"Lie to me, Max," Alec began, "and tell me everything is alright." They were standing at opposite ends of her kitchen, arguing again. He knew she was about to cry by the sheer fact she could no longer look him in the eye.

He was tired of and worried by her nonchalant behavior and cold shoulder conversations. If there was anyone who could come remotely close to understanding her, it had to be Alec. Hell, he'd spent the last two years in Seattle being chased around by Manticore alum and White and the familiars, and dodging smacks to the back of his head because of her.

Every day since the murder, she'd come to work completely closed off. Even Normal was surprised when she showed the day after, and though very understanding, commented on her lack of sassy remarks.

And every day, every time Alec tried to talk to her alone, or ask after her, she'd say everything was alright.

Max realized that's all she'd been doing – lying to Alec. But she had her reasons – denial, mostly. If she didn't recognize it, it must not be real, right? Wasn't she a soldier, meant to compartmentalize stuff like this? No continual dosage of therapy or Psy-Ops could erase those pleading eyes, begging her to intervene and stop White.

It had already been a week of riding alone, sticking to alleys and back streets so she could run the evens over in her mind, choosing a different action and end result each time. She was tired of holding it all in, and tired of feeling alone – feeling this alone. She no longer cared who saw her cry. She looked up to Alec, one tear breaking the dam and creating a path down her cheek.

"That's what I thought," Alec said, bridging the gap between them and embracing her in a one-sided hug. They sank to the floor, Max breaking down on the way, and she allowed him to hold her, even though she lost all energy and felt like a ragdoll.

She cried hard, at the end of which Alec picked her up and deposited her into her bed. He turned toward the door.

"Please don't leave," she said drearily, and with a look in her eyes that suggested she would unravel without him.

Alec turned to her, a softness developing in his eyes. He took off his boots and jacket, leaving them by her nightstand. He then positioned himself on her bed, sitting against the headboard, and invited her to lay her head on his chest. He wrapped one arm carefully around her, as if she could break any further, and swept her hair from her puffy face.

"I'm sorry Original Cindy's gone."