A/N: Aaaaaaaaand I'm spent. No more writing M/A ever...

Yeah right, like I could resist the draw of more Max Alec-y goodness. And I swear, it's not that I purposefully leave my drabbles trailing off (as I have been accused :-p) It's just that I'm giving you snapshots of possible alternatives… It's not like I'm planning on expanding or anything. (whistles innocently)

Reviewers rule! Thanks Nic (look, look, I waited for you! Oh, wait…), FiveofFive, quirks, wrenbailey, happycabbage75 (I'm hopin' it's DA and I can't wait!), tvmaniac, chica, nayski (I am workin' on Quarantine, but I'm working on like 4 other fics too so it might be a little while), JG, Ashley, p3karen, ariana, purplespinx, and nachtregen (woo, double reviews! Thx!). And to everyone who reviewed throughout the course of this fic, whether ya got a shout-out in the last couple of chapters or not, and to anyone who might review after it has ended; thanks a whole bunch! WOO! I'm such a fangirl; reviews make me squeal!

So, thanks again, Nic, for letting me do this! I had a blast! Remind me to add another candle to my altar of nickeldime17 love, later. (glances around) Not... that I have one of those or anything...

Y- T+ (a rating I stole from Nic :P)

Z - T


Yawn


"Knock it off," She hissed.

"I can't help it," He spoke around the yawn, rubbing at tired eyes. It was probably the third in a row, and it grated on her nerves. Or maybe it was the reason behind his yawns that was annoying her.

"Uhh, yeah, you can." She countered, "Just tell them no next time." Her look of incredulous disgust turned back into the typical glare that had never really fazed him to begin with, so he wasn't really sure why she bothered.

"Yeah right!" Alec exclaimed in dismay, hands falling back to his sides. "You try tellin' a dominant female that you don't want any, see how well it goes over."

Max rolled her eyes, leaning against the counter, arms folding across her chest, hands burrowing into the warmth of her favorite fluffy robe.

The movement drew his attention. And then his eyes moved over her speculatively. Max's eyes widened and she made to spring away but he was on her in an instant.

"Wha- Alec… Get off!" She attempted to shove him away but his hands were fisted in her robe as he snuggled against her.

"I need to smell like you," He frowned, burrowing tighter against her front and she gasped at the sudden ache that couldn't be arousal. If Alec noticed a change, he didn't mention it, 'cuz he was still frowning in annoyance as her pressed himself against her, hope creeping in to his voice. "Maybe they'll leave me alone if they think that I'm makin' it with their Commanding Officer."

But his words were punctuated by another yawn, and he was just too tired, so Max was finally able to shove him off despite his greater stature. Max glared, annoyed at him, pissed at Marcy and Janna, and, as usual, hating Manticore.

Manticore had mirrored the animal kingdom a little too closely on this one. Did the strongest male out-perform the strongest female? Yeah, maybe. Did many of the X-males have greater physical capabilities than the females? Possibly. Did the alpha males get the pick of girls? Definitely. But if it came down to two X's of equal dominance but opposite sex, it was the woman who'd reign supreme in the end. At the end of the day, it was the females who were in charge because it was the females who called the shots on the where and the when and the who was going to be getting play.

And Alec, being so dominant, had been happy about that animal kingdom mirror at first, 'cuz he found himself exceedingly popular. Then two of the most alpha females, voluptuous, tooth-ache sweet, red-headed Marcy and slow-smiling, wolf-eyed, leggy blonde Janna, had taken an interest in him, and now he was stuck in the middle of a full-fledged mate war, being sent from one bed to the other night after night as the two almost equal females vied for supremacy and the eventual right to Mate with him. Not that he was even ready to settle down, from what he'd said (whined) to Max earlier that week. If he wasn't such a pig, and a coward to boot, Max would have felt sorry for him and his droopy, unhappy eyes.

"I don't even like them," He'd insisted when he'd shown up on her doorstep, interrupting her in the middle of her frickin' bath, only ten minutes ago.

"Yeah, right," Max had scoffed, flipping wet hair over her shoulder. "You shouldn't have flirted with them, then." She'd left it unsaid that he sure as hell shouldn't have slept with them. Jerk.

"Okay, fine," He'd grumped, rubbing at shadowed eyes. "Maybe I liked them at first… Before they started treating me like a piece of meat."

He'd sounded so insulted, Max hadn't been able to resist snorting, but she'd let him in her apartment anyway. It was weird how she always did that… always let him shove himself into her life. It was his frickin' problem, she should have left him out there in the hallway, let him clean up his own mess.

Whatever. It's not like taking care of him wasn't already her full-time job. Right after taking care of T.C., of course.

Anyway, now, here they were, lounging in her kitchen well after midnight; him, downing cups of coffee like a junkie getting his fix, and Max just glaring at him, thinking of her cooling bathwater, straightening her robe from his attempted scent-fest.

He paused in his coffee guzzling to glance over the blue robe, eyes sparking in interest. "Hey, are you naked under there?"

"Did you not catch the part where I said I was taking a bath?" She hissed. His next move came so far from left field, Max's brain went straight out the window and took all of her annoyance with it.

He put down the half-empty mug and took a sauntering step towards her. He reached out and Max fell still as he fingered the collar of the blue robe, a slow smile warming his face.

"Can I see?"

A slight throb between her legs. And then a scowl. He would think that was funny, wouldn't he? What a frickin' guy.

"You've got to be kidding me." She rolled her eyes, turning away to shove the yellow kettle closer to the center of the burner. Stupid frickin' sexual frustration. Sometimes it sucked having a boyfriend you couldn't touch-

Max froze when Alec crowded against her back, long fingers trailing slowly down the soft edges of the collar, down and down, as his head craned over her shoulder.

Max popped one of his hands as they neared her breasts, her heart thudding wildly in her chest as she pressed into the stove and away from him. "What the hell, Alec! Are you trying to sneak a peek?"

He grunted, shrugging, and she felt the movement of muscle against her back, a wash of warm air across her neck. Then he grinned wolfishly, pulling away. "Just a little joke, Maxie. 'Sides, you know me. I'm a slave to the Y chromosome." He turned away, not even flinching as she whirled and her fist caught him in the bicep.

Payback for the punch came as he was stalking away, towards the bathroom. He threw over his shoulder, his voice light and his eyes dark, "Nice new perfume, you got there, Max." His tongue caressed her name. "It suits you."

She froze, just for a moment, her face draining of color.

Guess it was too much to ask that he wouldn't have been able to smell the signs of her body's sudden, traitorous awakening. Or, at the very least, for him to pretend like he hadn't noticed. Shit.

By the time she'd rushed back to herself, bringing a blush of red with her, he'd shut the bathroom door behind him. Not that it mattered, she didn't have anything non-breakable near enough to fling at him anyway. She would just have to make due with glaring across the room at the closed barrier instead. Especially when she heard his snort of laughter and, "Bubbles?"

Max's glare fell away and she heaved a sigh in annoyance. That's what she gets for havin' someone like Alec as one of her best friends.

And the water came to a boil after that, anyway, so it's not like she could follow him and kick his ass or anything. She removed the shrieking kettle from the burner just as he was stalking out of the bathroom, skin still shimmering, proof of the water he'd splashed against his face to clear some of the sleepy, and maybe something else, fog.

He leaned against the counter, watching her silently as she poured the steaming water into the coffee mugs, as she set it aside, as she pulled a spoon from the drawer to add more of that instant crap that he couldn't stand but that was better than nothin'.

His casual demand made all thought and movement screech to a halt.

"Mate with me."

"What?!" The spoon fell from nerveless fingers, clattering to the countertop.

"You heard me."

She turned to stare at him in wide-eyed shock.

He was still leaning against the counter, still watching her, eyes unreadable. "Just claim me for a week or whatever. Just enough time for me to recuperate. Then," He shrugged, "When the week is over… you can revoke your claim. Maybe I'll get lucky and Marcy and Janna will have moved on by then."

So that's what this was about. Max rolled her eyes, "Alec-"

"Max, I'm frickin' exhausted," He pleaded, proof of how serious he really was, and Max released the unexplainable anger to just stare, expressionless, at him. "I'm worthless as your second when I can barely even hold my eyes open."

"I'm not gonna-"

"I'm not asking for the benefits," He frowned. "I'm asking for some frickin' sleep and for your help, as a friend. The only way Janna and Marcy will give up is if someone more dominant than them stakes a claim. And I gotta tell you, there's not very many females who outrank them." He left it unsaid that she was one of the few that did, because they'd already been over all this at the beginning of the siege, well over six months ago.

Her gaze moved over his hunched shoulders, his hunted look, and even exhausted and unhappy, his presence fairly filled the room. As dominant as they come, a good S.I.C., and, surprisingly, one of her best friends… A girl could do worse.

Not that this was gonna be permanent or anything.

He was opening his mouth, with another wheedling reason on why she should do as he asked, when her hands fisted in his sweater and she yanked him to her, her teeth descending into his neck before she'd even really thought it through.

His eyes rolled back into his head and only her tightened grip kept him from crashing to his knees. She lowered him, slowly, gently, the rest of the way to the ground, following him down, straddling him, the slight, metallic tang of blood on her tongue. Her teeth released his flesh, her tongue glancing lightly against the wound, and her lips moved wetly over the mark before she pulled away from him completely. When she released her hold on his front, he collapsed backwards, crashing to the floor. She blushed, settling back against his hips.

"Alec-"

"Gimme a minute," His breathing was ragged and it only took Max another moment, a slight pause, and a slow roll of her hips to realize what exactly it was she was pressing against.

"Fuck, Max, don't move!" He grunted, his teeth gritting together.

Her face deepened some more as she stilled, scowling at him. "Honestly, I'm amazed you can even get it up, the way you've been jumping from bed to bed each night."

He glanced up at her through thick lashes, a slight, wicked smirk twisting the corner of full lips. "Me too," Then his eyes moved over her thighs in dark appreciation and Max had to glance down to ensure the robe was still covering all the necessary spots. It was… at least it was until his hands gripped her knees, slid slowly up the length of her thighs. The silence in the apartment was overwhelming as her head fell back, her eyes closing, as he pushed the robe away from her body.

"Jesus, Max." He sounded pained.

"Max!" They both fell still as someone pounded on the door. Crap. Max recognized that throaty voice. "Max, open up!"

She pulled away from him quickly, straightening her robe and rising to her feet, pretending like she hadn't heard his head crack against the linoleum floor as he made a noise akin to agony. Part of her wondered if his frustration was due to the interruption or because of who that voice belonged to. Not that she cared, 'cuz that whole thing had been a monumental mistake brought on by the weird animal feelings of her teeth closing around his skin. She took a deep breath, checked her robe one more time, and crossed the distance to the front door and a situation she didn't really feel like dealin' with.

"This has got to stop," Janna hissed as soon as the door was open, shooting a heated glance at Marcy. "Max, will you just tell her that I'm more dominant."

"Yeah, right," The short, voluptuous red-head rolled her eyes. "He belongs to me."

Then they both turned to look at Max, frowning, and Max sighed, pressing a tired hand to her eyes. Being one of the most alpha females, and the leader of T.C. to boot, could be such a frickin' hassle sometimes.

"Why are you even arguing about this?" Max frowned, still squeezing the bridge of her nose. "Just find someone else-"

"We don't want anyone else." Janna interrupted.

"Which one of us gets him," Marcy demanded and Max's hand fell away as she looked up at them, eyes narrowed. Piece of meat, indeed.

"I'm not King Solomon," She hissed.

"Yeah, but you're the Alpha-" And then Janna's nose twitched slightly as she caught the sharp tang of Alec's scent, and something slight and warm underneath, before her eyes narrowed in interest. "Is Alec here?"

Marcy perked up, her emerald eyes lighting in joy.

"Don't even look like that," Janna frowned, brown eyes still narrowed, but now in annoyance. "You had him last night."

"Yeah and-"

"And I'm having him tonight," Max interrupted, pushing down the rage that hazed the edge of her vision. The two women fell still and turned to look at her in shock.

Alec glanced around the corner of the door, eyes lit in something akin to glee. "Hello, ladies." He waved slightly as their eyes focused in on his neck, and the red, raw imprint of teeth.

The two women stared dumbfounded at the spot he'd been in, long after he'd moved back into the apartment, headed towards her bedroom, whistling. Then both their heads whipped back to Max's once more bland expression, the warm, musky scent in the air taking on a whole new, unexpected, and unpleasant meaning.

Marcy scowled, turned on her heel, and stomped off.

Janna's eyes narrowed. "I'll see you in Command tomorrow," She hissed before she whirled and stormed away. And if that wasn't a challenge, Max didn't know what was.

Well…

Shit.

Max closed the door gently. "You better be worth it, Pretty Boy," She muttered to herself, moving towards the darkened bedroom that Alec had disappeared into.

"Alec," She crossed the darkness, moving towards the bed, pretending like her mind wasn't still on their encounter on the floor of the kitchen. "I hope you realize what your sleep is costin' me. One of your skank-ho's just freaking challenged me to a mate-"

And she trailed off in disappointment.

"Alec?" She moved on to the bed and crawled over him just to be sure. He didn't even stir, his breathing even, body relaxed in slumber.

Well…

Shit.

Again.

She collapsed to her butt at his side, staring balefully at the mark on his neck.

And with the desire clearing, wondering if she'd made a huge mistake.

Whatever. It was only for a week. And she'd explain the situation to Logan and he'd get over it. And she'd wipe the floor with Janna and she'd get over it. And she'd avoid Alec and Alec's all too willing body like the plague and he'd get over it too.

Max only hoped that she'd be able to get over it.

Max's thoughts were punctuated by a yawn and rather than roll him out of bed, she collapsed at his side instead. It'd been a long week, dealing with T.C., and Alec, and White, and Logan, and the two alpha females that Max had been in no way jealous of. Seemed like a two-hour nap was in order.

In the misty haze of near sleep, it didn't occur to Max that it'd be wrong to nuzzle at the mark on his skin, the mark that didn't really mean anything. That it wasn't anything but natural that his arms would come up around her.

Just a week, she told herself with another yawn, nestling into his body.


Zipper


"Tell me again why Logan can't do it."

Max scowled. "I'm not going through a sewer, around a police barricade, and all the way across town just so he can take a few pictures of something that he'll just have to send back here anyway."

"You're avoiding him again, aren't you?" Alec asked flatly.

Max didn't dignify that with a response, just stood there, impatiently, the glow of the setting sun through the grungy window haloing across her hair.

Alec sighed. "Fine. Whatever." He stood from the chair, twirled it around to offer it to her. "Let's get this over with."

Max sank down across the seat, her arms coming up to fold across the back of the rickety, plastic chair. And sat there, waiting. She glanced back at him in confusion.

His back was to her as he fiddled with the digital camera, offering her a semblance of privacy. When he realized she wasn't doing much moving, he glanced at her quickly, questioningly, before looking away and asking, "You need to take off your shirt or something?"

She cleared her throat, turning back to stare again at the peeling paint of this abandoned office's wall. She cleared her throat. "It zips."

Alec paused in what he was doing to turn and look at her. "Zips?"

She pulled long, dark hair forward over her shoulder, displaying the zipper that ran the length of the black turtleneck's back. "Zips," She confirmed.

Alec swallowed, eyes widening for only a moment before he schooled his expression back into neutrality. When she'd told him he'd be taking pictures of the newest runes, he'd known it'd be bad enough to be faced with that much skin. But she hadn't mentioned he'd actually have to participate in the actual removal of clothing… This… This might be harder than he'd thought.

"Some time today, would be great," She scowled, glaring back at him.

"Yeah… Right... Sorry." He cleared his throat, crossing to her, sinking down into a crouch behind the chair, fingers reaching for the collar of the dark mock turtleneck and the task that could prove to be his undoing.

The sound of the zipper fairly filled the room, rushed to fill every corner, every niche, every cranny, and was amplified back to them tenfold.

"That's far enough." Her whisper was harsh in the near silence as warm knuckles grazed the small of her back.

"Right… Sorry." He cleared his throat again, wondering why he couldn't stop apologizing.

His touch was feather-light across her skin, hands gliding under the gaping back of the turtleneck, pushing the dark material forward and over her shoulders. His finger hooked under her bra strip, slid up its length to her shoulder, and he lifted it slowly, almost reverently, away from her skin. She shifted.

"Hurry it up," She hissed in something that sounded like discomfort.

"Sorry." He breathed.

"And stop apologizing." Her jaw clenched and she focused on the peeling paint across the room. Better that then the feel of fingers, skin, touch, warm, god, sliding across her shoulder, as he brought up the camera to begin the documentation of the newest runes upon her body. With each moment, each movement, each click of the camera, something became overwhelmingly clear.

She didn't know if she could do this.

Painful grasping, she could have done. Powerful, bruising force would have been doable. Smart ass remarks, she could have handled. Anything but this… This hesitant, unsure, gentle, quiet, jumpy version of Alec… She didn't know how to handle him when he was like this.

This was almost as awkward as the last time, a little over a month ago, that Logan had photographed the runes for her. She was even wearing the same shirt as that other, mirrored encounter. And, like last time, she was all out of sorts and squirming like nobody's business.

But before, where Max had squirmed away from the feel of latex, so alien, foreign, unpleasant, upon her skin, now she was straining away from skin and warmth and feeling-

She stood abruptly and Alec had to lean backwards a bit to avoid her ass in his face. "Maybe I should just go to Logan's after all." She shoved the dark material back over her shoulders.

She glanced down at him, at the expression she could have named want-need-disgust-dismay if only the English language would have allowed it. She watched the light of sudden understanding dawn in his eyes before he shut it all down and his expression became bland.

"Yeah, that's probably for the best." He stood slowly, but did not pull away, and she had to lean forward, against the chair's back, to escape the heat radiating from his body, the heat she could feel so clearly on the exposed skin of her back, the heat she shouldn't even be able to feel at this distance.

"It's probably safer at Logan's." His voice was still very, very neutral.

She pulled herself off of the chair, an awkward movement because of his close proximity, and turned to scowl at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"You tell me," He countered, his expression unchanging.

She glared at him, at the unspoken challenge. Before her hands went around to the small of her back and lowered the dark zipper the rest of the way down. It was with only a hint of vindictive satisfaction that she noted he couldn't keep his eyes on her face as she pulled the turtleneck forward, over her shoulders, and off her body.

Alec tried to cover by letting his eyes move across the runes below her collarbone, over a few stray marks just above her bra, before traveling down to take in the markings arranged in columns across her hips, disappearing down below the waist of her jeans. He fell very, very still when her hands swept across the front of her pants, popped the button free easily. Her fingers tugged gently at her zipper, drawing his eye, before leaving it be, still fully zipped. Her hands fell back to her sides, hooking at her waist, and she stood there, waiting, challenging.

His expression turned into something she was calling lust-fear-need-nowpleasegod and to hell with the English language.

"It zips," She said simply.