The first time Max knocked on Alec's apartment door, she did it like – well, not like a normal person – but in a fairly normal manner. When Alec failed to answer or make any sort of reply, she knocked louder. If he was holed up in there with one of his disgusting strippers she was so going to march back to Jam Pony and tell Normal that Alec didn't care if they were understaffed because he was too busy running underage prostitutes into Canada.

Max banged on Alec's apartment door with both fists the third time. "I know you're in there, Alec! I can smell that skeevy deodorant you use all the way out here! So open up because if I have to kick the door down your ass is next--"

The deadbolt unlocked and the door knob twisted. Slowly, the door opened to reveal Alec's pale, hunched form in the doorway. Max felt her stomach squeeze in worry at his tight expression.

"What is it?" She asked.

Alec opened his mouth to reply, but the involuntary twitch of his shoulders answered her first. She pushed past him into his dark, musty apartment; the blinds probably hadn't been drawn all day and fast food containers littered the place.

"You out of tryptophan?"

He nodded toward the kitchen table where a small yellow prescription bottle sat, cap off. "Contrary to popular belief I am not a complete idiot. I guess I just got the dosage wrong."

"You guess?"

He shrugged, defensive. "This is the first time I've had to medicate myself since you blew up the place that used to keep these damn things in line for me." His voice ended on a strident note as he struggled to contain another shudder.

Max drew back, surprised. She'd thought every X-5 had experienced the shakes at least once. Alec noticed her reaction and seemed to shrink in on himself. "Stop looking at me like I'm a freak," he muttered.

She thought back to her childhood at Manticore and how frightened she'd been the first time she'd had the shakes. Her entire life had been about training and disciplining the genetically engineered tool that was her body, and all of a sudden it betrayed her. The feeling of helplessness had been sobering enough that it stood out in her mind all these years later.

She went into the kitchen and started rummaging through Alec's cabinet's which contained the typical bachelor fare: junk food and alcohol. Still, she managed to find chocolate syrup, and milk happened to be one of the three items Alec had in his refrigerator. As she poured milk into a saucepan on the stove, Alec said, "Uh, Max. You wanna tell me what you're doing?"

"Just whipping you up a little remedy that's helped me through the years," she said, trying to sound casual. She glanced up. "Sit down before you fall down."

He opened his mouth, then shut it again and sat on one of the kitchen chairs. When she handed him the cup of hot chocolate, he looked suddenly shy. He held it between both hands like a little kid and sipped it delicately. The sight of his lips made something unnameable – but not unpleasant - twist deep in her belly. She didn't want to think about what it meant, so she grabbed her jacket and headed for the door. "Don't worry. You'll feel better later on tonight."


She twisted the doorknob. "Don't mention it, Alec." And, because he was Alec, his intake of breath told her that he was going to mention it. "Please," she interrupted, and risked a glance at him. He nodded, looking a little less pale and pathetic than he had when she came in initially. She went out into the cool blustery day feeling surprisingly warm.