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one.

When Alec opens the door, Max is standing there.

"To what do I owe--Oh. Oh, shit." He stares at her for a long moment, takes a deep breath and wishes he hadn't.

"Yeah," she says, holding his gaze, her eyes dark and predatory. "Looks like you're about to get lucky." She pushes him back against the door, one gloved hand coming up to cup his cheek and pull his face down to hers.

"Max?"

Her breath is warm and sweet-smelling against his lips. "Don't talk."

He ignores her, of course. "Are you sure?" Because he doesn't want to be on the receiving end of another kick to the balls if they do this and she's not.

"You're the safest choice," she says, pressing her body against his, all lush curves and heat, and the heady wash of pheromones that makes his breath hitch and his dick hard. "Logan and I talked about it."

"Of course you did," he tries to say, because that's not weird at all, but her tongue is in his mouth, and obviously, she's done with the small talk. Her hand on the hard rise of his cock, another lungful of her scent, earthy and aroused, and his desire to argue melts away. He knows she's right; Manticore kept them all tightly regulated with drugs--no heat, no sexual encounters that weren't on mission--so there's no telling what might happen if a crowd of X5 men with a little cat in their cocktail gets hit with the pheromones she's giving off. In theory, his scent mixed with hers should keep the others away.

And he really doesn't want to think about that, so he's kind of glad her kisses are shorting out his brain.

They stumble back into his bedroom, shedding clothes as they go, and then she's pushing him down on the bed and crawling on top of him. He scrabbles in the makeshift night table (an old metal two-drawer file cabinet) for a condom, because there's safe and then there's safe. They might be giving in to the biological imperative, but that doesn't mean either of them wants to deal with the likely results.

He's barely got time to roll it on before she's sinking down onto his cock and rolling her hips, all sinuous rhythm and slick, wet heat.

"I thought you'd be all about the foreplay," he says, and though he's joking, it's not a lie. He's thought about her more than he should have, first as a hot piece of ass when he got out of Manticore, and then, once he got to know her, as herself. He likes to think she's thought about him, too, but he doesn't know for sure. The fact that she's here at all points to yes, but with Max, he never can tell.

"Shut up," she growls, biting down hard on his lower lip, and then her tongue is in his mouth again. Max kisses like she rides her motorcycle, fierce and fast and keep-up-if-you-can.

Alec can.

He lets her move over him, hands tight on her hips, smooth skin reddening under his fingertips, bruises that'll be gone in a day or two, when they'll pretend this never happened. He closes his eyes and lets himself sink into the heat and physical pleasure of it, always willing to use sex as a way to turn off his brain, but a small part of him can't help but remember that this is Max. It's probably going to be more trouble than it's worth, but when she tightens around him, her breath hot and wet on his neck, he thinks it's worth a hell of a lot.

He can tell by the way her thighs tense and quiver, the way her breath hitches against his ear, that she's close, and he reaches down between them to rub his thumb over her clit. She gasps, curses, bites at his jaw, hard enough to hurt, and he wraps his fingers in her hair and pulls, covering her mouth with his, so he can swallow down whatever it is she's saying. He knows she's not seeing him when she closes her eyes, and he'd like to pretend he doesn't care, but either way, he doesn't want to hear her call him by another man's name when she comes.

She clenches around him, shuddering, soft moan muffled by his mouth, and he lets go, fucks up hard into the tight heat of her body until the tension in him breaks and the world disappears for a minute in white hot pleasure.

They spend the whole day in bed, giving his old mattress--and each other--a workout. Alec has slept with a few X5s, but never while they were in heat, and the experience is enough to make him consider the existence of God.

He wakes up early, and she's pulling her clothes on in the dark. Usually, he's the one slipping away after a one night stand; it's a little weird being the one still in bed. He doesn't try to pretend he's still asleep, and she gives him a pained, awkward smile before she heads out the door, though she's got to be as sore and exhausted as he is.

The small apartment reeks of sex, and will for a while. He should get up and do something useful, like open the windows and air the place out. He thinks about it for a second, then rolls over and goes back to sleep.

He doesn't change the sheets for a week, tells himself it's just laziness, but he can smell her on his skin for days.

*

two.

The first few days after are a little awkward--Max and every other transgenic within a five mile radius can smell them on each other, even after several showers. Occasionally, when they're together, especially in some of the enclosed spaces when they're working a job, Alec finds it hard to concentrate, remembering her body stretched out beneath his, sweat-sheened and shaking with pleasure. He breathes in her scent and recalls the salt-sweet taste of her skin on his tongue, and the frantic, breathless sounds she made while they fucked.

Sometimes, having an eidetic memory is a real bitch.

But they move past it--they're friends and co-workers, and have been for almost two years now; with all the other shit that's gone down, it really shouldn't be a big deal.

Which is why he's totally not checking the calendar four months later, wondering if he's going to get the call again, or if she and Logan have figured out some way around the virus. He's heard her and Original Cindy talking about neoprene suits and dental dams, and he's tossed off a few jokes about their kinky sex life that have gotten him walloped. Totally worth it, though, to see her laugh even while she hits him.

He doesn't know how Logan stands not being able to touch her. He tries not to think about that, though; he's still carrying that guilt, still trying to find the cure he cost them. The irony that he's the one who benefits now when Max goes into heat isn't lost on him, either.

"What's a few orgasms between friends?" he says as she pushes her way into his room again and pulls off her tank top, her scent hitting his bloodstream like the best pre-Pulse single malt scotch he's ever had, setting him alight with heat and need.

"Shut up." But she smiles when she says it, and doesn't deny that they're friends. Not anymore. "I even brought a gift this time," she says, reaching into her backpack and pulling out a strip of condoms. She tosses them at him, and drops the backpack to the floor.

He laughs and shakes his head. "That's what I like about you, Max. You're always prepared. And so good with the social graces."

She's all coy and kittenish, looking up at him through her lashes, but he knows better than to mention it. "That's not all you like."

What he'd really like is to have a witty comeback for that, but she's already got his jeans unzipped and her small, warm hands wrapped around his dick, which is hard and aching for the touch. That's answer enough, he supposes.

They don't make it to the bedroom this time. He bends her over the back of the ratty green couch, and pushes her legs wide with his knee. She whimpers and thrusts back against him, her desperation making his dick ache; he palms the smooth curve of her ass, wants to fall to his knees and bite it, raising bruises so she'll know he's been there. But he doesn't think either of them have the patience for playing right now. He slides a hand over her hip, down into the slick heat of her cunt, fingers teasing her open.

"Just fuck me already," she snaps.

"That's the Max I know and love," he says, pushing into her, and then he freezes for the briefest moment, realizing what he's said and afraid she'll take it the wrong way. Afraid that may be the way he means it.

"Whatever." She thrusts back again, tightening around him, and he stops worrying about anything but pushing as deep as possible into the tight, wet heat surrounding him, and the way their hips move together. He leans forward, licks down the curve of her neck, presses kisses to the knobs of her spine, salt-slick and smelling faintly of soap beneath the heady scent of her heat.

He fucks her hard and fast, one hand tight on her hip and the other playing with her breasts and then slipping down to rub roughly at her clit.

"So fucking hot," he mutters, "so wet and tight. God, Max." He licks at the dark lines of the barcode on her neck, nips hard enough to sting but not to break the skin, and she comes, clenching like a vise around him, drawing him after her, hot pulse of pleasure beating through him.

When he's done, he shucks off the condom and slips to the floor, turning so he can sit between her legs, tip his face up to lick at her slick, pink cunt, hot and wet and quivering under his tongue. She grinds down onto his face, moaning, and he tastes salt and come and the faint hint of latex, wishes he could taste himself inside her instead.

He fucks her with his tongue, then licks up to press the flat of it against her swollen clit before sucking on it, hands tight on her hips to keep her from breaking his nose as she bucks against him. He uses every trick he's learned and a few he's pretty sure he invented himself to make her come again, this time with a hoarse moan that sounds like it's being torn from her throat. The sound makes his dick, already half hard from the scent and taste of her surrounding him, stand at full attention, ready to get back in on the action.

He pulls her down into his lap, and she licks his face clean, velvet-smooth tongue wet and warm on his skin as he struggles to tear another condom from the strip and roll it on.

She laughs in his ear when she notices his hands shaking, her fingers stroking softly through the hair on the back of his head, unexpectedly tender. And then he's ready, hands steady now on her waist, grounded by the feel of her under his palms; he lifts her up and lowers her down slowly onto his dick, and then buries his face between her breasts as she rides him. He comes so hard he can't see straight, watches her through hazy, half-closed eyes as she gets herself off. She rubs her glistening fingers over his lips, then licks his face clean again.

They spend the next eighteen hours having the best sex of Alec's life. He's pretty sure it's the best sex Max has ever had, too, because she doesn't have to hold back, doesn't have to worry about hurting him.

"I'm gonna fuck you good," he says, pulling all the way out and then thrusting in deep. "Gonna make you come so hard you forget your own name."

She laughs and bucks up against him, her legs wrapped tight around his hips. "Did you learn all your pillow talk from bad porn?"

He thinks about being offended, but laughs instead, because it's the truth. "Yeah. And from Lola. And Virginia. Or maybe it was Veronica? Something with a V, anyway."

"I don't think I need the replay of your greatest hits," she says primly, but she's smiling, and he has to kiss her.

Afterwards, he pushes the sweaty hair off her forehead and wonders how he's going to pretend it's all right that she'll be gone when he wakes up.

She doesn't even wait until he's asleep, tries to slip out of his embrace as soon as she's cooled down and back to baseline. He tightens his arm around her waist.

"You don't have to go," he says, burying his face against the back of her neck, nuzzling at her barcode, wishing he'd been able to leave a mark himself.

"I have a lot of work to catch up on." She shifts to face him. "So do you."

"You could stay," he says, trying not to sound needy, desperate. "We'll get to it in the morning. I'll get Joshua to make pancakes or something, while Mole gives us the rundown on whatever we've missed."

"Alec, I--"

"Come on, Max. Sleep for a little while. You could probably use the rest." Running Terminal City, being the poster girl for transgenic rights--not to mention Seattle's busiest cat burglar--has been sucking all of her time and energy, and it's got to be wearing even for someone as strong and resilient as she is, though they're all doing the best they can to help her. No one's more surprised than Alec that he's ended up her second-in-command, but he thinks they make a pretty good team.

"I don't sleep," she says, touching his face gently.

He has no response for that, babbles randomly about swimming with sharks, feeling like he's chum in the water as she pulls her clothes on. She turns back at the door and smiles, which should make him feel better--at least they're still friends, which is more than he expected when this whole thing started, to be honest--but doesn't.

He figures he should get used to watching her walk away.

*

three.

It's more difficult this time, but he manages, thinks he's hiding his feelings pretty well, though Cindy occasionally gives him a sharp look on those rare nights they venture out for fun instead of work, and Joshua asks if he's all right more often than usual. There's so much to do--keep Terminal City financed, keep White and his Familiars off their backs, pacify the locals and the government--that Alec doesn't have time to brood. Not if he doesn't want to let Max--and everyone else--down. He kind of likes that she turns to him for help now, relies on him in a way neither of them would have believed when he first walked into her cell at Manticore almost three years ago. He doesn't want to screw that up.

The third time, he's ready, has promised himself he's not going to ask her to stay, not going to pretend it's something it's not. Not even when he knows she's been spending less time with Logan, that even he comes second to Terminal City now, and maybe the frustrating reality of their situation has finally put an end to their romantic notions.

Alec's notions are a lot less romantic, but a lot more satisfying.

He's bent over a set of blueprints, planning their next heist, when she arrives, peeling her gloves off and tossing her jacket onto the couch.

"The casino?" she asks breathlessly, leaning in close to look at the plans.

"The Russians won't go to the cops, and we've got enough firepower to take them on," he answers, taking shallow breaths, ignoring the way she's pressing herself up against him. He swallows hard, keeps his voice steady. "But I think we can convince them it's the yakuza. Word on the street is they've been having a lot of trouble with Matsumoto's crew lately."

"We play our cards right, we can steal from both, let them blame each other."

Alec grins. "That's the plan."

She smiles back, wide and pleased, then climbs into his lap, kissing her way along his jaw before planting one on his lips. Her mouth is hot and wet over his, tongue thick and heavy with promises that are his for the next twelve hours, at least. He holds her close, kisses her back, hoping she can't tell what he's really saying. He slides his hands up under her tank top, to the warm skin beneath, the strong bones of her back, rubs like he's petting a cat. She arches into the touch, moans into his mouth, both of them practically vibrating with need.

He stands, holding her carefully, even though he knows she won't break. She wraps her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, lets him carry her into the bedroom and throw her onto the bed, which creaks in protest. She's laughing the whole time.

They strip each other quickly; it's so familiar now--the curve of her breasts as she pulls off her top, the flare of her hip revealed as he shoves her jeans down--and he's hungry for it after so long without. He presses hot, open-mouthed kisses along the flat of her belly before pushing her legs wide and pressing his mouth to her cunt, desperate to taste her, match the reality to his memories.

She moans and bucks up against him, desperate to be tasted, to be fucked, so hot and wet for it, he can pretend it's for him and not just biology fucking them both.

Now that he's got her where he wants her, he takes his time, licks her with long strokes, fingers pushing deep inside her, wrist flexing rhythmically while he teases her clit with his tongue, sucks it into his mouth, loving the wet mess and heat of it.

"Alec, fuck, Alec," she growls, hands fisting in his hair and pulling hard when she comes, pulsing hard around his fingers.

He's quick with the condom, and she's still shaking when he slides inside her. He licks his fingers clean, then twines them through hers, stretches her arms above her head and fucks her hard. He doesn't last long, comes apart in the sweet grip of her cunt, the feel of her body pliant and strong beneath him.

"That is a fine, fine pussy," he murmurs after he's gotten rid of the condom. He's torn between taking a nap and going for another round, fingers stroking over the slick, swollen flesh of her cunt to see how she responds. She thwaps the back of his head but it doesn't even hurt, so he thinks she can't really mean it. "Hey! I think I should get some credit for not saying that a lot sooner, and a lot more often."

"No more pussy jokes," she says, rolling them over so she's on top, "or no more pussy."

He laughs ruefully. "Well, when you put it like that..."

She starts kissing her way down his chest, long hair like silk tickling his skin, hot tongue making him squirm. She grins up at him, mischief in her eyes. "I thought you'd see things my way."

He thinks he might come just from watching her wrap her full, pink lips around him, has to squeeze the base of his cock so he doesn't. She holds him down, lips sliding up and down the length of his dick, tongue swirling over the head like she's eating a popsicle, and he fists his hands in the sheets so he doesn't pull her hair and piss her off.

"Max, Max, I'm gonna--" He comes with a grunt, hips thrusting up out of her loosened grip, fucking into the tight heat of her mouth, and she swallows, wipes her chin with the back of her hand when he's done, then kisses him, salt-sharp and bitter, the taste of him on her tongue, and her on his, and he forgets he's pretending he doesn't care.

This time when they're finished, he lets himself fall asleep. He doesn't want to watch her leave.

When he wakes up, she's curled up against him, dark hair spilling over the dingy white of his pillow, her breathing soft and steady with the rhythm of sleep.

end

~*~