Missed Cues

Summary: Tragedy strikes Terminal City, leaving Alec and Max with no one to fall back on but each other.

Glad you guys approved of Gladys. I must admit I kinda like the old girl. So this is it, last chapter. Hope you enjoy the wrap-up.

Chapter Twelve

Max awoke slowly, taking in the sounds of beeping and whispering as well as the smells, antiseptic, illness, death.

She was in a hospital. Max forced her hand to obey and she settled it over her bullet wound. She was freshly bandaged and, after a moment to assess, she realized the pain was minimal. They must have got her to the hospital and fixed whatever had gone wrong after White punched her.

Max heard more whispering and she forced her eyes open. There were others in the room, but they were gathered around a second bed. Max turned her head, already guessing what she would find.

Alec was there, pale as a ghost. He was muttering and, as she watched, started to twist beneath the sheets.

"Crap. He's gonna do it again," Mole said. "Go get the doctor. Tell them he's waking up and he's gonna freak." An X series standing opposite Mole immediately nodded and left the room at a jog.

Less than thirty seconds later, Dr. Shankar hustled into the room and stepped to the side of the bed. "Alec? Alec, can you hear me?"

"Lemme go," Alec murmured. "Need… up." He began twisting on the bed, and now Max noticed he was in restraints.

"You'll have to hold him," Dr. Shankar said. "I'll go get something to sedate him, but he'll break the restraints again before I get back." She left at a run and Mole and the X-series stood on opposite sides of the bed like sentinels. Alec was clearly waking up and the more conscious he was, the more agitated he became.

Max sat up gingerly, mindful of a body full of aches and pains, but was pleased that she appeared to be healing so well. She reached out to shut off the monitor beside her, then pulled the leads from her chest. She eased her feet over the side of the bed, and scooted to the edge, setting her feet on the floor. She shivered at the cold tile, but focused on standing. She was a little light-headed to begin with, but it cleared after a moment and she pulled on a cheap, cotton robe she saw hanging in a nook beside her bed.

"What's wrong with him?" she asked. She couldn't help it. No matter how disappointed she was in him, she didn't want him dead. She just… she didn't know if she could look at him anymore and not see someone willing to turn them all over to save his own ass. She looked at the man in the bed and all she could see was a traitor.

She'd thought… After everything they'd been through, she'd thought that he'd changed. Or if he hadn't changed, she'd seen something different in him, or finally seen something of the real Alec, something she couldn't help but want to be close to. She'd thought that maybe she…

It didn't matter what she'd thought. She'd been wrong. Alec was still the same selfish bastard that had stepped into her cell at Manticore. She wasn't just disappointed. She was furious. He'd fooled her into thinking he was one of the good guys. He'd conned them all. She was disgusted, plain and simple, with him and with herself for believing him.

Mole didn't look surprised that she was awake. Either that or he had bigger worries at the moment. "The shot hit the bone and it messed up the muscle," Mole explained. He sounded funny and Max realized it was because he didn't have a cigar in his mouth since the hospital wouldn't allow it. She tried to think if she'd ever really heard him talk without one, but quickly gave up.

"So what's with the cuffs?" She could only look at them in dismay. She hated seeing any of them restrained, even it was apparently for their own good.

"He keeps going nuts, but they can't figure out why. His head was a mess, had a skull fracture, but the swelling's going down now. He didn't appear to have any other life-threatening injuries, his leg is already close to healed, but they're still having to sedate him. Don't know if it's brain damage or what, but every time he starts to come out of it, he starts fighting like it's his last chance and trying to get away. His temp keeps goin' up and Doc thinks it getting dangerous even for one of us."

Alec's sweat-covered brow furrowed. He started murmuring again incoherently and then began to sit up, pulling at the padded restraints around his wrists. Mole and the other X quickly grabbed him around his arms.

"Hey. Pretty Boy," Mole called. "Take it easy already. Don't make me hurt you."

Alec's head fell back, but he continued to pull at the cuffs, clearly putting more muscle into it since she saw the X-series having to work harder and heard Mole grunt as he tried to hold him. "No… Stop…" Alec started fighting in earnest, his glassy eyes finally opening and he began jerking at the restraints. Mole nodded to the other man and they forced Alec back down onto the bed. Almost immediately, Alec let out a bloodcurdling scream and Max instinctively backed away.

At least until she realized what was going on.

Dr. Shankar ran back into the room carrying a syringe with what looked like enough to take down an elephant. She shoved it into the port of the IV attached to Alec's arm, and quickly depressed the plunger while Mole and his buddy continued to keep Alec lying down.

It took a few seconds, but finally, Alec's thrashing movements slowed and he slumped in the bed. "Please… please," he kept mumbling.

"There were no injuries other than his leg and the concussion?" Max asked.

Dr. Shankar looked up and her eyes widened. "What are you doing out of bed?"

"I'm fine," Max said offhandedly. "Did you check his back?"

"His back?" Dr. Shankar asked, clearly confused. "We checked his whole body for visible injuries when he was brought in. There was nothing wrong with his back other than some bruising."

Max pursed her lips. "Have you checked him since he was first brought in?"

"He's been in restraints since he started to wake up and punched the doctor who was working on his leg."

Max walked up to the bed and unclasped one of Alec's wrists. "Get the other," she ordered. Dr. Shankar still looked confused but she did as she was asked. "Now flip him over."

Mindful of the IV, Mole did the honors and immediately the doctor gasped. "This… it wasn't there when he came in. What happened?"

"It's glass," Max answered. Alec's back was bright red and inflamed. Max had known she wasn't getting everything when she'd pulled out the larger shards, and she remembered White taking full advantage of that fact. "Alec fell through a window and then had someone drag him through the glass to make sure it burrowed in good and deep. His skin healed over the pieces before he was brought in here. It's why he's pissed when you guys keep holding him down. He's just too out of it to tell you you're trying to stab him to death."

"I…" Dr. Shankar looked genuinely horrified and then seemed to gather herself. "I need to make a call then we'll take care of it as soon as possible." She once again left hurriedly.

Max looked at Mole whose expression was shocked, no small feat when all you had to work with was scales.

"I thought he was asking for a drink," the man said quietly. "He kept sayin' glass… glass."

"You didn't know," Max assured him. "He won't hold it against you."

"Says you. He'll make me pay triple for my cigars!" Mole said, getting progressively louder. "There's no telling what he'll charge for the booze! He'll hold this over my head for years!"

Max nodded. Yes, Alec was just that mercenary. I look out for number one. Me. Well, Max had to do the same.

"You guys wanna give me a minute?" she asked. Mole looked toward the bed as if to make certain Alec really was calmer, then he and the other man disappeared. She looked to the door and saw that there were two other transgenics outside. Apparently she and Alec rated a full bodyguard detail now, even though she guessed Dr. Shankar had hidden them away in some corner of the hospital.

Max leaned down close to Alec's face, bright with fever. He sluggishly forced his eyes open. "Thank you," he slurred.

Max just nodded. "I owed you that much. Now, listen up." She knew her voice was hard, and it made Alec really focus on her. "I don't ever want to see you again. I won't tell the others what you said, but I can't trust you with them and I want you gone. That understood?"

Alec remained perfectly still, the only sound his labored breathing as he looked at her. There was no smirk, no surprise even, worse there was no regret, no remorse for what he'd been willing to do. His face was blank, emotionless, and it confirmed for Max that this had to be done.

"Is that understood?" she repeated sternly.

Something flickered for just a second in Alec's eyes, but it was gone too fast for her to grasp. He closed his eyes and, with what had to be a tremendous effort after the dose of sedatives he'd been given, turned his head away from her. "I understand," he said lowly. "Now get out."

Max straightened and marched out of the room.

Max heard a knock on the apartment door and wondered whether or not she should bother to get it. She'd been resting since she got back from the hospital, but still wasn't in top form. She'd have to remember to ask Dr. Shankar one of these days what had happened. She'd marched out of the hospital, flanked by two bodyguards, without even checking with the doctor to see if it was all right. She supposed, since she wasn't dead, that she was going to be fine.

The door to the apartment nearly rattled off its hinges as someone banged on it again. "Open up, Princess. I know you're in there."

Max groaned. It was Mole. He'd eventually break the door down.

"Coming," Max muttered, and rose from the bed a bit tentatively. She made her way to the door, expressly refusing to look in the direction of Alec's closed bedroom. She wasn't sorry for what she'd done. It had been necessary. She'd done the right thing. She just had to keep telling herself that.

Max opened the door to find a glowering lizard on her doorstep. "What?"

"You better explain and explain fast," he said, barging in past her.


"Joshua called me. Don't get me wrong the guy's great at a decorating party, but me and the dog ain't what I'd call buddies."

"So why'd he call you?" Max asked, although she had a sinking feeling she knew why.

"He says Alec came here last night, got a few things and then went back to his old place in town." Mole was scowling now. "He told Dog-Boy to go home and won't say anything else."

"Alec was here?" Max asked wide-eyed. She'd been in her room all night. Alec had to have come in and picked up his stuff in the next room without her any the wiser. She knew he was stealthy, but she'd had no idea he could get around her that easily.

"Yeah. Now the way I see it, there's not a person in this dump with anything against Pretty Boy. Nobody except you," he was punctuating each phrase with a finger stabbed in her direction. "So what did you do?"

"Why do you care?" Max snapped, anger quickly flaring in the face of his accusation. She was in the right here. She shouldn't have to defend herself.

"Because you might be Fearless Leader, but your sidekick is the one that makes it work. He gets food and water we can actually drink and the freaky stuff that the real freaks need to survive. He practically charms the birds out of the trees and then gets us a good price for them. He's the one everybody goes to with their problems and he takes care of it while Your Highness is too busy talking with the Apes to bother with the little stuff."

It was like a slap to the face. She'd been too busy to take care of a lot of people. Logan and the others were dead because of it. And while she'd been so busy trying to secure them a place out in the world, Alec had apparently taken up the slack on the home front. She'd vaguely known Alec was busy doing things. She just hadn't bothered to ask what.

"Mole, I-"

"Unless you want this to get ugly, you better get him back," Mole ordered. "Word's already gettin' around that he's gone and nobody's happy. You're an '09er, which means you already got a serious credibility problem, then you asked us all to stick around instead of goin' to ground and now half of us are dead. We get why, but you're still not popular with some of the crowd. Alec's helped every person in this dump at some point and he's the one with all the contacts. We need him to rebuild this place, so you fix this."

"I can't fix it!" Max burst out. "You don't understand!"

Mole shook his head angrily. "He saved your ass in that warehouse. You owe him."

"A crazy cat lady with a shotgun saved me," Max snapped back.

"Alec saved you."

"He was gonna let you all die!" Max shouted, no longer able to hold it back. "He was gonna turn you all over!"

"Holy crap." Mole just stared at her. "You're really that stupid, aren't you?"

Max was taken aback. "What?"

"Alec had an open line with Command the whole time White was talking to you. He called us so we'd know what was going on and we'd have a team on the way."

"He… he knew you were listening?" Max frowned, a terrible feeling starting to dawn.

"He was trying to get you to stall before you got him shot again. It would have taken a little time for White to set up what he wanted and we'd have shown up to save the day before you even got the announcement made. We thought you'd figured it out and were playin' along."

Max closed her eyes, realizing what she'd done. She'd allowed herself to think the worst of Alec instead of thinking about why he would do such a thing. He'd been trying to protect her, again, and she'd sent him away. She saw it now, the look on his face when she'd called him 494. He'd kept her from falling apart after Logan and the new virus, and tended her when she got shot. She'd seen the inner turmoil after he killed the doctor. All of that, and she'd gone straight back to thinking he was a shifty, selfish jerk just looking out for number one. Max wanted to kick herself. Yes, she really was that stupid.

And she'd left him alone in the hospital. Max closed her eyes as shame washed over her. Alec had been hurting so badly and she'd walked out on him. Alec hadn't left her side in days, no matter how much of a burden she became, and she'd just walked away with him in such bad shape.

"I'll… I'll fix it," she said.

"What did you do?" Mole accused.

"I'll fix it," she said again.

"You better. Cause if the dog calls me again cryin', I'm not gonna be nearly as nice."

Max started looking around frantically for where she'd tossed her shoes. "Josh is with him? At his old apartment?"

"Yeah." Mole walked toward the door, satisfied that his mission was accomplished. He gave her one last look. "Don't come back without him. I don't get my cigars, I get cranky. You won't like me when I'm cranky."

"I'll get him back," Max vowed.

Max didn't bother to knock. She just opened the door and stalked in. Joshua was sitting in the chair facing the sofa, but he quickly rose when he saw her and bounded toward her, visibly upset.

She looked behind him to the sofa where Alec was lying on his side with his eyes closed. She thought he might be asleep and was torn between the desire to sneak away and hide from the fact that she'd been such an idiot, and hurrying to his side to make sure he was all right.

Joshua stopped in front of her to tower over her, for once purposely using his superior height to his advantage as he frowned down at her. "Max fix this."

"I will, Big Fella."

"No," Joshua said sternly, not willing to let her be flippant. He waited until Max was looking him in the eye. "Max hurt Alec. Not so easy this time. Have to make it right."

"I will, Josh," she said more seriously. "You wanna give us some space?"

Joshua whined and shot a worried look in Alec's direction, clearly fearing Max would make a bigger mess than she already had. Finally, he nodded and picked up his motorcycle helmet. "Big Fella wait at apartment. Make dinner. Little Fella bring Alec."

Max just nodded and accepted a kiss from Joshua on her forehead, although she noted he was still frowning as he left, closing the door quietly behind him. Apparently nobody was happy with her today, maybe rightly so.

Max walked farther into the apartment and sat down in the chair Joshua had vacated. Alec had settled into the worn sofa on his side, his arms crossed in front of him. She watched him for a second and decided he wasn't asleep after all. He was awake and if she had to guess, he was pissed. "Alec?"

Alec opened one eye to glare at her, then closed it again. "Why are you here?"

"Came to see you."

"Try again," he shot back. "My guess? Someone clued you in that you made a complete ass of yourself. How'm I doin'?"

"Pretty close. Why didn't you tell me?"

Alec sniffed. "What for? No matter what I say, you think the worst. That and I was stoned out of my gourd thanks to the doctor trying to keep me down. Barely knew my own name until last night."

Max noted he was holding himself very carefully, with his back held away from the sofa, not moving a muscle and she wondered if the doctor had been able to get all the glass out or if there were still tiny slivers hiding buried in his skin. Once again Max felt ashamed. She'd left him in the hospital to find his own way home.

Max took a deep breath. "Alec, I'm sorry."

He opened one eye again and just looked at her for a second before letting it fall back closed. "Don't worry about it. It's fine."

Max frowned, watching his purposely blank expression, and wished she could see what was going on beneath the surface. "You'll come back to Terminal City?"

"No," he said curtly.

Max had been starting to rise from her chair, but plopped back down. She should have known she wasn't going to get out of this so easily. "You won't come back?"

"You heard me."


"You like workin' for someone who watches you everyday expecting you to fail? S'not fun, Max."

"I don't expect you to fail." Even as she said it, she knew it was a lie. He'd taken care of her, waited on her hand and foot since Logan's death and after White caught them she hadn't even bothered to ask why he'd changed his tune so suddenly.

Alec snorted, and she saw him flatten a hand across his chest like he was still sore. She knew her own body was still stiff from the beating they'd taken in the car wreck.

"I don't expect you to fail," she said again with more conviction this time. If it wasn't true yet, she would make it true.

"Whatever, Max."

"What else can I say?" she asked, annoyance creeping into her tone. She'd said she was sorry. What more could she do other than make sure not to do it again the next time something went south?

"Nothing," he sighed. "Can't make you any different than you are. You don't trust me, and never will."

"I was dying, Alec. I wasn't exactly thinking that well. You gonna hold it against me?"

Alec gritted his teeth, and sat up, allowing no more than a tiny grimace to show that he was still hurting. She realized he was holding his chest, but it was definitely his back still bothering him from the careful way he was carrying himself. "When you're barely functioning, you go on gut instinct and yours said I couldn't be trusted."

"Fine. I'm a cynical bitch," she admitted easily. "I'm pretty sure that's established fact by now." Max pursed her lips and sat forward. "You want to make me grovel, that's fair, but you don't have to punish everybody else for what I did. Terminal City needs you."

Alec rose with a slight hitch as he straightened and then walked into the kitchen. He pulled a glass down from a shelf and rummaged until he found a bottle of something. She supposed they'd fled to TC so quickly some of his stash had been left behind of necessity. "I just can't do it, Max."

He was running and Max couldn't allow it. She wasn't lying. TC needed Alec and so did she. She'd spent a sleepless night with a terrible weight settling in her chest at the knowledge that Alec wouldn't be there in the morning to help her with whatever new catastrophe had snuck up while they weren't looking. Max stood and walked closer to him, but he still refused to look at her. "Talk to me, Alec. Why won't you come back?"

"Cause I'm tired of being looked at like I'm gonna screw up at any minute." His hand tightened around the liquor bottle to the point she was afraid it would shatter. "You know what it was like being Ben's twin? They were just waiting for me to put one foot wrong. I had to toe the line like you wouldn't believe to keep 'em from putting a bullet in my brain." He splashed some of the scotch into a tumbler and drank it in one swallow. He set the glass down and refilled it, his eyes glued to it like it held all the answers. "The only reason they didn't kill me after Rachel was because they needed me for a mission that I'd been pulled off of before they sent me in to Berrisford. The mark had already seen me and they couldn't make a switch without him getting suspicious, so they beat me down instead of putting me down. Now, I come in, work my ass off, and you're still looking at me like I'm two seconds away from causing a disaster. I can't take that, Max. Not from…" His eyes darted toward her, such overwhelming emotion in them that Max nearly took a step back. "Not from you."


"You." Alec turned toward her, and she retreated as his gaze turned predatory, until she was stopped when she bumped into the counter. Alec kept coming, stopping only inches from her, purposely invading her space.

"What are you doing?"

"I don't want you looking at me like that, Max. I... I know things haven't always gone... right when I'm around, but..." He stopped, and she was temporarily mesmerized by the muscles working in his throat as he swallowed.

"Am I looking like that now?" she asked. Max didn't have to try to show how concerned she was. Alec had to forgive her. He had to. They were both messed up, and made mistakes, and said the wrong things at the wrong time, but Alec always came back to her. He always forgave her and helped her. She probably didn't deserve it, but he did it anyway. He was good for her because of it. He called her on her crap, and then just let it go. He didn't hold it over her head for years and make her feel guilty all over again. Friends didn't do that. People who were more than friends couldn't do that and hope for a relationship to last. She had to learn to do it and vowed that she would. Alec had earned it.

"Alec," she coaxed when he didn't answer, "do I look like that now?"

Alec studied her face, and once again she saw that nearly stunned expression, as if he'd never really seen her before. "No."

"That's because I screwed up and I'm sorry."

"You should have trusted me," he said, his eyes flashing with barely suppressed emotion. He was keeping himself locked down until he was sure it was safe. She'd smacked him down hard after all, the last times they'd been together.

"I should have," she acknowledged. "Will you forgive me?"

Alec remained silent, studying her as if he could see right through her and Max let everything she was feeling show on her face, regret, shame, fear… hope.

That was the thing about forgiveness. She had to ask for it, knowing she didn't really deserve it and Alec would have to give it, knowing the same. The person who forgave had to be the better person. Thankfully, she already knew he was. She was counting on it, maybe for a lot more of her future than just the next few minutes.

"Please, forgive me," she said earnestly.

Alec suddenly shifted even closer and Max froze as he brushed a lock of her still blonde hair behind her ear. "I can dye it back," he whispered, his lips dangerously close to hers.

"My hair?" she squeaked. Max felt a sense of euphoria begin to bubble up. He hadn't said the actual words that he could forgive and forget, but it was there in his eyes, beautiful bright green now that she could see them so closely. This could work. They could make it work if they could both just manage to keep their scarred psyches from making each other crazy.

He buried his fingers in her hair, his fingertips warm against her scalp, and Max couldn't hide the shiver of anticipation that coursed through her. The tiniest smirk appeared, as if he realized the effect he was having on her and was enjoying every second of it. "I miss your real color," he said, his breath brushing across her skin.

"Everything's just messed up right now," she said, knowing she meant more than her hair, which was the least of her worries. "We can set it right. It'll just take a little time."

Alec's mouth twitched in amusement, his expression once again telling her that he understood, but he wasn't going to actually admit it. "I'll dye it back. We can't have you show up on the news with roots showing, can we? What kind of hairdresser would I be? I'd never live it down."

Max forced herself to meet his eyes. "You'll have to come back to Terminal City to do that."

"You want me back just so I'll fix your hair?" he asked, one eyebrow arched.

"No... I..." How did she explain the panic just at the thought that he might not be coming home with her? "Joshua wants you home for dinner," she blurted out.

"He does, does he?" Alec said, all mock seriousness. "You know I hate to disappoint the big guy."

"And I… want you home," she forced out. She was crap at admitting she needed anyone, but this was a time for desperate measures. She set her hand on his arm and felt how tense his muscles were. He was motionless, just waiting to see what she would do next. "I need you home. With me."

"With you?" he asked, a new fire in his eyes.

"With me," she said again. "Definitely with me."

She felt his other hand at her waist, a hot brand against her skin. Just the smallest pressure would close the distance between them. "Don't know how I missed it before," Alec murmured, his gaze roaming over her face.

"Missed what?"

"Shoulda seen it sooner."


"You." Abruptly, his expression changed and he backed away, releasing her so suddenly she felt dizzy. "Problem is, I don't think you're seeing me."

Max clenched her hands into fists to keep from reaching out to draw him back. She could see how badly she'd hurt him, and once again she remembered his face when she'd called him 494. "Alec, I see you."

"But you still think I could let people die to save myself," he said with a frown.

Max shook her head. "No, I… I should have realized you were up to something. I should have and I'm sorry." Knowing she was the one who'd broken faith, it was up to her to repair the damage. She steeled herself, and stepped forward, invading his space this time. She was careful not to crowd him too much though for fear he would back into the cabinets and hurt his back.

She really was seeing him now. She knew Alec wouldn't do anything to hurt her or the others. The man who'd stayed with her, protected her ever since leaving Terminal City, who'd held her in the back of the truck, soothing her even though he was hurting so badly himself… She was seeing him now.

Max should have seen it sooner. Alec had been there all along and she'd been blinded by her hopes for her and Logan. They never had seemed to click, despite how much she and Logan both tried, and now, as much as it tore her up inside that Logan was gone, she could see how hard she'd been trying to have something that wasn't meant to be. Standing in front of her, however, was the possibility of something new and she couldn't let it get away. If nothing else, she'd learned that from her relationship with Logan.

Max set her hand on Alec's chest. She could feel his heartbeat beneath her fingers and it was as good as any lie detector. Manticore would have taught him to control it, but his lessons weren't working right now and she was pleased that she could have that effect on him.

"You have to come back with me."

"And why is that?" He smirked.

Max felt a smile beginning to form. Alec looked cool, but his heartbeat was telling her something else. "You promised to stay with me."

"Yeah, but you were dying. I didn't figure I'd have to wait that long before I could ditch you," he deadpanned.

Max raised an eyebrow. "You still promised. I hear you've been trying to convince people you're trustworthy."

Alec's smirk fell away. "Nah. I'm up to no good and everybody knows it."

Max's own smile faltered. She looked up at him and waited until he was looking her in the eye. "You're not the bad guy, Alec. I know that. I just forget it sometimes and have to be reminded."

His smirk reappeared, but she could feel his heart hammering beneath her fingers. "Max, I'm not the good guy, either. I'm not Logan."

She was tempted to laugh or to make some offhand remark, some "tell me something I don't know" comment. Instead, she shook her head, and raised her hand to set it against his cheek. "I don't want another Logan," she said gravely. "I had one, and I'll always remember him, but I don't need another one."

Abruptly, Alec grabbed her by the waist and set her on the counter, stepping closer to stand between her legs. It put Max a little higher so that she had to tilt her head down.

"Wasn't sure you knew what you were doing," he said. "Thought maybe you didn't recognize me since you weren't looking down on me."

Max rolled her eyes and smacked him on the side of the head. Alec started to sway and she realized what she'd done. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close, resting her forehead against his. "Sorry," she whispered. "Guess I need to be more careful with you, huh? Didn't know you had such delicate sensibilities."

"Max, you know I'd never hurt you, right?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah, I know," she said immediately. She did. Thinking back on what had happened in the warehouse, she realized how stupid she'd been to doubt him. "Why?"

"Because I'm about to put my mouth to good use. I just wanted to give you a heads up."

Max couldn't stop the unbelievable sense of elation that spread through her body. "You keep telling me it does good work, although I've never seen it myself." It was going to be ok. They were going to make it ok.

Alec's hands at her waist slowly slid to her back and pulled her closer to the edge of the counter and him. "You gonna put this on my performance review?"

"I'll have to see results first, soldier. So far, all I'm getting is backchat."

Alec smiled widely, a real one, then tipped his head closer so that his lips were right by her ear. "Can you say it just one more time for me?" he asked, his breath tickling her over-sensitized skin, sending a shiver through her that Alec had to feel.

"What?" Max frowned.

He pulled back so she could see his face. "You're sorry. It's so rare. I just wanna savor the moment."

Max brought her hands up, resting her forearms on his shoulders so she could brush her fingers through his hair. "You were right. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I should have known. I'm a big idiot." She would say it each and every day for the rest of her life if it would keep him with her.

"Now was that so hard?" he asked, eyebrows raised. His full lips tantalizingly close to hers.

"Alec, shut up and kiss me already."

"I can do that," he answered, for once eager to obey one of her orders.

Been a pleasure. Thanks for reading!