a/n: the fifth part is finally over. I got obessessed with the next chapter and this one took FOREVER. I just want to say that this will get done. Hang with me.
They sat side by side on the roof's edge watching the discovery of new dinosaurs projected against the side of a building. The quality of the movie was as low as it came, but for a couple hundred highly trained super soldiers under the age of fifteen it was fun. They were laughing and commenting upon their prowess against large lizards. Some of them were laughing, some of them were throwing popcorn, and a few of them were even making out.
Max wasn't watching the movie. She was watching the world that her sheer force of will had brought together. She was smiling.
Alec sat on the edge of the building tapping his military issue boots against the bricks.
Max sat with a bowl of popcorn in her lap. She ate one kernel at a time. She was wearing a flowery dress that he had no idea the origin of, it had just materialized like this entire world seemed to have sprung up around her. She wasn't the hardened girl who he had met back in Manticore. Her hair was curling and she looked softer somehow.
Alec sat next to her with his hands grasping the edge of the building.
It was the most uncomfortable first date ever. He had nothing to say to her. To be honest they had spent so much time waiting for something to start she had absolutely no clue what was supposed to happen now.
She had asked about work half an hour ago and he had shushed her, saying that they weren't going to spend the night talking about work. So he racked his brain for something normal to discuss with her. It had been so easy when it had been in the dark. It had been so easy when they were speculating.
Now he had her undivided attention.
And his brain had lost functioning power. It didn't help that his hands were sweating and his stomach felt all twisted. She had offered him popcorn and he had refused on the grounds that he didn't think that food would be welcome.
"The French Rivera," he said suddenly.
She looked at him popcorn halfway to her mouth.
"Have you ever been?" he asked.
She put the popcorn back in the bowl and shook her head, "I haven't been many places. I had to lay low my entire life. I haven't ever left the West coast."
He looked at the beautiful creature next to him. He couldn't imagine her ever laying low. He watched her and imagined what life had been like for a small girl all alone. She had lived hungry and without shelter. She had never really seen a world beyond the grimy walls around her.
Alec leaned back and wondered. He thought of what he had seen. The drills and the life at Manticore had been unmanageable, but he had moments of luxury and beauty that she was so unaware of. The smile on her face at something as simple as a movie was awe-inspiring. He wanted to show her more.
"Its beautiful," he said looking ahead and not at her, "There are these beautiful beaches and the water is so nice. It's clean there, and everything just seems so pure. There is a café overlooking the beach that serves the best espresso and chocolate croissant."
"How do you know this?" she asked looking at him.
He turned to her, "Maxie, life wasn't always barracks and drills. We had assignments all the time. When I did solo ops sometimes I got to go places. They kept us on tight leashes, the handlers were always concerned that we would do a runabout, but we got to do things."
She looked at him and tried to see who he was, what the elements of his life that had lead him here. He had shared so much of his young life in the gates of Manticore. He hadn't told her much of the moments when he had escaped.
He smiled his little half smile and his eyes got dreamy as he looked at her, "I can see you there, in a little white bikini, the skies are all blue, and you're tan. We should go."
Max's stomach dropped and she could feel her pulse racing. She looked down at the drab and mucky field playing a movie on the side of a building.
"And give up all this," she said lightly.
He reached out and touched her hand. A breeze played through the strands of her hair. His eyes watched her, he saw her.
Alec said, "One day I'm taking you there. Sun and fun."
Max just shook her head.
He took the bowl popcorn and put in on the far side of him. He cupped her face and drew his thumb across her lip, when he spoke it was low and raspy "We've got to dream Maxie. If we don't think about where we are going, our future then what good is any of this?"
She shook her head and smiled, "Is that what you see? A dog and a white picket fence?"
Alec gave her a snicker, "Please, I see yachts and you in a bikini."
Max smacked him playfully.
"Please Maxie," he said taking a deep breath, "Let me have my mental images. They're amazing."
And that was the moment she felt connected. The whole world had always been ten sizes too big. There were always things that she couldn't control and things that were out to get her. She had tried so hard to run away from anything that meant anything.
She had never thought that maybe she would do something so normal. It wasn't some future tied to a guy, it wasn't a future of enslavement, and she was simply given the freedom to move. She was given the idea that maybe she could be anywhere she wanted to be.
He gave her the one thing she never had.
And she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was sure.
She bent her head but looked up at him though her lashes, "The real thing is better."
He opened his mouth, but couldn't find anything to say. It seemed as if all the coherent blood had exited his head and was rushing somewhere lower.
She smiled in her victory and kissed him.
He pulled her close and couldn't stop. He couldn't stop the feeling of her lips on his. Her hands bunched up the fabric of his shirt and were pulling him closer. He nearly fell off the roof when she let out a tiny little moan.
Instead he fell backwards and landed on his back.
Alec gasped as suddenly he had been warm and so fuzzy and then he landed on his back against the cold and very hard roof.
Max was giggling and looking down at him and for a moment he marveled at the fact that he was making her smile. He was making her completely happy. Nothing made sense and she was under so much pressure, but he had made her smile and that meant everything to him.
"Look its Cassiopeia," he said pointing at the stars, as if he had in fact meant to land on the ground in this completely undignified position.
Which made her laugh all the more.
"Geeze woman," he said putting his hands behind his head, "You sure know how to bruise a guy's ego."
She rolled her eyes and joined him on the roof, "Your ego is bullet proof. Plus its good we stopped, there are children down there, they don't need to see us making out."
"They should be so lucky," Alec told her, "They could learn a few things."
He watched as she suddenly got serious and braced himself for the swift let down.
"Take me home Alec," she said quietly.
He blinked not understanding.
"Take me home, I want to learn a few things," she said softly.
He understood her meaning and his grin nearly split his face, "Maxie, you hoyden. It's the first date You're supposed to wait until the third date and then play all coy…"
She put a finger on his constantly yammering mouth, "If something bad happens…"
"Nothing bad will happen," he said vehemently, "We're going to kick Uncle Sam's butt so we get freedom, kick the Cult's butt, and then go on vacation. Nothing else will happen."
She didn't argue, she just smiled.
"I have always waited for the perfect moment," she said simply, "And I think that it is right now."
He looked at her. A hover drone flew overhead. He could hear rioters in the background and he was getting rocks in his back. Then he shrugged. She had weird ideas about perfect moments.
"I'm a gentleman Maxie," he said as he silenced her protests, "And I never argue with a lady."
She smiled and helped him up off the ground. She took him by the hand and he did a little jig behind her.
"Lets go get some learnin' on," he said grabbing her in a big hug.
"Ouch," Colin said looking down at the vial in his arm.
The Doc rolled his eyes, "Yes they made you X series so much more superior. It's a tiny needle, deal."
Colin glared, but as customarily he said nothing.
Dix lounged back looking at the pictures of Max's back.
"I know, these kids are so spoiled," he stared intently at the runes.
"What did the ordinary say?" the Doc asked.
Dix put down the pictures and thought for a moment, "His finding seem to support your theory. I just don't know how we can test it out. We're kind of suck in here."
The noticed him sitting there listening like he had been listening for the last hour. They talked in code, but he could figure it out. They needed his blood and he sulked around. They had developed a theory using the least descriptive of terms.
They had figured out quite a bit. But they thought in terms of the upper levels. They didn't know about the common people below them.
Colin looked at them and rolled his eyes.
They both looked at him.
"There are lots of kids here that she has never come in contact with," Colin said.
The Doc tried not to smile and neither Dix nor Doc looked at each other.
"But you knew that," Colin said looking at them, realizing they were testing him, "You know that there is something about her, something she is carrying. You think that the runes are connected to her passing it on. The runes announce if she isn't passing it on. That is why you are testing my blood. To see if she passed it on to me."
"Look at the tyke, figuring things out," Doc drawled.
Colin looked at them, "That is what I do."
Doc and Dix exchanged a glance, "Well kiddo we'll see how you do. We're going to need you to find the ones that are new, and bring them here. Then we need you to keep them around her for a few days. We're testing a theory."
The boy thought for a moment, "You want to see if the runes stay away. Why a few days? She felt better the moment I stepped into the room."
The Doc smiled, "She felt better because I pumped her full of ordinary blood, you're just a charming addition to the plan. The ordinary blood gave her body something to fight instead of itself. But she got totally better because she passed it on to you."
Colin looked startled.
"Don't worry it isn't bad, we think she's passing antibodies on," the Doc said, "We think everybody who comes into contact with her is getting a vaccine of sorts."
Colin realized what they were saying "So you want me to keep her from getting hurt again until you figure it out, without her knowing."
"And we're going to keep this nice and quiet," a deep voice behind them said.
Mole stood there with his gun on his shoulder, "Four of us are going to get samples and work on this little medical problem and do whatever scheme that Doc and Dix have thought up. We're going to keep this as tight as possible because this is exactly the kind of volatile situation that could ruin any chance of 'normalcy'."
Colin looked around at Mole who was a big lizard, Dix who was kind of freaky looking, and Doc who was just not normal. Wisely boy said nothing.
"So the Doc has a whole bunch of scientific process things and he'll tell you what he's looking for. You're going to come with me tomorrow and we're gonna do a lot of walking, you're gonna do a lot of lookin' and at night you are going to return and tell Doc what he needs to know. You're gonna help us and we're going to keep you from getting your ass handed to you for all the snitching you did back at Manticore."
Colin looked properly relieved and properly frightened. Then he blinked and his face went blank.
Mole watched him, "We need to know we can trust you."
Colin looked at him.
"We need to know that nothing you learn or do will go outside of these walls."
Colin looked at the gun and nodded.
"That includes Alec," the Doc said lightly, but with an undertone of menace.
Colin looked at all of them, their strange faces and the power that their animalistic visages spoke of.
"And since you will be looking for why we will tell you," Dix said slowly, "We want you to not be looking out there. We think that if we trust you, you will trust us not to constantly be checking up on us."
Mole nodded, "And you are not going to tell Alec. We're not telling Alec because if this turns bad, if she is a danger to anyone he will think of her first. Even if it brings down each and every one of us. He will think of her first, and he will think only of her. So we have to make sure that that it isn't his choice. Just in case."