Alaidh and catherderPairing:
A very shippy look at Logan’s family. Takes place some 13 years after Freak Nation.Chapter 36: Uninvited Guest
“Car keys,” the voice said. Logan hesitated. “Keys,” the voice prompted again. He felt the pockets of his jeans, knowing full well the keys weren’t there. The pockets were awkward for him to use, so he seldom did. He could sense Eva becoming restless, perhaps picking up on some of his tension. “Well?” the voice came a third time, closer to his ear, as if the owner had bent closer to him. The point of the knife, or whatever it was, dug a little harder into his neck.
“Pocket of the wheelchair,” Logan answered tersely. His voice sounded strange to him. Eva chose that moment to let out a whimper. Logan directed his eyes to his daughter. She sat upright in the stroller looking at whoever was behind him. He was no longer leaning against the rock but had moved forward to sit with his legs crossed in order to repack the picnic basket, the cushion from the wheelchair behind him.
Logan felt his captor’s grip change as he reached across to the wheelchair. In a brief moment of grim humor, he regretted not setting a mousetrap in the pocket – something that popped into his head from a long ago remembered animated movie, ”Nice booby trap…”
Max, crouched over the running water of the stream, talked to both Ben and Joshua as she rinsed the dishes off, handing them back to Joshua as she finished with each. She heard Logan’s voice dimly in the distance, but thought he must have been talking to Eva, or even to himself.
Logan cleared his throat. “You…won’t be able to drive it,” he found himself saying, and wondered why he was being so helpful.
“What?” the voice said, the keys jingling as he pulled them out.
“The wheelchair's not for decoration. You won't be able to…” Logan sensed a momentary distraction as Eva’s whimper gained volume. With both hands, he grabbed the arm that now circled his neck, falling sideways and pulling hard as he did. He held on with all his strength. His opponent fell with him, pulled off-balance. “…drive it,” Logan ground out, finally.
Logan's opponent writhed under him, kicking, punching with his free hand and generally trying to get away. Logan knew he wouldn't be able to hold on for very long against larger, stronger opposition. All the upper body strength in the world couldn't compensate this time. "Max!" he called once, and swung a lucky elbow back, catching the man in the jaw, slowing him for a moment. It was enough to give Logan the chance to grab his other arm, although he still bucked and kicked out. Max was suddenly beside them, as was Joshua.
"Okay, you can let go now," she said to Logan grimly.
Joshua grabbed the man by his shirt collar and roughly hauled him to his feet, holding him tightly with an arm pulled up behind his back. "What're we gonna do now, Max?" Joshua asked.
"Got any rope?" Max asked Logan.
Logan had scooted over to the stroller and was reaching up to release Eva. "Should be some in the car," he answered undoing the harness. Eva reached out to him, almost tumbling out in her haste to get to her father.
"You okay?" she asked, seeing Logan's strained face as he cradled Eva.
Logan looked up at her, "I'm…I'm fine," he said with a half-smile.
Max nodded, satisfied. "Ben!" she called as she turned toward the car. "You can come out now."
Joshua adjusted his grip on the escaped prisoner and, with a warning growl, shoved him in the direction of the car, where Max efficiently trussed him hand and foot, and tossed him into the hatch.
Ben quietly appeared clutching the cooler bag, abandoned by Max when she'd heard Logan's call. He was white-faced and shaking.
"Hey, it's okay now," said Logan as Ben knelt beside him. He gave the boy a reassuring one-handed hug around the shoulders. "You wanna get me my chair? I think the sooner we're outta here the better, don't you?"
"Sure, Dad." Ben smiled and quickly did as he was asked, putting the seat cushion into place and positioning the chair, with the brakes locked ,behind his father. .
Logan brought the car to a stop outside the sheriff's office. Max smiled as she handed him the pieces of his wheelchair to assemble. They'd kept the chair in the front seat for the trip into town, wary of leaving anything that remotely resembled a weapon near the prisoner in the back in case he got loose. With the kids in the car, neither Max nor Logan was prepared to take any chances. "You don't want me to do this?" Max asked.
"I got it covered," he replied, preparing to transfer. Logan shut the door and made his way up the gutter, making use of a driveway to mount the pavement and popping a small wheelie to get up a small step into the office. The front desk was deserted. He rapped on the timber a couple of times but there was no response. "Hey! Anyone there?!" he called.
There was a noise from the rear and one of the men from that morning emerged holding a steaming cup of coffee. "Can I help you?"
"Yeah. We…appear to have found something that belongs to you." Logan gave a wry grin at the deputy's puzzled expression. "Come with me," he said, smoothly turning to face the door. "It's outside in the car." Logan stopped and looked back when the man didn't follow him immediately. Logan headed for the door as the deputy came to a decision and took a few steps in its direction. He popped down to the pavement and did a small wheelie to drop down to the roadway behind the car. Max had already opened the hatch and let down the tailgate and was standing beside the car.
The deputy did an instant double take on seeing Max and Joshua's handiwork. The prisoner, his hands and feet tied, lay on the floor of the hatch, his face mashed into the carpet. "How the heck…"
"My…brother-in-law is kinda strong," Logan replied airily by way of explanation. "Now, if you’ll take your trash, I'd like to get out of here."
"Sure." The deputy turned back to the door of the office. "Mason! Killeen! Get your lazy butts out here!"
Night was drawing near by the time they dropped Joshua at his home and drove into the parking lot of the apartment building. They had gone back to the cabin and packed up, not wanting to linger after the events of the day. Although Joshua had waved them off happily enough from the front porch of his house, he had been subdued for the trip home. Ben was also quiet. Max took her time with both children, presenting at her most motherly. While she bathed Eva and listened as Ben read out loud to her, Logan prepared a basic dinner and started the laundry, deliberately trying to show Ben that life went on despite the external factors.
Max slid gratefully into the hot water, stirring the bubbles. She lay back against the edge of the tub and closed her eyes with a blissful sigh.
Logan pushed into the bathroom a few minutes later, sliding the door shut behind him. She opened one eye, then snapped the other open and smiled appreciatively, while he, in his turn, studied her, his head tilted to one side. He enjoyed seeing her up to her neck in bubbles and totally relaxed. Max, for her part, was taking pleasure in looking at him. He sat in the wheelchair wearing nothing but a pair of gray silk boxer shorts. She ran her eyes over his shoulders and arms, and down his chest, taking in the curling hair scattered there, then back to his face.
"All quiet. They're asleep," he said softly. "No problem with Eva in her new room tonight."
"Well, it's about time. How long is it since we shifted her out of our room?" Max replied, equally softly. "Does that mean that mom and dad can play now?" she asked in mock-seriousness. "Come on in, the water's warm."
Logan edged closer to the bathtub and worked his way out of his boxers before sliding into the warm water. Max weighted his legs down with her own, moving around until she was partly sideways to him on the opposite side. The bathtub was large enough to comfortably accommodate the two of them, in fact, it would hold more. Max often joked that the bathtub was big enough to hold swimming races. Logan's long legs easily fit across the width with a little room to spare. Max slid down one more blissful inch and closed her eyes as Logan smiled at her indulgently. A long, hot bath full of bubbles was one of Max's few vices, just as basketball and fine wine were his.
"Sorry…'bout today," he said hesitantly.
Max shrugged, rippling the surface. Logan wasn't sure if it was a "no big dealio", or "shit happens" or even "next time I may not be there" shrug. "What were the chances in all that wilderness," she said.
"What is it that OC says?" Logan continued thoughtfully. "Trouble follows us like the tail on a dog?"
Max snorted. "Foh real foh sure, boo."
That resulted in a smile. The clefts in Logan's cheeks deepened appreciably. She looked at him critically, his face covered with four days' worth of stubble, the almost-healed bruise on his cheek, and decided that enough was enough. Normally, she didn't mind the scruff; it was part of him, like Eyes Only, the wheelchair, and Bessie. But tonight a change was in order. Smiling lazily, she reached behind her, groping blindly for the razor and the can of shaving cream. "That'll kill the bubbles," Logan observed as she slid around closer to him.
"I don't mind," she replied mildly, then, putting a hand out to steady herself on the side of the tub, straddled his legs. "Hold still," she said, working the foam over his face. She frowned in concentration, a tiny pink triangle of tongue peeking out the corner of her mouth. Logan put a hand on either side of her waist and held her steady. He was amazed that, even after all this time, he could all but link his fingers around her. Even after two children, she still maintained the figure of a much younger woman. He kept his eyes on her face as she plied the razor, her upper body clear of the water, the skin smooth, covered in drops of water that made her shine like a seal. He restrained himself from touching anything other than her waist for fear of what she might do with the razor, but only succeeded by keeping his eyes firmly on hers. She finished quickly and wiped his face with a washcloth, then sat back on her haunches to survey her handiwork.
"Mmm, nice," she smiled, then gasped as Logan loosed his hold of her waist and roughly pulled her face to his. She put her hands on the side of the bath, pinning them both to the side of the bathtub, deepening the connection, mouth searching mouth hungrily. Then she backed up and looked at him wonderingly, face flushed, lips swollen. Without a word, she stood, grabbed a towel and got out. She scrubbed herself fiercely dry, making her skin glow, before wrapping herself in the towel and walking into the bedroom. Logan smiled to himself as she vanished from view. He pulled the plug and got out carefully, one hand gripping the grab rail and the other on the side of the tub. He sat with one towel loosely wrapped around him while he dried the rest of his body before going back into the bedroom. Max wasn't there, but he heard a noise from the kitchen as he transferred into the bed.
Max came back a few minutes later, her arms wrapped around something or somethings she clutched tightly to her body.
“Whatcha got?” he asked curiously, then realized she held a number of thick candles and a box of matches.
“Thought you might enjoy some…ambience,” she said, smiling. “Setting the mood, so to speak.”
He nodded and settled into the pillows more comfortably as she set the candles in several different locations around the room, taking care to keep them out of range of the curtains, and lighting them as she went. The last thing she did was turn out the overhead light before dropping the towel over the top of the laundry hamper and sliding into the bed.
Logan wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on top of her head.
"Ya know, there was a time I thought cuddling was weird."
Logan gave a silent laugh. "Did you really?"
"Well, I guess it sort of depends who you're with at the time."
Max looked up at him, her eyes reflecting the light of the candle on the dressing table. "Only one person I want to be with."
"And that is?" he teased.
"Shut up," she said, grabbing his head and claiming his lips.
They paused to catch a breath, eye contact established and maintained. Max idly stroked Logan's shoulder with gentle fingers, while the solid weight of his arm created a warm spot on her side where it lay on top of the covers.
"And now?" Logan prompted, resuming the conversation.
"Weird but nice?" Max raised a questioning brow, expecting a laugh in response. Instead, she was rewarded with a glowing smile.
"I can live with that," he said, pursing his lips as he considered her statement.
Max became aware of a presence in the doorway to the room and turned her head to look. "Ben? What's up, sweetie?"
"I had a bad dream, Mom."
Max exchanged glances with Logan. "Okay, honey. Just go back to bed. I'll be there in a minute." She watched Ben leave hesitantly. "Guess we shouldn't be surprised after today."
"He's my kid, too," Logan said simply, watching as Max slid out of the bed and started to pull on her robe. "I used to suffer from nightmares at his age."
"Used to?" Max asked.
"Well…" he responded.
Max gave a small laugh.
"Still, it's a shame."
"Covering up all that perfection," he grinned lasciviously, rolling onto his back and folding his arms behind his head.
"You bad boy!" she said.
"Hey! Wake up!" Max demanded, giving Logan a shake.
"What?" he mumbled.
"Logan, wake up!"
"What's the matter," he asked, opening one sleepy eye.
"Nothing," Max said, sliding back into the bed. "Come on, wake up, Logie…."
"Argh, you had to call me that name!" Logan grimaced.
"Got your attention, didn't I?" she laughed.
Logan rolled his eyes. "Ben?"
"Asleep, finally. Guess today was too much for him."
Logan nodded. "Come here, woman," he said. "We're wasting all this…ambience."
"I was hoping you'd say that," she laughed, snuggling close. "You weren't really asleep, were you?"
"Didn't think so. Breathing didn't sound right."
"Shut up," Logan said, pulling her head down and claiming her lips again.Chapter 37: Gettin’ the bitch over with
Logan grimaced and grasped his trembling thigh with both hands, working his fingers into the muscle. There was no pain, but it was annoying, and he wondered why it was happening. He seldom suffered from leg spasms, and never had prior to the two transgenic transfusions that resulted in the temporary miracle cures. Back spasms were something else, though – mostly they resulted from overdoing things, and they could be extremely painful. He had now had three leg spasms within two days. That was unusual and a sign that something was wrong, and for Logan, it had pretty much been the last straw. The one last night had come at a particularly inopportune moment, as if one lot of interruptus from Ben hadn't been enough. Max had been understanding, had even thoroughly checked his body for pressure sores and other injuries, finding the set of bruises on his lower back that had resulted from the day’s events, then just snuggled up against Logan's body, giving up any thought of taking things further. He was too out of sorts by then to do anything more in any case.
Max walked in, a dishtowel over her shoulder. "Hey, what's taking you…" she quickly realized the problem. "Logan?" she looked at him questioningly.
"I'm gonna call Sam," he said shortly, releasing his leg.
"Good, because if you didn't, I was going to."
He looked down at his leg in frustration. He'd asked Sam about this problem before and had been told that in all probability there was still some tenuous nerve connection as a result of Joshua's transfusion. When the injury was complete, as Logan's had originally been, once the outraged nerve endings settled down following the injury and surgery, spasticity wasn't usually a problem. In fact, some people with severe partial injuries ended up having further surgery to completely sever the spinal cord if their spasms were too frequent or disruptive. The question Logan wanted answered was why something that had been an infrequent event was now becoming an annoyance.
Max gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Hurry up, breakfast's ready," she said.
"Thought I could smell something burning," Logan quipped, preparing to transfer. He stopped and pulled a face as the spasm restarted and began massaging again.
"Gee, thanks, Logan," Max responded dryly. She looked at him in concern, thought about saying something further, but then just turned to go. There was nothing she could say that would help.
"I'll be there in a minute," he replied, reaching for the wheelchair again.
Max was sitting at the counter with Eva, eating toast and reading the newspaper she had propped against the milk jug when Logan made his way into the kitchen. There was another plate and a steaming cup of coffee in front of the vacant seat beside her. Another plateful of crusts and crumbs on the end of the counter, and a white tidemark in a glass, testified to the fact that Ben had already eaten. Logan looked up at the stool and sighed, thinking that he really didn't feel like doing the transfer this morning, that it was almost beyond him. He wished she'd put the breakfast things in the dining room just this once. Even so, he put the phone on the counter with a loud 'clunk,' grabbed the counter-top and the back of the seat and made his move, a smooth maneuver that usually brought a smile to Max's face. Max gave his hand a squeeze before turning her attention back to the newspaper, thin as it was. He took a cautious sip of the hot coffee before hitting speed dial 7 on the phone.
"Hey, Sam, it's Logan. Is there any chance you could spare me a few minutes this morning?" he asked without preamble.
He listened for a moment, nodded and broke the connection, snapping the phone shut thoughtfully.
Max raised a questioning brow as he picked up a piece of toast and took a bite. She had heard Sam's response to Logan's question. "Do you want me to come?"
Logan shook his head. "No, that's okay. I'll be fine."
"Long as you're sure."
"I am." Logan looked at his watch, took a couple of quick swigs from his coffee and transferred back into the wheelchair. "Ben! You want a ride to school?"
"Sure, Dad," Ben called back from the living room.
"Well, come on!. I'm going now."
Max watched him leave, worry written all over her face.
Logan had been waiting in Sam's office for some ten minutes before the doctor arrived. "Thanks for fitting me in, Sam," Logan said as the surgeon entered the room.
"That's okay, Logan. I know you wouldn't have called unless it was serious." Sam looked at him kindly, head to one side, and gestured for Logan to get up on the examination table while he brought up the file on his computer.
The movement triggered yet another series of spasms, this time in Logan's calf muscle, causing his foot to jerk as he transferred to the table. "Damn, not again." Sam barely caught the muttered expletive as Logan pulled his leg up and started to massage the offending muscle.
"How long has this been happening?" asked Sam, quickly catching on that this was probably the reason for Logan’s phone call.
"Couple of days," Logan admitted, releasing his leg and pushing himself up straight.
Logan stripped off his jacket and t-shirt as Sam walked around the examination table. He couldn't see Sam's expression as the doctor noted the bruises inflicted by the escaped prisoner the previous day, but he did feel the doctor's cold but gentle hands on his upper back.
“Logan, where did these bruises come from?” he asked.
“Isn’t it always? You need to be more careful. You can get dressed now," Sam said walking back to his desk. He sat down and keyed some information into the computer, then picked up a pen, twirling it between his fingers. "Without doing further tests to be certain, I'd say what we're looking at is probably degeneration of the spinal cord," Sam said, not looking up at him.
Logan, adjusting his t-shirt, paused to look at the doctor.
"I think what is happening is that the tiny remaining connection from the last transgenic transfusion is breaking down and that's what's causing these recurrent spasms. Why that connection has lasted so long, I don't know."
"So what do we do about it?" Logan asked.
"There's two courses open, and I really want to do further tests before going with either. Firstly, there's medication that can control the spasms, or, alternatively, I can operate to sever the connections now, or it’s also possible to operate to separate the muscles and disrupt the spasms. Neither course is problem free. If you chose to go with medication, there's no guarantee as to how long it will take for this to settle – it could be a week, a month, a year...maybe even longer, and there's usually side effects from the medication. Surgery…well, you know about that." He tapped the section of the diagram on his computer screen with the pen showing the junction of three major blood vessels. "In any event, the spasms are likely to become more frequent as things come to a head."
"Tell me about the side effects."
"The major one is drowsiness. Even non-drowsy muscle relaxants aren't always non-drowsy. And, of course, sometimes non-drowsy medications can have the effect of actually preventing sleep." Sam looked at Logan seriously, knowing that his patient was a chronic insomniac. He knew that Logan seldom slept more than about five hours a night, and often a good deal less. Sam continued to outline the side effects as Logan put his jacket back on and slid down from the table into the wheelchair. "In addition, they can cause depression and general muscle weakness, depending on the type of medication. Could even affect your normal day-to-day activities."
"Just let me make a phone call. I'm going to try to book you in for a CT scan today."
Logan grimaced at that. Sam apparently knew him too well – that he was likely not to turn up if the appointment was made for another day.
Max strapped Eva into the baby seat and drove out of the parking garage into light rain on the street. She had to get out. Anything was better than sitting around waiting for Logan to get back. I should have gone with him, she thought, turning the car in the direction of Metro Medical. She reconsidered at the next intersection, figuring Logan wouldn't appreciate her checking up on him, and headed for Original Cindy's place of employment instead.
"Whassup, girl?" Original Cindy asked, turning to look away from her customer briefly as Max pushed the door open with one hand and shoved the stroller in with the other.
"Nothin' much, OC," Max replied, with a smile that didn't touch her eyes.
"Yeah, right. I know that look. Something's up, boo," she said. "You got that 'Logan ain't treatin' me right' look about you."
"Logan is treating me fine," replied Max, sliding into the vacant seat beside the one occupied by Cindy's customer.
Original Cindy snorted and turned her attention back to her customer, putting a couple of finishing touches and then giving her the once over. "Looks like we're done, Mrs D," she said brightly, helping the elderly lady to her feet. Max was silent while Mrs D paid Original Cindy and left, rocking the stroller with her foot to keep Eva happy. Cindy came over and stood with her hands on her hips looking at Max critically. "Somethin' is wrong, boo. You gonna 'fess up or do I have to drag it outta you?"
"Just worried about Logan is all," Max said, rolling her eyes.
"Like that's different?" Cindy joked, trying to lighten the mood. "Now, let's see my precious here," she said, undoing Eva's safety harness and picking her up. "My you gettin' big, girl." She nuzzled Eva's cheek, taking in the freshly washed baby smell. "Mmm…"
Max grinned at her friend.
"That's better." Original Cindy changed her demeanor, looking at Max from a professional point of view. "Those nails need some attention, boo. Why don't you take your mind off whatever big secret is buggin' ya with some TLC from Original Cindy?"
Logan slowly pushed his way through the apartment, leaving his jacket and keys on the dinner table, and taking up a position by the picture windows. He had been surprised to see that Max’s car was gone when he drove into the parking garage, although he wasn’t concerned, rightly guessing that she’d gone to see Original Cindy – something she often did, especially when she was stressed or worried or just needed a good chat and some ghetto-momma wisdom. He locked the brakes with a resounding snap and stared unseeingly out the windows. The rain had gotten heavier, obscuring the view and sending lines of rivulets down the glass. The sky was dark gray and threatening, a perfect match to his mood. One hand rested on the wheel of his chair, the other on his leg, unconsciously rubbing back and forth.
Max came back an hour later – nails done, make-up perfect, hair washed and styled under OC’s personal supervision. She left Eva on the living room rug with a pile of toys and joined Logan in the dining room, pulling out a chair and sitting sideways, her arm over the back. Sam had called her, knowing Logan’s record at passing on bad news. “Hey,” she said softly, touching the hand that still rested on his leg.
“Hey yourself,” he replied after a long pause, tearing his eyes away from the streams of water pouring down the window.
She picked up his hand, sandwiching it between her two, and gave him a smile.
“Sam called you.” It was a statement rather than a question.
“Yeah, he did.”
Logan exhaled and nodded slowly, the simple gesture seeming to take all his energy. He turned his gaze back to the window.
“Logan, this’ll be okay, you know.”
He looked back to her. “I know. It’s just…hospitals.” He shrugged. He reached up a hand and touched her face softly. “I’m glad he called you. He said he would. I’m just not…”
“Not very good at telling people when you got a problem?” Max asked. “Gee, that’s news.” She stood up and smiled at him. “Coffee?”
“Yeah…yes, please,” he replied. Reaching a decision, he unlocked his brakes and gave her a smile. “I’m gonna do some work,” he said resolutely. “The Informant Net isn’t gonna wait just because I’m feeling blue.”
“You’re the boss,” she said turning to go in the kitchen. “I’ll bring your coffee in.”
“Thanks,” he smiled and started pushing his way out of the room. He hesitated, hearing a crash and a yelp from the living room. Max stopped and was about to investigate, but he stopped her. “I got it,” he said.
“Okay, Dad,” she said, smiling. “You take care of it.”
“Hey, wakey-wakey, lazybones,” OC prodded Ben’s leg, the only recognizable part of the mound of blankets that she could see. “You gotta go to school, sugah.”
The bedding heaved and a tousled head popped out of one corner. “Awww, but…but…Aunty OC!”
“No buts. Up!”
Ben rolled on his back and sat up, clutching his knees. He looked so miserable that Original Cindy sat beside him on the edge of what had once been Max's bed and gave him a warm hug. “Your Daddy been through worse’n this. He’s one tough guy. He’ll be fine.”
“I know. It’s just…he doesn’t like hospitals.”
“Yeah, and neither does your Momma because of…well, just because. But they both relyin’ on me to take good care of their boy, and that means you gotta get dressed and go to school.”
Ben gave a big sigh and turned his serious green eyes on Cindy. “I guess.”
“Besides, its Friday. Only one more day and I'll give you a whole weekend off," she grinned.
"Good boy,” she said. “Now, you do what you have to and I’ll whip up somethin’ special for breakfast. Can’t have my number one man goin’ off to school emptier than a politician’s promise.”
“Huh?” Ben looked at her blankly.
“Hungry, sunshine, hungry,” she grinned.
"Give me a minute," Max said, stopping the car outside the hospital entrance. She entered the building, coming back a few minutes later with a clunky hospital-issue wheelchair. Logan opened his door and eyed the black monster with distaste.
"What's that for?" he asked.
"For you, sweetheart," she smiled sweetly. "First off, you're gonna be stuck in bed for the next…however long. You won’t need your chair. Secondly, you're not gonna try to escape in this thing."
"Don't 'But Max' me. I'm not letting you chicken out."
"I wasn't going to," Logan replied. "Besides, even if I did escape, we came in your car, not mine." She stared at him impassively while he gave her a defiant look. Eventually, Logan looked away. "You win."
"Was there ever any doubt?"
"No, Max," Logan replied in resignation. He made an awkward transfer, inwardly cursing the high armrests that got in his way, while Max held the chair to stop it from moving, functional brakes having been an oversight. When she stepped back so he could reverse away from the car, he immediately found that this was a heavy and ill-directed beast, unlike his own light-weight custom-built chair, and all the other wheelchairs he’d used over the years. And it definitely didn't like the rough surface outside. He waited grumpily near the entrance while she found a parking space and returned with his bag and Eva in her stroller.
“What’s up, honey?” she asked, grinning at his sour expression.
“Nothing, Max,” he said, and turned to enter the building.
It took a few minutes for them to go through the formalities in reception, then they were escorted by a porter to a room on the third floor. Although obviously designed to take two beds, judging by the various outlets and light fitting on the far wall, the room currently only held one. There was a large window with a view overlooking the low-lying areas of the city. It even had a private bathroom. “Nice,” was Max’s comment as she looked around the room. She stowed Logan’s small bag in bottom of the nightstand and stood by the window looking out. “What happens next?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” replied Logan. “Every other time I’ve come into this place, I’ve been unconscious already.”
“I guess we wait,” he said, rubbing his hands along the tops of his legs. He could feel the faint spasms in his left leg, and wondered how long it had actually been happening. “I hate this.”
“I know.” She looked at him, her expression reflecting her concern. “This is gonna be okay,” she said with a soft smile, and just for a second remembered another occasion where she had used those exact words, a time when it hadn’t really been okay.
“Right,” he said. “It’ll be okay.” If I don’t bleed out because Sam nicks a blood vessel, or if he doesn’t end up doing more damage, or if…
“Hey,” she said giving him a smile. “You got too many people dependin’ on you. You gotta come home again, right?”
“Max…oh, never mind,” he said, as a nurse came in.
She handed Logan a clipboard with a pen under the clip together with a white hospital gown. “Can you fill this in, and then if you wouldn’t mind getting changed into the gown. They’ll be ready to take you down to surgery in about 40 minutes.”
Logan dropped the gown on the bed with a grimace and started to fill in the form, while Max picked up Eva who was starting to whine complaining at sitting still in the stroller. She walked around the bed and peered over his shoulder at the form. “Hmmm, legal stuff,” she said, reading the consent form as he filled in various bits of information.
“They have to cover their backs as well, Max,” Logan said mildly, signing his name with the usual illegible scrawl. He put the clipboard on the bed and grabbed the gown, heading for the bathroom for what would probably be his last bit of privacy for who knew how long.
Max could feel waves of tension starting to emanate from him. Her own stomach was full of butterflies. She gave a concerned look after his retreating back, and after he shut the door, she hugged Eva close and kissed the top of her head. “You know what, I think Daddy’s a little nervous about this. Can’t say I blame him,” she said quietly. Eva reached up a soft, pudgy hand to her mother’s mouth as she spoke. Ah, who am I fooling? I'm as nervous as he is. Max wandered back to the window, leaning against the cold glass. She gazed unseeingly out at the view, the hilltop location enabling her to see a large chunk of the better end of town, with the Space Needle standing sentinel in the distance. "You all right in there?" she called.
"Yeah," came Logan's response.
Who'd have thought that Joshua's transfusion could still be making its presence felt…could still be causing problems…after so long.
Logan came out a moment later, his clothes neatly folded on his lap, shoes on top. He pushed around the bed to the night stand and placed them inside, on top of his bag, and took off his glasses, placing them in the drawer. He looked at Max myopically and gave her a watery smile. “Guess I’m ready now.” He wiped his sweaty palms along the bit of gown on his thighs. Max pulled herself away from the window and sat down in the visitor’s chair facing him. She took his hand in one of her own, the other holding the baby on her knee. “Look, just remember, whatever happens, I’m here and I’ll always be here.”
“I know.” Eva reached out to her father, and he leaned across to take her, the unfamiliar wheelchair shifting as he moved. He held the baby upright, letting her dance on his legs while she babbled and smiled at him, her dark eyes, so like her mother’s. She bounced strongly on pudgy baby legs. Max, watching the change in Logan – his children were the light of his life – knew that, if nothing else, that would help to bring him through all of this. Well, who would have thought we’d come this far, Logan. We went through so much. I’m not gonna lose you now. You need to be strong, for your family. I think you know by now that I never saw the wheelchair –I fell in love with the guy in the chair, the one with all the rules and issues. And if something goes wrong – if things are worse after this, then that’s just life.
Max looked down, studying the worn linoleum on the floor, Logan’s feet intruding into the top of her vision. You always did have ugly feet, she thought, but for a guy who’s spent the last 15 years in a wheelchair, you don’t have bad legs.
Slowly running her gaze upwards, she realized that he had been watching her, even as he held the baby. She gave a nervous smile. “How much longer we gonna have to wait?”
“What’s the hurry?”
“I just wanna get this bitch over with,” she said.
Max paced up and down in the waiting room, hoping that Eva would sleep. Something of her stress must have been communicating itself to the baby, because she steadfastly kept her eyes open, whining every now again. Logan had been in surgery for over an hour, and Sam expected that he wouldn’t be out before late afternoon. He had spoken to her briefly on the way to surgery, holding her hand for a moment, his brow furrowed, the dark eyes reassuring and sensible.
Logan’ll be okay. He’s been through this before…He really hates this place, though – can’t say I blame him for that…Max resumed her pacing.
Max leaned back in the chair, her feet propped on the edge of the bed, despite receiving a glare from one of the nurses earlier in the afternoon. It was evening; the light outside the window had slowly faded to darkness. She had slipped out an hour before and found something to eat at the cafeteria downstairs and was now feeding Eva while she watched over Logan's sleeping form in the bed. Six hours of surgery had been required to sever the offending nerves and remove and replace the screw that had shifted and was pressing on them. When your back is held together by a carpenter's workshop of hooks, screws and rods, and you have this bad habit of putting yourself in the firing line… it's a wonder this didn't happen sooner,
Max mused. She expected he'd sleep a good deal longer. Sam had spoken to her, still dressed in his scrubs, to tell her that it had gone well – no complications. For now, her sharp hearing was conscious of the slight noise from the drip that ran into Logan's left arm, and the other monitors to which he was attached, and was sensitive to every nuance in his breathing. Even the faint twitching of which he had mostly been unaware but that had woken her on many occasions recently, even when there weren't major spasms, was gone.
It had taken Sam a couple of days to set up the surgery. After the past problems with having sufficient compatible blood on hand, and the results of two transgenic transfusions, he wanted to be sure there was plenty in reserve…and the operating theatres had been booked solid for most of the week. Logan had grown increasingly twitchy, in more ways than one, as the week went on. In a way, he had been relieved to check into the hospital early that morning after a sleepless night.
Max carefully placed the now-sleeping Eva in her stroller. It had been a long day for the baby as well, and she had been remarkably well-behaved in the circumstances. When Max had gone in search of some dinner earlier, she had taken the opportunity to step outside briefly and check Logan's cellphone for messages. Now she picked up the hospital-issue phone beside Logan’s bed to make an important call.
"You got Original Cindy," came a familiar voice.
"Hey, Max. How's Logan?"
"I'll put your man on." Max heard a 'clunk' as OC put the phone on the table, and voices in the background before Ben came on the line.
"Hey, Mom," he said.
"Hey, sunshine. I just thought you'd like to know that Daddy's okay, but he's still asleep and I'll be staying here until he wakes up, okay?"
"Okay, I guess. I…"
Max smiled at the hesitation. "Take care of your aunty for me and I'll see you in the morning, 'kay?"
"Sure, Mom. Love you."
"Love you too." Max smiled and dropped the receiver back on its cradle.
With a sigh, she picked up the phone again and dialed home to see if there were any urgent messages on the answering machine. The first one played, "Hey, Logan, it's Matt. Call me when you get a chance." Max disregarded that one for now as being Eyes Only business.
The next message played straight after the first. "Logan, it's Scott. Where are you, man? We had a basketball game tonight. Call me." Three hang-ups – she assumed either Scott or Matt again. She broke the connection and proceeded to dial Scott's number. He answered quickly.
"Hey, you must've been right next to the phone," she said in surprise.
"Max, hey. Yeah, I was about to call Logan again. Where is he?"
"So put him on!"
"I can't. He's slightly unconscious."
"Slightly unconscious? Max, where are you?"
"Metro Medical. Logan had surgery today. Guess he spaced on letting people know."
Scott gave a long whistle. "What kind of surgery? He's okay?" The concern was evident in his voice.
"Yeah, he's fine," she said, adjusting the blanket over his chest slightly. She gave Logan's hand a gentle squeeze and was surprised to find the pressure softly returned. "Look, I gotta go. I'll get him to call you," she said and quickly hung up. She looked at Logan's face to find him looking back at her. "Hey, didn't expect you to wake up so soon. How you feeling?"
"Like I've been hit by a Mack truck," he said dryly. He cautiously reached for the trapeze above his head but gave up on the attempt to pull himself more upright as pain radiated across his back, eliciting a groan.
"Hey, take it easy. I don't think you should be doin' that." Max poured him a cup of water from the jug on the table and handed it to him to sip through a bent straw, slipping an arm under his head and propping him up a bit to do so. Logan closed his eyes and grimaced at the movement.
“Thanks,” he said, relaxing back into the pillows.
“No problem,” she replied with a smile.
He took a couple of sips of the water and released the straw. His eyelids fluttered and settled shut again, the long lashes now creating shadows on his cheeks. Max looked at him indulgently. She took his hand again for a moment, smoothing the top with her fingers, then released it, softly saying, “Late…” Max gave a little smile – partly of relief. “Sweet dreams, Logan,” she said, and turned to go.
“G’night, Max,” she heard him softly mumble to her retreating back.
She paused and looked over her shoulder. “Night.”
Max gazed out the window of the apartment at a night sky alternately dotted with stars and tiny dark gray clouds. She had spent most of the night here, unable to sleep, or unwilling to try – she wasn’t sure which. “Logan Cale, why’d you have to go and get under my skin,” she mused aloud, crossing her arms around her knees as she sat scrunched into the corner of the couch.
"…It's the Egyptian goddess Bast. The goddess who comprehends all goddesses, eye of Ra, protector, avenger, destroyer…giver of life who lives forever."
Her mind trekked back to that night, to the girl in the cat-suit and the whack rich dude in his trick apartment. This apartment. Home. Only the second real home she'd ever had.
“Eye of Ra, eyes over Seattle, Eyes Only, eyes in the back of my head…” she laughed at her own silliness and hugged her knees tighter. “Guess you were right about one thing, though. We are all involved, no matter how much we think we aren’t. Reality has this way of finding us.” She sighed. “Dammit, Logan. I miss you already.” She looked at the digital readout on the DVD player: 4:07 am. “Guess I should try and get some sleep.”Chapter 38 - A Hard Day's Night Max stepped toward him out of the golden light, the white dress shimmering around her.
“Dance with me.”
“Sure you can. Mind over matter.”
“See, my problem is I can’t walk.”
“I’m not asking you to walk. Just…”
Shooting, a scream, and the comms went dead. Logan was on his feet in a flash of intuition knowing something was wrong. “Max!”. He found her, the front of the white dress stained red with her blood. “…this isn’t bad…No, no, no, no. No, we’re gonna get you out of here. Okay? It’s gonna be all right.””
Then she was walking toward him across the floor of Jam Pony, the red dress a shimmer of movement. “You clean up nice,” she was saying, looking up at him shyly as she stepped out of the dress in the bedroom of the cabin. Touching, and…
The sudden noise of the curtains being roughly pulled open and the bright sunlight from the windows had Logan squinting into the bright light of a new day. God, I hate hospitals,
he thought, restraining himself from glaring at the person who had so rudely disturbed his dreams.
“Good morning, Mr. Cale. How are we today?” the middle-aged nurse asked him in an overly-bright voice, like she was talking to a child.
Logan glowered at her and didn’t respond, watching as she checked the flow of the drip. They’d changed his position at some stage during the night when he’d been so knocked out by the drugs that he didn’t sense it happening. One arm had ended up awkwardly scrunched, half under his body, the fingers numb from lack of circulation. He pushed himself onto his back again, grimacing at the pain the movement triggered, both in his back and from the returning circulation in his fingers. He wriggled them experimentally to hurry up the job.
Another crash announced the arrival of breakfast.
“I hate hospitals,” Logan grumbled aloud this time, deliberately making it audible to the nurse.
“And just where would you be without hospitals?” she asked him sharply.
“Dead on the street a long time ago,” he answered wryly.
She gave a slight smile of triumph. “Are you going to try to eat something?” she asked more gently.
Logan looked with distaste at the tray of covered dishes.
“Guess so,” he replied with a sigh.
“Well, let’s get you set up.”
“Morning, all,” announced Max, walking through the doorway of Original Cindy’s apartment.
“Whassup, guys?” she asked.
“Mom!” exclaimed Ben happily.
“Morning, Max. How’s Logan?” Cindy asked, sliding another egg onto Ben’s plate.
“Sleeping like a baby when I left last night,” she responded. “You ready for your game, tiger? I mean, you do want to play today?”
“Yeah, Mom,” he replied, looking down at his half-eaten plate of food.
“Finish up. We’ve got plenty of time,” she said as Original Cindy set a cup of coffee in front of her. She sat down on the other bar stool, holding the baby loosely on her hip. “We can go and see Dad later.”
Ben smiled and stabbed his fork into the egg yolk on his plate, making it run. “Kewl.”
Logan looked out the window at an uncommonly bright and sunny fall day. He lay on his back, his face turned away from the door, a book in his hand, half-forgotten. He had read the same paragraph three times over, the medication having taken away most of his concentration, and was now just drifting – not fully awake, but not asleep either.
Sam had dropped by earlier in the day and expressed himself as being happy with how the surgery had gone. He had given instructions for the removal of the saline drip, but refused to let himself be drawn on the question of when Logan would be allowed out of bed, when he would be allowed home. He had just looked at Logan with an amused expression on his face and said, "Who's the surgeon here? These things will happen when I say and not a minute sooner." Sam had then gone his quiet way.
“Check.” Max smiled, trapping Logan’s King with her Queen. “That makes…four to me. You’re off your game.”
Logan gave her back a crooked smile of his own as he swept the pieces off the magnetic chessboard onto the bed and started packing them away. Max sinuously uncurled herself from her chair and walked across to the window, staring out through her own reflection at a vista of blinking lights. The room was almost dark, only lit by the light above Logan’s head. She propped a shoulder against the cold glass. “When’re you bustin’ outta this joint?” she asked.
“Dunno. Sooner the better.”
She blew a puff of breath on the cold glass, frosting it lightly, then traced a heart with an arrow, immediately rubbing it out with her hand, and smiled at him.
“You miss me?” he asked. “Whatever happened to ‘no-ties-no-baggage’ Max?”
“That girl died a long time ago,” she said, still leaning against the window. I think she started to die the day I broke into a certain penthouse and crossed paths with a certain underground cyber-journalist named Logan Cale.
“Guess I’ve grown accustomed to having you around.”
Logan couldn’t help smiling at that. “I can live with that.”
Max had chosen Sunday night to visit him alone. She had come earlier in the day with both children, but made the evening visit on her own, leaving Original Cindy in charge at home. As she watched, a single cloud drifted across the quarter moon. She turned her head back to look at Logan, and suddenly itched to touch him. Theirs was a tactile relationship – a year of not being able to touch had seen to that, but they were seldom demonstrative in public or anywhere they were likely to be seen, except in front of close family – although what went on behind closed doors (even where witnesses could hear them) was an entirely different matter. They preferred to keep overt signs of affection away from prying eyes, if not ears. All the same,
Max thought. Logan, watching the expressions fly across Max’s face, wondered what caused her to blush.
“I..I miss you, too,” he admitted softly.
“What – getting’ sick of the prettiest nurses fighting over who’s gonna give you a sponge-bath?” Max asked cheekily.
Logan glared at her in mock anger, but quickly relaxed his features into a self-conscious smile. “Yeah, all right, whatever.”
She grinned broadly at him. “I should go. Visiting hours were over ages ago,” she said, leaving her post by the window and coming over to the bed. She leaned over to give him a kiss, but found herself held in place by a slow, sexy grin and the fascinating pair of green eyes behind the round lenses, liquid pools with bottomless depths. Logan placed a firm hand on her waist, somehow managing to find his way past her jacket into the bare patch of skin between her top and her jeans. His touch burned into her, and what started out to be a quick farewell became something longer and more intimate. Max cupped Logan’s face in her hands and slowly brought her face to his, breathing in his unique scent, sampling his lips, gently at first, and then making firmer contact. She trembled with longing, then realized it couldn’t be – not then, not there, and backed off slowly, marching resolutely to the door. “Late,” she said huskily looking back at him. “I’ll see you…”
“Later,” he said. “Oh, and Max?”
“Yes?” she said enquiringly, half turning back, her hand still on the door handle.
“Can you bring my chair tomorrow? I’m hoping…”
She nodded, then disappeared out the door.
Logan lay back against the pillows for a good few minutes before reaching for the remote control and turning on the TV Max had, with great difficulty, managed to obtain for him earlier in the day when she realized that he just didn’t have the focus to do much else – his efforts with chess the previous night, backed up by the more recent rout, proved that. The novel he had brought with him languished on the nightstand. He hadn’t picked it up since the day before. He flicked through the few channels before settling on a news program, the droning voice of the announcer more soporific than Valium, the headset digging into his ears.
"I'm home!" Max called out as she walked in the front door of the apartment.
"In here," a voice called back in response. Max wandered through, dropping her keys in the dish on the side table in the dining room on the way, to find OC curled up on the sofa with Ben, watching a movie. Ben leaned into his "aunt," seemingly half-asleep already.
"Hi, Mom," he said.
"Any problems?" Max asked.
"Nope," replied OC. "Not a peep from the little girl, and this one – we're just watchin' the end of the movie and then he's goin' ta bed, right?"
"Right," Ben mumbled, struggling to stay awake.
"Want a hot chocolate?" Max asked, wandering into the kitchen.
"Sure, sugah," replied OC, clicking the TV remote as the final credits started to play.
"Okay, tiger, bed-time. Scoot!" his mother called from the kitchen.
Logan woke with a jolt. The hospital, while not usually dead silent at night, seemed to have come alive during the period of time he had slept. It was still dark. Logan fumbled for the light switch, blinking his eyes in the glare when it flared on, but at least it enabled him to fuzzily read the clock on the far wall: 2:20 am. He rubbed a hand across his eyes and sighed as another loud noise had him looking toward the doorway. The angle prohibited him from seeing much, but the corridor lights were on and there seemed to be plenty of activity. He lay back and listened, curiously watching the occasional shadow move past, giving up on the idea of sleep, but not able to make out anything to answer the questions in his head. Finally, he picked up the remote to turn on the TV, hoping to find an answer, but a few minutes of channel flicking only resulted in two old movies, a cartoon, and the broadcast of an Australian football game. He turned off the set in disgust and stared into space.
"Oh, Mr. Cale, you're awake. Is everything okay?"
Logan looked around at the nurse standing in the doorway. "Yeah. The noise woke me.”
“Sorry about that. Can I help you with anything while I’m here?”
“Yeah, you can bust me the hell out of this joint,” he replied with a grin.
She laughed and left him, shaking her head.
Max stared out the window at a light rain shower. Original Cindy was asleep in Max and Logan's bed. The rain pattered lightly on the window, streaking it in lines of water. The gray sky glowed where the moon peeked through the clouds. A typical Seattle night. She tucked her legs up, hugging her knees, resting her chin on top. She'd barely slept since Friday. Over the years, she'd discovered that she was more inclined to sleep with Logan there…or maybe it was just that she was sharing the bed with him and the very fact of actually being in the bed made her sleep. Whatever the reason, she couldn’t sleep now. And something niggled at the back of her mind from the brief glimpse of a newscast she’d watched after Cindy had gone to bed.
She tried to piece together the images of a smashed up tour bus, baggage strewn over the roadside, ambulances, police, rescuers, rescued. Something felt wrong with the whole situation. The night was wet, but it wasn’t raining heavily, just the light misting rain that was normal for Seattle. She shrugged mentally. Oh well, not really my thing, solving the problems of the world…it’ll come to me…
Logan changed his position, half rolling onto his side. He flicked the switch to turn out the light and gazed into the darkness at the gray clouds outside the window. The lights from other parts of the building reflected off the light patterning of rain streaking the windowpane, and he could vaguely make out the smear on the glass where Max had drawn the heart earlier. He wondered what she was doing. Sleeping, I hope. He sighed, still hearing the bustle in the corridor and mentally kicking himself for not asking what was up while he had the chance.
Max switched the TV on again, the volume low, and channel surfed until she found another news broadcast. The image of the bus accident was still haunting her, and she felt the need to know why. She had to see that footage again. She had loaded a disk in the recorder, intending to tape whatever she could find.
The shrill ringing of the phone startled Logan into wakefulness just as he had managed to doze off. He reached for it, fumbling and almost dropping the handset, pulling a face as he felt the stretch in his back. “Hello.”
“Logan, you awake?”
“Well, if I wasn’t, I am now,” he replied dryly. “What’s up, Max?”
“Turn on the TV. See if you can find Channel 3 news. Quickly,” she said.
Logan clicked the switch and then slid on his glasses one-handed before flicking through the channels until he found the one. “Okay. What am I looking for?”
“Behind the reporter to the left, near the black SUV.”
Logan peered closely, squinting at the tiny image in the TV screen, seeing only the back of a head of light colored hair and some black clothing. “Who am I…” and then the figure turned and Logan saw his face. “What the hell is he doing here!?” Logan hissed.
“I don’t know,” she replied evenly. “But I sure as hell aim to find out.”
“Max…I can help.”
“No, Logan,” she said, her response brooking no argument. “Let me handle this.” You’re not up to it anyway
. She left the words unsaid, but they lingered in the air all the same.
“Max, get Alec to do it.”
“I won’t do anything stupid.”
“I promise. I’ll see you tonight, ‘kay?”
“Sure,” he said, trying not to let the worry show.Chapter 39 - Mission
Alec slowly became aware of the persistent buzzing beside his ear. The buzzing stopped for a minute, then started again. He gave a groan and reached unerringly for his phone, eyes still closed. "This better be important," he said.
"Get up, Alec, I need your help."
"Hi, Max. How are you at this ungodly hour?" he said, squinting at his watch, the sarcasm creeping into his mild words. "You should be asleep in bed like a normal happy couple, or is…"
"Don't go there," she warned. "Logan's not here, and since when are you such an expert on relationships."
"No need to bite my head off," he said, swinging his legs around to sit on the side of the bed.
"Sorry. Look, can you help me or not?"
Alec sighed. "Where's Logan?"
Max paused then figured she'd better tell at least some part of the story or Alec just wasn't going to cooperate. "Look, Logan's…indisposed, and yes, he's fully aware of the situation. It's just a simple investigation. I want to know what someone is up to. Are you gonna help me or not?"
"Indisposed," Alec sniffed, latching onto the word. "What's that supposed to mean? He got the 'flu? What?"
"If you must know, he's at Metro Medical for a coupla days."
"Okayyyyy, now that wasn't so hard, was it…" He let the words hang for a moment. "What is it you need?"
While Max outlined what she required, Alec stood up and walked to the window. He looked out at the gray sky and the heavy rain and grimaced. "Max," he interrupted. "Any chance I could borrow a car? In case you haven't noticed, it's pouring out there."
"Since when has borrowing a car been a problem for you?" was her snippy response. Or for me, she almost added.
She considered the request briefly. "Okay, swing by. You can take the Aztek. Just bring it back in one piece or I'll never hear the end of it."
"Thanks, Max," he said. Even though I'm only doing this for you. "Be there in fifteen." He broke the connection and was out the door five minutes later.
Logan glared at the TV screen. He felt helpless, impotent. I should be there, not stuck in bed, he thought. The headset sat disregarded in his hand, making the occasional noise, distorted by static, while the news had moved on to other things.
Coming to a decision, Logan pulled back the bedclothes, heaved his legs over the side, and forced himself into an upright position, stifling a groan at the sudden pain that coursed across his back at the movement. A moment later, he was clutching at the nightstand, the trapeze, anything at all, to stay upright as his head started to swim at the change in blood pressure triggered by being upright after several days in bed. He must have made a noise, because the next thing he knew, someone was there and he heard through the red mist a startled exclamation. "Mr. Cale!" A moment later, he was safely reclining back in the bed so quickly that he never had the chance to pass out completely.
"But you don't understand," he said grumpily. "I have to get home."
"You're in no state to do that," the nurse said, firmly tucking in the bedclothes. "And how were you planning on doing that, anyway? Crawl?"
"If I have to," he answered petulantly, then he relaxed, giving a big sigh, realizing he wasn't going to win.
The nurse, rightly seeing the change in body language as expressing acquiescence, smiled. "You'll be out of here soon. Just be patient."
"Yeah, that's all right for you," he replied, some of the grumpiness creeping back into his voice.
"Try to get some sleep," she said, turning out the light.
Max booted up the computer and started the radio scanner. She set up a window with a continuous hack of the news broadcast from the scene of the bus accident and dug out a set of comms from a drawer, checking the batteries before setting them on the desk. She doubted they had the range, but still, you could never tell. A faint cry penetrated her consciousness –anyone with less sensitive hearing wouldn't have picked it up in the almost soundproof confines of the computer room. She stopped what she was doing and walked the short distance to Eva's room.
Max didn't bother to turn on the light. She could see Eva perfectly clearly, standing up in the crib, clutching the bars in tiny fists, her hair tousled, cheeks red, tears at the corners of her eyes. As Max watched, she released her hold on the bars and held out both hands to be picked up, standing unsupported for a moment before plopping down on her well-padded behind and smiling now that her mother was there. "Well, look at you," Max said softly.
"Mamamamamamamamama," Eva babbled in response, still holding out her arms.
"Sure, sugah," Max said, picking up her daughter, a small smile of pride turning up the corners of her mouth.
There was a soft knock on the apartment door, and the slightest of squeaks as it opened. "Max?" a voice said softly.
"In here, Alec," she said quietly in response, leaving Eva's room via the side door and walking up the short hallway between the two bedrooms to meet him.
She gestured with her head in the direction of the computer room, turned on her heel and walked the short distance into the room without waiting for him to acknowledge her gesture. She sat down in the office chair, comfortably holding Eva across her body, and swung round to face him.
“Where am I going?” he said.
Max reached for the map she’d already printed out and handed it to him to look at. Eva whimpered, pulling at Max’s top with baby fingers. A babble of voices came over the police scanner, but nothing definitive. “Here’s the keys to the Aztek. Bring it back in one piece,” she said firmly. “And here…these’ll probably be out of range, but you never know,” she continued, handing him the comms. “If the comms don’t work, call me as soon as you get close. The weather’s too bad. No way I can hack into a satellite and get visual. I’ll try, but…” Tiring of Eva’s fidgeting, she lifted her top in preparation to feed her, not taking her eyes off Alec’s face as she did so. “I’m not Logan," she shrugged. "And even he’d have trouble finding something with a clear view tonight.”
Alec averted his eyes. “Gee, Max. Next time you might want to warn me before doing that,” he grimaced. “T-M-I.”
”Go on, get outta here,“ she said, managing to maintain a straight face despite a strong desire to laugh at his sudden discomfort.
Logan lay on his side, wide awake, looking into the darkness. Three times he'd reached out for the telephone to call Max, and three times he'd stopped himself in time, telling himself to stop being a fool, that she could cope. He sighed and closed his eyes in an attempt to rest. When the phone did ring, the noise was startlingly loud, and he paused before reaching for it thoughtfully.