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.

Mia stood, a bit unsteadily, then gave Max a tired smile and gripped her shoulder gently in comfort. "He's going to be okay."

Max nodded back with a small smile of her own, then watched Mia head out of the room in search for a quiet place to crash for a few hours. Bradbury stayed a bit longer to make sure there weren't any latent side effects to worry about, then headed towards the waiting room to update the others on Alec's status.

Finally, the two transgenics were alone.

For so long, she had kept him at arm's length, afraid to risk opening her heart and letting someone else in. Becoming attached to anyone had led her to nothing but pain. Eva, Jace, Ben, Tinga, Brin, Hannah… She had loved them all, and lost them all in one way or another.

And because of that, she had relegated Alec to being a pain in the ass obstacle that always got in her way. She had never stopped to really look at him; to consider how truly beautiful the boy was, both inside and out.

Staring down at the man curled in her arms, Max saw Alec for the first time. Really saw him. His loyalty, his vulnerability hidden behind his devil-may-care bravado, his witty retorts that would make her laugh, his rare but secretly cherished hugs that gave her strength… And even though he pretended to be selfish to protect his ego, he was the most altruistic person she had ever met.

All this time he had been right in front of her, and she had been blind. And now? Now their connection was gone.

He shifted slightly in Max's arms, a grimace crossing his face. She began rubbing gentle circles over his chest, the fabric of his sweatshirt warm and soft beneath her hand. And when a weak groan of discomfort slipped past his lips, she resumed her soothing humming, continuing to do so even after he settled back down.

At first, she couldn't place the song. It was just a tune that somehow got stuck in her head. But looking down at Alec's pale and boyish face, the sudden realization was enough to make her throat constrict, drowning the tune in the depths of her soul.

Ben used to hum that song to their unit, back before the '09 escape. He had a beautiful voice, and the soft melody had the ability to chase away even the darkest of nightmares.

Almost every night, at least one of the children would jolt awake with a silent scream on their lips. Ben was always a light sleeper and he would easily pick up on the rustle of cheap blankets or a terrified gasp from across the room and start humming without saying a word. He wouldn't stop till the panting breaths evened back out again.

Max never slept much anyway. She refused to let the nightmares win. But Ben's soothing song helped lull her into a peaceful sense of security she rarely felt at that horrible institution. Zack may have been their leader, but Ben was their nurturer.

She missed that. God, how she missed that. And when Ben's neck snapped within her hand, that feeling of tranquility died with him. She hadn't realized it at the time, but she and Ben had been connected, at least to some extent, and losing him meant losing part of herself as well. All that was left was fear, guilt, and sorrow.

That's how Manticore almost broke her. She was so close to giving up and just letting them win. But then she met Alec, and that small spark in her stomach was rekindled.

Ben wasn't dead. Not really. Max suddenly understood that he lived on- inside of her, and inside of Alec. She would protect them both this time around, no matter what the cost. Max leaned forward slowly and kissed Alec's temple as he slept.

A purposeful clearing of the throat from the doorway startled her and brought instant color to her cheeks. She glanced up to find Logan leaning against the doorframe.

"Sorry if I scared you. I was just coming to see if you guys needed anything."

Max looked away, suddenly feeling uncomfortable around the older man. "We're good, thanks."

"Good. I uh… I'm gonna take off then." He turned to leave and a jolt of panic rushed through Max's chest. If she let him walk away now, she may never see him again.

"Logan, wait! This isn't what you… I mean, we're just…"

He forced a small, placating smile onto his face. "I get it, Max. You don't have to explain."

"I'm not sure I could if I tried." She started tracing random shapes lightly across Alec's chest just to have something to do with her hands.

Logan watched the hypnotic movements to avoid looking at Max's face. "It's simple, really. He needs you right now, and you need him. To be honest, I kind of saw this coming weeks ago. I guess I was just hoping you wouldn't realize it too."

Max's hand stopped, then bunched the fabric into her fist, using it as an anchor and drawing enough strength from it to look Logan in the eyes. "For whatever it's worth, I'm sorry, Logan."

He shrugged it off. "Nothing to apologize for. That connection you guys share? It's not just in your genetics, Max. You get that, right?"

"Yeah, I do." There was no sense in lying about it at this point.

She could've blamed fate for it had she believed in such a thing, or even chalked it up to a sense of kinship they shared, but regardless of the reasoning, she still felt a physical need to be around Alec even without the mental connection linking them together.

"Maybe you should make sure he knows that too, especially after everything he's been through lately."

"I will, when the idiot's coherent enough to remember." She let out a breathy laugh to try and keep the atmosphere light as long as possible. "So where are you gonna go?"

"Lydecker set up a safe house a few sectors over. Strangely enough, the Colonel says he actually wants to help get Eyes Only back up and running. Apparently, having 'eyes and ears on the enemy' is a 'good strategic move.' Who knew?"

This time, Max let out a genuine laugh. "He might be a little behind the eight ball, but it's nice to know whose side he's really on these days. Just, remember to take any advice he gives you with a grain of salt, considering his track record and all."

"I've learned my lesson, believe me. I'll take precautions. And I'll also leave a number for a burner phone with him in case you guys need anything." He takes a second to memorize Max's face before conceding defeat. "Take care of yourself, Max."

"You too."

And with a small wave of his hand, he was gone.

DA-DA-DA

Four hours later, an indiscernible grumble drew Max out of her deep thoughts. She glanced down to find beautiful green eyes squinting blearily up at her. "M-Max?"

The relief that hit her was strong enough to combat the sense of loss she had felt ever since Logan had left the doorway. Just hearing his voice again solidified her conviction that everything was going to be okay. She'd make sure of it.

"Mornin', Sunshine. How do you feel?"

Alec massaged his burning eyes with a thumb and index finger. "Like my brain was torn to shreds then stitched back up again like Frankenstein's monster. Other than that, I'm great. You?"

She smiled. "Never better."

He eased himself to a sitting position with a groan and a little help from Max. "So? Did it work?"

"You tell me. Does it feel any different?"

Alec took a moment to consider. "Huh. It sorta feels… I dunno, quieter I suppose. Just me, myself, and I up there now."

"Which was the whole point, right? I mean, that's what we wanted?"

He fidgeted with his hands in his lap. "Yeah… Right."

Max frowned. "That wasn't very convincing. You okay?"

"Course. I guess it'll just take some time to get used to the emptiness again." He shook himself mentally and glanced up at Max. "But hey, no more agonizing visions, right? I can get on board with that."

Max wrapped an arm across his shoulders with a smirk, jostling him slightly. "Thought you might come around."

He leaned slightly into the hug before easing away again, far enough to look Max in the eye. His whole demeanor changed, and she knew things were about to get very serious. She didn't think she could handle that at this point. Her nerves were already dangerously frayed.

Nevertheless, Alec plunged forward into the choppy waters.

"Thank you, Max. I know how badly I screwed this one up, and like always, you put yourself through Hell to save my ass. I owe you a lot more than one this time around."

Max retracted her arm as if she'd been burned, suddenly becoming somber as her guilt finally caught up with her. "You don't owe me anything, Alec. You don't know the whole story."

"I know enough. If it weren't for you, Renfro would've… She would've gotten what she wanted. I don't think I could've lived with that."

Max stood and put some distance between herself and Alec, trying to escape the voices in her head screaming at her to come clean. "Alec, there's something I have to tell you."

He shook his head. "Max, I…"

"Just… Just listen for a sec, okay?"

Alec sighed, then nodded.

"When I brought you out of our connection to stop Renfro, I had no idea how far along she had gotten or what stopping her would do to you. When you snapped her neck, it sent you into convulsions. Bradbury tried to stop them with medications, but it became pretty clear there was only one way to save your life. We had to get the drugs out of your system. I… I didn't have a choice, Alec."

Max was close to tears again. She could only imagine how betrayed he must be feeling right now, to have convinced him he'd be strong enough to survive without any outside help only to pull the rug out from under him and have Max personally take over his abuse.

Alec stood slowly, seeming to realize how skittish Max was at the moment. He took a careful step towards her with his hands out to try and calm her. She turned away from him, burying her face in her hands. She couldn't break now. Alec would feel obligated to comfort her, and she didn't want that. It wouldn't be fair to him.

She'd keep her tears to herself until she told the whole story, then fall apart when Alec stormed out and left her to her misery.

"If I hadn't finished what she had started, you would've died then and there… on that cold, hard table. After everything you had done to survive, I couldn't let you go out like that."

Alec didn't say a word and Max felt the first tear break through her defenses and slide down her cheek.

"It was selfish of me, Alec. I couldn't let you go. I couldn't lose another member of my family, especially if there was something I could do to stop it. Maybe the right thing would've been to let you go with your dignity in tact, but I was weak, Alec. I'm so sorry for betraying you like that."

She heard footsteps moving towards the door followed by the sound of it being closed and what was left of her ragged heart shattered within her chest. He knew the truth now, and he left her behind. A sob slipped past her lips when she couldn't contain the pain any longer. "Please don't leave me," she whispered out in a nearly silent plea to the heavens, hoping it would somehow make it to Alec's ears.

A gentle hand suddenly gripped her shoulder and she held her breath.

"It's okay, Maxie." A warm breath ghosted out over her ear with those gentle words, forcing a shiver to race down her spine. "I'm not goin' anywhere," he continued, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear and letting his hand trail down the soft expanse of her neck.

"You should hate me for what I've done," she stated brokenly.

He turned her back around slowly and she avoided eye contact at all costs. Just because he seemed to be giving her a free pass, it didn't mean she was willing to forgive herself as easily.

"Max, listen. I was conscious for some of it, and yeah, maybe I was a little pissed at the time, not to mention mortified, but it was only cause I wasn't thinkin' straight. I get it, Max, and I'm not mad. Like I said, you saved my life."

He ran his thumbs soothingly across her cheekbones, wiping away the tears that had started to flow freely. She locked her gaze on his perfect lips, needing to see the words spill from them directly so she knew his forgiveness wasn't a contrivance of her imagination.

"It wasn't exactly how I envisioned our first time, but if anyone here had to do it, I'm thankful it was you."

Her own lips trembled in response and she lunged forward into his strong arms, feeling a sense of redemption when his locked tightly around her in response- one hand on her lower back and the other cradling her head to his chest.

"I'm sorry you were put in that position," he said softly, rocking her gently to help ease her shaking. "I know that's not how you wanted things to go down."

Max pulled back slightly, finally looking up into his sparkling eyes incredulously. "You're sorry?! I basically molested you, Alec! How could you possibly forg…?"

"I do, Max. You hear me? I do forgive you. I'm happy to be alive, and grateful as hell that you didn't give up on me or leave me to be Renfro's bitch for the rest of my life. I owe you everything, Maxie."

His thumb stroked gently over her cheek again.

"Breaking my ribs on the other hand? Totally unjustifiable. You're so going to pay for that." He winked at her, and she punched him playfully on the arm with a huff of laughter.

"Shut up, you ass."

He smirked. "Make me."

Never one to pass up a dare, she grabbed the nape of his neck and pulled him down, pressing her lips fiercely against his. After getting over his moment of shock, he surrendered completely, deepening the kiss once he was sure Max wouldn't pull away.

Her heart stuttered in her chest and a warmth settled in the pit of her stomach. Alec groaned softly- this time in pleasure rather than pain- clearly feeling the same intensity. A surge of electricity passed between the two of them, breaking them apart with simultaneous gasps.

Alec stumbled two feet sideways with one arm wrapped lightly around his stomach, coming to rest against the wall as his knees threatened to give out on him. He swallowed hard, panting at Max through bright red, puffy lips. "Did you feel that?"

She nodded, breathing just as heavily and unable to form words. Instead, she focused on that warm glow deep inside, letting the pressure build till it felt like she was going to explode.

When she reached out and touched Alec's shoulder, he did collapse onto his knees with a grunt and Max followed him down, using her own body to support his as the current intensified. He stared at her, wide-eyed, as he understood what was happening.

"Did we just…?"

"Break down that wall again? Yeah, I think we did." Max bit her lip nervously, only now giving thought to the consequences. "Hang tight. I'll go get Mia."

Alec grabbed her wrist as she started to stand. "No! Wait, Maxie. I'm okay. This feels…. It feels right. Like this is the way it was supposed to be the whole time."

Max smiled in relief. "Maybe it was."

The door suddenly burst open and a giant puppy lunged into the room with a big, goofy smile on his face. Both transgenics practically leapt out of their skins, Alec falling backwards onto his ass against the wall with a hand over his pounding heart. "Jesus…"

Joshua ran forward and pulled them both into a bone-breaking hug. "Alec all better now?"

"Well, I was…" Alec grunted back, wincing at the dull throb in his ribs as they creaked under the big guy's strength.

"Easy, Big Fella," Max chuckled.

"Sorry." Josh eased up a bit with a sheepish grin.

"So this is what it's like havin' kids, huh?" Alec asked Max, grateful the kiss hadn't progressed to anything more intense before the big guy busted in.

A high-pitched giggle from the doorway alerted them to Mia's presence.

"Sorry, guys. He just couldn't wait any longer."

The others slowly crowded around behind her in curiosity and Alec scratched the back of his neck, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the whole situation. All eyes were on him, and he could certainly sympathize with animals in a zoo, being gawked at for entertainment's sake.

"So how are you feeling, Alec? Rested?" Mia questioned, feeling the perks of a few hours down time herself.

"Try confused."

She tilted her head at him in curiosity. "About what, sweetie?"

"We uh… We sort of screwed up your barrier again," Max supplied. "Only this time, we had a very different result."

Mia pursed her lips in thought, then her eyes widened in sudden realization. "Finally! You know, if you two had just made out weeks ago, you could've saved me a lot of time and energy with the repairs!"

Alec frowned up at her, looking more lost than before. "I-I don't understand. Where are the blinding visions? Where are the migraines? Even the pain I felt when I first woke up is gone."

"Those symptoms were a result of opening the connection when your body and mind weren't ready for it. White forced the link with his stupid machine, and that takes a pretty serious toll. But this… This is how Sandeman always planned for things to go. You two really are meant for each other, and this is the best proof you're gonna get."

"Father played match-maker," Joshua said with a big smile. "Max and Alec gettin' busy!"

Everyone in the doorway was smirking at them now and Alec massaged his eyes. "I take back everything I said earlier, Maxie. Please just kill me."

"And let you off that easily? I don't think so," she snickered, nudging him with her elbow.

"Besides," she continued telepathically so only he would hear, "I need you around later to test out what this connection can really do. We've got a lot of lost time to make up for."

She sent him a few images she cooked up in her mind and took a sadistic pleasure in how badly the boy blushed in front of everyone.

DA-DA-DA

EPILOGUE:

After a small celebration in honor of everything they had achieved together over the past few days, the group disbanded and went their separate ways.

Lydecker went back underground but promised to keep in touch, Mia returned home to be with Dougie, and Sam reopened his doors the very next day to resume business now that his exam rooms were vacant again.

Max and Alec returned to Jam Pony, learning to work together for a change, and it wasn't long till the very perceptive OC called them out as being a couple. Normal was disappointed at first, but he cheered up a bit after the third round of shots at Crash, courtesy of Sketchy.

Bradbury decided he wanted nothing to do with Manticore anymore and would instead open a research center of his own. As he drove away to start the next chapter in his life, he shot occasional glances down at the specimen container sitting in the passenger seat.

While he could no longer justify experimenting on living beings simply for the sake of following orders, the scientist in him wouldn't allow him to walk away from a perfectly viable sample to study after it fell so easily into his lap.

Who knew? Maybe gene splicing would be his next big career move…

THE END

A/N: There you have it, folks! This story is officially complete! Hope you've enjoyed the ride, and thank you all for your unwavering support and reviews. Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!