Hello there, it's been shamefully long between updates and I apologize for that. It amazes me that there is still interest in this fic after the show has been off for so long, so I thank all of you for your reviews and alerts. This chapter went in a totally different direction than I planned and I hope it was worth the wait for all of you. I own nothing and mean no harm. Please review!

No one would question it now though, they were alone. He collapsed into her embrace as she went to him and she couldn't hold back. Whispered her love over and over, pressing the words, the sentiments with her breath and lips and fingers. Her whole being stretched to accommodate the new care and concern and fucking love she had for him.

For his part he only smiled up at her, his head resting in her lap as the bodies of the unconscious solders were dragged out, "It's about time Maxie."

Alec had struggled to stand, one of the guards had reached for him but Max might have hissed a little at them. Alec had chuckled and taken Max's arm together they had managed to make it back to their room unassisted, "I think the honeymoon's over."

"You've got jokes, great," what she had just seen in that room, what she had just discovered had shaken her to her core. She loved him, and they could take him away at any moment; those were the facts at their most basic but that's what she was facing.

Renfro and her white coats could and probably would come for them at any time.

"Why would they want to risk you if they want you to knock me up so bad," there were probably ears on their conversation; Max had no doubt that there were cameras in the hall they were walking through. The guards surrounding them made no motion for her to be quiet though.

"They just know I'm that good," he grinned at her, she might have believed a little bit more if there wasn't blood drying on his lips.

"I'm sure they are very aware of your skills," she deadpanned.

"Look at Maxie making jokes," she rolled her eyes.

"I can be funny," he snorted.

"No you really can't," there had only one joke she had remembered, Sketchy had told it so many times that she thought she could pull it off; not so much.

Too soon they were back at the familiar door, any opportunity outside was one more chance to see, to learn. Max knew that Alec had kept his eyes constantly moving, memorizing, as much if not more than hers had been.

"Home sweet home," Alec murmured, and there was a decided lack of sarcasm in the whisper. Having been in the barracks Max supposed that their little spot was as much of a home as Alec had ever known. Again the shame rose, the differences in the lives they had lived, her place wasn't much but it was hers.

Once they had settled onto the bed, someone would be coming soon; Alec had wounds that needed attending. Max took the time to talk about the places she had crashed over the years, the good ones, the not so good ones. Alec had asked so questions, he wanted the smallest details, the color of the walls, what were the best places to eat; he made her think, made her remember.

"I think I've talked to you more these past few days than I've talked to all my friends in months," the thought had blurted out of her mouth so fast she blinked at him in disbelief when he frowned at her.

She shrugged, "I'm not a people person as you may have guessed," Alec smiled.

"Maybe you're just not with the right people," he nudged her shoulder; she considered that, it wasn't that the people in her life weren't awesome, because they were.

"There was always so much I couldn't say shouldn't say," Alec nodded.

"So you said nothing at all," he understood, it warmed her. Was this what love was? Understanding and conversation, she could do this; was doing this.

"494," there was bang as a Billy club smacked into the metal bars.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," Max helped him stand.

"Thanks," he pressed a quick kiss to her temple before moving in front of the door. Max stepped back facing the wall she put her hands up her fingers pressing into the cinder block. They wouldn't come in until she was well away from Alec, if they were both required the guards would walk right in.

With Alec gone the room felt smaller, logically she knew she was being ridiculous, the length of the room hadn't changed. The same steps were needed to walk the perimeter with or without his presence; she still paced the room, feeling the walls closing in.

The panic during each separation was growing, Max had wondered if he had felt it; there had been one or two occasions that he had been left behind as she had been taken for testing. Asking him would mean putting the words out there, words they would hear and she didn't want to give them the knowledge.

Knowledge was power. Max took a deep breath, she knew she was having trouble with Alec being away from her, so what could she do about it. Taking a seat on the bed she pulled her knees up and rested her chin, the sheets and blanket smelled like him.

Inhaling deep she pulled him in with each breath, each breath calmed her, drew him in and settled her breathing and thoughts. With a clearer head she focused on the steady beats of her heart, they were sure steady, and they weren't the only ones she could hear.

Surprised her eyes flew open Max could have sworn there was someone else in the room with her.

Nothing, the room was as bare as it had been before she closed her eyes.

'The hell' a thought occurred to her 'duh' she closed her eyes concentration came easier this time, her focus was sharper fueled by curiosity; and there it was again.

'Alec' she smiled, she was hearing his heart beat; there was no telling where they had taken him but she could hear him as though he were sitting next to her.

The next half hour passed in relative ease; Max moved to the floor, moving slowly through basic yoga moves until she could settle into a meditative lotus and not warrant suspicion.

Stretching her awareness she had caught his scent, it was faint, but she was fairly certain they had moved him one floor up; she had no idea how she had known it, something about the air maybe. Something in her gut had given her the detail so she went with it. Curiosity had rolled in amazement and she had tried to send him some thoughts, something basic, a kiss, their first kiss; she played the scene over and over.

That was where Alec found her when he had come back; Max had opened her eyes and found his eyes on her, dark with want with need. Without a word Alec had dropped to his knees before her.

"Maxie," he whispered, his palms had pressed against her cheeks and her heart had begun to thump wildly, there was no way, no way she could have done it.

Alec leaned in, his lips a breath away from hers, "that kiss was everything," her gasp was swallowed by his mouth on hers.

It took a moment for her to catch up to his lips, catch up to his hands; she helped him tug off her clothes. Right there, right in that moment, they were more connected than she had ever thought someone could be.

"Shit, shit, shit," he had realized at the same that she had that they couldn't finish what they had started.

Alec sat back between her bent knees, the desire was evident by the gleam in his eye and the tent in his sweats; she smirked and ran a finger over her nipple.

He groaned, his eyes rolling into the back of his head, "Max."

Sitting up, possessed by an urge to make him moan again she gripped his erection; she bit at the tip through the fabric, "fuck Maxie."

One fierce tug and Max had his pants down; her tongue went straight for the drop of moisture. Without shame or hesitation she slipped her mouth around his cock, Max might have even smiled when Alec's groan reached a certain decibel. The power she held over him at this moment, deep throating the length of him she cupped his balls and squeezed.

"Fuck me," she would have loved too, but it wasn't happening tonight. Instead she tortured him with her teeth and tongue and total lack of a proper gag reflex.

"Shit, Maxie," Alec buried both hands in her hair and bucked his hips up jerking as he came, she did her best to suck and swallow, she wanted it to be good for him; to make him feel everything that was swirling in her heart.

Sex and love weren't the same, she knew that, but this was what she could offer him now, because the words out there wouldn't just be for him.

"Damn girl," Alec collapsed spread eagle onto the floor as Max sat up wiping her bottom lip she smirked down at the shit eating grin on his face.

Reaching for her shirt she slipped it over her head and sat back on her heels, "I'm so glad you approve," Alec lifted his head and winked at her, "I more than approve."

Max laughed, "Well just so you know, you will be reciprocating as soon as it's feasible."

"Just say the word Maxie and this tomcat will lick that pussy right up," tossing her head back she laughed loud and long. From anyone else Max would have answered them with a punch, only Alec could be charming and profane in the same breath.

Standing Max headed for the sink and ran their toothbrush under the tap, "you OK?"

Alec laid his head back down, "yeah, some bruising on my ribs but nothing serious," Max nodded, with their healing he should be right as rain and ready for whatever they threw at them next.

The darkness descended over them suddenly, "Damn it," Alec groaned, Max blinked and her eyes adjusted to the darkness.

"A little early to bed tonight huh guys," Max smirked. Alec loved egging on the eyes behind the walls.

"Here," she waited for him to stand and handed him the toothbrush, Alec grunted a thanks, with an eye roll he couldn't see she left him to clean up. Max made her way to the bed without incident; it wasn't like there was much in the way of furniture to block her path.

The early lights out was deliberate, maybe they wanted to mess with their internal clocks, or maybe they wanted to play their games earlier tomorrow. Max pushed the thoughts aside, if she thought about it too much it would drive her crazy.

Instead she concentrated on listening to Alec prepare for bed and curled up under the covers, she liked sleeping next to the wall, so she turned on her right side, smiling to herself when Alec slipped into bed behind her.

In the dark like they were it was hard to remember that they weren't alone, more than once she had almost said something, even a whisper would be too much though. Renfro would use everything she could if it meant getting what she wanted, so Max refused to give her anything more to work with.

Eventually though there something would have to give, Alec slipped an arm under her head and Max scooted back until they were spooned together on the narrow bed. The physical contact was still startling, Max didn't know if it was the claim or if it was just Alec but she didn't mind his body lying half on top of her.

Anyone else would have been kicked to the side; she frowned at the thought of anyone else sharing her bed. So repugnant was the thought that Max almost missed it.

Her attention focused in on her hip, and the hand Alec had pressed against it, and yes, there it was; a slight pressure from his pinkie finger. Buried as it was between the mattress and her skin she supposed any movement would be hidden from even the most advance night vision cameras.

There were pauses and pokes and slides and Max slowly understood. Alec was speaking to her in code, old Morse code. Her pride at his ingenuity warmed her inside and out; she turned her head and kissed him fully on the mouth, her tongue pressing its understanding against his.

They were often intimate like this in the dark, could kiss endlessly when they put their minds to it, but they couldn't press their luck tonight. Not when anything could come of their foreplay, but it was something, a start, the prologue to a plan.

Alec asked about the thoughts, she responded with 'heartbeat' 'concentration' and 'meditation' long complicated words that tested the limits of her patience; figuring out the rest would have to be up to him.

Max felt his smile as he pressed his cheek to hers, "goodnight Maxie," she smiled and kissed his chin, "goodnight Alec."

They were going to get out of here, together, maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but it would come and they would be ready. Max fell asleep with a smile on her face.

Max woke in the same breath as Alec, a heartbeat before the lights came on, and in one swift move they had both rolled off the bed and crouched into a fighting stance.

"Now, now kittens, we're all here to play," Renfro cooed as she walked through the door, "and look how eager the pair of you all bristled up, ready to fight."

In that instant Max was so in tuned to her surroundings she could feel every breath the seven guards each took as they filed into the room after the lady doctor.

Alec let out a low growl, Max wasn't certain any one could hear other than herself, but all of the heavily armored men readjusted their grip on their respective guns.

"Come now you two were doing so well, let's not make any decisions that might lead to permanent results," Renfro waved at the guns. Max knew the intent was sincere, Renfro would sooner kill them as feed them, so they had to play nice.

With concerted effort Max eased the tension out of her muscles and willed Alec to do the same, it took him better part of a minute to stand down. They were definitely going to have to a discussion later about his ego, and how he needed to shelve it better if they were going to make it out of here alive; Max smacked the doubt right out of her thoughts.

They were getting out, but they had to wait for the right time, "much better," Renfro smiled and Max wanted to spit. How was it possible to be filled with such hate for another person, and person was a term Max used as lightly as possible.

"Come now, we are already behind schedule," Renfro waved at them to move and Max looked to Alec, his jaw was tight, his hands fisted, but his eyes were clear and focused. Max took a breath of relief and sent him a quick smile, he was with her, one hundred percent; Alec had her back.

Taking the first step wasn't so hard after that. The lab beyond their door was absent of the white coats, guards were positioned every two feet though; Alec and Max were funneled through the room and into the hall.

Something big was up; in all the time Max had been on base she had not seen such a gathering of forces. Some were enhanced, some weren't, Max wasn't sure how she knew but her gut told her where the threats were and none of them would have been human.

"452 follow me," their troupe had stopped at another door, Max had enough time to send Alec another smile before the steel door slammed shut between them.

Max turned to her right, the room was bare; the walls were white, nothing to sit on and nothing to look at. Besides a bolt jutting from the floor there was only one other feature of note. One wall was framed in black Max wagered a guess that it was a two way mirror, the tension in her muscles sharpened. Alec hadn't had time to fully recover from his last 'treatment' even with their healing speeds.

Without warning the wall lit up giving Max a view of the room beyond. Her eyes absorbed everything so quickly, her brain barely had time to catch up and process the images.

Alec, bound and gagged, was secured to a chair remarkably similar to the one she had sat in, immediately Max looked to the guards in her room, gauging their intent and ability; all were human.

Something didn't feel right, Renfro was looking at her, one hand on the back of Alec's chair, and Max had to grit her teeth before the reprimand blurted out; how dare that bitch put one hand near him.

"Do you hate me 452," Renfro looked across the room and right at Max, the glass was showing both sides apparently, "speak freely."

Max smiled, it couldn't have been pretty, "with everything that you made me with."

Renfro smirked, genuine amusement flickered across those cold eyes, "and do you love our Alec," a pale hand settled on Alec's shoulder and Max took a step forward.

Control, Max had to stay in control, Alec was showing no reaction to the touch, now on his neck; Max had to show the same kind of restraint.

Deliberately taking a step back Max smiled and this time it was to Alec alone, "I love him with everything you couldn't even begin to imagine."

Alec grinned as best he could around the gag and Max felt the heat of it in her heart.

Renfro smiled again lips stretching across impossibly white teeth; Max couldn't help but think of death at the sight of that too white smile.

"That's what I'm counting on," Renfro patted Alec's cheek just as the door opened to Max's room. A pale thin girl was led into the room; she offered no resistance to the man who was pulling her along by a choke chain secured around her neck. Max figured the girl couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen; her lank hair was blond once, maybe, hard to tell under the mess of tangles.

"You see Max so much of what makes a person human are the choices we make," Renfro was pacing behind Alec, the movement was distracting. Max did her best to keep one eye on the doctor and the other on the girl.

One of the guards secured the end of the chain to bolt in the floor, forcing the girl to her knees, wide blue eyes looked up at Max; fear, so much fear in those eyes.

"What we are here to discover Max is what choice you are going to make," there was a low hiss, Max looked up as the glass divider began to lower, Renfro walked towards the separation.

Max turned all her attention on the doctor, the girl on the floor was no immediate threat and Renfro would never be anything but.

Renfro was a step away, Max itched to feel bones breaking under her knuckles, one day there the bitch doctor would be held accountable. Max caught the look Alec was sending her, 'easy Maxie' he would say; it was enough. Max blew the tension out of her lungs and met Renfro's eyes with steady ones of her own.

"You are going to have to choose Max," Renfro motioned to the guard standing nearest to Max who promptly removed his side arm he withdrew the clip and quickly removed all but one bullet.

Without hesitation the guard offered Max the gun hilt first, the offer was so unexpected his actions so surprising that Max merely gaped at him, "take the gun Max, make your choice," Renfro ordered. Max looked back to the woman and shook her head no.

"No," Renfro laughed, "but you don't even know the stakes that are being wagered."

With another laugh Renfro stepped back towards Alec, when she motioned towards the guard a gun was put in her hand. Max was beginning to see what was unraveling what Renfro had planned.

"Now here's what I want," Renfro put a hand back on Alec's shoulder, "I want you to take the gun and shoot that girl in the head."

Max felt the blood rush to her head, no way, there was no freaking way she could do that.

"No," Max crossed her arms and lifted her chin.

Renfro wasn't surprised by the defiance, if anything Max had pleased the doctor with her predictability, "it's your choice Max of course, but if you don't shoot her," Renfro lifted and cocked the gun, "than I will shoot him."

The barrel of the gun was obscenely big in proportion to Alec's temple. Max felt the tension in her belly stretch and spread all over.

"You choose Max," Renfro shrugged, "his life, the life of the man you love, your mate, or the life of some junkie whore whose name you don't even know."

Max was trying to think, trying to push out Renfro's words and come up with some kind of plan, something that would get them out of this without bloodshed. There was one bullet in the gun, one shot.

"I could always shoot you," Max blurted out. Immediately regretting the decision, she waited for the reprimand, only to hear Renfro's laughter.

"That is of course another choice, but should you choose to shoot me these men," Renfro waved around the room, "are under strict orders that in the event of my untimely death they are to take measures."

Max watched as the gun moved from temple to groin, Alec groaned as Renfro pressed tightly against his dick, "they will take from him and then take from you what he never will again."

Renfro smirked; Max thought she might be sick, "your choice."

Choice, how could this be a choice, Max didn't protest when the guard pressed the gun into her hand. The weight of the nine millimeter was slight in her hand, her fingers wrapped around the grip; Max thought her hand should have been shaking. Everything inside of her was shaking, her thoughts, her heart, but her hands were steady. Manticore had bred her, had bred them all to be killers, the bile rose up and Max swallowed it back forcefully.

"Come now Max," Renfro was pressing the gun to Alec's cheek, "we don't have all night."

Max didn't look at Alec, she couldn't, the girl at her feet had begun to whimper and Max looked down. How many girls had Max seen like her? The world had ripped her to pieces and now she was chained to the floor like some dog and could do nothing to prevent her own death.

"Do you think it would be instant," Renfro asked sliding the gun under Alec's chin, Max grit her teeth refusing to look, "or would he would look across at you one more time?"

Max felt his heartbeat triple, he was scared, no matter what they were worth to Manticore, no matter what their child might be able to offer the people in white. Alec believed Renfro would kill him. Max couldn't imagine leaving this room without him, it physically hurt to think that he would die. Something had changed; someone somewhere doubted the strength of the claim. Would Max, untrained as she was, would she kill for her mate?

Calm settled over Max, when put that way, there was only one answer. Max looked up and Alec met her eyes the look he gave spoke of forgiveness, of understanding, "tick tock," Renfro taunted.

Max couldn't register what he saying, what he was telling her with his eyes, Alec thought she was letting him go. More than likely they wouldn't have been here had she just let him fuck her weeks ago. Instead he had been tortured and left to die because Max had pushed him away and he thought she would push him away this time too.

Renfro was rubbing her fingers over the red mark the gun had left on his cheek, the gun was pressing into the back of his neck, it would leave a mark there too, and that was the last thought Max had.

Max lifted the gun, her aim was automatic and perfect, and it was too easy to pull the trigger. The sound echoed. The thump of a body hitting the floor, the clatter of the gun hitting as it fell from Max's hand. All of these noises seared into her brain.

"My my 452, I didn't think you had it in you," Renfro hadn't thought Max would do it, would kill for Alec, but Max belonged to Alec. The line was so blurred between where she ended and he began it was terrifying.

Alec was looking at the floor, Max knew he was looking at the body; his eyes had gone wide with surprise. His doubt bothered her why shouldn't she be as willing to kill for him as he would be for her. Max was certain that had their situations been reversed he wouldn't have hesitated.

The old Max would have ranted and raved at that, would have lectured and judged. The Max that she was now was seeing the world through open eyes. Kill or be killed, kill or watch those you love die, it wasn't a choice to be argued or thought through.

In perhaps the most humane thing Renfro had done in the last decade Alec was freed from his bonds and waved off towards Max, he hopped over the division between them without hesitation.

"Maxie," his arms wound around her and Max sagged against him. He was so strong, so alive, and he was everything to her.

"I had to, I couldn't," the words were tumbling from Max. A guard kneeled and rolled the girl onto her back, Max stared down at what used to be her face, the bullet had ripped apart the left side of her face. Blood and brain and hair was everywhere, "I'm sorry," but sorry wasn't enough, not for Alec, not for the dead girl, "I'm sorry."

Alec shushed her and pressed a kiss to the top of her head, Max felt the hand on her back, pushing her but her feet wouldn't respond. The guards wanted them out but Max couldn't move. Alec cursed and Max offered no protest as she was lifted.

"It'll be OK Max," Alec whispered, but Max didn't know how it ever could be.