Disclaimer: I don't own 'em (unless they're originals). Please don't sue me. It's so not worth it.

A/N: Response to Pai's Challenge on NWP – to write a conversation including the following exchange between Alec and Max. The circumstances and who says what is up to you. I broke it into pieces, so I guess it doesn't strictly count as a genuine response to the challenge.

1: I need you.

2: You need air.

1: I need you.

2: You need water.

1: I need you.

2: You need food.

1: I need you!

NEED

One miserable night in Seattle…

Alec pushed open the door to Crash and slipped inside, raking a hand through his rain-soaked hair. The heavens had opened up the minute he left his apartment and had refused to let up, penetrating every later of clothing he was wearing during the chilly ride on his lime-green Bandit.

He'd been lounging on the couch, happy to spend a cold night inside where it was warm with a beer and his beloved remote control, when Original Cindy had called him and told him to get his revved-up backside down to the bar right that second or she'd put the smack-down on his ass.

Since Cindy wasn't the type to make wild statements like that without good reason, he figured he'd better oblige.

So there he was, a drowned transgenic rat, scanning the building for a familiar face. He descended the stairs, grimacing as his jeans started to chafe and muttering that whatever the emergency was, it had better be damn well worth the discomfort.

"Alec!"

Guided by Original Cindy's voice, Alec made a beeline for the bathroom where the chocolate-skinned woman was waiting, arms folded across her chest, looking distinctly ruffled. That alone was enough to rouse Alec's curiosity.

"What's the big emergency?" he asked and Cindy seized him by the arm, steering him directly into the ladies' bathroom. "Uh, OC, if this is a booty call all you had to do was…"

He stopped mid-sentence as the door swung wide and he realized why she'd been so insistent on his presence.

Max was huddled in the corner, a pair of fluffy black handcuffs tethering her to the metal leg of one of the stalls. She raised her head to look at him like a bloodhound on the hunt.

Two things struck him immediately. First, Max was sweating, her clothes damp and clinging to her curves in all the right ways… or the wrong ways, if he kept in mind that she was off-limits. Second, the scent filling the room – a concentrated mixture of pheromones and alcohol. It was so strong that Alec swallowed hard and immediately walked out into the main bar again with Cindy hot on his heels.

"Where the hell are you goin'?" she demanded, almost bumping into him as he halted abruptly, dragging in a deep breath.

"You can't smell that?" Alec asked in disbelief, blinking rapidly to try to clear his head.

"You mean the booze?" Cindy replied. "That girl's been drinkin' since lunch."

"No, not that," he said dismissively. "The pheromones."

Cindy raised an eyebrow at him. "You mean that musky smell? Yeah, a little," she shrugged. "You okay?"

"Uh huh," Alec grunted, shaking himself. "Why the hell is she drinking when she's in heat? She can't possibly think it's going to improve her self-control."

"She's drinkin' 'cause she lacks self-control, fool," Cindy informed him, the reprimand in her tone unmistakable. "You remember Logan? Tall, wears glasses, fatally allergic to Max?"

Alec instantly put the pieces together and groaned. "Is he all right?"

"The man's laid out in hospital with three broken ribs, a concussion and a quart of Joshua's blood workin' it's magic," Cindy replied. "My boo came down here hopin' she could drink herself into a coma. Ain't done a damn thing except make her worse."

"Where'd you get the handcuffs?"

Cindy actually smirked. "None of your business. Now can you get my girl home or have I gotta call Joshua back from Harbour Lights?"

"All right," he sighed, looking like a man on his way to the gallows as Cindy handed him the key. "Wish me luck."

"You're gonna need it," Cindy replied as he turned and walked back into the bathroom, taking a deep breath before he plunged back in.

Once again, she raised her head slowly as she registered his presence, her eyes taking on a slumberous gleam. Alec cleared his throat and strode over to where she sat on the floor. Up close, he could feel the heat rolling off her in waves.

"Hey, Max," he began, using every ounce of self-discipline he possessed to maintain his casual façade. At such close proximity, the heady aroma generated by her body was even more potent, shot through with flashes of whisky and vodka and God knew what else she'd imbibed over the last eight or nine hours. An Ordinary would have been in hospital getting their stomach pumped by now but Max was still on the tipsy-side of drunk.

"Alec…" she breathed, her dark gaze taking on a predatory gleam as it slowly slid over his face and then lower. He stayed absolutely still, resisting the urge to squirm as she undressed him with eyes. It was… unsettling.

Max just didn't look at him like that. Ever.

His head started to spin as she tried to wriggle closer to him and he immediately reined himself in, forcing himself to focus on the task at hand rather than the woman.

"I need you," she whispered, her voice almost a growl in his ear as he unlocked the handcuffs.

"You need air," Alec corrected her, the cuffs falling onto the tile floor. Max surged forward instantly, heedless of the fact that he was drenched, and Alec scooted sideways, his arm snaking its way around her waist. He got smoothly to his feet and lifted her off the ground, tossing her over his shoulder so that her head was dangling close to the small of his back.

"Put me down!" she hissed as her temper flared. She struggled to get free but he just gave her a firm shake and smacked her on the back of the thighs.

"Cut it out!" Alec barked, immediately regretting the move. It put a certain part of her very tempting body far too close to his maddeningly-sensitive nose and there was only so much a guy could take. His mouth went dry and he stalked towards the door with Max jabbing him in the back with her fists, determined to get free.

Original Cindy's eyes widened when she saw Alec emerge with Max thrown over his shoulder, fighting against his grip. She wasn't the only one to stare at the spectacle as Alec strode towards the back door, Max threatening vital parts of his anatomy all the while - at least she was coherent enough to realize what a potentially humiliating position she was in.

Alec flung open the door and set her down so fast he almost dropped her, backing up against the wall of the alcove that was sheltering them from the rain. He dragged in a breath of cool, fresh air and felt the fog in his head lift a little.

"You all right?" he asked as Max practically glued herself to the opposite wall. She glared at him and remained silent, staring out at the street. Alec shrugged and ran a hand through his wet hair, unwittingly making it stick up everywhere. After a while, Max glanced at him and the corner of her mouth twitched.

"Thanks," she said reluctantly. Alec gave her a curious look, as if he wasn't certain whether he should take the sentiment at face value or not, and Max felt a small twinge in the vicinity of her stomach.

"Sure," he replied calmly, hazel eyes fixing on her face momentarily before sliding away again. The air was beginning to thicken yet again though thankfully they weren't in an enclosed space anymore.

Max shifted slightly, his presence both reassuring and disconcerting at the same time.

Alec had always been easy on the eyes – he was designed that way, after all. But he'd never looked quite as tempting as he did right at that moment, his clothes soaked and clinging to him, his hair sticking up everywhere and droplets of water still working their way down his skin.

Realizing where her thoughts had unconsciously drifted, Max yanked her mind back to safer territory and resisted the impulse to cross her legs. Alec would see the move for what it was and most likely never let her live it down. But damn, if he didn't smell good… like the rain he'd ridden through to get there.

Oh God

She deliberately summoned up a vision of Logan sprawled out on the floor of Sandeman's old house, half-conscious and beginning to convulse as lesions spread across his skin. Fear had overridden instinct at the crucial moment – the same fear she'd seen in Logan's eyes when she jumped him.

She hadn't been game to go back to work after leaving the hospital. She'd bailed, running to Crash in the middle of the day when business was relatively slow and her chances of doing something she'd regret were at their lowest. The plan might have worked if she hadn't been determined to clean out Hummer's stash of hard liquor. She'd steadfastly ignored her pager and it had been hours before Cindy found her and punched her before she stripped some random guy's trousers off in the middle of a crowded room.

Hence the handcuffs. She hadn't been all that co-operative.

She hated heat. She hated the loss of control but most of all, she hated the way it made her feel.

Guilty.

It made her even more ashamed of what she was, knowing that no-one would ever understand. As if she didn't have enough crap to deal with as it was with seizures and bad memories. Why not throw in a sexual compulsion every four months just to spice things up?

Max frowned as something occurred to her. She glanced at Alec, standing calmly no more than three feet away and most definitely not freaking out over this degrading turn of events.

"So… you know about heat?" she surmised, her voice unconsciously taking on a husky quality that sent a shiver down Alec's spine. He wondered if she had any idea how good she sounded.

"Good old Manticore," he drawled. "Feline DNA started making life interesting a few years after you escaped."

Max nodded, quickly averting her eyes and Alec barely suppressed a smirk. He knew she'd never forgive him for laughing at her predicament, though she obviously had no idea how her proximity was affecting him.

He'd been called a tomcat a time or two since Manticore had burned down but Max clearly didn't know how true it really was. After all, it wasn't just the females who'd been dosed with a little bit of cat in their cocktail.

My kingdom for a tranquiliser gun, he thought, tipping his head back against the wall. The hair on the back of his neck prickled and he concentrated on keeping his breathing steady. The intoxicating scent was wrapping itself around his senses all over again. He'd never thought he'd be grateful for all the years of training and self-discipline but right at that moment it was the only thing stopping the lower half of his body from responding in an entirely inappropriate manner.

He risked a glimpse of Max and immediately regretted it. The only way to describe her expression was hungry.

She looked like a cat eyeing a bowl of cream… and God, if that wasn't the worst analogy ever, Alec inwardly berated himself. His imagination promptly went wild, supplying a visual feast that made his mouth water.

Max sidled closer, her lips curving into a sultry little smile. Alec couldn't seem to make himself move, his legs refusing to acknowledge the frantic commands his brain was issuing. He stilled, pupils dilating as Max's hands found the edges of his jacket and spread them wide, pushing it back off his shoulders until it fell to the ground. She was so close he could feel the warmth of her breath on his lips.

"Alec…" she whispered, the sound of his name triggering the last of his perimeter defences.

She doesn't want you His subconscious screamed the warning. Not really!

This was Max… and Max was Logan's girl. Not his. If he did this, she'd hate him.

"Alec, I need you –"

"You need water," Alec decided, his voice nothing more than a strained rumble.

With that, Alec spun her around and shoved her into the downpour, ignoring her yelp of outrage as the water sluiced over her, steam rising from her heated form. Alec strode out into the storm after her, knowing he'd reached the point where he couldn't get any wetter long ago. He was past caring anyway. He needed to cool down and he needed to do it fast.

Looking like a waterlogged cat with her long hair plastered to her skin, Max shifted almost instantly from aroused to mortified and Alec felt his heart constrict.

"Oh God…" she moaned, turning to look at him with horrified eyes. "I'm sorry…"

Alec almost ground his perfect teeth in frustration. He'd been right and if he was honest with himself, he didn't like it one bit. He didn't want her to be sorry for displaying the slightest sign of attraction towards him.

Max turned away from him, dragging in deep breaths as she tried to calm down. The humiliation of throwing herself at Alec like a two-dollar hooker hit her full-force and she choked down a sob. Even worse was the tiny voice in the back of her mind taunting her with the knowledge that he'd been the one to pull away. If he hadn't stopped her, she would have kept going. She'd have stripped him down and… Max shook herself, refusing to let her mind venture into such dangerous territory. She felt like she was crawling out of her own skin, the mating instinct so strong that it was almost a form of torture.

She felt a hand squeeze her shoulder and she whirled to find Alec standing behind her, water streaming over his face and dripping from his long lashes. "Feel better?" he asked and Max could have cried.

No! she wanted to scream at him but all she did was nod. Max had half-expected him to walk away and leave her to her own devices but instead he was standing in the rain with her, making sure she was all right.

He understands, she realized with a sudden flash of insight. He knew what was happening on a level Logan and Cindy couldn't possibly fathom and he was doing his best to help her. Something inside Max melted a little as that sank in.

"Come on," he said kindly. "Let's get you home."

He took her by the hand and led her around the corner to where he'd parked his Bandit. She jumped on behind him and could have sworn she felt his muscles tense as she slid her arms around his waist. He fired up the engine and Max blinked as it vibrated beneath her, fleetingly wondering if the motorcycle had been such a good idea after all. Not that her Ninja hadn't provided a small measure of relief in the past but she hadn't been riding pillion with a guy on any of those occasions. Alec manoeuvred the Bandit onto the main street and took off like a bat out of hell, weaving through slower traffic with practiced ease and Max settled in for the ride, her fingers unwittingly digging into Alec's abdomen along the way.

By the time they arrived at her building, they were soaked to the skin. Max practically threw herself off the bike to get away. Alec watched her go, knowing that getting off the motorcycle would be a universally stupid move. He'd follow her and he honestly didn't know if he had the strength to back off a third time.

It wasn't until Alec had felt her fingernails bite into his skin through his shirt and her hips rock against him that he'd realized the rumble of the motorcycle's engine probably wasn't helping Max's condition. The only thing it had done, as far as he could tell, was make Max whimper and his blood pound. The sound was burned into his memory now and seemed stuck on repeat, tormenting him with visions of Max squirming behind him, biting her lip to stop from crying out.

So he sat in the rain for several minutes, leaning forward so that his head was propped on the handlebars, breathing hard as the storm raged around him. He knew he should leave but he couldn't seem to follow through on the idea.

"Alec?"

He looked up to find Max standing uncertainly in the doorway of her building, watching him.

"Are you all right?" she asked, a thread of anxiety creeping into her voice.

Alec smirked a little. "Isn't that supposed to be my line?"

Max didn't quite smile as indecision raced across her features. "Why don't you come inside?"

"I don't think that's such a good idea, Max," Alec cautioned her, knowing deep down that it was probably the worst idea in history.

"Just to dry off," she told him. "Come on, it's freezing. I can't just let you sit out here all night."

Maybe not but you should, Alec thought as he lowered the kickstand and mechanically swung his leg over the bike. He wondered how much of that offer was influenced by her heat. She was tense as he followed her up the stairs, his eyes fixed on her swaying hips.

Didn't the woman know better than to flaunt her backside at a time like this?

Alec's mouth went dry as he entered her apartment, a mixture of dread and anticipation settling into the pit of his stomach.

"Here." Max handed him a towel, which he accepted with nerveless fingers. He deliberately avoided looking at her as she stepped away, concentrating instead on rubbing it over his hair and face. Drying the rest of his body would require undressing and he didn't dare - not in front of her, at least.

"Mind if I use your bathroom?" he asked.

Max nodded and he retreated into the cool, tiled room. He braced himself against the sink and stared at his reflection, groaning at what he saw. Dilated pupils, skin slightly flushed, his heart rate and breathing both quickening…

What the hell are you doing here, Alec?

Gritting his teeth, he peeled the shirt away from his skin and pulled it over his head, wringing it out over the basin before he started towelling himself dry. His clothes would be damp but he could live with that. Chafing, on the other hand… he frowned and removed his jeans, doing his best to get the water out of them.

Max watched the door of the bathroom like a hawk, teeth tugging at her lower lip. She could easily picture what was happening in there. Alec undressing, muscles shifting underneath wet skin as he…

Stop! Stop, stop, stop!

Max collapsed onto the couch and buried her head in a cushion. She wanted the ground to open up and swallow her. Preferably before she went crazy or threw Alec down on the floor and did the kind of things she'd read about but never had the guts to try. The warmth coiling low in her belly intensified at the thought and she crossed her legs, shifting restlessly in the vain hope that it might go away.

Alec finished re-dressing himself and took one final, deep breath as he braced himself to open the door.

Okay… you're going to go out there and nothing is going to happen, got it? Keep your hands and everything else to yourself.

Alec re-emerged, his clothes clinging to him damply, and Max's mouth went dry instantly.

"Hungry?" he asked, doing his best to sound unaffected by her presence.

You have no idea, Max thought longingly, her eyes following the lithe line of his body like daggers.

He opened the refrigerator door, letting the frigid air cool him down, feeling Max's eyes burning a hole in his back. He badly wanted to stride across the room and forget about everything else but he didn't. He swallowed hard, his body going rigid.

Max stared at him, feeling the cat rise up within her, clawing at her, begging to be set free. She stared at the muscles of his back, the tension throughout the line of his body, and realized it was like looking in a mirror.

"It's affecting you too, isn't it?" Max asked quietly, finally vocalizing what Alec had struggled so hard to keep under control. He let out a mirthless chuckle.

"Feline DNA," he replied, refusing to risk glancing at her. "What a party, huh?"

Just once, a tiny voice purred in Max's head, urging her on. Just once, find out what it feels like to be with someone who understands. Someone who knows who you are what you are

Max almost groaned aloud as her blood heated at the picture her imagination painted in vivid, living colour. Without conscious thought she'd gotten up off the couch and was slinking towards him, moving silently across the carpet, her breath hitching in her throat.

Someone you don't have to hold back with

Alec almost swayed as a wave of pheromones washed over him and the next thing he knew, he was backed up against the refrigerator with a pair of indecently luscious lips pressed against his, deft hands working the button of his jeans. Alec groaned and for a few precious seconds he did what any other red-blooded male in his position would have done.

He kissed her back, thoroughly and hungrily, relishing the scent and feel of her in his grasp.

Scent… Oh God. Heat! The fog cleared just enough for him to realize there was something very wrong with this scenario.

"Max, what are you doing?" he murmured against her mouth as he tried to get himself back under control.

"What does it feel like I'm doing?" she whispered through the kiss as she pulled down the zipper of his jeans and slipped a hand inside. Alec's eyes widened in alarm as she began exploring. "I need you," she whimpered but Alec grasped her by the shoulders and with an effort set her firmly back on her heels, hazel eyes looking squarely into brown. His knees felt ready to buckle but he knew he'd just drag her down with him and throw caution to the wind.

"You need food," he told her, trying to catch his breath and change the subject at the same time.

Jesus Christ, don't look at her! he chastised himself, hoping she'd read the desperation in his eyes and save them both from doing something she'd regret. He was holding on by his fingertips.

Max shoved him back against the wall and held him there, tongue flicking out to wet her lips as she languorously and very deliberately moulded her curves against his harder frame.

"No, Alec," she said softly, intently, as she met his stare and didn't flinch away. "I need you."

Alec's heartbeat thundered in Max's sensitive ears, his resolve crumbling as he inhaled deeply, a growl rising up from his throat.

The dynamic changed the instant he gave in, the air charged with electricity and heavy with musk as Alec's mouth plundered hers. His hands lifted her as her legs circled his waist and she tore his shirt over his head. For the first time since she was thirteen, she didn't care about anything except this, her entire focus on the male who was laying her out on her kitchen counter. She didn't worry about hurting him or what he'd think of her after it was over.

Alec understood and that was all she needed.