Title: Phobia

Summary: "Alec always seems cool and level headed, so let's give him an irrational fear."

Agateophobia - a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of insanity or becoming insane.

Rating: T. Violence and language.

Pairing: MA

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.

Author's Note: This is a challenge fic from NWP. There'll be a lot of angst, so be warned!


His jaw stung as her fist landed forcefully just below his cheekbone, but he couldn't say it was completely unexpected. He had watched the fire grow in her eyes since he'd started talking, and now it was only logical that she'd resort to taking a swing.

"Ow." He commented casually, but his eyes flashed as he ran a finger over his bruised jaw.

"You are such a dumbass! I don't even know why I depend on you," Max sneered, her arms crossing over her chest and her hip jutting out to the side. Funny how she never assumed he would go ahead and hit her back.

Then again, he'd probably deserved the punch. He had been reckless, but he really hadn't thought it would piss her off this much.

"Don't you ever, ever, go strolling out of here thinking you're doing a favor for the rest of us!" Max ranted, her voice barely above a growl and her expression forbidding.

"Max, look. A guy I've… done business with called and I just figured, why not try to liven things up around here a little? Y'know, have some fun."

From the way Max's back stiffened and her eyes dilated, Alec knew that probably wasn't the right thing to say. "Fun? You went out there and risked your life so Terminal City could have some fun? We're on the brink of war, and our people are dying! What the hell would a few pool tables and a dozen crates of beer do for us?"

He nearly growled, once again annoyed at her inability to listen. "I just told you, Max!" Alec replied, his voice matching her low snarl. Did she think he didn't know all this? "We can't concentrate on this 24 hours a day. It'll kill us eventually."

"No." Max stated, with quiet fury. "It won't kill anyone. But it will drive you crazy. Face it, you don't like being cooped up like this, working all the time. You'd rather be off risking your own neck."

He threw his hands up in a so-sue-me gesture. "And?" He replied heatedly, "I'm not risking anyone else's neck, am I? Just mine. So why does it piss you off?"

Uncertainty flashed into her eyes for a second and caused her to pause, but the emotion was replaced with rage a second later. "Because you're so careless! Busting out of Terminal City and traipsing through Seattle, despite the fact that they have ways to track us? And for what? A little entertainment and some alcohol that doesn't do anything for us, anyway?" She stalked closer to him, planted her hands firmly on his chest, and shoved him with all her strength. He stumbled a little in surprise but regained his balance easily as she continued to advance on him.

"You. Are. So. Insane!" Max shouted, punctuating each word with more sharp jabs to his chest. His body suddenly stiffened, and his hands enveloped both of her wrists with bruising force. She barely kept herself from yelping in surprise as he immediately halted her abuse.

Alec's eyes narrowed and turned menacing as rage coursed through him. He kept his hold on her hands as he said in a low, threatening growl, "I'm not crazy."

"Could have fooled me," Max replied, infuriated both by his macho display of strength and his unprecedented anger. "No sane person would risk his life the way you do on a daily basis."

He released her hands as if he could no longer stand to touch her. His voice was deceptively calm as he replied, "Well, I'm not pulling out anyone's teeth, am I?"

It was beyond low. It was cruel. But he knew it was the one thing that would make her stop. She had to stop.

She gasped in horrified surprise, her face blanching and her expression going slack. She was completely speechless, and so stunned she dropped her guard as her eyes filled with hot, angry tears.

"You… You have no right…" She whispered unsteadily, her voice alternately faltering and growing stronger as pain and rage warred within her.

"I have every right. And I can guarantee you, Max, I'm not crazy. Ask those damn doctors in Phy Ops; they spent long enough making sure."

With that, he shoved away from her and walked away. She probably hated him more now than she had when she first met him, and their tentative friendship was most likely shattered. But at least she'd stopped.