A/N: Whatever good angsty music works for you here. Linkin Park, Tori Amos, don't pull your punches.
There are things that Alec can't fix.
So a day when you've
lost yourself completely
Could be a night when your life ends
Such a heart that will lead you to deceiving
All the pain held in your hands
Are shaking cold, your hands are mine to hold
Speak to me
--Move Along, The All-American Rejects
It wasn't hard to guess where she had gone. There were things that Alec would never, ever understand about this woman, but one thing was written in stone – in times of crisis, Max went to the Space Needle. And she didn't appreciate company.
Not that that had ever stopped him.
"Go away," she said, not turning to face him. She was standing close to the edge of the roof, staring out into the Seattle night. Alec noticed with a jolt that she hadn't cleaned herself up yet. Congealing, browning clots of blood covered her exposed arms.
There was a lot he could handle in life, a lot, but he would never see blood on her body without wanting to put his fist through something.
He tried again. "Max—"
"You had no choice, Max." He would have lied to her if that's what it took, but here, he told the absolute truth. "They shot at you."
She'd been traveling with Logan, Biggs had told Alec – a routine meet with one of Logan's contacts to get some more medical supplies for Terminal City. But it had been a setup. Logan's contact sent them straight into an angry mob of Anti-Trannies – twelve people, mostly teenagers with nothing better to do. Angry, righteous teenagers with semi-automatics and no sense of consequences.
Max had killed them. Thoroughly.
Biggs had heard the shots on the radio and was there in under five minutes, he'd related to Alec. Max had already been gone, leaving a dozen broken bodies in her wake. Logan somehow made it back to the car, and was almost incoherent with horror. Biggs managed to get the details out of him, then immediately returned to TC.
Later, Alec thought, he was probably going to have to apologize to Biggs for some of the things he'd said – incompetent asshole being at the top of the list – and possibly he also should express his regrets for striking Biggs in the jaw. But that was for later. He'd gone to find Max.
And now he'd found her.
"They were kids," she said tonelessly. Alec wished he could see her face. "Younger than us."
"Old enough to fire a weapon," he retorted. "You had to do it."
"I didn't have to enjoy it," she snapped back.
He didn't have a response for that. But there was something very wrong, something in the way Max was holding herself that sent warning signals deep into his chest.
"Why are you here?" Her voice was resigned.
Because I was afraid. Because I needed to make sure you were okay. Because I wanted to tell you I was sorry I wasn't there. Because I should have killed them so that you wouldn't have to. "You disappeared. Everyone was worried."
She snorted. "Right. No one worries about me."
"I do," Alec said, more harshly than he had intended.
"Yeah, well, you shouldn't," said Max, opening her arms wide. The wind was strong up here, and her hair streamed behind her head like a banner. "I'm fine. I am just fine."
He choked back a semi-hysterical laugh. "Max, that is officially the worst lie you've ever told me."
"What? It's true." Her tone was light now, and mocking. "I'm exactly what I was designed to be. I'm a wolf in sheep's clothing. I'm a soldier… a hunter… a killer."
"Shut up," Alec said, alarmed. But something seemed to be unutterably humorous about his response, because Max burst into giggles. "What?" he asked, testily.
"Nothing," she said, stifling her laughter, wrapping her red arms around her midsection. "Private joke."
"Uh-huh." At least she was laughing. That was a good thing, right?
She took a few steps forward, and Alec suddenly realized just how close she was to the edge. Much closer than usual. "Alec," she said dreamily, "why do you think we can't fly?"
He went cold.
"I mean," she continued, "we can do everything else. I can calculate pi to thirty thousand decimal places and I can figure out where a roulette ball will fall and I can rip a man's arm right out of the socket without breaking a sweat. So why can't I fly?"
"I don't know," Alec said, doing some fast thinking. She was too close to the edge to tackle – they'd both go right off into space. If she backed up a few feet, though, he was pretty sure he could grab her shirt and drag her back to safety before she fought him off. Pretty sure. "Why don't we go for a beer, and we'll try and figure it out."
She acted as though she didn't hear him. "See, what I think is, I think it's just because I never tried." She took another step forward. Fuck.
"Here's what I think," he spat out furiously, angry in his helplessness. "I think that we weren't designed to fly. We were designed to do all that other stuff. Not our fault that we can't fly. We can't help what we were designed to do and not do. So we should stop stressing out over it. That's what I think."
"It doesn't bother you that we're monsters?" she asked.
"You're not a monster, Max." The hell with it. He edged closer to her, carefully, keeping his footsteps soundless. If she fought him and they both fell – well, that would just save a bullet. Because if she jumped, he was going to go straight back to his apartment and put a Glock in his mouth.
Max was looking at something far off in the distance. "Logan said I was. After. He was afraid of me."
Scratch that. He would tear every limb from Logan's body, then go home and blow his brains out. "Well, I hate to tell you this," Alec said sardonically, momentarily swallowing his rage, "but Logan is full of shit."
"He is not right."
"He loves me and he thinks I'm a monster." Max was crying in earnest now, shoulders hunched. "What does that tell you?"
"It tells me that he doesn't love you." She was almost within arm's reach.
"I guess no one ever has, then. No one still living, anyway," she added, almost as an afterthought.
Alec was close enough now that he could see the outline of her cheek in the moonlight. He deliberately allowed his boot to clack against the metal of the Needle, and Max turned to face him in surprise. Her tears were running streaks through the splattered blood covering her face, making her look like some pagan war goddess. He thought his heart would stop with adoration. "Max, please," he whispered.
"Go away, Alec," she sighed, barely audible. But her eyes didn't leave his as he moved to stand next to her. "I don't want you to get poisoned, too."
He had no idea what that meant, and he didn't really care. There was only one thing to do now.
With a spin, Alec landed a lightning-fast roundhouse kick to Max's ribs. She hadn't expected it, hadn't prepared herself for it, and she flew backward several feet before landing with a solid clang on the metal surface, knocking the breath from her body. In an instant, he was kneeling at her side.
"Max," he said, his voice breaking as she gasped. "I'm sorry. I had to."
Her gasps turned to sobs. "You shouldn't have," she cried.
Alec gathered her into his lap. She stiffened, but frankly, he didn't give a shit whether she wanted him to or not, because if he didn't hold onto her for dear life she might vanish right in front of him and then his world would end. After a moment, though, she relaxed into his embrace, clutching his shirt and sobbing as he rocked her.
"I can't do this." She buried her face in his crook of his neck, and Alec could feel the heat from her face burning against his skin. "I can't do this anymore. I can't. I can't."
"I know," he whispered, pressing desperate kisses into her hair. She smelled coppery. "I know."
The Seattle night moved on without them.
A/N: Angst. For no good reason. It just happens that way sometimes.
Alec is right in Borrowed Time, by the way. Max is a broken toy. Sometimes she's better at coping than others, but there's a desperate edge to her that's always teetering on the edge of complete breakdown – mostly as she tries to reconcile what she is, and what she wants to be. I think breaking out of Manticore at the age of nine has a lot to do with that – earlier or later, she could have been more soldier or more ordinary, but at that age, she split right down the middle. It's what broke Ben. And Max has never been that far off from that.