Title: Dream Within
Author: Restive Nature (aka Bavite)
Disclaimer: All characters within this fiction are the property of Cameron/ Eglee. I just like to play with them.
Timeline: Six weeks after FN.
Summary: An unexpected accident causes Max to think about the future in a new way.
AN- This chapter is dedicated once again to Lyra. I'm sorry sweetie, but we knew this day had to come. I just hope you read everything!
Alec stared at the still form beside him. Even after all this time, it still amazed him that despite their superior strength, despite their superior intellect, despite everything that put them above ordinaries, they could still be so fragile. He shifted uncomfortably in his rickety old chair, the best he'd been able to come up with. He never liked thinking of Max in those terms. She was strong. She was a fighter. She shouldn't have been laid low by something so simple.
But she had been.
His eyes darted towards the clock on the bedside table opposite him. It had changed little since the last time he'd checked, only minutes before. He sighed heavily. Inaction didn't suit him at all. So he took the only course left to him. He leaned forward and carefully slid his fingers under her inert hand. His grip on her was careful; mindful of the needle inserted in her wrist to provide intravenous fluids that she needed, as well as painkillers. Her hand looked so small in his that he nearly wept. He pushed the fear that she never would wake up to the back of his mind. Dr. Carr had assured him that physically she would be okay. But her mind had retreated from the conscious world.
So it was up to them to get her back.
Alec knew that he had a lot of technical strengths. Manticore had seen to that. But if ever anything was needed right now, it was his ability to get under Max's skin and annoy the crap out of her. To the point that she'd wake up just to tell him to shut the hell up. But right now, there was no rancor, no teasing, and just a slightly desperate yearning to see her eyelids flutter again and really wake up.
"You know Maxie," he began again in a low voice. "You've been out for a long time. Almost nine hours. You know, if you wanted a little time off, there are easier ways to do that." He chuckled a little although she gave no indication that she heard him. At first, every little moan or gasp from her had caught his attention. But when disappointment followed and she didn't wake up, he'd feel his heart plummet again. There was still hope, there always would be. But the longer they waited, the harder it got.
"You can stop faking, you know," he pushed again, careful to keep from jarring her. "Dr. Carr said you're not in a coma, so you can't keep this up for much longer." And it was true. After examining her, Dr. Carr had assured them that she was in a mild state between unconscious and comatose. So the implications of that were that it was all up to Max when she felt like bringing herself to consciousness. "Or are you just trying to tell me that you don't like the company?" he teased again.
Alec held his breath as her eyelids fluttered again. She let forth a small moan and his attention was torn from her face as one of her legs twitched. His heartbeat sped up, anticipation thrumming through him. This was more response than he'd gotten before. Her leg twitched again, her hand grasping his for one slight second before becoming loose again.
"C'mon Maxie," he breathed softly, encouragingly. "Wake up."
He watched in fascination as her legs that had been moving suddenly twisted to the side. He chewed on his lower lip, wondering if it had been a good sign when suddenly her whole body jerked to the side, her legs coming up as if she wanted to curl into a fetal position. But something stopped her short. He wondered if she were in pain. The movement was certainly reminiscent of someone trying to fend off unyielding hurt. He took in the morphine drip, noting that there was still plenty there. She let out another tiny moan and Alec stroked over the back of the hand he still held with his thumb. There had to be some way to reach her.
"It's okay Max, you're safe," he murmured, hoping that she would hear him in this state. And it seemed she had.
"Alec," she moaned, her voice sounding slightly urgent.
Alec could feel the blood pounding through his body, the echoing rush overwhelming his sensitive ears. He swallowed the mixed yelp of surprise and hope that her voice brought him. He moved his free hand to stroke her cheek. "I'm here Maxie. Right here. Everything's okay."
"Alec," she whispered. The feeling of triumph in him was tempered by worry. Sure she was talking, but it could mean anything. She could just be responding to something deep within her own psyche. He'd give anything if she'd just open her eyes. He leaned in a little closer; not sure what he could tempt her into wakefulness with. But she simply garbled something more that he struggled to make out. It sounded like 'get out now.' Which made no sense to him. Unless of course she knew she was talking to him. Then it made perfect sense.
"Okay, okay," he joked tiredly. "I'll leave. As soon as you open your eyes and tell me face to face. No more of this faking sleep thing." And it seemed that she heard him. The hand in his twitched again and then tried to pull away. Alec didn't let go quickly enough so she moved her other hand. He sucked in his breath and held it as he followed her movement up to her forehead. He winced slightly as she encountered the bandage that covered her skin. Her fingers puzzled over it for a moment before gently cradling her temple. Her face twisted up in a grimace and then her eyes opened.
And blinked shut again.
"C'mon Max," Alec sighed. "I saw that. I know you're awake. Now c'mon." And to his pleasure, she finally obeyed a command of his. "Open your eyes and talk to me."
She rolled her head to him, her eyes coming open and staying open as she took him in. "Alec?" she murmured. Her eyes flickered to where he had lifted their still joined hands and she squeezed just a little. "What happened?" she groaned out, her voice gravelly and pained. "Where is he?"
Alec didn't know which answer first. He understood both. Well, sort of. Of course she was asking what had happened to her. Understandable in the situation. The second, obviously she wanted someone. Logan, most likely. But the power to answer, to even think was stolen away from him by the beatific smile she leveled at him. Never before had she smiled like that at him. It was a rare day when she smiled at all any more. His thought stumbled around until she spoke again.
"Alec, where is he?" she stressed, still gripping his hand.
"Oh, Logan," he finally stammered out, disappointment rampaging through him. What he would have given for that smile to be for him. "I'll go get him."
Max swallowed once. Though her body had been getting fluid, she still needed some to moisten her sore throat muscles. "Why is Logan here?" she croaked. Alec looked at her, puzzled.
"Because he lives here," he pointed out amicably, slowly trying to pull the mantle of smart-ass sidekick back on. But he certainly didn't expect the reaction to that. Max's eyes suddenly darted around wildly, taking in the bedroom that they'd put her in, with its peeling wallpaper and old furniture. And to his horror, the eyes that had finally opened for him filled with tears.
"No!" Max sobbed, pulling her hand from his to scrub at her eyes. "No, this isn't right. He's supposed to be here." She finally did manage to curl up in the position she'd been searching for. But to Alec, it seemed more from the pain of grief than anything physical. 'What the hell was going through her mind?' he wondered. Had she been thinking of Zack? Or one of her other brothers? That would certainly account for how upset she was becoming. Which Alec realized wasn't a good thing.
"Max it's okay," he tried to soothe. "We'll find him."
"He's not lost," she gasped out. "He's just… not. It wasn't supposed to be this way!"
To say Alec was completely stunned when Max threw herself into him would have been an understatement. But his arms closed about her as if she were destined to be there in that moment. Her fingers, unheeding of the IV drip still inserted in her wrist, twisted about in his shirt. Her cheek rested just above his heart as her tears fell to soak the material. Her legs had curled up into herself completely. Alec rested his cheek on her head, trying to still the emotions running through him. Whatever had hurt her so badly in her own mind that she was turning to him for comfort was a mystery to him. But he wouldn't begrudge her that comfort. He just couldn't deny her anything right now. Not when he was so glad and relieved that she was awake and reacting.
"Shh Max," he whispered, his large hand running over her back in circles. He was amazed that she burrowed in deeper. "Calm down baby," he crooned. But apparently the endearment that slipped out was exactly the wrong thing to say. He heard the low keening start and right along with it, his heart crackling with tempered pain. "Please Max," his voice cracked a little as he attempted to calm her, "you're just going to make yourself worse."
She might have calmed down and relaxed, had the door not banged open. Alec's eyes flew to the door, surprise and a little frission of guilt zinging through him. He'd almost forgotten that Logan was in the living room talking with Dr. Carr. Waiting and wondering if Max would be okay, just as he himself had been. And the stunned look on the other man's face, reminded Alec of exactly where he was. In what should have been, if it weren't for that damnable virus, Logan's place. He couldn't help the small triumphant part of his mind that wanted to scream out 'nyah nyah'.
"She's awake," Logan breathed out, unnecessarily pointing out the obvious. He stepped into the room and Alec could see the doctor right behind him, trying to peer over the taller man's shoulder at his patient. After only a moment's hesitation, he started towards the bed. But Max apparently saw this and to everyone's surprise, scooted back, still clinging to Alec.
"No," she muttered fiercely. Logan's eyes widened as he jerked to a stunned halt. Alec glanced down at her, her eyes screwed tightly shut, still pressing into him. 'Well of course she doesn't want him getting close to her,' he told himself sharply. 'He's not wearing his damn gloves.' But the less practical side of him was exulting in the feel of her warm body pressed against his own. Logan looked as if he was about to speak, but Dr. Carr chose that moment to take charge of the situation. He approached the bed from the other side, taking a seat on the edge of the mattress.
"Max?" he spoke softly to get her attention. When she turned her head enough to see him out of the corner of her eye he continued. "Do you feel up to letting me examine you?"
Alec didn't mean to, but his arms involuntarily tightened about her. But Max made no protest at this move. Alec only hoped it was slight enough to have escaped the other men's eyes. And when nothing was said, he believed it had been. While he might not want to let her go, especially since she was in his arms willingly, Alec knew that Carr needed to ascertain exactly what damage the car had done to her when she'd been hit. With care, he eased back to look down into her face, melting a little as her large doe-like eyes met his.
"Okay Maxie?" he asked in a deep tone. He could understand her reluctance, but was relieved when he saw her swallow and then nod.
"Okay," she whispered, then slowly straightened herself up. With her good hand, the one unencumbered by plastic tubing, she scrubbed again at her eyes. "I'm sorry," she apologized; though Alec wasn't sure whom she was directing it to. At least Logan seemed slightly mollified. Alec felt a surge of ire towards the other man for the vague approval he gave off when Max moved away from the male transgenic. She was perfectly entitled to her reaction. 'And I didn't really do anything wrong!' he assured himself angrily. He'd simply comforted a friend who'd been incredibly upset. But as he stood, Alec knew that while his actions hadn't crossed any lines, his feelings had.
Dr. Carr was rubbing a soothing hand on Max's shoulder when he stopped to turn to the other men. "If you guys don't mind?" he trailed off slightly, but there was no doubting that it was an order rather than a suggestion. Logan nodded dumbly and waited for Alec to move out of the room ahead of him. But at the doorway, he chanced a glance back at Max. Her eyes were wide, panicked, almost pleading with him. If he didn't know better, he'd swear that she didn't want him to leave.
"You must be thirsty. Why don't I get you something to drink?" he asked, testing his theory. He knew he was right when relief poured over her face. He flashed her a ghost of a smile and moved out into the other room, Logan hot on his heels. The older man followed him straight into the kitchen, where Alec busied himself with inspecting the contents of the refrigerator. He could feel the tension and unspoken questions of the ordinary, rolling off him like waves. With a sigh, he nudged the door shut, deciding that Max needed something a little more soothing than chilled wine. 'Hope really must spring eternal,' he snorted mockingly to himself, of Logan's penchant for plying his guests, namely Max with that beverage.
He turned to the cupboards that he was sure were as well stocked as Logan's penthouse kitchen had been. When he finally found the cupboard he was looking for, he wasn't disappointed. He rifled through Logan's selection of tea. Really, the man had too many varieties. He stifled a chuckle as he imagined Logan trying to start his day with the monumental decision between Earl Grey and English Breakfast. He finally caught sight of the chamomile tea and pulled the box loose, pausing as he watched the other boxes tremble. When they didn't fall, he shut the cupboard and moved to the next to grab a mug.
"What happened Alec?" he finally sputtered out. Alec shot him an annoyed glance and went back to filling up the teakettle.
"She woke up," he answered shortly, really not in the mood to deal with Logan's insecurities, imagined or not.
"Yes, I realize that," Logan spoke condescendingly, forgetful of his own inane comment from earlier. "What I meant was, why was she so upset?"
Alec slammed the kettle on the stove before turning to fix Logan with a pointed stare. "What the hell am I? A mind reader? I'll leave that to the freaks from psy-ops, thanks."
Logan sighed and the tension seemed to drop out of his shoulders. "Sorry, I've just been worried about her."
And no matter what his feelings for Max were, Alec knew that Logan had first claim on her. Always would have. "Yeah," he grunted, perturbed with himself. He was a soldier, damn it. He needed to push this sentimentality aside and focus on the situation.
"Did she say anything?" Logan tried again. "Did she give any indication what was bothering her?"
Alec busied himself with the stove, his back once again to the other man. "She was asking for someone. She didn't say who."
"What does that mean?" Logan persisted. Alec felt the thin veneer on his emotions, on his temper about to snap. He spun around.
"It means that she woke up," he answered in clipped tones. "She asked what happened to her. Then she asked where 'he' was. She didn't say what he she was asking for."
"So what did you say?" Logan demanded, suspicious. Alec rolled his eyes dramatically, trying to get the point across to Logan that it wasn't his fault, whatever people were automatically inclined to believe about him. He had to bite back the retort that it had been the mention of Logan's name and proximity that had sent her into tears.
"I told her that I was going to get you," Alec told him evenly. "Then I think she really woke up, and that's when she got upset." Logan just nodded, trying to assimilate this information to what he and Carr had walked in on. He took a seat at the kitchen table and watched as Alec fiddled with the tea bags.
The water had boiled twice. The first time, neither man was willing to interrupt Dr. Carr, so Alec had switched the water off. But then Logan had felt like making something warm to drink for himself, so Alec had switched it back on. He offered to Alec, but the transgenic wasn't interested. He just wanted to go back into that room and make sure that Max was okay. That she was herself again. 'Well, not precisely herself,' he mused to himself. 'This version is too emotional.' It was as if she'd gone from one end of the emotional scale to the other. And Alec wasn't sure which one he preferred. Although not getting hit was a nice option. Clothes tended to dry easier than bruises healed.
Finally the water had heated enough to begin to emit its piercing shriek. Alec, still leaning against the counter turned to shut off the burner. He waved Logan back to his seat and poured the hot water into the waiting mugs. They'd unconsciously decided that by the time the water had boiled again, they were going to find out how Max was. They were saved having to interrupt when they heard the inner door opening. Logan stood as Carr entered the room. Alec simply removed the tea bag, setting it in the drainer before he turned to the doctor.
"Well," Dr. Carr began, rubbing his hands together. "You'll be happy to know that Max is going to be perfectly fine." He directed his comment to Logan, but he spared a glance at Alec. Logan sagged a little as relief took hold of him, but Alec remained where he was. "My original diagnosis was correct," the doctor continued. "Max sustained a mild concussion, some bumps and bruises, but she'll recover easily enough for that. I was worried that the concussion might be more serious, but she's completely cognizant of where she is and what's going on."
"So why was she so upset then?" Logan asked, with a distasteful little sneer towards Alec. If Dr. Carr picked up on the slight animosity between them at the moment, he didn't let on.
"As I said earlier," he extrapolated, "Max wasn't in a coma. Nor was she merely unconscious. She was responding to external stimuli. But while she was in mid-state, she experienced an intense and very life-like… well dream, for want of a better term."
"She was dreaming?" Alec asked incredulously. He cocked his head to the side. That would account for all the motion and sounds she'd been making. Dr. Carr nodded.
"When she initially woke up, she didn't make the normal transition from deep REM to light sleep and then wakefulness," Carr explained, taking them through the medical aspect of it. "It's similar to nightmares. So since Max was experiencing one thing in her dream and then woke to a completely different situation, she naturally was confused and disoriented. Easy to see why she became upset."
"Okay," Logan breathed a sigh of relief. "So that explains that." But something else seemed to occur to him. "So who was she asking for?"
Dr. Carr simply chuckled. "Well, I'll let Max explain the whole of it, if she's up to it. But apparently she was waiting for someone and he was late."
"Which explains why she was asking where he was?" Alec grinned, but it faded quickly. Her earlier comment made much more sense now. If she was waiting for someone and was telling Alec to get out, it probably was Logan she'd been dreaming about. But that just didn't gel to her reaction when the man in question did show up. He shook his head to dislodge the circling thoughts, realizing that Carr was speaking again.
"So just keep her off her feet for the next few days and she'll recover nicely." The doctor moved to pick up his old-fashioned black bag and Logan jumped up to retrieve his coat. Dr. Carr took it from him and headed out, with a cheery, "call me if there are any problems!" thrown over his shoulder.
Logan returned to the kitchen just as Alec picked up the mugs of tea. The older man stepped in front of Alec and the transgneic held out the drink he'd chosen. But to his surprise, Logan reached for both mugs. And took them from him. Alec raised a puzzled eyebrow and Logan smiled tightly at him.
"I got it, thanks," he muttered.
"Excuse me?" Alec grunted, wondering what Logan was doing.
"I said I got it," Logan enunciated carefully, lifting Max's mug slightly. "You can go now."
"Why would I go?" Alec demanded tiredly. "In case you've forgotten Logan, there's this virus that makes it so you and Max can't touch?"
"I know that Alec," Logan scowled back at him, then turned on his heel to slowly make his way to the bedroom.
"So what if Max needs help with something?" he demanded, following after. "Who'll help her? You certainly can't."
"I'll call Cindy," Logan threw out quickly. He stopped and turned to look back at the younger man. "She's really missed Max these last couple of weeks. I'm sure she'll jump at the chance to spend some time with her." Okay, granted, that was a good idea. But Alec was still hesitant to leave Max alone with Logan, for numerous reasons he felt best not to dwell upon. But then Logan found something a little more compelling. "Besides, shouldn't you be getting back to TC? They'll need someone to try and run things while Max is recovering."
Damn it, but he made a good point. Not that the transgenics were in any danger of not protecting themselves. It was first nature to them all. Or most of them anyway. But Alec had the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that that was exactly what Max would want him to do. When he didn't say anything, Logan turned and continued on his original path. Alec heard him greet Max even as he pushed the door shut behind him. Alec didn't bother to listen for her reply. He slowly stooped over to pick up his jacket where he'd discarded it so long ago. He slipped out the front door, shutting it with a gentle click. He pulled his coat on with mechanical rote movements.
Alec sighed and turned his head to stare down the street. His bike had been jacked; he was sure the moment he'd left it behind. In the mad rush to take care of Max, he hadn't given a damn about what would happen to it. So he had no other choice but to walk and hope he made it back without attracting attention. Which he could actually do when he put his mind to it. He ambled down the steps, but something made him turn back. He stared up at the door, yearningly. It was strange, how he could still feel the imprint of Max in his arms. His shirt had dried from her tears, but the scent of them was still there. Was it the same for her?
Alec recalled the look on her face when she'd smiled at him. The beauty of it had transformed her. And somehow, it had supplanted the favored image of her after her shower, naked and raging. Alec's chin dropped down to his chest as he asked himself silently, 'is there any chance at all that she could feel the way for me as I feel for her?' He looked up again at the closed door. Cut off from someone he cared so deeply for. She was in there. With Logan. The man she wanted. The man she always wanted and chose first, even when it hurt her. What would she want with a screw-up X5 former assassin when she could have her heart's desire? 'It's just a dream, man,' he consoled himself. 'Just a strange, wildly impossible dream.'
AN2- Well it's been a wild ride. For all those that saw this coming, congratulations, you were right. It was all a dream. But that by no means says that the story has ended. Please join me in December when we get to the sequel, 'The Waking Hours', the continuing saga of Max and Alec.
For all of those who reviewed, I thank you deeply. This was an endeavor I was very unsure about. But your comments and questions kept me going. Your speculations kept me amused and on my toes. Your constructive criticisms were most appreciated. You all have a special place in my heart.