DISCLAIMER: Dark Angel and all the characters in this story belong to Cameron/Eglee and Fox.

A/N: I was trying to respond to a challenge from Pai called "She Asked for It", but it kinda became something else. I decided that Max should be in love with Alec, too…blah, blah, blah…and then suddenly, it became a smut fic. So…it's probably 30 percent smut.

A/N2: In consideration for others, I'm posting a PG and R version, too. Figured I couldn't let the 70 percent of plot go to waste. HAHAHA! THIS IS THE PG VERSION.


Max held Logan's hand tightly, feeling the warmth from his skin seep through the latex glove that separated them. The glove didn't bother her, what mattered at the moment was that he was there: solid and real. She clung to his hand with an intensity that came out of a turmoil of emotions.

It would all come down to tonight.

She felt his reassuring squeeze on her hand, but instead she felt like he was squeezing the air out of her lungs. Or squeezing her heart so much it hurt. She closed her eyes briefly and carefully released her breath, calming herself. So many things had happened; it was no surprise that she was agitated.

Someone stepped up next to her, on her right. She didn't need to turn around to know that it was Alec. The cool morning breeze wafted his scent towards her. Today, not only did he smell like Alec—that indefinable scent that was uniquely his—but also of the rich, rusty smell of his blood and the salty scent of his sweat. They'd been working long and hard since the three days after the Jam Pony incident, and she had seen him tear his stitches a bit. She had wanted to check in on him, but she had been pulled to the roof by an excited Joshua before she could find him.

She took a deep breath and smiled. Bloody, sweaty or not, she was just glad that he was alive. He had come a little too close to his death a few times this past week. Too close for much comfort. But she took what little comfort she could find these days.

Max also felt a strange tension radiating off of him. She wanted to reach out and hold his hand for this particular moment. It was important to both of them, and she wanted to share it with him. But he took one step to the side, away from her before she could reach over for his hand. Then someone else stepped in between them.

Max felt slightly aggravated at the idea of being blocked off from Alec. He was always by her side. In fact, in the past couple of months since she'd told him about Ben, she had realized that she needed him by her side.

And it was not because he was transgenic. If that were the case, then any one of the other transgenics all over Terminal City would be enough.

No, she needed him because he was…Alec.

Suddenly, Joshua signaled that he was done. Two of his friends came over and helped him push the heavy pole up to a standing position. It stood straight and tall in the morning light. Max felt a deep sense of peace as she watched the flag on the top of the pole start to flutter in the cool dawn breeze of Seattle. Peace…finally. Because the whole world knew who she was—who they all were—a Freak Nation no longer willing to hide or be swept under the rug.

She was at peace with this decision. The second one in only a few days. This week was certainly full of life-changing epiphanies. She knew she would not regret this decision.

She turned her head slightly and caught Alec's eye. He still looked grim, his shoulders tensed. She smiled at him softly, and his lips quirked a bit. It wasn't quite a smile, but he had acknowledged her. That was all that mattered.

"Look what you've done now," whispered Logan.

She turned to him and they shared a warm smile. Max knew that no matter what, Logan would support her. He may not always be able to understand, but what was important to her was that he would always try. And he would always find the strength to do the right thing. It was who he was. Logan had the strength of ten transgenics when it came to doing the right thing, especially for the people he cared about and loved.

It was the one thing Max could always count on.

She squeezed his hand gently, and he returned the slight pressure. They stood there for a few moments longer, just staring at the symbolic red, black, and white flag. The symbol of Transgenic hopes.

Moments later, Max heard people starting to move back into Terminal City. Despite the sense of rightness she felt about the decision to hold their ground, there were still a lot of things that needed to be done. Still a lot of things that could go so wrong with only a slight miscalculation. She took one last deep breath, reveling in the momentary peace that settled inside of her, then exhaled slowly.

She stole a quick glance at Alec, but he was still staring intently at their flag. He was wearing a blank expression, but Max knew better. The small frown between his brows, the tiny downward cast at the corners of his lips, and the fisted hands that were shoved deep in his pants pockets were almost imperceptible—but not to her. She'd come to know that expression as his sad, but determined look. Like he knew what was coming wasn't good, but he'd be damned if he wasn't going to fight for it. Max briefly wondered if he was thinking about their freedom…or something else.

She sighed heavily.

It was time for action.

She turned to Logan and smiled at his classically handsome though slightly scruffy face. His deep blue eyes were livelier today than they had had been since she'd lied to him about the nature of her relationship with Alec. It was time. With what was ahead of her, lies would only be one more burden that she couldn't afford to carry.

"Logan, we need to talk."


The flag fluttered left and right, up and down, but Alec barely saw anything. His eyes were open, but he might as well have been blind. Everything inside of him was focused on only one person: Max.

He had never been so proud of anyone in his life than when she had made that speech just a few hours earlier. It had changed his life.

After he got his arm bandaged up, he had gone to look for her. Maybe to tease her a little bit about her impassioned speech. Maybe to pat her on the back and say 'good job'. Maybe to kiss her and tell her something mushy about being proud of her.

But instead, he'd found her holding Logan's latex-covered hand.

It was a blow he never saw coming. Max had made her choice.

Not that there had ever been a choice to make in the first place. He had never been in the running. Not until he saw their intertwined hands, and all he wanted to do was tear them apart. He was Max's boyfriend!

He almost chuckled. The irony wasn't lost on him. He had been her pretend boyfriend for the past two months, and now that he actually wanted to do something about that status, he'd lost her.

Right now, she was looking at him, trying to catch his eye. To give him one of those sad, broken, but still oddly hopeful smiles she flashed every now and then. He didn't notice until now how much he loved seeing those smiles. They'd been friends lately, and he'd gotten to see those smiles more often. Some days, even more often than her hand coming up to smack him upside his head.

However, at this moment, he'd give anything for a slap instead of one of those melting smiles. Maybe then, she would smack some sense into him, and his world would go right back to normal. He didn't need another one of those smiles to send him reeling even more into a confused emotional state.

So he pretended to stare at the flag as if his life depended on it. At the moment, he realized he had two choices: One, he could back off and just be her friend and support her like he'd done lately. Or, two, he could try and win her… He paused his rambling thoughts. Win her what? Love and affection? He wanted that more than anything. But come to think of it, there didn't even seem to be a sliver of hope for him in that regard.

Granted, he was still Max's boyfriend in Logan's—even other transgenics'—eyes. He could use that to his advantage. Unless Max told Logan the truth.

"Logan, we need to talk,"

He heard her soft words and his heart sank. With the way his luck was going, Max was undoubtedly about to let the cat out of the bag. He couldn't stand to be around here anymore. He turned to the few transgenics still loitering around the roof. He clapped his hands casually in front of him and stretched his body languidly. He felt the bullet wound on his shoulder stretch painfully as well. It hurt like all hell, but it was good. Kinda like pinching himself so he would wake up from a dream.

"Let's go, people!" he cried. "There's lots of work to do!"

Everyone started shuffling towards the stairwell, even Joshua who had proudly stood next to the flagpole started walking away. Alec soon followed the rest of the current, but couldn't help but throw a casual, "Max, you coming?"

He looked at her over his shoulder. Unbidden, his stubborn eyes slid to their twined hands. He quickly forced himself to look her straight in the eyes. His belly had dropped at the sight of their handholding. He only hoped that his expression revealed nothing.

She smiled at him. "I'll be right down, Alec. Give me ten?"

He cocked a brow. She sounded like she was asking for his permission. He shrugged and nodded. "Take as long as you need."

He turned around quickly before she could catch the painful grimace on his face. In actuality, he wanted to go all caveman on her. Walk towards her and toss her over his shoulder and take her away from Logan. Better yet, he would beat Logan with a big club before he tossed Max over his shoulder. But he was pretty sure she wouldn't appreciate the theatrics.

So he turned around and walked away.


Exactly ten minutes later, Max caught up to Alec down in HQ. He and Mole were talking about surveillance and securing the perimeter. She came to stand next to him and waited until their conversation was over before greeting them. "Hey guys,"

"Max," Mole acknowledged briefly. "I better go and gather my team to secure the perimeter. You two should head over to Dix. He's the one who's got all the Housing stuff figured out. From the looks of the barricade out there, we're gonna be here for a while."

"Good idea."

Mole left and started barking orders at some transhumans and X6's, who readily complied with him. Any good soldier knew that in times of war, immediate action was necessary.

"So," Alec said, turning to face her. Max looked up at him and smiled. But he wasn't smiling at her. In fact, he looked angry.

She frowned slightly. "What happened?" she asked, her eyes moving from side to side, as if checking the surrounding areas for clues to his disposition.

Alec shrugged, but his jaw was tense, and his lips were pressed. "Nothing. Except that you've made me look like the biggest damn fool in the world."

Max narrowed her eyes at him. "What're you talking about?" she hissed.

He grabbed her arm and pulled her aside so that they were half hidden by several boxes of supplies and equipment hoarded over the past two weeks. He stood very close to her, only inches apart, his face looming over hers. "I mean the hand-holding with your ex-boyfriend while your supposed boyfriend was standing right there." He said coldly. "I wouldn't have minded, except that I don't particularly like it when people start asking me how I could let myself be thrown over for a crippled Ordinary."

Max gasped. He was being unusually cruel. "Alec, let's not talk about this here. Anyone could see and hear," she whispered.

"You're right. We shouldn't talk about this here. In fact, I should kiss you right here." He said in a conversational undertone, as if telling her that he should wear a black shirt today instead of a white one.

"Are you nuts?" she gasped. Oh God, he was so close.

"I must be." He murmured, lowering his head even more.

Max couldn't take her eyes away from those perfect lips inching closer towards her, slightly parted, and giving her a glimpse of his pink tongue. Her heart was thundering and she couldn't decide whether she wanted to be kissed or not. "What're you trying to do?"

"Make you mine," he replied. His lips were only a breath from hers, and his eyes…his eyes were looking at her like he wanted her. Needed her. Before she knew it, Max was leaning towards him.

She never knew who kissed who, just that their lips met somewhere in the middle, closing the tiny gap between them, because her eyes had closed in passion and anticipation.

Their kiss wasn't like any other first kiss. There was nothing tentative or wondering about it. It wasn't clumsy or hasty. Instead, it was almost instinctual. Like they knew exactly how to mold their lips to each other: his lips nibbling on her upper one, while she did the same to his lower one. And then he slanted his head and pulled her body flush against his, and all she could do was react by opening her mouth and giving in to him, aligning her body fully with his.

She was clinging to him, wanting more, needing more. He tasted so good, and he was so hot. Her fingers tangled in the slight curls that rested at his collar, while her other hand slid up his chest underneath his jacket, touching him over his shirt.

Alec bit on Max's lower lip and felt a groan reverberate in his chest. She had the softest damned lips he'd ever tasted. He had never kissed anyone with this kind of certainty before. Like he knew, without a doubt, that she belonged to him. Always belonged to him.

He shoved his hands to the back of her head and grabbed a fistful of hair. His other arm slanted across her back, urging her closer to him. The touch of her fingers on his nape was driving him wild, her hand on his chest was making him burn. His hand found the edge of her shirt and he slipped fingers inside to touch the skin on the small of her back.

Her skin was heated. She was aroused, and by god, nothing was sexier to him than knowing that it was his touch that caused it.

Someone coughed to their right and they broke apart. But Alec didn't let go of Max, and he was surprised to find that she didn't release her hold on him either. Her arm was still hooked around his neck, the other one inside his jacket, slowly sliding to wrap around his waist.

He slid his one hand that had been in her hair to her nape, and started to flex his hand in a gentle massaging motion.

"Yes, Dix?" he said coolly, although he knew that he must be slightly flushed from the kiss. Imagine that. A single kiss had ignited him.

The pasty white transhuman smiled sheepishly at them and murmured, "I've got a room for you two. Oak Street. Fourth building to the left. Fifth floor, apartment 109." Without another glance, Dix turned around and walked away.

Well, if there was a polite way of telling them to get a room…that was it. Alec looked around and found several transgenics smiling broadly at them, but still going about their duties. It wasn't a strange occurrence in Terminal City to find couples making out with each other. After years of being emotionally, physically, and sexually repressed, several Transgenics had reveled in the new openness.

Like Alec did just after he got out of Manticore. Hopping from one bed to another, just enjoying his new found freedoms.

But this was different.

He carefully eyed Max. She had buried her head in his chest, obviously embarrassed. But at least she still hadn't let go. Alec nuzzled her hair, and inhaled her scent. He was content to hold her like this, he realized. She fit in his arms perfectly. She was tall enough that her head could rest quite comfortable in the crook of his neck if she stood straight, or nestle on his chest if she leaned onto him.

He caught Logan's eye over Max's head. He instinctively held her tighter, and she gratifyingly acquiesced and snuggled closer. But she still wouldn't look up. Whatever his relationship with Max was now, he couldn't go back to the way things were. He couldn't.

He eyed Logan with a hint of challenge, but the older man just smiled slightly and nodded, before turning around and walking towards Luke with every intention of helping the monocled transgenic develop a better IT Network.

His reaction confused Alec. He had completely expected Max to have told Logan everything.


"Yeah, Max?"

She finally pushed away and looked up at him. He didn't let go, just allowed enough room between them so she could look him in the eye. There was confusion and concern clouding her eyes. "Let me go."

I can't, he wanted to say. But instead, he let his arms go limp and release her. She immediately stepped back placing a couple feet between them. He felt cold as air rushed into the place where she had stood in his arms.

She had crossed her arms tightly over her chest, almost hugging herself. She wouldn't look him in the eye and they stood uncomfortably, the silence stretching. He couldn't decide if he was supposed to apologize. True, he had been pretty pissed at her for holding Logan's hand and making him look like an idiot in front of everyone. But at the same time…if…if she loved Logan, then…he couldn't really blame her. Finally, he cleared his throat, and she looked up sharply, as if startled out of her own thoughts.

"I…" she paused, at a loss for words. Alec almost smirked. Max was hardly ever at a loss for words. And if she was, she usually pulled punches. But this time, she just stood there, her eyes searching his, her tongue darting between her lips, licking them nervously. "Why'd you kiss me?" she blurted out.

Alec couldn't very well admit that he had wanted to kiss her since she had been assigned as his Breeding Partner. His pride had already taken a not-so-well-deserved beating from the whole hand-holding incident. He wasn't about to compound that by telling her of his unrequited feelings. So he shrugged. "Thought it might help…" he replied.

She wrinkled her nose, and Alec thought it was adorable how she did that. "What do you mean it might help?" she whispered dangerously, a warning glint in her brown eyes. Just like the Max that he knew.

Alec scratched his barcode uncomfortably. "Well, it'd help both of us. Make me not look stupid in front of the others…and well…make Logan see that you'd really moved on."

"Oh." Her expression was wiped clean all of a sudden, and he wasn't sure exactly what it was that he'd said that was so wrong.

Max swallowed hard and tried not to look at Alec. God! To think that she'd hoped so hard for that kiss to have meant something more. She should have expected that Alec only had ulterior motives. It wasn't like she expected him to have feelings for her.

The same kind of feelings she'd been having since…well, for a long time really. But mostly, she'd only started accepting those feelings since she'd told him about Ben. And she'd really learned to look at him and see him as a whole different person.

But still. It had hurt. She had actually put her heart into that kiss. "Well…thanks…I guess," she muttered. She couldn't stand here. She was suddenly very close to tears. It was like all of the stress since the Jam Pony incident three days ago—the decision to make a stand, the decision to declare themselves a Freak Nation and expose themselves to the public, all the hustle and bustle of trying to be a leader, and to top it all off, falling in love with Alec—all of that seemed to be crashing down on her.

Alec was looking at her oddly. "Uh…you're welcome," he replied. Then he laid a hand on her shoulder, the heat of his hand seeping past the black cotton shirt she wore. "Are you okay?" he asked.

She wanted nothing more than to close the gap between them, lay her head on his chest and let him hold her. To tell him that she wasn't quite okay, that she was overwhelmed and frightened. But that wasn't his role. Not really. He didn't have to pretend anymore.

She smiled tightly at him, holding her tears at bay just long enough. "I'm okay. I…" she paused as a huge lump in her throat formed. "…look, Alec, I told Logan. I told him everything. And…you don't have to pretend to kiss me or hold me…or care anymore, okay?"

With that, she quickly shrugged of his hand and walked away stiffly. She couldn't cry right now. She had too many things to do. Too many lives depended on her ability to carry through. And her personal problems shouldn't interfere at all.

She was almost on Oak Street when a hand grabbed her arm. She instantly spun around and grabbed that arm, holding it in a martial arts lock.

"Ow! Max!" hissed Alec, as she twisted his elbow and wrist in opposite directions.

She quickly dropped his hand like it was a dead fish. "Sorry. You shouldn't sneak up on anyone like that. Not at these times," she bit out angrily.

Alec rubbed his arm painfully. It didn't help that it was also the arm that had been shot. "I wasn't sneaking up. You should have heard me following you since Headquarters!" he shot back at her. His hand crept to his bullet wound to check if the stitches had ripped.

Instantly, Max looked concerned, her hand reaching out to check his wound, too. "Sorry," she murmured.

"No real damage. Remember? Been there, done that?" he replied sarcastically. He still remembered her overly cavalier attitude towards him during Jam Pony. For some reason, it had annoyed him to no end that she hadn't really cared all that much that he was bleeding all over the place.

Max frowned. She remembered those exact words. She shook her head to banish the fear. She'd hid it well, but she had been scared that he had been seriously hurt. When she found out that it wasn't fatal, her relief had translated into sarcasm. Because she couldn't really have hugged him and kissed his 'owwie' in front of so many people like she had wanted to. He didn't know she cared about him like that.

"Yeah, well, you were careless," she retorted.

Alec rolled his eyes at her. "It was an accident, Max. Even the most cautious person in the world would still have accidents. It wasn't like I ran around telling the cops to practice their moving target drills on me."

She scowled at him, and then returned her attention to his stitches. He had pulled them, (or rather she had pulled them), but they hadn't torn. "It's all good," she said with a swift nod. She patted it lightly and he grimaced in slight pain.

Then she regarded him with a questioning look, hands on her hips. "So…what did you want from me?" she asked with feigned casualness. Inside, she didn't feel half as calm as she looked on the outside. But, being transgenic with a background in Manticore sure had its perks.

What a loaded question. What did he want from her? How about everything? Alec bit his lip as he tried to figure out what to say to her. He hadn't really thought so much about what to say. As soon as she'd walked away from him, he had just instinctively followed her. "I wasn't done with our conversation," he finally said.

She shrugged and looked off into the distance. "What else is there to say?" she sighed. "Logan knows. There's no reason to keep on pretending."

Alec felt deflated, beaten and stomped on. But of course, he covered that with a smirk. "So…I'm free?" he asked.

Max still wouldn't look at him. But she nodded stiffly. For some reason, there was something about the way she stood—too casual—that went against the way her eyes seemed to dance with suppressed emotions. But he couldn't quite place his finger on it. He was at a loss for words again. He was free…ironically, just when he only really wanted to be with her.

She suddenly looked at him, her eyes soft. "Thanks, by the way," she said with a small, sad smile. His heart squeezed painfully at the sight. "For what?" he asked.

"For playing along…for not telling Logan until I was ready to do it myself…" she said. "For hanging around and just being there…playing your part, I guess."

He chuckled slightly. "Max, you sound like you're never gonna see me again. We're stuck here remember? I'm still gonna be around. I'm still here. I mean, I…" he trailed off, catching himself just in time before saying… wasn't playing a part.

She cocked her head slightly, waiting for him to finish his sentence. He had stopped quite abruptly, his mouth snapping shut quickly. "You…what?" she prompted.

"I…uh…I had fun." He said lamely. Exactly how does one break up with someone they were never together with in the first place?

"Oh." She replied. Then she smiled. "Me, too, I guess. In between times when you were pissing me off, annoying me, stealing my food, saying stupid things…" making my heart skip several beats, scaring me to death whenever you got in trouble, making me worry, making me laugh, making me forgive you with a smile…she paused her joking diatribe and just nodded firmly, leaving several things unsaid.

He was grinning at her. "Glad to have made a lasting impression,"

"You have no idea," she whispered.



There was another pause as both of them tried to figure out what to say next.

"So…are you and Logan…are you guys…" he couldn't make himself say the words. "I mean you were…holding his hand…and all…and…"

But Max was already shaking her head. She regretted holding Logan's hand. But in a way, she had done that for closure. It was sad to know that the last time she had held Logan's hand, he had been dying in her arms from a virus. She had barely touched him since. But it was all for saying goodbye. Nothing more. "No, no, we're not. He knows that I don't belong with him…I think that seeing us together…seeing Terminal City and what everyone needs…he said he finally understood."

"Are you okay about that?" Alec asked softly. Maybe she still wanted to be with Logan anyway.

Max shrugged and gave a slight nod. "Yeah. I am. It hit me a while back that…I don't belong with him, y'know. I belong with…" you. "…someone like me." she amended just in time.

"Another transgenic?"

You. "Yeah." Only you.

"Well…uh…good." He said. He looked momentarily pained at his words before he shook his head and smiled ruefully. "I mean that it's good because…because…we're a danger to them."


"And, uh…" Alec wracked his brain for other reasons why Max shouldn't be with Logan. Because she should be with me. But of course, that wasn't likely what she wanted to hear, so he shrugged. "Being a danger to them…I think that about covers everything, don't you?" he quipped.

Her lips twitched. Then she turned and started walking. "Let's go see that place Dix got for us." She said. He followed suit, and they ambled down Oak Street together.

"We could still live together," he suggested playfully, hiding the hope in his voice.

Max chuckled. "We'll see."

"What does that mean?" he demanded.

"Depends on supply and demand, I guess," she replied. "If Dix only set aside this room for us, and all others are taken, then…" she trailed off. Who was she kidding, she'd be happy to live with his smart-ass.

Alec decided that if that weren't the case, he'd find some way to bribe Dix into telling Max otherwise.

They fell into companionable silence as they walked side-by-side, bumping into each other sometimes. Max was lost in her own thoughts, wondering about the kiss, working through her emotions, worrying about the future.

"I'm worried," she whispered.

He glanced at her, "About what?"

"The future." She sighed, slightly surprised that she was sharing this tidbit with him. "I've never worried about the future before," she admitted ruefully.

He smiled at her, and her heart did an odd little flutter. Max knew she was done for. In that second, with that smile, she knew exactly why the future worried her.

"I've never worried about the future before, either," he admitted. "Always lived everything one day at a time. Sometimes, it was the only way to survive, not thinking about what Manticore would hand me next."

"I know what you mean. Sometimes, it was too scary to think about what could happen. In a way, not thinking about the future helped make my life on the run seem more bearable, because I never made plans," she whispered. Then she looked at him from the corner of her eye. "But what about now?" she asked quietly, solemnly.

He shrugged carelessly. And Max felt her heart deflate a little bit. He turned to her and eyed her questioningly. "What about you? Why are you worried about the future now?" he asked.

She took a deep breath and released it. "Because I've never wanted one so badly before," she replied.

"Oh." Then after a pause, he smiled slightly, and his hand brushed against hers lightly. "Me, too."

Finally, they arrived at the apartment. Alec turned the knob and the door opened easily. The place was actually decent. It looked like it had been recently cleaned. Dix and his crew had been doing a great job in cleaning out several of the more habitable areas of Terminal City. With the influx even before they were exposed, there was a constant need for a place to stay.

"This is nice," commented Max, walking in and surveying the place. There wasn't much furniture. Just a small couch, a square table and two chairs.

Alec nodded and sprawled himself on the couch. He looked around appreciatively. It wasn't bad at all. Not especially if the place would have Max in it.

She walked over to him slowly and he tensed a bit. She slowly lowered herself onto the couch right next to him and leaned back. They were now sitting side-by-side, neither one looking at each other. The air between them seemed to hum with tension.

"Hey, Max," he said softly.


"I just had a thought,"

She chuckled. "That's unprecedented."

"Hey!" he said with false indignation. "I think a lot! All the time."

"Mmm-hmmm." She said placating. It was good to slip into the easy banter that they had developed over the last few months. Max realized that she had even stopped hitting Alec so much. Lately, hitting him had just become one more reason to touch him, or to catch his attention. There wasn't much rancor between them anymore. In fact, she could feel none of the old resentment she used to feel about him. Those feelings had been replaced by something even stronger.

All she knew was that there was no one else in the world she would rather be with than him.

"Anyway…" continued Alec. "I was just thinking that you're free, too."

"Huh?" she asked. "You lost me there, McDowell."

This time, he threw her a sidelong glance, a small smile on his face. "Well, I'm free. I'm not dating anyone. You're free; you're not dating anyone…"

"Oh?" she said teasingly. "How can you be so sure about that?"

His smile turned into a frown so fast it was almost a feat in itself. "What!" he cried. "Who?"

Max chuckled and patted him lightly on the arm. "I was just kidding. Do I look like someone who would two-time her pretend boyfriend?"

"Are you?"

She swatted him upside the head. "No, dumbass!"

He sighed in relief and seemed to sag into the couch. "Good."

Max turned her head to fully look at him. She loved looking at him. There was something about his face. Maybe it was because he was indecently good-looking. He had those incredible hazel eyes that seemed to absorb light around them. Sometimes those eyes were green, sometimes they looked almost blue, other times they became a dark brown. She could look into those eyes forever. And then there was that mouth. Full lips, but strongly defined. Expressive lips. Soft lips, as she had just recently found out.

Lips that she wanted pressed against her own right at that moment.

He leaned forward, and Max's heart beat faster. She could smell the faint scent of his aftershave. "What were you talking about…being free?" she whispered, her voice husky, her eyes still on those lips.

Alec looked at Max and his heart beat a rapid tattoo against his ribcage. If people were to ask him what Max looked like, he wouldn't be able to tell them. It wasn't because he never looked at her…he looked at her often enough…it was because she was always so alive that who Max was just couldn't be captured in a single frame of shot. And he was always captured by a particular part of her at any given moment.

Sometimes, it was her eyes. They never stopped being full of life and expression: anger, sadness, hope, laughter, and…passion. Sometimes, it was the sway of her hips as she walked, mesmerizing him. Sometimes it was her lips. Curved in a smile, twisted in scorn, yelling, laughing…full, red and pouty. They tasted damned good, too.

He started to lean even more towards her, gratified that she didn't lean away. She was staring at his lips and he couldn't help but lick them. "Free…Maxie…to be with…whoever we choose to be with," he replied in an undertone, his voice raspy from a growing awareness of her.

"What does that mean?"

Alec didn't answer her. Instead he leaned towards her all the way before he thought twice, and his lips drifted towards hers.

He tasted her surprise, a slight gasp, that he took advantage of, lightly running his tongue over the sensitive areas just inside her lips. She moaned softly, an invitation for more. This time, Alec raised his hand and cupped the back of her head, and crushed his lips against hers fiercely.

She responded by grabbing at his shoulders and pulling him even closer. He had a lock of her hair twisted in one hand; the other came to trail down her shoulder, down her arms, resting lightly over her hip.

Max's surprise had long since burned to passion. His kisses were wet, hot, and wild. He let his teeth graze her lips and she moaned in pleasure as he bit down on her lower one. She twisted her body on the couch so that their bodies were completely facing each other. She pulled at him, her hands on his shoulders, slowly snaking their way around his neck to pull him to her.

He didn't resist. Instead, the hand that was on her waist slipped around her back, and in a swift movement, he had her lying on the couch, his body half-sprawled on top of hers.

The press of his large, strong body on hers sent heat surging through her. She arched her back, rubbing seductively against him. Her hands slipped between them, and found the edge of his shirt. Without a qualm, she reached inside and felt the heat of him, skin-to-skin.

Alec groaned as her warm hands slid up his back, her nails occasionally raking on his skin. He couldn't get enough of her. He released her mouth, but trailed kisses down her jaw, towards the sensitive area just below her ear. He felt her shiver in response.

"Max," he groaned into her ear. "Max…"

Her eyes opened languorously. "Alec…?"

He leaned both his elbows on each side of her face so he could look into her eyes, while bracing his weight at the same time.

"Max…I…" he stumbled. He didn't know what to say, how to say what he felt. But he had her in his arms now, and he knew for sure that he couldn't let her go. "…remember how you said that I didn't have to pretend anymore?"

She nodded warily, but her brown eyes were still hazy with her own desire. That gave him enough of a reason to continue with his haphazard confession. "I…it wasn't just pretend for me," he admitted softly. "I never had to pretend to care…"

Max's eyes cleared instantly at his words. She looked stunned; her mouth fell open in a silent gasp, her body stiffened underneath his.

Alec wasn't sure how to interpret her response. Maybe she had just been swept away, but didn't feel anything more than friendship—maybe even less—towards him. He started to push away, but her arms that were still wrapped around his back, pulled him towards her. "What are you saying, Alec?" she demanded softly.

Alec swallowed nervously, but decided that he had nothing more to lose. He had already put everything on the line. "I'm saying that I want to be with you…"

Max was afraid to hope, but she'd come too far to go back now. She could feel his heart beating erratically next to hers. His words had sent her own heart into overdrive. She slowly slipped her hands from under his shirt, and reached up to cradle his face.

She looked at his beautiful face and realized she really wanted to make plans. The kind that made her want to look towards the future. The kind that made her want to fight for the future. She wanted to have a future that was worth making a stand here at Terminal City for.

She wanted a future with Alec.

She raised her eyes up to his, and her breath caught at the intensity with which he was looking at her. Her lips trembled lightly. "Good, because it's not pretend for me either," she whispered.

"Are you sure?" he asked, still unconvinced, his eyes afraid to hope.

"Alec, I think I fell in love with you long ago," she admitted. "I just didn't accept it until…well, until Biggs died, and I realized how easily that could've been you. How easily I could've lost you."

Alec closed his eyes as Max's words washed over him. He had never felt this…full before. Like he was about to burst with sheer emotion. He felt his lips widen into a smile, his shoulders start to shake with laughter and every molecule in his body sought release. He grabbed her and pulled her towards him in a fierce hug. So, this was what happiness felt like.

Still holding her to him, Alec gazed at her wonderingly, "You're in love with me?"

She scrunched up her face in annoyance. "I just said so, didn't I?"

He chuckled. God, he loved this woman. He blinked at the sudden realization. All those twisted knots in his stomach, the erratic beating of his heart, the sudden need to talk so much and do things to get her attention...all those was because he loved her, too.

"I love you, Maxie," he whispered, his voice slightly tinged in awe. This was a different kind of love from Rachel. That's why he didn't recognize it. He had loved Rachel with gentleness and fragility.

He loved Max fiercely with a kind of love that couldn't be broken.

"Really?" she asked, she tried to look skeptical, slightly teasing, but Alec saw the hope and vulnerability in her eyes. It must have taken so much out of her to admit being in love with him, the least he could do was give her everything back.

"Yeah, for a long time. I just didn't know what it was that I was feeling," he admitted.

"Good, now kiss me." she ordered.

"Glad we finally got around to this," he murmured. And just before he lowered his head to kiss her, a firm smack landed upside his head. Alec had never kissed anyone while laughing before, but he found out quickly that it made the kissing a lot more intimate.

They made love on that couch. Hot and wild, giving themselves completely to each other. Later, she collapsed onto his chest, exhausted, but sated.

He groaned happily and kissed the top of her head.

They stayed that way for a little while, reveling in the aftermath of their lovemaking. Finally, she pushed away from him and eyed him quizzically.

"What?" he asked, a brow cocked.

She shrugged, but didn't say anything. "Tell me what's on your mind, Max," he urged.

She couldn't help but grin. "I just never expected it to be this…"

"Fantastic?" he supplied. "Incredible? Wonderful?"

She chuckled. "I was gonna say 'good'…but I think your words fit the bill so much better,"

He framed her face with his hands and kissed her with a loud smack. "You haven't seen anything yet, Maxie. It gets better…"

She smiled at him. "Really? Guess I better keep you around, don't I?"

"You better."

Her smile softened and she pushed a strand of wayward hair off his forehead. "I'm not letting you go…" she whispered.

"I'm not going anywhere."