Thanks for all the reviews! I know it's been a long, long time since I last updated (any fic, really…), but look, you get D and E! Yay! And I promised Seamagik I'd finish Culpability before she goes away, so you have that to look forward too. (You know, if you read that one.)

Anyway, onward and tally-ho and all those fun sayings that mean you actually get fic now…


D is for Date

Rated: K


The invitation was delivered by a courier. It was addressed:

Ms. Max Guevara

and Guest

Terminal City

Seattle, WA 98128

She stared at the envelope for a while, tracing the loops and whorls of the calligraphy with one bitten-down nail, before she turned it over. There was a sticker on the back to seal it, round and embossed with a ridiculously elaborate heart. She slid her finger beneath it carefully, making sure not to rip the heavy paper as she opened the envelope.

The actual invitation was as ornate as the sticker. One sheet of soft white paper with a silly name like ecru or cream or pearl, a shiny border made of flowers and vines, and words printed in a silver font that declared:

Asha Michele Barlow

AND

Logan Jonah Cale

INVITE YOU TO SHARE WITH US

THE JOY OF OUR MARRIAGE

ON SATURDAY, THE FIFTEENTH OF JUNE

TWO THOUSAND TWENTY-FIVE

ST. JAMES CATHEDRAL

804 9th AVENUE

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Along with the invite were two little cards, both as elegant, and both as seemingly ludicrous to Max. The first read:

RECEPTION

IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING CEREMONY

FRYE ART MUSEUM

704 TERRY AVENUE

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

And the second:

The Favor of a Reply is Requested by

the Thirtieth of April

M

accepts with pleasure declines with regret

Please initial the entrée choice of each guest

honey glazed salmon

chicken marsala

garden lasagna

Most of her just wanted to shred the perfect paper with its perfect words into perfect little pieces and then set those pieces on fire. But then she thought about it. It had been three years since she and Logan had officially and irrevocably called it quits. Three years since Logan had left for Canada to assist the SW1 when his presence was no longer tolerated by the transgenic population that she was leader of.

It had been one year since the Siege on Terminal City had ended in a tentative truce, since headway had started being made within Seattle's administration and the United State's government, since transgenics could walk freely if cautiously down the streets with little fear of reprisal.

And it had been six months since Logan had returned, Asha in tow with a rock gleaming on her finger. Six months and now this.

It hurt in a vague kind of way. That he had been able to move on and start over. But it didn't ache like she'd once thought it would. She felt no need to try and win him back, no jealousy of Asha for gaining what she had lost, no heart-wrenching feeling of loss and regret. Mostly, she just felt an envious sort of happiness at their joy.

Max hadn't found much time for men in general and relationships in particular since they'd first been barricaded into Terminal City. Not, admittedly, that she'd had much luck in those areas before the Siege either, but it seemed it had just gotten more and more difficult to even try as the years progressed.

Now here she was; twenty-five, Commanding Officer of a nation that was slowly becoming part of the general populace, and single.

Maybe it was time to get back into the game.

She toyed with the response card, flicking the smooth paper between her fingers and over her lips, liking the rasp it made against her skin. Who could she take as her plus one? No Ordinary, that was for sure. As the figurehead for the Transgenic Nation she had a reputation to uphold with her people. It may have become acceptable for others to form bonds with the regular humans they lived among, but Max was expected to choose from the 'genetically superior'.

Alec always snorted at that. Not that he wasn't held to the same standard, being her Second, he just liked to run roughshod over any restrictions placed on his own love life. Or sex life, as the case may be.

And speaking of Alec…He bounded into her office with a cursory knock and plopped himself down in the chair across from her desk. "You got one too, huh?" he asked, sneering at the card she still held in her hand. "They've got real nerve-"

"What'd you do with yours?" she interrupted.

"Burned it," he responded promptly.

Max hid her smile behind the tiny piece of paper and then finally set it down. "I'm going."

He blinked at her, "Why?"

She shrugged, "It's been a while, Alec. I haven't been in love with Logan for a long time, but he was my friend before all the drama." She sent him a glance as he pretended to study her ear, his expression full of distaste. Aimed at Logan, she knew. "Besides, you liked Asha just fine, what's with the hostility?"

Alec looked uncomfortable and mumbled something.

"What?"

"He broke your heart, okay?" Alec said more audibly, "And now he's back again and I don't want you going all moody and bitchy like you used to." He scowled at her, "I'm not prepared to handle all the bruising and random blows to my ego."

Max scoffed, "He didn't break my heart, it was mutual, and what are you taking about?" She pointed at herself, "Bitch," then she pointed at him, "Punching bag. I realize your giant ego may have numbed a bit of the pain, but I wiped the floor with you just yesterday."

He gave her a one-shouldered shrug, "That was just a love tap." He grinned, eyes finally focusing on her face, "Besides, the floor needed to be cleaned anyway."

She smiled back, a feeling of warmth suffusing her body and making her relaxed. Over the years Alec had become her one constant; whether it as a sounding board, as a shoulder to cry on, or even as the aforementioned punching bag. Max wasn't sure when it had happened precisely, she didn't think there was any one moment, but Alec had become her best friend. Just his presence now was enough to calm her down or heat her up, depending on the attitude he was sporting. And right now-

"And I let you win."

He was trying to rile her.

Max smirked, "Please."

"It's true!"

"You always say that."

"It's always true," he declared.

"Uh-huh."

"It is!"

Alec had his smirk going now, and she knew if she didn't change the subject that they'd go back and forth for at least an hour. It was true, they had spent an entire night on duty two weeks ago where the only words spoken were 'nuh-uh' and 'uh-huh' or some variation thereof. And, in all actuality, only Max had been on duty, Alec had merely stayed awake to continue the argument and lost, by default he insisted, when he fell asleep around four a.m.

"Who should I take?" she said abruptly, interrupting his play-by-play of their sparring session and all the ways he'd messed up so that she could think she was the better fighter.

"And I leaned into that last- What? Take who where?" he broke off, animated expression falling into lines of confusion.

"To the wedding." She picked up the RSVP card again and frowned at it. "I need a date."

"If you have to go, just go stag." Alec was frowning, too. Max stared at him in disbelief. "What?" he demanded defensively, "I mean, I know, technically, you're a girl and all, but saying 'go doe' just doesn't have the same effect. And really, what do deer have to do with anything? I don't think they actually have parties, so it makes no sense-"

"Alec."

He broke off on another one of his rambling tangents about slang terms and their lack of sense and looked at her curiously. Max had discovered that for someone with such high marks in Common Verbal Usage, he really had no idea what he was saying one-fourth of the time. "What is it Maxie?"

"'Technically' I'm a girl?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

His eyes dipped down to skim her neckline and Max hoped he couldn't see her blush, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of moving from her bitch-stance. "You know what I meant," he said airily.

"Do I?"

"Max," he whined, leaning forward in his seat, "You know I'm not questioning your, um," he waved his hand in her general direction, "womanhood." She raised an eyebrow and didn't say anything. He slumped back and mumbled, "All right, what do I gotta do to redeem myself?"

"Find me a date for this wedding." She thought it was a fitting punishment.

"No way!"

"Yes way."

He groaned, "Cruel and unusual punishment, Maxie. Cruel and unusual."

"Oh, c'mon Alec," she leaned over her desk, voice low, "This is right up your alley. And, think of it this way- If it goes well, I get laid, and then you don't have to deal with me being bitchy and moody for at least another month."

Alec's mouth snapped shut and he narrowed his eyes. "Fine, I'll find you a stupid date."

"I don't think you'll be able to find a stupid X5," Max told him smugly, and he shot her a dirty look as he fled from her office.

He kept shooting her dirty looks right up until the day of the wedding and Max opened the door to find him standing there looking uncomfortable in a suit and tie. "Don't say it," he warned. She placed one hand on a satin-clad hip and cocked her head to the side. "Seriously, it'll just reflect badly on you," he continued.

"Is your tie lime green?"

He looked down and then back up. "It matches my bike."

She shut her apartment door and crossed the hallway to his, holding out her hand. "We're not taking your bike."

Alec made a face and handed over his key. "Well, we're not taking yours. You can't drive in that dress." Max turned in time to see him give her an appreciative once over, and pushed open the now unlocked door. "I'm surprised you can actually move in that dress."

"I can do a lot more than move," she teased, laughing at his expression, and followed him inside. He disappeared into his bedroom, leaving her standing in the living room, trailing her fingers along the back of his ratty old couch that he refused to get rid of because it had 'sentimental value'.

"Will this do?"

She stared. Sometimes she couldn't help it. Sometimes it just caught her off guard that Alec was that strange mixture of handsome and beautiful, obvious and subtle, that made a person catch their breath. Right now, standing there, black on black with the new pewter tie and the self-satisfied smirk, he took her breath away. "It'll work, I suppose," she conceded, knowing he'd noticed her reaction but refusing to give him the satisfaction.

"You suppose," Alec snorted, as the walked back out into the hallway, "I'm gorgeous! I'm the perfect way to make Logan jealous." Max stopped on the stairway, and he walked past her, pausing to look back at her curiously once he'd reached the landing. "Max?"

"I'm not trying to make Logan jealous." Alec's expression did not promote the impression that he believed her. "I'm not, Alec. I just…" She looked down, studying the tiny flecks of color in the old school tile that covered the cement steps. "I don't want to be the pathetic one without a guy. I don't want them to think I can't live my life or move on. I don't want them assuming I'm still hung up on a relationship that never happened." She looked him straight in the eyes, noted they were guarded, and smiled, trying to lighten the mood as she stepped down. "Basically, I don't want the world thinking like you do. It has enough problems."

Max expected at least a quirk to his lips, but instead he grabbed her arm as she went to move past, and looked at her solemnly. "That's not what I think, Max."

"Oh, really?"

"Really," he pressed, "You know…Damn it, Max, you know you can do better. I know you know you can do better, but you just won't try!" He gave her a little shake and Max broke away, continuing down the stairs without looking back. "Max!" She stopped at the exit to the parking garage, waiting for him to catch up with arms crossed and foot tapping. He was at her side in almost an instant thanks to their special DNA-cocktail, hand touching gently on her shoulder. "Max…"

"I try," she said, not looking at him, "I've tried, Alec. But who wants to date someone who can't sleep beside them at night? Who wants someone who is occupied almost 24/7 with the details of running a city and integrating an entire populace into the world at large?" He wrapped his arms around her and she leaned back into him, closing her eyes at the feel of his breath warm against her barcode. "I tried," she whispered, "Hell, Alec, you tried. There's nobody for me."

"There's somebody for everybody, Maxie."

She tilted her head to the side, catching his serious face in her peripheral, and turned in his arms, wrapping her own around his waist and hugging him close. Alec really was a rock. "Thanks."

He shrugged, arms tightening and then released her, one hand sliding down to grip hers, and tugged her after him as he exited the apartment complex. "C'mon, I'll be the best fake date you ever had." They set off through the maze of ramps and vehicles that belonged to the transgenic population in silence, the sound of her heels echoing against cement walls following in their wake.

Alec stopped them at a little black car; classic, sleek, with leather interior. Max didn't get it until it beeped and he opened the driver's door. She made a small sound and looked at him, wide-eyed, "Whose car is this?"

One eyebrow rose and he said, "Mine," in a tone she thought was a little rude. He got in, shut his door, and leaned across the seats to open hers before she could formulate a scathing reply.

She slid in, feeling sulky. "Where's your bike?"

He checked his mirrors and backed out, met her eyes in a brief glance, and started forward. "Let's just say it met with an unfortunate accident involving Dalton, Fix-it, teenage hormones, and spray paint."

"The kid wrecked your baby?"

Alec smirked, "Be grateful, I offered them the use of mine when I caught them trying to steal yours."

"What?" she demanded.

"Yeah, in hindsight, not the best move, but, to be fair, I didn't know about the spray paint at the time. If I had…" he trailed off, giving her a sideways look and grinning, "I totally would have let them take yours."

"Alec!"

"So, how are we playing this?" he asked, with an obvious subject change.

She reached over to smack him upside the head and was rewarded with a brake slam and she hit her hands on the dashboard. Max glared at him and he gave her his innocent eyes that meant he was up to no good. "Alec," she hissed.

"Red light," he replied, face still angelic, "You might want to buckle your seat belt. Click it or ticket and all that."

"I hate you." But she strapped in anyway. The man was a maniac, it was better to be safe than sorry.

He made a tsking noise as the light turned green and they surged forward. "Now, Max, sweetheart, you know you don't mean that."

"I do."

"Okay, so we can play it like we're having a lovers' tiff if that's what you want, but I got the impression that you wanted something more like I'm your love slave, hanging on your every word, waiting anxiously for each precious breath you breathe, like the wind through my trees or however that song goes." He waved one hand in the air as he took a sharp turn. "But whatever, I'm versatile."

"Can we just act normal?" Max asked, rolling her eyes, "Let's just be Max and Alec, and people can infer whatever they want from that."

"Sure, like I said, versatile. I can totally play the Alec to your Max."

"You are the Alec to my Max," Max said, but she felt herself smiling. Just a little. He was being ridiculous and she appreciated the attempt at humor, but all she really wanted was to get through this wedding and then relax at home with a bubble bath. The hot water heater had come through last week and she hadn't had a chance to enjoy it yet. "Hmm."

"What?"

"What?"

"You just made a sex noise." He parked on the street and looked at her, expectation in his eyes, "Fantasizing about me again, Maxie?"

She snorted, "You wish."

He granted her an exaggerated leer, "I really do," and opened his door, strolling over to the passenger side to open hers. Max stared at his hand, outstretched as if to help her out.

She scowled. "I can get out myself, Alec. I'm not a helpless little girl."

He took his hand back with a roll of his eyes. "Just trying to be a gentleman, sorry."

Max stood and immediately hunched inward from the bite of cold wind against her skin in the thin dress. She heard the door slam behind her and then she was tucked into his body, his broad shoulders blocking the wind as he propelled them toward the cathedral across the street. "Sorry," she muttered. She hated how she still took every little frustration out on him.

"It's okay," he whispered back. She hated how he let her. She'd have to be better about it in the future, be more aware of the displacement. He didn't deserve it. They stopped in the doorway. "Ready?"

Max looked at all the people already there; S1W, Cales, an assortment of Eyes Only cronies, and men and women she had never met. People she had never known, all a part of Logan's life Max wouldn't ever really meet. Not now. She thought it would hurt more now that she was here. But it didn't. She was okay with never knowing these people who were so important to the man she'd once thought of as her soulmate.

She twisted her head to look at Alec, who was watching her with that cautious look again, as if she might throw a bitch fit without any warning. Max gave him a smile and looped her arm in his, "Ready." She pulled him forward so that he could give their invitation to the usher, and then let him take the lead once they were led down the aisle.

They were seated on the groom's side. Max could see a few faces her photographic memory recognized from an engagement party almost five years before, but most of the guests were, as she had already seen, people she didn't know.

"Look at that lady's hat," Alec murmured, discretely pointing. It startled a laugh out of her and she leaned closer so that they could make comments about their fellow guests' style choices without worrying about eavesdroppers.

It seemed barely any time had passed before Logan was standing at the altar, his eyes only for Asha as she walked sedately down the long aisle to her soon-to-be husband. Max's eyes started misting once they sat back down, and she pressed her face to Alec's shoulders for a moment, collecting herself. There was something about weddings that set something off in her, and Asha just looked so beautiful…

"Max?" The concern was obvious and she shook her head.

"I'm fine," she assured him, sniffling, "Weddings make me cry. Doesn't she look pretty?"

Alec's skeptical expression was hidden as he scrutinized the bride. "I don't get the whole white thing," he finally mumbled, "Nobody's a virgin bride anymore."

Max smacked his shoulder when the lady next to her gave a scandalized gasp. "Keep your voice down," she commanded.

"Sure thing, honey bunches," he replied, his grin roguish, "I was just thinking it washed her out, what with the pixie blond…"

"Alec," she shushed warningly.

"You'll be a much better bride," Alec said confidently, on purpose, because his disgustingly love-addled smile became even wider when the couple in front of them turned to shoot them venomous glares.

"Shut up," she said, cheeks burning.

He chuckled into her ear and dropped a kiss to her hair. Max looked at him sharply, but his attention was all for the couple at the front of the church, his face intent as Logan and Asha exchanged vows. "It's crazy," he murmured wonderingly, "All this just to say 'I'll love you forever'." He shook his head, "I'd want it to be private. Just the two of us." Alec looked at her and her breath caught at the light in his eyes. "When I say 'I'll love you forever', the world doesn't need to hear it. The world doesn't need to hear it, and I'll still mean it." He broke their stare as he looked around at the packed cathedral. "You don't need all this, do you, Maxie?"

Her heart was in her throat as she said, "No, Alec, I don't need all this."

He nodded, pleased, as if that was the end of it for him. But it wasn't for her. Max didn't come out of her own head until they were a block away in a receiving line and Asha's cornflower blue eyes widened in surprise and she said breathlessly, "You two are still together?"

Max's mouth dropped open, but no words came out.

"Max?" Logan prompted, his voice that somber tone she remembered so well. He was looking at Alec with raised eyebrows and a slight frown.

Alec's expression was nearly a perfect mirror of Logan's as he rested his hand at the small of her back, fingers brushing the skin there in the low cut dress. Max shivered. "Yes," Alec said.

"Yes," Max echoed, almost inaudibly, and let Alec steer her towards their table.

She saw the rest of the evening with new eyes. She felt it in her heart every time Alec laughed, she smiled when he made some comment about the garden lasagna and how he'd ordered a cheeseburger, she blushed when he swept her out onto the dance floor 'to show them how it was done', she clutched at the bride's bouquet when it practically fell into her arms as her eyes automatically sought his across the room, and she was silent and nervous on the car ride back to Terminal City.

She didn't know what to do now. Now that she knew he was her somebody. That he was the Alec to her Max.

Alec walked her to her door, like a gentleman, and she unlocked it, hand on the knob as he leaned against the wall, his head tilted down toward hers, a tired smile on his face. "So, am I an awesome fake date or what?"

Max bit her lip and looked down at her hand, resting lightly on the metal knob. "Alec…"

"It's not a real date, Max," he said lowly, "You don't have to invite me in."

"Alec-" She lifted her head and he was there, lips gentle against hers, soft and insistent.

He broke the kiss, seemingly satisfied at the dazed expression she knew was on her face. "Next time, okay?" And he slipped into his own apartment.

Max stared at the closed door for a long moment and then brushed a finger to her lips, pressing them as his had, and she smiled. "Next time," she whispered.


E is for Entrance

Rated: M

Outsider POV


They call it the Baker. It used to have another name, another owner, another reputation, but that was a long time ago. Before the Pulse and economic destitution and sectors where cops wouldn't go. So now, now it's just the Baker, after the man who owns it, with his thick beard and dark eyes and shark's smile.

Mindy works there seven nights a week, holed up behind the bar with a 9mm stashed between the Cabo Wabo and the Jose Cuervo. It's in Sector 19, where the only policeman around is the one looking for a blow-job or just some blow. It's not safe, but she's got a bratty kid sister that she needs to put through school and bills to pay on their crap apartment, so she pours drinks, keeps her mouth shut, and occasionally cleans up some blood stains in the bathrooms for an extra fifty.

Baker's in someone's pocket. She knows it. Knows the men who leer at her in their business suits and try and sweet talk her into the backroom aren't what they appear to be. Mindy always smiles and stays where she is, gets them a shot for free, and watches as they wander off toward the dark corners where all the pretty boys and girls looking to make a quick buck are sitting.

Sometimes the pretty boys and girls don't come back again. Mindy feels bad, of course, because without that bratty kid sister it could've been her disappearing without a trace. Fast money, little effort…she'd been that desperate after their mom ditched them to do it. Almost had, except Lorie had cut school that day to come home early and Mindy never wants to see that expression on her baby sister's face again. So Mindy feels bad, but not bad enough.

Tonight, though, there's a guy her age sitting on a stool at the end of the bar. He's not dressed like a mobster even though she caught a glimpse of a pistol tucked into his cargos and he's not dressed like a rent-boy even though he looks like one. No, he's just sitting there with his pretty face, nursing a tumbler of Scotch whiskey, in a T-shirt and leather jacket with an upturned collar, as laid-back as if he were in some other bar in some other place.

Except his eyes. They keep darting, every few minutes, almost enough time between looks to make it casual or coincidental, to the entrance. Mindy doesn't consider herself smart, not like Lorie, but she's been at the Baker long enough to read people fairly well. She knows who's looking for an herbal pick-me-up, who wants a quickie in the alley, and who comes in looking to do a little damage. She can't read him though; his drink order had been accompanied by a flirtatious wink and outrageous line he didn't mean, but since then he'd been silent, relaxed, but definitely expecting something.

She'd thought, maybe, he was a cop, but he hasn't asked anything. Not about scoring drugs or a companion, he hasn't looked over at the pretties even though they've been eyeing him and making sure their suggestive whispers carry to the bar. He hasn't done anything except sip at his drink and shoot glances at the door.

There's another new guy tonight, sitting in a back booth, refusing the attentions of the call-girls with horrified blushing and downing a glass of the cheap wine Baker kept on hand, 'just in case', for his shadier, more important clients. This guy is wearing an expensive suit with tie made of real silk, but he looks as out of place as Darla the Dominatrix would at a church social…if churches still had those.

The thing Mindy notices though is that the guy in the booth keeps his eyes on the guy at the bar. It's creepy. She doesn't think he even blinks. And his head always turns just a half-second after her bar guy's eyes go to the entrance.

She shouldn't get involved. People who get involved rarely get uninvolved, but it's been a slow night. Baker has some 'special' guests coming in and the whole Sector knows it. Their regulars are making themselves scarce. So, she shouldn't, but she does.

Mindy sets the bottle of single-malt liquor on the wood between them. "Can I get you another?"

He looks up, and the surprise in his eyes is feigned. "Still working on this one." He holds up his glass, a thin line of amber liquid on the bottom.

"Yeah, you've been working on that one for the past hour."

He shrugs, and gives her a smirk. Lips like that, in a face like his, and she can see why the guy in the booth has been staring. "Didn't know there was a time limit." He drains the glass and it clacks when it hits the bar top. "This one on the house?"

Mindy leans, giving him a glimpse down her blouse, but his eyes are cut away, focused again on the doorway. "Nothing's on the house. Least of all the drink."

His eyes snap back, sweep over her appraisingly, and he grins. His teeth are white, even, and she shivers. "Noted."

"I'm Mindy." He raises his glass in acknowledgment, empties it, and watches the whiskey slosh into the tumbler for a third time. He doesn't say anything. "The polite thing to do is to tell me your name," she prompts him.

He smirks again, "I've got a lot to choose from."

"Pick one."

His smirk widens and he leans forward to where she hasn't moved, his mouth inches from hers and says, "You can call me Monty, I suppose." She can smell the alcohol on his breath even though his eyes are a clear and startling green. And then they dart to the side and over his shoulder she can see the guy in the booth look as well, much more obviously, and then he goes back to staring at Monty in that oddly intense way.

"I think he's wondering how much you cost for the night," she says before she can stop herself.

He doesn't look, but laughs anyway. "He couldn't afford me."

Mindy appraises the guy again, but he still looks too rich to be in the Baker. "I don't know, he seems pretty loaded." She looks at Monty shrewdly. "How much do you cost?"

Monty is smirk-smiling again, and she's starting to think it's his default expression. "I'm priceless, sweetheart," he winks, "and not for sale."

Mindy nods, she'd thought as much, regardless of his looks. And he still had the Glock tucked in tight at his back, be probably knew what he was doing. She just wished she knew what it was he was actually doing. "So what'll you do when he comes over here?"

"He won't come over here."

Monty sounds confident, as if he can already map out every move the guy will make without even seeing him. And maybe he can, she doesn't know and she shouldn't care. She tilts her head to the side, studying Monty as his eyes slide away and then back. Less than a second of inattention, and most people wouldn't be able to tell, but she knew now, at least. Something was coming through those doors. "I'm un-involving myself now," she tells him.

"That's probably a good idea," he says back, not smiling but serious.

Maybe a bodyguard. Maybe somebody with a grudge. She doesn't know, and doesn't care. Mindy takes the shot glasses out of the sink and starts wiping them clean. She's not going to mind anybody's business but her own.

There's commotion at the entrance; doors booming, loud laughter, and Baker's large form comes through first. He's smiling his shark's smile and she sets out a tray of glasses and wine for him to bring in the back with him and his 'friends'.

A girl's giggle tinkles through high above the more masculine chuckles and because she's looking at him, she can see Monty's eyes tightening, though there's no visible tension in his body. Mindy looks at the rest of the group. The girl is hanging almost limp between a couple of the more aggressive mobsters that have hung around before; her hair is a pixie platinum, obviously not real, her dress is short and black, showing more than hiding, and her eyes are glassed over, probably Rohypnol.

Mindy looks away as they pass, knowing she's going to get paid extra tonight and guilty about it in a way she hasn't been in a while.

And then Monty moves.

He's quick, cat-like; one minute he's on the stool, hand clasped loosely around his drink, and the next his shoulders are rolling as he strides toward the backroom. She wants to call out, to warn him that one measly pistol won't do much good against that group of men, to say no girl is worth dying for.

But she saw the tightness in his eyes, the quick glaze of panic. He loves her. That girl who got caught up with the wrong people, who made some bad decisions, and now both of them were going to pay for it.

Mindy feels frozen. She shouldn't have talked to him. Now she feels responsible. But all she can do is wipe down the bar and pray there won't be too much blood.

"Detective Sung? It's Logan Cale." She turns her head from the closed door to watch the guy from the booth walk past. "Yes, Sector 19, the Rutherford Bar. Baker and Steele are inside." Mindy feels her mouth open, but no sound comes out. "You'll have enough evidence for a conviction, Matt, just like Eyes Only promised."

And then he's gone and the pretties are scrambling away, scooping up their Mary Jane and sparklers at the sound of Eyes Only and detectives. Mindy should go too, get out while she can, but Monty and his girl…

There's a shot, muffled behind thick wood, but she flinches all the same. It's quiet for a long time and then the door opens.

The girl who walks out is bad ass, Mindy can tell from the way she walks, even in those heels and that ripped dress. There is nothing of the drugged and disoriented girl who went in, this one is in full control, her brown eyes dismissive as they touch on Mindy and then away, back behind her. "Are you coming or what?" she snaps, pulling roughly at her head, and the platinum blonde gives way to a cascade of dark waves. She tosses the wig aside and scowls as she runs her hand through her now-free hair. "The cops should be here in five minutes."

"It's Sector 19, Max, it'll take them at least fifteen, even with Sung leading the way." Monty steps out, and his gait is off, not so smooth. He gestures down at his leg and Mindy can see blood staining the khaki of his cargos. "In case you didn't notice, I got shot."

"Please, you practically jumped in front of that bullet."

"Because if I hadn't, your pretty little head would have a hole in it!"

"I had it under control!"

"Whatever."

The girl's, Max's, scowl, which looked like it might be as permanent as Monty's smirk, deepened. "Can we go now?"

Monty looks over toward the bar and blinked when he saw her. "I need a drink," he says, "for fortitude."

Max sighs and looks at Mindy again. Mindy can't help backing away. She doesn't know what happened in that room, but two against a mob? That's not good odds, not unless… She didn't finish her thought; Mindy didn't care about all the hype in the news.

"Bartender," Monty beckons her over with one of his winks, "One whiskey please."

Ten minutes until the cops arrived if Monty was right. She needs to leave. Lorie needs her to leave. Mindy sets the bottle of Scotch on the bar. "It's on the house."

His eyebrows rise and he flashes her a grin. "Awesome." He stands, bottle in one hand, looking over at Max, who was tapping her foot impatiently, and then back at Mindy. "You might want to get uninvolved," he suggests.

"That's a good idea," she says back.

She watches as he walks toward the bar's entrance where Max is waiting, the girl's expression annoyed until he stumbles a little and then the same tightness that had been in his eyes earlier is reflected in hers. "I swear Alec, could you get through one mission without being shot?"

"Ah, Maxie, where's the fun in that?"

"It's Max." Mindy can hear her hiss before the doors close behind them.

She stands still, breathing in the sudden quiet. Five minutes. And then goes to the back room. There isn't a lot of blood, just a few drops where Monty -Alec- had walked, and a whole crowd of unconscious men, two with their pants down. Mindy finds Baker easily, he's the only one making any noise. He looks up at her, a bloody lip above his full beard and dark eyes swollen and bruising.

Mindy kicks him in the balls. "I quit."

She gets home to her crap apartment that night in the middle of a brown out, Lorie reading a textbook by candlelight, and she smiles.

TBC…

With F and G