh, can you come here for a minute?" he asked, looking at Max.
"Sure," Josh said vacating the spot on the floor next to Max.
Biggs gave her a curt nod and a quick shrug as he clapped Josh on the back, leading him down the hall.
Shifting to sit Indian-style, Max leaned against the wall behind her, preparing to wait.
Biggs had got him here, but would be come inside?
It took him a few minutes, but eventually she heard the scuff of a boot on the linoleum and she fought the urge to look up. Of course, being part cat, it didn't take long before her curiosity got the best of her.
She raised her eyes to see Alec standing in the doorway, looking haggard, hands stuffed deep in his pockets.
"Long time no see," she said with false amusement.
"Yeah," he said, his voice cracking.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know," she said referring to Biggs waiting for him when she dropped him off.
He nodded, "I know, it's okay."
He took a step inside the room and stopped again.
She knew he couldn't see the baby from where he was standing, so she adjusted the blanket around his head, revealing the
soft hairs on his head.
"What's gonna happen to it?" Alec asked.
"Him," she said looking up at his face. "It's a boy."
Alec took a step backward.
"Biggs didn't tell you?"
Alec shook his head 'no'.
Max stood up and took a tentative step toward him.
He froze, "What are you doing?"
"Don't you even want to see him? I think he looks like Ben."
"Well, I never saw you as a child, so he looks like Ben to me," she said trying to keep the focus off of the fact that she was trying
to get him to look at his son.
He looked down at the bundle in her arms and she heard him inhale sharply, "He's so tiny. Should he be that tiny? Are you hurting him?"
She smiled, "He's perfect."
Alec smiled fleetingly, and when the smile was gone, he said stiffly, "Who is gonna take him?"
"I don't know. Nothing has been decided yet," she said gently. "Maybe I'll take him."
He looked at her incredulously, "You!"
"Why not?" she said in mock anger, "I'm great with kids."
"So you are going to take my son and raise him with Logan in a further twist in your fucked up relationship?" he snapped.
She smiled, "Oh, so now he's your son."
"My kid will not call Logan 'dad'!"
"Who said anything about Logan?"
"You want to raise him by yourself?" he asked more than a little bit surprised.
"Look around, Alec. We're not alone. I have 200 relatives around just dying to live their childhoods vicariously through actual children. I could have a line of babysitters outside my door every morning."
"What do you know about kids?"
"Nothing. But I could learn. Besides, he is my brother's nephew. I missed out on being an Aunt to Jace's son. Maybe I don't want to miss anything this time."
She watched as Alec stared at the baby, looking less terrified than he had when he walked in. "Could you do me a favor?" she
"What?" he asked not taking his eyes off the baby.
"He's wet. Could you hold him while I get out the diapers?" she asked innocently.
"H-hold him?" Alec stuttered for the first time in his life.
"Just for a second. If I leave him wet, he'll get a rash and I don't know when Joshua's coming back. Please?"
Alec cleared his throat, looking very serious as he pushed down his fear. "Ok," he said his voice a little deeper than was natural.
"Make sure you support his head," she instructed as she transferred the bundle into his arms.
Unable to tear her eyes off of the sight before her, she stood for a moment watching the new father hold an infant for the first
time in his life.
Feeling the tears threaten to well up in her eyes, she finally turned to find the diapers and wipes, unable to keep her eyes from straying back to look at the two McDowell boys getting acquainted.
"Do you want to help me?"
"Help you what?"
"You know how to do that?" he asked sounding shocked.
"Yeah, I've been hanging out with Gem and some of the mothers. Helping out sometimes."
"Ok," he said and together they changed the baby's first wet diaper.
Wrapping him back up in the soft cotton blanket, Alec picked him up and held him against his chest.
"What about a name?" Max asked.
"Well, he needs a name. I could do it, but I seem to remember you teasing me about several of the choices I've made in the past. In fact, I think it was you who proposed at an official meeting that I be banned from ever naming another person ever again."
He laughed, more relaxed than he had been in days. "Yeah, that was me."
"So, I guess it's either you or me."
"You are not punishing this kid just because he's mine." He shot her a warning look.
"So name him yourself then," she challenged.
"Ok… hmmm" he thought for a minute. "Max."
"No. Not you. Him," he said gesturing to the baby but looking at her.
"You want to name your son Max?"
He nodded, "What do you think?"
"Max McDowell? I like the way that sounds," she said smiling.
"Me too," he said.
The baby began to fuss and Alec began to pace around the room, bouncing him gently.
"Where did you learn to do that?" she asked in shock as the baby quieted down.
"TV. Where else?" he said simply. "Maxie?" he asked as he continued to pace around.
"Yeah?" she said leaning against the wall.
"Are you serious about wanting to take care of him yourself?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
"What if I wanted to try it out? You know, try to be a dad?" he asked looking nervous about her answer.
"I think you'd be great," she said smiling genuinely at him.
"Would you help me?" He asked looking into her eyes.
"Alec, when have I not had your back?"
He chuckled and shrugged, agreeing with her, "I told you earlier that if you keep cleaning up my messes, you'll never have a life of you own."
She shrugged, "I could do worse."
"I know. But we can do this," she thought for a minute. "Alec?"
"Did you name your kid Max just so you could get away with calling me Maxie all the time?"
He just laughed.
"You did! I am so gonna kick your ass!" she said chasing him playfully around the room.