A/N: As always, for the record, I like to include few listening recommendations with my stories – usually, they're songs I listened to as I wrote. Usually, the lyrics to those songs have absolutely nothing to do with the story – they're just good music.

This drabble takes place immediately following "Fuhgeddaboudit". Max is not happy after she does some thinking about her and Alec's boxing match. Short and semi-sweet.

Pulled Punches

She's got what it takes to make end's meet
-Dangerous, Roxette

That son of a bitch.

Okay, so he wasn't anyone's son. He was a hodgepodge genetic creation from a secret government facility in Wyoming. Still, the term applied.

The morning after "Monty Cora" rode again and nearly allowed Seattle's underworld to escape back into the shadows (not to mention risked potential exposure by not even bothering to cover up his barcode) I came to work early. Not that I'd been tossing and turning all night with burning desire to deliver packages all over our fair city.

No, I'd been tossing and turning with something much different. Rage.

"Well, missy-miss, glad to see you here on time. Must be a blue moon."

I nonchalantly checked Normal out for any sign that he remembered my little foray into the boxing ring last night. "Yeah, Normal, I've turned over a new leaf." Didn't seem to be flipping out – well, any more than usual. His gladiatorial dream last night must not have taken the edge off.

"You better have, or you can start searching the want ads." Blah, blah – broken record. I was here early for something other than bickering with my boss.

Ah-ha. And there was the something now, by his locker. I stalked over and slammed the door shut, narrowly missing his fingers. "You are a rat bastard, you know that?"

Alec regarded me contemptuously, looking tired, sick, and bruised. I might've felt bad for him if I wasn't so incredibly pissed. "Sure. I lost over a hundred grand, got my ass handed to me by a girl, and will probably never have sex again. And I'm the rat bastard."

Was he looking for sympathy? He'd be looking for awhile. "It wasn't your money, you shouldn't be out fighting anyway, and I didn't even kick you that hard – you'll be out screwing the Crash regulars again before you know it." I glanced around, making sure we didn't have an audience. We didn't. At eight in the morning, employees of Jam Pony were either caffiene-deprived zombies or home in bed. "You know what I'm talking about," I hissed under my breath.

"No, Max, I don't," he fake-whispered back. "Are you going to tell me, or are we going to play Twenty Questions?"

I glared at him. "The fight last night."

"Yeah. You beat the shit out of me. Hard to forget." he said, irritated. He was really mad.

Join the club. "Yeah. I did beat the shit out of you. And I shouldn't have."

The corner of Alec's mouth twitched. "Is that an admission of wrong-doing? I'm going to need more of an apology than that. Something involving money and oral sex would be a step in the right direction."

"No," I said through gritted teeth. Pig. "I mean, it should have been harder for me to win. You didn't try."

"Sure I did. Knocked you over, remember?"

I did. The battle had been unbalanced from the start. Sure, I'd landed a few blows, but he hadn't been trying to block – he's been amused. When he finally did get into the fight, after one right hook and a kick to the ribs, and I'd gone down on the mat. Had Alec bothered to finish the job, he'd have kept his winnings and Logan's gangsters would have been in the wind.

But he hadn't. He'd backed off. He'd let me get back on my feet. "You could have ended the fight right then."

He shrugged offhandedly. "I thought you were going to get the hint and drop out. Instead you kicked me in the balls. Sweet of you."

"You've been pulling your punches the whole time, haven't you?" I said, trying to keep my voice steady, quivering with fury. "This whole fucking time, you could have kicked my ass whenever you felt like it."

One right hook and a kick to the ribs. That was all it had taken. I'd been dwelling on it all night. Either Alec had been having an unusually good day, or he was a much better fighter than he'd ever let me see. It was the worst kind of insult.

"Jeez. Now you're mad because I didn't beat the shit out of you?" Alec said incredulously, looking at me like I'd grown another head. "Is there any way I can win with you, Max? Seriously. Tell me. Tell me if there's anything I can do that won't piss you off."

"Nothing comes to mind," I snapped. Alec groaned in frustration and banged his head against his locker, closing his eyes.

Okay, maybe I was being unreasonable, but this was so fucking humiliating. Here I was, the combined work of dozens of different evolutionary branches and hundreds of the best minds in modern science, and I was being treated like a little girl. "Fine. We'll have another fight. A real one." I needed a chance to prove myself. To both of us.

"What, so you can nail me in the 'nads again? Not a chance."

Kicking him may have been a little harsh. "No tricks. Cross my heart." I pulled out my wallet. "I'll even bet you fifty bucks."

"Keep your money," he said frostily. "I'm not interested."

"Why not?" He didn't respond. Alec was always trying to get me to compete with him – pool, drinking contests, delivering packages, anything. I didn't get it. "Fine." I put my wallet away and leaned against the lockers, fuming. One groin shot and he was going to sulk about it. What a baby.

A minute passed, and then he said, humor in his voice, "Really steams you that much, huh?" Great. Glad he thought this was funny.

"Yes." I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. He was watching me, smiling an odd little smile that I couldn't decipher.

"And you don't want me to pull my punches anymore." Still humor there, but now I was getting another vibe off him, too – something lower and secretive. Something sexy.

Sexy? "Yes." Maybe a little. The man was an infuriating egomaniacal pain in the ass, but hell, I wasn't dead.

Still the smile. "Okay, then." And Alec leaned in and kissed me. I wanted to object, I really did – but God, it had been so long, over a year since a man had touched me. And, man, he did know how to kiss. It was slow and sure, and when my traitorous lips parted for him, his tongue touched mine briefly before withdrawing. I was out of breath when he pulled away. "I've been pulling more punches than you think, Max," he murmured.

Then he grinned and put on his jacket. I tried to pull my thoughts from where they'd been scattered. "But if we're going to play fair from now on, I'll be sure to use all the weapons at my disposal." He hopped on his bike and winked at me, pedaling of the building.

Why… that… "You rat bastard!" I shouted furiously after him. Alec saluted me mockingly from the entryway, and then he was gone.

Oh, he was so dead when I got my hands on him.

FIN

A/N: Alec has sixty pounds and ten years of training on Max. Of course he could kick her ass. It's just fun to think of why he chooses not to.

Oh, and I've always felt sorry for Max around the middle of the second season. Poor girl… just doesn't have her head screwed on straight.

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