A/N: Thanks to everyone who took the time to review this story. Here's the conclusion to the trilogy.
Set: After Freak Nation
Alec clutched Max's hand tightly in his as they watched Terminal City's flag being raised. It flapped proudly in the wind, a statement to all the ordinaries that saw it. It symbolized that they were a nation, a group of people who weren't just going to back down despite the fact that everyone wanted them dead.
"Look at all of them," he whispered in her ear. "Look at what you gave them."
"Gave? I put them out here, put their heads on a chopping block. So many of us have died, Alec: everyone that White caught, Cece…" She paused. "Biggs. And for what? For us to be holed up in some toxic waste dump, fighting in a war that sooner or later, we're bound to lose? We may be better trained, but there's a hell of a lot more of them than there are of us. The fighting – it's never going to end."
His grip tightened and he brought her close. "You gave them a taste of freedom. A chance to finally be in charge of what to do with their lives. It doesn't matter now that we're in a war; no one's forcing them to fight, they're choosing to. Besides, that's what we do, Maxie. We fight. We've been fighting all our lives for what we wanted."
She relished the warmth his body provided, and tucked her head into the crook of his neck. "I'm tired of fighting," she mumbled, cold lips moving against his skin.
He was silent for several moments, eyes on the fluttering flag. He remembered the symbolism behind the different colors, remembered Joshua's somber voice and the movement of his hand from the red to the white. This is where we are now, because our blood is being spilled.
"Pretend you could have anything, without having to fight for it. What would it be?" he asked her.
"What's the point?" she muttered. "It's never going to happen."
He nudged her playfully, lips turning up at the corners. "That's kind of the point of pretending, Max."
She opened her mouth to respond and then suddenly clamped it shut again, a weird expression coming over her face. She had been about to utter the obvious – that their kind could live freely and without fear in the world – when she realized something. She seemed to think about it for another minute before answering him.
"I don't need anything," she said firmly. "As screwed up as everything is, I already have everything that I want that really matters."
He took a second to think about that, chewing his lip contemplatively. He looked at her carefully. "You are talking about me, right?"
She worked to keep her face as straight as she could. "Well, I was really talking about the upgrade to my Ninja, but you too."
He cracked her a grin, and she nestled deeper into his arms, watching the others who were still staring at the flag. They had stayed because she had asked them to, and now she was terrified that she had made a mistake and was leading them all to their deathbeds. But Alec was right. They were fighters. They would lose some of their friends, but they would endure. She would endure.
Because she had Alec. She had her friends. She had this group of ragtag soldiers who had somehow become her family.
Everything she had ever needed. Everything she had ever wanted.
She already had.
A/N: *scratches head* Well, I hope that kind of made sense. I feel as if Max's realization may have come on too suddenly, but then again, that's what epiphanies are, right? Hmmm….