DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to the good people who brought you the DA series. Just bringing them back to life for a bit.
A/N: I have an Epilogue to write elsewhere, but this kept getting in the way. Maybe it's because the other story is locked into the TV universe, and this one goes its own way. (Sorry, canonistas...) All comments and reviews appreciated!
Logan Cale had come to the realization that arguing with Bling was a lot like arguing with Max: the two closest and most influential people in his life, they each could be stubborn generally, but seemed to be particularly unyielding when they made up their minds that they knew what was best for him. Once that happened, his vote was pretty well ignored.
...let any other people in the universe discount him like that, he did not tolerate it. He would not let anyone else patronize him or minimize him because he was in the chair. But even if he didn't like it, he knew Max and Bling's determination came from their concern and care for him, and he found that hard to challenge.
Whatever. It didn't mean that they always knew what was best. And this time, he was certain it was a bad idea. It didn't help that they were both in on it...
So he was out of there. It merely forestalled the inevitable, but he knew he couldn't handle the both of them there, working on him...
He'd gotten his jacket, quietly; he picked up his keys, without sound, and sat still, eyes closed, gathering the strength he'd need. After a moment he opened his eyes, drew a deep breath, and blew it out. He pushed on into the training room, where Bling was wiping down the table and checking supplies so often depleted by do-gooder Logan's free distribution to those who came to him, in need. Bling looked up and immediately frowned to see his charge dressed against the elements.
Logan opened his mouth to speak but didn't get a chance. "And where do you think you're going?"
"Informant. Emergency meet; can't be helped. Sorry; you two go on without me." He turned toward the door but knew it wouldn't be that easy.
"Oh, no, I don't think so." Back to him, Logan couldn't see Bling but had absolutely no doubt how he looked. Logan stopped, rocking his head in that exasperated gesture he used too often with the pair. "You're an integral player, here, and my plane leaves at 6 –we don't have time to postpone this."
Logan pivoted to look at his therapist. "And I can't postpone this. Sorry." Again he turned toward the door, this time trying to move toward it a little. He managed only about a foot before the voice came again.
"It's going to be at least two weeks, Logan–you can't let that much time go by without having someone work your legs and hips–it would set you back too far, for when we start back again. You want that?"
Logan sighed, again turning to face Bling. "No, but I told you I would faithfully do the program you left for me...."
"And I know you heard me tell you that those exercises are helpful as a stopgap only, for a day or two." Bling's irritation tended to surface when he was concerned about those close to him–this time, he was worried about two patients, not just one. Bling's fists were on his hips, in a pose that, if Logan hadn't been in the middle of the mood he was fighting, he would find amusingly parallel to one Max often struck in similar situations. "Someone is going to have to do these reps with you. And I thought you decided that despite your almost-freakish embarrassment to show anyone the slightest chink in your armor, and the need to keep your Bat Cave here a secret, you could tolerate Max standing in for me..."
"No, you decided it..." Logan finally snapped back, "and you enlisted Max in on it, who would think it was a great idea. I don't recall ever getting a vote." He immediately regretted his response, considering what caused the dilemma in the first place. He relented, but in tone only–not his decision to bail. "Bling, look–you need to go, take care of your father. He's gonna be fine, but he needs you there to get him through the surgery and back on his feet. You need to be worried about him, not me."
"I need to worry about you 'cos you have less sense than he does."
"Oh, yeah?" Logan finally grinned. "That's not what I heard this morning on the phone, when you were telling me why you had to get down there to oversee his cardiotherapy." Logan considered his friend, but wouldn't relent this time. "...I gotta go." He knew he'd get away this time. "Just–have a safe flight, go take care of your dad. And don't come back 'til he's ready for you to leave. Things here will be fine."
This time he won. And he made it out the door, into the elevator, into his Aztek and out of the garage before he had Max to battle, too...
"Hey, Logan--" The door opened and Max's voice carried through the penthouse. "Bling? Class in session?" Bling looked up to see the cocky, easy grin on Max's face as she sauntered into the training room. "Where's the guinea pig?" She stopped at the table, pulling off her jacket.
"Turned chicken and flew the coop." Bling muttered, irritation halfway to being replaced by guilt about leaving his high-maintenance client.
"You're kidding" Max seemed genuinely surprised. Bling wasn't; he'd expected that Logan would at least try to escape. He'd just hoped it wouldn't go past the attempt.
"Not sure why, but he's going to fight you on this..." Bling stood a bit straighter, "but it's got to be done, Max, he needs to have the workout and more importantly, to have someone checking to be sure he hasn't dinged up the parts of him he can't feel." He sighed again, hating the fact that he had to leave, knowing he didn't have a choice. "You still want to take him on?"
"Unless you think he'll suddenly agree to going back to the rehab center every day and allowing some stranger to deal with him, I think I'd better–and we both know the likelihood of that is zip." She looked at Bling, and asked, "you can still show me what to do–on me, maybe?"
"Sure. On you, then you can practice on me." Bling's eyes and voice relaxed a little, knowing that Logan left in Max's hands was damn near as good as in his own...and even acknowledged to himself grudgingly that Max was a better protector than even he could be... "Have a seat..." he patted the table.
Max let herself in. Shaking the light mist from her hair and dropping her jacket, she breezed determinedly into the computer room, where, predictably, Logan was peering into the files unrolling before him on the screen. "Okay, let's get to it" she announced. "I can't let lunch hour go late or Normal will make my life a living hell."
"Oh, sorry, Max; I can't; I have to..."
She leaned practically across his lap, planting herself between his nose and the computer screen, and smiled sweetly. "No you don't. Bling warned me; you don't have to do anything except get this done."
...the scent of her shampoo had been lifted by the dampness in her hair; the scent of her moist skin blending with it to make his mind reel. This would be worse than he'd feared...
"Now let's go" she straightened, considered his cargos and sweater. "You'll need to change fast; I'm on a schedule here."
So 'busy' hadn't worked...He pivoted to face her, looking hangdog green eyes up to her, his discomfort clear. "Max...c'mon..." Did he have to beg? Or was there even anything more left to 'begging' than this, already?
"'C'mon,' what? Logan, this isn't optional. Go get changed." She turned on her heel and strode into the training room.
Logan sat silent, unmoving, eyes closed, hating this. She wasn't going to go away, wouldn't let him pass. It wasn't going to work, he knew, he wasn't going to make it...
But as with his usual rounds with Bling or Max, he gave in...and pushed himself slowly to the bedroom...
Ten minutes passed before he came quietly, cowed, to the training table; Max had to yell from the other room only two to three times that she had places to be, and that he needed to move. He looked up at her, waiting; she shrugged, not getting it. "Well...?" He drew a deep breath to pivot and back up, near the table's end, locking his brakes, slowly, carefully, one by one...stalling. Looking back up to her and knowing he had nothing else to postpone the inevitable, he reached his hands up, backward, to the table. Max came up along side to help...
But he raised a quick hand, stopping her, self-conscious. "No. I can get it..." he muttered.
Her eyebrows went up. "Oh; I thought..."
"I'll do it" he repeated, testily. More pigheadedness, they each thought. Logan was pretty certain that Bling would have told Max he still needed a hand up to the table. But he pulled his unfeeling lower half up and onto the table, clearing not only the table but managing not to get his feet tangled in the chair. He settled onto the bench. "Now what?" He closed his eyes, waiting for the attack. She was close enough for him to feel her radiated warmth...he tried not to think of what would happen next...
"Hey, I'm the new guy here. Just what you do every day with Bling--" she came around to stand beside him, looking him up and down. "Legs up on the table, right?"
"Yep." He breathed, not moving.
"Well...do you want to do that, or do I need...?"
"I'll do it."
A new, peevish mantra for him, she thought. Again waiting for him to get moving, Max was beginning to lose patience with his childish balking. She sighed, noisily. "What is your problem with this? she demanded.
"I can't do this, Max; I'm sorry, but it's no good." Logan would not meet her eyes.
"What, pull your legs up? No problem; I can get..."
"No; I said I'd do it." And suddenly he found that his bullheaded pride had him pulling up into place on the table, despite his protests about going ahead with this. He steeled himself into a propped sitting position, elbows locked, tense. He kept his eyes down, not daring otherwise.
Logan having assumed the position, Max's face morphed back into cheeriness, and she moved down by his feet. "'bout time. You'd think I bite, or something..." Gently but firmly, as Bling had shown her, she lifted Logan's left calf to cradle it in her arm, her other hand wrapping around his foot. Stopping for a moment, unsure, she turned to him to ask, "hey–aren't you supposed to be lying down at this point?"
"No" came the flat reply.
With a bit of a flinch, surprised, she turned back to mutter, "alright, alright..."
And for a moment he thought he might be alright...but it was only a moment, because knowing what she must be doing and not being able to feel it, he had to look, to see...and if she hadn't at that moment completed the forward and back motion for the tenth time and for whatever reason, slowed her movements and stared down at his leg, carefully turning her hand to gently stroke the quiet foot...
His poor brain knew better but still sent out the flight-reflex to jerk his leg back, out of her hands– but since that mind-body connection had been severed, it surfaced only as a tiny echo that caused his mildly affected abs to contract and his torso to rock, slightly. Max blinked a little with the motion, nudged out of whatever trance had taken her over, and glanced back to Logan, in question.
He'd had it. "Stop; Max, wait." he sputtered. "Please–don't...I can't..."
The puzzled look became a worried one. "What's wrong?" Her eyes looked to his, but he still would not make contact. "Are you in pain?"
"No--" he said immediately, before the wheels started to turn...then spoke again. "I..well, yes..." He glanced up sideways to Max, to see if she'd bought it. Jury was out on that one... "I can't do this, Max..." he mumbled, again. Honesty there, at least...
Max looked baffled at this point. Pain was a rarity for Logan and when he admitted it, it meant something was seriously awry. Not sure what was going on, she put his leg down and said, "I'm calling Sam..."
"No!" He gulped, then at her look, said, "well...okay..." Until she moved toward the hall, when he called again, "no--" She spun and stared, and he stalled, "Look–I'll call; I'll go see him..."
"Logan, let me check you out..." She moved close. Clearly something he'd done triggered one of Bling's dire warnings, he realized, as she moved back to the table, and lifted his leg to pull back the sweat pants' leg...
"No, Max; don't, please..." He tried to sit up and grab her hand, but she stepped back first, worry making her feel inept and frustrated. She turned on the patient.
"Fine, let Sam deal with you. What the hell is all this?" She snapped, a pleading edge to her anger.
Logan shook his head, again avoiding her eyes. "Look, I'm sorry–I don't blame you for wanting to write all this off–and I don't blame you for getting out of here." He wondered if he could actually get away with it... "I'll see Sam and I'll figure something else out for this..."
Her eyes grew wide, and he had the sinking feeling he'd been caught overacting..."You think I'm leaving, don't you?" her tone carried her disbelief.
"..you're not?" He tried, meekly.
"You're running me off!" She exclaimed, well past disbelief to indignation.
"...oh, c'mon, Max, why would I want to..."
"That's exactly what you think you're doing!" She fumed. "What the hell are you up to, Logan?" She just shook her head, then said, "Fine, I'll leave. But no way am I leaving without checking you out for whatever bangs or scrapes you've gotten now; for all I know you've busted something and it's gone to your brain–why else would you be acting so whack?" She lifted her hands again and he jerked back in an aborted move that, had he been able to get his feet under him, would have had him scuttling backward, crab-like. As it was, he merely rocked back from the waist a few inches, elbows bending him back in a slight arc. "Logan, what is your problem?" she blinked, worried now at his responses.
He said nothing, head hung, eyes closed. She peered closer, and his green eyes opened to her...pleading...
"Logan..." she whispered now. "What is it?" She looked into the eyes carrying such longing and regret and torment before they closed again, leaving a miserable expression... "Logan, you're scaring me..." She urged, moving closer to his chest as he still sat propped on his arms, before her. "Logan, what's..."
"Oh, damn it, Max..." he whispered, rocking forward on one arm as he raised his hand to cup her jaw in his palm, tenderly, as he sat a little straighter and pulled her face toward his with the gentlest of effort and smallest of tremors, brushing his lips across hers, carefully taking a kiss, moving to kiss her more deeply, moving with her as her arms went around him to pull him close, bringing his supporting arm off the table to circle her waist, moving his hand from her jaw to cradle the nape of her neck, their kisses hungry from being too-long denied. "Stop asking me that..."
Fifteen days later:
Bling went straight to Fogle Towers from the airport, concerned with Logan's progress while he was away. Letting himself in with his key and dropping his bag in the entry, he listened carefully as he straightened, noting that the quiet, cool surroundings seemed intact and in place. "Logan?" he tried, coming through toward the computer room.
But he didn't get that far–because catching his eye in the training room, in his wheelchair, dressed in black silk boxers and a grey, silk tank, feet bare, sat Logan, grinning a smile of embarrassment, a boyish blush actually crossing his cheeks. "Bling!" He blinked, clearly not expecting him. "Hey. How's your dad?"
Blinking a bit himself, the therapist considered his client, a far cry from the beleaguered, driven man he'd left two weeks before. "He's doing well, thanks." He took a step closer, getting past the surprise at Logan's apparent contentment to realize that he'd never seen Cale appear for therapy in anything but long, heavy sweats and baggy t-shirt. Bling's eyebrow raised as he looked back to the expensive shorts the man wore, and began to dare to hope... "And you? Did you keep up with your exercises?"
"Yeah, no problem" Logan's blush actually deepened a little. "We, uh...I mean, Max followed your program, to the letter..."
"And then some..." The corner of Bling's mouth twisted up into a wry smile, his eyebrow lifting. "I suspect there's more to this you haven't said..."
Another voice joined the conversation–female, soft...low. "Sounds like Logan, doesn't it?" Bling looked up, as Logan glanced behind him, to see Max step out from behind the far screen where she'd hidden in their initial embarrassment. Hearing Bling's understanding, she decided there was no point in hiding–and wanted suddenly to let him in on the news...
Bling's eyes widened to see the lithe, petite form crossing the room, bare feet padding silently, bare legs moving gracefully under the mini-dress of Logan's t-shirt. "Max..." he managed, the smile returning, slowly.
"Actually, we were going to do his reps now" Max smiled up at the man, winsomely, enjoying the timing. "I guess we didn't realize you'd be back today..."
"Well, I wasn't going to stay; I've got to unpack..." Bling chuckled, his worry completely abated now.
"And you can see that if you need another day or two, we can manage..." Logan spoke up again, with a contented grin.
"I can see that" Bling nodded. "But I'll see you tomorrow Logan...and...?" At her nod, he grinned wider. "Max." He chuckled, and turned to leave. "Don't forget the water, Logan," he called behind him. And as he grabbed the doorknob to leave the couple, he murmured to himself, happily, "Good night, people..."