Cape Haven Halloween Challenge – Presented by catherder
"It's Halloween. Normal has relented and allowed the messengers to wear costumes. There's a costume party at Crash later, and there's a prize for best costume. So, just in time for the big night, come up with a fic (limit 2,000 words, but who's counting?) about Halloween in the Dark Angel universe, whatever Dark Angel characters you want, and what costumes they would be wearing. They could be at work or at Crash. Prefer S1, but I won't beat you if you do S2 – unless Normal shows up in a kilt!"
Here is my submission, catherder. It's even Season One. I hope it meets the rest of the criteria. Glad no one will be counting the words, though, 'cause I'm way over, boo… ;)
Thank you, Kasman, for your permission to 'share' your universe, and on such short notice. :)
If you are reading this, True Believers, and you haven't read Kasman's 'Blessings', please do so. It is alluded to in this story, as are - briefly - the trials and tribulations of Season 2 and Virtual Season 3. :)
Warning: this has not been Betaed. Therefore, any hiccups are mine and mine alone.
Disclaimer: These characters and this universe do not belong to me.
Thank you, Alaidh, for pointing out a few hiccups. :)
Max Guevara dismounted and came to a complete halt in the middle of the ramp into Jam Pony, bike idle at her side, pedals spinning. It seemed the world had gone completely mad, and she rapidly decided she should turn around and go home - only her legs wouldn't work. Her vocal chords finally came on-line and she managed to speak.
"What the hell is this?"
A man in a white powdered wig stood behind the order desk and looked up briefly from his clipboard, black and orange streamers dipping just above his head before they swooped high into the rafters and snaked around the room. His blue jacket was trimmed with gold frogging and brass buttons.
"A concession to aid in staff happiness and unity, and a bonding day with their employer," Normal responded dryly. "Though you don't appear to have received the memo. Perhaps you should establish a better rapport with your peers, who seem to have managed the spirit of the occasion."
Another messenger bumped the back tire of her bike to get her attention. Max glanced behind her. A young man who was fairly new to the group smiled apologetically. What was his name? Mike? Bob?
"Comin' through," he said. Max nodded absently and moved down the ramp and out of traffic. Mike/Bob maneuvered his bike over to the lockers and started rummaging through his knapsack. She was so distracted by the paper skeletons hanging from the support beams that it took her a moment to realize that the young man had an axe firmly embedded in the back of his head. His clothes were torn and dirty and there was blood oozing down from a hole between his shoulder blades, smearing onto his jacket. Well, it wasn't actually oozing anymore, though it glistened like fresh blood.
Startled, she turned towards the far end of the room. The news droned on the television and several messengers were sitting around, chatting and having a coffee before their runs. Max noted they were all dressed strangely. One girl had wings and a crown to go with her dress, which looked to be made from an old parachute. Another sported a tall black hat and all-black ensemble. A plushy black cat was strapped to her right shoulder. That'll be interesting when you're on your bike, checking for traffic, Max thought. Most of the outfits made no sense to her. Probably just due to my lack of pop culture background. Sketchy was waving at her from the couch. He appeared to be wearing a brown bathrobe and some sort of tunic and pants underneath. Beside him sat Death, black hood covering his face, holding a staff with a large curved blade sticking out of the end. He appeared to be engrossed with a feature on fuel prices. Max hesitated then shook herself for being silly and pushed her bike over to the couch.
"Where's your costume?"
Max considered Sketchy's head, checking it quickly from all the angles she could see.
"You do know you only have one braid in your hair, right?" she countered.
"That's because I'm Obi-Wan Kenobi from the first movie, where I'm still a Padawan to Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn." He leapt from the couch and waved a coloured tube in the air, assuming an attack stance and a very serious expression.
Max stared at him. "Whatever."
"He wanted me to be Mace Windu, but Ah said no." Death turned his head so his face was visible, not that Max needed the reference to know it was Herbal. His voice was very distinctive. She took a closer look at the blade in his scythe: plastic. "Now, dis be more like da traditional Halloween costume."
Max took a moment to absorb this statement. It told her two things: today was Halloween, and it apparently gave people permission to go mental.
"Halloween?" she echoed blankly.
"Yeah," Sketchy said, straightening and giving a stretch. "You know, when you were a kid and you got dressed up as a cowboy or somethin' – knowin' moms and little girls, you were probably a ballerina or whatever – and you went out trick-or-treatin' for as much candy as you could get."
"Which wasn't a lot after da Pulse, but it was still fun."
Max thought about the concept: mothers and daughters having fun. She wondered once again who her mother was and why she had chosen to abandon her daughter to the psychos at Manticore.
"We had a meeting last week," Sketchy continued, noting Max's expression and not fully understanding the sadness behind it. He spoke slowly, as if he were addressing someone who had been hit on the head and couldn't remember what had happened yesterday. "We petitioned Normal to let us dress up in costume for our runs today. Remember? That way, we can all go straight to Crash for the party."
"An' da competition for best costume. Da prize be one hundred an' t'irty dollahs an' one free beer every night for da year."
"Wow," Max said automatically, primarily because she figured her friends would expect her to say something. Her mind was preoccupied with darker thoughts.
"So why didn't you wear a costume?"
"I wasn't at the meeting."
"You weren't?" Sketchy and Herbal exchanged a look. "I thought you were there…"
"Nope." Be glib and let it ride. That's the Max they know… "I was sick a few days last week." Sick of Eyes Only stuff. "Musta missed it."
"Hey, it isn't too late to get a costume. If I can come up with this on, like, no budget, then you can find somethin', too."
"I'll think about it."
"Think about what, boo?"
Max looked over at the lockers just in time to see a pirate emerge from behind them.
"Hey, nice costume, Original," Sketchy said then dropped back onto the couch and slouched.
Max pushed her bike over to the lockers and leaned it against a bench, taking in the white shirt and brown breeches and vest, and tall black boots her friend was wearing.
"Somethin' like that."
"The bandana is a nice touch. Like the red sash, too." Max arched an eyebrow. "Did you straighten your hair?"
"Now don't get on my case, boo. It's only for the look."
"Pirates can't have curly hair?"
Original Cindy shook her head and readied her knapsack. "Not this one. Today I'm Anamaria from that pirate movie with Johnny Depp."
Cindy shifted her left hip out and rested a hand there, regarding Max skeptically. "You tryin' to tell me you ain't seen 'Pirates of the Caribbean'?"
"Nooo," Max said. She emptied her knapsack into her locker and hung it from the handlebars of her bike. "I'm not tryin' to tell you anything. I am tellin' you. I haven't seen it."
"But it's a classic!"
"Yeah, well, so is 'Star Wars'," Max said, tipping her head towards Sketchy. "I barely recognize what he's talking about, but at least he's mentioned it enough times that it rings a bell. I haven't seen it yet, either."
"Captain Jack Sparrow would be right up your alley, girl. I always liked Anamaria, myself."
"Doesn't your rich boy have a DVD collection, or somethin'?"
Max smiled tightly and tried to remain civil. Original Cindy was her best friend, after all. "For the last time, he isn't my rich boy and I wouldn't know about his DVD collection." And without further word, she grabbed her bike by the seat and strode for the order desk. The orange and black streamers fluttered above her in the wake of her anger. Cindy frowned as she slung her knapsack over her shoulder and steered her bike after her friend.
"Hey, just 'cause you don't have a costume don't mean-"
"Not now, O.C., 'kay?"
"'Kay." Cindy's frown deepened but she didn't pursue the matter.
The quote by Confucius, which was still mounted prominently behind Normal's desk, was partially obscured by a large poster of George Washington crossing the Delaware in a uniform of some kind. The President-to-be looked stern but pleased, but no one else in the boat seemed happy. Normal was missing the hat and cloak, but Max figured that was the look he was striving for.
"Good morning, Mr. President," she said brightly.
Normal actually smiled – sort of. "A student of history today." He handed her several packages, which she stuffed into her knapsack. "Just get these items to their rightful owners so you aren't history, too."
Max flashed him a smile. "Very witty."
"Indeed." Normal passed some packages to Original Cindy, and added, "This pirate better not get greedy."
"This pirate has honour."
"Good. Honour your contract. Bip, bip, bip!"
Other messengers were lining up behind them, so Max and Cindy strapped on their knapsacks and headed for the door.
"You are comin' to Crash for the party tonight, right, boo?"
"I'll think about it."
Max peddled for the street and put on a spurt of Manticore speed to get some distance. She just wanted the packages delivered and this weird day to end.
Logan Cale continued to scroll the list on his monitor with one hand while the other grabbed his cell 'phone.
"Well, hello to you, too."
He frowned slightly, at first trying to identify the voice then wondering why she was calling him. "Cindy?"
"The Original," came the reply. "I ain't got much time, as Mr. Bip-Bip-Bip is ridin' us hard today."
"Is everything alright?" Logan winced as his anxiety filtered through. He could hear the smile on the other end.
"Max is fine, as far as I know, and I'm great too, thanks for askin', but that ain't why I called."
He thought about the list of addresses he was scanning, desperately hoping one of them would ring a bell and lead him to the source of some serious vandalism on a community centre in the area. A kid hiding under a bench during the latest attack had told the senior supervisor he'd heard some of the thugs talking. One of them had uttered a name: Melbourne. The kid thought he was referring to their hideout, and that 'Melbourne' was a street name. Damn gangs. The community center was trying to make a difference and all they could do was- "Look, Original, I'm kinda busy right now so-"
"Too busy for helpin' out my boo?"
Logan straightened in his chair and stopped trying to read the screen. "I'm listening."
"Good. Today is All Hallow's Eve, an' just about everyone here is in costume – except for Max. There's a party at Crash tonight an' a prize for best costume an' we're all gonna be there – except for Max, if I got her reaction right, and I usually do."
"Don't rush me. The back-story is important. Sketchy told me Max didn't seem to know what Halloween was, and seemed outta sorts when he tried to trigger her childhood memories, sayin' somethin' about her mom dressin' her up like a ballerina, he said. I was wonderin' if you could talk to her."
"About what?" Logan was trying not to think of Max, and how she was probably feeling very alienated right now: no childhood, no trick-or-treating, no mother…
Original Cindy sighed heavily. "You're a smart boy, Logan. Ah know you're not that dense."
"Thanks," he said dryly.
"Look, we don't have much time! Max is hurtin', I know it though I don't know exactly why an' I can't find her. We had deliveries in very different parts of the city an' she was ridin' like she was bein' chased by the Devil, anyway, so no way I'd be able to catch her. I don't expect you to produce a costume an' take her to the Crash in a horse-drawn carriage, but I need your help."
Logan glanced at the clock, his mind rushing recklessly in several different directions: 4:45. It was already starting to get dark. "Are you in costume?"
"Yeah. I'm Anamaria from 'Pirates-"
"-of the Caribbean'. Yeah, I know that one." He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes before putting them on again. "Any ideas?"
There was a sigh of relief from Original Cindy. "I only got so far as to callin' you an' hopin' you'd come up with somethin'. Maybe you could call her pager an' she'd come to you 'cause she wouldn't expect you to talk to her about the party. I… don't know if she'd answer if it was me." That last part came out grudgingly, Logan could tell. She was obviously frustrated that she couldn't help her friend this time.
He hesitated, staring at the ceiling as if it had the answers. "I don't know what I'll do, but I'll try to at least talk to her, okay?"
There was a pause and some rustling on the other end, sound of a zipper closing. "Thanks. I gotta go. The wind is pickin' up an' I still got one more run before I can clean up for Crash."
"See you later, then," Logan said, though more often than not, they spoke on the 'phone more than they met in person.
"Yeah. Later. An' Logan?"
Original Cindy lowered her voice. "Thanks for lookin' out for my boo."
Logan smiled, even though she couldn't see it. It reached his voice. "No problem."
Banging his head against his desk wasn't resolving anything, but it was all he could do at the moment. Maybe it would jog an idea to the front of his mind, which was completely blank. Anything would be a welcome change.
Why did I promise to help Cindy with this Halloween thing? What was I thinking?
#You weren't thinking, Cale.#
Not you again. Go away. I need a solution, fast, and I need to call Max before it gets too late.
#Shoulda thought of that sooner.#
Logan logged off his computer and wheeled into the kitchen, hoping for inspiration. Big help you are.
#Damnit, Cale, I'm your Inner Voice, not a party planner.#
He opened the 'fridge and pulled out the milk, then reached for the kettle and half filled it with water.
#You don't have any costumes to loan her, or any particularly useful childhood memories to share or even a pep talk waiting in the wings.#
He plugged the kettle in and retrieved a mug from the dish rack. Rubbing his palms over his thighs, he took a deep breath.
I'm not going to take her trick-or-treating, you know.
#You can't take her anywhere, bucko.#
For an Inner Voice, you're pretty mean.
#I get you away from the computer once and a while though, don't I?#
I can do that on my own…
#As if. There are other things in life than Eyes Only, Cale. Get on with it.#
Logan pulled the 'phone from his pocket and dialed Max's pager.
#You gotta plan?#
By the time Max called him back fifteen minutes later, he'd completed another 'phone call and made some uncomfortable but necessary decisions. Crash wasn't his kind of place, after all…
Logan sighed, content with his plans. He held his mug and tried not to drink his hot tea too quickly. He had it all figured out.
Max stared at him. Hard.
"Could you say that again?"
"I need your help tonight," Logan repeated smoothly as he moved some papers into a folder and slipped the folder into the filing cabinet. Damn, he was too good at lying. He was cleaning his desk as he spoke, but it made him look busy, as if all this activity had something to do with tonight. "I need you to be there, in case something goes wrong. It shouldn't be dangerous at all but I like to be careful. It would also be a useful cover to have you there."
Max watched him closely. Whatever was going down must be urgent. She'd never seen him clean his desk before.
"So you need a body guard?"
"And a date," he added, and swept the remaining pens and paperclips into the drawer of his desk with a quick move from his right forearm.
"And this informant is meeting you… where, exactly?"
"Crash, believe it or not." Max wasn't sure that she did, but why would he make up something like that? Crash wasn't his kind of place, after all.
"I see. And… you have to go in costume?"
"Well, it is Halloween, and he tells me there's a party going on there tonight." Logan shrugged and wheeled out of the office, Max trailing him. "Gotta fit in, you know?"
"Hmmm." Max folded her arms and leaned against the living room wall. "And I would have to be in costume… why, exactly?"
"So you don't stick out like a sore thumb. Surveillance. Blend in. Besides, if you're supposed to be my date, it'd make sense for us to be in costume, right?"
"I guess so." Her expression suggested she wasn't so sure. "You got anything to eat?"
He performed a swift mental inventory. "Yeah, I do. Chicken Cacciatore in the blue Tupperware, middle shelf, and some anglio olio in a bowl next to it."
Max snorted and pushed away from the wall with her shoulders. Logan was fascinated by how she moved, like a cat stretching. He swallowed and focused on the charade ahead.
She strode to the 'fridge, trying not to drool as she located the containers and emptied them both into a large mixing bowl. She stirred the whole lot a few times then found a fork in the dish rack and sat on the counter, eating it cold.
Logan picked up his cell 'phone and pressed a button for one of the numbers on speed dial: Bling. Max's pager was the other, but she didn't need to know that.
"My informant wants the anonymity," Logan added, building the story to make it seem plausible. Who cared that no one was really going to meet him? As long as Max never found out… "No one will know who we are if we're in costume, right?"
"I guess," Max said, not letting the conversation get in the way of stuffing her face with Logan's fabulous cooking. The olive oil and garlic on the pasta was just… just heavenly, and the chicken was so moist…
Logan smiled as she lost herself in the sensation of eating. She seemed ready to swallow the scenario, too. His only concern now was that no one was answering. The 'phone picked up on the third ring.
"Hey, it's Logan. Do you have the stuff?"
Bling chuckled. It sounded like he was in a bad spy movie. "Yeah, I got the stuff. You got a date?"
Logan glanced up at Max. He already knew not to bother trying to conceal the conversation, given Max's excellent hearing. "Yeah, it's all set."
Max raised an eyebrow. "What's Bling got to do with this?"
"I'll see you soon."
Logan returned the 'phone to his pocket and smiled, hoping he looked comfortable and confident. "He was the only one I could think of who could get us costumes on short notice." It helped that it was the truth.
"So, who am I gonna be?"
"You mean, other than my body guard and my date?"
Max finished her snack and placed the bowl and fork in the sink. "Yeah, other than those things. What's my costume?" She slid from the counter and moved to sit on the arm of the couch, smiling tentatively, letting herself relax a bit. This was a date with Logan, even if it was Eyes Only stuff. They were going to a party, together, and all her friends would be there. Maybe Halloween wasn't so weird after all.
"I don't know," Logan lied. "Bling was gonna get whatever he could find. This is very last minute, after all." It was last minute, all right, but Logan had connections and a credit card with a limit that would shock her.
Max tried not to let her anxiety show. What if it was a stupid costume? Work was work, but couldn't she look half decent while doing it? "Maybe I could just wear my cat suit."
"Nuh-uh. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's gonna be fine." Instinctively, he reached out and touched the back of her hand. "It'll be fine, Max. You'll see."
His green eyes locked with hers and he spoke so tenderly, Max had to look away so he wouldn't see the flush creeping up her neck.
When Bling arrived about fifteen minutes later, it was fine. It was better than fine.
Except for two things.
"Tell me the peg leg is for you?"
Logan grinned. "It is."
"And do I have to wear a corset with this thing?" Max held up the cream-coloured confection, dazzling with pearls and ribbons, a tight bodice and a long, full skirt. She had gleaned enough about women's fashions of a certain period to ask that question.
"You don't," Bling assured her.
Max grinned and headed for the guest room. "See you in five."
Logan and Bling waited until the door closed. She missed the high-five of victory by two seconds.
The young man waited outside the bar, hiding in the shadows as patrons approached in the growing twilight. They were strangely dressed but then, this was Halloween. The wind reached him, even though he was between buildings, and played with his dark hair. He smiled, loving the weather, remembering the costumes his parents had ensured he enjoyed when he was a kid.
He glanced at his watch. The people he was tracking would be here any moment, and he couldn't wait to see them.
The Pontiac Aztek pulled into the parking lot across the road from Crash. Max reached for the door but Logan gently caught her by the arm before she could open it.
"You look beautiful," he said, meaning it. The cream-coloured dress was perfect for her. He had no idea if it was period or not to his pirate outfit, and he didn't care. Max smiled. She looked like a queen.
"You don't look so bad yourself," she responded, deciding the swashbuckling look suited him and was an interesting parallel to his secret life as a pirate of the airwaves. From a practical angle, the bandana concealed his hair colour and thus provided one less piece of information to the man he was meeting tonight. She admired him silently as he rummaged for a bag behind his seat.
"Thanks. Now, put this on."
And he handed her a cream-coloured mask to match her gown, complete with pearls and lace. She took it and said, "Are you serious?"
"It hides your identity, goes with your costume and…" He turned to face her and she looked up from her hands. "I have to wear one, too."
Green eyes gazed out at her from a black mask, which covered the top half of his face. "We'll be a matching pair," he murmured.
Max felt her breathing change. Maybe this time, she'd follow her impulse, lean forward and kiss him the way she'd wanted to ever since…
Logan swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. Maybe this time, just this once, he'd follow his impulse, lean forward and kiss her the way he'd wanted to since she first stood before that mirror…
Beside them, a car door slammed. They both jumped. Max hastily pulled on her mask and used the rear mirror to adjust her hair to cover the elastic.
"The best," Logan said quietly. Max left the vehicle so he wouldn't see her blush. What's wrong with me? she thought. This is business, business, business…
She pulled the wheel chair out of the back with ease - in spite of the dress - and set it beside him. He easily transferred from the driver's seat to the chair, the wind tugging at the loose white shirt and revealing some enticingly firm chest muscles. The only reason that shirt's staying on, Max decided, is because of the black vest he's wearing…
The wooden leg, which was strapped to his left leg, clunked against the foot rests of his wheel chair. Logan winced at the sound and sighed. He'd gone this far, done this much because he could do it, with the desire to simply give her a special night to remember. He wasn't going to turn back now, despite the baseline he could here coming from Crash.
His arm swept out before them. "Shall we?"
Still uncertain about all this, Max nodded and mutely followed him through the parking lot.
She was so distracted by the costumes and emotions and anticipation of the evening ahead that she didn't notice the figure in the shadows.
She'd taught him well.
Original Cindy was betting with Herbal on how many beers it would take before Sketchy was dancing on the table when she saw a woman in a beautiful cream-coloured dress with matching mask descend the stairs. Heads turned, but the woman didn't seem to notice. Not a minute later, a masked pirate in a wheel chair joined her, no doubt coming in the back entrance where the deliveries were made, one the wheel chair could access.
"Oh. My. God."
Beside her, Herbal said, "Wha'? You t'ink it'll take more beers?"
"He did it. He really did it. Maybe there is a god."
"Sketchy do somethin' Ah missed?"
"Forget Sketchy. Look who jus' joined the party. It's our girl."
Herbal was silent, which was very fitting for someone dressed as Death. When Original Cindy glanced at him, he had managed to reactivate the muscles in his face and move his mouth.
"It be a dream…"
She didn't respond but left Herbal in charge of her drink and moved through the crowd to her friend.
"Hey, boo. Lookin' good." She smiled down at Logan. "An' you don't look half bad yourself."
"Uh, Logan's meeting someone here tonight." Max seemed a bit tense. Understandable, thought Logan, especially since we're theoretically here for Eyes Only, and no one knows that's me.
"Tha's cool. Would you like a beer? It's on me."
"Thanks." Logan sighed at his own lack of vocabulary. "That'd be great," he added. Anamaria the Pirate laughed and headed for the bar. Max and Logan exchanged a look. Not sure what else to do, they followed.
"So glad you came," Herbal said, smiling broadly.
"Nice costume," Logan said. Casual conversation wasn't really his thing, and he had to raise his voice over the music to be heard. At least, he assumed it was music the band on stage was trying to perform…
"Much obliged. Death be a great symbol for change. It cannot be avoided."
"I'll keep trying anyway, just the same." Logan smiled so the man would know he took no offence.
Original Cindy arrived with the beers moments later. As Logan tipped his bottle back, Max bent over and spoke loudly in his ear. "How will you know your contact?"
Ah, my queen isn't completely relaxed, after all. Logan smiled up at her.
"Don't worry. He'll know me." It sounded a bit weak but he hoped she would accept it. She was scanning the room, taking in the costumes, looking for anyone who would be nervous or out of place. He'd known her long enough to recognize 'surveillance mode'.
He was almost sorry he'd have to disappoint her with news of an informant who got cold feet and wasn't going to show after all.
Outside Crash, the young man checked his watch again. He had to do it soon. There was a small 'window of opportunity', as his benefactor would put it, and he didn't want to put it to waste. He was still amazed to be here, having come so far, to be seeing them like this…
He straightened his leather jacket, ran his fingers through his dark hair, and walked towards the door of the bar.
The noise and smell assaulted his senses. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust then he descended the stairs without incident. He paused at the bottom, searching the crowd for the vision in cream he'd seen enter the bar not twenty minutes before; the wheel chair would probably be trickier to locate with all these people. Where she was, he would be.
"What a day," Max stated, trying to relax a bit. Logan had said the situation wasn't dangerous, after all.
"Coulda been worse." Original Cindy grinned. "Normal coulda worn a kilt."
"I better find a dark corner," Logan finally said, deciding he should continue the ruse and give Max time alone with her friends.
"You need me, I'll be there."
He locked eyes with her and they shared a look of reassurance. He grabbed the wheels, turned neatly and sought a quieter spot to wait for an informant who wasn't coming to the party.
The young man spotted her, chatting with a woman he recognized as Original Cindy. He smiled. They both looked the same as ever. Movement in the crowd caught his attention as people parted so a wheel chair could pass. Perfect. Logan Cale was going to the corner, just like he'd described…
"Excuse me," a blonde female said, smiling up at him. She was dressed as Aphrodite, he recalled: Kendra. "Have we met?"
The young man managed to suppress a laugh and gave her one of his dazzling, mega-watt smiles instead. "I don't think so."
"You remind me of someone." She seemed genuinely puzzled. Better move before she draws attention to me, he thought.
"I'm sorry. I have a meeting." He darted away quickly and was swallowed by the crowd. Kendra sighed. All the good-looking ones moved so fast…
Logan placed the bottle of beer on the table and began to turn it clockwise in a slow, steady rhythm, so his hands would have something to do. He'd wait a while then return to Max and they could enjoy the rest of the evening. He was so focused on the brown glass that he wasn't aware anyone was standing in front of him until a voice spoke.
He looked up, startled, and tried to keep his face from showing any surprise.
A young man stood on the other side of the small table. He seemed to be wearing black leather pants and jacket with a black t-shirt underneath. It didn't look like a costume, and his face was so familiar.Max…
"May I sit down?"
Logan could only nod. The young man pulled a chair from another table and sat across from him, resting his palms on the tabletop as if he were undergoing a religious experience. His eyes were directed at the wood surface so Logan couldn't see them.
"I can't believe I'm really here," he murmured.
"Do I know you?" Logan was amazed he could find his tongue and make it work. The hairs on the back of his neck made their presence known and he could hear his pulse thump loudly in his ears. It was not unlike the near-death experience of being shot in the spine…
"Not yet." The young man licked his lips and seemed to be choosing his words very carefully before speaking again. "You tried to explain this to me, but of course, you weren't absolutely sure it had really happened. Despite the reassurances I gave you – will give you. Anything is possible, right? It's All Hallow's Eve, Logan. You can think of it as something mystic, if you like." He shrugged. "For whatever reason, this date was chosen." A smile tugged at his lips. "I'll have to ask Ray more about that. I wasn't given a lot of warning before tonight. You can tell her I'm your informant. She'll believe it, does to this day, as far as I know."
"Who are you?"
Eyes flicked up to him then, eyes that Logan knew very well as he saw them every day.
In the mirror.
"I have a message for you: Don't let her go, Logan. Remember this night any way you want, think of it as a sign from Above, if it helps, but don't let her go. It won't be easy, you have a lot to go through yet, but I'm here to tell you it's worth the struggle, worth the risk."
Maybe I've passed out, Logan thought weakly. Had more beers than this one.
"You told me about this night three years ago - will tell me about it when I turn sixteen and you give me that talk, you know? About love and when you know it's real?"
Logan tried to swallow but found his mouth too dry to even attempt such a thing.
The young man laughed. It was a wonderful sound. "Hang in there, Mr. Cale. Isn't it good to know you and Max Guevara have a future?"
Logan wished he could stand and leave, but that, of course, wasn't an option. He had tried to move his hands to the wheels, but they weren't responding. Another part of him wanted to grab the stranger by the collar and apply pressure until he stopped speaking in riddles. All he could do was stare at the green eyes across from him as the mouth that looked so much like Max's continued to give him advice.
"This is real, Logan. Sebastian could explain it better than I could, though I was actually paying attention when he gave me the science lesson. I don't think there's gonna be time, though."
Logan parted his lips to say something but was silenced when the young man placed a hand on his forearm. "See? I'm not a dream. Oh, hey, here's something for you. The address you're looking for is 161 Melbourne Court. That's the hideout of that gang. Here, I'll write it down." He pulled out a pen, flipped over a coaster and scratched something onto it. Logan didn't respond. The stranger pushed the coaster until it wedged under Logan's left hand.
There was a beeping sound. At first, Logan thought a cell 'phone was involved but the stranger glanced at his wristwatch instead.
"Damn." He returned his gaze to Logan's face. "I gotta go. I wish I could say more, but they'll have my hide if I do. This is all I'm supposed to say - all I'm allowed to say, though I'm probably butchering the script. As it is, you an' Mom will probably tear a strip off me when you find out I'm not at Gem's place. She's babysitting Eva." He stood slowly, reluctant to leave.
Logan felt the room spin. The green eyes held him long enough to hear these words: "Remember to count your blessings, Logan."
The wood of the table impacted with his forehead. Logan took a deep breath and let it out slowly then looked up long enough to confirm what he already suspected: the mysterious young man was gone.
Tentatively, he lifted his hand. The coaster was there, with the address printed hastily on it. It took him almost twenty minutes to leave the table, in search of his queen.
Logan has been really weird this last week. Sometimes elated, sometimes so wrapped up in what he's doing that he forgets to eat. I've also caught him staring at me, like I'm gonna grow horns or something.
At least Eyes Only had another victory. That gang on Melbourne Court won't be terrorizing anyone for a long time. He didn't seem happy when I reminded him that his informant came through, after all. I'd got the feeling he wasn't expecting him to show on Halloween. It all happened so fast that I nearly missed the guy completely. All I saw was someone in black leather heading up the stairs to the street. Moves fast. That should help him last longer if he's gonna be working with Eyes Only.
I keep thinking about that dress. Stupid, really, but it was kinda nice hanging out in something so decadent, even if it was a costume. I had a wonderful evening, and I think even Logan relaxed once he had a few more beers. Being with him and my friends was the best. It coulda been worse. At least they didn't try to get me dressed up like Princess Leia.
Useless outfit for practical purposes, of course, like climbing the Space Needle. It's a beautiful night up here, but never, ever in that dress.
So I celebrated Halloween and survived. I looked it up and learned about the original reason for dressing up and hiding your identity for just one night.
I can only hope the spirits have been appeased.