Disclaimer: See the other 13 chapters. Nothing has changed!
A/N: Many thanks to alaidh and catherder, my ever-faithful betas, who have been with me throughout this ride. This is it, folks. Enjoy!Chapter 14
By the time Alec dropped Original Cindy outside Marianne Cale's fancy downtown office, it was well after closing time. The lawyer had evidently been waiting for them as she immediately let herself out of the locked building and ushered OC in the direction of a silver Mercedes parked on the street. Original Cindy's eyes widened when she realized that Marianne was also pregnant, although obviously not as advanced as Max, but she refrained from commenting.
The two women walked into the hospital just as the announcement signaling the end of visiting hours sounded, and asked for Max by name. The receptionist gave them the room number and floor, then said, "But visiting hours are over."
Original Cindy held up the suitcase she was carrying. "I got her stuff."
The receptionist pointed in the direction of the elevators. "Room 354 and I didn't see you."
Original Cindy nodded, "Thanks."
Max's room seemed to be full of people. OC recognized the field medic from Terminal City, and there was a bald-headed man she rightly assumed to be the doctor. Logan was holding Max's hand, or maybe she was holding his – Cindy wasn't sure. Max looked at the two newcomers helplessly. "Logan?" she ground out.
Logan looked over his shoulder to see who it was. "Waiting room down the hall," he mouthed. Marianne nodded and steered OC back down the hall.
This is whack, thought Original Cindy, pouring herself and Marianne coffee from the machine. First sistah-girl disappears for, like, a week, and now this? Looks like this is gonna be a long night.
"Logan, wake up," Marianne's voice insisted. He was so tired. He didn't want to wake up, but then she jabbed him in the shoulder, hard, and he was forced to open his eyes. "Come on, Sleeping Beauty, you're home."
"Oh, thanks, Marianne." He pushed himself upright, away from the car door, and waited while she popped the trunk and brought around the pieces of the wheelchair for him to assemble. He took a moment to look behind him curiously and realized that she'd already dropped off Original Cindy at her place. He transferred tiredly and said, "Thanks for the ride, Marianne. Goodnight."
Marianne grinned at his retreating back. "Goodnight, Logan. Get some sleep," she said gently.
"Thanks, I will."
She watched him push up to the front door and fumble in his pocket for Max's keys. Once he'd swiped the card through the slot to open the electric doors and given her a brief wave, she turned to go. Logan made his slow way to the elevator and then up to the penthouse, jerking awake with a start when the elevator pinged. He dully registered that the apartment door wasn't locked and realized why when he saw Alec's prostrate form asleep on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket. Logan was happy to see that Alec had brought the exoskeleton upstairs and left it propped against the wall in the exercise room. He made his way to the bedroom, where he tossed Zack's shoes into the corner, put his glasses on the night stand, transferred, and proceeded to go to sleep still fully dressed.
Max gazed at the fine crop of dark-colored down on her son's head. The few short hours of sleep she'd had through the early hours of the morning had left her feeling refreshed. Thanks, Manticore. I guess there's something to be said for screwed genetics, after all, she thought, running her finger over the baby's tiny, perfect hand.
"…still asleep." The voices came from the kitchen – two of them – Alec and…someone else…talking softly. Logan opened his eyes unwillingly, blinking into the bright sunlight spilling from the window. It bathed the room in golden light. He reached for his glasses and squinted into the brightness to read his watch, discovering that it was nearly 9:00 am already. He slowly pushed up into a sitting position and let his legs dangle over the side of the bed. He flexed his aching hand where Max had squeezed it during the course of the night's events. She doesn't know her own strength, he reflected ruefully. After completing a slow transfer and shoving on some shoes, he looked down at his rumpled clothes and sighed, then decided that'd keep until later. Considering the events of the last few days, a few creases were of little importance. He slowly made his way out to the kitchen to find Alec and Zack drinking coffee. Alec automatically poured out another cup. His appearance caused a lull in the conversation. Logan sat quietly, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Zack and Alec looked at each other and grinned, feeling a little embarrassed.
"Well?" asked Zack finally.
"Hmmm? Well what?" Logan responded, still only half awake.
"How does it feel?"
"How does what feel?"
Zack rolled his eyes, thinking that Logan really was being excessively stupid this morning, more so than usual for a stubborn ordinary who had driven his sister so far off course that she'd placed her life in danger every day by staying with him. "To be a father? I mean, you wouldn't have come home…"
Logan grinned sheepishly. "Pretty good. I…ah…can't offer you a cigar or anything, but…"
"So, did Hiram get a proper name? I mean, Hiram…where the hell does that come from?" This time, it was Alec speaking.
"Long story," Logan responded, thinking that, in this case, the real name of Fearless Fly was actually pretty apt. Hiram had had an exciting entry to the world. "And yes, Hiram has a proper name."
"Aren't you gonna tell us?"
Logan looked at the two men, a mischievous glint in his eye and said with deadly seriousness, "George Herbert Walker Cale…"
"Apparently, the last few days have scrambled Logan's brain," commented Alec.
"No, I just think he doesn't want to tell us."
Logan nodded. "Now, Zack, you're obviously here at the crack of dawn for a reason." Logan suddenly snapped into serious mode.
"I need you to set up a couple of fake IDs. By the way, after you guys left, one of the others led us to a bunker at the back of the complex and we found a male transgenic. He's not in very good shape. Not sure if he'll make it."
"Okay…" Logan gently placed his coffee cup on the counter and pushed himself in the direction of the computer room. There was a package on the desk next to his keyboard. He pushed it out of the way and started the system up. Zack and Alec had both followed him through. "What do you need, Zack?"
"Good morning." The woman's voice was overly cheery as she roughly dumped a dinner tray on the table, startling the baby, who pulled away in protest, and provoking an angry look from Max. Well, at least we know you can hear, little one, she thought.
Max restrained herself to saying, "Thanks," and sat the baby up, gently rubbing his back. She realized that she'd taken in a lot more than she thought by observing Gem and her little girl and from the odd occasions she'd babysat the baby, born in the upper rooms of Jam Pony X-Press. He burped loudly. She grinned at the sound and settled him comfortably in the crook of her arm. She took a quick peek under one of the metal lids on the tray to see what was on the menu, wrinkled her nose and sighed happily. "Hospital food, just what a girl needs."
"Thanks, Logan, and give my best to Max," Zack said, about to leave.
"Hang on a moment." He turned back in the direction of the bedroom. "Thanks for the loan." He held out the borrowed shoes he'd worn for the last few days.
"Oh, you can keep them." Zack looked at him sheepishly. "They aren't mine. I…ah…found them in the closet at the farmhouse."
Logan chuckled. "Well, thanks all the same."
Logan was alone in the apartment again. He gazed out the big picture windows in the living room at the daytime view of Seattle, a soft expression on his face, idly tapping the wheel of his chair. He'd eaten, showered, and puttered about the apartment for a couple of hours, and now he was just mulling over the last few days. Considering all that could have gone wrong, he believed they'd been lucky to get off so lightly. The captured transgenics were all safe; Max was safe; he was a dad…That thought brought a really soppy grin. A dad. Me? He still wondered, in his more doubting moments, why Max was with him, why she hadn't chosen someone more like her. He fondled the tiny jumpsuit he'd found in the kitchen, feeling the softness of the fabric, touching the tiny flight of ducks across the front. He'd carried it with him to the windows, stretching it out along his thigh. It was so tiny, so perfect, like the baby who would eventually wear it. He'd held the child briefly last night, before Max chased him away, full of the pride of all new fathers. He folded the jumpsuit and left it in the kitchen before grabbing his jacket and keys.
He glanced at the exoskeleton. The box on his desk had contained the replacement chip, but there hadn't yet been time to effect any repairs. There were more pressing things right now. Max would be pleased at his shift in priorities, he guessed. She didn't understand his fixation with walking, didn't care whether he was upright, towering above her, or whether she was the one who was upright towering above him. It just didn't matter to her.
Logan heard the voices long before he reached Max's room. The laughter and chatter carried down the corridor. He pushed the door open on a roomful of people. Original Cindy leaned against the foot of the bed. Zack was gazing thoughtfully out the window while Krit looked over Syl's shoulder at the baby. Max, curled up on the bed, looked on, smiling, while her sister held the infant carefully. There was a large bunch of flowers on the nightstand with a card attached. He strained to read it, but the distance was too great.
"If I'd know there was gonna be a party," he said, "I'd have brought beer and crackers."
Zack looked on indulgently and grinned. "Okay, guys, we better get moving." He crossed the room to Max and kissed her on the cheek. "Take care, Max."
"You too, Zack," Max replied. Syl, with some reluctance, handed back the baby. "Take care, big sister," Max said, grasping her shoulder in a rough, one-handed embrace.
"You too, little sister," she replied with a smile. Krit simply gave her a pat on the shoulder before following the other two in the direction of the door.
"Good luck, Zack," said Logan.
"There's no such thing as luck," Zack responded, giving his stock reply.
"Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity," Logan replied with a grin, earning an ironic nod in response from the X5.
Cindy looked at Max with regret. "Gotta go, sistah girl. They're my ride back to Sector 5."
"Logan could take you."
Cindy looked at him. "Na, you two need some time."
"Thanks for coming, OC."
"You just take care of your boys. I'll see ya soon enough."
"Late, girl." Max watched her go.
With the room emptied of bodies, Logan took the opportunity to move around to the other side of the bed. He reached up and turned the card attached to the flowers, eyes widening in surprise at the name Reagan Ronald. Shaking his head, he turned the card back under and reversed slightly, taking a position near the window. Max slid down from the bed and gently settled the baby in the crook of his father's arm, making sure his head was supported, and, ignoring Logan's startled, almost scared, expression, she disappeared into the bathroom. "I'd been waiting for them all to go," she said by way of explanation when she came out, flicking water from her hands. She sat down on Logan's lap, settling herself with an arm around the back of his neck, and sighed in contentment. "Alone at last."
"Yeah." Logan kissed her hair. "At last."
"So," she said. "How's the wonkiness today?"
Logan shrugged. "Still wonky."
Max snorted a laugh. She reached her hand up and couldn't resist touching Logan's face – clean-shaven for the first time in days. "Mmm, nice. Smooth as silk, soft as a baby's…" She left the words unsaid, the faintest hint of a grin on her face.
"How are you feeling?"
"My hormones are racing a thousand miles an hour. I'm up and down like a yoyo. But now you're here, all things considered, I'm okay. I heal fast, anyway."
The baby stirred, scratching at air with delicate pink fingers tipped with tiny sharp nails that barely peeked out the top of the blue baby blanket in which he was wrapped. He opened unfocused blue eyes and gazed up at his doting parents.
"Welcome to this broken world, Ben Jack Cale," said Max softly.
Logan gave a vaguely satisfied grin, and echoed her words, "Yeah, welcome to the broken world."
THE END…OR IS IT?