Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, I'm just playing with them.
A/N: Once again, many thanks to catherder and alaidh, the Almighty Betas.
When I look at my cousin now, I can't believe he doesn't realize that every female eye in the room is on him, even those of my lovely Marianne. It's not pity for the man in the wheelchair. It's something else…that indefinable element that has always been there…Charisma? Logan-ness? I could find it in myself to be insanely jealous, but I'm not. He doesn't realize it – never did, never will – and this is Logan, my cousin, whom I've always loved as a brother.
When Logan first came to live with us as a gangling 16 year old, I guess I must have driven him nuts. I was two years younger – the afterthought third son who came along when the older brothers were already in school. I was lonely and latched onto him like a barnacle on the hull of a ship. I was short, plain, pimpled and bespectacled, and also painfully shy.
Even at 16, Logan exuded an aura that had the girls flocking to him. One flash of his green eyes behind the wire framed glasses, one smile, and they would have become his willing slaves, had he even noticed.
Everything he did was done well…and if he couldn't do it well when he first tried, he would in the end. At the boys' prep school we both attended, he was a star athlete – a leading member of the basketball team. He was fast and coordinated, with a grace and economy of movement that deceived many an opponent. My ankles attest to his continued skill. Our 4:00 a.m. basketball game this morning was a real eye opener. Even in a wheelchair, he's still got moves. He'd have to be dead not to play, and then I'd think he'd organize all the angels in Heaven to play for God – or maybe that should be the devils in Hell...
I remember Logan in the ROTC. He was a deadly shot on the range, with a steady hand and a keen eye behind the wire framed glasses. During long vacations at the family's cabin, he proved himself a capable, if unwilling, hunter with some prodding from Dad. He was often on hand to end the suffering of some poor beast that we mere mortals had only managed to wound. Until eventually, he rebelled and refused to go hunting at all.
Logan's natural athleticism also made its appearance on horseback. He rode like he'd been born on the range – at one with his mount…guess he'll never do that again. The animals responded to him. He said it was a gift from his mother. All God's creatures loved my Aunt Anne, Logan's mother.
I followed him around unmercifully at school dances and such…picking up his leavings. He always had the prettiest girls for partners. I often wondered what they saw in him. He never gave any thought to his appearance. He assumed an air of genteel scruffiness, even in the most expensive clothes. His hair was always a mess of spikes – still is – and he seldom shaved more than once a week. Guess the wedding tonight caught him on a non-shaving day – or maybe it's another sign of his rebellion against Dad. They were always at odds.
Maybe it was his unmothered look the girls found so attractive – still do, I guess. Look at that gorgeous creature in the red dress he brought with him tonight. She's looking daggers at Daphne behind his back. She is so jealous. I know Daphne has noticed, but she's not about to react. Trust my cousin to bring the most beautiful belle to the ball, introduce her as a friend and not notice how much she loves him.
The shooting came out of the blue. His chosen profession is not the safest of career paths in this day and age, but none of us ever suspected that he was putting his life on the line to that degree. Although, in his own way, he has always lived his life on the edge, since getting out of Dad's grasp. I guess, maybe, in retrospect, we shouldn't have been so surprised after all. He's never been one to do things by halves. If he's chosen to take on the power of City Hall or whatever, then he's going to put all of his energy into it and damn the consequences. I think that's part of his charisma too – that he has such integrity and is so dedicated to his cause, even to the point of putting himself in danger.
Still, it was a shock…to see my active, athletic cousin in a wheelchair. We didn't hear about the shooting until days after the event. He kept his family out of the loop, as usual. I know he dislikes Jonas intensely, but what about my brothers? What about me? We were always friends – partners in crime. I have never understood why he didn't let me know. It was a minor item on a slack news day when they finally gave out the identity of the one man who survived that horrendous ambush – the same newscast that told of the death of Edgar Sonrisa.
He refused my calls at the hospital, and, despite all my Cale-Industries-honed negotiating skills, I was unable to get past that huge bodyguard to see him. I didn't understand why he cut off his friends. With the wedding looming, I finally managed to avoid the bodyguard and beard the lion in his den. Cold-called one evening when Logan was alone.
I hadn't realized the severity of his injury – or the permanence. I was used to looking up to him…he topped my height by a good four inches. Looking down at him was a weird feeling, and I think he saw the embarrassment and discomfort written all over my face. I think I recovered well, though. I asked him straight out if he'd be my best man. I'd already sent him an invitation, which he'd politely refused. He 'ummed' and 'ahed' and cleared his throat. His lack of self-confidence disturbed me. This was not the Logan I grew up with – the charismatic, confident star athlete – the charming, handsome but oblivious guy all the girls wanted.
"Why? Logan…you have to ask?" I laughed. "Who else would I want? You were Butch to my Sundance throughout my youth. You let me hang around even though I was a pest. You're my best friend, as well as my cousin. I've been trying for months to get to see you. I wanted you to be there – to be at my side when I exchange my vows. I wouldn't want anyone else.
"I don't have a tux."
"So buy one, hire one, do what you have to." Boy, Logan, that was lame. Of course you have a tux – I know you do.
"I can't get into the house…"
"I'll get the handyman to lay a ramp." He cringed at that.
"Why do you want me to do this?"
"Logan, you're my friend. If I didn't want you, I wouldn't have asked…because, dammit, it's time you came down out of this ivory tower you've constructed for yourself and started to live again. You're not a prisoner here."
"What will Jonas say?" He suddenly gave a wicked grin.
"Like you care? Like you've ever cared what Jonas thought?" He finally relaxed.
"Come on, Logan, for me?" I begged and cajoled.
"OK. I'll do it – but only if I can bring a friend."
"OK," I responded, naturally curious, but left the question unasked. Anything to get him out of this self-made prison.
"Have you, er, had a bachelor party yet?"
"No," I said, assuming an air of innocence. "Isn't that the best man's job?"
"I guess it is. Leave me some names and numbers and I'll get on it." That was more like it. My cousin getting on with the business at hand – integrity overcoming his reticence.
With that, he turned to stare through those huge living room windows of his, treating me to a view of his back. It seemed the audience was over.
Gee, what happened to make him so different? Where was all the boyish charm and confidence? That was so…cold…distant…dismissive – something the Logan of my youth had never been. There was a sadness that I'd never seen before. Could the shooting have made such a difference? There was still the same beating heart underneath, but where was the easy camaraderie, the self-assured manner?
Bachelor party, hmm. Booze and good companionship are great looseners. My shins still hurt. He's sure got some great moves in that chair. My legs are so black and blue, Marianne's gonna want to know who beat me up. And as for that girl...Max...well, Logan sure is full of surprises. She is the most beautiful woman here – even I acknowledge that – and she seems to work miracles, because, whether he knows it or not, his face lights up every time he sees her. The magnetism between them is obvious.
I'm glad he came today. I wanted him here for me. And it's nice to see that some things haven't changed a bit. He's still so damned clueless...I guess all that Jonas brainwashing about black sheep must still be working because, wheels or no wheels, the most beautiful girl at the ball is still hot on his tail and he still has no idea…