Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, but I wish I did! Just playing with them for a while.

Summary: Set during season two. A mysterious message from a supposedly dead Lydecker ends up being a trap that Max waltzes straight into. Will Alec be able to save 452, or will his attempt only end up risking his life as well? Hurt/Empathic!Alec.

A/N: This story is dedicated to scifigeek22.

Alec stayed under the hot spray until he started to feel more like himself again. His minor meltdown turned out to be very cathartic, and while he was still weary and struggling with internal and external pains, he managed to scrape together enough strength to take back control of his emotions.

He was a soldier, damn it. He was done with being weak. Not a victim, but a survivor.

He turned off the water and dried his face before wrapping the towel securely around his waist and slowly making his way over to the mirror. Alec swiped his hand across the glass to clear away the condensation created by the steam, then gave himself a calculating once-over.

His eyes were red-rimmed, but he could pass that off as a side effect of exhaustion. The bruises and cuts on his body were well on their way to healing, and in another week or so, they would be gone entirely, leaving no traces behind of any physical damage. It would be as if none of it had ever happened.

But the memories… They wouldn't fade as easily. That was his cross to bear though. He had one mantra that got him through years of hell and it was simple; I'm always okay. If he said it enough, he'd actually start to believe it, and then everyone else would believe it too.

A knock on the door announced the arrival of his fresh clothes. He reached over and twisted the handle, popping the lock. When the door swung open, he was surprised to find Max standing there, holding a pile of articles from Logan's wardrobe.

Her eyes flickered over his towel-clad body before resolutely locking with his gaze, a faint blush appearing on her cheeks. "I uh… Sorry I'm late. I was hoping to be back before you woke up again."

"You didn't miss much," he replied, accepting the hoodie and jeans gratefully. "Where'd you get these?"

"Stopped by Logan's place on my way back."

Alec frowned at her. "That was risky, Max. The only reason White and his cronies haven't torched it yet is because they're expecting one of us to double back. It's bait."

"I'm not an idiot, Alec. I scouted the place first and took Logan's tunnel in. Plus, I just… I wanted to see the place again."

"Getting sentimental in your old age, huh, Maxie?" he chuckled, pulling the sweatshirt over his head.

Max looked away. "Whatever. Finish up in here. We need to talk. Meet me in Sam's office when you're ready."

He rolled his eyes at her authoritative tone. "Whatever you say, boss. I'll be out in a minute."

Fifty-eight seconds later, he strode- fully clothed and wet hair tousled- out of the bathroom and down the hall to Sam's office. "Alright, let's hear it. What did you…?" He froze in the doorway, his voice trailing off as the air caught in his lungs.

Sitting on the other side of the room across from Max was a face he recognized all too well. "What the hell is she doing here?" he demanded, looking directly at Max for an explanation.

"Great to see you again too, Alec," huffed Mia with a pout. Sure, last time they had been in the same room, Alec had gotten his ass handed to him while playing Monti Cora under Mia's mind controlling influence, but she didn't think it was enough to warrant that kind of negative welcome.

Alec gritted his teeth. This wasn't a conversation he wanted to share with Lydecker or Logan, both of whom were staring at him and looking uncomfortable.

"Max, can I see you in the hall, please?"

Without waiting for a response, he backed out of the doorway. It wasn't long before she appeared at his side and he rounded on her.

"This was your big plan?! You realize she was the one who screwed with my head in the first place, right? What makes you think I want her messin' around up there again?"

"Oh, I dunno, Alec… Maybe the fact that we have no other options here?" she hissed back. "I don't like it either, but she's the best chance we've got and she owes us."

"You think?!" he practically shouted, no longer caring if all of Seattle heard him at this point. "She could've put me back on White's radar that night without the slightest concern for the consequences, and all to save that fruitcake boyfriend of hers. She manipulated all of us, Max!"

"Hey! Calm down!" Max lowered her voice, acknowledging the fact that everyone else could hear their conversation pretty clearly. "I know what she did, but I also know she did it for the right reasons. Unless you're considering a lobotomy or something, this is the only noninvasive cure I could come up with."

"Noninvasive my ass. I don't want her rooting around in my mind, Max. Especially not after all this recent crap. It's none of her business."

"I'm not here to violate your privacy, Alec," Mia stated calmly from the doorway, making Alec jump and whirl around to face her. "I just wanna help. After what you guys did for me and Dougie, it's the least I can do."

Alec sighed, running a hand agitatedly through his damp hair, making it stick up in all directions. "We're not talkin' simple mind games here. This is psychic suppression. How do we know it's even gonna work?"

"Because it worked once before," Lydecker declared, joining Mia in the doorway. "It worked on your twin, Ben."

Alec felt as though the walls were closing in on him. The vertigo effect was disorienting, making his stomach clench and his throat tighten. He stumbled sideways a half step, coming to rest up against the wall and leaning heavily on it. "What?"

The colonel sighed. "493 started getting the visions a few weeks before the '09 escape."

"Bullshit," Max growled. "He would've said something."

"He did. We didn't realize what was happening back then. He kept blabbering about this Blue Lady who was watching over you kids from above."

"Those were just stories. He made it up as he went."

"That's what we thought at first too. But he described her in such detail that he had me wondering. We kept an eye on him, and when he climbed up to the roof after lights out with a handful of bloody teeth from the rest of you kids, we knew we had to act."

"So you put him through psy-ops too," Alec surmised, starting to feel nauseous.

Lydecker nodded. "We didn't have a choice. He was putting the whole program at risk. After a few hours of testing, we were able to pinpoint the area of the brain that was responsible for his 'episodes' and we were able to make the Blue Lady go away. The very next night, you kids broke out."

"He thought she abandoned him," Max spat, torn between shock and fury. "He spent the next ten years trying to find her."

"We spent a few years trying to find her as well, once we realized who she really was."

"What are you talkin' about?"

"He had seen her image in his head, Max, long before he got a hold of that photo of the Virgin Mary. He thought it was a sign. But what he was really seeing was a vision of your escape. He was seeing…"

Max gasped, the puzzle pieces finally fitting together. "Hannah Sukova. The woman who gave me a ride and took me in when I was nine."

"We had no idea, Max. We thought he was a failed experiment. At the time, we hadn't found the files on Sandeman's psychic connection studies so we attempted to fix what we saw as being broken. Since we didn't know what we were dealing with, the tests most likely did more harm than good."

"You just assumed he was nuts and then figured it ran in the family, is that it?" Alec snarled.

"We did the best we could with what we had at the time. We sent you through every psy-ops test we could think of, trying to get answers and to be sure his psychosis wasn't hereditary but all your results came back normal. Of course, only recently did we figure out it was because you hadn't been exposed to Max at that age and the connection hadn't been triggered yet."

"So… What you're sayin' is that now that it has been triggered, I could end up like my twin?"

If Alec hadn't been leaning so heavily against the wall, he would've ended up on the floor. His legs were shaking terribly beneath his weight and all the blood drained from his face, making the room spin faster around him.

"It's possible, yes."

"No, Alec," Max stated defiantly, glaring at Lydecker. "It's not gonna happen. You're not Ben."

"You don't know that. One too many visions and I could just snap like he did and…"

"He didn't just snap, Alec. He had a lot of deep-seated issues, ever since we were kids. He let his fear control him, and no one was there to bring him back from the edge when he needed it. I won't make the same mistake twice. I promise."

Alec scoffed. "Let's be practical here, Max. You can't watch over me twenty-four/seven for the rest of my life."

"Maybe not, but if Mia succeeds, I won't need to."

"Psychic coercion is not an exact science, Max. What if she just makes things worse?"

"Glass half empty much? You've just gotta have some faith, Alec."

He let out an incredulous laugh, bordering on hysteria. "In case you've forgotten, Maxie, faith is what got Ben killed."

"Alec, please. It's the only choice we've got."

Though he was still horribly pale, he managed to push himself off the wall and began pacing back and forth across the short length of the corridor. He just needed a minute to think

"It doesn't really matter what I say, does it," he pressed, directing his question at Mia. "You could just change my mind or do it anyway and then make me forget."

"This isn't Manticore anymore, Alec," she responded. "I'm not taking orders this time, and I'm not gonna force you into doing something you don't wanna do. Like I said before, I'm here to help, but only if you want it."

Lydecker butted in once more, seeing that the young transgenic's resolve was starting to waver. "Look, son, Mia assisted in putting the mental barrier up for Ben. She knows what she's doing. She, uh… She's already done it to you once before as well."

Alec paused in his pacing, staring daggers at the older man. "Come again?"

"It was more of a preventative measure than anything. We knew which area of Ben's brain was afflicted so we had Mia cordon it off as it were, just to be safe that you didn't suffer the same fate as 493. For all we know, it might be the only reason you didn't become an amateur dentist like your brother."

"I'm guessing this wall of yours wasn't meant to withstand level ten torture, was it?"

"Not particularly, no. I believe Renfro's plan was to chip away at it and allow your mind to adjust with time. But obviously, that's not how things went down. White may have blown the shit out of the makeshift wall with his C4 laser, but I feel confident that Mia can repair the damage, if not build up a whole new barrier from scratch."

"And what's in this for you?" he asked his old colonel, needing to know all the rules before he played the game.

"I know you see me as the bad guy here, but you're still one of my kids. I don't want to see you die needlessly if there's any way of preventing it."

"Uh huh… And if you happen to call in a favor somewhere down the line in return, so be it, right?"

"One day at a time, son. Let's get you better, then worry about what comes next."

"Easy for you to say," he grumbled back petulantly.

"I can do this, Alec," Mia piped in. "Let me help you."

Alec glanced over at Max who nodded at him encouragingly, then surrendered. "Fine. What do I have to do?"

"Just relax and let me in when it's time," Mia responded, trying to sound as confident as possible. "The rest is up to me." She held out a hand to him. "Come on, Sweetie. Let's get you comfortable."

After a moment of reluctant hesitation, Alec slowly reached out and took Mia's hand. She guided him back into Sam's office, followed closely by Max and Lydecker, then eased him onto the small couch by the back wall and instructed him to lie down.

His heart was pounding in his chest and his muscles were tense. This whole situation was bringing back horrible memories of his childhood that he would rather have forgotten. At least he wasn't strapped down this time though. Thank God for small favors…

Mia rested a hand over his chest and shook her head at him sadly. "You need to calm down, Hunny. If you fight me, you'll get the mother of all headaches."

Remembering the pain he felt when Max had forcibly entered his mind earlier, Alec decided he'd rather not experience it again if he could help it. He tried to force himself to relax, taking deeper breaths, in through the nose and out through pursed lips.

"That's it… In and out, nice and easy. I've got you," Mia cooed. His left hand was lying limply on his stomach and Mia clasped it, allowing him the option of squeezing back if it helped steady him.

His eyes kept darting around the room to all the fascinated onlookers. This couldn't possibly be more embarrassing.

Mia didn't have to be a psychic to know what was running through his mind at that moment. She glanced over her shoulder.

"Peepshow's over, folks. Everyone out. We've got work to do."

Logan and Sam were the first two out the door, followed closely by a reluctant Max. Alec stopped her before she turned the corner though.

"Max, wait. I want you to stay. You know, just in case things go sideways for whatever reason."

"You've got it, Alec." She smiled at him, looking relieved, then turned to Lydecker who had yet to move a muscle. "You, on the other hand, have overstayed your welcome. We've got him from here. You can go crawl back under whatever rock you came out of before all this started."

Lydecker shook his head and immediately began to protest. "Now is not the time for…"

"Get out," Alec barked, sitting back up and pointing towards the door. "I'm not gonna concede to this until I know you're far enough away that you can't meddle with the outcome."

The older man seemed to be warring with himself, but eventually gave in. "If that's the way you want it, I'll go. But you'll see me again, 494. Make no mistake." He turned to leave but paused when he reached Max's side. "Get him back on his feet. You two will need each other."

And with that, he left.

Bradbury took a step towards Alec. "I'd like to stay too, if I could."

Alec considered for a moment, then nodded, settling back down on the couch and laying his head on the armrest. "Let's get this over with."

TBC

Anyone still reading out there? Thanks as always for your reviews and support!