Many thanks Alaidh for the beta. Pairing:
This is what happens when you send me on holidays to foreign parts, lol. Story is a companion to Blessings but set several months earlier. Falls
Max gazed out at the spectacle before her, in awe at the simple power of nature. She leaned forward on the wall to get a closer look. The spray coated the shoulders of her jacket and dotted her baseball cap. She cast a look down at Logan by her side and grinned at the sight of his water-dotted glasses and damp hair. In a gesture full of thoughtfulness, she pulled the cap off her head and placed it on his. He smiled his thanks and started to clean his glasses on the edge of the sweater, which peeked out the bottom of his jacket, looking up at her myopically.
"You should have worn a hat." Max gazed out over the scene, absorbing the breathtaking view. She glanced at Ben, farther up the wall, who had elected himself 'official' photographer. He leaned out, Logan's digital camera in his hand, the strap firmly wrapped around his wrist. His face gleamed with excitement and wonder.
"I know," Logan responded, replacing the glasses on his nose. He grabbed Max's hand and pulled her closer to him, absorbing the warmth of her body. The October weather was cool and he wanted to take full advantage of Max's elevated normal body temperature - a by-product of her X5 genetics. They were in Canada because Eyes Only business had brought Logan to Toronto, and Max had insisted on flying across the country with him, and on bringing Ben. The chance to visit Niagara Falls had been too great an opportunity to miss.
They watched as the Maid of the Mist
battled its way up to the viewing point near the base of the Horseshoe Falls, the bright blue plastic raincoats of the passengers shining wetly in the afternoon sunlight. The boat trips had stopped following the Pulse, but had eventually resumed as the economy on both sides of the border picked up and people started taking holidays in the area once again. "Fancy a boat trip?" she asked.
Logan looked at her in mock-horror. He had no fear of the water or boats, nor did either Max or Ben, but Max, early in the second trimester of what had so far been a difficult pregnancy, was still suffering nausea. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." She caught the concern in his eyes. "Logan, I'm...I'll be fine. Honest." She smiled reassuringly.
"Okayyyy." He looked at her doubtfully for a moment, then made his decision. "Ben! Let's go, we're taking a boat ride."
Logan reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pair of bike gloves, which he pulled over his damp hands with some difficulty. The path down to the ticket booth, while not especially steep, was wet and slippery in places. Past the ticket booth, there was a long concrete ramp, which turned back on itself several times, leading to the elevators, and then another steeper concrete ramp to the wharf. Although his hands were callused from the wheelchair, he still wanted to protect them from the excessive wear and tear this particular journey would cause. Max was forever on his back about wearing the gloves, rightly pointing out that in her bike messenger days she had always worn them, so why shouldn't he? The truth was that he had always hated wearing gloves.
They slowly wandered down the path, stopping occasionally to check the progress of the boat near the falls, the line at the booth, and to simply admire the view. Max walked more or less beside Logan with her hand on his shoulder. Ben was alternately ahead or behind them, depending on what caught his attention. They had to wait in the line for several minutes before reaching the booth. After purchasing their tickets, they slowly made their way down the ramp to the elevators.
Half the wheelchairs in North America seemed to be on the down ramp. There were a number of elderly people being pushed in rented chairs by younger relatives, and a dozen or so disabled children being guided down by caring parents. It created something of a log-jam on the bends. Logan coasted down slowly, glad he had worn the gloves. He seemed to be the only one capable of propelling himself. This was the kind of situation he tried to avoid, feeling intense discomfort at the possibility of being identified with either group. It was a kind of prejudice instilled in him from childhood, and, while he was somewhat ashamed to admit it, he found it difficult to overcome, except with his basketball friends. Physically, he didn't belong with either group - he was in excellent shape, fit and athletic, and moved with a grace and economy of action, which Max had always found a pleasure to watch. In fact, she frequently embarrassed him by doing just that - watching him move, both in the privacy of their own home and when they were out and about together. Who said wheelchairs can't be sexy?
She'd said it often enough that he almost believed it.
The only problem Logan was likely to find was that, owing to the high level of his injury, his sense of balance was not terrific. Once the wheelchair was locked in place, he would need to hold himself steady or he was likely to fall, particularly once they were out in the swirling maelstrom near the cliffs. He had discovered this problem the first time he'd gone out on the family yacht with Bennett after the shooting, having to hold on to his seat in the stern of the yacht for grim life on a day when the water of Puget Sound had been a virtual millpond. Bennett hadn't commented, but his troubled eyes had taken in the problem. The next time he invited Logan to come sailing, and Logan had finally accepted after much cajoling and even threats of serious bodily harm, he discovered that Bennett had installed a specially designed seat on the bridge of the yacht, obtained from a catalogue for disabled sailing. Bennett had also jokingly handed Logan a cap printed with the word "captain". Logan had been mildly annoyed with his cousin, but had to admit that the gyro seat restored to him one of the perks of being a member of the Cale family, albeit in a limited form.
Shaking off his reflections, Logan pulled on the ridiculous plastic garment he was handed by the person on the gate at the base of the ramp. Max and Ben had already donned theirs and were looking at each other and trying not to laugh. The blue plastic sheath Ben wore was far too big and trailed to the ground. It looked like he was wearing an enormous blue trash bag.
"Mom, do I have to wear this?" He held his arms out from his side, trying not to trail the ridiculous coat on the ground.
"Yes, you do, sunshine. It's gonna get very wet out there."
"Okay, Mom," Ben sighed.
"Penny for them?" Max asked, turning back to Logan.
"Whatcha thinking? You've gone all quiet on me."
"Just thinking that I was about Ben's age the last time I did this."
"Then," Max replied matter-of-factly, "it's about time you did it again."
Logan gave her a broad grin. "You're probably right."
The boat came alongside the wharf and prepared to discharge passengers. They were close to the front of the line and were able to watch as the twin gangways were extended and the previous group departed, all with maximum efficiency. It was a simple matter to board the boat and grab a position at the lower deck railing on the far side of the vessel.
"Buckle your seatbelts, you're in for a rough ride," Logan said, only half in jest.
Max caught his hand and smiled, her feet spread apart for balance. Ben stood on the opposite side of his father, watching the American Falls, as the rest of the passengers boarded. The vessel rocked at its moorings, caught by a gust of wind, causing Logan to grope for the railing with his free hand. Max held him steady as a rock with the other, her catlike balance and enhanced strength standing her in good stead.
Ben was too busy leaning over the deck railing with the camera to notice anything else. He had the hood of the blue raincoat pushed back and his dark hair blew back in the breeze. Ben was looking across at the American Falls opposite the wharf. The water tumbled to a large pile of boulders at the base of the cliffs.
"Ya know, back in the day, they completely stopped the flow of water for several months while they tried to figure out if it was a good idea to get rid of all those rocks," Logan explained.
"Wow. They did that? Amazing," Ben replied, studying the small mountain of rocks.
The small vessel, now well laden with sightseers, nosed its way out into the torrent, to a continued commentary from the tour guide. They were ideally placed for Ben to snap off a series of photos of the American Falls, then the Maid headed in the direction of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The water became increasingly rough, churning to foam. The noise from the falling water was unbelievable. Ben, his face shining, was totally absorbed as the cliffs came closer, his face damp with spray. The noise and sheer volume of water were unbelievable. Max, comfortably balanced, alternated between glancing at her son's face as he took photo after photo, and at the wall of falling water. At the same time, she unobtrusively helped Logan maintain his balance.
It was over all too soon, and the vessel turned back to the wharf. They were efficiently disembarked and started the long haul back up the ramp to the elevators.
Ben was speechless, much to his parents' amusement.
"Thanks for that," Max said simply.
"You're welcome," Logan replied, smiling. "Ain't nature wonderful?"
Max stared out the hotel window, past her own reflection and into the night. She could dimly make out the white foam of the waterfalls. Ben was asleep in a bed on the other side of the room. Logan was on the opposite side of the coffee table, cautiously sipping freshly made coffee, and also looking out the window.
"Guess it's back to the real world tomorrow," Max said, not a little sadly. "This has been such a wonderful trip."
"I know," replied Logan. "Thank you for making me bring you. I'd have missed out on all of this..."
"To say nothing of having a designated driver," she grinned, turning away to look at him.
"Saved me a small fortune in taxi fares," he quipped setting his coffee cup down on the table with a small clunk. "This place has only good memories. Thanks for reminding me of that."
Logan stretched and yawned. "Bed?"
"In a minute."
"Well don't be too long."
"I won't." She smiled.
Max remained standing by the window, reflecting on the day. She leaned against the glass lightly for a few minutes, thankful for the road, bumpy and potholed as it was, that had brought her life to this point. Then she turned out the lamp and joined Logan in bed.