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the best lie is closest to the truth

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Max Valera has exactly one strategy for dealing with people she is suspicious of: bugging their bedroom.

And Max is certainly suspicious of Kerri Kestrel.

Kerri’s smart though, or at least smarter than her previous marks have been. But anyone who’s been around her for longer than five seconds knows that she has quite the ego, and every ego can be stroked.

***

Max approached Lapis, where she had heard Kerri would be. Lapis was the closest thing to a fancy nightclub on the Bastion - flashy logo, loud music, technicolor drinks. Max could have guessed this was where Kerri would be, but it was always nice to have sources back up your instincts. Max gave a nod to the security posted outside and headed in.

It was crowded, but finding Kerri was relatively easy, the only splash of pink in a crowd of black and blue. She looked like she was having a blast, bouncing around on the dance floor. Max took a moment to fix her hair and smooth out her shirt, then headed in.

“Hey,” Max said, touching Kerri lightly on the shoulder to get her attention.

She spun around. “Max Valera,” she smirked. “I’d ask what you were here to fix, but judging by the fact that you’re wearing jeans without holes in them for the first time ever, you must actually be here on purpose.”

“Yes, Kerri, what a delightful surprise to see you too.” She was a delight to see, with her pink dress hugging and flowing in all the right places. But Kerri didn’t need to know all that.

She laughed, and then paused. For a brief moment, a look appeared on her face. Max recognized it as the look she usually gave to a piece of lab equipment or a difficult math problem. Then the look was gone, and Kerri asked, “Do you want to dance?”

Max grinned. “I would love to.”

And so the game was on. Max wasn’t much of a dancer, and she certainly wasn’t as quick on her feet as Kerri, but she kept up. She left the dance floor after a couple songs, to go get a drink and let the tension build. When she glanced over her shoulder to check on Kerri, she was looking back at her. Kerri gave her a wink, and Max found herself blushing. Which was absolutely not the way this was supposed to go.

And then all of a sudden Kerri was at her side, ordering her own drink.

“So, what brings you here tonight?” Kerri asked, sipping something lavender and fizzy.

“Well, allegedly, people take a night off sometimes? The rest of the maintenance crew insisted I try it out.”

She smiled. “I’ll have to thank them.”

Max leaned on the bar, putting her face closer to Kerri’s. Even in her heels, Kerri was just shorter than Max. “So… is this your usual spot, then?” she asked, as if she didn’t already know.

She laughed, a bright and high pitched laugh. “You’re lucky you’ve got such a nice jawline, you know. ‘Come around here often?’ is a terrible pick up line.” She grabbed her drink, flipping her perfectly curled hair over her shoulder, and flounced away.

Damn her.

Max thought about downing her drink and going after her, but better judgement told her to let her wait instead.

And sure enough, after fifteen minutes had passed, Max could feel Kerri’s eyes on her. She resisted the urge to beeline over to her and meandered instead, taking the time to say hi to a former client or dance a verse with someone on the floor.

When she finally reached her, she stuck out her hand. “Dance with me,” she said, voice low.

“Well, all right,” Kerri responded, blushing a little.

Max put her hands on Kerri’s waist as they danced. Kerri had helpfully been very forward; Max could make her real intentions clear.

Well, her fake intentions. None of this was real. (Right?)

It didn’t take long for Kerri to lean over, hand placed on Max’s arm, and whisper that it was getting late, and she should get going. Max knew this was a lie, she’d seen Kerri in the lab working at a much later hour than this, which meant that Kerri probably knew that Max knew it was a lie.

But Max didn’t say that. Instead, Max offered to walk her out, placing her hand on the small of her back as she did.

Stepping out of the hot club and into the cool, recycled night air was a relief. “Do you need someone to walk you home?” Max tried to ask innocently.

“I don’t need someone to walk me home.” Kerri huffed. “I can take care of myself just fine.”

Max moved her hand up to her shoulder. “Do you want someone to walk you home?” she asked, dropping her voice down to that lower register again.

“For fuck’s sake, Max,” Kerri sighed, “if you’re going to kiss me, would you just do it already? We’re practically coworkers, I don’t want it to be weird when-"

That was all the permission Max needed. She cut off the rest of her sentence with a kiss. She wrapped her hand around Kerri’s waist, cradling her face with the other. Kerri responded in kind, reaching for her collar to pull her in closer. Max guided her up against the wall of the club. Kerri let her - the way that she bit Max’s lip made it very clear that she was letting her.

Max moved her face away, just slightly, and took a deep breath. Kerri took one too, and ran her hand through her hair. An image flashed in Max’s mind of all that golden hair spread out over a pillow. And before she could shake the image away, Kerri was kissing her again, running her fingertips over that jawline she had complimented earlier.

Kerri broke off the kiss this time. “Maybe you should walk me home.”

And checkmate.

***

Once she had what she needed, Max went to visit Kuiper. Max threw the data stick at her as a greeting. “Kestrel is your gal.”

Kuiper looked down at the stick, then back up at Max. “Are you sure?”

“Positive. You’re welcome.”

“And... how did you find that out?”

“Oh Kuiper,” she sighed, grinning. “You should know all my tricks by now.”

But when Max walked away, it wasn’t a smirk that covered her face as the memories washed over her, but a deep and lasting blush.