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Sweet Victory

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She was almost there; she could see the wall of mist right in front of her. But her brothers were right behind her and she knew that none would go without a fight.

She felt Justin’s heavy footsteps behind her and she knew that he would be the toughest to beat. She wanted to win so badly so, muttering a quick apology under her breath, she turned with her wand in hand and waved it, causing Justin to fall on his face. She quickly turned, seeing Max further behind, giving it his all but she knew she would make it before he did. She moved back toward the mist, grinning as it came closer and closer. She wasn’t far away. She could be the family wizard in a mere twenty seconds…

But something seemed to tug her back and she found herself falling backwards onto the ground. She winced as she caught a glimpse of Justin with his wand in hand, getting up. He looked determined and serious and she couldn’t help but groan as she forced herself on her feet. She was right there but so was Justin. She was about to run through but Justin tugged her back. That jerk, she thought as she glared as she pulled him back as well. Justin struggled as his eyes softened a bit.

“Please,” he whispered. He sounded so heartbroken that part of her did want to give it to him. He deserved it more than anyone at this point. But she had done a lot as well. She saved the wizard world, she was wizard of the year. There was no way that she could just hand it to him. So, she pulled away from him.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered back. Justin seemed ready for this because both were sprinting at that point to the finish line. They ran side by side, glancing at each other only once before turning to the finish line. She kept her eyes trained on the mist. She would burst through that mist victorious and well deserved at any moment. Just focus on the mist, she told herself. And she did. She ignored Justin’s heavy breathing as they ran. It seemed to last forever, the finish line seemingly getting further and further away. But when she felt a whoosh of air and a cloud of mist enveloping her vision, she felt a sudden burst of elation. It was very close. She didn’t know if she won or not, actually. All she knew was that she made it. She finished a competition and she did her very best.

When the mist cleared, she stopped, panting for breath as she leaned over to take a breath. She closed her eyes as she took a moment to catch her breath before lifting her head, grinning. She made it. She could very well be the family wizard. She looked over to Justin and Max, who had just made it through as she smiled warmly at them. They smiled back as Alex lifted her head to see the faces of her parents and Mason. All of them looked surprised but they were cheering loudly, and she realized that she must have won. She looked over at Justin, who looked resigned to his fate as he clasped a hand on her back. Max smiled a bit as he hugged his sister. He looked disappointed but so did Justin. She hugged them both back.

“Congrats,” Justin said and she nodded back at him. He had to be angry and disappointed. He wanted this more than anything. He had studied and practiced magic for years and now his sister won? And not even once, but twice. It had to sting; Justin had always been the perfect one, the brother who did anything to win. Even though that turned him into a complete jackass since that family trip, Alex knew his heart was in the right place. Ok, so he intentionally sabotaged her with that video during her award ceremony, but she knew that Justin loved her.
And Max, poor Max. He probably had no idea what was going on, but taking a look at his disheartened face made Alex think twice. He did great in this competition and even though he didn’t win, he should be proud that he made it so far. She gave him another hug, which he returned warmly. Alex wouldn’t admit this, but she loved Max’s hugs. They were always warm and filled her with joy. She grinned at both of her brothers but their moment was broken by their parents attacking all of them with hugs.

“Why isn’t Chancellor Tootie announcing the winner?” Alex asked breathlessly. Theresa shrugged as she wrapped an arm around Alex’s shoulders.
“It was so close that they have to check the footage to find out who won,” Jerry admitted. Seconds later, Alex felt Mason’s warm breath on her neck as he hugged her from behind.

“You did well, love. You definitely won. I saw it with my own two eyes and you definitely won,” Mason whispered. Alex giggled as she leaned into his embrace before turning and pecking him on the lips. From the corner of her eyes, she saw Juliet do the same with Justin.

“I hope so,” she breathed out. She really did feel the love in the room and she felt even more confident that she won. Even though Justin was right beside her, she felt like she did get ahead of him a little bit. She waved at Harper, who was just finishing congratulating Max and the two best friends hugged.

“You did so well, Alex. I was rooting for you,” she whispered. Alex knew that already, though. Her best friend would root for her best friend, just like Zeke rooted for Justin. She glanced over at Professor Crumbs, who was walking toward the middle and she quickly turned to him, along with the rest of the family. He looked determined and for once, he had a poker face on so Alex couldn’t tell who won.

“We just analyzed the footage and we’re going to show it to you so you can see who won. We had to watch it a few times, though, because it was a tough call to make,” Professor Crumbs said, gesturing to the Chancellor as a video popped up above him. Alex quickly intertwined her hands with Justin and Max, squeezing tightly as the footage was played. At first, all they saw was mist. They heard the cheering from the background and Alex glanced at Crumbs before back at the video. Finally, she saw figures appearing from the mist, running full on. She saw her, Max’s and Justin’s figures get closer and closer and she could spot them emerging from the mist. So, this was it. Her pulse began to race as she saw the three of them emerge from out of the mist, panting as they stepped past the finish line. When the video cut, she looked confused. Well, he wasn’t kidding when he said it was close. She didn’t even know who won.

“So, who won?” Harper asked, finally breaking the silence. Alex let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding in as she looked at Professor Crumbs. He cleared his throat before stepping forward.

“After careful viewing of the footage and the wonder of super wizard slow motion, we determined that the Russo family wizard is-“ Professor Crumbs stopped for dramatic effect, which had always irritated Alex to no end. She just wanted to stop her heart from beating out of her chest and he was making it more difficult. She felt Justin’s hand squeeze even harder and she couldn’t help but look at him. His eyes were wide with anticipation and he looked terrific and nervous. He was sweating and shaking a little bit. She looked at Max next, who looked nervous yet already disappointed. It seemed like he knew who won already and it sucked that he was probably true. She felt bad for him; she knew that nobody rooted for him but Alex knew that he did fantastic and it was anyone’s game at this point. She took a deep breath before turning back to Crumbs, who let out a shaky breath before opening his mouth.

“-the winner is Max Russo.” And that’s when Alex felt her world come crashing down for a split second. Disappointment filled her as she felt Justin’s hand rip free from her own as he brought it up to his mouth in shock. Silence filled the room; nobody was cheering, nobody was clapping. Everyone just looked over to Max, whose grip loosened in Alex’s hand as he stared, shell shocked himself. Alex gritted her teeth as everything hit her. She lost the wizard’s competition. She was mortal now; she lost her powers, she lost Mason and she could also lose her planned future. She thought that she would be the family wizard. But now that didn’t happen and it was finally true. She lost. That elation she felt when she won back in Puerto Rico was never going to come. Her little brother had won and her and Justin had lost.

Speaking of Justin, she turned to look at him but his face said it all. He looked absolutely crushed. He was struggling to pull it together as Juliet gave him a tight hug. He closed his eyes and Alex knew he was trying so hard not to cry. But then again, so was she. She ignored Mason’s whispers of ‘love’ and ‘sweetheart’ and she ignored her parents turning to Crumbs to ask if he was sure as she looked at Max. He was completely shell shocked; he hadn’t moved an inch since the winner was announced. It was like he couldn’t believe it at all and Alex couldn’t help but wonder if he thought that he didn’t deserve it. He wasn’t giving himself any credit, even as Harper grabbed Max and pulled him away to give him a gigantic hug. He nodded numbly as he wrapped a tentative arm around her. Alex’s heart was breaking for her loss, but she knew that she had to suck it up right now and be there for Max. So, after a small shrug to Mason, she pulled away from him and grabbed Max, enveloping him in a hug.

“Congrats Max,” she whispered in his ear. He hesitated before nodding slowly.

“Did I really just win? I mean, after everyone saying that I wouldn’t-“ Max said softly and she forced herself to pull away, holding onto his shoulders.

“You had an equal chance as us and you beat us fair and square. You deserve this so much. I’m so proud of you,” she told him and she truly meant it. Max finally gave a small smile, the first one that day, and he nodded in appreciation before their parents attacked them. They grabbed onto Max tightly as they cheered loudly. Theresa took a quick look at Alex, smiling softly before turning back to the man of the hour. Alex stepped back, letting Max enjoy this moment with their parents. It would be the first time in a long time that they were proud of him and she wasn’t going to get in the way of this moment.

She took that moment to pull Justin away from Zeke and Juliet. She knew that both of them needed to have a little moment to themselves to…mourn? Grieve? She didn’t know the right word. Justin looked relieved to be pulled away from the crowd and he gave her a sad smile. He clenched his fist together and she knew that he was getting angry at himself.

“This sucks so much,” he admitted quietly and she nodded in agreement. They just lost to Max and it was upsetting and surprising. None of them knew how to deal with this, so Alex rubbed Justin’s arm soothingly. He took a deep breath before releasing it, glancing at his brother, who looked overwhelmed.

“I know it does. But right now, we have to be there for Max. No more excuses, no more getting angry, no more being a jerk. You can rant and rave all you want about the loss later. But right now, we need to be there for Max and congratulate him on his well deserved win,” she told him. Justin shrugged as his face showed confliction.

“But how can I pretend to be happy for him when all I want to do is rewind time to the moment before we crossed the finish line?” Justin asked. His voice cracked as he brought a hand up to wipe his eyes and Alex sighed as she shrugged. She bit her lip as she gave him a one armed hug.

“I don’t know, but you have to try. We’re going to be ok, Justin. You’re going to be ok without magic,” she told him. Justin shrugged as he looked at his girlfriend, who was hugging Max.

“Yeah, but what sucks the most about this is that we’re going to lose Mason and Juliet,” Justin sadly reminded her and she already felt the tears prick her eyes. She was trying to forget about that little detail for the moment. She took a good long look at Mason, who was talking with her dad and she realized that Justin was right. Now she wasn’t sure if she could go back to Max and be there for him.

“Damn you Justin. Can’t we just…forget about that detail right now? Max needs us to be there for him,” she asked, feeling her own voice crack. He looked very hesitant and unsure before finally nodding. Alex took the moment to wrap both arms around him tightly. He returned the hug as both shared this silent moment together. They both were in the same boat and it sucked. When Justin finally did pull away from Alex, he was teary eyed. But he wiped them away, smiling at Alex before joining their brother on the platform. Chancellor Tootie and Professor Crumbs stood on the steps that magically appeared. Tootie was holding a wand that held the full wizard powers and Alex sighed as she wrapped her arm around Mason, who squeezed her shoulders.

“You did very well, love,” he told her quietly. She nodded as she leaned against him, watching Justin give Max a quick hug before taking his place beside Alex and Juliet. Max stood in front of Tootie as their parents stood behind him proudly. Harper and Zeke stood beside Mason and Alex, arms wrapped around each other as he spoke.

“Congratulations Max Russo. You are the Russo family wizard! Come up and take your prize!” he said it jokingly, which had the room lighten up a bit. Max took a step forward and placed one foot on the step. Alex sighed as she turned away. She didn’t know if she could watch this. It hurt too much, to see the wizard powers going to Max when she felt like she deserved it a lot more. She needed them the most. She was going to lose Mason without them. She swallowed her tears as Mason rubbed her back soothingly. It did help a little bit, that she and Mason could be together for at least one more night before they would have to break up. She knew that Juliet and Justin must be going through the exact same thing, especially after just finding each other again.

“Wait, I need to say something,” Max suddenly said, breaking the uncomfortable tension. Alex turned to Max, surprised as everyone looked at the youngest Russo. Max sighed as he turned to the whole group before back at Tootie and Professor Crumbs. “I-I never expected to win these powers. You know, everyone has been talking about Alex or Justin winning but nobody ever considered me a serious candidate. Hell, I never seriously expected myself to win. I haven’t done anything important enough like Alex or Justin have with their powers.” With every sentence, his voice began to get stronger as he stepped down from the step. Alex shook her head, knowing exactly what he was going to do as she heard Justin speak.

“Don’t do it, Max. You won fair and square,” he said but Max shook his head, smiling sadly as he looked at Justin.

“When I won, it was the most shocking thing ever. I felt like I was in one of those movies or something. You know, those action movies where everything is in slow motion? I didn’t know what to think. I know it was only a few minutes ago, but I still feel very numb. But then I felt happy. I felt like I just did something that can make anyone proud of me and that’s the feeling that I’ve never felt before in my life. It’s the first time where I have come above you two and I’m the first in Mom and Dad’s eyes. And you know what? It feels terrific to see the pride in their eyes and I know that I’m not a failure.” Max paced the floor, glancing at Professor Crumbs and Tootie, who were listening intently.

“You’re not a failure, Max. We never thought that,” Theresa said. Max turned to her sadly, his own eyes filled with tears as he shook his head.

“Maybe not you, but Dad has, and Justin and Alex and everyone in this room. And it’s true; I even thought it for a while. But winning this competition has shown me that I’m not as useless as I thought. I’ve down something great in my life and this will always be my favourite memory,” Max continued. He sighed as he stuffed his hands in his pockets as Alex looked at him, unsure of where his speech was going anymore.

“Wait, what are you trying to say?” she asked curiously.
“I’m saying that I proved myself tonight to you guys but most importantly, to myself. I’m not just the idiotic screw up. I beat you two at something for once and it feels great. Which makes it even harder to do the right thing,” Max admitted. Alex shook her head. Now she knew what Max was going to say and she stepped forward, grabbing onto his shoulders.

“You are not going to give your powers up, Max. Not for us,” Alex said, with Justin nodding in agreement. He also stepped forward but Max shook his head.

“I’m not doing this for you two. Ok, I’m not doing it just for you two. I’m doing it for myself. I don’t deserve these powers. Actually, I don’t need these powers. You need them way more than I do. People say that I’ll turn out like Uncle Kelbo. But I don’t need powers to survive. Unlike Uncle Kelbo, I can survive with being mortal just fine. In fact, I much prefer being mortal than being a wizard. But you and Justin? You need these powers so you can be with your loved ones. Plus, you both have proved yourselves endlessly for why you deserve to be the family wizard,” Max told her. He quickly pulled away from her and turned to Justin, who shook his head, arms crossed.

“Stop it, Max. Alex and I will both survive without powers,” Justin said. But Max shook his head.

“No you won’t. This is crushing you both and you’ll just resent that your little brother won instead of one of you. And it’s ok. Remember a while back, when we were thinking about our futures and I decided that it would be a good idea to become a magician?” Max asked. Both of them nodding, remembering the disastrous attempt at becoming rockstars.

“Well, I think I’ve realized that maybe that isn’t the right path for me. You guys are so much better at this stuff than I am. Plus, I’m the only one that’s dating a mortal. Like you guys, I don’t want to choose between magic and love. I just can’t. It’s the right thing to do; I’m going to give up my powers for myself,” Max finished before turning to Tootie, who nodded.

“Alright then,” he said. Justin frowned though as he turned to Alex.

“But who are you choosing to get the powers?” he asked curiously. Max took a deep breath before turning back to them.

“This is the hardest decision I have to make. Both of you have great reasons to get the full wizard powers. I’m sorry Justin, but I’m choosing Alex. She’s improved so much over the years. She went from a slacker teen who didn’t have a care in the world and carelessly used magic to a grown adult who has saved the world and worked hard to practice magic. I know you’ve worked hard as well, Justin, but I truly believe Alex deserves the full powers the most. She’s worked hard at it and has come a long way,” he admitted. Alex’s eyes widened as she looked at her brother with new eyes. He looked back and smiled. Max had such a big heart and was giving his powers for her. That was so selfless, she thought as she embraced him tightly. She knew Justin was disappointed but she didn’t care right now. She was starting to feel that elation just like the first time.

“I can’t believe you’re going to do this,” Alex said as she rubbed Max’s back. He leaned his head in and pulled away, looking at her.

“You earned them, sis,” he said lightly, causing Alex to laugh, wiping a few tears away. She looked over at Justin, who looked disappointed but he gave a small smile and a thumbs up.

“He’s right, Alex. You’ve earned them,” Justin said and Alex knew that they would all be alright. She stepped up to Tootie as Max stepped back. They all watched as Tootie waved the wand and watched as the bright light bounced before lightly entering Alex. Her body glowed for a split second before it stopped.

She smiled brightly as she turned to Mason. She really couldn’t believe this. In less than half an hour, she had gone from competing to losing to actually winning and it felt great. She felt so great, she leapt into Mason’s arms and gave him a huge kiss. She really couldn’t help herself. He squeezed her tightly as her parents crowded around her and gave her their own hugs.

“Congratulations, Alex. We are so proud of you,” Jerry said. Alex grinned as she sunk into his arms, letting the moment wash over her. She finally pulled away, feeling Harper’s arms around her.

“Terrific job, Alex,” she said. Alex grinned as she finally turned to Justin, who seemed to be talking to Professor Crumbs. She sighed; he looked so disappointed. He would probably be angry at Max for a little bit for choosing Alex over her and she didn’t blame him. Justin worked twice as hard as anyone she knew. She sighed as she turned back to Harper and Zeke, who stood hand in hand.

“So, what are you going to do first with your magic?” Harper asked curiously. Alex sighed as she eyed Justin from the corner of her eye, watching his eyes light up. She frowned as she turned toward him.

“I don’t know,” she answered distractedly as everyone glanced over at Justin and Professor Crumbs, who were shaking hands as Justin grinned, turning to the group.

“Professor Crumbs is retiring. I’m taking over as headmaster,” Justin shared. Alex couldn’t help but grin at this. Everything seemed to be turning out well so far. Juliet embraced Justin warmly and Alex looked at the sparkle in his eye. He seemed to be getting over losing the competition quickly.

“But wait, how are you going to do that without powers?” Max asked slowly. Professor Crumbs just grinned as he waved his wand and watched as Justin’s body glowed. Alex’s mouth dropped open as he kissed Juliet full on the mouth.

“I also get to keep my wizard powers. Isn’t that great? Two wizards in the family! No offense, Max,” he said to his brother, who just shrugged it off.

“I got my moment of happiness. Enjoy it,” Max said as everyone moved to embrace Justin. Alex grinned as she held back, standing next to Mason as they watched the happy reunion.

“Seems like everything turned out well for you guys,” Mason commented. She nodded as she leaned against her werewolf boyfriend, basking in the moment. It turned out to be one of the most nervewracking days to one of the worst to one of the best. What an emotional day. But she knew that everyone would be alright and, more importantly, everything turned out how it should have.