disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel or the characters
time frame/setting: 2nd season, Max already has the symbols on her skin, but there's no Terminal City right now
Pairing: MA of course!

The Game

Max finally lets her guard down around Alec. With nothing to interrupt their chemistry, what would happen? Teasing over drinks at the bar leads to air hockey, leads to a bet, leads to…..well, you'll just have to read to find out!

Max walked up to him with a smile. He was such an idiot. And sometimes, as much as she didn't want to, she had to admit it was kind of cute.

Cute? Okay. Maybe that was a bit much. But it did make her smile just because of what a goof he was sometimes…well, all the time.

"What's up, Maxie?" he asked her, his usual smirk ever present, as she sat down beside him. Usually, he was the one to come sit by her and the others. Only tonight, their other usual friends weren't present. It was just the two of them. "Where's Cindy and Sketch?"

Max shrugged, "Don't know. I guess they're coming later. Come to think of it, I'm usually not here so early. And neither are you. No other plans tonight?" She cocked her head as she asked. It seemed she found amusement in the rare event that Alec had no plans at all for the evening.

Alec shrugged back at her, "Just spending some quality time with my favorite Manticore alum! You know, outside of the air vents…or stealing something….or…"

"You've made your point, smart ass!" Max said with an unusual grin. It was only unusual because she normally wasn't so pleased when she was around him, with the bigger bad always looming over what could have been a casual evening. Being a transgenic made 'having fun' become a treasured and rare event in between hunting and being hunted. Not to mention trying to figure out mysterious symbols appearing on her skin.

Max shoved away her thoughts as she drank up her glass. She was going to relax tonight no matter what. Even if the only company she had was Alec.

Alec couldn't help smiling, seeing her mood. Even though her grin wasn't a normal sight, it seemed so natural on her face. Wonder why she's so happy, he thought. "So, Maxie, did you finally get laid? You're not walking around like you have a stick shoved up your ass!"

She surprisingly, to herself as well as him, only laughed at his comment, being just as carefree as he apparently was. She decided she would go along with it today. Maybe it would throw him off his toes, make him be the one not knowing what to say for once. After all, once upon a time, she had been just as carefree and smart with people. She might actually have some fun with him for once. Plus, the look on his face alone would make it worth it.

"As a matter of fact…" she began, her happy attitude making it impossible for him to doubt her story, "What can I say? You were right. All I needed was to loosen up!"

"All right, Maxie!" Alec said, about to high five her before he realized that action was probably better reserved for one of the guys.

Max laughed, she couldn't go on like this. "Okay, wise guy. So maybe I did need to loosen up. A little."

"A little?" Alec asked her.

She shoved him playfully, "Okay, maybe more than a little. But what's a girl to do? When my family is out there getting hunted, I gotta come through."

"Yea," Alec agreed, "But still, don't forget to live a little."

Max laughed more.

"What's so funny?" Alec asked her, giving a questioning look.

"Did you really think that all I needed was some bump and grind? Like, after that, bam! I'd be too busy floating on the love train to get all serious anymore?" Max asked him, both mocking him and being just plain curious.

"Well…wait," he began, giving her a questioning look, "Does this mean, you didn't…"

"Yea, sorry to ruin the image that I don't even want to think about that I'm sure is running through your pretty little head. Oh, and of course, I'm sorry to prove you wrong. That actually, I can be somewhat pleasant without your idea of a solution!"

"Okay, Maxie," Alec returned with a clap, "Nice work. I'm wrong. I can admit it. But I still say you'd be more pleasant after a really nice rumble in the sack!"

"Is that your preferred method?" she asked him, her head again slightly cocked.

"Well, yes, actually. Wait, no I'm always pleasant, what is that supposed to mean?" he asked her.

"Haha. Whatever you say, Pretty Boy. So…I'm feelin' lucky. What do you say… want to take me on in some air hockey…" She whispered into his ear so that no one else would hear her finish, "One transgenic versus another?"

"I like the sound of that, actually, " he whispered back, close enough to smell her hair.

"Cool," she said as she grabbed his hand to pull him off the stool. Her hand, she didn't take the time to notice, rested all too comfortably into his. But of course, she slipped it right back out, just as naturally, as she placed the mini puck in place.

"You ready to get your ass kicked?" she asked him playfully with a grin as she grabbed onto the handle.

"Come on, Max. Are you questioning my skills here?" he asked her, getting a hold of his own.

"No, just reminding you of your reputation here. I mean, how many times is it, that you've been on the receiving end of an ass-kicking from me?"

Alec sent her a playful stare before answering with a question of his own. "Why are you thinking of my ass so much, Maxie? Wonder what else is running through your fantasies?"

Max couldn't help laughing as his typical ridiculous assumptions, even if it was obvious he didn't really believe them. "Who said that was my fantasy?" She asked him.

"Then what is?" Alec asked her with an intense stare.

Max didn't know how to return his stare. She suddenly couldn't tell if he was joking anymore. "Wouldn't you like to know," she responded, trying to keep the conversation from becoming serious before she analyzed things too much.

"And anyway," she continued, not giving him the chance to continue with this line of conversation, "You never answered me from before. How many times have you gotten your ass handed to you courtesy of me? Cuz you'll be adding one more to that number by the time the night is over."

Alec looked up and opened his mouth to respond, but was stuck it seemed, trying to think of an appropriate answer. "Well, now that you mention it, I guess our relationship has been more or less a love-hate, with more emphasis on the hate."

She threw him a look, "Relationship? And what are you trying to say, that you hate me?"

Alec grinned at her. Even in a good mood, he still knew how to get under her skin. "No, I don't think I would use the word 'hate' to describe what I feel for you, Maxie."

She smiled, trying to ignore the feeling coming up her spine as she contemplated what exactly it was that Alec felt for her. "Well, what I feel for you, Alec, is contempt, I guess I would say," she offered.

"Contempt? And here I thought it was some deep-seeded hate!" he commented.

She put a coin in the machine so that they could start. "Now, why would I hate you, Alec?" she asked. "The fact is, you're not that deep on my radar! I don't think about you enough to 'hate' you!"

Alec nodded, "Whatever you say, Maxie. So, am I up first?"

She shrugged, "Well, it is ladies first after all. So go right ahead!" She tossed him the puck. She didn't want to ask, but it did bother her. Although she was in a good mood, she didn't want to be so serious and analyze anything. But his comment… "What did you mean by that?" she couldn't help asking as he lined up the puck.

He grinned but kept his eyes focused on the puck. "Don't worry about it, Maxie. Right now, you should be worried about saving your reputation, cuz I'm about to skill you right here in front of everybody."

Max laughed, "Okay, Pretty Boy! Whatever you say. Cuz from this end, it looks like you're the one that's goin' down!"

He sent her a hard shot that went straight to her goal. Max's reflexes were fast, though, and she dodged it with barely an effort. She noticed, though, as she felt the pressure of the puck, he was definitely playing all out. It had more strength and precision behind it than a normal person's would have.

You wanna play it that way?, she thought, a cool smile forming on her face as her lips curved naturally upward.

"So, Max," he commented, "this is great fun and all, but I think we need some stakes here. You know, give me some motivation to win besides pissing you off."

Max sent him a glare along with a hard shot right at his goal, which unfortunately for her, he blocked. "Fine," she said, "I'm game I guess. Name your price."

Alec grinned. "I was hoping you would say that!"

"Okay," he said, after a pause and several attempts to score on her. "I know what I want, but you name your price first."

"What?" Max said, "I want to hear yours first!"

"Ladies first, Max, just like you said. As unfeminine as I've seen you act before, you still are a lady."

Max responded with a hard thrust of the puck. So hard, that it flew off the table and hit a cup resting on the bar, causing it to fall over and the drink to spill.

"Sorry!" Max called and gave an apologetic grin.

Alec laughed at her reaction, only making her more on the edge.

She pulled a new puck out and slammed it onto the table, careful to have more control over her shot this time. "I win…," she began, as she tossed a perfect shot to his end, which he responded to with a perfect block, "And you have to cover for me at work for the next 3 days! Sound fair?"

Alec nodded, "I can deal with that. Okay."

"Which includes," she continued, "any job that Logan might come up with."

Alec sent her a stare of mock concern along with a very accurate shot (which she blocked just as easily). "You want me to be Logan's errand boy? Doesn't he have enough informants to do that stuff for him? Besides, I'm not into the man the way you are, makes it difficult to care."

Max frowned at him while still paying attention to the game. "I didn't ask you to care. It's just my stakes. If it's too much, you could always back out now!" She finished with a teasing pouty face.

Alec rolled his eyes. "Fine. I'll be Logan's errand boy and do twice my work at Jam Pony. But you haven't heard what's really going to be the outcome of this, you know, when I win."

Max returned his rolling eyes. "Whatever, name your price. It doesn't matter, since you aren't winning, but I'll humor you by hearing you out."

He grinned before telling her his offer. "All right, so I win," he began, "And you have to be nice to me for 3 days. Which in the world of Alec also includes you giving me a massage."

Max found herself burning with his bargain, but out of anger or desire, she didn't know. Either way, she was suddenly getting very worked up over what started out as a simple competition. "What, I'll just provide you with your own massage therapy for 3 days straight? I don't think so!"

Alec frowned, "Now, Maxie, where's your competitive spirit? You can't handle my offer? Besides, I thought it didn't matter since I'm just gonna lose anyway."

Max continued to glare at him but did lighten up with his statement. It was true, anyway. What did it matter, since he was going to lose no matter what? "My competitive spirit?" she repeated as she set up the perfect angle for a killer shot, "Oh, here it is," she finished as she sent it toward his end, a grin back on her face.

Unfortunately, Alec, also being a transgenic, easily blocked it, although it did take more of his focus than any other shot had so far. "So is it a deal?" he asked her.

"You're on," Max replied.

Alec grinned eagerly before starting to laugh to himself.

"What is so funny over there?" Max asked him as she continued to send shots toward his end.

"I can't wait to see you try and be nice to me!" he told her.

"Aren't I nice to you?" Max asked, a little unnerved by his comment. It was like when he'd said earlier that she hated him or something. Is that really how I act around him? she questioned, not taking the time to lose focus on the game long enough to answer it.

Alec laughed. "Just wait, Maxie. I win this, you're going to experience the toughest 3 days of your life!"

"Hey!" Max argued, "What exactly do you mean by that? I am nice to you! I… I've saved your ass countless times!"

"Sure," he said, "After you do that whole, 'you don't deserve this, I'm gonna kick your ass for this' thing."

He grinned as he noticed his comments were really getting to her. He enjoyed toying with Max too much. He knew it, but it didn't make it any less fun.

"Well, maybe I'm just trying to help you out, ever thought of that?" she asked him, "Like maybe, if I tell you enough times it'll finally sink into your thick head, and you'll quit acting so stupid, putting your life in jeopardy." Is that true?, she thought to herself as she said it. I just want him to be safe?

"Sure, Maxie," Alec accepted before arguing his own version, "Or maybe, it's that I drive you crazy."

At his last comment, she found her defenses hindered enough to not block his perfect shot. Finally there was something on the scoreboard, although it wasn't in her favor. "Damnit!" she couldn't help saying as he scored.

She looked up at him in building frustration. "That was a cheap shot!" she argued, before trying to turn the tables on him, "You know, just like the companions you pay for!"

Alec frowned at her, "Uh, uh, Maxie. You're not gonna make me lose my cool. I'm all game, and there's nothing you can do about it!"

Max frowned as she kept sending perfect shots at his goal. How come he keeps blocking me?, she thought, annoyed. There had to be something she could say to knock his mind off balance enough for him to screw up so she could tie the game.

"Hey," she said to him, motioning to his right, "Cute girl over there. Looks like she's holding up a number for you… oh, my! Is that being held up in her cleavage?"

Alec only smiled deeper at Max. "Nice try! But I still remember what happened in the arena. Kind of hard to forget pain like that."

Max did remember taking advantage of him in that situation. She shrugged, "What, it was worth a shot."

"Nothing you could say will make me lose focus, Maxie. My eyes are only on you right now."

The unnerving comment gave Max an idea. She'd played this angle before. Would it work on Alec? How the hell could it not work!, she thought. She'd seen his stares, his glances. The way all his attention came to her, even if someone else was in the room.

Wait, am I unnerving myself here or him?, she thought trying to focus more on her idea than whatever Alec's reactions and intentions were to her.

As Max kept focus on her arm, she began moving her body as if stretching. "Man," she complained, "This is really giving me a muscle cramp." With the one hand that was free, she started massaging her neck before reaching her hand down to the bottom of her shirt. Why not, she thought, give him a preview of what he's gonna end up missing when he loses!

"Or maybe, it's just too hot in here," she added, lifting her shirt right over her head in one swift motion and immediately following with a shot that went directly into his goal.

She was wearing a tank top underneath, so she didn't care, but it certainly showed off her curves much better now than from a minute before.

She tossed Alec a devious look, "Oh, how about that? I guess we're tied now!"

"Touché," Alec replied.

"What do you mean?" Max asked him innocently.

"That was a cheap shot."

Max shrugged, "Whatever. I was hot. Do you mind?"

"Not at all," he replied with a grin. "I'm getting hot myself. This is more intense than I thought it would be."

"Are you gonna start the next round, or what?" she asked him, getting impatient. Just what was he planning?

She watched as Alec slowly lifted his shirt off, leaving her only to stare at his defined, naked muscles. The dim lighting from the bar seemed to reflect on them in all the right places, and she found herself getting warm again, even though she'd just removed her own shirt.

"That's much better," Alec said with a grin, taking note of her reaction. Good, he thought. Two can play at this game, Maxie!

Max opened her mouth to reply, but found the sight of him too distracting. She gave up on shooting him some comeback and instead focused on guarding her goal.

a/n: so what do you think? Keep going?