Title: Dear Santa

Author: Dark Roswellian Angel

Elizabeth McDowell

Disclaimer: I do. I so totally do. Which means that Alec will, of course, be waiting for me in my stocking Christmas morning. Bring on the Christmas cheer :) So not fair- he wasn't there. Still I figured I'd finish writing this anyway.

Copying/Downloading/Posting: Please let me know first, and let me know where my work will be posted as I would love to come visit it. Make sure that it is put under my name, as I would love to hear how others feel about it. Thanks ;)

Rating: K+, just in case

Synopsis: 8-(short)parter. Snow Day in Las Vegas, NV put me in the mood. It's Christmas time, and several people are writing their letters to Santa. A lot of those letters seem to have a recurring theme. Find out what it is and whether or not Santa will respond. I will update one chapter a day and finish on Christmas Day- It's a Merry Christmas present to my readers.

A/N: Part 8- the final chapter- is up. I'm glad I'm done and yet I'm going to miss it. Even though I knew basically what I wanted to have happen in this chapter, it was without a doubt the hardest to write. It took absolutely forever. Thanks again to all my lovely reviewers. I hope you all like the result :)

A/N2: Oh! And warning- this isn't going to be especially pleasant for a couple of the characters, but since you've already read their letters, I bet you can guess which ones before you get to that part. And for all those who find my characterizations and situations highly improbable, please remember that this is fiction complete with Santa Claus and flying reindeer. More to the point, this is fanfiction, as in the author gets to change things to her heart's content. Maybe as I become a better writer, I'll get better at my characterizations and situations as well, but for now, you're gonna kind of have to deal with it as it is if you're going to read it, which I really, really hope you will.

8 a.m. Christmas Morning, Max and Original Cindy's place-

What is that song? And why is it so loud? Max tried to turn over and get back to her dream- a dream where warm hazel eyes, a ready chuckle, and a breathtaking smirk were waiting for her- but the music didn't let her. Christmas music? What the- It's Christmas!!! Wide awake brown eyes flashed open and in a blur Max was out of bed and into the living room where OC was already waiting with a huge cup of steaming cocoa and a matching smile.

"Merry Christmas Boo."

After a tight hug, the two best friends turned to the important task of opening each other's gifts.

9 a.m. Christmas Morning, Noelle's Cafe-

"I'm sorry Sketchy. I don't know what to tell you. I haven't heard from her in over a month- you know that I'd tell you if I had," Max felt sorry for her friend, but she was also getting tired of having the same conversation with him over and over again. It didn't help that with her transgenic eidetic memory, she could easily rehash each and every other time the subject of Natalie had come up. She was glad that he was finally ready to settle down for real and that he knew who he wanted to be with, but the repetitious statements were becoming annoying, and to be honest, the whole idea that he had figured out who he wanted to be with only after it was too late for him to be with her was hitting a little too close to home. "Why don't you go to vi-"

She was cut off when Sketchy began to poke at his food as though there were something wrong with it. As she watched mystified, he picked his eggs off of the plate. There, in a plastic bag underneath them, were five small yellow pieces of paper. Her mouth dropped open as he picked up the bag and opened it, and plane tickets fell out- one to Granite Falls and four from Granite Falls back to Seattle. "What the?"

Sketchy looked at her as though she had been the one to put the papers there. "What's going on?"

She could feel her posture change to defiant as she responded, "Don't look at me. I didn't put them there."

"Then…" Sketchy looked around as though expecting someone to pop up and yell out, "Got'cha!" but no one else was anywhere near them. He summoned the waitress over and without letting her see what exactly the papers were asked, "Do you know anything about these?"

The waitress tried to see what exactly he was holding as though trying to determine whether or not to claim them for herself, but when he held them just outside her reach decided to go with the truth. "Look, Mister. I'm not sure what you're talking about. I sure as hell didn't give them to you, and I'm the only one who's come by your table since you got here. I was even the one who dished up your plate, so I don't know where those came from." With that she wandered away from their table, wondering what kind of scam they were trying to play.

Sketchy and Max peered closer at the tickets. "11:30 today- this morning," Sketchy almost whispered.

Max smiled, though mystified, "Well, buddy, I guess you got your answer. Somebody wants you going out there to spend your Christmas with her."

Sketchy spent just a few seconds more looking at her as though maybe she had something to do with it. "I guess so." And then he was off and running- he didn't have long to get packed before going to meet his destiny. Neither one thought to question why he had three more return tickets than he needed.

It would turn out to be an eventful trip. After making up with Natalie and proposing a second time (this time fully meaning it), she introduced him to her next door neighbor and new best friend, who just happened to be Kendra. Kendra and her new husband (Detective Walter Eastep) had been thinking of moving back to Seattle for a while now. Sketchy's unexpected arrival proved to be just the exact motivation that all three of them needed to decide to come back home.

10:07 a.m. Christmas morning, Max and Original Cindy's place-

As she put another batch of chocolate M&M cookies into the oven, OC was humming "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with a huge smile on her face. The cookies were for Doggie-Dog's party tonight. The only dampener on her plans for the night was the fact that she was going to be alone. Oh, she knew she wouldn't be lonely- all her best friends would be there, but she couldn't help but wish that she had someone to snuggle up and drink egg nog with after the party.

Just as she was setting her timer, she heard a knock on the door. Picking up her bat, she turned to open it just an inch. What she found had her quickly opening up the door all the way. One of the most beautiful women she'd ever seen was standing before her in a silk robe, uncertainty etching her fine features. "Can I help you?" Please?

The woman's smile blinded her, "Sorry to bother you. I just moved into the apartment above yours and my electric went out just when I was taking a bath. I heard 'Jingle Bells' coming from your place so I know that you still have electric, and I was wondering if maybe I could use your bathroom for just a few minutes. My girlfriend and I broke up a few months ago and I came here looking for a fresh start- since I'm an Avon saleslady and I can pretty much do that anywhere, I figured here was as good a place as any. I haven't actually met anybody yet, so I guess I'm stuck inconveniencing complete strangers," she blushed prettily.

OC quickly looked to her stereo, which she'd turned off over an hour ago wondering how on earth the woman could have heard the festive yuletide song from her place. However, she knew better than to question a gift horse, so she shrugged, smiled big, and welcomed the woman in. As she ushered her down the hallway towards her bathroom, the woman asked, "You don't happen to know anyone who's looking for some new cosmetics, do you?" OC's mouth dropped open for only a second, and then when she was able to close it again, she began humming "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

11:20 a.m. Christmas morning, Logan's place-

What is that noise? Max wondered as she let herself into her boyfriend's place. It sounds like two sick cows bumping into each other. Without realizing it, she crouched down into a defensive position as she continued moving through the apartment. When she reached the living room, her eyes widened. There on the couch was her boyfriend with a skinny blonde bimbo sitting astride his lap as they attempted amateur tonsillectomies on each other. They were completely ignorant of her arrival, which was good because it took her a second to collect herself. It took one second more for her to realize that her feelings, far from hurt or betrayal, were relief and an enjoyable taste of freedom. Still, there was no way the guy should get away with treating what he thought of as a relationship with her like he was, so she cleared her throat. She was a little pissed that it took clearing her throat three times before the sickening couple noticed her. She felt a little appeased by the guilt-ridden expressions that immediately took up their features as the girl jumped off Logan's lap, accidentally kicking him hard in the groin as she did so.

"Max!!" Logan got out through groans.

Max took up a bored posture and tilted her head, "Yeah?"

"It's not what it looks like. Asha (and here Max flew a bored look in the girl's direction- sure enough it was the S1W leader herself that was quickly turning a deep maroon and trying to button up her shirt) and I were just discussing Christmas gifts." He barely paused as Max's are-you-kidding-me look flew back to him. He didn't notice as the blonde's eyes flew to him as well. "She told me that what she wanted most was a Christmas kiss from someone."

Max didn't look away from his face as she heard the blonde blurt out an angry, "What the hell are you talking about?!! You said that you were going crazy from not being with a woman and that you wanted me- just me- for the rest of your life."

Logan looked a little more like a deer (or should we say mule) caught in the headlights but stuttered out, "She's lying Max. You've got to believe me. After everything we've been through, you know you're the only one I could possibly want to be with. I was just trying to give her her wish. That's all. She doesn't mean anything to me."

Max couldn't help but shake her head. She looked at the other girl with pity- not even she deserved this. Then she turned back to the man who had been playing her for a lot longer than this and in a lot more ways, and adopted a feral predator-stalking-prey stance. As she approached him, she could see him gulp. Even if it wouldn't take just a touch from her to kill him, she could easily find a multitude of interesting and painful ways to do the job, and they both knew it. Even as she enjoyed the look of fear in his eyes, she realized that this was how he had always actually seen her- as something different from him, something less than human (or perhaps more). She felt her lips curl back, but instead of attacking she growled out, "And neither do you." Then, she simply turned around and flounced out the door, an obnoxious smell attacking her nostrils as she went from where the man, whom she had once believed owned her heart, was left sitting in a pool.

Thirty-seven minutes later, after being beaten up by the blonde girl who had left just a few minutes after Max had and after cleaning himself up, Logan was sitting at his desk. He was trying to figure out how to fix things with Max and Asha- after all, both of them were important tools in his missions, plus it was kind of fun having them following him around all gooey-eyed- when he heard the ding of an e-mail arriving. What now? He quickly turned his attentions to the monitor where a mysterious letter waited. There was no return address, only a "SC- North Pole" stated at the top. He was even more mystified when he opened it to read, "Sorry, all the newest, strongest, hi-tech hard drives were already promised elsewhere, but I got you this…" Immediately, there was a knock at his door, and when Logan opened it, he found a small box wrapped in cheap Christmas giftwrap. This must be some sort of practical joke, he thought as he looked at it disdainfully. Still, a gift is a gift, so he opened it to find a small 5 inch by 5 inch black and white monitor. With a disdainful, "Hmmph," Logan set it aside wondering who he could regift this white elephant to when suddenly a large lump of coal came flying through his penthouse window smashing through his high-quality monitor, bouncing off and destroying his speakers and speeding back through his networked computer drives. As he looked at his destroyed system, all he could think of was "Noooooo!"

Noon, Christmas Day, Jam Pony-

By the time Max finally made it to work, it was noon. As was her usual, her eyes immediately flashed to his locker to see if he was there or not. And as was her usual, the second she made eye contact, her eyes flew to the other side of the room, trying to pretend that she hadn't been looking for him, that he hadn't seen her seeing him, and that her pulse was now accelerated only because of her bike ride on the way here. It was getting harder and harder to buy into that. When she could feel his eyes boring into her back, she turned back around, only to find the new girl walking up to him and him swinging his eyes to the blonde. Man, what is it about blondes today? she fumed to herself.

She was surprised and secretly pleased to hear him (via her transgenic hearing) give the new girl the brush off and, instead of flirting with any of the number of girls who would have eaten it up, come over to her.

"Morning, Maxie. Merry Christmas!" he said with extra cheer in his voice.

With her usual retort, "Don't call me Maxie," on the tip of her tongue, Max looked up to him, but upon encountering his eyes, the retort died on her lips. Instead, she smiled back at him. "Merry Christmas, Alec," she said huskily. She couldn't help it- it was impossible to be upset with him for anything, or even to pretend to be, when he looked at her like that.

Alec swallowed hard- how was it possible that she couldn't tell what her voice did to him when it dropped to that octave? "Merry Christmas," he stammered out and then was completely entranced when her smile spread, "You already said that." She didn't even notice as she took a step towards him, feeling his pull like a paper clip to a 40,000 volt magnet.

"Yeah, well," he tried to cover, "it's a great holiday, so I figured I should say it twice." How is it even possible that she can get me this looped when she's only said seven words to me? I am totally pathetic. He looked down into her eyes. And I am totally okay with that. If only she wasn't already hooked on someone else.

Somewhat disappointed that his fascination was with the holiday rather than with her, Max turned from him, "Yeah, whatever… and don't call me Maxie."

He smirked- this Max he could handle. It was the other one- the one who looked at him like she could really see him, like he was the only person in the room, like she could actually one day have feelings for him that he didn't know how to respond to. Mostly, because he wasn't sure how much of that was real and how much his desperate mind was imagining. As she started to walk away from him, he easily jogged to catch up to her. "So, you goin' to the party tonight?"

Max stopped and looked back up into his amazing eyes just barely stopping herself from drowning in them in time for her to be able to convince herself that he hadn't noticed. "Of course. I wouldn't miss Joshua's first holiday party. Plus, a bunch of the others will be there, too."

Alec frowned, "So I guess Logan will be coming with you." A look crossed her face that he couldn't quite place.

"No, Logan will not be coming with me to the party or anywhere else for the foreseeable future," she ground out.

Completely clueless as to what this could possibly mean and curious beyond pretension, Alec grabbed her arm as she made to walk away again, "What does that mean?"

Far from being upset with his physical contact, Max could only look at his chest and wonder what it would feel like for him to pull her to it. "It means that I don't plan to be spending any time with him."

Unwilling to be caught in the confusion and hope her statements were bringing, Alec needed more details, "For how long?"

Max finally brought her eyes back up to his and was caught in his expression- it was like he had rolled away a part of the curtain that normally covered his heart and she was a cat basking in the sun during a winter day. She couldn't respond. She couldn't even think straight as they stared into each other's eyes. His grip on her arm became looser, softer, and his eyes became warmer as she looked into them, and then without her realizing it she was moving towards him again. She only knew that she wanted to feel closer to him, maybe even act on the thoughts that had been collecting in her head ever since she had first seen him in her cell so long ago.

Alec had no clue what was going on- why she wasn't answering him, why she was looking at him like that. He only knew that he didn't want her to stop. If she would just look into his eyes like she was now, he'd be content to stay there the rest of his life. When she started moving towards him, he couldn't breathe just in case it would shatter what he was sure must be his imagination. He couldn't break her gaze, and since he had forgotten that there was another living being in the room with them, he had no reason to want to. He could feel the place where his hand was touching her arm begin to burn pleasantly from her warmth. He wanted to feel her closer, he wanted to pull her to him and…

Unfortunately, they were still at work, and, generally speaking, there are other people at work. "Woohoo!!!" came from the pit effectively waking them up from their romantic yearnings. They both turned toward their interruptor with mirror image irritation shaping their brows.

"Alec! You'll never guess what I got just now," Normal began. "That package you just brought in- the one with no address. The only return information for it was a phone number that linked me to some place in the North Pole. They informed me that you were right- the package was for me. Check it out, buddy-bud, I've got tickets to the WWF Holiday Show Massacre tonight at 7- you wanna go?"

Alec barely spared him a second's glance before his eyes went back to Max. "Thanks, Normal, but I've got plans tonight. Why don't you ask Lisa? She loves the WWF." He could see from Max's expression that she misunderstood what his plans for the night were, but before he could explain, Normal had responded, "Well okay then. I've got to get ready. Attention all you nimwits!!! Jam Pony is closed as of now! I'll see you all bright and early tomorrow morning!! (as a cheer went out) Yeah, yeah, yeah, Merry Christmas and all that to you too!" When Alec looked back down he saw that she had taken off.

1:03 p.m., Christmas afternoon, Miriam's Café in Olympia-

Now, just what the hell is going on here? Lydecker questioned as he walked into the café the anonymous note had told him he needed to come to. As was his style, he had staked it out over the last few hours since receiving the note, but he hadn't seen anything that could make this place overly important to him or his future. Of course, he had still come in through an upstairs window in the storage room just to make sure no one could get the drop on him. As he made his way into the main room, he heard a woman gasp. That's more like it, he thought grimly as he pulled out his gun and advanced until he was startled motionless.

Standing there in front of him was Renfro, whom he had thought was dead, but she made no response to his presence. Her entire attention was given to the man standing in front of her. "Sandeman," they both said at once, and the man looked back and forth between the two of them.

Fighting to maintain his sanity- I mean, what were the chances that both of the others would have received notes similar to his? After all, who on earth would be able to track down all three of them with only beneficial purposes in mind?- Deck turned his glance to the window where he saw motion. He knew he must be imagining things as he watched Zack and some man walk down the street and into the same diner he was currently standing in.

Four hours later the whole story had come out. The second man, a man by the name of Herbal Thought, had been crossing through Helena and come across Zack on a farm where he'd been living the life of a farm hand. He recognized Zack as one of Max's friends (as well as the man who'd been hired to replace him until he'd flaked out), but Zack didn't seem to recognize him. However, after an accident, Zack's memory had come back (correctly this time) and he had decided to return to Seattle to help his second favorite little sister out (his first favorite being the one he's in love with- not Max). Herbal decided to come with him seeing as how he missed all of his friends and his woman- he'd moved to Canada to make some money and she hadn't been able to come with him. So they set out together and had made their way to Olympia where a bum had approached them and given them coupons for free meals in this restaurant. It seemed to be some strange set of coincidences that had them arriving at the exact same time as the other three until the owner of the store came out to ask how the hell they'd come across those free meal tickets. As they explained it to him, they were able to tell from his stance that he was ex-military. They all struck up a conversation, and it turned out that he was interested in joining their odd little group and was willing to bring his contacts, who were currently heading up several highly-armed communes up north, with him. They immediately began drawing up plans to head over to Seattle to meet up with Max, find all the other freed transgenics and transhumans to create their own sort of freak nation, and save the world.

2:30 p.m. Christmas afternoon, Sandeman residence-

Max was over at Joshua's house where he was preparing to host his first (of many) extremely successful transgenic holiday party. Poor guy is freaking out, Max thought as she watched him practically blur around trying to get everything done in time. I'm glad I'm here to help him, but it's too bad he can't go out himself to get supplies. I bet he'd feel more comfortable about all this if he could at least get all the food he wants. Just then there was a loud noise outside- like someone skidding across half the road. Max was out the door in a flash to see if there was any problem that would indicate an attack on her Big Fella.

Just outside Sandeman's house, in his driveway as a matter of fact, there was a huge truck with the man who was obviously its driver walking around it anxiously. As Max approached, she heard him complaining.

"Dang it! I'm totally screwed. What am I going to do now?"

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"I have a ton of perishables in there. I should have known better than to transport them on Christmas day- it's not like anyone is going to need that many hamhocks within the next couple of hours anyway. No one is going to be able to get to me before they all go bad, and then I'll be out all that money. It'll destroy me. I'll lose my business, my house…"

Max wasn't completely listening anymore. She had just noticed what kind of truck was currently in Joshua's driveway. It was a huge meat truck. What are the chances??? Lucky dog- erm, uh, guy. She turned to the driver who was still carrying on. "How about we make a deal?"

The guy's eyebrows rose, "What kind of deal?"

"How much did you spend for all the merchandise?" When the guy told her, "How about I give you 80 percent of that and you pick up your truck some time tomorrow?"

"What the heck are you going to do with all that meat???" the guy asked, looking at her as though she were some kind of carnivorous creature.

If he only knew, Max thought with some amusement. "My friend lives here and is holding a costume party tonight. He could use the food, you could use the money, it's a win-win."

The guy was satisfied with her answer but not with her price. After some bargaining, Max went up to 90 percent of what the guy had paid (it was the holidays after all and she was feeling generous), and he left with the promise to be by tomorrow to get his truck. Just to be on the safe side, he applied his trucker's club to the steering wheel and brake and took all the money he kept in the cab and his keys with him.

As though that would stop me if I really wanted to steal this thing, Max thought with pride in her abilities (she had already begun to realize just how much easier it was to like herself now that Logan was out of the picture) as she bent to see what had caused the accident in the first place. A nail made out of an icicle? What are the chances???

4:45 p.m., Christmas afternoon, street just outside Sandeman's residence-

Looks like it's going to rain. Again. Tell me again why I haven't split this burg, Mole questioned himself as he started to cross the street on the way to Joshua's place. He pulled his hat and coat closer to him- his disguise against being noticed by the people around him. Still, he had been noticed once or twice, and in answer to the questioning glances, he had informed them, "Holiday costume party" even though it went against the grain. Still, it had seemed to appease the Ordinaries and he hadn't been forced to create a scene by shooting any of them. His mind was so on those abnormally observant Ordinaries that he didn't notice as a car ignored the red light and tried to cross the same exact space and time that he was currently occupying. After slamming on the brakes, the driver honked his horn at Mole (as is often the case, it's the person in the wrong who acts as though they've been wronged and then they push their obnoxiousness even further). As Mole went to make a responding gesture, a huge box landed in his open hand. What the hell? he pondered even though he could see that it was a large humidor and he could smell a large stash of high-quality Cubans inside it. As he looked up, something else brown fell to him, or more precisely dripped down on him. "Aw, reindeer crap!"

5:30 p.m., Christmas evening, Crash-

"Hey, turn that up!! I've seen that guy in here!" one of the customers demanded. One of the bartenders turned around and turned up the news broadcast.

"And recently- bedlam in Port Angeles as a highbrough, and supposedly highly-secretive, party is brought to ruins. Reportedly government agent, though no one is entirely sure which agency claims him and so far none of them have stepped up to do so, Ames White, seen here as he was brought into custody, received a package earlier this morning containing instructions that he was to bring said package to this community party. Details are still scant regarding which community this pictured party actually is, though there has been some conjecture concerning the many individuals with bald heads and robes as well as this pictured snake emblem they possess. Believing the parcel and instructions to be from his superiors, Agent White followed the orders and brought the box to the party. According to police who first arrived on the scene, when the group was involved in some sort of tradition involving snakes, he opened the package for the first time. Chaos ensued as, according to some eyewitness reports, over a dozen mongooses came rushing out of the box- we're not entirely sure how so many of them could have fit into this small box or where the animals currently have gone to. The mongooses immediately began seeking their favorite type of prey. Experts report that the source of the predators, what exactly was occuring at the party involving so many snakes, and what kind of group this was will be fully investigated and reported to the American people as soon as details are available." The extremely public broadcast continued in this way for a while.

6:42 p.m., Christmas evening, Max and Original Cindy's AND Alec's places-


Who can that be? "Who is it?"

No answer.

Nobody had better be playing jokes. I am in a hurry- I'm already late. Besides, I am SO not in the mood after what went down with him/her today. The door is opened to reveal that there is no one there, but just before it is slammed shut, a small opalescent, almost glowing package is noticed. The package is seized upon and brought inside to investigate. After determining that it is not a bomb, it is opened.

Max- What the hell is this plant thing? Why on earth would anyone give me a plant? I always kill these things. Oh! Maybe it's for OC. She looks at the gift tag. Nope it's for me. I wonder what it is and why they gave it to me?

Alec- What the hell is this thing? Why on earth would anyone give me a vial? 'Cure'- cure for what? As he thinks about it, his eyes get wide. No freaking way. No way on earth would anyone just give this to me… And no way on earth I'm going to just give it to her without getting it checked out first- who knows what it is and what it could do to her. He blurred to finish getting ready and then raced over to the lab to get his gift checked into.

7:38 p.m., Christmas evening, Joshua's place-

That jerk! What a creep! He told Joshua he was coming, but I guess the almighty pick-up was more important. Can't he ever think of anything but his--- Max's attention was drawn to her Big Fella's laughter. She looked over and saw him standing in the middle of a group of his friends. Okay, so maybe he's still putting on a brave face, but he's still bound to be wondering where his Middle Fella is. I just can't even believe that Alec is doing this to him. And I am so not covering for his a--

"Okay, Boo. So I totally know what that look means. Don't worry- your boy is gonna make it. I'm surprised he didn't get here before we did, but he will be comin'. There ain't no way he's gonna let you or Doggie-Dog down like this," Original Cindy came over to sit next to her pouting girl.

Since when did OC get to know me so well? "You're totally off. I'm not wondering where Alec is. He can do whatever, and whoever, he wants. I don't care. (at OC's disbelieving look) I don't. I just feel sorry for Joshua- this is his first big Christmas party, and Alec's skipping it. Probably just too busy with one of his scams or looking for his next freshest piece of tail." Was that really my voice? Why does it sound so bitter? Why should I care that he's out with his newest flava of the week instead of here with me? And I shouldn't be surprised- didn't he as much as say that he was planning to do this tonight instead of coming here?

"I don't know about that, Boo," Original Cindy's voice interrupts her. She turns towards where OC is looking and can't help the rosy blush that invades her cheeks.

Original Cindy's eyes bounce back and forth from her boo to the handsome young man coming down the stairs who seems to only have eyes for her friend.

Alec is having difficulty breathing- between what he has just found out and how Max is looking tonight- his heart is beating a mile a minute and his head is swimming. No one should be allowed to look like that. Especially in public. Maybe if we were alone in my apartment, but not here where I can't do any of the things I'd like to do to her. She looks like an absolute goddess. When he reaches their table, he addresses OC, "Merry Christmas, Cindy."

"Merry Christmas, Boo," just because she wants to see where this can go between her two friends (after all, she's noticed the way they've been acting around each other for the last few months, since Max came back from Manticore and he followed her actually, and she's been sick of Logan almost ever since she met him- so not worthy of her best friend) she stands up and gives him a big hug, knowing that she was opening the door for the other two to do the same.

Alec looks startled by OC's unexpected affectionate gesture, but he adapts quickly and a big grin plasters itself across his face.

To her surprise, Max can't seem to fight her irritation at watching them hug, even knowing that OC doesn't swing his way.

Wondering if there is any possible way that the woman of his dreams will react similarly to her friend, when OC pulls away, Alec hides his nerves, plasters another big smile on his face, and approaches Max, "Merry Christmas, Max."

Not one to be outdone, Max stands up, takes a silent breath and responds, "Merry Christmas, Alec."

Alec's eyes dilate as he hears the huskiness in her voice as she says his name. Since when can a woman just saying my name turn me on like this?? He watches as she stands up and comes towards him, unsure of how he's going to react if she touches him.

Max stands up and goes towards him, uncertainty in her every motion. She's touched him before- plenty of times, but it's never been like this. It's always been to hit him or kick him or express some upset that he's created, even though the truth is that she's always loved being able to touch him for whatever reason he's given her. But now? Like this? With no way to use Logan as an excuse? She goes into his arms and plasters herself to his side, a slight hiss at how wonderful he feels escaping her. She can feel every curve of his strong body and wants to never leave his warm embrace. Without her willing it, one arm sneaks up into his hair, brushing against his barcode as it does so. Without meaning to, she smells his scent and is surprised that there is no other female scent on him, which makes her the first woman to touch him- something primal in her purrs at the thought. A tremor of desire to do more than just touch him courses through her.

Alec fights to keep his eyes open as she presses herself against him- this is his own version of heaven. He had no idea that this could feel this good as his arms wrap around her waist of their own accord and he fights the desire to hold her to him for the rest of forever. A slight "Mmmm" escapes him as he feels every luscious curve press against him. When he feels her hands slide up his chest and one brushes against his barcode coming to rest in his hair, his knees almost buckle. What is she doing to me? She's not even trying.

OC is watching them with wide eyes. I guess they didn't need my help after all. Uncomfortable with watching this very private moment between the two gens, she clears her throat before getting up to leave, realizing too late that she was breaking up their momentum. Oops! Dammit.

She watches them spring apart but is glad to see that Alec seems unwilling to separate himself too far from Max as he comes to sit down with them.

"So, I got you two something. Do you want it now or later?" he asks.

Both girls look at each other, smile, and answer simultaneously, "Now. Do we look like girls who want to wait for presents?"

Their following laugher sounds like music to the man across from them. He reaches down and pulls out their gifts- a small bottle of Cindy's favorite perfume and something hard to describe for Max. As OC looks at his gift for Max with concern wondering what on earth it is and how on earth he decided this would be a good gift for her, Max lets out an excited gasp. "No! No way you were able to find that! They only made 120 of those for her line."


Alec answers her while chuckling at Max's response. "I used some of my connections to get a part for her bike."

"A part?" Max says, incredulous at his modesty. "Only if you call the screen 'a part' of a TV. This is the part that triggers the speed mechanism- it'll make my baby faster, more maneuverable, better than every other bike out there, not that she isn't already, but this'll just make her stand out that much more. I can't even believe you found this!" she impetuously leans over and gives him a hug. After she recovers herself, she sits back up but finds that she's sitting closer to him than she was before, like he had pulled her whole body over closer to him (or maybe she had?) while they were hugging. "Thank you," she looks into his eyes shyly.

Alec has never seen her look at him like that, and has a hard time speaking past the protectiveness he feels towards her, "You're welcome."

OC is having a hard time sitting with them when they're acting like this, even though she loves that they are responding to each other so warmly. "So, we got you a little something too." When Alec's eyes flash to her, she pulls out her gift- a bottle of the only kind of cologne he uses. He smiles over the similarity of their gifts. "What can I say, OC? Great minds think alike."

When Alec's questioning eyes turn to her, Max isn't sure what to say. I should have gotten him something else. There's no way he's going to get this. This is stupid. So without a word, she pulls his gift box out and lays it on the table.

The question in his eyes is increased as he sees her emotion while he grabs for her gift- he's never seen her so unsure of herself. He takes another second to adapt as another wave of protectiveness washes over him. When he opens the gift and finds Sammy Sosa's 756th home-run ball, his eyes flash to her. Was it possible that she knew what this gift meant? Before when she'd tried to steal it, it had symbolized everything he'd done wrong- how he'd treated her in Manticore, his role in infecting her with the virus, his letting her almost kill Logan (though at the time he'd been pretty happy with the idea that the only thing blocking them from being together was being removed, he had felt remorse for her near-loss later), his forcing her to choose his life over Logan's safety and their relationship… but if she was giving it to him now, didn't that mean that she's forgiven him all those things? He remembered reading four months ago when this ball had been stolen and how the article had reminded him bitterly of that night. But if she'd stolen it that long ago, didn't that mean that she'd forgiven him all that time ago? Was that possible? He hadn't really expected her to ever get over everything in their past that was blocking them from being together now. Was he holding physical proof that maybe he stood a chance with her after all? He looked down into her gentle eyes and could feel the hope that he constantly suppressed blaze to life. He gently rubbed his fingers against the back of her hand. "Thank you," he whispered.

She smiled in response, and he could feel his heart thud painfully. "You're welcome." They dropped into a comfortable silence watching the other partiers enjoy Joshua's festivities.

When the relative quiet had lasted long enough, he turned to her. "So you want to put your part in?" he asked referring to her Christmas gift. He laughed as she practically jumped to her feet, looking as excited as a little child. He waved to OC who was perfectly happy to let them go into the 20 degree temperatures all on their own, not to mention she wanted them to talk this whole dealio out once and for all and chances were better they'd do that when they were by themselves.

It took only a few minutes to install the new piece, but for some reason neither of the transgenics felt in a hurry to return to the party. Instead, they breathed out and watched the air take their breath away, sometimes mixing their two steams as they evaporated. They felt very comfortable in silence, even though they both knew that they should probably be talking about something.

As Alec looked down at her standing beside him, he looks a little past her to her bike, his eyes focusing in on what looked like a very ornately decorated light blue box. There was no way this was just some ordinary gift- its very presence seemed to scream out importance. He realizes as he feels a jab to his heart that is must have come from Logan. Unwilling, unearned, unworthy jealousy attacks him, crippling him with the pain of knowing that he doesn't even deserve to feel that way about her relationship with the older man.

Max has been watching the emotions flicker through his abnormally expressive eyes. She realizes something is wrong and follows his eyes to her package. Confused, she asks, "Is there something wrong?"

"Gift from Logan?" he asks as way of his answer.


So she's got another admirer? Well, ain't that just peachy. "I don' t know Max. How is Logan going to react when he finds out you've got another man on the side?"

Max can feel a little edge of attitude entering her. She's looking at the only man she wants on the side, on her front, on her…, and he's accusing her of being with someone else, "I don't think he'll be reacting in any way. We broke up this morning. Actually, I broke up with him."

Alec's eyes widen and his brows slide up in surprise. His heart forgets that there might be somebody new already and he asks, "Why?" hoping that it might be because of him. She did, after all, get him that ball several months ago.

"Because when I went to see him this morning, I found him making out with Asha."

Alec makes a loud choking noise. No way. No way even that idiot could be that stupid. He looks over at her and sees some pain flicker across her face. I'm going to kill him. It's as simple as that. He's a dead man. "Are you alright, Max?"

Max's eyes have never left his face as he seemed to mull over her revelation. She wasn't sure what she had seen there. "Yeah, actually I'm fine. In fact, I'm kind of relieved. We've been going back and forth for so long without anything actually happening. It's like you said- we had almost a whole year to be together before the virus showed up. If it was meant to be, it would have happened then."

"Really?" he unconsciously took a step closer to her and took her hand in his as though he'd be able to read the truth of her statement in her touch.

She smiled again- how had she never noticed how much she loved touching him before? "Really."

A small box in Alec's pocket began burning him, and he realized that he had to know the complete and total truth. Her reaction to the contents of that package would tell him if she was truly as relieved as she claimed. He reached into his pants and brought it out. "This is yours."

"What? But you already gave me something."

"It's not from me." At her questioning glance, "Just read the inscription. I've already had it checked out- it's the real deal."

" 'Cure'…What does that-" Max's eyes grew wide with excitement and when Alec nodded that she was understanding correctly, she practically leapt on him. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you." She pulled back slightly to look in his eyes, a bit confused that his arms hadn't encircled her this time. "Thank you so much, Alec."

Her reaction was killing him. I guess she isn't really over him after all. I shouldn't have been so stupid- just because she's forgiven me doesn't mean that she feels anything for me. Just because she's my whole world doesn't mean that she would even notice if I left. Maybe I should. He couldn't keep the bitter pain out of his eyes.

And Max noticed it. "What is it, Alec? What's the matter?"

He answered self-protectively, "It's nothing really. I'm just a little late is all." Too late to matter to you. You already have everything you want.

So, he does have a date. Max swallows painfully and begins to pull back from him.

Realizing that he is hardly acting in his own best interests, and yet desperate to keep her as close to him as he can for as long as he can, he asks her before she can fully extricate herself from him, "Why do you ask?"

She can't meet his eyes- she doesn't want him to read her heart in the expression she can feel on her face. "It's nothing really. (She couldn't help but throw his words back at him- words that had told her that she'd been wrong to believe he cared.) I just thought you were going to be hanging with us tonight, for once. But I guess that's asking too much from your libido- to be able to put off finding some new tail for one night."

That was hardly fair. He hadn't gone home with a girl in several months now, and he never would have if they had hooked up at Manticore in the first place. He had realized even in her cell that she was the only one he wanted to be with- that she was the first girl (and only girl for that matter) who had ever made him even consider the possibility of mating with someone for the rest of his life. But she'd fought him there, and he'd realized that he had to become something more than what he was to ever be worthy of her. He had thought that he'd been on the right track for a while now; it hurt to know her opinion of him hadn't changed. And as he thought about the last few minutes of hope he'd been able to feel and how she had just swiped it away from him as though it were nothing, it kind of pissed him off too. In fact, by the time he spoke again, he was seething with anger that she was so incapable of seeing what she had in front of her, that she continued hiding from the truth, that she kept turning to that undeserving waste of skin. "You're wrong," he growled out, "and you don't have the right to say anything either way. You claim to be over Logan," he took another step towards her noting with satisfaction as her breath caught, "but then as soon as that is put to the test, you can't wait to jump right back in with that Ordinary." He ground out the word as though it contained everything that was wrong with the world, and in his mind it did.

Max's eyes turned into slits as a part of her responded to his deep voice and the strength of emotion she saw in his darkening orbs. When his words penetrated her fuzzy senses, she tried to shake herself loose. Her desire for him was nearly overwhelming her, but this was important. Her voice came out as a strained whisper, "Alec… (she watched as her gentle voice and use of his name began to soothe him- she felt like someone who has just realized that they have some sort of magical power over someone else) Alec (she said again and nearly melted as the hard edges of his face smoothed out), please try to understand. I am so grateful to you for this (she took a step forward until they were just inches apart, put her hand on the hand that was holding the vial, and put her other hand on his cheek- when he turned his face into her palm, she sucked in her breath, took a step back and put the vial into her pocket at the same time taking out a green something that he couldn't identify), but it's not why you think. I am over him. I don't want to be with him (her gaze fell from his and she began nervously fidgeting with whatever was in her hands) I'm grateful to you for the cure because it means that I'm free of him. I used to blame myself for him being in the chair, but now he's not; and then I blamed myself for getting him found out and targeted by Manticore. (She looked up at him willing him to believe her and was caught by the expression in his eyes, unable to go any further in her explanation for a moment.) I thought the virus was proof of how guilty I was for that, but now you've given me the cure. I won't claim that I don't care because I do (when his eyes fell to the ground, she walked up to him ducking her head to force him to look into her eyes), but not like that. I care about the fact that you gave me this when you obviously didn't want to. Now, if I bump into him on the street, it won't matter. I can treat him just like any other person. Alec, (she kind of rolled the name around in her mouth, realizing just how much she liked the taste of it) we made it through one of my heats together and still nothing happened. Do you think that would be possible if we were meant to be together? (The thought of Max in heat made Alec feel his lower half react. And his mind began to burn with the idea of another man touching her like that.) I'm free of him- thanks to you."

He wanted to believe her, but Logan meant more than just guilt. He knew that she looked at Logan as some sort of savior for the masses and that she believed that he made her into a better person. Alec couldn't believe that she was willing to give all that up so easily, "What about the missions?" he couldn't keep his heart out of his words.

She smiled up at him, "I think we're kind of busy right now as it is trying to save our people."

"We-e?" She still hasn't moved away from him, and it was making it impressively impossible for him to keep his façade of calm up.

"Of course, 'we.' Unless, that is, you have some other appointment, with some buxom blonde or someth-" his angry growl silenced her. She unwillingly got caught in a silent battle of wills as they stared into each other's eyes, her trying to ignore the response his growl had created deep within her.

Finally, realizing that no one would win this particular battle, Alec looked down to her hands where she was still fidgeting with whatever she'd had in her pocket. "What is that?"

His voice was still affecting her processing abilities, so it took her a moment to answer, "I don't know. (She lifted it up so that he could examine it.) It just showed up in a little package outside my apartment this afternoon. The only information on it was a return address from the North Pole."

The mystery somehow made it possible for him to focus- you know cats and curiosity after all. "Just like Normal's package today."


"And just like the package that this came in," he dropped his hand into her pocket to retrieve the vial, unaware of what having his hand so close to her would do to both of them. He heard her heart speed up and then his joined it as he felt a thousand sparks shoot up and down his arm. As he looked down at her, all he could think of was what he wanted to do to her, in a thousand different positions, in a thousand different places, for the rest of his life.

"What's going on?" she asked quietly as though she was trusting him to have the answer.

"I don't know," he admitted. He had always had these feelings for her, but he had never expected to be able to sense her having similar ones. It left him baffled, and extremely warm inside, though he was still scared to death that he was simply misreading her.

"Do you think something's wrong?"

Her question completely threw him. Until he realized that her eyes were on the vial he was holding and he realized that she was talking about the mystery. His heart began to crumble until he replayed her "we're kind of busy right now as it is trying to save our people" statement and reminded himself that just because she was capable of thinking of more than one thing at once didn't mean that she didn't feel something back. He tried to focus, after all if there was a chance someone was going to try to attack them, he was going to make damned sure he was prepared to protect her, "Well, if someone was trying to hurt us, I think they'd do it in some way other than free tickets for Normal, the real cure for the virus, and mistletoe."

"Mistle-what?" she said with a cute confused look on her face.

A smile came to his face as his highly efficient mind came up with a plan. "Mistletoe. Here I thought you had the drop on all the real world stuff. You really don't know what it's for?"

Hating the feeling of not knowing something that he did, Max looked up at him with suspicious eyes. Yet even while still in the dark, she wasn't able to hide the smile that spread across her face matching his own. "No, do you?" She had the sudden impression that she was going to like his explanation.

Gently, slowly, he took the mistletoe from her hand and moved towards her. He watched her instinctively move a tiny inch away from him, but she was stopped by the wall behind her. "It's for this," he whispered as he lifted it above her head and, after a second of searching her eyes, leaned into her.

As soon as she realized what he was doing, her eyes widened, but when she saw the look of desire in his eyes, she could feel her own turning into little slits. As she saw his lips coming closer and closer, she closed her eyes, anticipation making her slightly giddy.

Unsure of what he was doing, Alec almost stopped when he saw her eyes widen, but then when her eyes narrowed in passion, his body went on autopilot. At the first touch, he could feel his senses scream that they had finally found the right person. His mind and heart laughed at them because it had taken them this long to figure it out.

Their kiss was gentle, unsure, wondering at first. Then, as Max's senses caught up with his own, having made the same realization that his had, the kiss deepened, quickened. Suddenly, they couldn't seem to get enough of each other- their taste, their smell, their passion and desire. Their bodies became honed to each other, and they both wondered how they'd ever survived without this before. Even their inner selves, the ones that they never showed to anyone except their enemies right before they ripped them apart, were purring at having finally met their mate. Time stopped; they couldn't remember the last breath they took and they didn't care. This was where they were supposed to have always been, and it had taken so much of their lives to find it. They weren't ready to give it up for something as insignificant as air.

So it was probably doing them a favor when Joshua yelled out into the night, "Little Fella? Medium Fella? Where'd you go?" Love for their favorite transhuman (which is probably the only thing that saved his life from both their hands at his having interrupted them) and concern for his safety (he shouldn't be going out into the neighborhood looking for them) had them breaking apart, though Alec's arm remained firmly around her waist. Neither of them was ready to be physically separated.

"Coming Joshua!" Max yelled out. Then she turned toward Alec, "I hope you know I don't like sharing, and I don't do notches."

Alec looked down at her, "Ditto. And the only tally I'm interested in taking is how many days I get to spend with you."

Max leaned onto her tiptoes and gave him another kiss. "Oh, I don't think there are going to be any shortage of those." As she leaned back, her hand slightly grazed the back of his neck. "Nights either," she added with a gruff note of possessiveness in her voice that sent a thrill down his back.

Catching her hand and holding it to his barcode, Alec hoarsely responded, "There better not be. I'm planning on making this permanent."

Max was surprised, but extremely pleased that her mate had already stated his intentions. "Good." She smiled as her response was rewarded by another kiss. And then she sighed happily- how had she ever lived without this? Without this wonderful perfect-for-her man by her side?

Alec looked down in concern at her sigh but was content when he saw her smile up at him. "Well, we should we get in there. We have some people we should probably share this with."

Max beamed up at him as she realized that his hand had yet to move from her waist. She leaned into him as they walked back in Joshua's door.

11:59 p.m., Christmas day, Path back to Max and Original Cindy's place-

The happy couple was meandering, and they knew it. It had turned out to be a white Christmas after all, a practically unheard of experience in Seattle's humidity. Thanks to good old Manticore genetics, the cold didn't affect them like it did Ordinaries, which meant that they had the street basically to themselves.

The night had only gotten better after their outdoor conversation. Though Alec had made a point of keeping his hand on her, a sure sign to all the other transgenics in the room that Max was taken, they had been careful to make sure that OC's ears were the first to have the knowledge dropped on them. The girl had been slightly surprised that it had all happened so fast, though to them it felt like it had taken forever and simultaneously that it had happened so long ago that it was just the way it had always been, but she was also overjoyed for her friends.

Joshua was the next to find out, and after that they didn't really have to tell anyone else- Joshua was so excited that he was nearly jumping up and down while yelling out, "Max and Alec getting busy!! Max and Alec getting busy!!"

They could tell that almost everyone else was happy for them (there were of course several male and female gens who had been hoping for their chance), and everyone had been expecting it sooner or later. At one point, Max had looked up at Alec who was currently receiving a hearty thump on the back with a huge smile on his face (it was practically like they'd just announced their engagement considering how everyone was reacting- she wondered how long it would be until that were the case) and whispered, "Sooner?"

He looked down at her, "Definitely."

Max smiled as she realized how long ago they'd started understanding each other to the point where they only needed to share one word sentences in order to be able to communicate how glad they were that them getting together had happened sooner than the inevitable later.

And now, as they wandered the streets slowly on the way back to her home (OC had subtly informed them that she was going to be staying in the apartment above theirs tonight), they were sharing all the thoughts and feelings that a happy couple usually does. They were comparing their memories, starting with the first night they'd met, sharing how some of their emotions had changed and how some hadn't. Now that they were truly together, they both found the courage to share the parts of themselves that they had always hidden, the parts that had always known they were destined to be together. They were happier than they'd ever thought possible, and Alec still had yet to let go of her.

As they stopped to look silently at some of the Christmas lights shining out from under the snow on a nearby house, Max looked up at her mate. Even though they hadn't made "forever" official, she knew that one day they would. She couldn't fight the smile that took over her face. Without a doubt, she had gotten the better end of the deal- she couldn't imagine finding a better man to share the rest of her life with. She pinched herself to make sure it was all really happening.

Alec felt her squirm and looked down at her in question. Just like he always would be, he was caught by her beauty, knowing it was the inner her that stole his breath away. How did a guy like me ever get to be this lucky? he wondered. Without a doubt, he knew that he was getting the better end of this deal. He couldn't wait to make "forever" with Max official. He'd do it tomorrow- tonight- if she'd go for it, but he knew that even though she might not be the traditional frills-and-lace type of girl, she'd still want some things to be what was considered the norm. Although what could possibly be considered normal about either of them or their situation was beyond him. Still, he could understand her wanting all of their friends to be there, and that was going to be harder for them than it was for most Ordinaries. Wanting confirmation that this was really happening, he needed to hear her voice again, especially now that is was full of such wonderful heart-tugging emotion, so he whispered, "Penny for your thoughts?"

She smiled up and hugged into him, barely whispering, "So, did you get everything you wanted this Christmas?"

Under the millions of stars that were shining down on them, he looked at her thoughtfully. "No." He practically laughed out loud at how her smile quickly turned into a little girl's pout. Then he bent down to her and touched his lips to hers. After a moment, he pulled his head back, "Now I have." And then because her lips were looking awfully cold (and lonely) he bent his head back to the enjoyable lifelong task of warming them, neither one noticing the faint sound of sleighbells in the distance.