Alaidh and catherderPairing:
A very shippy look at Logan’s family. Takes place some 13 years after Freak Nation.Chapter 24: Sugar & Spice
“Cut it out, boys!” Logan called out for what seemed to be the fiftieth time that evening, looking up, yet again, from his notepad.
Ben and Jonas were still in top gear, hours after returning from the park, and were bouncing the basketball between them in Ben’s bedroom – Ben from his bed and Jonas from the trundle bed that slid underneath when it wasn’t in use.
“Boys, no basketballs inside!” This time, it was Max who called out, feeling slightly frazzled because Eva had been clingy and whining since the afternoon. The ball made the familiar thunk again as it bounced between the beds. She exchanged looks with Logan, uncurled herself from the sofa, handed Eva to her father, and stormed into Ben’s room, while Logan looked on, a bemused expression on his face. Hell hath no fury like an X5 scorned.
Logan held Eva comfortably in the crook of his arm, while he continued to scribble on the notepad resting on his knees. She curled into him, gripping the pocket of his shirt in one chubby fist while she chewed mightily on other fist. She looked up at the reflection of the lamp on his glasses – the only light in the room.
Max came back holding the offending ball, which she parked firmly on one of the armchairs. She gestured to Logan as to whether he wanted to hand back the baby, but he shook his head firmly. “No, leave her, we’re fine,” he smiled and started writing again.
Max left the room for a few minutes, and when she returned, she had changed out of her jeans and T-shirt, and was wearing Logan’s threadbare red bathrobe. Again, Logan reminded himself that he’d been meaning to replace that bathrobe with a new one – it was Max’s favorite, but it was showing definite signs of age – frayed cuffs and an unravelling hem. What would anyone think if they showed up and my wife was wearing that old thing?
he wondered idly. Max sat in the corner of the sofa, pulled her feet up underneath her, and gave him a glowing smile. She proceeded to stare out the window into the clear night sky.
Whatever she’d said to Ben and Jonas had obviously worked, because there hadn’t been a sound from Ben’s room since she came out with the ball. Eva was also quiet, except for the rhythmic slurping sound she made as she sucked on her fist. Max had bathed her as soon as they got home that afternoon in an attempt to cool her down, and although she still felt overly warm to the touch, she smelled pleasantly of soap and baby powder.
Logan kept writing, the scratching of his pen the only other sound in the room. Every few minutes, he looked up at Max, still staring out the window, and at the now-drowsy baby – who appeared to be absorbing his evening calmness. Eventually, he looked down to see that the long-lashed eyes were closed and her fist had fallen away from her mouth. She was asleep. He put the notepad and pen aside on the coffee table and looked down at the sleeping child, a dopey and doting grin on his face.
Max heard the notepad hit the glass tabletop and turned to face him. “You okay there?” she asked quietly.
He nodded and shifted his grip on the sleeping child slightly, testing how deep asleep she was. Satisfied, he carefully lowered her to his lap, trying to ensure that nothing would catch in his wheels, and that she wouldn’t fall.
“I can do that,” Max said.
“No, it’s okay, I will,” he responded, thinking, No, Max, I really want to do this. Sometimes it makes me sad that I don’t do it more often.
He slowly turned and made his way out of the room. Logan was more than happy to take a break from his writing – the words just weren’t coming and he’d been writing and re-writing the same paragraph for the previous quarter hour or more. He’d given up on the computer earlier in favor of keeping Max company.
When Logan returned, Max looked at him and had some trouble adjusting the expression on her face, and in restraining herself from laughter. It seemed that Eva’s fist hadn’t been the only thing in her mouth – the front of Logan’s shirt was a crumpled, damp mess where she’d been sucking on the fabric as well.
Logan caught her look. “What?”
“Nothing, just…” she pointed.
Logan looked down, grinned, and shrugged. “She must have thought I needed another bath today."
He ignored her comment. “Want some juice?”
“Sure, sounds good to me.” She smiled.
Logan returned with two glasses and the juice bottle thrust between his legs. He poured them each a drink before accepting Max’s invitation to join her on the sofa. She curled up next to him, glass in hand, and gave a silent toast to the now quiet apartment.
They sat in silence for a while, leaning into each other, easy in each other’s company, as they sipped the tangy orange juice. Logan idly played with a lock of Max’s hair, a wispy, wavy tendril, hanging contrary to the rest. Max’s hair was soft and silky, permed into soft waves, thanks to Original Cindy. Cindy, always on Max’s case about the feminine arts, would no longer let her get away with anything less than a proper hairstyle and manicured nails. Her perfect figure and skin didn’t need much help, but OC never stopped riding her back about her hair and nails.
“You gotta keep up appearances, boo. You livin’ in that fancy high-rise like the Queen of Seattle. Gotta look the part, aiight?”“OC!”
“Besides, you want Hotboy to be ashamed to take you out in public ‘cause you’re looking like a scarecrow? Uh-uh. Not happening.”
Max smiled to herself, thinking of this and many similar conversations over the years, briefly wondering what Original Cindy would make of Logan’s worn-out red bathrobe, which Max had never let her see. Probably turn it into rags.
Some things had to stay private and Max taking such pleasure in wearing one of Logan’s old bathrobes was one of them. Eventually, she became aware that Logan was looking at her strangely, his green eyes almost black in the lamplight.
“Nothing,” he responded, smiling, and thinking how serenely happy she’d looked.
Gently drawing her face toward his, he kissed her. Max sinuously straightened and turned her whole body without breaking the connection, straddling Logan’s legs. She deepened the contact, breathing in his manly scent, tasting the remnants of the tangy juice on his lips. She leaned into him, forcing his back against the backrest of the sofa, pinning him there with an arm either side.
“Whoa, girl,” was all Logan could gasp out when Max finally broke contact. She flashed him a saucy smile as she rose, trailing her nails down his arm, and with a cheeky swish of her hair, left him – the unspoken invitation in the air.
Logan watched her go, his expression completely bemused, before transferring back into the wheelchair and following. By the time he’d finished in the bathroom, she was waiting for him in the bedroom, leaning casually on the windowsill, glancing over her shoulder at him. As Logan reached down to start taking off his shoes, she shook her head and crouched down. She untied the laces with a flourish and set each shoe gently down in their usual position on the floor, watching his reaction, a half-smile on her face the whole time. She pulled off his socks, tucking them into the shoes for the time being.
At Max’s imperious gesture, Logan moved onto the bed, where she efficiently stripped him to his boxers and t-shirt, and pushed him onto his back. She started working on him, going through the range of motion exercises so necessary to prevent contracture and stiffness. As she worked on his legs, she managed keep her eyes on his face, while he half-smiled back at her. Logan had placed his glasses on the nightstand beside the bed. In the light of the solitary bedlamp, his long-lashed, reflective, green eyes had a soft, vulnerable look to them, which Max found irresistible and endearing. They didn’t speak – just enjoyed each other’s physical presence, maintaining eye contact all the while.
When the exercise routine was done, Max gestured for Logan to sit up, whereupon she quickly pulled off his t-shirt and, while he lifted himself up, she pulled off his silk boxers, a cheeky grin on her face. She walked around the bed and climbed up beside Logan, while he settled himself comfortably in the bed. The night was warm, and for the moment he left the covers down at the foot of the bed. Max knelt beside him demurely, within easy reach, and waited.
Logan looked up at Max, smiling, then, with one hand, released the knot in the cord of the bathrobe. He pushed the robe from her shoulders, allowing it to slide down her back, revealing her nakedness. He admired her womanly form for a moment.
He reached up again, his fingertips accidentally brushing one nipple, which instantly contracted, then he pulled her down firmly with a grip on her upper arm. He enfolded her in a tight embrace, tasting her lips, her throat, then lips again…testing and tasting. Max, partly lying on her side, had one leg bent up and over Logan’s, feeling the contact of his skin on the sensitive inner side of her thigh. She ran her fingers through the short, curly hair on his chest, and teased and tickled his armpit and nipples. Logan ran his hand softly down her back, buttocks and thigh, and pulled her up slightly, bringing her breasts into reach of his exploring tongue. A moment later, his questing fingers found her moist opening. She arched her back and closed her eyes for the first time, surrendering to the sensation.
He brought her to the brink, then rolled her onto her back and hefted himself on top, where she guided him into position and locked his legs in place with her own. The strong, rhythmic contractions she performed had the desired effect. Having the lamp on heightened Logan’s pleasure. He could see Max’s reactions to what he could only feel in his imagination. He looked down at her, a crooked smile on his face. An instant later, he was looking up as she casually flipped them both over without missing a beat.
A beam of delight spread over Logan’s face at a sudden intruding thought. He’d once seen an old autograph book of his mother's, dating from her early school days. Once of the entries sprang to mind. Honeymoon salad – lettuce alone. Honeymoon sandwich – honey, roll over and lettuce on top.
Max didn’t understand the reason for his smile, but as she loomed over him, she returned it in kind.
Logan came back to the present with a thump as Max hesitated slightly and her expression changed. She smothered a cry and held her position. A moment later, he felt the familiar ripples tear through his chest. With a satisfied sigh, Max lowered herself down, then half-rolled off and lay in the crook of his arm.
“Mission accomplished,” she whispered in his ear in an explosion of breath, causing him to break out in goosebumps. She giggled.
“Definitely mission accomplished,” Logan responded quietly.
Max tugged Logan over on his side so they were face to face, holding each other close. She reached her foot over and dragged his legs across as well, running her toes down his calf and then just leaving her leg comfortably draped over his.
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my bed?” Logan asked, smiling. “I’m under a spell and you must be the witch.”
“Yeah,” she smiled. “I’m the Wicked Witch of the Space Needle, and I’ve come to seduce you.”
“Ah, I think you already did that.” He nuzzled her neck, tracing a line of kisses down her jaw. Her hand rested lightly on his shoulder and his on her butt.
They both stopped at a thin cry from Eva, who had been asleep in her crib up until that point.
She was already up and reaching for the robe, which had slid onto the floor. She quickly pulled it on and tied it loosely around her body as she took the three steps across the room to the baby.
“Hey, sweet thing, what’s up?” she asked, gathering Eva up. “Logan?” She gave him a helpless look. “She’s red hot.”
Logan reached for his boxer shorts from the seat of the wheelchair, pulled them on, and pushed himself up the bed until he was able to lean against the headboard, crossing his legs in front of him. “Bring her here.” Logan put a cool hand on the baby’s brow, then felt her cheeks. “Okay, give her to me. Can you get a damp washcloth from the bathroom.” He looked up at Max. “Let’s see if we can’t cool her down.”
Max was back in a moment and silently handed him the washcloth. “I’ll get a diaper. She probably needs changing.”
“Okay, just give me a minute here.” He sponged down Eva’s face, feeling a faint twinge of guilt now for taking so much pleasure in his earlier activities while his little girl wasn’t well. Max came back, her expression worried. Eva had never had a sick day since her birth, despite being a more difficult child than her brother. Ben had also seldom been ill; in fact, he had sailed through his infancy with few problems. All things considered, Logan was also seldom sick. She was unused to this, and it showed in the deep frown she wore. Logan stripped Eva of her nightclothes and lay her on the bed in front of him while he sponged her down. It was an easy enough matter for him to take the next step and change her diaper while Max looked on. Eva gave a fretful cry, not liking what her father was doing.
“Take it easy, sweetie.” Max sat on the edge of the bed, looking troubled. “Logan, she’s really hot.” Max had her hand on the baby’s cheek.
“Logan, I’m going to call Aveta.”
Logan nodded. “Good idea.”
“She should be just about finished work for the night. Maybe she can come here on her way home.”
“Sure. Good idea.”
Max left them both to go and make the call.Chapter 25: A Spoonful of Sugar
Max returned after calling Aveta and pulled on some panties, feeling somewhat under-dressed for visitors. She gave Logan his t-shirt, but he left it beside him on the bed.
“Ten minutes. She was already on her way home.”
Logan nodded. He had Eva cradled in one arm while he sponged her off. She had stopped whining as soon as he picked her up. Max held her hands out to Logan to take the baby from him. She sat at the end of the bed and tried to feed her, but Eva turned her face away after a few half-hearted sucks, apparently not hungry, or possibly feeling her mother’s tension. She handed the baby back to Logan, realizing that her own worry probably wasn’t helping, and fetched a bottle of water from the kitchen. That was slightly more successful. Eva accepted the drink from her father. As ever, Logan maintained his cool head under stress. Max took the washcloth and rinsed it out in the bathroom. She started to sponge the baby herself. Her ears pricked up a few minutes later as she heard the distant ping of the elevator, and left to go and open the door.
Logan heard the soft murmur of voices as they walked through the apartment. Aveta’s rubber-soled shoes made little noise. As soon as they entered the room, Logan could see that the tall transgenic field medic had managed to extend her calming influence over Max. He could tell she had come straight from work – she was neatly dressed in a blue and white uniform, her auburn hair pinned back in a tidy bun at the back of her neck.
As Logan greeted her, Aveta’s nostrils flared slightly. She was sensitive to the odors in the room, which she had vaguely scented on Max as she came in. Aveta gave Logan a knowing look and smiled. Logan, realizing that the field medic had picked up the lingering scent of his and Max’s earlier activities, gave a self-deprecating shrug. They had nothing to hide from her. She had nursed Logan through the weeks of the Manticore virus cure, and had counseled and cared for him when the temporary cure for his paralysis, produced by Joshua’s transfusion, had worn off. She had helped to deliver both children, and had all but moved in to ensure that Max obeyed doctor’s orders when she became ill and threatened to miscarry Eva. She had been a daily visitor and had helped care for Logan when he returned home from the hospital after the accident that destroyed the exoskeleton and could have, again, ended his life several years before. No, neither of them had anything to hide from her, and they both had a great deal to be thankful for.
For her part, Aveta considered them one of her greatest successes, and never ceased to be pleased at what she had helped bring about. And if this meant she had to come and see a sick child in a room scented with the proof of their love and devotion – hell, she wished them all the luck in the world, and that there were more such successes.
“Hey, Logan,” the transgenic smiled. “And hello to you, young lady.” Aveta quickly stripped off the gloves she wore to protect her over-sensitive hands. She took the baby from Logan and looked at her critically, absent-mindedly wiping away a stream of dribble from Eva’s chin with the washcloth. “You know she’s teething?”
“We know,” Logan responded, thinking of his shirt from earlier that evening.
“Fever of about 105. High, but I’ve seen higher.” Aveta sat carefully on the edge of the bed. “Let me take a look at you, sweetie.”
Aveta took in the baby’s glowing cheeks and slight running nose. There was little else to go on. The field medic had a sudden thought as to what might be the problem.
“I think she has Roseola Infantum. We won’t know for sure until the rash shows up…which won’t be until after the fever breaks. Usually a couple of days, but in a half-X5, who can say? Sometimes there is no rash – just a grouchy kid with a fever, and sometimes, not even that.”
“Roseola Infantum? What the hell is that?” Max asked.
“It’s a virus,” responded Logan. “A member of the herpes family…”
Aveta nodded her agreement. “It’s not normally serious, but it can produce high fevers in some children – like we’re seeing here.”
“Treat the fever – keep her cool. She’s gonna be grouchy for the next few days. Give her plenty of fluids. Acetaminophen drops, if you can get them, would help.”
“What about the rash?” Logan asked.
“Shouldn’t be a problem. Keeping her cool and comfortable is the main thing. It isn’t serious. The only real risk is febrile convulsions, but that shouldn’t happen. If you’re worried, call me again. I’ll drop by in a couple of days, and see how you’re doing, if you like.”
Max smiled her thanks. “Guess there’s a little more Cale in her cocktail than we thought.” Max’s small joke made both Logan and Aveta smile.
Aveta turned serious eyes on Max. “Yes, she does seem to have her daddy’s immune system.”
“Yeah, but her daddy’s just fine.” Max crossed the room and draped her arm across Logan’s shoulders, leaning against him. “Thanks for coming, Aveta.”
“No problem.” She gently handed Eva back to her father, and pulled on her gloves, preparing to leave. She hesitated and turned back, giving Logan and Max both a quick hug. “Take care, Logan, Max.”
“You, too, Aveta.” Logan was mystified at the transgenic’s sudden display of affection. She was normally cool, not wanting to be touched, an excellent medic, but a loner...solitary.
Max left to see Aveta out of the apartment. Again, he heard the murmuring voices and the click of the door. Max was back moments later, leaning against him as she stood by the bed. Logan reached his arm around her waist, pulling her closer. The other was still curved protectively around the baby.
"What was that all about?" he asked, his expression still somewhat bemused.
Max shrugged. "What, you complaining?" she teased. "I'd have thought that a fine specimen like yourself would like being hugged by a beautiful woman, even in front of your wife."
"I keep telling her to loosen up...maybe she's finally taking my advice."
Logan smiled at the thought. Max touched her finger on his cheek, provoking another expression of bemusement. "What was that for?"
"Rubbing the cuteness in," she grinned. "Never could resist a guy with dimples."
“You going soppy on me?”
“Acetaminophen. We don’t have any.” Max was suddenly thoughtful.
“We can get some in the morning.” Logan yawned and rotated his shoulders, easing the kinks in his neck.
“Get some rest.” Max plucked Eva from her father’s grasp, spun on her heel, and left the room. Logan stared after her for a moment. When Max looked in a few minutes later, he had the light out and was deep asleep.
“Well, kid,” she murmured into Eva’s hair, “guess it’s just us.” She kissed Eva’s head, smoothing her cheek across the baby’s soft, downy hair. Max made a quick decision. Leaving the front door unlocked, but closed, she took the stairs to the roof, wedging it open, and found a vantage point where she could sit and look out over the edge, leaning her back against a piece of the building. She was above their apartment rather than the central, higher penthouse.
There was a breeze blowing, comfortable without being cold, off Puget Sound. This was exactly what Max had been hoping to take advantage of. She’d thrown a baby blanket over her shoulder in case it got too cool, but for now, it was pleasant. It wasn’t the Space Needle, but it was high, and it was home, the first real home she’d ever had.
“Well, honey, it’s a funny old life.” She leaned comfortably into the framework around the skylight above the hallway and loosened the top of the bathrobe. This time, the baby started to suck happily enough. “Fifteen years ago, if you’d said I’d be living in one of the most exclusive high rises in Seattle – that I’d be happy…married…kids…the whole disaster, I’d have laughed. Now look at me – a responsible member of the community – wife, mother, moo-cow,” she laughed at herself. “Funny…if I’d realized what that statue would bring me…” she paused, watching the blinking stars. “I’d have run a…No. You know what, kiddo? I don’t think I’d have done anything any differently.” Max smiled to herself. “Bast. Cats are supposed to be inscrutable…she had her own plans.” She looked down at her daughter’s fair hair. “The greater the trial, the better the reward. And if your daddy, and you, and your brother are my reward, then, hell, it’s sure been worth it. ‘Coz all things considered, my strange little life hasn’t turned out so bad.”