Pas de Deux
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Dark Angel, just the thoughts in my head.
Summary: Max and Logan continue to dance around each other
Author's Notes: Hi all. Here's the rest of the story. Sorry to have kept you waiting. I was suffering from a bit of writer's block. I knew where I wanted to end, but I just couldn't get there. So here's the path I eventually worked out. Let me know what you think.
Thanks to my mom for beating proper grammar into my head from a very young age and supporting my writing.
Max made it as far as the elevator door. She stopped and leaned her forehead against the cool metal surface and took a deep breath. She defied the tears that were welling up under her lashes to try and escape. Exhaling shakily, she turned around and slumped to the floor. She had heard Logan's cry and the crash of his wheelchair, as she ran for the door and the sound reverberated through her head, tearing at her heart. She knew she shouldn't have run, but the instinct was too ingrained. 'Do not engage the enemy unless it's tactically advantageous to do so.' Lydecker's words came back to mock her as she stared at the floor, trying to fight the memory which threatened to overtake her. The enemy. Is that how she really thought of Logan, her adversary?
She shook her head violently, as if she could fling the thoughts off of her like drops of water. Logan wasn't the enemy. He knew her better than anyone she had ever known. He knew what she was capable of and he knew her weaknesses, yet he still wanted to be with her. He was everything she'd ever wanted; security, friendship…love… and it scared the hell out of her. She swore under her breath. Was Manticore so deep in her blood that she was truly incapable of connecting with other people? But what was this connection with Logan? They had shared the same dream. How does anyone become that close?
Max slammed her fists against the floor, trying to beat all of her pent-up frustration into the wooden boards beneath her. It didn't help. Sighing resignedly, she leaned her head back against the elevator doors and closed her eyes. How had Logan slipped beneath her radar? Till he had come along, she had managed to keep everyone, even Original Cindy and Kendra, just at arm's length. But now… no one had ever affected her like Logan. Her heart sped up whenever he flashed her that smile of his and despite her best efforts, she couldn't keep herself from giving in, from letting him in. When she was with him, she didn't have to pretend she was something she wasn't and she felt oddly lonely whenever their evenings together ended and she made her way home, back to her world. She found herself just showing up at the penthouse, like today, craving his company. What was wrong with her? How had she come to need him so much?
Her eyes slowly found their way back up to the door across the hallway from her. She knew she would have to go back and face him eventually. As much as she wanted to, Max knew he wouldn't let her sweep this away like it never happened, not this time. Silently, she stared at the barrier between them, willing it to open and reveal Logan on his way out to find her. Then she wouldn't have to make the first move; but the door didn't open. She strained her ears, listening for any sign of life behind the wall in front of her, but no sound could be heard except for the low hum of the lights in the hallway. A hollow feeling crept through her at the thought that Logan had just given up on her. He never gave up.
As she sat there, feeling sorry for herself, cold fingers of fear, suddenly teased at her mind. Had she heard any sounds from Logan's apartment since she had left? She had been so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she wasn't sure if she had heard anything since the door slammed behind her. She had heard a crash as she ran away and assumed he had knocked his wheelchair over. There should've been noises associated with him getting back up, but she couldn't remember hearing them. Suddenly, another crash inside the apartment snapped her back out of her thoughts and she felt her body go cold. All hesitation gone, she leapt to her feet and went straight to his door.
Logan couldn't see any point in getting up. He was sprawled awkwardly on the floor next to the bed, where his fall had left him, but he couldn't bring himself to move. What was the point? Max was gone. There was no catching her. He couldn't run after her and ask her to come back… hell he couldn't even walk. Painfully, he pushed himself into a sitting position and propped himself up against the bedside table and closed his eyes. Remembered strains of Tchaikovsky's music lilted though his mind, teasing him with images of the dream. As he watched them dance across his eyelids, the music cried with all the sorrow and frustration that filled his heart. Furiously, he opened his eyes, trying to banish the torturous memory.
Slowly, like a gathering storm, anger rolled though him. Bling had once told him that if he didn't do something to let out all that he had been keeping inside, he would explode. As he stared blindly at the doorway through which Max had disappeared, he felt dangerously close to his boiling point. But giving in to his anger would mean losing control and he never lost control. Even when he was told he might never walk again, even when he faced the man who had tethered him to this chair, even when he was staring down the barrel of a gun pointed at him by a thug determined to end his life, he had never lost control. Now he had just watched the one woman he cared for, more than he thought possible, walk away from him in a moment of weakness. Damn it, he was not going to lose control now.
He reached up behind him and picked up the glass of milk he had left on the bedside table. The pure white liquid offered a canvas for his mind to paint anew images of Max as they flooded forth from his memory. When had she come to mean so much to him? He couldn't pinpoint the exact time. It had just happened. The words of another long-forgotten song floated into his mind 'I guess that's how you started, like a pinprick to my heart, but at this point you rush right through me and I start to drown.' That's what Max had done. She had slipped into his life and captured his senses, slinking in and out of his world like a cat coming in out of the night, staying when it suited her fancy. Then somewhere along the way, things had changed and she stayed longer and more often. Then, in an act beyond his wildest dreams, she selflessly gave him the gift of all gifts, life. Now here he sat, her blood coursing through his veins, perfusing his heart with a constant reminder that he couldn't live without her. But now she was gone, having slipped away like a ghost into the night because he had been too much of a coward to reach for her when he could and hold her till her own fear subsided. Only then, could they have moved forward. Now it was too late.
The realization of what he had let go hit him like a smack upside the head and his anger boiled over. Furiously, he cried out and hurled the glass across the room. It shattered into a multitude of glittering shards that rained down on the hardwood floor as rivulets of white trickled down the wall. Sighing heavily, he buried his head in his hands gave up the fight as hot tears stung his eyes, escaping from beneath his lashes and tracing a path down his unshaven cheeks.
"You know, there really is no use in crying over spilt milk."
The words cut through Logan's haze of self-pity and he felt his heart beat loudly in his chest. It was Max. She'd come back. He dropped his hands to his lap, but was reluctant to look up, afraid it was a dream and ashamed of his current state if it wasn't. Slowly he felt his walls rebuilding themselves, thicker and stronger than before. His mind quickly squelched the elation and relief that was pouring from his heart at the realization that she had returned to him, again. Stubborn self-preservation kicked in as he continued to study his floorboards. What was the saying, once bitten, twice shy? He was still licking his wounds from earlier; he was not about to stick salt in them now.
Max shifted nervously in the doorway. Logan was still staring at the floor, almost like he didn't hear her. She glanced around the room. It looked like a cyclone had hit it. Glass glinted up at her from the floor near the foot of the bed and milk, which had apparently been in the glass, was now collecting in a small pond at the base of the wall. The wheelchair was lying on its side next to Logan, who still hadn't moved. She didn't know what to say. He looked hollow, slumped against the bedside table, staring at a stream of milk that had found its way along the floor towards him. Max sighed inwardly. That milk had been for her.
Suddenly she felt anger rise in her blood. She had come running back to him, against her best sense, thinking he was unconscious or in some other way hurt and here he was, sitting on the floor feeling sorry for himself after throwing a temper tantrum. An annoying little voice in the back of her mind was telling her that he was hurt and she was the reason, but she pushed that unnerving little thought further into the recesses of her consciousness and decided her best defence was a good offence.
"Look Logan, I'm sure the hydrodynamics of milk on hardwood floors is fascinating, but I'm talking to you here."
The hard edge in her voice only served to fuel the angry fire in Logan's veins. How could she be so unfeeling? Maybe she really was as cold-hearted as her makers had designed her to be. Slowly, he raised his head and glared at her over the rim of his glasses, which had been pushed to the end his nose, his usually bright blue eyes icy and boring into her. But the barbed response, that had been taking shape in his mind, died in his throat.
Despite her nonchalant stance in the doorway, Max stared back at Logan like a tiger backed into a corner. Her eyes, blazing with defiance and anger, but shadowed with fear and uncertainty, darted around the room, settling anywhere but on his face, desperate for a means of escape. Only this time he wasn't letting her go so easily.
Logan made a move for his chair, which snapped Max out of her spinning thoughts. Watching him struggle to lift himself off the floor, she suddenly found herself uncomfortable and needing to do something. Hesitantly, she kneeled in front of him and extended her arm, her eyes searching his for some kind of acceptance. It was a peace offering, but Logan wasn't ready to accept it. He refused to let her shrug off the last few hours like it had never happened. He was tired of dealing with every new wrinkle in their relationship that way. He broke her gaze and mumbled, "I'm fine," as he hauled himself back into his chair.
Max stood up indignantly, immediately back on the defensive. "You know I was just trying to help. I only came back to make sure you hadn't cracked your skull open and were lying in a pool of your own blood."
"Thanks for your concern" he shot back and the venom behind the words shocked them both.
Max stared back at him, for the first time she didn't know what to say. He truly sounded like he hated her and the pain that rushed through her at the thought nearly brought her to knees. But there was no way she would let Logan know how much that last comment had hurt. Picking up what was left of her ego, she spun on her heel, throwing back a "Fine! I'm outta here," as she made to leave before she did or said something she'd regret. She could already feel unwanted tears brimming in her eyes.
Logan panicked for a split second as he watched her walk away, again. Suddenly the terrifying thought that it would be the last time he would ever see her snapped him into action. Desperate to keep her from leaving he followed her out of the room and towards the door, calling after her "We both know you didn't just come back here to make sure I was still alive."
Max stopped in her tracks and whipped around to face him, eyes blazing. Logan was sure he flinched under her gaze, but at least he had got her attention. "You know Logan, just because we shared a dream, or what ever the hell that was, doesn't mean you can read my mind."
"Max, doesn't the fact that we even shared a dream at all mean something to you?" Logan's face had softened, but there was still an edge of anger holding his jaw taught.
"Yeah it means that there's something seriously wacked going on up in my head. O.K.? Thank the clever folks at Manticore for yet another genetic defect." The edge was slowly draining out of her voice too, but she still kept her guard up. She wasn't sure she liked where this conversation was going. The first time they had experienced this connection in the hospital, they had managed to pretend it was nothing, but now it had happened again and there was no ignoring it.
Logan allowed himself to relax a little. He had kept her from leaving, but now they actually had to talk, and for once he didn't know what to say. He had never experienced anything like what he felt for Max, but he didn't think she was ready to hear it. He smiled ruefully, "Is that really what you think this is, a genetic defect?"
"Look Logan, I don't know what to think. Maybe they messed up somewhere else in my brain chemistry. Maybe I gave it to you with the transfusion and now, somehow, we're connected."
Logan smiled in earnest this time at Max's attempt to rationalize a clearly irrational situation. 'Love is irrational,' a tiny voice in the deep recesses of his mind reminded him. Funny, the voice sounded a lot like Bling. Suddenly, another thought crept into the forefront of his senses. Had Max ever experienced love? His heart filled with sadness as Logan thought of Max's childhood filled with sterile walls and even more sterile people, learning only about the enemy, never about friends. Sure, she had escaped that life but, into what, a terrifying new world of unknown dangers, constantly on the run. She was shuffled from one foster family to the next, never knowing a family, friends, or love. She had grown up in a world of loneliness and fear and Logan desperately wanted her to realize it didn't have to stay that way.
"We are connected Max," he began delicately, as he rolled over to face her. He wanted to reach out and take her hand, if only to prevent her from running, but he kept himself in check. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he knew if she really wanted to run he couldn't stop her.
Max shifted uncomfortably, trying to avoid his relentless stare, but Logan ploughed forward, there was no backing down now. "I've felt a connection with you almost since the moment we met. Why do you think I went to all that trouble to track you down?"
"And here I thought you were just trying get me to pay for the window." Max's intended sarcasm sounded hollow as she stared at the floor. She didn't trust herself to look at Logan, for fear of what her always-expressive eyes might give away.
Logan couldn't help chuckling at her attempt at humour and for a moment, his soft laughter relieved some of the tension clouding the room. His lighter mood was immediately squelched by a sudden icy glare from Max, as she pushed past him and skulked over to the living room window.
The sun had long since set and the city below was blanketed in an inky blackness. In the dark, the city seemed almost peaceful; only the odd orange glow and plume of smoke from vandal's fires revealing the storm brewing beneath its surface. Max wondered idly how long she had actually been at Logan's. It was beginning to feel like an eternity. Half of her desperately wanted to leave, but somewhere in the deep recesses of her heart, she knew that if she left like this, she would be unable to return and Max wasn't sure she could face that. She had tried to walk away from Logan twice actually, once out of peril, the other out of anger. But both times, something kept pulling her back. She couldn't figure out why she kept coming back to him, like Zack had pointed out, it was suicidal. But she just couldn't seem to leave him. She had never needed anyone before, why should she need him? 'Because you care about him' a small voice in her head reminded her. Funny, it sounded a lot like Original Cindy.
Max leaned against the window and sighed quietly. The sound caused a sharp ache in Logan's heart. Saying nothing, he tentatively moved closer. Lifting his eyes to her, he was struck by how the soft light in the room played on her features, accentuating her soft curves and fading the harsh lines of her brutal upbringing into the shadows. She looked like a ghost and the beauty of the scene took his breath away. He stared silently, knowing she needed to work through her thoughts alone. He was afraid that if tried to reach out and touch her that she might vanish.
"What do you want from me?"
Her voice was so soft that, for a moment, Logan thought that he had imagined her speaking. She was still facing away from him, but her reflection in the glass stopped him cold. Her intense stare reflected back at him from the darkened glass, her eyes wide and searching. She looked like a lost little girl, trying to find an anchor in the storm of emotions that raged inside of her.
Logan fought a battle between his heart and his mind for an answer. Never had six simple words carried so much weight. He wanted to lay everything on the table, but he still wasn't sure how she'd react. He was certain of one thing though, that he couldn't bear to watch her walk away again.
"Max…" His voice sounded hoarse to his own ears, clouded with emotion.
Max felt every muscle in her body react as Logan's voice washed over her. She felt like a tightly wound spring and the sound of him saying her name only served to wind her tighter. Her mind was racing with potential outcomes to this situation, a Manticore ingrained habit she desperately wished she could break. What if he wanted nothing more than a business arrangement? What if he wanted more than she thought she could give? Her head reeling, she nervously toyed with the hem of her shirt. Here she was, a trained human weapon, with her heart held in the palm of the hand of the only man who she ever let slip past her defences. Lydecker would shoot himself if he knew. She couldn't help but smile wickedly at the thought. 'Maybe I should tell him.'
His voice brought her back and she suddenly felt her body tremble slightly, though it felt nothing like her normal seizures.
"Max…I want you…"
She was certain her heart stopped at his words. Moments later, it kicked itself into overdrive, hammering loudly against her ribs. The world around her faded away and Max suddenly felt like she was floating. She hadn't even realized that those were the words she wanted to hear, until they came tumbling out of his mouth. But, just as quickly as she had succumbed to her whirling emotions, Max came crashing back down to reality as her tendency to analyse voice patterns, another annoying Manticore habit, brought her the realization that Logan had meant to say more.
Frustrated with his hesitance and unnerved by her own impatience, she whipped around to glare at him, only to be met with his most disarming smile.
"Dammit, Logan! Finish your sentence!"
Logan just grinned, eyes twinkling. "That's it." He answered matter-of-factly. "I want you."
Her eyes went wide as he repeated the words which now came so easily to his lips. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Fearing he had made the wrong move, Logan rushed ahead, desperate to fill the heavy silence. "I want you… to believe in me. Max, you breaking into my apartment that night was truly the best thing that ever happened to me." Logan continued to watch her closely, trying to gauge her reaction. She didn't flinch so he continued. "You give me a reason to get up in the morning and keep pushing on my sometimes crazy crusade to save the world. You remind me that there are things still worth saving. I've spent so long locked up in my ivory tower, trying to touch people's lives, but never letting anyone touch mine. You came along and made me realize I don't have to do it alone. I just want you to know that you don't have to be alone either. I promised you once that I wouldn't leave and I meant it."
Max felt her throat go dry and her pulse speed up even more. She could tell Logan had wanted to say more, but she wasn't sure she was ready to hear it. His eyes were awash in a sparkling blue sea of emotion. Her heart wanted to rush into his arms and damn the consequences, but her mind was still winning the battle, planting her feet firmly to the floor and bombarding her with yet more warnings of getting too close. She knew they were all weak arguments, but she couldn't bring herself to let go of her last strands of utter self-reliance. She closed her eyes as the dramatic and yearning stains of Tchaikovsky's dance crept into her mind, filling her with memories of their dream and promises of what could be if she would just let it happen. She needed him. Standing there, staring into his waiting eyes, the need was almost painful.
Logan could see the war of emotions raging within her. Her eyes were closed, but her feelings flitted across her face, like changing colours of a rainbow. Out of instinct, he brought his hand up to meet hers, offering an anchor. Looking up at her, he whispered, "Max?"
The feeling of Logan's fingers entwined with hers blew all coherent thought from her mind, like a summer breeze. She felt his warmth creep up her arm and envelop her, heating her heart and washing her of her doubts. After much searching, she opened her eyes and found her voice.
"I do believe in you." She felt his grasp tighten at her words and smiled, a true smile for the first time that night.
Logan returned her smile wholeheartedly. He knew she wasn't ready for any grand professions of love, but he knew how she felt. Feeling a little bolder at that realization, he pulled gently on her hand and without resistance, she slipped into his lap. With a sigh of great relief and happiness, he wound his arms around her and held her close, burying his face in her soft dark curls. He gently started to rock her in his chair, soothing away her fears like he had wanted to for so long.
Max snuggled into Logan's shoulder like it was the most natural thing to do. She knew they had crossed an important line in this complicated dance they called a relationship, but she felt strangely relieved by it. Sitting there, in Logan's arms, everything felt like it had locked into place. She had stopped running and it felt good. Slowly her eyelids, slipped shut as the exhaustion of the emotional roller coaster they had just rode out made itself known. Snuggling closer into his calming warmth and smiling to herself as his arms tightened in response, she gave in to her desire to let go and let sleep overtake her. To sleep…perchance to dream…
- That other long-forgotten song was Ghost by Indigo Girls.