Off the Leash

Disclaimer: Dark Angel's not mine, neither is Alec, sadly. Just borrowing.

Well, after the last story in the Loose the Hounds set, I got quite a few requests to give Max and Alec a break, as well as some unhappiness about my retirement, so since it's Christmastime, it seemed a time for generosity.

Alec ducked just in time and the cup sailed over his head. It crashed into the wall behind him and shattered.

"You rat bastard."

"Now, Max…"

"Don't you 'now, Max' me, you jerk!"

"Then quit throwing things at me!" Alec shot back. "Do you know how hard it was to find actual dishes not made out of plastic?"

Alec, transgenic reflexes in full swing, dodged to his left as Max found another dish in the kitchen cabinet and threw it. Unfortunately, Max was also a transgenic, which meant she knew how to compensate for a target's movement and she could throw hard enough that when the glass hit Alec's shoulder, it knocked him off balance and he stumbled into the wall.

"Ouch! Knock it off, Max!"

"Me?" she shrieked. "Me?"

"Yeah, you!" Alec snapped, his voice just as strident.

"You kissed her, Alec! I'm the one who gets to be pissed off!"

"She cornered me, Maxie! It was not my fault!"

Alec should have known not to go there. He really should have. Definitely too soon for excuses. Before he could say another word, Max had already loaded and fired and this time she clipped the side of his head and Alec saw stars, sliding down the wall to sit on the floor. The really annoying thing was that he was going to have to replace yet another glass.

"Not your fault?" Max sidled closer, this time with a plate in hand.

"I told you, she cornered me!" He pressed a hand to his head and came away with bloody fingers. Just great. It was nice and Christmassy though. He was all red now.

"And the others?"

Alec had the good sense to look outraged. "It's a Christmas tradition! It's not like I can say no without causing a scene. You're the one who's all over the Christmas crap! The rest of us barely know what it is. We're just following your lead!"

"So now it's my fault?" Max demanded, and if her voice got any higher, only dogs would be able to hear it. Alec would have to get Josh to translate.

"No, it's not your fault." Alec sighed, looking down in defeat. There was simply no good way out of this. "Not my fault either, though," he grumbled.

"You're the boss, Alec. That means you're in charge. Not to mention the fact that you're a genetically engineered super-soldier. They can't make you do anything. Goodness knows, I can't manage it."

"It's mistletoe, Max. Josh hung it up in the middle of Command. I work there. It's kind of hard to get around it."

"Somehow I manage," she said through gritted teeth.

"Yeah," he replied, his tone implying she was being kind of slow on the uptake. "Cause the guys know that I will personally murder anyone who so much as looks at you."

"And the girls don't know to stay away from you?"

"This is politics, Max. They know it's Christmas and you're all over the holiday thing, and that means you can't come right out and tell them to knock it off. For some of them it's just a way to get one over on the boss. It's office politics. For others, it's a way to get one over on the Alpha female. Kissing your man is girl politics." There was no way he was going to say that some of them just thought he was hot and they were going to take their shot while they could without fear of repercussions.

Max's eyes narrowed. "And why aren't the guys doing the same?"

"Nothing personal, Maxie," Alec smirked, "but I'm a lot sneakier than you are and my moral compass is virtually nonexistent. They know I'll make them pay one way or another, politics or no politics."

Max huffed, a bare hint of a smile appearing. Alec knew she had to admit that much was true. He was a master of manipulation and creative punishments. The people at Freak, Inc. had come to fear pissing off their bosses. There was no telling what Alec would come up with if someone stepped out of line. They knew it was bound to be immeasurably worse if Alec caught them crossing Max. Which meant he was going to have to come up with something for the girls who kept sneaking up on him while he was working near the mistletoe. It couldn't look like he was punishing them, though. The ones who were just having some innocent fun were one thing, but for the ones he knew were trying to put one over on Max it was going to have to be good.

"That doesn't change the fact that I caught you kissing May. As in Ms. 'Can I touch your boobs?'" She paused for effect. "Why, yes. Yes, you may."

Alec's eyes narrowed dangerously. "The woman's been practically loitering underneath the mistletoe, Max. I've been in stealth mode just trying to work around her. Can I help it if I was concentrating too hard on the McClane job and forgot where I was standing?"

Alec had started out defensive, but now he was getting mad. "Ya know, I was pretty understanding when I caught you kissing Logan."

Max paled visibly. "I did not kiss Logan!"

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Alec was definitely on the offensive now, "but I was badly injured and I woke up in the hospital, and you were in a liplock with Logan."

"You know that wasn't my fault! He doesn't mean anything to me anymore."

"Oh, so you mean I'm supposed to put up with it when Logan's around and you still get this goofy look on your face like 'oh, isn't he just the smartest, most helpful person ever'?" Alec added the last in a singsong tone, batting his eyelashes.

"I do not!" she said, her voice once again heading for the stratosphere.

Alec's expression turned hard again. "It's apparently enough encouragement that he thought he could kiss you as soon as the virus was gone."

"He kissed me!" Max shrieked.

"So that's a valid argument if it's you, but if I say it, I get dishware thrown at my head?"

For the first time, Max seemed to really look at him and noticed the small trickle of blood running down the side of his face. She shook her head and took a deep calming breath, then another. She put down the plate, much to Alec's relief, and then purposely stretched out her fingers so that her hands were no longer balled into fists. "You're right," she said, definitely more calm now. "You're right."

Alec watched her warily as she picked up a towel from the kitchen counter and walked toward him, her transgenic body too lithe to allow her to really stalk properly. She stopped in front of him and knelt down, keeping her movements purposely slow and visible as she placed the cloth on the cut. "I'm sorry."

"S'ok," he said, wincing at the pressure she was putting against his temple. "I know May drives you crazy."

"Yeah," she admitted.

"And you know I don't even like her," he stated flatly.

Max nodded and sighed, the last of her tension seeming to fade. "Yeah."

"Good. Cause she attacked me under the mistletoe and I'm feeling kind of defiled right now." He tried his best to look pathetic. "I may need your help with that."

She looked up at him, meeting his eyes for the first time, one eyebrow quirking up in that way she knew made him want to jump her right then and there. "That so?"

His mouth turned up on one side in that way he knew made her want to do the same. "Pretty sure."

A worried crease suddenly formed between her brows. "You didn't have to bring up the thing with Logan."

"Sorry," he said quietly, his smile turning wry. "It was self-defense." Things had definitely been tense for a while after the Logan incident. Alec just had no defenses where Logan was concerned. Max would always have a certain… sentimentality where the guy was concerned, and Alec would always have a secret desire to cram the guy's teeth down his throat for daring to look at Max.

"You know I didn't kiss him. He just grabbed me and laid one on me." She still seemed embarrassed about it, and a little pissed off, which was the only reason Logan was still breathing.

"And you know I would never cheat on you."

Max looked down and away, once again unable to look at him. "How am I supposed to know that?" she asked.

Alec put a hand beneath her chin, pressing gently until she looked back up. "Because I'm kinda partial to my wife." He grinned. "And I'm pretty sure that if I ever cheated on you, you'd castrate me and tell everyone White did it."

Max laughed at that, for the first time genuinely amused. "I wouldn't rule it out."

"So," Alec said, "you wanna help me off the floor or you wanna stay here and chat all night?"

Max gave the shallow cut on his temple a final dab, even though Alec could tell it had already stopped bleeding. She stood and threw the towel through the bathroom door into the hamper, then reached down and grasped Alec's hand to help him rise.

"Now what?" Max asked.

Alec shrugged. "Well… I suppose I could go out and start the search for more dishes."

They both looked around at the mess Max had made. "Sue me," she said. "I have issues."

Alec snorted. "That may be the understatement of the decade."

"My issues can throw something else if you keep making smartass remarks."

"No need." Alec raised his hands in surrender. "Besides, I have something for you."

Max rolled her eyes. "Trying to butter me up 'cause you knew I was pissed?"

"Absolutely." Alec grinned shamelessly. "Domestic bliss through bribery. That's my new motto." She smiled, shaking her head, and he took it as a good sign, hurrying toward his jacket that he'd dropped by the door. He pulled the small cheerfully papered box out of the pocket and headed back toward Max. "Here."

Max eyed the package suspiciously, but finally took it. "What is it?"

"Who knows?" Alec shrugged. "Josh picked it out. I just put my name on it."

Max smacked his arm playfully. "Sure you did, idiot."

"Yeah, yeah. Just open it." He waited for her to rip the paper free, watching her face as she realized what was in the box.

"Is this what I think it is?" she finally asked.

"Yup." Alec puffed up his chest, proud if he did say so himself. "I decided it was just for you."

Max pulled the sprig of mistletoe held together with ribbon out of the box. "You stole it?"

"I actually shot it down. Old school, huh?" He laughed. "They shoot the real stuff out of trees if they can't reach it."

"You shot it out of the rafters in Command." She was staring at him in wide-eyed disbelief.

"Well, after you stomped out, I was ready to shoot almost anything or anybody to fix it, so-"

Max grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him to her, kissing him. She tossed the box aside and wrapped her arms around him, gently soothing a hand over where she'd hit his shoulder and then up where she'd hit his head.

When she let him up for air, Alec looked toward the box she'd dropped. He picked it up and with his other hand grasped hers. He tugged on it gently and pulled her toward their bedroom. "I have big plans for this stuff," he told her, a definite glint of mischief in his eye.


Alec nodded, walking backwards as he led her into their room. "I'm going to nail it to the wall over the bed. You'll never be able to leave. It's against the rules."

"Not even to kick May's ass?"

"May? May who?" Alec grinned smugly. "How could you possibly leave when you have a perfectly good Christmas tradition right here that needs to be upheld?" He tugged on her hand and she tripped forward, once again wrapping her arms around him.

Max was close enough that their noses brushed. "I'm a sucker for tradition."

"That's what I hear." Alec smiled. He hated when Max was mad at him, and having things back on an even keel made everything right again. He could feel the contentment that he'd come to crave settling back into his bones. He wouldn't dream of cheating on Max. It just wasn't possible when her happiness was everything to him.

Sure, when he'd first got out of Manticore he'd chased anything in a skirt, but at the time, he'd been living like a prisoner freshly sprung from jail. Manticore had regulated what he ate, what he drank, who he talked to, who he worked with. He could still vividly remember the day he'd been punished for an unscheduled urination, because, goodness knows, Manticore couldn't even let a guy pee without it being monitored and questioned.

So naturally, when he got out, he'd done a few questionable things with his newfound freedom. But then Max had happened. Max who'd saved him over and over until she'd finally realized that Alec was there to do the same for her.

"So we good?" Max asked, once again gently running her fingers across his temple. "I really am sorry I tried to bash your head in."

He nodded, frowning in mock seriousness. "Me too. It's gonna be a bitch to find dishes to match that set."

Max laughed, somewhat chagrinned. "Merry Christmas, Alec."

"Merry Christmas, Maxie," he echoed. He tossed the mistletoe on the bed, and kissed her. "Merry Christmas."

And ditto to all of you. Thanks for reading!