Disclaimer: I am the owner of nothing related to Dark Angel, just the thoughts inside my head.
Summary: Max and Logan reach an understanding
Rating: PG-13 for language
Spoilers: post-Red, reference to Blah, blah, woof, woof.
Author's notes: This is my first attempt at Dark Angel fan fiction and only my second attempt at writing fiction in a long time. I thought I'd try something a little different. I've set this up so if you read it at the right pace, the story matches up with the music of the first movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished). It's not necessary to listen to the music and it takes a bit of practice to get the pacing right, but it adds a nice dimension. I truly believe that the piece is some of the most beautiful music ever written. It's very melancholy so don't expect an overly happy story.
If you want to try it, you need the full version of the first movement (about 13mins 35 sec) start reading just as the music starts and read at a moderate. Pause when you feel necessary. The story ends around the same time as the music. I know it's complicated, but I couldn't get the idea out of my head. I had to write it down. Let me know what you think.
P.S. Thanks to Monica for reminding me of the importance of ratings!
* Sorry if I accidentally got some of you who read before thinking I had added a chapter. I'm a perfectionist and wanted to fix some spelling mistakes. I'm too happy with the ending of this story to take it any further. Sorry again if I got your hopes up.
"Logan? You home?"
Max entered the darkened apartment cautiously. She was used to most of the lights being off whenever she came over to visit, but tonight the penthouse was completely blanketed in darkness, lit only periodically by a flash of lighting. A storm was raging outside, but Max was sure the power was still on, because the lights in the hall were working. Something had to be wrong. It seemed like Logan was out for the evening and that's exactly what was twigging with her. Logan never went OUT for the evening!
Quietly she closed the door behind her, on full alert, listening for any sign of movement. Ever since Logan had been kidnapped by a flesh peddler hell-bent on getting rid of Eyes Only, Max had been a little more worried about his safety and not just because he was her meal ticket, as much as she liked to tell him that. She hated to admit it, but despite all the manipulation on both sides of their relationship, she just couldn't seem to walk away. The nature of their relationship itself was a bit of a mystery. She knew they were more than business partners, probably more than friends, but how much?
The rain pounded against the windows, creating a steady din. Suddenly the room lit up in a flash of lightning and Max bristled as a clap of thunder rattled the penthouse. As the roar subsided, she realized that the thunder was underscored by another sound. It was music. As she strained her ears, the notes came into focus. The soft and slightly mournful strains of orchestral music floated into the room, lilting along in a gentle dance. It was a beautiful yet slightly sad waltz that reminded her of the time she and Logan had spent in his car as he whisked her and Zack to safety uncertain if they would ever see each other again. She pushed back the memory of the unspoken pain she knew they had both felt at their parting, and turned her thoughts back to the present. Logan had to be around here somewhere.
As the quiet dance continued, she made her way down the hall. The optimism in the music was short lived and quickly became a score of painful lamentation. Max recognized the piece. It was Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. She leaned back against the wall of the hallway and closed her eyes, surrendering to memories of her not too distant past. At Manticore, not all training was battle related. Lydecker had insisted his "children" receive the best education, so they were taught all the basic skills along with classes on music and culture. By seven, Max could recognize any major piece of music and relate it back to its composer. It was a very technical education. The intention was to teach them skills needed to blend in as spies at any occasion. It wasn't until after Max had escaped that she had learned to appreciate the music for the beauty that it was.
It had been about five years after the pulse when she found herself living in the attic of an old playhouse. She had been living on the streets for the last year after escaping from her latest foster family. Even though people were still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, many of them still found time for music and a community orchestra met once a week to rehearse on the stage. Max would sit up in the fly tower and listen as the beautiful strains wound their way up to her. For a while, one of their preferred pieces was the Unfinished Symphony and Max looked forward every week to hearing it. The intense desperation and sorrow that was the first movement was one of the most powerful things she'd ever heard. It was as if the composer was lamenting the fact that he knew he would die before finishing his masterpiece.
A flicker of light caught her eye and snapped her out of her reverie just as the theme began again. She smiled. Logan was in his computer room, probably lost in his work and unaware there were no other lights on. When he was working at his computer you could drop a bomb behind him and he wouldn't notice. She swung around the corner armed with a smart-ass comment about saving electricity when she was met with a scene she was not expecting.
Logan was turned slightly away from her, his eyes fixed not on his computer but on the television. He sat stiffly with his remote in one hand. Through the side of his glasses, Max could see that his eyes were glassy as he stared at the grainy image on the screen. Suddenly, his hand moved on the remote, rewinding the video and starting it playing again. Turning her attention to the screen, Max stifled a gasp when she realized what he was watching. She looked on silently as the scene played out. She could see the car pull up and hear the muted sound of gunfire over Schubert's melody that was still playing, offering a lilting soundtrack to the hover drone video of when Logan had been shot.
Everything seemed to slow as Max watched Logan get out of the car shielding the little girl in his care. More gunfire was heard and he crumpled to the ground at a sickening angle. Max's heart lurched as she watched the gunman roll Logan over like a discarded sac and wrench the girl he had sacrificed so much to save from his grasp. The camera moved in and revealed his face twisted in excruciating pain and then the screen went black. Logan paused the tape and bowed his head, closing his eyes.
Max braced herself against the doorframe and took a deep breath. She had seen the footage before when it had been aired on the news; but she wasn't prepared for the feelings it stirred inside her. Watching Logan's life being ripped away from him in one fleeting moment, she felt grief welling up inside for what she was pretty sure was the first time. Max had never really thought about the consequences of Logan's disability. She had never viewed it as a weakness. Logan had never given her cause to. He seemed to shrug it off like just another hurdle he would eventually overcome and she had taken it at face value that he was dealing. Now she wasn't so sure.
Logan's slowly lifted his head, attracting Max's attention. He rubbed his eyes under his glasses and put the remote on the desk in front of him. Max exhaled in relief that she wouldn't have to watch that sickening bit of film again. She was just about to say something, when he reached for something else. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she bit back her words and watched, fascinated by this new look at the man she spent so much time with but knew so little about.
He picked up a small black statue. It was Bast. He held the small object in his hands like it was the most precious thing in his life. Slowly, he ran his fingers over the smooth contours as if trying to memorize its shape. He sighed resignedly and whispered to the figurine "I'm just a liability to you."
Max felt her heart clench painfully in her chest at his words, horrified at the thought that he felt he was a burden to her. She thought back to their parting in the car. 'I'd only slow you down.' 'It's O.K.' She had reassured him that she didn't think of his handicap as a problem, but he still sat there wallowing in his martyrdom convinced the only things he could offer were as Eyes Only. The last thought frustrated her and her frustration quickly bled into anger as she noticed Logan picking up the remote again.
She rushed forward, wrenching the control from his hand. "O.K. I think we've had just enough self-torture for this evening."
"Max!" Logan nearly fell back in his wheelchair at the surprise of her sudden appearance, swooping in like an avenging angel. He had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts he hadn't heard anything. Now looking up into Max's dark eyes, he saw a storm of emotions raging just beneath the surface the like the music was now raging around them, the foremost being anger and confusion. She had seen everything. Still, he had to ask.
"How long have you been here?"
"Long enough." She spat out. She was angry because even though she had told him flat out he didn't have to hide from her, there he was keeping everything locked away inside. She was also angry with herself. How could she be so unobservant that she didn't notice her best friend was in pain, an emotional spring wound so tight it was ready to snap at any second. "What the hell's with the video? How many times have you watched that thing?" She cringed as the images of Logan's pain flooded back into her consciousness.
He swallowed hard and broke her gaze, staring at the floor as the music built for another assault. He felt winded from the shame of having been caught by her feeling guilty for himself. "I've lost count," he muttered, still not looking at her.
Max couldn't contain herself any longer. All the troubling thoughts and feelings came welling up within her. She launched into him. "You mean to tell me you sit here on a regular basis reliving that fucking day over and over again? What are you trying to do put yourself in an insane asylum? Why do you feel the need to be a martyr? Do you enjoy torturing yourself? What the hell is the matter with you?" Once the floodgates were open, there was no stopping all the words that came tumbling out.
Logan head had whipped up to stare at Max somewhere in the middle of her tirade and he fixed her with an icy glare. He steeled himself for a rebuttal, refusing to back down from his desire to endure his misery alone without her accusations, no matter how truthful they were. He locked her gaze defiantly, his newfound anger mirrored in the music no one had bothered to turn off.
"What right do you have to throw this at me? You know nothing…" he yelled back only to be cut off.
"I know nothing because you won't tell me!"
"What do you think it's like Max? Huh? Do you think its easy for me sit here, knowing you're out there doing the work I should be doing? To know I may never be able to do my own leg work again? You're a damn wonder woman Max. Like you want to sit here and listen to me talk about my problems. You shouldn't be saddled with a cripple. I am just a liability to you." His voice softened as he reached the end of his defense. He knew he was right. Max would be better off without him.
Max stared at the man seated before her. Normally he was witty, charming and even she had to admit damn sexy. Now he sat there looking broken and hollow, almost like a man unfinished, waiting to be put back together. For a moment sadness and compassion flitted across her eyes, but she pushed those back into the deeper recesses of herself. Logan was still feeling sorry for himself and it had to stop.
"For God's sake Logan, there are healthier ways to deal with this than sitting here in your apartment like some high-minded saviour of the downtrodden pining away feeling sorry for yourself."
"Max…" Logan was about to launch into another assault when she cut him off.
"I'm not saying you have nothing to be sorry for. You've sacrificed a lot, but if you don't talk to someone about it you're going to explode." Max regarded him with a look of genuine concern. She never realized how much Logan kept hidden and she was starting to see what it was doing to him.
"And who the hell am I supposed to talk to?" Logan countered, knowing full well what her answer would be.
"What about Bling?" She ventured, knowing full well what his answer would be.
"Yeah and have to sit through another one of his pep talks, about mind over matter? That's all I have left, my mind and what good has it done me and for that matter you?" He cringed inwardly at the all the times Max had ended up in danger while helping him on his crusade to save humanity.
Max desperately needed to snap Logan out of his self-pity. Her anger had abated, as had the music and taking a deep breath, she decided to lay it on the line.
"You're brain has saved me and many others more times than I can count. Just because you can't walk doesn't mean you have nothing to offer people… nothing to offer me. Logan, I told you that you don't have to hide behind a mask from me. I'd like to think I'm your friend. Talk to me." She leaned in to add emphasis to her words, placing both hands on his wheelchair handles and dropping to her knees.
Looking down into her dark eyes, he was certain she could see the turmoil within him. She had breached the walls with her last words. He knew she cared. Desperately, he wanted to tell her everything he felt, all the thoughts that had been eating at him for months now, but his pride was still winning the battle. Gripping the sides of his chair just above her hands, he looked back at her defiantly, refusing to let go of the last strands of his dignity. Tentatively, Max moved her hands up the handles to cover his own and in that simple moment, Logan's walls came crumbling down just a little.
"You really want to know what's the matter with me?" he seethed.
"Yes." Max glared back at him. She would fight it out of him if she had to.
"I'm scared! There. I said it, dammit! You happy now?" Logan was nearly shaking as the words came tumbling out of him. "I'm scared that one day Eyes Only will come crashing down around me and people who have trusted and relied on me will be hurt. I'm scared of a life without Eyes Only because without it I would become totally useless. I'm scared I'll never walk again, that all my work will lead to nothing. I'm scared that I'll be stuck in this damn chair for the rest of my life or worse, my injuries will betray me and I'll end up completely paralyzed. And I'm scared of you, Max. I'm scared that I've grown to care about you more than I ever thought possible. I'm scared that one day you'll have to leave and I won't be enough to keep you here."
Logan was breathing heavily by the end of his confession. He sighed and bowed his head, no longer able to stand Max's unrelenting stare. Her eyes had softened and he mistook the caring he saw there for pity and pulled his hands away from hers. He shakily rubbed his eyes under his glasses brushing away any tear that dared escape from his lashes. He would not let Max see him cry.
Max sat back on her haunches and tried to wrap her mind around everything he had said. "Logan…" her voice was barely above a whisper.
"I don't want your pity Max."
Logan pushed on the wheels of his chair and made his way out of the room. "Just go Max." He sounded so defeated, even to his own ears. He had just bared his soul and he wanted to lick his wounds. He wheeled past Max as she stood up and moved over to the living room window, watching the last flashes of lightning from the storm.
Slowly she made her way across to the man now silhouetted in the window by the afterglow of the lightening as the symphony reached its final melancholic climax. The thought of how perfectly the music fit their mood flickered through her mind drawing a sad smile from her lips as she came to a stop behind Logan.
"Max, go. I want to be alone."
Max wasn't leaving, not like this. Gently she placed her hands on his shoulders, feeling him tense at her touch. She then slid her right hand down his arm and entwined her fingers with his, trying to convey through her touch her understanding and acceptance.
"You don't have to be alone," she whispered, her voice shaky with feeling.
He gently squeezed her hand as a sign of understanding and relaxed against her touch. They stayed, staring out into the abating storm as Schubert's music breathed its last breaths, the yearning in the final notes echoing their feelings as the conversation neither was prepared to face hung in the air, still unfinished.