"So what happened?" Max asked into the receiver. Alone in her office, she fingered the edges of the stack of paperwork on her desk.

His voice calmly rumbled on the other end of the line. "Uh, she accused me of having some hussy over who was, and I quote, 'only interested in your body,'" he started, and she could almost hear the self-satisfied smirk.

"You sure it wasn't you who're only interested in some hussy's body?"

At Jam Pony, Alec leaned against the bank of lockers, speaking softly into his cell phone. "Something like that."

"And what did you say?"

"That she interrupted my coitus and I had to sneak the hussy out the fire escape."

Max chuckled. "Any chance she believed it and figured us out?"

"Nah. She thought I was alone. I slammed some vodka right after I let her in. Oh, by the way, I found your panties. Just in time, too. Cindy nearly slipped on them."

"Not like she'd know they were mine anyway," Max argued.

"So how was your interaction with her when she came home?"

Max chewed her lip a moment. "I went straight to TC."

"Never went home?"

Max let the question hang in the silence.

Alec felt a twinge of excitement. "So you're not wearing any panties right now?"

"Commando, as charged," she divulged.

"Good lord, woman. If you wanted to torture me, you're succeeding. Painfully."

Max smiled. "So do you have plans tonight?"

Alec fingered the 'X' on the label on Max's locker. He looked around and saw Original Cindy enter the building. "Dinner at my place?"

Twirling the phone cord around her finger like a teenager from years past, Max stared into the distance, imagining what 'dinner' meant. He'd been hungry last night, but it hadn't been for food. "We both on the menu?"

His mouth fell open at her flirtation, and he felt Original Cindy's presence at his back. "It's a surprise. See you later." He turned to face Original Cindy.

"See who later? That the same lickety-boo from last night?"

Alec chuckled, thinking how OC had no idea just how appropriate the nickname was. "A gentleman never licks and tells," he said, stuffing the phone into his jeans pocket.

"Ain't no gentleman here!"

Alec smiled and breezed past OC toward dispatch.

Max hung up the phone and returned to staring at the two stacks of papers on her desk: one full of requests, and one full of completed requisition forms – items they now had in their possession. They had vans and trucks for supplies and food, and safe passage across some checkpoints and state borders, the new ultrasound machines, and the new arsenal. There was always more work to be done.

Her thoughts drifted back to Alec. What was this thing they had? She could hardly believe it all. Rather than telling her best friend about it, she had opted to go straight to work – without panties, no less – and despite the guilt of laying, she was hard-pressed to find a time she'd felt so excited, so alive. And flirting was coming back to her. Slowly, her mind supplied.

Her thoughts rewound time to the previous night. How that man could use his tongue, his lips, his skin… As she smiled to herself, a knock came at her door.

"Hey Max?" asked Mike, dipping his head a little, even though the door jamb was taller than him. "Got a minute?"

Max's smile faded at Mike's tone. She'd forgotten that she had left him on the dance floor and never came back. She didn't want to have this conversation, but it was bound to happen sooner or later, and though usually she had an unbelievably strong avoidance coping mechanism, she realized she needed to do some kind of damage control for last night. Plus, she had no clue to what conclusions he'd jumped. Of course it was entirely possible that he would merely ask about requisitions or something else TC-related. She nodded. "Sure."

Mike closed the door behind him and shuffled further into the room. He opened his mouth to speak, but Max interrupted, eager to control their conversation.

"About last night…" she trailed, unsure of exactly what she should say.

Mike's eyes drifted to her. "Your friend, Original Cindy. She kinda made it sound like you and Alec…"

Max pursed her lips, terrified of identifying her and Alec's arrangement as any kind of actual relationship, let alone a public one. She panicked, desperately trying to come up with a believable reason she could have bailed on him last night. "I went to finish an argument we were having, and um," she looked away a moment before continuing, "I was just… pissed off. I needed to work out some of my aggression."

The big X4 furrowed his brow and eyed her suspiciously. He didn't believe her. "Original Cindy made it sound like you two are in this infinitesimal battle or something, and that I should steer clear. Is that true?"

He was so matter-of-fact, and it really made her feel bullied, as if she was forced to confirm something of which she wasn't even sure, herself. She chose her words very carefully. "Alec and me, we have a complicated friendship."

Mike visibly relaxed and lowered himself into the chair across from her desk. "So you're not romantically involved?"

Shit. He'd asked her point blank. Before she could form an answer, her desk phone rang. She looked to it as if she were forced to take the call.

"Because if you're not romantically involved, then would you like to-"

"I'm sorry, can we continue this later? I really need to take this call." Max felt bad for lying, but it was her tried and true way of dealing with personal stress. If she could avoid him a little while longer, she could come up with a really good reason that they couldn't date, one that wouldn't hurt his feelings.

"Sure," Mike said. He stood and moved toward her door dejectedly. As he exited her office, she picked up her phone.

"You got Max."

"Hey, it's me."

Great. "What's up, Logan?"

"Did you catch my latest hack?"

Max tried to remember the last hack she saw. It was over a week ago. Usually, she didn't miss them, but then again, she'd been preoccupied lately. "No, sorry, I've been jammed up. What's going on? The good fight?"

Logan chortled. "Yeah. Woof woof, right? Hey, listen, sorry about the other night. I had to go to a thing for the S1W."

Max pictured those burgundy heels. "A formal event kind of thing?"

Logan hesitated. "Yeah. It's complicated," he said, his tone eerily reminiscent of what Max had just said about her friendship with Alec.

"I see," she said. "Anything I can help with?"

"No, it's all taken care of. But thanks."


The line was quiet for a moment.

"Anything else?" Max asked impatiently.

"No… Just… Thanks for your help the other night."

"And Alec's."

He paused again. "Yeah. See you soon."

Sneaking around with Alec was proving to be a difficult undertaking. Hiding her trysts from Original Cindy, and trying to sustain some alone time with the man was increasingly tricky. She hoped that tonight, there would be no interruptions. Original Cindy was supposed to be on a date with Lisa-Beth, a pretty and petite redhead who waitressed over at the Purple Plate, and Max had promised to keep out of the apartment in case they needed some alone time.

Sending Cindy out the door early had given Max time to pick an outfit for the evening. She wanted to wear something appropriate for the occasion, but she wasn't sure what they were doing (he had said it was a surprise, after all). Ultimately, she decided on her favorite pair of black jeans that she felt made her ass look fantastic, and an olive green boatneck sweater. She left her hair down and wore very little makeup, topping her look off with a rosy pink lip gloss.

Standing outside his front door was only increasing her nerves. Even from out in the hallway, it smelled amazing. Something spicy and cheesy and garlicky wafted out into the air, and it made her mouth water. Which begged the question: had he actually made dinner? If that was the case, then was this supposed to be a date? Or would the dinner devolve into something sexual?

She raised her fist and knocked on his door.

Within a few seconds, the door swung open. Before her stood a very sharply dressed Alec. He wore a dark gray dress shirt with the top couple of buttons undone, and black slacks with shiny black shoes and a nice black leather belt. He also wore a soft smile and his eyes twinkled when he saw her. It was as if he were truly happy to see her.

He stepped aside to let her in, and as Max passed him, she walked extra slow, wading through his intoxicating scent. How did he do that?

Behind him and in front of the kitchen island, there was a small table with two place settings, a bottle of wine chilling in a chrome bucket, and a beautiful spread of food. She smiled and arched her brow in surprise. "I didn't know you could cook."

Ushering her to the table and pulling her chair out so she could sit, Alec cleared his throat. "Just need the right ingredients." His response seemed to relate to more than cooking. "Tonight, we're having fiery red pepper and parmesan-crusted chicken, baked potatoes with garlic and herbed butter, sour cream and cheddar, and steamed broccoli."

Her eyes widened. "Wow. I'm impressed. That sounds amazing."

He smiled and sat across from her. He peered across the short distance and remained quiet, as if deciding whether or not to say what was on his mind. "You look amazing."

"Thanks. You clean up pretty well, yourself." Max kept his stare as she unfolded the napkin on her lap.

Alec poured some wine and held up both glasses. Max reached out to take the glass from him and brushed her fingertips on his hand. "Thanks. Are we toasting to something?"

"To a night alone." Max nodded and they clinked glasses, each taking an ample sip and setting down their wine.

They didn't get far in consuming the food when Max set her fork down, smiling. "You know, you're not what I expected." She paused a moment. "I'm glad I was wrong."

Alec smirked. "You sure about that?"

"Well, I didn't expect fiery red pepper parmesan chicken," she said, bringing her napkin up to the tabletop. "And I didn't expect for this to feel like a date."

With a calm, glinting grin, he asked, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

Leaning in toward him, Max pushed her plate forward. "What you did for me last night," she trailed, blushing. "I really appreciate it." The memory of his lips and tongue delving into her incited a roar in her body.

His eyes twinkled again in the light and his mouth hung agape at the look in her eyes when she thanked him. His tongue darted out in a vague echo of the previous night. He remembered the way she'd gone right for his jeans in a haste to get them off. "My pleasure. Truly."

"I really wish we could have continued. Finished what we'd started," she divulged, fingertips sweeping along her collarbone. "Just felt right – is that stupid?"

"Of course not. In fact, if you're up for it," he trailed, a slight twitch in his brows.

Max imagined all of the things he'd told her about heat sex. How instinctual it is, how it wants only the union of bodies and muscles within muscles, skin within skin. The concept of feeling his skin so intimately made her bite down to keep from closing her eyes. She stood up. "We've waited far too long already."

Pulling her toward his already seated form, Alec felt her thighs resting on his as she straddled him. They smiled at one another nervously before Max leaned forward and began a deep, languid kiss, opening her mouth to him as wide as she could manage. He responded in kind, wrapping himself around her and pulling one of the sleeves of her sweater down to expose her shoulder. He lightly bit down on it, causing Max to moan out in surprise and delight, just as the power went out.

Undeterred from the task at hand, Max and Alec continued, she, unbuttoning his shirt and running her hands down his chest, and he, helping her slide off her jeans.

"I love these jeans," he interjected between kisses. "They make your ass look amazing."

As soon as she was divested of those jeans and he caught an eyeful of her rear, he suddenly stopped. "I stand corrected. Your ass is what makes your ass look amazing."

Max chuckled. Leave it to him to talk during a sensual moment.

From there, things escalated quickly. In their shared alacrity, clothes were discarded in various parts of his apartment as they continued their foreplay on the way to his bedroom.

Impatiently, Max backed up onto his bed and gave him her best 'come hither' stare. He quickly followed, and when he positioned himself between her knees and she let her head down onto the pillow, he pushed up into her and moved his hips in a circular motion.

Oh, fuck, he thought, and hoped he hadn't said out loud. She was much tighter than he thought she'd be, and within moments, was already kneading the hell out of his ass, pulling him closer and deeper.

It was evident by her ministrations – the kneading his ass and moving her hips up and down against his slow thrusts – that she wanted him to thrust harder, and faster. It was also evident by her mouth, which demanded those very words in a paradoxical authoritative, yet begging, tone. He sped up and cautiously drove deeper into her, wondering whether or not the powerful forces of which he was capable would hurt her or please her.

It only took a few minutes for him to find out that it pleased her, and when he reached the power and thrust and angle that caused her to moan uncontrollably, he memorized it and kept their movements at that exact depth and pace until the sounds coming out of her were unintelligible.

It was three in the morning when they gradually came out of the sex stupor. Lying stark naked on his bed, the twosome heaved breaths and Alec wished he had bought that case of fortified water he saw in sector seven earlier that day. He looked over to Max, who had a healthy blush about her whole body.

"Why didn't you tell me about that?" she asked, one eyebrow cocked up in vague innuendo.

He laughed breathily. "Better to experience it."

She laughed, too, and lay still for several minutes. She wasn't sure what to do. Was she supposed to stay? Or when you have an… arrangement… like this, do you just say 'thanks for the sex' and get dressed? She snuck a glance at Alec.

He was checking out what appeared to be a very interesting crack in the ceiling. Okay, not that interesting, he admitted mentally, but better keep my stare here. She probably wants to get home and shower, not stay here and lay her head on my chest and fall asleep.

He sighed.

She sighed. She decided she'd waited long enough to see if he would ask her to stay. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she stood up slowly and started the embarrassing search for clothes.

Alec watched her wistfully from the bed. Ask her to stay, asshole, his brain begged. But he was paralyzed. If this was how she wanted it, who was he to change her mind?

So he doesn't want you to stay, Max thought, biting her lip as she pulled on her underwear and jeans. Yet.

She thought she had a rather optimistic outlook on their sexual relationship. And god, he was good in bed. And if those sounds she made him make all night were any indication, so was she. She smiled to herself.

Once Max was dressed, she turned, smiling, and called out to him. "So, what are you making tomorrow night?"

A smirk hitched up one side of his mouth. "You scream."

"Don't make promises you can't keep," she said, giving him a smirk of her own.

"I don't."

Max laughed. "Alright, I'll see you tomorrow, Tongue-Twister."

As she left his apartment and shut the door behind her, Alec slammed the back of his head into his pillow. You should have asked her to stay.

On the plus side, he got an awesome new nickname.