The man was intolerably frustrating! Even though she'd already told him she and Alec were together, he still came around, eying her like a creepy little stalker, waiting for probably what he assumed to be their eventual breakup so he could swoop back in and 'save the day.'

He had seen Alec and Max hugging outside her building, or maybe he thought he saw more, and she had been wearing different clothes than she'd been wearing earlier that day, but he would have no way of knowing the circumstances surrounding any of it. Nor did he have any right to.

And now, he was coming around almost every day, using his press pass to get in and out of Terminal City, and watching them work. Sure, the man had resources and Max didn't want TC to suffer because of her injured relationship with him, but wasn't enough enough? How long would she be expected to prance around with Alec or walk on egg shells on the mere possibility he was nearby, lurking just out of sight, judging her?

Something needed to change before Max accidentally killed Logan. She couldn't risk him being around so frequently – it was only going to make it harder. And she had enough problems trying to run TC as it was.

Which ultimately, is what brought her to his door.


It was Sunday night, so he'd probably recently finished sparring at the training bay and was most likely just sitting down for a couple fingers of Scotch.

Max stuffed her gloves into her jacket pocket and knocked on his door.

She heard an interior door open and some footsteps head toward the front door. The lock clicked, and Max couldn't remember a time he'd been home and locked the door.

And when he opened the door, he didn't seem surprised at all to see Max, nor did he seem at all embarrassed to have a guest so soon after his shower, judging by his complete heir of comfort in wearing just his blue bath towel.

"Oh, hey Max. Come on in," he offered, heading back toward his bedroom.

It wasn't the first time she'd seen him shirtless, but it was the first time the sight of him had made her swallow hard. Maybe it had to do with the reason she'd come knocking on his door. It certainly didn't make what she had to ask him any easier. She followed him and let the door swing shut. "Hey, you got a minute?"

She paused in his living room as he softly padded to his bedroom. He swung the door lightly but not enough to close it. "Sure, what's up?"

Through the sliver of the open door, she saw him cross in front of his bed, his lower half now covered by jeans. He pulled a tee shirt over his back and turned to her, walking out of his room.

"Um, I hate to ask you this, but I need a favor."

Alec left his bedroom door open and moved toward the couch with a pair of socks in hand. He sat down, leaving his back to her. "I have my own job tonight, Max, I can't help you with a Logan mission," he assumed, slipping on one of his socks. "Besides, I'm kinda running late already."

Max stepped toward the couch. "No, it's not about that."

Not about Logan? he wondered. He slipped his other sock on and stood, turning to face her. "What can I do for you, Max?"

Max bit her lip nervously. His determination for this job tonight made him seem unusually detached. And again, she found herself wondering if what she needed to talk to him about tonight was affecting how she saw everything – because his detachedness was making him strangely sexy.

Alec, running out of patience, took a deep breath and walked past her. He picked up his boots and walked back to the couch to lace up. "I don't have all night, Max."

She wished he'd loosen up for a second so they could talk. She wished he'd somehow already known what she was going to ask so he could make an innuendo or a flirtation to lighten the tension. She wished he'd call her Maxie.

He laced quickly and had moved to his second boot when he repeated, "Is there something I can do for you?"

She was going to lose her window if she didn't ask him. Probably even her nerve. "More to the point, Alec, to me," she said, staring at the back of his head.

"Huh?" What was she asking? "You want me to do something to you?" Images of the things she most certainly could not have meant flashed through his head. He finished his laces and stood, turning to face her again, and with a newfound determination, watched her eyes for the legend of this weird map.

Max nodded, almost shamefully. She didn't want to resort to this, but it was the only way she could think to keep Logan safe.

An angry green fire burned in his eyes. "Is this some kind of joke?"

Max's mouth fell open in surprise.

"Trying to make Logan crazy or something?"

She stepped forward in protest. "No, it's just that – he doesn't believe us, Alec."

Finally, Alec paused. "What? About the 'relationship' thing?"

She nodded. "He keeps hanging around. I think because he thinks we'll eventually tell him the truth."

"It is the truth."

"I know, but he doesn't."

"Not my problem," he said.

She wondered if he was going to make her beg. She wouldn't put it past him. And she was willing to do pretty much anything to persuade him to help. Logan's life was at stake the longer they played this game. "Please, Alec."

He eyed the sink and moved past her toward it. "Max, I-"

"Please," she interrupted, grabbing his arm and trying to get him to face her, which he did. Her eyes seemed to plead with him. "Please," she asked. "We can't have him hanging around all the time. I'm a danger to him."

Alec stared past her. "Damn it, Max!"

"It's not enough!" she said.

He huffed. "What do you want me to do?"

Max let go of his arm. "It doesn't sting," she said, thinking of Logan's appreciative glaces when the three of them are in the same room. He didn't even bother to try to hide it, despite the fact that Max was now Alec's girl. "We have to make him believe it."

"So you want more touching," Alec surmised. "The thing he can't do without latex. The pleasure he can't have without dying."

And it stung Max. "Yes." She swallowed hard, again. Cruel just wasn't her forte. "It has to look natural," she started. "Like we've done it before. Like we're comfortable touching each other."

He kept his stare in the distance, presumably, weighing the pros and cons of doing what she asked. He looked to the clock and seemed noticeably deflated at the time on its face.

Max noticed his not so furtive maneuver. "I'll help you with whatever jobs you have lined up," she offered. Maybe this would be a good enough bargaining chip.

After a moment, he agreed. "Okay, but now I'm too late for tonight. Come on over tomorrow and we can climb the walls of this rich guy's house in Sector Four. He has these awesome… Nevermind."

Max frowned, wondering if what she had just done was some form of selling herself. But it had to be done, right? For Logan's sake? For her own?

Alec relaxed a bit. "So what's with Logan? Just not taking the hint?"

Max imagined he was tickled by the whole thing. Like she somehow deserved this. "I think he thinks there's no hint to take."

Alec stepped closer to her and raised his hand to let his fingertips graze the side of her face. She watched him with barely reigned wild eyes.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm touching you." He stepped closer and brought his other hand up to her neck, hooking his fingers around the back of it and lightly touching her barcode. The whole act sent a shiver through her body, a shiver she hoped he hadn't felt. She stepped backwards.

"Right now?"

"Well, how else are we gonna get used to each other's touch?"

"I didn't know we were starting," she stalled. With the temperature of the room increasing, and the thoughts flowing through her mind of all the clothes he'd just put on and the scent of clean skin, and the potential dangers of being with a transgenic and the history of how they'd met all running through her mind, she felt like some of her synapses were waking up, and some of them were misfiring. She wasn't supposed to react to him physically, right? She was in control of who she reacted that way with, right?

"Well, we are." He reached toward her again, resting a warm hand at her neck and sweeping her hair over her bare shoulder.

The whole thing just felt awkward. She had asked him to do this, but something about just didn't feel natural. Max struggled to maintain control. "I guess I kinda thought we'd hold hands or something tomorrow. I don't know, maybe this whole thing is crazy." Though her body was responding to him, her brain wouldn't let her without a fight. She had lost her nerve.

Alec watched her reaction with serious scrutiny. "Really, Max? It's crazy? It's crazy that we should be touching?"

Max, terrified of what she might do, of how it all might feel, panicked. "Can we just do this tomorrow?" she asked.

And that was enough for Alec to switch off. He dropped his arms. "More touching, then. No problem. See you tomorrow," he finished, looking toward the door.

The next morning at Command, Logan showed up early as usual, and seemed to be waiting for Max to be alone. She tried to make sure that didn't happen by surrounding herself with other people and not delegating anything until Alec arrived, and Jesus, could the man take any longer? We didn't have that late a night. And now here Logan was, again, trying to get a word here or a word there. 'Hey.' 'How are you?' 'Can you stop by-'

After an hour, she gave up hope on Alec and silently cursed him for not coming through when she needed him. The tall transgenic was nowhere in sight, and she couldn't stall anymore – people needed to do their supply runs and their jobs around Command.

As she sent Luke to the training bay in Alec's absence, she turned back toward the lobby area to discover she was alone. No Logan in sight. He left, she realized, and she started for her office. At her open door, she heard another door slam open loudly at the building's entrance.

Before she knew exactly what was happening, Alec had nearly run to her. She stepped backwards into her office as he wrapped his arm around her torso, pressing himself against her and leaning down toward her face with a hungry stare.

He swung the door shut behind them with his free hand, then slid it along her jaw, back to her neck, cradled her head, and pulled her into a deep kiss. He walked her backward until her shoulders hit the wall.

She growled involuntarily, the animal inside scratching to take over. She wrapped her fingers around his bicep as their tongues played together, pants and groans escaping of their own free will.

If any coherent thought considered creeping up into Max's brain, it was violently shoved out the moment Alec's hand slipped down her back, circled around her front, and crept hungrily up to her breast. She let out an aching whimper, a begging whimper that made Alec rip his lips away from hers, an, at first, confused look on his face, a look which morphed immediately into a devilish grin as he wrapped his fingers around the neck of her top and the cup of her bra and pulled down. For a few seconds, they breathed heavily against each other.

For a split second, Max berated herself for cutting off last night's activities. Those thoughts were pushed down within the moment. He began a wet trail of kisses from her ear to her collarbone. Max tilted her head up to the ceiling, her eyes rolling back with the pleasure.

Then, agonizingly, finally, his lips enveloped her nipple and she moaned loudly, getting dangerously close to ripping the rest of her clothes off and demanding he take her right there, with all of TC's paperwork as their bedding.

"Max," came someone's voice.

But the person who spoke was not Alec, and that fact made them split apart.

In the corner of Max's office stood a visibly upset Logan Cale. It seemed like he was watching scrambled porn, the way his head tilted to one side and his brows knit together in confusion.

"Jesus, Logan," Alec began, looking over his shoulder. "Could give a guy some privacy." He stayed facing Max, arms partially outstretched and flexed. He used his own body to block her so she could recover without Logan seeing.

Her eyes grew wide as she pulled her bra and shirt back up into place. She was flush with a mixture of desire and embarrassment. She watched Alec's chest heave with a couple of deep breaths, then looked over to Logan and crossed her arms.

"Sorry," Logan said, still shocked. His latexed hand gripped the knob and he left, slamming the door behind him.

Alec finally looked back to Max.

"Wow," she said.

He kept a straight face. "That about do it?"

The room was still sexually charged, and Max found it difficult to get a full breath in. "Yeah," she said, but still didn't fully comprehend what had just happened.

His part of their arrangement had been completed, and his breathing seemed to be returning to stasis. "Is that what you had in mind?"

No, but it will be from now on, Max thought, as her memory flooded with the sensations of his mouth and tongue on her skin. Then it dawned on her. "You knew he was already in here?"

He smiled and pressed his lips together.

Mole knocked on and swung open Max's door. "Max, need you to settle an argument on rations and munitions." Even his lizard sense of smell couldn't block their mixed pheromones. He sniffed at the air and looked to Alec first like he had interrupted something, then like he was proud, as if Alec was his protégé.

"Of course," she said, putting herself back together and heading toward the door. At the last second, she turned back. "You coming?"

Alec smirked and avoided eye contact. "Yeah, just a minute."

Max reported to Alec's that night to help with his mission, as promised. When he opened the door, though, he looked semi-crazed, was shirtless and sweaty, and his knuckles and wrists were wrapped up in tape.

Max's brows twisted up. "Everything okay?"

He turned and walked toward his bedroom. "Yeah. What's up?"

Max closed the door and laid her jacket on his kitchen counter. She took a few steps toward his bedroom, unsure if she was supposed to wait outside it or follow him in. "Got that mission tonight, right?"

She heard some light footwork and then the sound of his taped fist hitting something. Her curiosity overtook her and she passed the threshold into his bedroom. It smelled so masculine and heady, and when she turned, she saw he had hung a punching bag in the bay window area. He was boxing, dancing around the bag counterclockwise, switching between his left and right jabs. "No, I couldn't line up the buyer, so I'll have to reschedule," he said, bobbing and weaving a couple of times.

His breaths increased, and for the few seconds his back was to her, all Max could do was watch the sweat roll down him. She wasn't ready to leave yet. Something had been nagging at her all day, and she couldn't, wouldn't, ask him in front of everyone.

"Something else?" he asked, using his fingertips to still the swaying sack. He looked to her again, his breathy intakes decreasing.

Max took a calculated breath, unsure if she really wanted to know the answer to his question – because how would she feel if it was true?

Alec was losing his patience. He huffed and shut his eyes. "What's wrong?" he asked.

When he leveled his gaze on her, she was blushing. Or more likely, she's really pissed off, he thought. "What did I do?"

"Alec, did you… did I make you… today, when we were in my office…" she trailed uneasily.

Alec lifted an eyebrow and let his arms fall from the bag. He detected her unmistakably nervous arousal. It was the same as earlier, in her office. Which meant she could only be asking about one thing. "Yeah, Max."

She took a frustrated breath and wished he'd stop interrupting her. "Did you have-"

"I already answered you. Yes." He waited for her response with bated breath.

It seemed like her expression became heavy with some sort of math equation as her eyes darted around the room – to anywhere but his. "But that means you-"

"You could make a comatose man hard," he said, enjoying the way she panicked with the information.

Max blushed. This time, he was certain she was blushing. But why? He couldn't have been the first man to compliment her. What, did she think men needed a deep emotional connection in order to get an erection? On top of that, did she thinking he wouldn't get one from everything they'd done, everything they didn't do, in her stuffy little office?

She seemed truly flustered. "Was it just part of the show for Logan?"

It most certainly had zero to do with Logan. Alec peeled the tape from his left hand. What was this? Was she disgusted by it all?

"Because it's really okay. I'm not offended if you were thinking about someone else so it was more believable for Logan."

Alec stepped toward her and flung the used tape to his bed, but she kept going, staring off into the distance, her pupils growing fractionally. "I know I'm not easy to get along with and I can really be a bitch sometimes, but I really appreciate what you did for me. For Logan."

Alec took another calm step toward her. "Max," he said in a gentle tone.

Max froze in place. "I think he bought it," she said. "It was a good show." And yet, he noticed, her features were not indicative of gratitude. They seemed to suggest some kind of sorrow, as if she was somehow hurt by her own acceptance that it was only for show.

Alec took the last two steps toward her, so that there was barely a foot of space left between them, and before she could take an instinctual step back, he grabbed her wrist. She attempted to pull her wrist back, but he kept it between them. She stopped resisting and let him move her hand to his chest.

He pulled her palm against his sweaty muscles and began pushing it downward. She watched his hand, leading hers, focused on how his perspiration excited her. Max's lips parted in anticipation. She was already losing control just smearing his sweat downward. Partway down, he turned her palm the other direction and slid it over his jeans. He held her hand over himself with gentle pressure, and stared down to her now-questioning eyes.

He was hard right now. Really hard. Max almost went weak in the knees and quickly removed her hand. "So when Mole came in and you said you'd be a minute…" she trailed.

"I needed a teleport to a cold shower," he finished.

Max was somehow in disbelief. "Alec, you were in my office for over an hour."

"I know." Famous charming grin. Famous charming grin plus twinkly-eyes, which equaled Max remembering every inch of skin that'd met his fingertips and lips and tongue.

"So that-" she started, trying to find the words.

He answered her with a very serious stare. "Max, I had no idea he was in the room."

This piece of information seemed to resolve the debate in her mind. She turned and walked out of his room.

Idiot, Alec chided. He thought about following her, but she'd probably never speak to him again.

He stepped to the bedroom doorway, expecting to see her slam the door on her way out of his life. Instead, his mouth went dry as she locked his front door.