The meaning of the runes

By Sinful Starlet

Disclaimer: everybody! "Not mine, never will be, wish it was, etc etc"!

Rating: probably PG-13 - nothing too graphic!

Summary: Alternate take on events around and following 'Love Amongst the Runes' - certain aspects of the storylines around that time really bugged me! Basically Max discovers the runes, but they aren't quite as unique as she thought. What do they mean and what will that revelation mean to her and the ones she loves?

Author's note: Right - the ending is finally here! Erm…this was supposed to be 'sweet' - like I said, and it doesn't quite work out that way at first! I promise, the ending is a little cheerier - and M/A all the way baby! *SS*

10

Alec stuffed his hands into his pockets as he fell into step beside her. The events of that morning seemed so distant to him now, and he was sure he was about to get the mother of all brush-off speeches. She had talked to Logan, she had told him the truth, he had welcomed her back with open arms (well, as open as he could without risking the virus again), and now she was coming to tell him that it'd all been a mistake. He unconsciously licked his lips, savouring the memory of that kiss - how soft her skin had been under his fingers, the scent of her hair, and the bitter tang of her tears. He would have to leave, he thought, there was no way he could be around her anymore and not be with her, but the idea of just leaving and never seeing her again was so painful he almost couldn't breathe.

"Alec?" Max said, her voice breaking through his reverie, "What's wrong?" He stopped dead in his tracks - how had she known? True, he had been fairly quiet, but he hadn't let any of what he had been feeling show on his face, he'd got pretty good at that over the years. He turned to her, about to speak, but she beat him to it, "I just knew," she said, gently, anticipating his question, "I don't know how……but I did". He couldn't take this - her voice so soft and caring, when he was sure that any minute now she was about to rip his heart out. He couldn't help it, he just fell back on the first defence that Manticore had left him - he got angry.

"What? It's not enough that you're the 'saviour of mankind' - you've gotta be psychic too?!" "Alec?" Max said, suddenly hurt, not understanding where this was coming from. "Leave me alone, Max," he said, using all the strength left in him to hide the swell of emotion inside him, "I know what you're gonna say, and I don't need to hear any kind of explanations or apologies. I understand, just…" he hesitated, finding it increasingly hard to say what he knew he had to, "…just, let it go". Max was completely thrown - she knew, however hard he tried to hide it, that he was deeply upset, but she really couldn't work out why - unless he had decided that what had happened between them had been a mistake.

Thinking that, she seriously hesitated before speaking again, and by the time she looked up to say something, she found that he was already about thirty feet in front of her, and getting ever more distant. Feeling a spurt of panic, she ran after him, catching him easily of course, given that he didn't try and run himself. She didn't stop till she was standing directly in front of him, dodging left and right when he tried to get past her. "I don't want to fight you, Max," he said, his voice low and menacing, "but I'm telling you now - leave me alone". "I can't," Max said, defiantly, though she had to admit, slightly afraid of what would happen if he really did decide to fight her.

"Alec, please," she said, pleading with him now, "whatever's got you like this - I don't get it". Alec closed his eyes, sighing deeply. More than anything right now, he just wanted her to leave so he could go back home and drown out the pain for a while, but it seemed like that wasn't going to happen - Max wasn't going anywhere. "Look," he said at last, his voice calmer, but still heavy with feeling, "like I told you Max - if you're here to explain to me how you're back with Logan now, and you've realised what a mistake you made with me - I don't wanna know, I…" he paused, the weight of his emotions really taking a toll, "…I can't hear that from you". "And if that's the way it's gonna be - I don't think I can stay round here anymore".

He left her with that bombshell, taking advantage of her apparent stunned silence to walk quickly past her, needing to be anywhere but there at that moment. For the longest time, Max didn't even move. She couldn't believe what she had heard, and the pain in his eyes was just heartbreaking. It took over a minute before she finally realised what he had said…'if you're back with Logan now''I don't think I can stay around here anymore'…He was going to leave. He thought that she had gone back to Logan, and he was just going to walk out and leave her for good. Her head snapped round in an instant, searching the landscape for any sign of him, but he had gone. Her breath quickened in her panic, and she took off, not even aware of where her legs were taking her.

She raced round the nearest corner, but then ground to a halt. It was almost ridiculous - she was right in the middle of Terminal City, and Alec could have gone anywhere. She stopped, breathing hard, racking her brains to think where he would go. She thought of calling his cell, but knew even before she finished dialling the number that he wouldn't pick up - and she couldn't just say all she needed to say to him over the phone. Then all of a sudden, a single image flashed into her mind. Where it came from, she had absolutely no idea, but it didn't matter - she knew where he was going.

*

Dix, Luke and Joshua all looked at each other in astonishment as Max raced into the command centre, unchaining her ninja and speeding back out of there without saying a word. Dix and Luke just shook their heads, but Joshua nodded to himself, he alone guessed who she was chasing. How she got out through the sector police stockade, seemed like a blur to Max. None of it mattered anymore - not the hail of gunfire, not the shatter of the windows of the car she landed on as she soared over the fence. She just sped up as soon as she hit the road surface, losing the chasing sector police after less than two blocks. Before she even realised, she was pulling up outside the building, chaining up her bike again and heading for the stairs.

*

Alec's journey wasn't quite as frenetic. Initially, he had just wanted to get out of TC, to disappear into the crowds of the Seattle streets and forget. He used a couple of the tunnels that the sector police hadn't found so far, and climbed up to the street, just starting to walk, not actually heading for anywhere in particular. After a while though, his body seemed to decide on a course, and stopping at last, he looked up and surveyed the stark outline of the space needle.

*

He climbed out onto the disc of the roof, though he turned to leave again almost immediately as he noticed that he wasn't alone up there. "Alec," Max called, standing up and walking quickly towards him, following him back through the broken window, into the room formed by the shell of the disc, shuddering for a second as she remembered the time she was there with Ben. It still amazed her how alike and how different the two of them were, the Manticore twins. "Alec, wait," she called again, as he reached the top of the stairs, "will you just listen to me for a moment - please?"

Alec stopped, his shoulders sagging, though he didn't immediately turn round. "Maybe I am psychic," Max said, walking as slowly and silently towards him as she could, "I knew where to find you today - but maybe you are too". "What?" Alec said, turning round at last, his face still immobile, but his voice softening a little. "Read my mind," Max said, still walking slowly towards him, "just think about it - would I have chased you half way across Seattle if I was trying to push you away?" She stepped forward three more steps, till she was right in front of him, and reached for his hand once more.

"I'm not back with Logan," she said, finally able to make him hear the truth, "that was never what I was going to say to him, and…" she trailed off, avoiding his eyes for a second before she looked back up and said, "…I don't want you to leave". Alec was stunned. The last few hours had been some of the darkest of his life, and now he couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. Yet here she was, her smaller hand still clutching his, and he could tell, even without looking into her eyes, that she was more scared than he had ever seen her before. Her words finally sank in - she wasn't with Logan. He had assumed that that was what she was going to say, and he had just raced off before she got the chance to say anything about it.

But he had been so sure. He looked down at her, searching her eyes for some kind of answer. "Max?" he started, but he never got the chance to finish, as she suddenly curled her hand around his neck, pulling him down to her level and pressing her lips against his. Her kiss was soft, but insistent, all the more bittersweet as he felt the tears running down her face. He sighed into her mouth, pulling her closer to him and deepening the kiss, trying to make her understand every feeling that he couldn't articulate. Max's tears flowed freely as she felt his lips move against hers. He was so tender with her, his hands sliding up her sides to frame her face - making her feel, in that instant, more loved than she ever had in her whole life.

She hated to break the moment of intimacy between them, but she reluctantly broke the kiss, Alec's hands slipping down to rest on her waist - there were some things she needed to say. "I don't know what's gonna happen," she said, "but the one thing that scares me most - more than White, more than anything the sector cops can throw at us, is the idea that I'd have to face any of it without you". "I'm not good at these great emotional speeches," she went on, "but the truth is that the runes are right". "I need you, Alec - I just never understood how much - and I can't do this alone, I can't and I won't - not without you".

Alec couldn't speak right away, just lifting a hand to her cheek, wiping away her tears with his thumb. "You're right, Max," he said at last, his voice soft and calming, "we don't know what's gonna happen - but I'm not leaving". He even smiled a little as he added, "I can't and I won't". "I was just afraid that I was going to lose you to Logan again, and I couldn't just stand there and watch that happen". "After Rachel…" he started again, feeling a pang with the mention of her name, but needing her to really understand, "…I didn't think I'd ever……". "Ssh," Max said, being the one to comfort him this time, but he wasn't quite finished.

"I so very much love you," he said, leaning in to kiss her again, sinking into that feeling. It had taken him years, but he was finally able to let go of Rachel's ghost, knowing that he would always love her, but that still did not compare to his feelings for Max. He felt for the first time in his life, that he wasn't alone anymore. His place was right here, at Max's side - and in that moment, they both understood that fact completely. "I love you, Alec", Max said, when they finally broke apart again, reaching down to take both his hands in hers, "come on - let's go home".

Ta da!!!!!! FINISHED!!!!!!!!!

Oh well, hope ya liked it anyway. I can finally get back to work on 'Max and Alec and another locked room', but it might take a while to update that one. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this story, and I'll be back with something else, sometime soon. *SS*