During those days that followed, Max and I didn't get much privacy. We snuck off to the bathroom occasionally, just to be able to be alone. To hold each other without observing eyes watching. They tried to be subtle about it, but I knew that they were watching. Probably not to observe our romance, but rather to observe our connection and its progress.

I guess it was only natural (if one could call it that) for the aliens to be watching how we were doing. The success of the connection was in their interest, after all.

But Maria was also watching. So were my father and Diane.

We had become the involuntary celebrities of the group, without any means of escaping our 'fans'.

However, we had quickly realized that having physical closeness was very important to not only stabilize the connection, but also to re-energized it. Which was necessary in order to strengthen it. Max had discussed this 'aspect' with Dresden, but Dresden had thought the disadvantages of having us in a separate room - alone - greatly outweighed the benefits of us 're-energizing', as Max had called it in that discussion.

I'm not sure I would have been able to be intimate with Max to that final degree knowing that not only my best friend but also my father and my boyfriend's father were close by. Especially with them knowing what Max and I might be up to in our private room.

But we didn't necessarily have to do the deed, we just needed the physical contact without clothing. To hold each other and melt into the other's warmth.

So far, it had worked with our shared bathroom visits. We had undressed as much as possible - considering that it was not the cleanest room - and held each other for great lengths of time (before someone came knocking). We would always be standing. Of course. No way I was laying down on that dirty bathroom floor basically naked.

To be honest, holding each other was all I had the energy for those days concerning intimacy.

We trained. A lot. Not just physically (Michael was in charge of that, need I say more?), but also mentally. Max was trying to teach me how to best utilize his abilities through the connection. There was no way he could know how to do this, but he somehow figured it out. I was more than a little impressed with him.

Max was exhausted too. He kept a strict workout regime, plus trying to teach me, and in addition worrying about me when I tired myself out. When the others took breaks, Max and I worked mentally, making up small mental abbreviations so that we could communicate quickly without having to form complete thoughts. He also taught me some alien vocabulary, to lessen my disadvantage were I to end up in enemy hands.

Every evening when I went to bed, I was asleep by the time my head hit the thin cheap pillow. Every morning when Dresden woke us up, it felt as if someone had hit me in the face with a sledgehammer. I was so tired during those first 30 minutes of the morning that the room was spinning and nausea pressed up my throat. It usually calmed itself down the more the day progressed.

If it wasn't for Max and the free entertainment of watching Michael interact with Maria, I might have just given up. No one should have to prepare for a war - an alien war - in a week.

But that's all we had.

Dresden got reports every day of people - our people, apparently - being killed. The rebellion had some successes in killing members of the opposition, but it actually sounded as if we were losing. Already. The purists were ruthless and obeyed no rules. In the absence of morality and empathy, they killed rebels - in their minds, traitors - like flies. They were killing their ex-neighbor, their work colleague, their cousin, their friend. It didn't seem to matter. If they had crossed over to the rebels' side, they were traitors and deserved no trial or retribution.

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