Yeah so I should have posted this ages ago and I am sorry for the delay. No excuses, only know that Roswell has eaten my soul, and I have been consumed. For those still interested I adore this chapter. Probably some of the most fun I've had with Max.

I own nothing and mean no harm. Please enjoy and review.


A week had passed.

A strange and rather enlightening week. For her part, Max had done her best to keep an even temper and an open mind.

Wandering through the streets of TC, she knew where she was going even if she didn't want to admit it.

She had left Mole in charge, he had loved announcing that, but had a walkie-talkie with her just in case.

Things between them had gotten better since she had dragged him off on her retrieval mission. Maybe it was her decision to get Alec or her 180 when it came to all things defensive and offensive with regards to the safety and security of TC.

Either way; she much preferred the DAC at her back rather than in her way.

Surprisingly, not surprisingly, Logan's presence in the past seven days had been exactly zero.

Oh, he still called in, checked in, but with regards to her.

Nothing.

What had he expected? After all he had put the doubts, thoughts, theories in her head.

How was it her fault that he had walked into the infirmary when she had been watching over Alec? She had promised Alec she'd be there and she had meant it, and so maybe she had also used that time to think long and hard about them and their convoluted past, but that was neither here nor there.

Things between them had always been tricky.

Yes, but then Logan had walked in and the look on his face, in his eyes.

Now that had given her pause.

She was almost positive he knew exactly why Alec had thrown all their fights, and really, deep down, she knew too, but he hadn't said and she hadn't asked.

So he had given her a sad smile and left.

It had felt like good-bye.

Damn him.

For the first time she had felt anger towards him. He had put her on the spot. Go after him or stay with Alec.

It hadn't been fair and she had refused to even acknowledge the choice.

But now she saw the choice, as clear as day, and she had made it.

Chosen Alec.

The strangeness of it all knew no bounds.

So she had taken advantage of time without Logan's distracting presence and trained her attention on Alec.

For the past week she had carefully watched him.

And boy was she surprised by what she had learned.

In no way was he at all what she thought. He worked hard days, but always with a smile; he worked long hours, but always had time for a joke.

How had she gotten it so backwards?

That damn blind spot, it had to be, after all she was more noting, more observant than that with everyone else.

Efficient and competent, but charming and fair, he was a whiz behind the scenes. So much work never even made it to her desk, because of him.

That realization, what three days ago, had sent her into such a tizzy she had promptly called OC and spent two hours sobbing on the couch.

She had be so, so, so WRONG about Alec.

But the clincher, the absolute icing on the goddamn cake that was her bitchy blindness. Every single night he went home alone.

Not a slut, not a man whore, not one of those things she had accused him of had been true.

See for that particular revelation yesterday she had quite stubbornly refused to believe it. Further investigation was required.

A careful comment here and a gentle question there and she had heard from, well, all of her sources that Alec had not indulged once since the flag had raised.

Or even much before that.

Now, why that mattered, shoot, she wouldn't even touch that no matter how open with her feelings she was being.

OC had had a few choice words after yesterday's late night call.

A few choice and eye opening suggestions that she was not even close to being ready to deal with.

First things first.

She wanted to find Alec. Find him and clear up the thing between them. The original thing.

Oh, look. Her feet had found him for her.

Taking a final, deep breath, she squared her shoulders and headed into the building that served as training room, communal showers, weight room. She hadn't spent as much time as she should have here it seemed.

Bodies passed, a few nods, one or two hello's, it was good to be known, but she was on a mission.

"Nice."

She knew that tone. Stopping, she ducked into a doorway on her left, following the voice.

A half dozen X5's were scattered around the room in various stages of hand to hand combat.

Training or not their blows, even from this distance, made her wince.

And why exactly had she thought she was better? They had done this, all of this, every day, twice a day. For like their whole lives.

There were sunny summer days she had never left her fire escape.

Starting tomorrow (right), no, next week, she would make a real effort to start training.

After all Alec looked like he knew a trick or two. Executing a complex series of jabs and hooks, he capped the flurry of moves off with a devastating knee to the stomach.

Over Hoop's, the X5 unlucky enough to have drawn Alec as opponent, crumbling form she was caught staring, he winked. Great, good, now she was blushing, but she forced away the annoyance that came with the embarrassment. Being nice was hard. Instead of a snarl she waved and maybe even pulled off a small smile.

Well, maybe it wasn't too hard especially if it earned that grin.

She had finally admitted that she liked Alec's grin. Heck, he'd given it to her either right before or right after every smack she ever gave him, so that really, really said something, huh.

But that thought had no part in what she was here for, so she hopped up on an unused stack of mats and waited for their session to end.

Yeah, so, that was a sacrifice she was more than willing to make. OC's voice began to snicker in her head, but she sniffed at it. They were just too pretty.

In various stages of dress (sweats and wife-beaters) and undress (shirtless and sweaty) (and thank heavens Alec was working the wife beater otherwise their conversation was so not happening) they fought.

As it was she was enjoying the show. Relaxing, she crossed her legs. The air was thick, testosterone, sweat, fun. There was no life and death struggle here, they fought to fight, to improve, and she finally got it.

Although how they, he, could get much better was a mystery. She couldn't take her eyes off of him, and she knew he knew she was staring.

And she didn't care.

"And that I think is that."

From the ground Hoop called an end to the session, she watched Alec laugh and shake hands with his brothers, helping Hoop off the mat with a grin (no, not that one, but it was close enough).

"I'll catch you guys later."

Wow.

Before she could blink the room had cleared. They were alone. One simply statement and the message had been clear and everyone had scattered.

Suddenly, stupidly, it hit her. Alec was an X5 male. The Alpha Male.

Huh. Before the thought could be fully absorbed he had turned the whole of his attention towards her.

"Enjoy the show?"

Right, now was the time for words and she needed to focus.

"You guys are pretty awesome."

He indulged in his smirk, but he had earned it so she smiled.

"So what brings you here, Max?"

He sauntered over towards her and she got the distinct impression he was trying to intimidate her.

Score one for Alec.

"I wanted to talk to you."

The words were neutral, her tone (which she had worked long and hard on) was light.

"Really."

He had stopped moving, yeah, but that was only because he had bumped up against her stack of mats.

"Yes."

Ignore and focus. Ignore the scent, the sight, the just, it, that was this newly found Alec.

But then he did the wide-eyed curious boy face thing and she couldn't ignore and definitely couldn't focus.

"OK."

OK, OK, What? Right.

Swallowing, she did her very, very best to keep her face straight, because, well, it hit her, bashed her, maimed her. She was attracted to him.

Sweaty and smelly and smiling and holy crap OC had been so right. She had been kicking him to keep from pulling him.

Wow. Somewhere, somehow, she knew OC was having a laugh at her expense.

"You alright?"

Was she? Maybe, sorta, if he would stop wit the head cocked (now why had she chosen that word) perusal of her person, she might be able to salvage something.

But as of yet he had not acquired any telepathic abilities and continued to study her either unaware (why would he suspect) or uncaring (so not Alec) of her dilemma.

"I'm fine. Sorry."

Smiling, she was glad when she was able to pull of reassuring and not panicked.

"So."

Here we go.

"Something came up, well was brought to my attention. About you," stuttering. Stammering. She hated playing the fool, "About the fact that you let me kick your ass in our fights. And I was hoping to find out why you let me win."

There. Done. Good.

She hadn't been angry or accusing, just genuinely curious and the stuttering notwithstanding she had pulled it off.

Score one for Max.

Her elation however was rapidly fading. As many times as she had run the words over in her mind, she had never anticipated his response.

Or lack of one.

The staring was getting ridiculous, and she squirmed, which was even more frustrating. Why couldn't he just say something.

"You really want to know?"

Finally, and thankfully he wasn't making a joke out of it because convincing him or her sincerity would be too much right now.

"Yes. I really do."

Awards should be given. And maybe that's why he looked so serious, so unsettled, he was as unused to her talking to him (as opposed to at him) as she was.

"You are probably," he grimaced, "no really aren't going to like the answers."

Oh, boy. It was here, it was time. The test had begun.

"Maybe, maybe not, but I really do want to know."

Catching herself before she weaved into adorably sickening pleading (the shock of which might have just killed him) she snapped her mouth shut and patted the spot next to her.

Ha! The shock of that motion alone sent his eyebrows straight up to his hairline.

The green-gold eyes held nothing back. In a rush she saw his eagerness, wariness, curiosity, excitement.

Whoa.

Crazy moment. Overwhelming, but then he blinked and moved and all she was left with was the stamp of that look on her brain.

"I never thought I'd be having this conversation with you."

She knew it and it shamed her, because, despite his chuckle, she could feel the hurt under the awe.

He took moments, several, she imagined he was folding and unfolding pieces of their past. Giving him the time, hell, she had had all week, she stared down, eyes landing on his feet.

Oh. Crap.

This was the moment and the rush of hormones caught her unawares and was totally, completely inappropriate.

All because of his perfectly, stupid bare (gorgeous) feet. Who had attractive feet? Perfect soldier in every way. Stupid, stupid.

Score one for Manticore.

Deep breaths helped and she felt her levels return to normal just in time.

"As far as introductions go ours really wasn't the best."

That was an understatement, but she smiled at the memory, and was glad she could do that now.

"And things pretty much went downhill after that."

Nodding, she didn't dare look over at him, her eyes stayed safely on her hands.

"But then things maybe got a little better between us."

Now that was being generous. She had been an almost complete bitch in his presence, forever, it seemed.

"You hated them so much, Max."

Confused, she had to look over at him, and really, really wished she hadn't.

Eyes closed, his face a twisted mix of pain and memory. What exactly had she done? What was this costing him?

Her mouth opened to end it, this, but he cut her off with one word.

"Manticore."

Mouth shutting so tightly, she winced. Oh, this was really going to suck.

"You hated them so much and me, 494, I was one of their best."

Devastatingly bad. That was where this was going. To a very bad place.

"How could I shove it in your face just how much of them was in me, Max?"

NO, no, no, she didn't want the words, the self-loathing-doubt-hate, echoing in her head. How could he? How the Fuck could she?

"The outside. God, it was so overwhelming."

She had dropped him in her fucking blind spot and left him there. Only looking there to get a better aim to dump her venom, her filth.

Everything spun and shifted and she just saw it. The attitude, the lifestyle, he had thrown himself into everything Manticore (he) wasn't, to fit into her, what, ideal, and she had still kicked him in the balls.

Fucking, bitch, whore, cunt.

Minus ten for Max.

"Knowing there was no place to retreat, no place to evacuate to."

She had destroyed all that he had known, that was familiar and hadn't even considered how it would affect him or all of the other survivors.

"But I knew you."

Devastated before, absolutely slaughtered now.

He knew her, a familiar face out of a world of strangers and had ripped himself apart to stay near her, despite the way she treated him.

Why, why, why?

Oh, she knew now, knew more than she had ever dreamed, but there was a piece missing. A piece that she couldn't quite see the shape of.

But it wouldn't clear in her startled psyche, so she pushed it away, off into the special corner of her mind, its nooks and crannies filled with precious things and she would pull it out later for further examination.

Now though, now Alec was sitting stiffly beside her, shut off and tense, she had to fix this. Well at least start to fix it.

Boldly, terrified, she reached out and took his hand. Grateful he didn't pull away, but allowed her fingers to lace through his, allowed her arm to pull his into her lap.

Score one for Alec.

"I was wrong, Alec."

If he had been expecting a denial he wasn't getting one because he was right. About all of it.

"Punishing you wasn't, isn't the answer."

And the words were there, the ones she needed, had to say. The sight of their hands, together, gave her courage.

"In spite of them Alec," and she couldn't not turn to him, "what you are is amazing."

And the seeing was so nice. So worth it. Watching him understand what she said, moved her. The power she held over him, God, how could she not be floored.

They shared the feeling, she felt as dazed as he looked, in silence. There was more she could say, would say in time, but he didn't look all that prepared to handle more.

But there was one more point she had to make because it was the most important (for now) point of all.

"You are an X5, a soldier, and so am I and I really know that now."

Her gaze dropped back down when his eyes cut towards her, that was too much.

"But you are also Alec and I'm Max and we have to face this bitch together."

Oh, the meanings and angles were endless but now that she had started again she couldn't seem to shut up.

Biting her tongue she waited, why and for what she wasn't sure, but this had been her show and she was stuck between acts.

"No more solo runs huh?"

And once again Alec bailed her out.

"Hell, no."

She nudged him, the tension easing between them exponentially.

"You know you so owe me for that heartache."

He quirked an eyebrow at her, but she just shrugged. Playful was fun and it felt surprisingly good to be in that place with him.

"And I know exactly how you can make it up to me."

Extending her legs, feet stretching into a point, she slid to the edge of the mat and stood.

Not that she got far, his hand was still tightly wrapped around hers.

"Oh, really?"

Turning, she found herself suddenly, intimately, standing between his legs. Well, holy, freaking, hell.

Time with Alec was like living on a hormonal and emotional see saw, and damn if they hadn't just swung up again.

Ignoring the look, she really didn't (did) want to acknowledge, she put on her face. The cute one that made most of the men in her life melt and relent.

"You are going to personally show me all those slick Manticore moves you know."

Aw, his jaw dropped, how cute.

"And then I can kick your ass for real."

Smug, she leaned back and smirked at him.

Score one for Max.

Then he went and did the most wonderful thing. He tossed his head back and laughed.

The echo of it rolled off her and flooded the room. Warmed and delighted more than she had any right to be, she shook her head in amazement. Stepping away as he hopped off his seat.

"That works for me Max," he smiled, "it really does."

And she knew he meant it, that maybe everything would be OK.

"Good."

Stepping away, her fingers loosening on his, her arm had nearly extended fully when his grip on her hand tightened.

Before she could compute or question, he yanked, pulled, tugged until she was wrapped in his arms.

Stunned, stiff as a board, it took a heartbeat before she realized he was hugging her.

OHMYGOD.

Relaxing instantly, her arms wrapped around him. Sensing her acceptance he dropped his head, his taller frame curling protectively around her, nestling his face into her neck.

"Thank you, Max."

The whisper would never be heard by anyone else, it had existed solely for her. How wonderful was it to be wrapped in strong, strong arms to hear another heartbeat. Close contact, touch, care, concern, all of that had been missing.

"Thank you Alec."

Squeezing him tighter. The scent, the feel of him, just in, out, and over her. She felt, well she felt better than she had in so very, very long.

And maybe, just maybe the score could end in a tie.