This chapter is set some time before my prologue. I hope I made that clear. It is set directly after the the last chapter of Decoy, after the flag raising in Freak Nation.
"So?" Max asked as soon as she could get Alec alone.
"Uh, you want me to tell you you're crazy?" He asked with a small smile.
"Thanks for the support." Max scowled and slapped him hard on the chest, only remembering his still healing ribs when he grimaced and placed a hand over them.
"Could you maybe go easy on the punches? At least until my ribs are no longer in pieces."
"Sorry," Max said grudgingly but her tone immediately shifted to concern. "Maybe you shouldn't be up this soon."
"I'm fine." Max rolled her eyes at the stubbornness.
"Humor me then." She pulled him with her and forced him down on the couch that he'd been sleeping since they'd arrived in TC.
"You really are worried, aren't you?" He smiled as he settled down, eyes closing. "What happened to the denial game?"
Max chewed her lip a moment and shook her head, even if he couldn't see her. She'd played that game enough. She was too tired to anymore. She didn't want to.
"I think we're past that," she stated softly. It didn't matter that he'd already fallen back asleep and he may not have heard her. She'd show him.
Max woke with a start, the lingering effects of the nightmare she'd had making her heart rate climb. She stilled and got it under control. Frowning, she tried to remember what she'd been dreaming about.
She didn't have to search for that answer long. Manticore. She knew even with the vague, barely recognizable images. She stretched a little. She didn't sleep much but she had been under a lot of stress lately. She hadn't slept since before everything had gone down at JamPony.
She got up, feeling a little chagrined that she'd fallen asleep in the first place. She had an entire city to help run. She glanced over at Alec, who was still sound asleep. She'd only been out a couple of hours.
She brushed the hair from his forehead and, hesitated a moment, knelt down to place a light kiss on his forehead before heading out to speak to Mole.
Little touches. That was how it started. They hadn't even kissed yet but Max was beginning to think she was going crazy…or that Alec was going to drive her crazy.
She was hesitating, holding off. They both were. It was new territory for both of them and neither was really sure of where they stood.
She also had another worry. She was sleeping regularly. Which, for her, was strange. Usually, she'd go days without needing any sleep at all.
And then there were the dreams. At first, she'd been sure they were just her own nightmares coming back to haunt her. It happened and she definitely had enough of them herself to fill a lifetime but these were different.
They weren't memories and they weren't the 'what if' dreams she'd had about getting caught again for years after she'd escaped.
They didn't feel like hers.
"You feelin' okay?" The question came from Alec about two days later. He was leaning back in his seat, balanced on the back legs, fingers laced together behind his head and staring at her as she sat on top of the desk in front of him. He looked perfectly relaxed and his tone was casual but when she looked up, she saw the concern in his eyes.
"I'm not the one who got my ass handed to me by White after being shot twice," she reminded him with a raised eyebrow. Alec waved a hand with a scoff.
"Not the first time I've gotten my ass kicked." He tilted his head thoughtfully. "…Or shot."
"Maybe you should learn how to dodge." Max scowled at him. Alec had always been a bit of a trouble magnet. Now she was just worrying about it more. Alec frowned at her and brought his chair down with a thump.
"You're dodging the question," he said, resting his elbows on his knees and leaning forward.
"What question?" Max did not look at him but she knew what he was talking about.
"Thought you never slept," concern laced his tone now.
"Just needed to catch up, I guess." Max shrugged, played it down. She couldn't see how this was their worst problem. So she was sleeping a little more. It wasn't a big deal. The dreams she'd been having, however…
"You said you never sleep this much. Maybe something's wrong." His frown deepened and he was watching her closely.
"I'm fine," she said with a roll of her eyes, coming around and leaning against the desk.
"Sure." He stood and was very suddenly in her personal space. Her heart picked up when he took another step closer, almost nothing but their clothes separating them. They hadn't really done anything yet. Max had been too freaked out after Alec had collapsed on their way back to TC and for a while she hadn't been completely sure of where they stood. Alec hadn't taken her hesitation as a rejection, although she'd been a little afraid that he would. He seemed to understand without her saying anything.
She'd never really gotten to that point with anyone before. With Logan, she'd denied how she felt for so long and then, when she finally admitted her feelings it had been too late. She'd never gone beyond casual with anyone else.
It was fire. That was the only way she could describe it when he finally leaned in to kiss her. She felt it as soon as his lips touched hers.
It wasn't just that she wanted him and she could admit that she did, that she'd wanted to do this since before they'd been exposed and forced to flee to Terminal City. It was bigger than that.
It was like being in heat again, although she hadn't had that little problem in over a year, since Manticore had captured her. Still, she would think later that that was the only way she could describe it.
Whatever it was, she wasn't thinking in the moment. She just ripped at his clothes and he came closer. She opened her legs, wrapped them around him and pulled him closer. She didn't hear someone clearing their throat, not until, in a loud voice…
"Maybe I should get a bucket of water." Max broke the kiss and she felt the blush rise immediately when she caught sight of Mole standing in the doorway.
"Didn't anyone teach you how to knock?" Alec asked, pulling her jacket back in place, not embarrassed one bit. Although, she knew he was disappointed and a little bit angry at the interruption.
"Did," Mole said with a grin. "Didn't you hear?" Max started to push Alec away and Mole held a hand up. "Hey, don't let me interrupt but I thought you wanted in on this run we're doing in about five minutes."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll be there in a minute," Alec said with a sigh. Max rested her head against Alec's chest for a moment and couldn't help but to feel a little disappointed herself.
Max paced. She wrung her hands in frustration. Joshua had convinced her not to run straight through the sewers to find Alec but she was still considering it. Joshua didn't know why she was so restless, antsy.
The problem, and the only reason why she hadn't gone after him, was that she didn't know exactly where he was in the sewers. He could come up anywhere in TC and she wanted to be there when he made it out.
Something had gone wrong. She knew it. She couldn't explain how she knew it but she did.
"Alec will be fine," Joshua spoke up finally. He sounded confident enough but Max knew she was worrying him as well as herself.
Max didn't answer. She did start towards the door when she felt it again. Felt him. She got outside just as he came staggering up.
"Alec…" Max sprinted the rest of the distance and caught him before he hit the ground.
"I shouldn't have let you leave," Max whispered as she watched Alec sleep.
"Had to, Maxie," Alec mumbled. He opened his eyes and she scowled at him.
"Had to, right. If you didn't already look like roadkill I'd kick your ass myself."
"Somebody already covered that for you." Alec struggled into a sitting position.
He caught her wrist, intending to pull her down next to him and Max, to her chagrin, let him. The touch set that fire burning again and before she knew what she was doing, she leant forward and pressed her lips against his.
Max lost herself in him again. She got lost in the feeling. She didn't come out when he let out a groan of pain rather than pleasure and when she came back to herself, she was straddling his lap.
"What the hell?"
"Sorry, still a little sore," Alec admitted apologetically. His eyes were still wide and despite the fact that she'd probably hurt him, there was a grin on his face.
Max jumped from his lap and backed up.
"You okay?" Alec asked. The grin left his face and he started to stand.
"I gotta get out of here." Max didn't wait for an answer. She turned and sprinted from the room.
"So, your boy's got skills. Don't see why that's so weird."
"It's more than that," Max said, dropping down on the couch next to Cindy. "It's like…what I was feelin' doubled."
"When was the last time you released a little…tension? Could be that."
"Oh, believe me, that is part of it," Max admitted. She hadn't gotten physical with anyone in over a year. "There are…other things, though."
"Like what?" Cindy's expression turned serious at Max's tone.
"I've been sleeping more. Not a big deal except I've also been having these dreams. For years after I escaped Manticore, I used to have dreams about it and then with all the times Lydecker almost caught up to me last year, they came back but this is different. The dreams are different…"
"Different how? And you've been sleeping more? You've never slept much unless you were sick."
Max nodded, knew what she meant. The only time she'd ever managed this much sleep was after a bad bout with the seizures. But, again, she hadn't had that problem since before she'd been captured by Manticore the year before.
"I'm not sick and Manticore fixed the seizure problem while I was inside." Max tilted her head thoughtfully. "It's weird. I sort of get the feeling that I don't belong there, whenever I have those dreams. Kinda like I'm intruding on something."
Max got up and began pacing. She'd been thinking of something for days but hadn't been sure enough to voice it out loud and it sounded so crazy that she hadn't even been able to consider it herself.
"I know whenever he comes into the room," she admitted hesitantly. "Without even looking. It's more than just his scent or the way he walks too." She sat down again and leaned towards Cindy. "I feel him. Alec. You know how beat up he was after we fought White at JamPony? Well, he went out into the city yesterday to see about getting some more food into TC and had a close call. He practically ran all the way back. I knew he'd overdone it. I knew he was hurting, knew he was going to collapse before he did."
"That doesn't mean anything. I could probably tell if that boy was hurtin' too," Cindy pointed out.
"You don't understand. I knew before. Before he made it back to TC, before I saw him. I knew something had gone wrong and I knew that he was in pain." Max's eyes widened and she finally admitted it out loud. "I felt it."
"You think it has somethin' to do with those symbols?" Cindy asked. Well, at least she was taking it pretty well.
Max dropped her head back on the couch and stared up at the ceiling. She didn't answer the question but she figured she didn't have to. Besides, if it was, what did that mean? She had her own concerns about it, about the new feelings she'd developed for Alec. She sighed…hesitated.
"I better get back," she stated abruptly, "before Alec decides to come looking for me."
"Thanks for letting me vent," Max cut her off. "I kinda needed it."
Cindy studied her a moment before letting it go. "No problem, girl. What I'm here for."
"Whet the hell was she thinking?" Alec gritted out. He was worried…and pissed off.
"I'm sure she'll be back soon," Gem spoke up from where she was at the table, looking over building plans for the city. They were cleaning the place out, finding places for everybody to sleep…to live.
"She better be." He paused and frowned at her. "You know, we probably have enough people for that. You shouldn't have to worry about it on top of the kid."
"It's fine," Gem said with a roll of her eyes. "I've been feeling kind of useless anyway."
"You're not useless," Alec countered. Gem shrugged and Alec's turned from her again. His thoughts went back to Max.
Something strange was happening with them. He hadn't discussed it with Max or anybody else yet. At first, he was convinced that he was imagining it but he wasn't so sure anymore.
He knew for a fact that Max was on her way back to TC.
"I'll be back," he told Gem after a moment, making his way out into TC. He was pretty sure of where Max was going to come up from the sewers.
She felt him behind her when she came up in TC. She sighed as she stood and turned, words on the tip of her tongue. They died, though, with who she found behind her. It wasn't Alec.
"452." White gave her a smile, gun raised to her chest. Max's heart picked up and she frowned. She'd been sure it was Alec…which probably meant that he was around. She felt a stab of fear of what could happen if he walked up.
"You have a death wish?" Max asked White casually.
"I am not the one who is about to die, 452."
Max blurred. It was the only thing she could do. She was sure that it wouldn't matter but to her surprise, she didn't feel a bullet, she didn't even hear one. White didn't fire the gun before she knocked it out of his hands and punched him as hard as she could and then kicked him in the side of the head before he could get up.
"Max!" Someone grabbed a hold of her, pulled her away from White. "Max, what the hell?" Gem pushed her back.
"What are you doing? He-"
"What am I doing?" Gem asked incredulously, standing her ground when Max attempted to push her out of the way. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Gem, White-" Max cut off when she was finally able to push Gem out of the way and caught sight of the man on the ground.
"What…" Max stumbled back a step. Alec was just sitting up. He had one hand covering his bleeding mouth and blood was seeping from his temple. He stared up at her, dazed and shocked.
"What do you think you are doing?" White seethed. He leaned towards the girl with a glare.
"What you asked me to do," the girl said, unconcerned with his anger. She leaned back in her seat, a smirk on her face.
"I told you to find my son and to infiltrate the animals…not tip them off."
"I didn't tip them off. They wont suspect it. They'll think it's all a part of Sandeman's tricks." She glared at him. "And you didn't tell me anything. If you'll remember, I'm doing this as a favor. I owe you a debt and I am repaying it. You might want to remember that and what I can do, Ames."
"Just get his done."
She grinned at his scowl. "Don't worry, honey, I'll get it done. I'm just getting started."