Chapter 5: Bullet Proof
Max slowed her pace from storming down the hallways to merely letting her legs drift forward. Robotic like and detached as if she weren't moving her own body. She wrapped her arms around her as if she was cold, or as if she was trying to keep herself together.
What had she been thinking storming off like that? Alec was finally awake. That was supposed to mean everything was going to be ok, right? So why did everything feel so far from ok?
Oh yea. Logan.
She tried to remind herself that he was a good guy but it was getting harder and harder when he kept throwing her up against mental walls at every turn. All she had wanted all day was to see Alec's eyes. To hear his voice. Well she'd gotten what she'd wanted but instead of the sparkling green eyes she longed for, his eyes had been dark and detached. Cold, like he hadn't been in the same room as them as was mentally a million miles away. Instead of the warm touch his voice usually held; it'd been bitter and sarcastic. And now the friendly kind of sarcasm she related to an Alec-only attitude, but a harsh tone that left her feeling empty inside.
Oh yea. That's probably Logan's fault too.
This was ridiculous. She stopped and let her chocolate eyes linger on the cracked and stained walls surrounding her. She'd waited all day to get what she wanted. She'd finally pushed Logan away, hopefully for good this time. She'd let him hold her back for so long she'd almost forgotten what it felt like to be off the ropes. She flexed her fingers as if she would see actual coils of rope falling away from her wrists.
There was no reason for her to be running away anymore. She was tired of running. Running from Lydecker and Manticore, running from White and his crazy cult, running from the cops, running from her feelings and now...running from Alec. The last person she wanted to run from. The person she wanted nothing more than to wrap her arms, and maybe legs too, around and never let go - the complete opposite of running. And yet, here she was, running. Because Logan had escalated the stress in the room into a full blown fight and there was no way she could face him or Alec who had been dragged into it despite just waking up. Now right now. Maybe not ever.
But she had to. She knew she had to and even though both her mind and her heart were screaming at her to go back to him, and finally tell him everything; her body wouldn't move. She was paralyzed by fear of the idea of putting her heart on the line and opening herself up to be emotionally vulnerable. Fear of permanently loosing the person she had grown so close to by trying to get too close.
What if Alec rejected her? What if she placed her heart in his hands to have him shatter it? With his charisma and looks he could easily get anyone to satisfy him with no strings attached. Why would he want someone so full of angst and anger and over-flowing with issues to tie him down with? Once she'd tell him the truth there would be no turning back. They could never be the same again. And Max didn't think she'd be able to stand it if all she got were cold looks of pity and disdain from someone she used to playfully trade punches and laugh with.
She had once let Alec hold her while she cried. While she'd opened herself up to him for the first time and told him about Ben. In that moment she felt like his warm, strong arms would always be there to keep her safe. If she was the reason he was gone, she'd never be able to forgive herself. Because she pushed him away by trying to pull him too close.
Would he finally let go and let her fall? Alec wasn't like Logan. If Alec dropped her, there'd be no one else to catch her. She'd hit rock bottom and didn't know if she could survive the impact.
No, her mind battled with itself.
One of the first rules they'd learned at Manticore and practiced all they're lives was: look before jumping. Manticore and rules be damned. But maybe it was time to throw caution to the wind and take that jump, regardless if someone was there to catch her. If she fell, she fell. That was what life and freedom was all about, right?
Maybe Alec wouldn't catch her. Maybe she'd fall and break - shatter into pieces. But in time she'd heal, and get back up. She wouldn't let Alec distance himself from her or push her away. If there was one thing Logan had taught her; it was how to be persistent. She might not ever be able to get Alec to return her feelings, but with time maybe she could get her old friend back if she screwed everything up. What was that military term again? FUBAR? Fucked up beyond all reason. That seemed appropriate right about now.
Her body finally complied with her mind's reasoning and let itself be turned around to head back to Alec's room. With the disks and her blow up there was no reason for Logan to remain in the room with an angry X5 alpha male. She hoped anyways.
She led herself back down the hallway and stopped in her tracks once she rounded the corner. Maybe it was a mirage from being the subject of her thoughts for so long... but Alec was there around the corner. Just leaning casually against the wall with his arms crossed across his chest as if he didn't have a care in the world.
"Good morning sunshine" He flashed a quick grin as she approached him.
"Alec, what the hell are you doing out of your room?"
"Just thought I'd enjoy the scenery." He shrugged and she looked around the dimly lit corridor.
"Scenery huh." She raised an eyebrow to emphasize that she didn't believe him.
"Alright, alright, you caught me." He raised his shoulders, keeping his arms tight across his chest and she noticed him flinch involuntarily. A small motion that an ordinary wouldn't have caught. A flicker of pain. "I was sick of lying around smelling Joshua's paint so I wanted to stretch my legs. Heard footsteps so I figured I'd just act casual."
She could believe the part about needing to get away from the paint fumes. For someone with such a keen sense of smell she didn't understand how Joshua could be around them for so long. If it hadn't been for that small flinch of pain she probably would have believed all of it. It would be just like Alec to get all ferrety and need to move after being down for so long, but something about his posture screamed a different story as if it were begging her to see the truth behind his innocent lies.
"So what you mean is...you were being a dumbass, getting up while your injured and when you heard someone coming you opted for...'casually' leaning against a wall so no one would see you struggling." She kept her voice cool and level. She knew that was part of the truth, that Alec would never let anyone see him weak. Now the remaining question was why he was really wandering around.
"Injured? Struggling? Maxie, it's like you don't know me at all." Chocolate eyes continued to stare accusingly at green ones until he sighed in defeat. "Or maybe you know me too well." He chuckled. "Maybe I spend too much time around you."
He didn't know the impact his words had on her or how they felt like a knife slicing through her heart. No. No, no, no. You don't spend too much time around me; please don't stop spending too much time around me. She silently begged. Of course she couldn't say something that desperate and pathetic out loud though.
"Well let's go spend some more time together then." She opted to say out loud and quickly added; "Back in your room. You still need your rest."
He lowered his eyes but hers didn't leave him for a second. She saw the mental preparation flash in his green eyes and his muscles tense to will himself to not show any pain as he pushed himself away from the wall and threw her a cocky grin to try and reassure the both of them that he was fine.
With his arms by his side instead of crossed over his chest Max realized like getting a ton of bricks dumped on her what shirt he was wearing. He'd thrown on what had probably been the only shirt in his room because she hadn't thought to get him clean clothes and apparently no one else did.
The same shirt he'd been wearing that horrible night. She'd avoided looking it ever since she'd heard that gun shot ring out in the night but now it was right in front of her in horrifying clarity of how close she'd actually come to loosing him. Dark reddish brown stained almost the entire right side of the shirt, darker where she could see a small puncture hole in the fabric and lighter as the blood and run down his torso, coating the rest of his body and clothes in his own blood.
She could see stark white through that small bullet hole that reminded her that he was still patched up and recovering. Alive and right in front of her. She forced her nerves under control, fighting to keep her bottom lip from trembling, but she couldn't fight it anymore. Her body and her mind seemed to have different ideas of what to do today and for the second time she found herself doing the opposite of what her tactical trained mind told her to do.
She rushed forward, closing the small gap between them in a second and wrapped her arms around him tight, relishing in hearing his heart beat so close to her and the warmth radiating from his body as blood pumped inside of it. Despite her mind screaming, demanding to know what her body was doing and accusing her of throwing everything away.
She was teetering on the ledge but was she ready to make the jump?
She felt his breath catch in his throat and assuming it was from pain, she quickly loosened her grip around him, but refused to let go entirely, resting her forehead against his shoulder. It had taken so much willpower just to get this far, and it felt so good being this close to him. She didn't want to let go yet. Her fingers gripped his shirt instead and she could feel the fabric on her skin without feeling the firm body underneath it. Alec's body was tense and she could feel her heart breaking at the fact that his arms were firmly stiff by his sides instead of wrapped around her in the same position she was in. That she was so close yet there felt like there were a wall in-between them.
"Max..." He whispered.
She squeezed her eyes shut and kept her head down, refusing to look at him and see the rejection in his eyes. Waiting for the moment he'd step back or gently push her away. Waiting for the moment that he'd not only let her fall, but push her over the edge with his own two hands.
There was a weight on her head as she felt Alec's warm breath ghost over her forehead. He let his body sag slightly, letting his own forehead drop to rest on top of her bowed head. His shoulders lost their tension as he leaned backwards, letting himself fall back against the wall, as if he were too weak to hold himself up any longer.
Max refused to let go of her grip in his shirt and let herself be pulled along the small step back to the wall. What she didn't expect, was for Alec's hands to reach out and wrap his own fingers into her thin black shirt to pull her with him. As if he didn't want her to let go either.
A slight tremor ran through his body that an ordinary human may not have noticed, but her hyped up nerves did as she pressed her palms against his abs to steady him and tried to ignore the warmth that flared up inside of her when she felt his muscles clench under her hands as another shiver passed.
She finally raised her head to look up at him. His eyes were almost closed, his dark eyelashes hiding the stark green underneath them and his freckles stood out against his still too pale skin.
Her eyes involuntarily strayed to the dark blood stain on his side once again as she felt him shiver once more. She tried to press the unbidden memories of his seizure that had left him helpless in her arms only a day ago and reminded herself over and over that he was warm and wasn't in danger of loosing control again. That she wasn't in danger of loosing him again.
"Alec, you need to go back and rest." She spoke softly. The first words that had come to mind was that he was weak and needed to go be taken care of but to say something like that out loud to the stubborn and proud transgenic standing before her would be like giving him an open invitation to do the exact opposite. Alec would never allow anyone to think he was weak, even if the effort killed him in the process. The last thing she wanted right now was to get in a stupid fight that would risk his health.
But when he lifted his head to let their eyes lock onto each others, chocolate and green clashing together in a beautiful harmony she never thought she'd experience, she felt her own heart falter a beat.
His dark green eyes spoke in volumes to her. She had been so afraid to lay her own emotions on the line at the risk of getting hurt that she never chanced looking into his eyes. If she had she would have seen what she was seeing now. That he had already laid his own heart on his sleeve, letting everything show expressively through his own eyes when he looked at her. Physical pain, emotional anguish, hope, love, acceptance, need - all flitted through his sparkling eyes.
She toke a deep breath, leaning her body fully forward onto his and letting their bodies flush together like the last two pieces of a puzzle. She couldn't tell if he was shivering from the toll that his physical exertion was taking on his already injured body, from fear of being hurt worse than a bullet could ever cause, or from the need to be touched and comforted by her although he'd never utter such words out loud and admit the longing for gentle contact.
Finally, she let the breath escape out her lips and looked down, taking a second to mentally lower her defensive walls, before looking back up at him. She let everything she felt shine through her own eyes. Her own windows to the soul as Original Cindy had called them and silently thanked her friend for helping her find the key to unlock them for Alec. She held her next breath as she tried to express how much Alec meant to her, how much she cared about him as she reached up to stroke the side of his soft face.
Max never had a chance to let go of the breath she had been holding as Alec's lips crashed down on hers, capturing her full lips in a desperate kiss full of pent up sexual tension that she suspected was aimed at her. If she had been breathing properly, her breath would have been literally whisked away as she curled her fingers into his dark blonde locks, urging him for more, not wanting the taste of him to leave her tongue.
It was warm, passionate and filled her with such a complete feeling that she swore she could feel herself beginning to float as if she were suddenly full of helium. She parted her lips wider to give him better access and felt him softly moan into her mouth, the sound vibrating in her mind like a purr as he wrapped his arms tightly around her lithe waist.
This was how it was supposed to be. No hesitation or skirting around each other. No stuttering sappy speeches about when they had first fallen in love with each other or why they had done or said the things they had in the past. There would be time for memory lane conversations later. Right now all that mattered was this moment, right here and now. The two transgenics wrapped up in each others arms and giving in to each other's ultimate desires.
She couldn't believe she had spent so long worrying about what to say when she and Alec felt so right once they finally clicked together that they didn't even need words. In that instant she understood the hidden meanings of everything he'd done - his apparent jealousy of Zack, his irritation when she got him trapped in a closet so she could try and find the cure for Logan, him getting a job at Jam Pony and even hanging around Joshua's so often, how he'd always help her in any situation and kept coming back despite the verbal and sometime physical abuse she dealt out on him on a whim. She forgave him for everything, apologized for everything and knew he somehow knew it without whispering a single word between the two of them.
Alec had finally allowed Max to pull away from him when his breath started hitching, coming in short gasps because he had pushed his injured body too far instead of from their sudden, passionate make-out session.
For a moment, neither of them moved. Relishing in the heat forming in-between them and the wonderfully complete feeling that left them both tingling. They simply stared at each other, eyes speaking louder than the words they couldn't force to the tips of their tongues.
Words. Pfft. Alec was a master of words, and always had a quick comeback or answer without ever having to think for more than .5 seconds. The master of manipulation when it came to sweet-talking whatever he wanted. And here he was, with the girl of his dreams in his arms, making everything he'd ever wanted come true...and he was speechless. Only Max could have that effect on him.
"Come on." Her voice was slightly breathless as she spoke. "We REALLY need to get you back to your room." She leaned back and pulled his arm around her shoulder.
He jerked his arm back like he had been burned. There was no way Max really thought he was going to allow himself to be dragged back down the hallway like some wounded animal that couldn't walk on his own. He was a transgenic, an X5, an alpha male. He was more than human and certainly not too weak to manage his own body.
Max simply rolled her eyes. They'd kissed once and she already seemed to be able to read his mind. And he wasn't sure if he liked that or not. But then again, maybe she'd always been able to read his mind...or have some kind of psychic connection to him. How else did she always know when he was in trouble?
"I have an Alec radar." She said matter-of-factly.
"What?" He furrowed his brows in confusion before a shocked look settled on his handsome features. "...you really can read minds."
Max let out a short laugh; her smile radiating and beautiful.
"No." She lifted a hand to cup his cheek softly, letting the tips of her fingers brush his earlobe. A shudder went down his spine and he wondered if she did that on purpose. "When you let your guard down your like an open book."
He placed his hand over hers and squeezed it.
"Well stop reading my eyes. It's freaking me out." He joked.
"Only if you let me help you." Her smile faded from her face and became serious as Alec sighed. "Come on Alec. You got SHOT. Even transgenics don't heal that fast."
"I don't need-"
"Fine." She cut him off. "You don't need help because you're alright, you're always alright." She mocked his attitude and flipped her long silky hair over her shoulder. "Whatever. But it'd make ME feel better if you'd just let me do this for you."
He studied her wondering if she was secretly a psy-ops instead of an X5. It was like she knew he'd do anything for her and those were the magic words that would make him do whatever she asked.
"Fine." He muttered grudgingly and let her pull one of his arms across her shoulder while she grasped his wrist and wrapped her other arm around his waist. He could feel her body heat pressing into him again and smell the lilac scented conditioner she used and almost started purring. Almost. Maybe letting her help him wasn't so bad. He had to use less energy, it hurt physically alot less and he got to be this close to Max.
He should get shot more often.
"Ya know Maxie...if it's too much we could just stop. Take a break. On the floor. Together." He shifted his weight, nuzzling her cheek in suggestion.
"Yea right pretty boy. You can lay down when you're back on that mattress." She kept up her serious manner but he didn't miss the slight blush that flushed across her cheeks for a second before she forced it back down to focus on the mission at hand.
"Hoo-ray that mattress." He huffed. "I think the floor is more comfortable. Just have Joshua paint me a bed on the floor and I'll lay on that."
"I'll ask him about it when we get back. He's probably worried about you anyways..." She trailed off, looking at him out of the corner of her eye.
He refused to meet eyes with her. If she could read his eyes right now, he'd keep them trained on the floor in front of him and focus on moving one foot in front of the other. Even with Max's help, his body and this trek was quickly robbing him of his energy as he fought to control his breaths and keep them even so Max wouldn't get suspicious or worried.
She must have felt the hitching movements in his chest so close to her however.
"Maybe we should take a break after all..."
Alec shook his head. No way was he going to take a pity break. Didn't he already go over this with her? No wait, that was all just in his head...oh well, no point in wasting breath or dignity points now.
"No, no. You were right. I want to lay down on that god-awful mattress and have that loose spring try to impale my leg while I sleep again."
Thankfully, she didn't respond and just accepted his stubbornness to keep moving as they made their way back, probably mulling over the same thoughts he was having this very moment.
When he'd gotten shot he'd expected Max to leave him behind. He never thought she'd risk her own life to stay with him, taking care of him until the end. And when he woke up he assumed she'd start yelling about what a screw-up he was for getting shot in the first place. Not this. He'd dreamt about this. But he never thought his dreams would become a reality.
When he had left Joshua in the room he had every intention of pinning Max up against the wall and demanding to know what crazy feline female thoughts were running through her mind and not leaving until she gave him her consent to murder Logan. But he'd never imagined that he would have been the one pinned up against the wall instead, not even needing to vocalize their feelings.
He hadn't gotten far from the room by the time he had been faltering, needing to pause and lean heavily against the wall for breath as his legs threatened to give out from under him. His own body had been angry that he was betraying it in such a way by chasing Max when he needed to be lying down instead. When he heard footsteps and smelled her particular scent drifting closer he quickly pulled himself together to lean against the wall in what he hoped was a casual 'no-I-wasn't-stalking-you' way.
His perfectly trained mind had flown out the window with his entire tactic training when she rounded the corner, looking just as perfect and beautiful as he ever remembered her. His mouth opened and responded to her questions in some lame response about scenery.
Scenery. He saw better scenery in the sewers than in this dismal and bleak hallway.
And when she let her guard down and allowed him to see into her soul, everything had suddenly become apparently clear in that instant. It was like a smack in the face, and in fact, he felt like smacking himself in the face for not realizing it sooner. He felt like smacking himself in the face for being such a coward and a girl about his feelings instead of bravely owning up to them like the solider he was supposed to be. Maybe if he had, he and Max would be past this already, having been together and pushed Logan to the curb long ago and they never would have gone on that mission. He never would have needed to risk his life and worry Max like that.
Speaking of the ordinary, he was thankful he had the sensibility to not still be in the room when they finally staggered back in.
Neither was Joshua however, the only reminder that he had been there was the wall covered by the clashing abstract swirls and strokes that blurred together in his own artistically Joshua way.
Max threw him down lightly on the bed and for a second he thought he could see horror dawn on her face that she may have injured him further with her roughness, which he brushed off with a casual joke. He loved how Max was and he wasn't about to let her trade that hellcat attitude for some whimpering romantic gesture. He wanted the real Max - spite and punches and all. Not some girly girl that she may feel like she needed to be around him now that they'd fully accepted each other into their lives as more than just friends. He was greatly glad that he'd never have to worry about her trying to tell someone else that they 'weren't like that', like she had with Logan. They were defiantly 'like that'.
"Gee Maxie, can't you act like a woman and be gentle for once in your life?" He grinned up at her and she crossed her arms smiling back down at him.
"Nope. Guess your just gonna have to be a man and suck it up."
Alec shook his head and a small scrap of paper on the mattress caught his attention. Picking it up, he recognized Logan's untidy scrawl across it.
'Take care of her.' Was all it said. He narrowed his eyes and balled the note up in his fist, knowing Max had seen what had been written on it with her superior eyesight.
"Yea. Like I need HIM to tell me that." His voice had almost a growl to it as he tossed the offending paper over his shoulder onto the floor to be forgotten. Despite the heavy words Logan had tossed him earlier when they were alone in the room, the small note had been his way of giving in. Of finally stepping aside and letting Alec fully have Max without his antics in the way. Part of him was grateful that the human had accepted defeat and decided to do the right thing and just let Max be happy. But part of him was frustrated that it had taken him this long to bow his head and that he had pushed at Max for so long as if the poor girl were his personal yo-yo while treating Alec like some kid that was trying to steal his favorite toy.
Logan had been his obstacle for too long and Alec was glad to finally get to quit jumping the hurdles and leave the race track.
Max's eyes followed the paper bouncing across the floor and rolling into the shadows and let a smile grace her lips before she leaned forward to press them on Alec's once more. A softer, calmer kiss than before.
She looked deep into his eyes, letting sincerity leak into her voice. Something that was rare when talking to the famous X5 female.
"Thank you for catching me."
Alec blinked in confusion for only a second before wrapping a hand around the base of her neck, tracing his fingers across her barcode before pulling her back down for another kiss that left them both tingling afterwards.