AN: I got this idea from a Bones fic with the name Concatenated Love. It uses the same format with the quote, other than that, it's my own imagination.

I love you.

It's not a weight you must carry around.

When they get back to New York they make a promise that everything will be different. Justin won't try to learn even more elemental spells that will ultimately kill her when they get to the real tournament. She'll start treating him like the older brother instead of the little one. Max will start seeing a psychologist three times a week to work out whatever is going on inside of his head. They'll all be happy. They'll learn to live together in harmony.

They should have known it wouldn't last.

Dean comes back to the city to live with his mother and she cracks when she sees him with another girl. He's curling a strand of her blond hair around his finger, a dreamy smile on his face. She leans her head against his shoulder and he whispers in her ear and makes her laugh.

All Alex can feel is her heart. Beat…beat… breaking on the inside.

And, as always, she isn't so good at handling her feelings. She finds where her father hid the book of forbidden spells from her. It isn't hard, he's been reduced to a mortal and he isn't the tallest tree in the forest. So he locks it in a drawer in the layer, which she easily charms a key to fit in.

She's ruffling through the book, seething mad when he comes downstairs and catches her. Demands to know what she's doing, as he closes the distance to her. She hates the way he acts like he's a hunter and she's a scared little bunny, when really it's the other way around.

She shouts at him for not trusting her. He shouts at her for being a delinquent. She asks what he, the oh-perfect one, was doing. And he yell-stutters that it was nothing. They're just angry at being caught in a lie, but that doesn't mean they won't take the other one down for it.

He takes out his wand and tries to glue her to the ground with expert precision, but she catches a lucky break, like always, and her shield charm is more powerful when used with hand magic. She makes a run for it while he's recovering from the shock, the book in her back pocket. He takes a leap, and lands on top of her.

They pant, although she isn't sure why. Sometimes their magic takes a mind of it's own when they get into a fight. It sets off the electricity the most, sends wires flailing and lamps breaking. She thinks the sparks are beautiful though, and will push not to stop when her father warns them.

She manages to end up on her back, even though he's still crushing her. She tries to push her way out, but he's a dead weight on top of her. She shouts again.

He asks for the spell book. She asks for the wand in exchange. They're in a stalemate, again. He tells her not to be a bitch to Dean when she was the one to shatter him first. She calls him a baby and a know-it-all and says she wishes he was that mature when the vampire broke up with him.

Suddenly, it stops though. He's staring at her, mouth half-open. There's something almost quizzical in his brown eyes. She doesn't like this. It reminds her that he has the ability to forget her. That she lost him once.

She calls out his name, even though she can still feel him on top of her. Even though she knows he's right here.

One. Two. Three.

She counts the words as they come out of his mouth. And she's heard it before, but not like this. She's aware this isn't the way a brother is supposed to say this to a sister. She knows those words aren't as little here as they are in most cases. They're big enough to tear a family apart. To land him in a mental hospital the rest of his life. To make him forfeit the contest to her.

He gets up off of her and pulls her up with him. Her head is too heavy though and suddenly she's fall, fall, fainting into the floor head first.

I love you.

It's not a standard you have to bear.

She wakes up six months later in her bedroom. She begins the day with the same day with the same greeting she's gotten from him everyday since. He nods his head in acknowledgement of her existence and finishes pouring his Captain Crunch. She watches his back retreat into his room, hugging herself. She wants to cry.

Justin is perfect. Justin is smart and well-rounded and charismatic in person. He gets a 1490 on his SATs. He gets the highest GPA of the whole senior class. He gets more extra-curricular activities to put on his resume than anyone else in New York. He gets accepted to Harvard.

He promised he'd never leave her again, and he's intentionally doing just that.

It rains that weekend on graduation. He gripes and moans to his parents that the gloomy effect is going to ruin his moving, uplifting speech. She thinks it's appropriate that the weather feels the same way she does. She also wonders if Mother Nature is getting her brother back for screwing with the weather once upon a time when he was still nerdy Justin and she was still immature little Alex.

Justin is wrong. The rain is perfect for his speech. He quotes Tennyson and Einstein and Shakespeare. And to end, he reads Where The Sidewalk ends by Shell Silverstein and the sun crowns out over his head. She cries in the beauty of it all and the fact that it's tearing her apart inside. Max squeezes her hand, and she realizes he's crying too. He tells her it's okay, he'll miss him too.

He has no idea.

I love you.

It's not a sacrifice I make.

He doesn't come back for Thanksgiving, so she assumes Christmas is also out of the question. She relaxes, as long as he's gone for good she can convince herself she's forgotten him. She and Parker sneak out to a senior parties. She meets other boys. Other boys who lie and kiss her hard and don't care about what she wants. She doesn't have to worry about losing her powers for a mortal because they're only one night. One bed. One notch.

Still as the calendar inches closer to the mother of all holidays, she feels a growing anxiety. What if he does come? How are they going to pretend to hate each other silently around all that joy? What if there's mistletoe? She asks herself everything but the one that actually scares her.

What if he doesn't come?

And it happens. She cries to herself in her bed at Nana Russo's house, wiping away her own tears when she hears a loud thud in the corner. Justin is lying in the corner, with a kitty face drawn onto his perfect skin.

Alex.

He thinks he whispers her name because he's so drunk, but he actually shouts it. She helps him up off the floor and into her bed. Now he's the one sobbing into her pillow.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Eventually he stops long enough to hand her a little black box. It's a ring. Not an engagement ring, not even a promise ring. Just a little silver band with a little red stone in it. She can't breathe for a few minutes it's so beautiful. It's exactly what she didn't know she wanted.

He saw it in a flea market in Egypt. He thought of her.

The tears start again, because it's so incredibly perfect and she didn't get him anything in return. He holds on to her, and tells her it's okay. He gave it to her because he thought it would make her happy. She feels warm and complete for the first time she can remember. So much so that she falls asleep, just like that, in his arms.

When she wakes up on the 26th, he's already gone.

I love you.

It's not an expectation of perfection.

She drops out her senior year of high school. Right before graduation. Pregnant.

Her parents don't know the last part, but it doesn't matter because she's nineteen. And she can do what she wants. And she can run faster than Jerry can even without magic. And Max isn't good enough at it to catch up.

It's him that finds her, after a week, curled up on the floor of a hotel room. And she cries all over again because, unlike everyone else, she knows he can tell just by looking at her. She's disappointed him, again. He's everything she ever wanted to be, and she's still nothing like him. And she can't even get close.

He just cradles her, shushing away the tears, until her sobs are comforted to hiccups. She keeps apologizing and apologizing, but he just makes that ssssshhhh sound. Like an echo.

She feels her sorrows lulling away to them, like a cleansing ocean wave tickling her feet as it goes in…out…in…out…in…out… And it stops. She looks up at him, in wonderful anticipation to see he's crying too. Silently, selflessly, without someone comforting him.

She reaches up and runs her left hand through his beautiful jet black hair, so soft underneath her delicate fingers. He shudders and she breathes in, and holds it. His eyes meet hers and she takes her touch away and just looks at him, expecting, fearing, wanting. And now he pushes her off of him, and says a bunch of words that she's heard before.

Can't. Wrong. Hurt. Bad.

She doesn't care though. She wraps her arms around his neck, hugging him to her. And then crashes her lips onto his.

I love you.

It's not my life's whole purpose-or yours either.

Wizard abortions are nearly impossible, she finds out. Or rather, he does. Usually unsuccessful unless the child would be miscarried anyways, the father dies, or…

Or…

She waits and he looks away. She grabs the book and sees the words Wizard's Council approval needed. She also sees that it takes only five months until the child is to be born, and she's already on her second. She tries to convince him to go back to the beach, to find the Stone of Dreams where she dropped it. He won't though. He won't tear their family apart again.

She reminds him that they're already doing that.

Through all the years of fighting and teasing and nagging they went through in childhood, he has never looked at her until he hates her until now. She looks at the ground and drops the subject. Sometimes she forgets that he has dreams bigger than getting through the next day without her giving birth, without Jerry finding them when they stop for sleep.

He takes a shower, and when he comes out, just a towel wrapped around his waist, she tells him she thinks that he should go back to school. That stealing money and traveling all the time and running isn't good for him like it is for her, and he looks at her, nods, and walks back into the bathroom carrying his clothes.

I love you.

It's not to make you change.

He starts at Oxford two months before the baby is due. She gets a job as a nurse at the infirmary down the street, her forged medical records check out and she uses a list of Justin-approved spells to fix whatever ailments she needs to. It's barely enough to support a small off-campus apartment but Justin manages to get a paid internship at a prestigious lab.

She's home early one day, hospital admissions are down. She looks at his books, molecular spectroscopy and theoretical chemistry and electromagnetism. And she watches her tears leave little dots on the pages because she can never be like this. She will never, ever be good enough to deserve him.

The latch of the door clicks behind her and she snaps her head to see him coming in, dropping his keys on the table next to the entrance and staring at her. She slams the books and runs into the bedroom. Keeps running through him calling after her and locks it from the inside. He bangs on the door for a few minutes, bargaining with her. And then she hears a loud crack, and whips her head up from the pillow she's been crying into.

He stands there, in a lot of clearing smoke and the rubble of what used to be the door and shakes his head. He knew he should have taken down that door.

She heads for the closet but he grabs her arm and she's not as strong as he is, so she struggles but remains trapped. She yells at him, because if he had any common sense at all, he'd let her go. He'd find someone else who was smarter and prettier, someone who he could bring home for holidays and wouldn't have to hide away.

He sits on the edge of the bed, and then gently reaches out a hand over her stomach, spreading his fingers out and then slowly starts rubbing it. There are a million girls who are exactly what he should want, but there is only one that he needs.

I love you.

It's not even to make you love me.

She's at work when she goes into labor. She tries to keep going with emptying the bed pans, but she thinks the smell is the reason the baby is in such a damn hurry to get out in the first place and the contractions quickly become too bad for her to stand. Another nurse finds her lying there and calls for a stretcher to take her straight to the delivery room.

She calls several of the other employees idiots and yells at them repeatedly that she does not want a doctor she and Justin have a midwife. She worries that they'll expose their magic. Babies cannot be around other mortals, their powers are far too delicate until they're old enough to train.

Finally Justin gets there. She has never seen anyone so calm in such a high stress situation. He calmly explains to everyone that Alex is under a natural child birth regimen because her doctor found the child had bad reactions to medication in the past, and they fear that it may die under extreme medication given during labor.

He even gets an ambulance to drive them home.

She curses herself from trying so hard to get out of there when she in the tub later, because she wants an epidural so badly. She curses a lot of things, him, whichever frat boy got her into this situation, the goddamn baby. She accidentally spurts out enough magic to break every light in the room and then a few pipes under the sink. And then the baby is finally out, it's dim outline only lit by Justin's wand.

It's a boy.

The words come out of his mouth, awed and loving and she can't even look at his face but she knows that at this moment, holding the baby out to her in his arms, that neither of their hearts could be more full. She takes him, not seeing all the grime surrounding him but this son of hers. He makes a small sound, burrowing into her neck. And then he opens his eyes, and she sees familiar bright blue boring into her.

And how could it possibly be wrong anymore.

I love you.

It's as pure and simple as that.

On her birthday she sends a suicide note to her parents, she puts her wand in it. They don't know that Justin got the family magic, and they're never going to.

She turns around and finds him leaning against a mail truck, arms folded against his chest. She waits for him to scold her, to tell her that it'll give Jerry a heart attack and that Theresa will never recover from the grief. And that Max will be alone, without magic and without them, just a very sad, confused boy that used to be part of something special. He just leans there though, Daniel in his carrier at his feet.

She starts to defend herself, but he leans forward, kissing her on the forehead. And then picks up Daniel, heading towards the car and leaving her standing there stunned. She looks up to see him waiting there, driver's side door open. Blue meets brown.

"I love you."

AN: So I was originally going to upload this as "I Love You" but I thought it would be a little redundant. So it is what it is instead, I actually really like it. I never really understood the character until I started writing this, although I don't know that I'll ever attempt it again.

AN2: Thank you ery much to whoever left me the anonymous review that says "come on their siblings". I very much meant to specify that that is in no way or shape in hell that is Justin's child. Frat boys...frat boys...And also, if you look very carefully, it is in no way implied that their relationship is sexual. It is not, I have limits. Disney might need to be more careful in casting next time though.