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kasman
BLESSINGS Chapters 11-15 
3rd-Jan-2003 08:56 pm
Usnjensen
Fandom: Dark Angel
Author kasman
Title: Blessings
Betas: Alaidh and catherder
Pairing: M/L
Summary: A very shippy look at Logan’s family. Takes place some 13 years after Freak Nation.



Chapter 11 – Cabin Fever

Max sat on the couch with her legs crossed under her, studying the chessboard closely. Logan sat on the opposite side, resting his chin on his hands, elbows on his knees. They had moved one of the armchairs out of the way to allow him the space to draw near to the coffee table. "You gonna move or what?" he asked.

She picked up a piece and moved it. "Check."

Logan sighed. "Guess that's one more to you."

"What, you giving up?" Max asked as he straightened and started packing the chess pieces back into the box.

"Three games to one is enough of a beating for my ego for today." He looked up from packing up the board as the phone began to ring in the kitchen.

"Well, while you nurse your ego, I'll go and answer the phone," she laughed, uncurling herself.

Logan watched her go, admiring the jauntiness of her gait, the way she swung her hips as she walked. He continued to pack up the chess set, listening with half an ear to Max's conversation as he did, trying to figure out who was at the other end of the phone line.

"Sure...okay...yeah, if that's what you want to do." Max giggled. "Well, you always did bring out the beat in him, boo."

Logan looked at Max and mouthed the question, "Original Cindy?"

She nodded back to him.

He finished packing up the chess set, then went out on the rear porch to check on the weather again. The rain was definitely easing; in fact, had slowed to a light drizzle. He looked at the dartboard, still hanging where he and Bennett had left it two days before, with the final projectile protruding, and decided to pack that away as well. As he came back inside, he heard Eva starting to stir and went into the bedroom. He awkwardly reached up into the bassinette and picked her up.

"Oh-oh. Somebody needs changing," he said, reaching for the pack of disposable diapers on the floor. He lay her on his lap for a moment as he crossed to the bed in order to change her diaper. Vaguely, he could hear Max still talking on the phone. Original Cindy was still her best friend and confidante. Logan, in return, appreciated Cindy's forthright honesty and up-front manner, taking seriously her threat that she would "put the smack-down" on his ass if he so much as harmed one hair on Max's head. Cindy still occupied the apartment on Waverly, but, along with the majority of the old gang from Crash, had given up her job with Jam Pony. She was now employed as a beautician, a job that seemed to suit her.

Logan busied himself with changing the diaper as Max chatted with her friend.

When Max hung up the phone, she wandered into the bedroom doorway, and propped herself against the frame, one hand on her hip.

"How's Original Cindy doing?"

"She's good."

She came into the room and flopped on the bed, stretched, then rolled onto her side, resting her head on her hand to watch what he was doing.

"You gonna give me a hand here?" he asked as Eva tried to wriggle out of his grasp.

"You seem to be doing just fine without me," she smiled.

He looked over his glasses at her, re-buttoning Eva's jumpsuit by touch as he did. Eva rolled over onto her tummy, facing her mother, pushing herself up with her arms. Logan looked at his daughter fondly and patted her well-padded behind. "I do believe you are going to be crawling soon, young lady." He reversed away from the bed and went to dispose of the diaper and wash his hands. When he returned, Max was still stretched out on the bed and Eva was still doing baby push-ups.

"Is this rain ever gonna let up?" Max asked, rolling onto her tummy.

"Supposed to be better tomorrow," Logan responded. "Cabin fever?"

"Yeah, you could say that," she gave a wry smile.

"Well..." Logan pondered a moment. "We could go into town for a while. I could kick your ass at pool." He winked at her, then not waiting for a reply, rolled out into the living room. "Ben! Jonas!" he called up to the loft.

"Yeah!" came a reply, then the two pairs of sock-clad feet came into view. The boys peered down at him.

"What's up, dad?" asked Ben.

"Get your shoes. We're going out."

"Where're we going?" asked Jonas.

"Into town."

*~*~*~*

Logan parked the mud-spattered Aztek outside the bar. While he waited for Max to bring his chair around, the two boys tumbled out of the back seat and made a quick beeline for the sidewalk, where they waited under the awning. While Logan transferred, Max settled Eva in the stroller and joined them there. Once they were ready, Max led the way into the bar and, while they waited for the pool table to be free, they occupied a row of stools at the bar. Logan smoothly transferred up onto the end stool, nodding to the barman. He ordered sodas for the two boys and beer for himself and Max, and settled to watch the game at the table, between two of the locals.

"So, you in town for long, this time?" the barman asked, cleaning the area in front of Logan and Max.

"Just for the week."

"Ah."

"Good to see you, anyway, Brett," Logan smiled over his beer.

The two men at the table put their cues back on the racks and came up to the bar. One of them banged his fist on the counter-top for attention. Brett automatically handed them beers and continued wiping the bar.

"You boys finished with the table?" Max asked.

"Sure, go ahead," replied the shorter of the two.

Max racked the balls while Logan transferred. Ben and Jonas got down, and pushed the stroller across into the corner by the table. Max looked at Logan coyly, "Okay, boys, who's gonna partner me?"

"I will, Mom," replied Ben, selecting a cue.

"Guess that means you and me, Jonas." Logan was comparing cues. He handed one to Jonas, keeping the last one for himself.

"Sure, Uncle Logan."

Max hung the triangular rack back on its hook and looked at Logan slyly. "Mind if I break?" she asked, leaning over the table to position the cue ball.

"Go ahead," he gestured, smiling.

There was a clatter as she broke open the packed balls, leaning forward over the table to present Logan with a view of her ass. He backed up slightly, taking a wicked delight in the view. Max sank a couple of balls before miscuing. Jonas was next. Max leaned back against the bar, sipping her beer, as Jonas took aim. They all had made frequent use of Bennett's pool table, and as a consequence, the two boys were quite good for their respective ages, although Ben had a slight edge. Logan, who had been something of a hustler in his youth, was still an excellent player, and Max could seldom best him. He regularly frustrated Alec, as well, who didn't take kindly to being beaten by a guy in a wheelchair. If the lack of elevation caused by his seated position was a hindrance, he seldom gave any sign. Jonas sank two balls before caroming one off the side of the table. Ben did likewise. Then it was up to Logan to clean up the rest, which he did with style. Logan gave a satisfied smile as the last ball dropped into the end pocket, then, to Max's great amusement, jumped as a gnarled hand came down on his shoulder.

"Still hustling pool, I see," came Jack's voice from behind him.

"Old habits die hard. You know that," Logan replied, turning to face his friend.

"I sure do. Come over when you're done here."

"We will."

Jack grabbed the bottle he'd come for and headed out the door.

"Okay, Max, rack 'em again." Logan backed up to the bar and took a swig of his beer, casting a glance at the rednecks in the corner, who seemed to be setting up an arm-wrestling contest.

"Yeah, and this time, you break!" Max flashed him a cheeky grin.

"Think it'll make a difference, do you?"

"I know it won't," she responded. "Just playing fair."

They swapped partners, with Max taking Jonas and Logan partnering Ben. Once again, Logan's superior ability showed, and he finished the game by cleaning up the table. By this time, the two boys were eyeing the arm-wrestlers with great interest, and there was a growing group of onlookers, each anxious to take their turn.

Max bought them all more drinks, which she took to one of the small tables, rather than the bar. She pulled Eva's stroller close. Max examined the two combatants in the corner closely. Both looked like laborers – weather-beaten, fit men in their late twenties or early thirties. She gave Logan a speculative look. He was nearly 46 but, other than the flecks of gray in his hair, looked ten years younger. Fifteen years in a wheelchair had given his upper body definition. He had a slim, athletic build, but was deceptively strong, a fact which was further hidden by the baggy sweater he was wearing.

Logan caught her looking at him and smiled uncertainly, not sure what she was thinking. The two boys stared at the contest in the corner unashamedly, then decided to have a go for themselves, making use of a corner of the square table at which they were sitting. Max jumped as Ben slammed Jonas' hand to the table. Jonas had forgotten how much stronger Ben was, and for his part, Ben just didn't know his own strength. Jonas wrung and shook his hand ruefully.

"Hey, that wasn't fair. I wasn't ready," he protested.

Ben just laughed.

"Ben, that wasn't nice," warned his mother.

"I'm sorry, Jonas. I forgot." Ben looked contrite. "Hope I didn't hurt you."

"Um...Uncle Logan?" Jonas looked up at his uncle.

Logan turned his green eyes on Jonas. "Yes, Jonas?"

"Why don't you have a go?"

"Me?"

"Yes, Logan, why don't you?" asked Max.

"Well, it's not really my thing."

"Logan, you spent half your time in college hustling pool. Don't tell me you didn't engage in other time-wasting pursuits as well."

Logan gave her a withering look, and responded by snapping the brakes on the wheelchair and rolling over to the game. He watched as the stockier member of the pair from the pool table went through a couple of opponents without difficulty, the small stack of cash beside him gradually growing. When the next fist was banged down on the table, Logan propelled himself forward.

"Yeah?" the guy raised an eyebrow in enquiry.

"Is this exclusive or can anyone join in?" Logan asked.

"Be my guest." He gestured to the space opposite, looking Logan up and down, obviously deciding he was a total sucker. Logan placed a bill on the pile.

The other man positioned his arm while Logan pulled the chair out of the way and drew in close to the table, locked the brakes with a snap, and linked hands with him, carefully settling his elbow in position for maximum stability and leverage. Logan's opponent had obviously underestimated him, as his expression changed from smug to grim. Logan's eyes fixed his with a glittering, intense stare. The man was strong, but so was Logan, and in the end, it was Logan's greater stamina that made the difference as he slowly wore his opponent down.

Max was on her guard as the banter around them died off. She left her position at the table and drew near the group in the corner. For a moment, she regretted urging Logan to do this, remembering another bar in another time and place, where the end result of a friendly game of pool had been a pissed-off Logan dumped on his ass on the floor, and her wielding a pool cue like a quarter-staff against a group of local bad guys.

Logan eventually touched his opponent's knuckles to the table and released his grip. Both of them smiled.

"Oh, man, did I underestimate you!" the younger man said, rubbing his hand.

"That's the thing," Logan responded, flexing his own hand. "Using a wheelchair builds upper body strength."

"Will Johnson," the younger man said, offering his hand.

"Logan Cale."

"Cale? Ah...your family owns that cabin out by the lake."

"Yes, yes we do."

"I wondered what that ramp was for when I built it. Now, I guess I know."

"Yeah," said Max. "I got sick of picking the splinters out of his ass every time we stayed here." Max put a proprietary hand on Logan's shoulder.

"My wife, Max." Logan introduced her. "You're the carpenter?"

"Have Wood Will Travel, that's me."

"Nice name," Max replied. "Logan, I think we should get going."

Logan unlocked the brakes and started to back up.

"What about this?" Will gestured to the pile of money on the table.

Logan looked at the bundle and hesitated. "Drinks are on me for tonight. Later." He nodded and made his departure.

"Come on, boys," called Max. "We're going. Bring your sister, Ben."

They headed out the door and out onto the street. Max waited until they were a short way up the street before she started to laugh. The rain had stopped and there was even an insipid evening sun peeking through the clouds. Logan stopped and half turned to look at her as she cackled and crowed.

"What is so funny?" he demanded.

"Sorry...just relieved," she gasped. "I was just suddenly reminded of what happened the first time some redneck in a bar ogled my ass in your presence."

"Ah...different redneck, different bar."

"No, different you." The two boys exchanged looks – not knowing what the adults were talking about. Max caught the look and decided to explain. "He took offense at some guy who said I had a nice ass and ended up dumped on the floor. He forgot I don't need defending," she winked at them.

"Well, thank you for totally embarrassing me."

"Oooh, still touchy about it?"

"No," he said, shortly, pushing off again and almost rolling right past Jack's shop. Max, more alert than Logan, stopped and knocked loudly on the locked door. "And what do you mean by different me?"

"You may not realize it, Logan, but you've changed since then. Back in Cape Haven...well...you were real pissy that weekend. You weren't facing up to your feelings. Weren't being honest with yourself or me. I kinda had hoped we'd hook up that weekend."

"So you've said to me before...I really don't know what I hoped would happen that weekend."

"Well, at least that's honest," she grinned and banged on the door again. "Yo, Jack! Rose! You gonna let us in?"

"Coming, Max," came Jack's voice. "Just had to find my keys." There was a rattle, and the door opened with a creak. "Come on in and make yourselves at home."

Jack conducted them through the shop into the dwelling beyond. Rose greeted them at the kitchen door, giving both boys a hug and sending them into the living room to watch TV (something they were without at the cabin). "Now, you will stay and eat with us, won't you. I made plenty."

Logan inhaled, catching the aroma of roast and vegetables. "Not even wild horses could drag us away."

Max's response was warm. "Of course, we'll stay. Couldn't miss one of your special Sunday roasts."

Logan smiled with pleasure, anticipating an evening of good food and congeniality with his old friends.


Chapter 12: Goodnight Sweetheart

After a pleasant evening spent in the company of Jack and Rose, they eventually drove back to the cabin some time after midnight. The clouds had completely disappeared, blown away by a steady breeze. Jonas and Ben were yawning in the back seat, ready for sleep. With the promise of a fine day to come, they had said they wanted to make use of the good weather by taking the bikes out early.

Once they were inside, the two boys went straight to bed, leaving Max and Logan to putter about for a while before doing likewise. Eva hadn't even stirred as Max carried her from the car to the bassinette. Max reflected that Logan might have been right about the effect of country air – she found that she always slept more at the cabin than anywhere else.

Logan soon followed Max into the bedroom, and stripped to his boxers in preparation for bed. Max had changed and was wearing the red bathrobe again. Logan made a mental note to buy another red bathrobe because it was starting to look threadbare. While he transferred into bed, Max went into the kitchen, and came back carrying a glass of milk.

"You okay?" he asked, in quiet concern at the change of routine.

"Logan, I haven't had a seizure since my last stay at Manticore, way back when. You know that. I just felt like a glass of milk," she said, drinking it down quickly as she sat on the side of the bed. She handed him the glass to put on the bedside table, shed the bathrobe, and slipped into bed beside him. Logan pulled her close, her head neatly fitting under his chin, and heard the rustle of sheets as she settled herself comfortably, molding herself against his body. "Night," he said softly.

The last thing he remembered, she grabbed his arm and pulled it across her body in a loose embrace. "Night," she murmured in reply.

When Logan awoke, it was still dark. Max had left the bed, obviously some time before, because the sheets were cool to the touch. He rolled onto his back and looked at the clock, which read 4:00 am. He lay for a while, staring at the shadows on the ceiling. Eventually, he gave up trying to sleep for the time being. He propped himself up on one elbow, looked across the room, and saw that the bassinette was empty. He assumed that was the reason for Max's absence. He transferred and pulled on a t-shirt. Max wasn't in the living room, although the lights were on, but he noticed that the old, wooden, rocking chair from the far corner of the room was gone. Opening the back door, he heard a quiet, "Hey, you."

"Hey, yourself," he replied, rolling out the door. "What're you doing out here?"

"Night was too good to waste on sleep," she smiled, the filtered light from inside reflecting off her teeth as she turned her head to talk to him. She had placed the rocker at an angle, but close enough to the porch railing that she could rest her feet on the bars. She was rocking the chair back and forth as she fed Eva.

"I didn't hear you get up."

"That goes without saying. It's called paternal deafness. Marianne tells me that most men suffer from it." There was a hint of amused sarcasm in her voice.

"Remind me to thank her for that."

Logan caught the flash of Max's smile again. She sighed. "It's lovely out here tonight."

"I know." He looked at her curiously. "One of the reasons we came, remember?"

Max gazed out at the lake, shining black in the distance. There was a loud plop as a fish jumped.

"That sounds like dinner," she quipped.

"Hardly. Wanna finish the boat first – see if she's seaworthy." He joined her in staring out over the water.

"Ow!" Max's sudden, outraged yelp startled him out of his reverie. "That was naughty, miss." She sat the baby up on her lap.

"What?"

"She bit me."

"Ouch."

"Kid may not have any teeth, but it still hurts."

It was Logan's turn to smile. Eva held out her hands to her father, demanding that he take her, and she gave a gummy smile. He took her from Max and sat her on his lap, leaning her back against him, with one hand wrapped protectively around her middle. Max stood and walked into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a bottle of water, from which she took a long drink. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Logan gave a stifled yawn.

"Hey, why don't you go back to bed?"

"Only if you go, too."

She gestured at the wide-awake child on his lap. "She might have something to say about that."

"Max, there's room in the bed for three, and she might be more inclined to sleep if there's less intellectual stimulation." Logan grinned at the irony of that statement. It was hard to imagine a less stimulating scene. The night was totally peaceful, with barely a breeze and not even much in the way of animal noises.

"Yeah, right." Max rolled her eyes slightly.

A few minutes later, all three of them were snuggled up in the bed together. Eva was lying on her back between her two protective parents, kicking her feet and the summer-weight quilt in the air, and chomping down on one small fist. She gripped her father's finger with the other.

Max ran her hand down the side of Logan's face, feeling the smooth skin of his temples, then the stubble of his two-day growth of beard, ending at the point of his chin. She gave him a luminous smile.

"Penny for them?" Logan asked.

"Counting my blessings," she responded.

Logan pondered that for a moment. “Do you ever stop thinking about her?” Logan's eyes bored into her, glittering black orbs in the dim light.

“Who?”

“She’d be almost twelve by now...”

Max sighed. “I know...” She blinked, close to tears, thinking of the baby they lost so long ago, the baby that should never have been. The baby that her screwed up immunity wouldn't let them keep. How much her life had changed since those grim days in early 2022. “But we have this little girl, now...”

“Yup. Children – family – home – number one on the list of blessings."

"That's for sure. Family and home are number one with me," Max smiled. "Never thought I'd ever say that."

"Max, your family was always number one, why else did you spend all that time looking for your siblings?"

"Look what it got me."

"Well...some families are trouble. You know that."

"Yeah…but some are more trouble than others," she grinned.

"And which family are you referring to here?" Logan raised an eyebrow at her.

"Both of 'em, but mostly mine, I guess. They've both tried to kill us, but mine has also tried to mangle us, take us prisoner...and just plain get us and themselves into trouble."

"Well, that's true." He looked down at Eva, who had finally let go of his finger. Her eyes were closed in sleep, the long lashes casting shadows over her cheeks. "Well, look at that. What did I say about lack of stimulation?" He smiled down at the sleeping baby.

Max quietly snorted through her nose. "Mr Know-it-all. Well, come on, little girl, let's put you in your own bed so your mama and papa can get some rest." She was always cautious about sleeping with babies, having heard from Aveta several horror stories of sleeping parents accidentally rolling on their children and smothering them. Logan tented the bedclothes with his arm so she could gather the baby up. She padded across the room and deposited Eva in the bassinette, staying there until she was sure Eva wasn't going to stir. Then she came back to the bed, dropping the bathrobe at its foot in passing. She curled up with Logan again, melding their two bodies together.

"'Night," Logan murmured softly in her ear for the second time that night.

"'Night," she replied, staring into the darkness.


Chapter 13: Off the beaten track

Max was first up, as usual, and, feeling disinclined to wait for Logan, she took the wakeful Eva and headed into the kitchen. The two boys, already dressed, made their appearance downstairs a few minutes later.

Ben gave his mom a hug and helped himself to the cereal.

"How come you two are up so early?" she asked.

"We were awake," replied Jonas, standing over the toaster.

Max looked out the window at the clear, blue sky, and nodded. "Okay. Be careful on the bikes."

"Always, Mom." Ben looked up at her over the cereal bowl.

The two boys zoomed off twenty minutes later, one of them carrying a pack with their lunches.

After Ben and Jonas left, Max sat quietly in a chair for a while, idly stirring the remnants of her coffee, and staring out the door. Eva, already fed, was in the bouncer chewing on a rattle. Coming out of her reverie, Max drank the rest of the coffee in the cup, picked up the baby and headed into the bathroom.

A few minutes later, Logan entered the bathroom to find her on her knees, leaning over the bathtub, bathing Eva, who was protesting mightily at having her face washed.

"Morning, ladies," Logan said, leaning forward to fish around in the cabinet for his shaving gear. He had planned on showering first, but since the cabin's shower was over the bathtub, and the bathtub was in use, he decided to reverse the order of business.

"Morning, sleepyhead," responded Max, lowering Eva, supported by one hand, onto her back in the shallow water of the bath to wash her hair.

"Did I hear the sound of motorbikes earlier?"

"You did."

"Okay..." Logan worked the soap into a lather with the shaving brush and proceeded to apply it to his face. He shaved quickly and efficiently, and then waited as Max lifted Eva out of the bath, wrapped her in a fluffy towel and, holding the baby against her shoulder, pulled the plug. She got to her feet in an elegant, sinuous movement as the water drained. Finally, she set the plasticbath seat, which had originally belonged to Logan's arthritic grandmother, back into place one-handed, making sure it was secure. "Thanks."

"Service with a smile," she replied with a slightly distracted air. "Friendly, courteous, and kind. That's me."

"Well, let's not go overboard," he grinned.

Max swatted his shoulder in passing and left him to shower. When Logan wheeled into the bedroom after his shower, Max had Eva dressed and sitting on her lap. She sat on the edge of the bed running a comb through the baby's downy hair. She sniffed the air. "Mmm, you smell nice."

"Thanks. You eaten?"

"Just had some coffee."

"Ah...then I think a special breakfast is in order."

"Sounds good to me."

*~*~*~

After they had eaten Logan's special omelette for breakfast, they spent the morning working on the boat together, finishing off the work that Max and Ben had started before the weekend. By the end of the morning, the small rowboat had been completely covered on the outside in primer and, if all went well, would be ready for a new coat of red paint the next day. The inside of the boat would do for now – it was generally left upside down, so the interior wasn't exposed to the weather.

The rain of the previous few days, coupled with a few hours of sunshine, had made the weather humid. Logan was quite glad to take a break in the middle of the day for some lunch and a cool drink. Max was seldom bothered by even the most extreme climatic conditions. He envied her lack of concern as he scratched his head, which was itchy from wearing a baseball cap. Max cleaned the paintbrushes and cleaned up outside, while Logan put together sandwiches and drinks for them to eat out on the porch.

Eva had happily played and rolled on a rug beside them all morning. She had been quite happy to be left to her own devices as long as her parents were in view.

They sat together on the porch to eat, taking advantage of the shade and a slight afternoon breeze coming from the lake. Max, sitting in the rocker again, munched her sandwiches while she nursed Eva, legs crossed at the ankles, her feet resting on the top bar of the railing. The former cat-burglar immersed herself in her role as earth mother – Bast in yet another of her multi-tasking guises.

The serenity of the familiar scene kept them quiet. The view over the water to the not-so-distant mountain was spectacular. Max happily fixed her eyes on the distant peaks and absent-mindedly rocked the chair.

Logan was inside cleaning the lunch plates when Max's acute hearing picked up the distant sound of a lone trail bike approaching at speed. She perceptibly straightened and tuned her ears to the fast-approaching bike, scanning for a sighting. She was already on her feet when Ben, on the trail bike, hurtled around the side of the cabin and came to a skidding halt in front of her, his face white.

"Mom, Jonas fell over the edge!" The panic was near the surface in Ben's voice.

"Ben, is he okay?"

"He hurt his ankle. He can't get back up and I couldn’t reach him."

"Logan!" Max called urgently.

"I'm here Max." Logan was already out the door.

"Did you hear?"

He nodded curtly and rolled straight down the ramp, pivoting neatly at the bottom to end up beside the passenger door of the silver Aztek, Bessie's replacement, facetiously christened "Bessietoo" by Max.

He opened the door and reached into the glove compartment, extracting a small tracking device. Max had followed him to the car, Eva held on her hip. Logan turned his head and looked at his wife. "Put her in the car," he said, shutting the door. "You go with Ben, I'll track you and follow as closely as I can."

Max nodded and strapped the baby into the baby seat in the back. She opened the hatch and grabbed the length of rope and the small medical kit, which were always there, while Logan checked the batteries on the tracker. Logan handed her the device and she put both of them into the back pack from the back of the car, which she slung over her shoulders, then climbed on the back of Ben's trailbike.

"Be careful, both of you," Logan cautioned.

"Always." She flashed a grim smile, and Ben peeled the bike out in a spray of pebbles.

Logan went back inside for the laptop and his carkeys and quickly transferred into the car. He hooked up the laptop to the accessory socket and booted it up, immediately logging into the tracker program. He set the open computer as securely as possible on the seat beside him, started the engine, cast a quick glance over his shoulder at the baby, and drove off in the same direction as Ben and Max, following their trail as closely as he could on the rough 4WD tracks.

*~*~*~*~

Ben drove the bike along a winding trail through a sparsely forested area, heading ever upward. He knew the way well, having been there many times with both Max and Jonas, although Max hadn't been there since she and Logan had last visited the cabin. Ben had come with Marianne and Bennett the previous year, when, with Max pregnant with Eva, she and Logan had chosen to stay in Seattle.

At last, they reached the top of the hill, where the woods opened up onto a bare knoll. The top looked safe enough, but Max knew that at the far side was a terraced area with a sharp drop-off and that the surface was badly eroded with crumbling, pebbly edges. She could see the other bike on its stand near the drop.

Max cautiously approached the edge, noting the marks on the lip where Jonas had slipped and fallen. "Jonas!" she called.

"I'm here!"

"Are you okay for now?"

"Yeah, I think so. I hurt my ankle when I fell."

"We're gonna get you. Just be patient."

"Okay!"

Max looked around her, considering her options. The ground was clear and the nearest tree was on the far side of the clearing. There was nothing to which she could conveniently secure a rope: not a rock, not a stump, not anything. She dropped the backpack on the ground, considering the two trail bikes, but dismissing them as being too light. That was when she heard the metallic chink from the pack. Rummaging in the bottom, she came up with two metal tent pegs, remnants of a long-ago camping trip. That gave her the idea. She banged the tent pegs into the ground using a rock, and threaded and knotted the rope through them, testing it carefully for security.

"Ben, I need you here!" She tied the nylon rope around herself. "I'm going down to Jonas. I need you to watch and if you see either of these coming loose, tell me immediately."

"Okay."

She tested the pegs again, leaning back and pushing with all her strength, and satisfied they should hold, started over the edge. Ben crouched by the "pitons", doing as he was asked.

"Everything okay up there?" Max was halfway down and had Jonas in sight.

"Fine, mom."

She let herself lightly down to the ledge beside Jonas. He was sitting with his back against the cliff-face on a wide ledge, looking shaken but otherwise intact.

"Hey, you. Let's see about getting you out of here."

Jonas gave her a watery smile.

Max turned, admiring the view. High places held no fear for her.

"Don't let this turn you off climbing," she smiled.

"Sure. Gonna take up mountain-climbing tomorrow."

She gave a snorting laugh, and crouched beside him. "Let me see that ankle."

Jonas obligingly pulled up the leg of his jeans. Max felt around the joint and gently manipulated his foot, eliciting a wince.

"You're lucky. I think it's just sprained." Max looked up, hearing the sound of a car engine.

"Dad's here!" shouted Ben.

"Okay! We need him to come over as close as he can. It'll be easier if he can pull us up."

"Okay, Mom."

There were some noises from above. "Max, are you okay down there? I'm untying the rope." Logan's voice sounded from above.

"We're fine!"

Max undid the rope from herself and started to tie both herself and Jonas together in a rough safety harness, more for Jonas's peace of mind than anything else.

"Max! We're just about ready up here."

"Okay, Logan. Get Ben to spot you. Slowly!"

Max picked up Jonas, holding him in her arms, ready to be hauled up. The car started with a roar and she felt the slack in the rope taken up and the pull as they were dragged up the cliff-face. She fended them off the wall as best she could with her feet, hearing Ben's voice as he called instructions to his father. At last, they made it over the lip onto solid ground again.

Logan waited while Max untied the rope from herself and Jonas, then drove back to where he had left the wheelchair, not having bothered to break it down again after tying the rope to the back of the car. Ben left his mother for a moment to push the chair closer and allow his father to transfer then went back to her and Jonas, hovering anxiously. Logan untied the rope and coiled it up again. Max had Jonas's shoe and sock off and was checking his ankle again.

"What's the verdict, doctor?"

"Think it's just a sprain."

"Okay. We'd better get him back to the cabin so we can ice it."

"Yeah. Open the door of the car. Jonas, can you stand and lean on me, or do you want to be carried?"

Jonas gave her a dirty look. "I can walk."

"Good." Max helped him to his feet. Jonas put an arm over both her and Ben's shoulders and limped to the car, settling himself on the back seat with the injured leg resting on the seat, as much as possible with the baby seat there. Eva was complaining at being left on her own for so long, but Max gave her some attention and she soon calmed down.

Logan was in the car, ready to go. Max leaned through the window to speak to him. "We'll see you at the cabin." She kissed him firmly on the lips, then backed away so he could drive off. Logan smiled, nodded, and started the Aztek, heading back the way he had come.

Max watched him drive off then turned to Ben. "Okay, young man, I want to know how this happened." She looked at him sternly.

"Mom, he just got too close to the edge." There was a faint whining tone to Ben's voice, that pricked at Max's radar.

"Really?"

"Yeah, well..." Ben's face scrunched up a bit.

Max raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

"Well, actually, we both were too close."

"Uh huh. I thought so. Well...can't say I haven't gone close to the edge a time or two, myself. I hope you've learned something from this."

"Yes, mom." Ben sounded chastened and subdued. He had had a severe fright.

Max walked back to Jonas's bike, grabbing Ben's backpack as she went, and pushed it off its stand. "Race ya back?"

Ben's face lit up, and he mounted his own bike. They roared off down the track together.


Chapter 14: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Logan was first back to the cabin, due to his head start. Jonas had been quiet and tense all the way back, gritting his teeth at every bump. "You okay back there?" Logan had asked his nephew several times.

Logan pulled up close to the ramp, transferred into the wheelchair, and backed up to the rear door, which he opened in order to talk to his nephew. "How are we gonna do this?" he asked Jonas. "I could carry you in..."

Jonas gave him a dirty look. "I can walk, Uncle Logan."

"Not on that ankle, you can't," Logan responded automatically. "Here, get on my lap. No one can see you."

"But what if..."

"There's no one else here. Now, look, Jonas, you need to stay off that foot. I mean it."

Jonas shrugged, conceding defeat, and slid off the seat, gasping in pain as he accidentally put his left foot on the ground. He cautiously sat on Logan's lap, for the first time since he was a toddler, and allowed his uncle to give him a ride into the house. Logan was surprised as how heavy the boy was, guessing that he weighed as much as, if not more than, Max. He settled Jonas on the sofa and wheeled into the kitchen to find something cold – settling on a bag of frozen peas, which he wrapped in a dishtowel. He handed the cold pack to Jonas and went back out for Eva, just as Max and Ben roared into the yard.

Max parked the bike and came over to Logan, who was unstrapping Eva from the baby seat. She leaned over Logan, plucked the baby from his grasp, and plopped down onto his lap. Ben gave them a quick glance and went straight into the cabin.

"Well, that was fun," she commented, eyes shining and hair windswept. "How's the young man?"

"He'll live."

Max smiled and gazed deep into his eyes. Her eyes, behind the sunglasses, gleamed brightly and her face glowed. Logan held both Max and Eva in a loose embrace, then being unable to resist the invitation in Max's eyes, kissed her deeply. Finally, he broke away. "Up," he said, patting Max's butt affectionately. "You gotta patient to see to."

"Field Med 101. Did that at Manticore." She grinned wickedly, tweaked his nose, stood, and walked off into the cabin with the baby. She gave a quick flick of her hair as she went, leaving Logan wondering what had just happened. He collected the computer from the front seat and followed her in more slowly.

Max was sitting on the coffee table talking to both boys when Logan came into the living room. She had Jonas' foot elevated on some cushions and was issuing instructions to them both with regard to the icepack. Logan listened with half an ear as he packed the computer away again. Toward the end of the discussion, he came into the living room and drew near.

"Helluva way to spend a holiday, Jonas. Did it myself when I was about your age," Logan said.

Jonas turned an enquiring glance on his uncle.

"Jonas, I wasn't always in a wheelchair."

"I know, I just forgot."

"Yeah." Logan paused for a moment. "Anybody hungry? Coz I sure am."

He turned and headed for the kitchen. Max followed him a few minutes later. She automatically started chopping the onion he'd placed on the counter, while he rummaged in the cupboard for a frying pan. "Should we call Marianne?" Logan asked.

"She's gonna call tonight, anyway," replied Max.

"Okay...kids..." Logan sighed.

"Were you and Bennett any better?"

"No...well...yes...no, probably not," Logan grinned, thinking about some past escapades. "It's the parents' curse, ya know."

"What?"

"Having kids who act just like you do."

"What does that mean?"

"Something my mom used to say. 'When you grow up, I hope you have children who act just like you do.' It works."

Max smiled. "Wouldn't know."

*~*~*~

When Marianne rang some time after dinner, Max took the call and explained what had happened, before taking the handset of the cordless phone into the living room so Jonas could talk to his mother without moving from the sofa. Jonas, judging by his silence and the occasional rolling eyes, was at the wrong end of a long lecture on personal safety.

*~*~*~

The rest of the week passed in a blur. Jonas insisted on hobbling around the next day. They got the boat launched, and Logan and the boys spent some hours fishing on the lake. One afternoon, Max and Logan left the boys with Eva and took a solo row, which ended up with them both freezing cold and wet, when Max managed to overturn the little vessel. They both laughed hysterically all the way back to the shore.

It was a shame to have to pack up and go home on Saturday, but with the rest of the summer stretching ahead of them, there would surely be more opportunities to get away.

"I really would like to know," said Max, dumping the last bag into the back of the car, "why it is that the stuff always takes up more space when you go home. I mean – it’s the same stuff, right?"

"Yeah, I think it expands in the country air," Logan smiled.

Logan transferred into the car and waited while Max stowed his wheelchair before he drove around the front of the cabin so she could hook up the trailer with the two trailbikes. She walked through the cabin, chasing the boys out, locking windows and doors. Eva was already in the car.

Twenty minutes later, they were on their way home, once again, struggling to drive through the weekend traffic. The checkpoints were no more, but between the badly degraded roads and Saturday markets, it seemed to take hours to get across town to drop off Jonas and the bike trailer, and then travel back to Sector 9 and home.

The vacation was great, but it was still good to unlock the door to the Penthouse and come home. Logan was itching to power up the computers and see what the informant net held for him, but he had made a promise to Max several years before, which he had mostly kept, that whenever they came back from a vacation, the informant net would wait until the next day – even if that meant one minute after midnight.

After unpacking his bag, Logan started on some domestic chores. He threw a load of dirty clothes in the washing machine and did an inventory of the kitchen cupboards – writing a shopping list for the following day. Max, after hassling Ben into doing his own unpacking, left Eva on the living room rug, where Logan could just see both her and Ben from the kitchen. Ben was lying on the rug next to her watching TV. Max went back down to the basement, returning with a trolley borrowed from the doorman, and a large crate inscribed A-504.1, which she took straight through to the bedroom. Logan looked up curiously as she passed through with the squeaky trolley. He left the shopping list on one of the counters and followed her into the bedroom.

"You're not wasting any time," he said quietly.

"Might as well strike while the iron is hot," she responded. "You're okay with this?"

"Yeah. I doubt if it'd be any good to me now, even if I could fix it." Logan grimaced slightly at the painful truth.

"Ya never could dance worth a damn in this thing anyway," Max grinned, trying to lighten the mood. "Kept stepping on my toes. It's a wonder I don't have feet like Donald Duck."

"Gee, thanks. And here I thought you loved me for my moves on the dance floor."

"You're welcome." She started to lift the mannekin bodily to put it in the box.

"Hold up a bit." Logan stopped her with his hand, seeing something in the crate. He leaned down and picked up a yellowing scrap of paper, reading:

"SORRY IT'S ALL BUSTED UP,

BUT IF YOU CAN FIX IT,

WHO KNOWS? MIGHT HELP YOU

GET FROM HERE TO THERE."


"Whatcha got there?"

"Note from an old friend," he said, folding the piece of paper and sliding it under his leg, for want of a convenient pocket.

"Outta the way now, bozo. Gonna put this thing where it belongs."

Logan raised an eyebrow.

"In the darkest corner of that locker that I can find."

Logan had no response to that, so he turned and wheeled back to the kitchen, while Max rolled the trolley out the door. Once Max was gone, he quickly went to his office and put the note in the filing cabinet, out of sight. He looked at the bank of computers for a moment, then backed out, firmly shutting the door, determined to keep his word to Max.

He joined Ben in front of the TV in the living room. Eva was on the floor beside her brother, gradually rolling toward the edge of the rug. Even without crawling, she was getting quite mobile, and her dark eyes missed nothing. Right now, those dark eyes were focused on her father, demanding to be picked up. Ben turned his attention away from the screen for a moment. He automatically picked up the baby and handed her to his father, then rolled back on to his tummy, feet in the air, chin on his hands, and resumed watching.

Logan held Eva in such a way that she more or less stood while he held her, pushing her feet against his legs, doing deep knee bends. She happily bobbed up and down for a few minutes, babbling as she danced. Max came back and joined them, sitting on the back of the couch – a habit she had fostered since one of her first visits to the apartment way back in 2019. It was a new, although similar, couch – brown leather with a soft, padded back.

"Mission accomplished?" Logan asked over his shoulder.

"Would I be here if it wasn't?"

"Just asking."

"Would you mind if I went over to Joshua's for a bit?"

"No…why would I mind?"

"Well, he hasn't seen madam for a while and, well, you know how much he loves babies…"

"Oh, you're asking if I mind you taking the car?"

"Yes."

"Go ahead. Ben, you want to go, too?"

"Yeh, sure. Elfie might be there," he said.

"Gonna be back in time for dinner?"

"Got anything special planned?"

"Not yet, but I might go out for a bit – see what I can get at the supermarket."

Max looked at her watch. "Don't leave it too long."

"Have fun."

"Always." She dropped a kiss on top of his head, and gathered up Eva. Ben stood and followed her as she detoured to collect the baby bag, then went out the door. Like most kids, Ben had neglected to turn off the TV. Logan did it for him, pondering what to make for dinner. Coming to a decision, he turned and headed out the door.


Chapter 15: Old Friends

The drive across town to Joshua's house didn't take Max long. The big transgenic was watching for them through the window of the dwelling which, while appearing decrepit from the outside, had been gradually repaired and refitted on the inside. Joshua had made it his home since his escape from Manticore, except for the several months he had spent as a resident of Terminal City. Joshua had made a life for himself as a painter, scratching a living doing murals on office buildings and schools, or doing whatever work for whomever would pay him. Gem and Elfie had lived in the house with him for a long time, only moving out when Elfie started school. The nearest school was quite some distance from Joshua's house and from the detective agency, Sublime PI, which she and Alec still ran. Gem and Elfie had moved closer to Sublime and to the school down the road from there. Elfie was now an attractive teenager, fair like her mother. Gem and Elfie still spent a lot of time with Joshua, as did Max.

Joshua opened the door and invited them in, giving Max a big hug.

"How you doin', big fella?" she asked.

"Good. How you doin', little fella?"

"Really good."

"You have a good time at the cabin?"

"Yeah, we did."

Joshua gravely shook Ben's hand. "How you doin', littler fella?"

"I'm good, too, Uncle Joshua," Ben replied. "Is Elfie here?"

"No, not yet. She will be soon," he said, looking out the door curiously. "Where's Logan?" Logan only occasionally came to Joshua's house as he objected to the tendency Max and Joshua had to haul him up the front steps bodily, chair and all, rather than wait for him to haul himself up on his hands and butt.

"He didn't come today, big fella. I wanted you all to myself."

Joshua grinned and gave a snorting laugh. "I want you all to myself, too."

*~*~*~

Logan wheeled himself two blocks down the road to the little supermarket and spent some time choosing a few items to throw into a spur-of-the-moment-culinary miracle. He selected some anemic-looking vegetables and various other items to add to the chicken pieces he'd pulled from the freezer. He also picked up what appeared to be a homemade apple pie for dessert.

As he pushed himself back into the apartment an hour or so later, he could hear the phone ringing. However, by the time he got to the dining room, the ringing had stopped. There was no message, so he shrugged and started on dinner.

The phone rang again as Logan was filling a pot with water to boil rice. He quickly shut off the faucet and went to answer it.

"Hello," he said.

"Hey," came the familiar voice of Original Cindy. "Max there?"

"No, Cindy, she went over to Joshua's. Try her cell phone."

"Na, it's okay, I'll catch her later. Just wanted to make sure ya got back."

"All right. I'll let her know you called."

"You do that, hot boy."

Logan grinned at Cindy's pet name for him. "Later, then."

Logan turned to go back to the kitchen, but pulled up abruptly when the phone started ringing again.

"Hello."

"Is that Logan Cale?" came a male voice, which seemed somehow familiar to Logan.

"Yes," he replied cautiously.

"Logan – how long has it been? It's Campbell...Campbell Emerson."

"Campbell?" Logan searched his memory for a moment. "It must be twenty years. To what do I owe the honor of this call? How'd you get my number?"

"I'm in Seattle – thought I'd look you up – catch up on old times."

"It's been a long time, Campbell."

"Hey, it's been a busy twenty years. What can I say? Listen, I'd really like to see you."

Logan sighed. "Okay," he replied cautiously. "What did you have in mind?"

"You free this evening? No romantic entanglements...other engagements? Thought we could meet somewhere for drinks."

Logan grinned to himself. "Why don't you come here?"

"You still living in the same place?"

"Yeah, why?"

"No reason."

"Campbell, spill it."

"It's just that I heard you had some trouble a while back and had to move out, but I may have gotten it wrong."

"Campbell – don't believe everything you hear. "

"I don't."

"I'm still in the same place. See you around...eight."

"Okay, see you then."

Logan smiled as he ended the call, thinking it could be an interesting evening. He had met Campbell at school, and while they had hung out in some of the same circles, they had never been especially close. However, if Campbell wanted to renew contact, then Logan was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt – or maybe it was just simple curiosity. Either way, Logan wanted to find out if there was a reason the guy wanted to see him.

By the time his family walked in the front door an hour later, Logan had dinner prepared, the table set, and had even had time to shower.

Max strode in, sniffing the air appreciatively. "Mmmmm, that smells good."

"What, no 'hello, how are you'?"

"Uh-uh. Feed me. This is one hungry X5."

"Go sit. It's all ready. Ben, come and give me a hand." He turned away, then stopped. "By the way, Original Cindy called."

"I'll call her back later. Right now, I'm the famine victim and I need to eat."

*~*~*~

Logan, as always, had been fascinated by the amazing position into which Max had twisted herself to sit at the dinner table, with one leg bent under her, Eva perched on her leg, loosely held by her left arm. The gymnastics that she had been forced to do as a child – one of the few things she had enjoyed – still paid dividends in later life: she was incredibly flexible. As soon as she had finished eating, Max called Original Cindy, which was Logan's signal to clear the table.

While Max chatted with OC, Logan and Ben stacked the dishwasher and started the apple pie warming in the oven. The dishwasher was the one change that Max had insisted upon in Logan's pristine kitchen.

"I ain't no galley slave," she'd responded when he asked why. "I'm all for shared labor, but the you-cook-I-clean thing is for the birds."

With a baby on the way, it had been a no-brainer, and now he wondered why he hadn't had one installed in the first place. Once the kitchen was more or less tidy, he sent Ben off to do whatever he wanted and went to join Max in the living room. She had settled into her favorite corner of the sofa with her legs curled up beside her, Eva at her breast.

"You…haven't asked after Joshua."

"I was about to. How is Joshua?"

"He's just been given a big commission," she said, smiling happily.

"Really?" Logan raised his eyebrows curiously.

"Yeah, some company called Cale Industries wants him to do a mural for their new office downtown."

Logan smiled, pleased.

"Did you have anything to do with that?"

"Well – I might have said something to Bennett about getting someone in to jazz the place up a bit. Can only stand so much of that institutional beige, you know."

Their eyes met and they both smiled. Logan's attention was dragged away by the ringing of the doorbell. "You expecting someone?" Max asked, curiously.

"That would be yes."

She raised an eyebrow mischievously. "Wow. Better go let 'em in before they run away," she said. She adjusted her top to cover herself a bit better, not wanting to expose too much flesh to Logan's guest, not even while feeding a baby. She recalled, with a bit of a grin, reading an article about women in previous centuries who had to use a handkerchief or scarf to cover themselves when they fed their babies. Such modesty was now all but unheard of. All the same, she covered herself a bit better, not wanting to shock Logan's guest or embarrass Logan.

Logan spun around and went to answer the door. Campbell had his hand poised to push the button to ring the bell again when it magically opened away from him and he was left staring into space.

"Logan?" he asked, surprised at having to look down.

"Campbell, come on in," Logan responded, backing out of the way, but also seeing his former school friend's obvious shock.

"What the..."

"Hell happened?" Logan finished for him. "I was shot. It was a long time ago."

"I'm sorry – I didn't know."

"That's obvious," Logan exhaled sharply. "Don't just stand there, Campbell, I won't bite. Come through. I have someone I'd like you to meet."

Logan led Campbell through the apartment. The place hadn't really changed much – Logan had had the damage done early in the previous decade by an over-enthusiastic Ames White and his NSA team repaired, and there were alterations made because of his injury and his growing family. However, all in all, there were few changes from when Logan had first bought the place in his early twenties.

Max looked up as the two men entered the living room. She took in their guest at a glance, seeing a short, heavy-set guy with one shoe that squeaked on the floorboards, contrasting sharply to the near silent humming of Logan's wheels. He had a pleasant, if pudgy face, pallid from being indoors, and wore wire framed, round glasses. His hair, obviously once dark brown, but now mostly gray, was a slightly receding frizzy mess. It all combined to give him a mad-professor type look.

"Max, this is my old friend Campbell Emerson," said Logan. "Campbell, this is Max."

Max looked at Campbell curiously. "Hey, Campbell."

"Campbell and I went to school together," Logan continued by way of introduction.

"Oh," Max's eyes became huge with surprise. "Okay."

"Hello, Max, was it?" Campbell was obviously impressed. He hadn't taken his eyes off Max for an instant.

"So, you knew Logan at school?"

"Yes, and he always had the most beautiful girls chasing him."

Max grinned, unable to imagine Logan as a schoolboy, but definitely able to imagine him being chased by girls.

"I guess nothing has changed," Campbell added. "Excuse me, Max, but why do I get the feeling I've seen your face somewhere before?"

"Ah, you've found out my guilty secret," she said, grinning wickedly. "I was Playmate of the Month in October 2021," she quipped.

To Logan, the thought of Max doing a magazine spread was just too funny, although she was certainly his playmate of choice.

"Cam, what are you doing here in Seattle?" asked Logan, gesturing for him to sit.

"I'm...here for a conference of sorts – just company business really."

"Logan," Max admonished, "Aren't you going to offer your friend a drink?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm forgetting my manners," Logan responded. "What can I get you?"

Campbell still stared at Max, who was starting to feel a bit self-conscious about it. She looked down at Eva, who had stopped nursing and had fallen asleep. Max took the opportunity to flee the room for a few minutes, putting the baby to bed. She poked a head around Ben's door and saw him engrossed in a video game. Before returning to the living room, she turned off the oven in which the apple pie was still heating.

Logan had fetched the whisky bottle and was pouring both himself and Campbell a drink. Max could never understand what men saw in whisky, preferring to stick to beer or wine. She noticed that Logan hadn't bothered with his best whisky, which he saved for very special visitors, although even his second best was of a better quality than the rotgut served at Crash.

"Max is your wife?" Campbell was saying.

"Yes, why?"

"I still think I know her face from somewhere."

Logan immediately changed the subject. "What sort of conference brings you to Seattle?"

Campbell paused for a moment. "Implant technology."

Logan froze, the glass halfway to his mouth. In his experience, implants brought nothing but pain and grief. "What sort of implants?" He set the glass carefully back on the coffee table, staring at Campbell, daring him to look away.

Campbell squirmed nervously in his seat, puzzled at the intensity of Logan's expression, then gulped down his drink in one swallow. The sudden heat of the liquor burned his throat, causing him to cough. He cleared his throat before he spoke. "The...er...the sort that...causes people with spinal nerve damage to walk again."

Logan looked down at his hands for a moment, took a deep breath and looked up. "Why did you call me? Sorry, Campbell, but I'm not in the market for any snake oil." Logan's anger and frustration were palpable.

Max, who had been listening from the dining room doorway, quietly walked up behind Logan and rested a hand on his shoulder. She felt the tension in his shoulder muscles.

"Logan," Campbell said, "I'm sorry. I really didn't know." Campbell looked so apologetic that Max would have laughed under other circumstances. "I don't know anyone here – not any more. I was feeling lonely and...I just wanted to look up an old friend."

Logan's look softened and he said quietly. "This technology – how come I haven't heard about it? Does it really work?"

"It's new – experimental. We've had good results on lab animals." Campbell paused. "Logan, how long ago were you injured?"

"Fifteen years."

"Then it wouldn't help you, in any case," he stated firmly. "It's too late. The astrocytes will have done their job and the glial scarring would prevent any link up."

Max, kneading Logan's shoulder with her hand, felt him relax as he nodded in reply. "Just for a moment..."

"I understand. Hope can be an awful thing. The thing is, this device is still very much in its experimental phase. We haven't tried it on a human yet. There have been good results in the lab, but it only works with recent injuries."

Max leaned down to Logan's ear and whispered, "I don't need feet like Donald Duck," which made him smile.

Campbell's brain kicked up a notch, and he exclaimed, "I got it! I know who you are!"

"Well, don’t spread it 'round," she snapped.

"You're that transgenic from Terminal City. Max, yeah, that was her name!"

"Awwww, you've gone and guessed my secret."

Campbell looked at her with new respect. "You're sort of a hero to my daughter," he said.

"Yeah?" Max raised her eyebrows.

"Yeah, she has a big poster of you on the wall of her room. You know, the one with the hoverdrone that says 'Girls Kick Ass'? Wait till I tell her..."

"Cam," Logan said firmly. "I'd rather you didn't do that. Max is really trying to stay under the radar – you know, have a normal life."

"Oh, oh sure," Campbell replied, embarrassed. "All the same, you're my daughter's big hero..."

Max shrugged. "He's right, Campbell. I spent my whole life craving something like normality. Now that I have it, I want to keep it. Anyone for apple pie?" she smiled.
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