DISCLAIMER: Characters belongs to Cameron, Eglee & Fox. No profit in borrowing them here.A/N: Offered in response to Cate's November 13, 2004 challenge on the DA Reflections site, as follows (hope I'm not too late!):
"Write a story, any length, which must meet the following requirement:
- there must be a wooden spoon (but not cooking), fairy lights (but not Christmas) and a broken piece of jewelry (but not the locket)
- must be ML (duh!)"
This one's pretty fluffy and shippery, so enter at your own risk. The season and weather of these events might not fit the S1 time line exactly, but for the purposes here, I ask you to pretend, just this time. After all, for those of us who choose to believe S2 never happened, we ought to be able to stretch out a little once in a while!MAGIC
Something was up.
Logan had been distracted for two weeks; he seemed off in his own little world much of the time, mind a million miles away. He was able to focus on his latest investigation and discuss Max's last errand for him, but past that, if he was cooking dinner or sitting over coffee with her, he would occasionally drift off, a soft smile lighting his eyes, or a flicker of light would spell some private, 'eureka' moment in the middle of their discussion...
After a week of it, of dropping in to find Bling alone, telling her that Logan was out on an errand, of calling him back on his cell when he paged, to hear odd sounds in the background despite his denials, Max's curiosity started shortening her temper and her patience with his excuses. He'd asked her to retrieve a couple files from a local businessman's office and after she did so, she decided to wait until the next afternoon and drop them by without calling him first. To her surprise, she found him at the open door of the storage room in the garage, bent over from his chair, carefully stirring a bucket of paint...
"Well, who are you supposed to be now–Huckleberry Finn?"
He looked up in surprise, clearly so engaged in his project he hadn't heard her ride up–the advantage of using her Jam Pony bike rather than her Ninja. He blushed a bit, caught. "Hi, Max." He pulled the stick out of the can, wiping it along the side, and Max saw that he'd been using one of his wooden spoons--the long handled one he usually used, lovingly, for pasta–to stir the thin white paint.
Her eyes widened at that. "Logan, what in the world are you up to?" She'd heard him complain about finding something as simple as a wooden spoon after the Pulse, and wondered if he'd now gone around the bend, ruining one of his precious spoons in the paint.
"Oh...just...Mrs. Mareno wanted to refurbish an old dresser or something, and needed something to stir her paint..." He started warming up to his story, and elaborated, "I couldn't let her do it all on her own–she wasn't even thinking she needed to bring it outside..."
"Oh–well, okay, where is it? I can get it..." She started toward the elevator.
"Oh, no; it's not...I mean..." he bumbled. "Bling got it already; he has it covered..."
She stood, fist on hip, looking at him skeptically, then asked sweetly. "May I see?" She was starting to get suspicious again.
"Why don't you wait until it's done? It's pretty uninspiring at the moment..." he stalled, trying what he'd been told was one heck of a charming smile.
But it was the last straw, and she threw up her hands. "Look, Logan, whatever it is, just have your fun, and call me whenever you get it out of your system..." She turned to storm off, exasperated. "Whatever the big secret is..." she threw back over her shoulder.
"Max--" Logan sputtered, scrambling to move the can out of the way, wipe off his hands, and maneuver his chair to hurry after her. "Max, wait; c'mon..." She came to an abrupt halt but did not turn, staring up and away in a classic pose of vexation. He was glad she didn't look back at him in that moment because he knew if she were to see him as he was at that moment, grinning like a fool, it would simply make her angrier. 'Damn, she's beautiful,' he let himself think yet again, 'even when she's angry with me like this.' He dared to reach up to take her hand lightly, twining his fingers through hers, struggling to swallow the smile he wore. "Don't be mad..." he tried, winsomely. "Just give me a few more days..."
"...to lose the rest of your mind?" She couldn't resist poking him a little, for all the grief he'd put her through with his mysterious projects. But when she looked down at him, finally, with her words, the hopeful light in the green eyes, shining just for her, made her resolve crumble. She turned more fully to him and let his fingers draw through all the way through hers to clasp his hand, even letting her thumb trace along his knuckles. "I'd nearly forgotten your files, too" she allowed grudgingly, pulling the disc containing the copied files from her jacket.
"Thank you." His smile broadened, relieved at her forgiveness, as he took the disc with his free hand and laid it on his lap, for the moment. "Max...can you come to dinner on Friday?"
She looked at him, quizzically. Asking her three whole days ahead, when she had been having more dinners with him these days than not, was another puzzle. "What in the world is going on, Logan?" she asked yet again–but this time her voice was soft, and the eyes that held his carried her feelings for the overgrown kid before her.
"Tell you Friday?" he hoped. When she nodded, silently, he beamed. "Good." He sat back, still grinning, still holding her hand in his, appearing to be fully content to stay there in the garage, admiring her. At his look, she found herself, to her surprise, blushing. It wasn't something she did often.
"So...why don't I leave you to it, and I'll try to get back to work before Normal fires me."
"If you have to." He didn't move a muscle. And still smiled...
As did she. "I'm awfully glad I've seen you out there for Eyes Only," she finally laughed, "enough to know that you can actually pull off undercover work and think on your feet–because if all I had to go by was your poker face in all this, I'd have no hope for you."
His smile widened into a impish grin, eyes still sparkling for her, making her pulse pick up just a bit... "You could come for dinner tonight, too..." he raised his eyebrows, changing the subject.
She wavered, half a mind to come back with a flip retort, but too deeply pulled in by those eyes to try. "I could..." she smiled. "As long as Friday's still on, too..."
"Oh, definitely" he promised immediately. "When can you be here tonight?"
"Good... 'cause dinner's at 7:00..."
She nodded...and slowly took a step, then two, backward, not dropping the eye contact, letting their fingers slowly disengage...feeling her own smile curl her mouth upward even more, she finally turned her back to him with a bounce and a firm stride away from him...just in the nick of time before succumbing completely...ooooooo
As soon as Original Cindy heard something was up, she insisted that she fix Max's hair just so, and work on her make-up–Logan cared about Max more than any man she'd ever seen care for a woman, and now that the two of them seemed to be breaking down barriers and admitting their feelings to themselves and each other, she would do what she could to help with what she could, help in those little ways...
She wanted to see Max wear a dress for him, knowing as soon as she heard he'd asked her to dinner three days early that something major was up. "Boo, you know he'll be happy however you show up. But the boy has been planning and scheming for weeks and if you dress for the occasion he'll know you appreciate it..."
"How can I dress for the occasion when I don't know what it is?" she moaned. "I don't need this pressure..."
"You dress up–like a party. For two." Cindy fussed. "Boo, you need to hit him between the eyes, hard and fast. And this just might do..." Cindy pulled out a drapy, floating tank dress of deep burgundy that Max had never seen. "I always hoped that this would be 'me,' and it just ain't." Cindy announced. "But it just might be you..."
"You're kidding, right?" Max held up the soft, flowing fabric.
"Try it" Cindy urged. "If it's not right, you do something different..."
"Fine." Max grimaced, pulling off her sweater and jeans, floating the dress over her head. Poking through to watch Cindy as she pulled to dress over her, she watched Original Cindy's eyes widen. "Dayum, boo," she breathed. "Look in the mirror..."
Max did. And was surprised–and pleased–with what she saw. The fabric followed her shape and moved softly, gracefully, and felt like liquid under her hands as she slowly smoothed her palms down her ribs toward her hips...suddenly she felt like a normal girl, even...feminine? It was as if all the feelings Logan raised in her clothed her in that dress... "Cindy...?" She looked back to her friend.
"That's what it 'sposed to look like." The dress that had been too tight to look right on her floated prettily on Max. "You wearin' that, sugah. Hot boy won't know what hot meant 'til tonight"
"What if he didn't mean anything special for tonight? He didn't say anything but dinner..." Max stood riveted by the image in the mirror, fearful of the next step it invited...fearful of how she'd feel if she'd imagined it all and this were just another night with a buddy. "Wouldn't I look pretty wrong?"
"You couldn't ever be 'wrong' in that dress, boo" Cindy laid down the law. "And from what you said...there's something in the air tonight..." 'and it's about damn time, too,' she muttered to herself...oooooooo
Max stepped out of the cab at the curb to look up, involuntarily, toward the windows of Logan's penthouse, holding her breath. Twilight was softly enveloping the city and the soft, warm breeze lifted off the deeper water out at sea gave everything a new, fresh smell. The scents banished some of the tired, city smells she was used to around her, and she breathed deep, butterflies still invading her tummy. This was just Logan, she chided herself, and it wasn't the prom–but she'd never taken a cab to see him before....she allowed a small laugh at herself as she pulled open the door to his lobby and stepped inside...
...to see Logan turn to her, a nervous anticipation of his own on his face, as he looked up to her, eyes rounding in wonder at her appearance... "Max..." his words and smile were soft, the awe she saw in him touching her.
As did his own appearance: Logan faced her in a white dinner jacket, looking as if he stepped out of a movie decades before, looking like Bogart in that amazing movie they'd found in an old collection, one with clandestine meetings and bad guys looking to get rid of him and a hopelessly romantic ending at the airfield...
"You look beautiful..." he breathed, wondering how just when he thought he'd seen perfection before, she could raise the bar...
"You do, too..." she smiled, almost apologetically for being such a girl in this, feeling as if it were magic, how he could make her forget what she was...she came close and their hands raised, simultaneously, for the other's, craving contact, still shy of too much more...
"Hungry?" He cocked his head, finding that he could still breathe, feeling his own butterflies for the evening. 'Look at her,' he marveled. 'What the hell do I think I'm doing?'
"Always" she beamed.
"Well. Come on, then...." He reluctantly dropped her hand to turn away from the elevators and out toward the garage.
"We're...not eating here?" She asked, watching him.
"Yes...but not upstairs..." his smile took on some of the aspect it had, during those two maddening weeks of his secret planning, and she realized she was soon to see what it all been about. "C'mon..." he encouraged. "It's a perfect night..."
She met his smile with her own, and followed him out through the garage to a door she'd noticed without noticing, never open that she'd seen. But this time he opened it and she saw a new, small ramp recently added to accommodate the short step through. "Go on in..." he offered, and she wondered at his use of "in" when she was clearly going outside again...until she saw...
She stepped into the building's courtyard that must have been magnificent, prePulse; at the far end was a swimming pool and bathhouse, a green lawn and trees, all now showing signs of their neglect in an oddly beautiful pattern of natural growth and form...
But here, at their end, as she walked slowly in, she held her breath at the sights..and sounds...
Soft music surrounded them, from no one source that she could tell, candles and torches circled the immediate area, allowing a glow even in the gathering dusk...at the center of the small clearing was a table, covered in linen, with wine glasses catching the light and actual champagne chilling in a bucket at its side...but most magically, over it all was a large, latticed gazebo cover, newly freshened with a coat of whitewash to bring light and softness to its previously ignored beams, through which thousands of tiny white lights were woven to shine and sparkle amid vines and flowers that had to have been carefully replaced after the refurbishing....
When she managed to tear her eyes away to look back at Logan, Max could see his hopeful, nervous look as he watched her taking it in, afraid it might be too much–'just as I was afraid the dress would be,' she realized. "Logan...this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen..." she murmured...
He relaxed a little. "You like it..." Not really a question...but wanting her reassurance...
"I won't ever want to leave this place..." she stepped under the latticed roof, looking upward to the night sky through the fairy-dance of white lights. "I don't want to know how you did it all; I want to believe it's all magic..."
Her words surprised and touched him, sounding incredibly open and revealing from someone so frightened of trusting anyone. "It is..." he said, meaning it. He slowly moved up behind her, paused a moment beside her, then went on to the table to pull out the bottle chilling in the silver bucket, more signs of earlier days. "Some champagne?"
She looked at him in question, wondering at all this luxury, and nodded. He managed to pop the cork with just enough fanfare and poured her a crystal flute of the amber, bubbly liquid. She waited as he poured himself a flute as well, wondering if he would say, now, what it all meant... "Max..." he paused...looked away... and looked back. "One year ago...to the day... you saved my life, and in a very, literal sense, too; you dove off a building to keep me from dying..." He looked into her deep brown eyes, pupils dilated slightly in the dimming light, and went on, "but so many times...in so many ways, before then, and after, you have rescued me–from others who wanted Eyes Only gone...from myself...from despair. I know we haven't been able to find the words...I know everyone around us has told each of us what we kept trying to deny...to ignore..." He looked down, toying with his glass, afraid that what he was doing might ruin it all... "Max...I love you. I need you to know that. Whatever else comes, however you hear this, if it's not what you want to hear or aren't ready to discuss things I'll understand, I swear I will, I will be there for you and with you however you want it to be, but for all of it, Max...I need you to know...I love you..."
The lights took on an unnaturally sharp glitter as her eyes briefly swam with moisture, and she thought she saw for a moment that his did, too. Max took in the man before her, her rock, her confidante, her best friend...her sunset and sunrise...and chewed her lip to realize what he'd given her, a normal life: even in the midst of missions and intrigue and burgling files and scrambling escapes, he'd given her 'normalcy.' She laughed a little in her emotion, and moved closer, putting down the champagne, kneeling and seeking his arms. "I've loved you from the start..."oooooooooo
"Max...I have something for you..." He had pulled her into his lap where he held her close, tasting her lips and losing himself in the scent of her as Max's palms brushed his strong shoulders and arms, lips needy, her fingers delicately tracing his earlobes and jaw. He brushed his lips across her brow before he pulled back a little, needing to finish this, to speak while he still could. "You know about my mother's locket, why it was so special to me...but before she got sick...she had put away a bracelet that my father had given her, on their wedding day..." He reached into his pocket to draw out a small satin pouch. "It was so beautiful and delicate, and my mother always told me it should be passed on to the woman I love...but it had broken, and she had meant to have it fixed...she became ill before she had it done. I guess she had been planning to be around when I was old enough to be married so thought she'd have more time..." He mused a moment, remembering, then went on. "For whatever reason, I just couldn't give it to Valerie–maybe somewhere deep down I knew that wasn't right...but now...no matter what else is ahead, for us...for this night, I wanted you to have it." He deftly worked the drawstring closure open with the fingers of the hand that held it, and lifted it up, so that she opened her palm to let him spill it into her hand, a small cascade of delicate gold and tiny diamonds twinkling there. "So I took it to a jeweler to see what could be done." He shook his head sadly. "He did the best he could but you can see where he had to melt the gold to solder it back together..." He looked up to her eyes. "Maybe, if you'd like to wear it, you can hide the flawed part..."
And it struck her so deeply then: they each, in such different environments, had been raised with perfection all around them and any flaw of their own–be it seizures, be it paralysis–became monumentally shameful in their eyes, they of whom perfection had been expected. But here in his arms, he in hers, each told the other that the "flaw" meant nothing, didn't change or demean the soul within the body that might be flawed, but even with the cold-hearted demands of their earlier years, each had grown to a nobility and beauty and grace to be adored. She smiled a warm, contented smile and offered her wrist. "Will you put it on me?" She asked softly. He smiled as he lifted the glittering, broken bracelet to his beloved's wrist and she admired it, flaw and all. "It's perfect" she whispered. "Just like us...broken...but put together again, stronger than before. Stronger for having been soldered togther..." And with a sigh, she sought out his lips as the fairy lights danced overhead...