Cape Haven Challenge – Due July 1, 2004
Logan has a funny hat, an unusual pair kiss, and it must be set in 'Dark Angel: Season One'. Must be somewhere from 1,500 to 23,000 words. I opted for a shorter entry… ;)
I do not benefit financially from any of this. Just having fun… J
This is only my second official 'Dark Angel' fiction to be open to public viewing. Be kind and enjoy!
By Mouse :D
Max Guevara breezed past the order desk, her mind on other things, so she missed it completely.
She was running a little late for work, but she wasn't worried about it. Other Jam Pony messengers were drifting in behind her, so she felt pretty good about the morning. Wheeling her bike over to the locker area, she parked it against the bench and swung her knapsack to the floor. She smiled, thinking of the gourmet sandwich it contained and the man who had made it for her at four in the morning after a rather boring but necessary job for Eyes Only.
"Chicken a la Cale tastes great on Italian bread," he had said, wiggling his eyebrows and grinning. Despite the late hour and lack of results for the case he was working on, he had been in a particularly good mood.
"I'll let you make one for me, then," she had agreed cheekily, inexplicably delighted that an unshaven, bleary-eyed man who couldn't stop yawning wanted to make her lunch at an hour of the day usually reserved for the undead in horror films and thieves. Of course, I guess I'm technically a thief, she had decided. I didn't take anything today
but I did break and enter. And as she watched Logan maneuver around the kitchen, rambling about the benefits of chicken and another recipe he wanted her to sample, she came to another decision. Even this late, I could listen to him forever.
Humming to herself between chews of her gum, Max opened her locker and emptied her knapsack of a magazine and a sweater, making room for parcels. Her sandwich she kept with her, as she'd probably be eating on the run – again. Why am I so happy this morning?
"Why are you so happy this morning?"
Max managed not to jump, but it took effort.
"A girl's allowed some good times, Original," Max said, closing her locker and turning to her friend.
Original Cindy was standing beside her bike, giving Max her best level stare. Apparently, she was planning on holding this position for the rest of the day because she didn't move or blink.
Rolling her eyes and trying not to smile, Max said, "What? Have I grown another head? I hate it when that happens."
"No, Boo, you haven't, though if anyone could get away with it, it'd be you."
Max couldn't contain her smile anymore. She moved around to her bike, humming tunelessly. Cindy's eyes narrowed.
"You didn't answer my question," she said.
"Well, you can see I don't have two heads," Max replied, enjoying her friend's expression more than she probably should, but she didn't care.
"That ain't what I'm talkin' about and you know it."
"Would you believe my answer is 'chickens'?" Max blew a bubble and popped it.
Max sighed. "Can't I just be happy?"
"I think there's a law against it in this city." Cindy was still suspicious; she could tell by the tone of her voice, and the way she winced when Max spoke. Ahhh…
"Late night at the Crash?" she asked innocently, placing her hands on the handle bars and indicating with her head that she was starting for the order desk.
Max didn't think it was possible for someone's eyes to narrow that much and still be open.
"Don't go there," Cindy warned and followed her friend to the counter.
"We're chipper today," Normal commented, not looking up from his clipboard.
"And that is such a fetching shirt you're wearing," Max countered playfully, deciding that pink could be worn by a man and still look good – but not that shirt, and not on her boss.
"Fashion critique noted and dismissed," he said, passing her several packages. "All in the same area, lucky for you."
"Do I get that lucky, too?" Cindy asked sweetly, doing her best to ignore the pounding of her skull.
"Not this time, slacker." Normal passed her some parcels and pointed to a very large sign that was secured firmly to the wall behind him. "But don't tell me your problems. Read the sign."
Cindy blinked, having been too preoccupied with the rhythm section in her head to notice much of anything when she arrived. It read: "When you have a problem climb up onto a star, and look down on the world and see the insignificance of your trouble. Confucius."
Normal glanced up, his expression that of a man resigned to the lack of education in the young. "Yes, Confucius. Confused? Doesn't anyone pay attention to philosophy these days?"
Cindy thrust her right hip out and rested her fist on it, the opening position she reserved for those unfortunate enough to piss her off. Further positions would follow if the conversation continued; she was all about body language.
"Well, the philosophy of Original Cindy doesn't include starin' at the stars when I should be watchin' where my feet go."
"As long as you can pedal and make the deliveries, you can do it with your eyes shut for all I care. Now, bip, bip, bip."
Max stared at the sign, quickly memorizing the words out of habit and storing them away for future consideration. How many times had she wished her problems would disappear? Was the Space Needle high enough? Is that why I go up there?
"Hey!" Max started and looked at Normal's stern face. "What part of 'bip, bip, bip' didn't you understand?"
"Sorry," she said, and gave him a cheery smile. "Just thinking about Confucius."
Cindy had to hurry to catch up with her as they left the building.
Normal turned to re-read the quote he had so lovingly mounted on the wall that morning – and had commissioned at some expense – wondering if he had done some good in the world after all.
Max had seen a lot of strange things in her life, but this probably ranked high among the strangest, and that was saying something. With her background, from meddling Manticore to her hide-and-seek routine with the real world, it was actually saying a lot.
"What," she finally managed, "is on your head?"
Logan had called to her from behind the screen when she'd arrived, saying he'd be out in a minute. The delay hadn't bothered Max. The day had been long, long, long, but she was still happy, happy, happy. Nothing had been able to shake her wonderful mood. And now she was at Logan's penthouse with the smell of chicken roasting in the oven. It doesn't get much better than this…
She had flopped onto the couch and swung her legs to rest against the back of it, her head hanging over the edge of the seat. It was in this inverted position that she saw him emerge with what looked like a large, bulbous, rubber comb on his head. And it was bright red with a yellow base.
Logan rested his hands on the wheels of his chair and smiled, blushing a little. She wondered how long he'd debated the wisdom of wearing this thing. Surprised he'd chosen to go through with it, she'd restrained her response so he wouldn't be embarrassed to the point of regretting his decision. The evening was going to be just as happy as the rest of the day or someone would suffer the consequences.
"So," he began hesitantly, trying to tilt his head so it matched the angle of hers. "Is it me?"
"It sure is something," Max said, smiling and swinging her feet around so they were flat on the floor and she was seated on the edge of the couch. "Do I get to guess?"
He waved his hand magnanimously. "By all means."
"Okay." She considered the 'hat'. "Um, a cow on its back with a sunburn?"
His face managed a few swift expressions, all of them versions of amusement. "Uh, noooo…"
Max stood and walked over to him, reaching out with one hand to poke at one of the bulbous parts. "A guy with a bad Mohawk and dye job?"
Logan frowned. "Noooo…"
Realizing she shouldn't drag this game out too long, Max flicked the rubber and declared triumphantly: "You're a chicken!"
Logan beamed. "Correct!" He laughed. The sound would linger in Max's head for the rest of the evening. "Though," he added with mock consternation, pushing past her and into the kitchen. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't spread that around."
"You're a chicken, not 'chicken' as in scared." Max nodded, looking serious as she followed him. "Right. Yessir."
He laughed again. Max was quick to smile. His mood from four in the morning had certainly held. Maybe there is a God…
"So," she said, hopping gracefully onto the counter, legs swinging. "Do I win a prize?"
Logan nodded, the rubber bobbling, and launched into what was obviously a routine from some game show. "'Tell her what she's won, Johnny!' 'Well, Bob, she wins… a chicken dinner! With roast potatoes, fresh green beans, a Caesar salad and – strawberries for dessert!'"
"That sounds great, Johnny," Max joked, reaching over and pulling the rubber hat from his head. "But please don't wear this during dinner."
They served the food in the kitchen then Max carried the plates to the table, which Logan had already laid with cutlery and candlesticks. He wheeled ahead of her, a bottle of white wine and two glasses carefully held between his thighs. Max lit the candles and the setting was complete.
"You know," he said lightly, as Max at down and he poured the wine. "I wonder if I should take offense at you ripping my comb off my head."
Max blinked. "What?"
He took a sip of wine and placed the glass to his right. "My comb," he repeated, pointing to his spiked hair, which was a bit more erratic than usual. "I was a cockerel, a male chicken, and you might have just unmanned me."
For some inexplicable reason, Max felt a blush creep up her neck. She took a quick sip of wine and focused on her chicken. She didn't realize how hungry she was and hoped she wasn't eating too quickly.
After a few minutes, Logan cleared his throat. "I want to thank you, Max."
She paused, her mouth was full with potatoes, wondering where this was going.
"Humph?" she managed, thinking she probably looked a bit silly.
He wasn't looking at her, though. His head was tipped down and his eyes were focused on his glass, carefully turning it on the spot clockwise.
"Last night… this morning… whatever… wasn't the most exciting way to pass the time, I know," he said quietly. "You've been a big help to Eyes Only – to me." He chuckled at his words and looked up at her over the top of his glasses. Max swallowed quickly and took a sip of wine. She gave him a small, tentative smile, deciding it was safe. He didn't say anything for about forty-one seconds, not that she was counting. It gave her an excuse to gaze into his beautiful green eyes.
Ugh, her Inner Commentator said. You sound like a bad romance novel.
Shut up, she told the voice sharply, and it did.
"I know you've got a lot on your mind, what with Manticore still out there and your siblings at risk and… everything. I just… wanted to let you know that I don't take you for granted. I know you have a lot of problems, and I wanted to tell you…"
He cleared his throat again and repeated, "I wanted to tell you…"
Max waited, but when he didn't continue, something he'd said resonated with the sign at Jam Pony and she filled the silence, hoping her words would be reassuring.
"My problems might be unique," she said, reaching across the table to take one of his hands in hers. He didn't pull away. "But I'm not the only one with problems." She was talking about Seattle, the United States, the world in general, sure, but it was the man across from her and all he'd suffered and continued to face daily that she was really addressing. Logan seemed to know that and squeezed her hand, his eyes not leaving hers.
Max recalled the quote and said: "'When you have a problem climb up onto a star, and look down on the world and see the insignificance of your trouble.'"
Logan smiled slightly. "Confucius."
"Yeah. He was pretty cool, wasn't he?"
"He must've been."
Letting his hand go, Max returned to her meal. They were quiet for a few minutes, then Logan broke the silence.
"I have a quote for you: 'To risk is to lose one's foothold for a while. Not to risk is to lose oneself forever.'"
Max paused in the middle of lifting some beans to her mouth. They slid from her fork and fell to her plate. How does he know what to say, and when to say it? Her Inner Commentator piped up: Hey, he puts his foot in his mouth a lot.
"Who said that?" Max asked, hoping to cover her food fumble.
Max considered his words, and then smiled. "He must've been pretty cool, too."
Logan beamed. He lifted his glass in a toast. "Indeed."
She silently toasted with him, deciding she had a mission to complete before the night was done.
Normal was just putting drops in his eyes when he caught the movement of a figure in the mirror, behind him, in his bedroom. Startled, he lost his grip on the plastic bottle and it pinged around the sink before settling across the drain.
"It's okay," a female voice assured him. "It's just me."
Normal gripped the porcelain for support, his heart gradually returning to its normal pace.
"Max! For the love of Pete! What the hec are you doing here?" He stared at her image in the mirror, where she leaned on the doorframe to his bathroom; arms crossed, expression smug, wearing a black leather catsuit that was very different from her attire at Jam Pony. He frowned and turned to speak with her directly. "Come to think of it, how did you know where I lived?"
She smiled. "Welcome to the modern age, Sherlock. If you're employed, you're on the radar."
Then he realized he was in his pajamas. "And exactly what," he sputtered, "are you doing, breaking into my apartment –"
He was silenced when two hands wearing black leather gloves firmly grabbed each side of his face and pulled his lips towards hers. It was a firm but non-intrusive kiss, and Normal hoped he'd still be able to stand when she was through.
Somehow, he managed it as he was released and she stepped back.
"I just wanted to thank you."
"Confucius. I was able to share that with someone today, and I think it helped."
Normal swallowed and considered his bare feet before looking up at her again. "Uh, you're welcome, but I don't –"
She was gone. Normal touched his lips, briefly wondering if it had really happened at all. He turned back to his mirror and found a piece of paper taped there with some words carefully written on it. He found his glasses on the counter, pulled them on and removed the paper, scanning the quote several times.
Aloud, he read. "'To risk is to lose one's foothold for a while. Not to risk is to lose oneself forever.'"
He didn't sleep well that night, but not because he feared someone else would break into his apartment. He couldn't sleep because one of his 'kids' knew who Soren Kierkegaard was, and had thought to share that with him.
He tried not to think about the warmth of the kiss, but it lingered nonetheless.
'To risk is to lose one's foothold for a while. Not to risk is to lose oneself forever.'
Wise words. My definition of risk has certainly changed. Something Zack wouldn't understand.
I sit on the Needle and look down at post-Pulse Seattle and wonder if Confucius would count this as a high enough position to study my troubles. I can almost touch the stars…
On the other hand, maybe it makes other people's problems seem small, and that isn't a good idea at all.
It's important to remember the guy on the street. Logan hasn't forgotten. He wades into their problems on a daily basis, and deals with his own tragedy as best he can. Putting others first: not the Manticore way of doing things.
But this is my life, now. I can do with it as I choose. Maybe some old philosophers had their say today, but that's cool. Gotta remember who we are, or we risk losing everything.
It's all good, as Herbal would say. Our own, local philosopher.
Risk. I remember Logan's laughter from earlier this evening.
God, if you really do exist, I'd just like to get one thing straight with you.
This is the life I choose. This is where I want to be, doing what I do. This is for people like Normal. Sometimes he's a jerk, but he isn't like the people Eyes Only tackles.
And this is for Logan. Caring about him is the risk I take. It's my life. Mine.
And no one will take that away from me.