Disclaimer: Dark Angel belongs to whoever owns it these days and not to me, alas. This story, however, is all mine!
A/N: Many thanks to alaidh and catherder for the beta. This is the updated version!!Chapter 1
"I'll miss you." Max's voice was small. They were huddled in a secluded corner between the lockers at Jam Pony. Logan, wearing the exoskeleton, towered over Max, who was awkwardly leaning into his chest.
"Max, I have to do this." He put one long finger under her chin and directed her face up to look him in the eyes.
"I know." Her voice sounded strange to her. "It's just…"
"I'll be careful."
"Heard that one before," she responded sarcastically.
Original Cindy came around the locker, but promptly backed off when she saw them, and bumped into Sketchy. She gave the lanky messenger a warning look. "Out, fool."
"Hey, I'm not the fool here. You were there first."
Cindy raised a hand to smack him, then pushed by as Normal called out, "Where the fire truck is Max?"
"Give her a minute, Normal." She looked back over her shoulder.
Max gave a watery smile, hearing the voices and pulled Logan infinitesimally closer. Their eyes locked for a moment and she sighed, dropping her head to his chest again. She breathed in his masculine scent, then took his hand from the small of her back and placed it on her belly, where the baby turned somersaults, rolling under his fingertips. Logan gave a smile of wonder, brushed her hair lightly with his hand, then he was gone. Max slumped back onto the bench against the wall and sat there. Original Cindy, seeing Logan leave, came and joined her, putting an arm over Max's shoulder.
Normal's voice could again be heard shouting from the desk. "Get back to work! This is not a rest home! Bip bip bip!"
Max made a choking sound that could have been either a sob or a laugh.
"You okay?" asked Cindy, not sure what to make of it.
Max looked at her enigmatically. "Not really," she replied. "Damn hormones." Max sniffed.
Normal stuck his head around the lockers. "Get back to work!"
"Hey! Baby girl's not feelin' so good." She glared at Normal.
"She's pregnant, not dying! Get back to work!"
"Keep your shirt on, Normal!" Max snapped back.
Max and Original Cindy exchanged looks and shrugged.
"We'll have lunch," OC said, getting up.
Max took up her position at the front desk, sliding up on the high stool Normal had provided, and donning the headset. Her back ached and her heart felt heavy. She read out a list of runs and handed out some packages, before seeing one with an address she recognized – a clothing store on Melbourne Avenue. Taking advantage of a moment's inattention from Normal, she stuffed it under the counter thinking, This one's for me, before calling out the next run.
Eventually, Normal disappeared into his office, closing the door firmly after him, and she was able to pick up the phone. "Come on, come on, answer, dammit." She drummed her fingers on the counter impatiently.
"Oh, Max." Sarcasm dripped down the phone line. "What's up?"
"Need a favour. Can you borrow a car?"
"Why?" he asked suspiciously. "Where's Logan? Can't he drive you?"
"Outta town for a few days."
There was a pause. "Max…"
"Alec, it's perfectly safe. I just need you to take me somewhere, please?"
"Need me? That's different. All right, Max. I'll see what I can do, but it can't be until later, ok."
"Say around four? That's when I get off." She had, so far, sailed through the pregnancy with few problems. But Normal had put his foot down and shortened her hours. "I'm not delivering any more babies in the upstairs offices, Missy Miss," had been his latest edict as he chased her out the door the previous day. She was finishing up the following week anyway, but it was nice to know that underneath Normal's cranky, crusty exterior, there beat an equally cranky, crusty heart.
"Sure. No problem."
"Later, Alec, and thanks."
"You're welcome, Max. I enjoy wasting my afternoons on your wild goose chases."
A couple of riders came back from their first runs. Max quickly checked the worksheets and sent them out again. She re-rolled the sleeves of Logan's sweater – one she'd "borrowed" from the upper reaches of the closet that morning to ward off the winter chill.
Logan drove slowly out of Seattle, queuing his way through the sector points. Martial law may have been slowly loosening its hold, but that didn't mean the Sector Police weren't still on the take. He ground his teeth, impatient to be gone, grimacing as he saw the driver of the car ahead of him roughly pulled from the vehicle and cuffed, the car driven into an impromptu impound lot at the side of the road.
Logan donned an impassive expression as his turn came. He handed over his paperwork and tried to maintain his demeanour while the second cop went round the car, demanding that the hatch be opened. Heart pounding with relief, he drove through the last few miles of Seattle and into the countryside.
He drove for three hours, stopping only once to fill his growling stomach at a roadside diner. He could hear the echo of Lydecker's words, "An army marches on its stomach." He took a room at the hotel designated in the cryptic message, a crumbling old place with orange-painted timber doors, and freshened up while he waited for the call, his gun and cell phone within reach. He then made himself comfortable on the bed, flicking through a few stations on the old TV set in the corner and wound down from the stress of getting out of town and prepared himself mentally for what was to come.
Max and Original Cindy slowly walked through the covered market, looking at this and that and munching on hamburgers.
"Where'd Logan go?"
"He wouldn't tell me."
"Oh-oh, that gotta be bad. Thought he knew better'n that, boo. You gonna chase after him?"
"How am I gonna do that? He didn't tell me where he went – not even the direction, and, well, look at me…can't ride my bike any more coz it's too uncomfortable…can't even go five minutes without going to the bathroom…how am I gonna chase after him?"
"So call him."
"I can't do that!"
"I gotta try to trust his judgment…"
"And his judgment is stressing you out, sugah. He want you to have this baby today?"
"What's up with that, boo? It could happen, ya know."
Max sighed, exasperated. Here she was trying to convince herself that it would be okay, and her friend was pushing every worry right back at her. "He'll tell me, sooner or later," she said darkly.
"Yeah, right, when he's pushing up daisies. Well, don't say you weren't warned."
Max looked around and handed Original Cindy her burger. "Here, hold this." She made a bee-line for the bathroom while her friend looked on in amusement.
Logan was jerked out of a light doze by the insistent ringing of his cell phone. He answered with a cautious, "Hello."
"You found the place?" asked a gruff voice.
"I found it," he confirmed.
"Got a pen?"
"Yeah, go on."
"Here's what I want you to do…" The voice dictated a set of complicated directions. "You got all that?"
"I got it."
"Get moving, son. I'll see you soon."
Logan disconnected the call and thoughtfully tapped the phone against his chin a couple of times before making his move. He powered up the exoskeleton, shoved his gun and phone in different pockets, grabbed the note with the directions and his keys, and left the room.