"Pool table," Max says without turning around. She can hear Alec slide onto the seat beside her, just like she can smell him, the faint chemical tang of lipstick and cheap perfume. For someone trained in infiltration, subtlety has never really been his strong suit.
She slides her empty glass across the counter, and two fresh beers arrive. Alec takes his without a word; if he doesn't want to waste small talk when there's no-one around to hear it, that's fine by her.
She's halfway through her drink when Sketchy comes up, and Alec nearly jumps out of his seat. She doesn't know why he's so eager; it's not like she's the one who smells like other people.
"You guys coming over?" Sketchy asks, and she looks up in time to see Alec smile, bright and a little fake.
"Absolutely," he says, and throws a brief glance her way. "Coming?"
"Sure," she says, and drains her glass. Keeping up appearances, and all that.
Anyway, she's tired of drinking alone.
Three games in, Alec's made enough to cover the rent he doesn't pay, and she's drunk enough that she's almost having fun. Alec's latest mark is staring daggers as he leaves, but Alec's hand clasped a little too firmly around his shoulder is enough to convince him to let it drop.
"You're on a roll," Sketchy says, and Alec grins, open and sincere, as if it's all just good luck. Original Cindy shoots Max a knowing look, and she shrugs; Alec knows his limits, most of the time, and he can handle a couple of belligerent drunks. Besides, most people can't stay mad at him for long; that seems to be a talent particular to her.
He turns back to the table and glances up at her, and she can read the challenge in his eyes. She nods, and then glances over his shoulder, and freezes.
"Logan," she says, barely registering that she said it aloud until Alec looks puzzled.
"What?" he asks, and glances around. She can almost feel him tense the moment he spots Logan, as if he's preparing for a fight; it's gone a moment later, so quickly she might have imagined it, but she inches closer to him anyway.
Logan's halfway to the bar when he stops, and it takes him a minute before he smiles at her and heads over their way. Alec slings an arm across her shoulder as he approaches, smiling in a way that doesn't quite pass as friendly. Logan's expression freezes, and Alec squeezes her arm briefly before letting his arm slip down to circle her waist.
"There's a table ready, if you want a game," he offers.
Logan shakes his head. "I just came for the company."
Perfect, Max thinks.
"I'll play," Sketchy says; when Alec shrugs him off, he turns to Original Cindy, who raises an eyebrow at Max before agreeing.
Max smiles back weakly, and turns around as Alec pulls her towards the table where Logan's sitting down. His fingers graze the skin beneath her shirt in a way that's too even to be accidental, and she glares at him as subtly as she can as they sit down. He looks sideways at her, pretending not to notice her expression, and slides a hand onto her knee under the table.
"So," Logan says, after the silence settles over them long enough to become uncomfortable. "Fancy seeing you here."
It's a bad joke, but she laughs anyway, and Alec's hand slides a little higher.
"Should we get some drinks?" Logan asks.
"Absolutely," Alec says, still smiling coolly. "Thanks, buddy."
"Sure," Max says, and doesn't quite meet his eyes.
Sketchy and Original Cindy get back just as he returns; Sketchy's pouting, which Max takes to mean that he lost. She reaches for her beer with one hand as Logan slides the drinks onto the table, her other hand resting on Alec's to stop it going any higher.
"I nearly had you," Sketchy says, and Original Cindy shrugs.
"We can play again, if you want."
"No, thanks," Sketchy says, and runs a hand through his hair. "I think being beaten by a girl twice is enough for one night."
Original Cindy grins, and Max offers her a high five, leaving Alec's hand free to continue tracing circles up the fabric of her jeans. She smiles at him warningly, and when his hand reaches the top of her thigh, she grabs it, hard.
"Excuse us," she says, and jumps up. Alec look at her blankly, and she drags him away from the table until they're out of earshot.
"What do you think you're doing?" she demands, keeping her voice low.
He shrugs. "Your game, Maxie."
"It's not a game."
"Could have fooled me. I'm just playing along."
"There's playing along," she says, "and then there's being obnoxious."
He leans forward, and she can smell the beer on his breath. "Being obnoxious? You mean, like lying to your boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend," she says. The line's so well-worn it feels like a daily affirmation.
"Right," he says. "That's supposed to be me. I'm just giving you what you want."
She glares at him. "This isn't what I want."
He pauses for a minute, and shakes his head. "Obviously not."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Hey, you're the one who said it."
"Fine," she says, and rolls her eyes. "Just lay off the public displays, okay? I think Logan gets the message."
"You sure about that?" he asks, and nods over her shoulder. Turning around, she sees Logan heading their way, and closes her eyes.
"Great," she says, barely above a whisper.
"I guess we'd better make it worth his while, then," Alec says. He tugs her forward so hard she nearly crashes into him, hooks a finger into the waistband of her jeans, and kisses her.
He kisses like it's all for show, mouth open, no tongue, and doesn't stop until a few seconds after Logan clears his throat behind them.
"I, uh," Logan says, and Max drops her gaze. She doesn't need to see the disappointment in his eyes, even if it's hardly a new betrayal. "I was just coming to say goodbye."
"See you later," Alec says, and claps him, hard, on the arm.
Max just nods.
"There," Alec says a moment later, releasing her as soon as Logan's gone. His expression clears, like some burden has been lifted, and she can feel a twist in the pit of her stomach. "Happy?"
"Ecstatic," she deadpans.
He shrugs, and suddenly his expression is almost back to normal. "Want to play pool or something?"
"Sure," she says. She's a little bewildered by the sudden change in his attitude, but she's willing to go along with it; it's a lot better than whatever they were fighting about before, anyway. "What are the stakes?"
Alec doesn't look at her as he racks the balls. "I win, the charade's over."
He says it matter-of-factly, like it's no big deal, and it leaves her mouth dry.
"You want me to tell Logan the truth," she say flatly.
He looks up, then, and holds her gaze for a beat longer than is necessary. When he finally speaks, it gives her chills. "That's not what I meant."
Alec's place is dark, but Max can see well enough even without the lights on. She manoeuvres them around the sofa, Alec's hands clutched at her waist, and laughs as he almost trips across something left lying across the carpet. He breaks the kiss long enough to look at her, then presses her up against the wall, and when he kisses her again, there's nothing just for show about it.
She leans forward so he can pull her shirt up over her head, and slips out of his grip, pulling him towards the bedroom. She twists them so he hits the bed first; he goes down hard, and she straddles him, reaching back to unclasp her bra.
"Max," he says, and rolls her off him. "You don't have to ... it was just a game."
"I know," she says, and kisses him, rolling them over again until he's on top of her. She reaches down to unbutton his jeans, and he lets out a low growl.
"You can leave," he says, but he doesn't stop her, or try to put more distance between them. "If you want to."
"I know," she says again, and moves beneath him just enough to make him react, arching up as his hands slide down over her wrists. His breath is hot on her throat, his body poised hard on top of her.
"I don't want -"
"Alec," she interrupts as his shirt hits the floor, and he stops, sitting up.
"What?" Even as he asks, she pulls him back down again, and his hands move automatically to help her out of her jeans.
"I threw the game."