All right, here you go. Enjoy!

He wasn't sure if he should keep talking, or go forward, or maybe back away quickly. She was just standing there in the stall, staring at him, lips parted and eyes wide.

Then, just as he was about to take a step towards her just in case he'd actually broken a piece of her brain, Max threw up a hand and nearly hit the stall door.

"No," she said, about as authoritatively as she could manage. "No. You can't say that to me."

"I just did," he retorted, adding a bit of cockiness to hide the way his heart was thudding somewhere up around his tonsils. He'd meant to say something along those lines. Right? That had been the plan? So there was no reason to fear cardiac arrest. He was just following the plan. Still, when Max's eyes flared with fury, Alec couldn't help but swallow.

"No," she said again, more forcefully this time, "you can't."

"Again," Alec said, and now he did step closer, "I just did." He reached out, without looking, and snagged a towel from the rack by the door. "You want to maybe come out here?"

Max snorted, that familiar, infuriating sound of disbelief mixed with scorn.

"Uh, no," she replied, all attitude now, "I want you to go away."

Alec held the towel out towards the shower door, turning on his heel so that his torso faced away.

"There, see, I'm not even looking."

"And I'm not moving from this stall."

Exasperated now, Alec shook the towel.

"Max, get your ass out here before I drag it out!"

He wasn't sure whether or not he was thankful that she heard the seriousness in his voice, but there was a sharp tug at the towel and a moment later the shower door slammed open. Max stepped onto the bathroom floor, the towel wrapped tightly above her breasts, and glared.

"You're not in love with me," she said, the corners of her lips turned faintly down, and she looked so fucking accusatory that Alec almost smiled. Her subject matter, however, was pretty far from laughable. Moving quickly to block her exit, he shook his head ruefully.

"For once, Maxie, I really wish you were right."

"I am right," she responded, clutching the towel with both hands. "You can't be in love with me; that's – that's crazy. And stupid."


"And," she added, jerking her chin at him stubbornly, "completely hopeless."

"Is it?"


"You kissed me," Alec reminded her, his eyes on the water droplets collecting in her lashes, the single drop quivering at the fullest point of her lower lip. His voice was lower now, and he couldn't stop the words. "Maybe I started it, but you sure as hell kept it going."

"I – didn't…" She curled her lip, tongue darting out to catch that drop, and he inhaled a sharp breath through the nose. She smelled of soap and water and sex. But she always smelled of sex, so that didn't mean… much… except...

"You did," Alec countered, and he felt very warm now, his skin humming. "You wanted me then, and you want me now."

Max made a scoffing sound, disgust twisting her features as she looked him up and down.

"Please. And that just means you want me, not that… that other thing." She shifted on her feet, and he thought she might actually be considering attacking him. Alec rocked back on his heels.

"Not arguing that I want you," he said, trying for charming, and Max tilted her head, feline and angry and something else, too, something scared. Alec saw it, felt it catch in his throat; he sobered. "Max… I'm not arguing anything. We fight about everything, all the time; I'm not fighting about this."

"That's not fair," Max said, and for the first time in a long time, she sounded like nothing but a little girl. "We have to fight."

Alec shrugged, helpless now in more ways than one.

"I can't," he said. "I can't fight it. I tried, believe me; you're the last person on earth I'd want to feel like this about – " And at this, her lips pursed indignantly but he ignored her because otherwise he wouldn't be able to keep going at all, and he pretty much had to keep going or he was going to just lose it and become an alcoholic and get himself killed. " – but you're here," and he tapped a finger against his temple, hard, the humor gone now. "And you're here," the same finger, against his chest now. "And it's all the time, Max, and I can't – get it out. I can't fucking make it, make you, leave."

Out of breath, he stopped. Max was doing that thing again, that thing where she stared at him with her dark eyes wide, studying, searching, completely unreadable.

When she did speak, a long, agonizingly still moment later, she sounded somewhere between drugged and panicked.

"I can't… feel things for you."

And just like that, his heart, which, he'd been pretty sure, had just stopped for good, started racing.

Alec waited.

"You are – you are not who I'm supposed to…" She trailed off, that old haunted look coming into her eyes, and he went to her before his conscious brain could question it. He touched her face, one hand ghosting along the edge of her jaw and the soft skin below her ear, hardly daring to touch her. If he touched her, things might break, she might remember that he really wasn't who she was supposed to, and that would ruin everything.

"But you do," he said, almost a question, refusing to beg her. "It's okay, Max. It'll be okay."

She snorted again, and, another first, Alec felt real hope.

"It'll be okay?" she repeated. "That's all you got?"

He shrugged.

"I never said I was eloquent."

"But I'm impressed that you know the word," Max retorted, still looking down. Everything about this conversation, as comfortably irritating as it was, felt fragile. He quirked a brow, very aware of their closeness.

"I'm impressive in other ways, too."

And she actually chuckled.

"Right. Well."

Alec coughed, a smile playing on his lips.

"You know, Original Cindy thinks you should believe me."

Max stared at him, skeptical to the end.

"It's true!" he insisted. "She even slapped me."

"Why's that?"

"Because I was sitting there in a bar, kicking myself for not doing this sooner."

And he lowered his head, gaze seeking hers. When he found it, Alec lifted a brow. This time, he would ask.

And this time…

She kissed him.

So, that's the end for now. Maybe there'll be more, but only if I get begged enough/have still more free time!