Disclaimer: I told you already, DA isn't mine! Geez…

A/N: This is a very sappy chapter, so I'm just warning you guys. Than you all, it's been a blast.

Chapter 17

"I love you…not for what you are…but for what I am…when I am with you."

–Roy Croft-

Alec woke up languidly, feeling more content than he ever had in years. Ever, actually. And it all had to do with the woman lying next to him, her body tangled in the sheets, tucked comfortably against him.

Max had changed in so many ways. She was softer around the edges. Oh, she was still Max: quick to judge (he remembered Katya last night), quick to react with her hands and feet (he remembered how she'd tossed Zane on his ass outside of the bar), bossy, witty, sarcastic, and passionate. Definitely passionate.

But she was also more vulnerable—allowing him to see what was inside, how she felt. She also may have learned to control her temper—or at least she tried.

He was almost glad that five years had passed. They had both grown up so much.

He had done his share of changing, too. It had taken him a long time to realize that he wasn't just running away from the memory of Max—but from the memory of what he had been. He could still remember, with perfect clarity, that night he had almost killed Logan in a jealous rage.

That hadn't been 494. That had been Alec. And it had scared him. He thought that only Manticore could make him do something like that. But no, it was inside of him—it was who he was.

He had thought that Max would be better off with Logan—someone who wouldn't turn into a raging animal at the slightest provocation. She would be safe. She wouldn't be hurt.

It had killed him to make that decision. But he had done it because he had loved her.

Max began to stir, and her eyes fluttered open. She was immediately greeted by beautiful hazel-green ones.

"Hey, you're awake," she said, smiling slightly.

He grinned at her. "Based on past experience, I took the precaution of waking up first," he said, remembering the last time they had woken up together. "I wanted to make sure you didn't find any pink shirts lying around."

"Baby pink," she corrected him, pushing lightly at his chest. Then after a heartbeat, "Will I find one?"

He rolled over until he was on top of her, imprisoning her with his weight and his gaze. "No."

She smiled widely, obviously pleased. "Good." She said, before leaning up to kiss him. "Good morning, then." She whispered.

"Max, I don't know if you know this, but I can see your emotions on your face," he joked.

She swatted him playfully upside his head. "Yeah, it was a New Year's resolution I made five years ago," she joked back. "Along with the trying to control my temper, stop running away from tough situations, and be nice to Alec. They didn't seem like such bad ideas at that time."

"Be nice to me, huh?" he asked, his eyebrow raised mischievously.

She rolled her eyes at him. "It was easier when you weren't actually there."

He gave her a hurt little boy look, which only earned him a swat upside his head. "Ow, Maxie, so much for your resolutions."

"I never said I was sticking to all of 'em." she countered.

But then she looked at him seriously. "But there was one that I did decide to stick to. I promised myself that I wouldn't hide behind anymore masks with you, Alec. When I got to see you again, I swore that you would see how much I love you."

"I don't know how you can love me," he asked, his voice husky with emotion. "Knowing what I am…what I've done?"

She stroked his face tenderly. "I love you because I know what you are and what you've done."

He opened his mouth to say something, but she placed a finger on his lips. "Shut up and let me finish," she said smiling.

He nodded, his heart beating rapidly.

"I love you as Alec. I love you as X5-494. I love you as everything that you've ever been. I love you as you are now. And God help me, I will love you for everything you'll ever be. Knowing what you've been through…Knowing what Manticore could do to a person. Knowing what they did to you because of Ben. Knowing that you loved Rachel so much you were willing to sacrifice everything…and still be good and strong…How could I not love you?"

"I tried for five years to stop loving you, to count to myself all the reasons why I shouldn't love you…But I couldn't. All the reasons why I should hate you were the reasons why I love you. I think I knew then, that I was completely fucked." She said, chuckling.

Max gazed into his eyes, and what she saw made a lump form in her throat. It made it hard to breathe. She had seen those eyes burn with passion, turn into ice in anger, blaze with fury, dance with laughter, sparkle in amusement, blank with indifference, she'd seen those eyes filled with pain and darken with sadness.

But she had never seen them as they were at the moment.

His eyes gazed at her with an almost tentative joy. Like he was just realizing that it was actually okay to feel happy.

She reached up and ran a hand through his short hair, feeling the soft bristles tickle her palm. "I can only hope that you'll still love me once you know who I am—what I am," she whispered.

He groaned as he hugged her close to him. "Max, I know exactly who and what you are," he said. "You're everything brave and beautiful…and strong…" he paused as if he couldn't find the words to describe exactly what Max meant to him.

Then he smiled that smart-aleck smile. "…and everything that makes me want to be a better man for you…that's why it made me so sorry to realize what a mess I was back then."

Max tried to speak up, but this time it was Alec who growled, "Shut up and let me finish,"

She smiled tenderly at him and nodded.

"When I was about to plunge that knife into you so many years back, I saw a look in your eyes…and it was a look of sheer disappointment, like you had expected something better from me," he chuckled sadly.

"It suddenly made me want to be the better man that you thought I could be. Even if it meant I had to die that night. It would have meant that I actually did something right…something that would have made you remember me," he said, before looking pointedly at her and adding, "In a good way."

"Max, when I'm with you, I'm everything that you said I could be. When I'm with you, I'm alive." Alec whispered. Then he glanced heavenward, "God, make me worthy of her. Fast." He demanded.

Max chuckled and swatted him on the arm. Alec just grinned at her. He still couldn't believe all that sap had come out of his mouth, even if all of it had been true…but then again, he'd always suspected he was a romantic at heart.

Then he lowered his head and kissed Max with everything that he felt for her. She responded in kind, and soon, both of them were breathless with desire.

They realized that they just might have a future after all…complete with Max's happily-ever-after magic.

They also decided that five years was a lot of catching up to do…they had better spend the rest of the day in bed.

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Outside, in the halls, Katya was debating whether she should just leave and disappear from Alec. It was obvious that he finally had what he had always wanted. She swallowed the lump in her throat and knew that she didn't have a place in his life anymore.

She took Alex's hand and turned around to leave.

But she bumped into a solid chest.

"Hey! Watch where you're going, Buck-o!" she cried out, pushing the chest away. If the chest had belonged to an Ordinary, he would've hit the wall across the hall. But apparently, it didn't.

Zane looked down at the blond woman who had tried to shove him away. He noticed the little boy looking curiously up at him.

Suddenly, Zane couldn't breathe.

The little boy was looking at him with eyes that looked eerily familiar. Turquoise eyes. His eyes.

His gaze snapped onto the blond woman who was now looking at him with shocked recognition.

Oh shit.

THE END

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A/N: Finally, they're together and they've confessed their love and all that gooey love stuff. Zane and Katya…they've got their own issues that's not part of this story. I just needed to tie the loose ends there.

I remembered this line from a long time ago…I don't know from who or where, but it stuck with me, and I really liked it. So I used it. Thank you to whoever owned the line.

A/N 2: Thank you for reading and reviewing and sticking through the mess that is Max and Alec. It's been a pleasure!