The first time was after the tentative truce that ended the siege of Terminal City. The National Guard performed the simple act of turning around, the act that took them from keeping the transgenics in Terminal City to keeping the rest of the world out while a more permanent solution could be arranged. No one was fooled that their troubles were over, but it was such an unexpected victory that they couldn't help celebrate. What alcohol they had flowed, always with at least a third of their forces sober; Manticore had trained them too well for them not to expect a double-cross. Hugs were exchanged freely even among those who normally avoided each other.
As could almost have been expected, Max came within inches of not only hugging but kissing Logan, pulling back just short of actual contact. She turned and walked away, knowing he would follow, not knowing what either of them could possibly say that could make things any different than the last time. He'd figured out only days into the siege that there was nothing between her and Alec, and if they'd never actually discussed it, she doubted she could persuade him otherwise.
So here they were, standing in a secluded room that had almost certainly been an office but was now a place where people crashed until they could find more permanent lodgings, staring at each other silently. Total deadlock, no way out.
Alec found them there.
"Hey, guys, you're missing the…" he said from the doorway of the room, then stopped, thumb still pointed back to the celebration. Max could smell the faint odor of what was probably more than a few beers, and his face was flushed with, probably as much with the celebration as the alcohol. He looked from Max to Logan to Max again, then leaned against the doorway, rolling his eyes in by-now-familiar exasperation at them. "No, no," he said, "lemme guess. We're doing the woe-is-us-that-we-cannot-be-together thing again."
Max opened her mouth to tell him to go jump on something sharp, already, but closed it when she realized that Alec leaving would only result in her and Logan staring at each other more.
Besides, it's not like he was wrong. As caught up in her own pain as Max sometimes got, she wasn't unaware that she was behaving in a way that would cause her to whap a sister upside the head.
"Whatever," she said, and started toward the door. "Just tell me you saved me some beer."
Alec blocked her way. She shot him a quizzical look and tried to pass him. This time, he put his hands on her shoulders to stop him.
"What the hell?" she demanded.
For a brief second, the familiar smirk slipped, and all the maturity, all the compassion, all the empathy Alec had developed in recent weeks was directed at her. Then his mouth twisted again. "Trust me. I have an idea," he said in the kind of tone that a few months ago would have sent her running in the opposite direction (or maybe just have caused her to clock him on principle).
Today, after everything, when he pointed her to one of the beat-up mattresses scattered on the floor, she just nodded and went, sitting cross-legged and saying, "You've got about sixty seconds to make your point, and then I'm gonna go find about five beers with my name on them."
Alec smirked again. "Okay." He closed the door and turned to walk toward Logan, who was looking even more confused by all of this than Max. Alec stood in front of him for a few heartbeats as if thinking �" no, strategizing - then nodded to himself, and with a quickness that was just this side of superhuman, reached up and pulled Logan into a kiss.
Max and Logan both stiffened in unison, Max gripping the mattress to stop her instinctive attack, and Logan trying futilely to push away. As Logan's hand went from pushing to grasping, Max forced herself to ease down from readiness. Trust him, Alec had said. He had an idea. It had better be a really good one.
Alec broke the kiss and smiled at Logan, then turned to look at Max, one eyebrow raised in a clear question. She couldn't bring herself to nod, but she tried to project an air of I'm-not-protesting-yet-but-this-had-better-be-good. His own faint nod told her she'd succeeded.
Alec turned back to Logan, who was still swallowing and trying to catch his breath, and gently shoved him into one of the room's old office chairs, kneeling in front of him and pulling him down into another kiss. Logan wasn't protesting this time, and the question of how Alec could possibly think this would make her feel better was answered when Max saw something relax in Logan's shoulders, and felt her own relax slightly in response.
From her vantage point, she could just see Alec's hands undoing Logan's belt, working his pants. Alec broke the kiss and said, "Little help here, man?" Logan seemed to rouse himself from a stupor, and he shot a bewildered look at Max, who forced herself to nod, not entirely sure whether she was giving him permission to say yes or to say no. Logan lifted his hips just enough for Alec to move his pants down a few inches. Guess that answered that.
Max swallowed. She'd seen him naked before, mostly glimpses in his apartment, or medical situations, or the frequent showers he had to take here in Terminal City to fend off the toxic effects. She'd felt his arousal, too, when she'd gone into heat, the night of their one missed chance. Somehow, seeing him sitting there with his pants bunched low on his hips and his layers of shirts rucked up around his ribcage was almost shockingly intimate, and a jolt of pure lust hit her like a wave of heat. Or maybe just like her heat.
Alec looked back at her again, no question in his face this time, only something verging on "I told you so." Effortlessly, he swung the chair around so that Logan was facing her, and then leaned in. She couldn't see exactly what he'd done, but Logan's hiss gave her a pretty good idea.
Max rose to her knees, rocking back and forth slightly, unconsciously mimicking Alec's rhythm. Logan looked good, his face flushed, eyes closed, features relaxed just as she'd always thought they'd be. He raised one hand towards Alec's shoulder. His eyes opened and fixed on Max's, and this time, she knew exactly what she meant when she nodded.
Logan grasped Alec's shoulder, his thumb stroking where his neck and shoulder met, for the first time, she heard a muffled sound from Alec, and damn if it didn't make Max rock back and forth a little faster. She kept her hands resolutely at her sides in tight fists. She wasn't entirely sure what she was waiting for; she just knew it wasn't time. But he was beautiful. They were beautiful.
She expected him to close his eyes again, but he kept them open and fixed on her own, watching her as his breath quickened, as his hand tightened on Alec's shoulder, as he bit his lip to muffle his groan. Max bit her own lip, finally closing her eyes for until the sounds stopped.
"Been a while, huh?" Alec asked, and Logan gave him a look that probably would have been a lot more annoyed if he had the energy to do more than clumsily pull up his pants.
Alec stood, stretching a bit, then turned to Max. She was on her feet by the time he reached her.
He kissed her once, less insistently than he'd kissed Logan, perhaps because she was clearly expecting it. When they parted, Alec looked to Logan, that same questioning eyebrow raised, the same nod received in return.
She allowed herself one brief thought of Ben when Alec kissed her again, but the truth was, she'd long stopped thinking of Alec as her brother's twin, long ago slotted him in the same family-but-not-like-they-were category into which she'd put all Manticore alums. That thought fled as she realized she was tasting Logan; not just the taste of the kiss he'd given her in that junk yard, but something she'd never gotten to have herself.
They went slower, easier than she'd had in over two years, in the time that sex had been a barely suppressible need to be realized in aggression and animal lust. Instead, they undressed each other slowly between kisses, Max giving everything she's wanted to give Logan, all the easy passion she'd dreamed of in the brief moment between when her clone's gun had fired and the bullet had hit, Alec responding in kind. It wasn't Logan: the smell and feel wouldn't let her pretend that even if she wanted to, but she could smell Logan on him, feel Logan's eyes on them, on her, like hands.
What did they look like to Logan, she wondered as they sank to the mattress, Max lying on top of Alec as she'd always pictured lying on top of Logan. His face told her nothing, the carefully blank expression and shallow breathing that could have meant lust or anger or even the wistful knowledge that they fit, were easy in a way he and Max never quite would be.
Max reached to take Alec in her hand, but paused to look at Logan, knowing the answer, but knowing she had to ask. For a moment, he didn't breathe, and then he smiled at her and nodded.
I love you, she mouthed silently as she sank down, hoping it would say everything else: that she didn't care that he wasn't transgenic, that they'd find a way to be together, that she wouldn't give up on them again.
Alec pulled her down to nuzzle her hair and her throat, his other hand doing things she was glad she hadn't known he could do back at Manticore. She was a bit startled to realize she was thinking they'd always have to do it this way, always with Logan first, couldn't take the chance of Max's DNA still being on Alec's skin or in his mouth and she was already thinking of how they'd do this again.
She kept her eyes locked on Logan's as they moved. She could smell his arousal, but he was gripping the arms of the chair, denying himself just as she had. She thought about telling him it was okay, but it wasn't, for reasons she couldn't explain if you gave her two years and five languages, including maybe ancient Minoan.
She was close, so close, and when Alec's teeth closed gently on her throat, it was enough to send her climax ripping through her. She gripped the mattress hard enough to tear the thin fabric, her sigh coming out as, "Logan."
Alec pulled her hard against him, thrusting up a few times before releasing a groan into her hair. They lay there for nearly a full minute, just breathing, Max still looking at Logan, Alec's face still buried in the crook of her neck.
Alec. Max sat up rapidly. "Oh, God, Alec, I…" What exactly was the proper etiquette when you said one man's name while another was fucking you.
Alec just looked at her, raising himself on his elbows. "Kinda the point, Max. You wanna…" He gestured vaguely.
"Oh, right." She shifted off of him, sorting through their piled clothes. Be easier if either of them wore any color but black these days. They both dressed silently, Logan standing and straightening his own clothes. They weren't exactly avoiding each others' faces, but the weren't really looking at each other, either.
Alec cleared his throat. "I'm gonna…" He gestured toward the door, where the sounds of the celebration were still loud and clear. He looked at both of them and then nodded again. "I'll try to save you a few beers."
He closed the door behind him as he left.
Max looked at Logan, realizing with some irony that they were standing almost exactly where they had been when Alec had come in.
"So," she said.
"So. That was…" Logan faltered.
"Yeah, pretty much." Max felt her stomach, which had been relaxed for the first time in weeks, tighten again.
Logan nodded absently, then his face broke into the kind of smile she hadn't seen since before the virus. "Max," he said. "How've you been?"
Max found herself smiling in answer, the knot in her stomach unraveling. "Not bad," she said. "Can't complain."
Logan nodded again, and just like that it was all right. Not perfect, not really solved; like the truce, it was a temporary solution until they could figure it out, but it would do for now.
Max nodded toward the door. "I'm gonna go get that beer. Want one?"
"You go on ahead," he said. "I'll be there in a few minutes. Want to check on my server before I diminish my capacities."
Always the workaholic. Odds were good he'd be there all night. Max smiled and left.
She found Alec leaning against a counter that was serving as a makeshift bar, well into his first glass of something that was not quite scotch. He looked mellow and relaxed, but she could detect a slight tensing as she approached. She drew in a breath to speak, but the sheer number of things she had to say crowded each other into silence.
This doesn't seem very fair to you.
I care about you, too. We both do. It's not just… but the words on that one wouldn't come.
Alec just gave a self-mocking chuckle and reached for a beer. "Not exactly a hardship, Max," he said as he handed it to her.
Max twisted off the cap and took a long swallow. When it came down to, she supposed she'd just have to trust him.
She leaned on the bar next to him, watching Joshua attempt the elusive mysteries of the hokey-pokey. To her surprise, Logan approached them only a few minutes later, reaching around Alec for a beer.
"Everything good?" Max asked.
Logan looked at both of them and nodded. "Everything's good." He leaned against the bar, just far enough away from her to be safe.