AN: Okay I opened like seven different word documents trying to get the right tone for this chapter…So of course you know that means it was completely against me. Here it is though, I hope you enjoy.
Chapter Twenty Four
It was Friday, end of the work week.
Normally she'd hit up Crash for a few with OC and the rest of the crew and celebrate the start of two blissfully Normal-free days.
Not today though. Though why she was heading home instead of going about her normal routine was still evading her.
It wasn't as if she'd even have the sanctuary Jam Pony had been providing her with tomorrow. Then again she didn't even know if she'd need it tomorrow. Even if it wasn't tomorrow, she knew it would be soon.
It made sense Will would take more time to be placed than someone like Maria, since Jude had taken almost a week. A kid that had to be hidden was bound to take longer.
That wasn't the reason she'd ditched out of Crash though…No…She'd skipped it because she was pretty sure Logan was going to lose it soon spending almost nine hours a day alone with a baby. Not that she was much help in the other fifteen hours, but at least she answered him back when he spoke.
She'd forced herself out of bed around four this morning with the baby, having been awake since the last time he'd woken up and knowing that Logan after Wednesday night was once more not in top form. She'd thought about getting up with the baby on Wednesday, she'd repeatedly tried talking herself into it, but she didn't want to leave Logan for the coldness and loneliness of the living room.
Last night Will had been calmer than the time before, maybe it was because she was ever so slightly. They had an understanding, Logan by far trumped the other person and they'd put up with the other for his sake.
She'd turned a chair around and just sat with him in her arms looking out into the night. They'd stayed that way for hours. Max only moving when he did, shifting the newborn in her arms occasionally and realizing every once in awhile she was looking down upon his restful features for longer than she'd be looking out onto the night. Her eyes would shoot up and back out she'd stare.
Turning off all thoughts of the past, present and future, especially those of the present. Refusing to think about the what ifs. Refusing to allow her mind to dwell on how different her life could have been if she'd ignored Lydecker. Not thinking of how her life could have been normal.
Not wondering what she would be feeling if she'd never been in Manticore and the baby in her arms had been the baby she'd dream of in all those weak moments in which she'd craved that normalcy more than anything else.
Logan, baby and a home.
She ignored thoughts of the future along with that. Past, present and future…She wanted to believe what she'd told people. She'd simply been sick for two months. She wanted it to only be the slight hiccup and not the roadblock it seemed to have become lately.
So she headed towards Foggle Towers instead of Crash, just laughed at the 'whipped' comments that had followed her down the street with a smile. She was going to Logan and not the reason Original Cindy had scrunched up her nose first thing this morning trying to place the out of place scent of baby powder causing Max to duck out earlier than normal rushing to get a package and not waiting for OC at their lockers until the scent had worn off her. Yup, she was heading towards Logan and only Logan.
"Hey Max," Charlie said with a nod holding open the door as Max pushed her bike into the building.
"Hey they got you down here today?" She asked with a smile, used to seeing the young man do everything but the lobby.
"Robbie's out sick," he nodded walking in.
She gave a questioning look, she knew their normal doorman it was doubtful it was anything health related.
Charlie laughed, "Hey, I don't ask questions I just follow what the boss says."
She laughed wondering if it was female or booze related, hell knowing Robbie probably both that guy had some great stories.
"So congratulations on the little guy, you and Mr. Cale," he paused for a moment and corrected himself, " Logan come up with a name yet?"
He watched her face fall just the slightest bit, the smile remained only by force, "Uh…I didn't know anyone-"
Charlie was seemingly oblivious to Max's change in attitude, not realizing it wasn't just confusion he was explaining for, "Bling needed the dolly to get the boxes up there. Speaking of which, I was betting you guys would have had more stuff delivered."
She continued to smile, trained to think on her feet, after spending most of her life lying she was good at it, "He's small, doesn't really need much. Bed, bottle and diapers, he's happy."
He laughed, "Good point, damn I wish my girlfriend was like you. I'm still picking up every overtime shift I can get." It was interesting to more than a few that Mr. Cale had ended up with someone like them, blue collar instead of blue blood. "So what about that name?"
"Will," she said with a nod.
Will Cale? Sounded just about as odd as Max Cale was going to, if they were ever going to that is, at least one of the names needed more than one syllable…Hmm…Then again maybe Max was short for something, he wondered if anyone had ever asked. He wondered who had been on the door when Max had first started coming around, she would have had to shown her id then. "Just Will? Not William?"
"Just Will for the moment," another smile.
"Will's a good strong name," he smiled, "the little guy needs it."
Max actually smiled at that, thinking of Logan joking 'what like Wilbur?'
"How early was he?"
How much did this guy know? She wondered with a tilt of her head before she answered, "Just a couple weeks."
"He's fine though right? I mean I haven't seen you or Mr… Logan out with him. And I know you've got a stroller," he smiled.
A shake of her head, "Yea no he's fine, don't worry. You know I should probably be getting upstairs," she gestured her head towards the elevator.
"Oh sure, new baby," his head bobbed realizing he'd been keeping the young mother away from her newborn. "Congratulations again Max."
She just smiled and nodded.
She thanked god she knew the cameras in the elevators were still out and let herself slump against the back once the doors shut. How many people knew about Will?
Her brother? Everyone in the building?
She'd never even asked Logan about Krit…She knew he must have stopped by for the Eyes Only stuff he'd been doing the previous week. God she didn't want to know what was going through her brother's head…
Then again couldn't be much worse than what was going through her own.
Logan was all smiles as she walked into the living room, his attention on the tv and the special alert of a bank heist in progress as he heard her enter the apartment, he was watching it as he paced in the living room with the baby.
"What's going on?" she asked with a nod towards the tv.
"National Trust," he explained.
"Again? What is that like the fourth time in the past six months?"
"Fifth," he corrected and gave a wry shake of his head.
"You'd think after the first dozen arrests people would come up with better ideas."
"You mean like break into penthouse apartments," he asked with a smirk.
She smiled, "Hey, I didn't get caught did I?"
"That's a matter of opinion," he shook his head.
She smirked, sure gun trained on her, security guards, being tracked down…"Well my sentence's at least better than theirs." She flicked her head towards the screen, "Somehow I doubt prison food smells as good as this." She let her nose appreciate the scents wafting through the air. "What are we having?"
"Steak, it's in a marinade of-" he stopped himself and looked at her, "you don't really care what's in it as long as it ends up in your stomach do you?"
"Hey," she smiled making her way over to the kitchen, "I can appreciate your efforts even if I can't duplicate them." She definitely took the easy way when cooking; she hadn't really managed that whole pinch or smidge thing yet, not to mention what flavors went together unless she'd been specifically told.
She hated moments like this, moments when she realized she couldn't just brush things under the rug and go about their happy, teasing lives. "So any news?" she turned focused her gaze upon Will's blue and white striped back and ignored the tell tale clench of her stomach that had been just as present walking into the seemingly vacant apartment on Wednesday.
He just remained silent, his mouth opened as if to say something but no words ever emerged.
He turned to go put the baby in his crib, not wanting to put him in the middle of this.
She felt herself harden, " Logan?" she repeated herself and really didn't like where this was going.
"Max," he began, but then paused wondering exactly how he should broach this.
"You can skip the horses if that's so hard, how about just trees?" She found herself halfway making a joke to cover the fear that suddenly raced through her.
"Max even if that were an option-"
She shook her head, no this wasn't happening, her mind refused to allow her to fully process it, "What the hell are you talking about Logan, why isn't it an option? He's a baby, he's a cute baby at that, placing him-"
"He'll never be safe that way," Logan stormed, shocked at the flood of emotions waiting to flood out of him, she knew this, she had to know this, somewhere deep within her, she knew. "They won't be able to keep him safe Max. A teacher, a neighbor, someone will mess up somewhere and Manticore will get a hold of him."
"You could…" Her mind wouldn't let her accept that, Logan could keep him safe, heads up, new identities, alter school records, things like that.
"I could what Max?" He shook his head, "We're not going to be able to stay here forever." He'd stopped with the risky Eyes Only reports, not that he'd stopped stopping the bad guy, hell with Krit and Syl more was being accomplished than ever, but he'd stopped reporting them to the public, Eyes Only didn't need anymore dangerous enemies after him, risking not only his life, but hers. That wasn't a guarantee though, just like it wasn't a guarantee that Manticore wouldn't come looking for Max again. They'd been quiet for now, but there was no promise of how long that would last. He might not know exactly why or when they'd have to one day leave Seattle, but he knew without a doubt that one day would come.
She knew that he'd said it to her before when she'd made a comment about Seattle being her first home, she knew it and she accepted it. As long as she was with him she knew she'd be home. She hadn't thought about it though as she was telling Logan that he could be kept safe. Contact between the two parties would put them both more at risk instead of keep him safer. She hadn't thought about the day his abilities came to light, he'd probably do everything months ahead of the other kids at the start, his language skills would develop rapidly, his coordination…That would just be the first year, by the time he reached school…
"They couldn't keep him safe Max," he repeated again as she didn't speak, driving the fact into her.
"What do you expect me to say Logan?" her head barely moved as she said this, her eyes barely held anything at all.
"He's not responsible for how he was born," he said following her lead and allowing all emotion to fall away from his voice, leaving it much softer than before.
She looked at him shocked, "You think I don't know that? Do you think I wanted him growing up in there? I'm not his mother though Logan, I can never be his mom."
That slammed into him with a force even greater than he'd imagined in his worse scenarios of how this talk would go. "So what about Zack Max?" he asked, the attitude clear in his voice, "tell me if Case had been left all alone would you have just given him to strangers?"
"That's different," she wasn't stupid, she wasn't oblivious to the change that had occurred within her, she turned and walked away wanting to escape this discussion.
"How is it so different Max?" he asked as he followed her. "You loved Case because he was your sister's son; guess what Will is Zack's."
She turned to that, cold fury in her eyes, "He's not Zack's, Zack was dead, he'd been dead for over a month. Neither of us had anything to do with how he got here."
He was aware she'd stopped using Will's name, stopped acknowledging him as a real person. "Yea, but I think we both know Zack probably wouldn't have had a problem with it," he said as he drove in the point with all the attitude of knowing another had been in love with his girlfriend. Zack probably would have died for any of his siblings, but Logan didn't doubt it was a bit easier for him to do it for Max, he certainly knew where the guy had been coming from.
Her mouth just opened at the low blow, Zack's feelings towards her in that way hadn't been her fault, she hadn't encouraged him, hell if she'd known he would something stupid like blow his brains out for her, she wouldn't have taken him with her that night, accepted death.
Logan inwardly winced at the hurt that passed over her face, "He can't be left with strangers Max, it's not safe," he repeated softly.
What did he want from her? She didn't have anything left to give. They'd taken it all. If they took anything else nothing would be left of her.
"Krit and Syl will take him," he said as he viewed the face he'd seen so often in that first month.
No, her mind reeled as her head shook, they were still Manticore, still hunted.
"It's the only way Max, the best way to keep him safe."
She shook her head again, no a family, cats, dogs, ponies, cows, green as far as the eye could see, light years away from them, from Manticore. He'd be raised the same as her, well he'd live the same life, always on the run, looking over his shoulder, danger always just a breath away, just with parents.
"It's not ideal Max, but it's the only other solution."
Her heart twisted as if it were in a vise as she realized what he was saying and that was there was only one solution, only one thing he'd ever had planned for Will. Her body tensed up as her mind replayed that single word being screamed at her, 'Mom!' The sound of it even more heartbreaking than a baby's cry that she couldn't reach, so much more real, more binding, her failing so much greater.
"Max?" he softly said as he watched her shake her head again.
She simply looked at him for a moment wondering what exactly he expected her to say, "Why are you doing this?" The real question was why are you doing this to me?
"I know you Max, I know one day you'd regret walking away, spend your life wondering about him like you did your mom."
"My regrets to make Logan," she said firmly.
He shook his head, "I know you, if something happened to him…You'd never forgive yourself Max."
That slammed into her, paralyzed her for a second before she shook her head softly and turned on her heel pausing only long enough to grab her keys from the table.
She rode, for hours she road, until she realized she wasn't outrunning Renfro's taunts of poison. She knew it wasn't true, she wasn't so weak that she couldn't see the truth that they were the poison and she had been as helpless in the whole thing as Will was right now.
Didn't drive away her voice though, the baby's cry, her family being ripped away from her.
That's what it came down to in the end, the thought that had been lingering in her mind for the past few days more clearly defined. The more you had, the more you could lose.
The possibility of losing Logan was overwhelming, she couldn't imagine anything else; she couldn't imagine that complete life. She couldn't love Will and then lose him.
The cries, seeing him being carried away…
She wouldn't be able to survive that. Not that she could ever survive losing Logan…
But Logan wasn't dependant on her; she wasn't necessary for his survival, well at least not most times. Will though…
Her stomach clenched, her heart twisted.
This wasn't fair; he couldn't ask this of her.
She didn't know what she'd been thinking as she'd told him that one day they'd have kids, she couldn't do it. She couldn't open herself up to any more loss.
She was flooded with the memories of remembering thinking maybe she should just throw herself into it as she'd thought about skipping the condom in times of heat and just diving into it all. The panic was able to still find her then and stop her, telling her there was no need to prove herself at that very moment. The relief that would come with her period signaling she'd made the right choice and she wouldn't have to face it yet.
He wasn't asking her to live everyday in fear that something would happen, he was telling her she would. Telling her the best way she could keep him safe was to make herself suffer, it was his only chance at the semi-normal life she'd always craved.
She didn't bother stopping her bike, she barely even slowed as she took the corner heading home, she smiled a bit seeing the looks of 'crazy kid' from those out on the street. Might as well head home, there was no where she could run away to anymore.
It was dark as she pulled her bike into the garage, dark but not late.
"Great," she muttered to herself as she pulled herself into her spot, right alongside Krit's. Oh well at least it's only one of them.
She tossed her glasses and keys onto the table as she walked into the apartment and allowed her most obvious fake smile to grace her face as Krit's head poked out of the small office area.
"Hey Maxie," her brother hesitantly said, seeing not only her face, but knowing what had gone down just hours earlier..
"Where's Syl?" She asked.
"Work so I decided to come by and help Logan on the-"
"Martavio thing, I remember," she nodded and moved towards the doorway, "how's it going?" she asked with another nod.
"Good," Logan nodded, "we tied him to Daniels, just a matter of time before we find a connection to Smith."
She nodded again with a smile. "So any dinner left?"
"I left it in the microwave for you," he said wondering when exactly the explosion would be coming.
Instead he got another smile, "At least it's good for something."
Krit and Logan both gave a smile at her little joke at the broken microwave, still waiting for something, anything as they'd been doing for hours.
"I'll let you guys get back to it, I'm gonna take a shower before I eat."
And that was it, she turned and left them. They stared after her for a moment before turning back to the computer screens and files in their hands. Once Krit finally heard the shower start he asked, "What the hell was that?"
"That was Max," Logan said sounding rather resigned. He never thought he'd miss the days she'd blow up at him…Then again she still did that, just never seemed to be about the important stuff anymore.
"Should I leave?" He asked looking puzzled, "You want me to take him at least for tonight?"
Logan let out a short laugh, really just a breath of air, and shook his head as he realized something, in all of Max's incredibly loud pissed off silence she hadn't said anything about Will. Not a single word about Krit taking Will.
Logan shook his head again to answer Krit; progress had just been made in her silence. "Let's just look at those phone records again."
Krit eyed Logan in disbelief as he watched his friend lift up the pages in question as he began to scan over them. He shook his head and let out a sigh, he suddenly felt really sorry for the kid.
Logan had listened to Max's movements as he and Krit continued to work. If he didn't already know she was angry with him he would have figured it out by the fact that she didn't wander in to help even though Krit had been the one to do the reconnaissance on this one. It wasn't as if she glared at him as he'd walked out to get a glass of water while she was eating dinner, then again she also didn't make eye contract with him.
She also didn't stay in the living room watching bad tv, the fact that she had dropped a kiss to his cheek and said goodnight to Krit hadn't reassured him in the slightest.
In true Max thoughtfulness the lamp by his bedside had been left on the lowest setting so he could easily change and disengage himself from the exo. He paused in the doorway viewing the book discarded on the nightstand and realized she'd actually fallen asleep and hadn't been in here stewing, at least not the entire time. He turned and headed into the bathroom to get ready to join her.
He realized as he was finally settled into the bed sometime later that she was no longer sleeping.
"Max?" he said softly as he dropped his head to the side.
Her eyes opened, her incredibly tired eyes, "Not now Logan I just wanna sleep." At this point she felt like she could sleep for a week straight and not stir.
He opened his mouth, about to put his foot down, how many times had she'd pleaded out of talking? Run away from it until finally he'd just give up and let it go? Then he saw the exhaustion in her eyes tenfold from how she'd looked so many months ago. So he just nodded and opened an arm to pull her in.
He woke up around nine to the normal sounds of their apartment on the weekends. The tv on low in the other room, Max's voice on the phone, Original Cindy or Kendra would always call when Max missed a night out to recap everything, then again they also seemed to call when she'd been there, it was one of those female mysteries he was never going to understand.
He decided to leave her in piece a little while longer went to shower instead of heading out to grab food. Not to mention any talk/fight they might have he'd rather be walking for it.
Her voice on the phone was gone by the time he finally finished exiting their room almost forty minutes later, the sound of the tv replaced by the radio with no other sounds filling the apartment. He paused once he reached the living room, leaned up against the wall as he caught her unaware; it was a rarity that he treasured. Today was no different.
She sat sideways on the couch, her feet tucked underneath her as her head rested on her crossed arms as she looked out. The crossword she'd been working on, off and on all morning discarded on the table. The only thing that made this any different than any other Saturday morning was at the end of the couch tucked in between the end table and the blue chair, the drapes shut more than normal as a concession to the baby's sensitive eyes, leaving Max only a sliver to stare out.
"Morning," he said walking in.
Her head turned slowly and she smiled.
He wished it were any other day but today. He wished this could be a normal Saturday and he could just join her on the couch and barely speak for the next few hours, just recharge from the previous week. He couldn't though, no more hiding, no more running. Answers were needed, decisions had to be made. So he lowered himself into the armchair and not the couch she was sitting in the middle of.
Her smile by this time had fallen away, her head once more resting on her arms looking out instead of at him.
"Max," he said looking over at her.
" Logan," she said his name back to him as an answer, the attitude plain for him to hear in her voice since she knew they were going to talk about it.
So much for this going smoothly, he thought to himself. "Max we have to talk," he said keeping his cool.
With her head still turned she spoke, her attention neither on Logan nor the baby in which she was centered smack dab in the middle of, "You were right, I was wrong. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
Attitude unfurled a little within him as, the first three might have made him happy, but the rest just served to piss him off, this was the last thing he'd wanted or expected for their lives together. If there was anything he could do to make her just forget, he would, consequences be damned.
"Will stays, I got that."
She was using his name again, that had to be progress. Of course he didn't know that she'd only looked down at him in the passing hours that she'd had him only when it was necessary; the same went with picking him up.
"I'm not a cold-hearted bitch Logan,"
His eyes opened wider to that, drew himself out of the interpreting the scene. "I never thought you were," he said standing and moving onto the couch facing her.
Her eyes gave him the 'yea right' look as she shifted her attention to the side and him instead of outside.
He smiled and dropped his head down to the couch to be at her level and a hand went out and connected with her neck and the side of her face, "At least not about this."
She smiled softly.
His cell started to ring in their bedroom, "Ignore it," he said not moving.
"It could-" she was about to go into a list, an informant, work, family.
"Don't care, we need to talk."
A soft sigh escaped her lips on that.
His head raised up to its normal position, "So…"
She smiled and let out a small laugh at his sudden inability to find the words and the awkward moment.
He smiled and shook his head, there were a million things to discuss, what the back story would be to tell people, what they were going to do in the future, how exactly was she going to cope since only the day before she'd said she couldn't be his mother. "What the hell are we doing?" he asked with his smile still present.
"Having mutual mental breakdowns?" she jokingly smiled.
"Oh that's right," he said rather complacently. He returned her as he shook his head at her. This was probably as close to anything profound and life altering he was going to get from her today.
"Guess Will needs a real name," she added as she continued to look at him, shocking him.
He was wrong; she'd still had more in her. "William Cale's good," he smiled slightly staying in her light theme.
The corners of her lips edged upwards at the use of his last name.
"What about Zachary for a-"
Her lips fell then the house phone rang from the coffee table cutting him off.
Logan let out a single curse, amazed at how they always managed to be interrupted, "Ignore it."
She ignored his words as her hand shot out to grab the phone before it woke the baby, she flipped off the ringer, but pressed talk as she looked down at the screen, "It's the paper," she said handing off the phone.
He frowned taking it and having no choice, but talking to the other person.
She watched Logan try to get out of whatever it was they were asking him, watched a moment of quick enthusiasm followed by regret as he turned down whatever they were asking about Senator Richardson.
"Look, now's really not the best time-" he was explaining to his editor over the phone.
"Just go," she said simply.
"Max," he began and then realized he was still on the phone, "let me call you back in a minute."
She waited until he go off and was about to open his mouth, "Go. This is what you wanted isn't it?" Suddenly she was feeling like a 50's housewife, home with the kid, but that was what he wanted wasn't it?
"What time did they want you?"
" 10:30," he answered
"You're gonna be late if you don't go now."
The guilt hit her and replaced the anger at being forced into a role she didn't want, she couldn't handle, he hadn't worked for real in over a week and a half, even his uncle wouldn't stand for that, especially when it had to do with something important, which Max knew the senator was. "Go before you're fired," she said calmly and handed him back the phone.
She saw the worry in his eyes as he looked in on her in the living room, clicker in hand as she flipped through the stations trying to find anything halfway interesting to watch, the baby still tucked to the side asleep.
"I shouldn't be too long," he said standing at the entrance to the living room dressed in a gray suit and blue tie signaling the importance of this interview.
With obvious disinterest at his words she allowed her eyes to roll over the silver travel mug in his hand, "You should probably eat something, won't look too good to the senator if your stomach starts to growl in the middle of your interview."
He sighed at that and allowed his head to fall at an angle, nice to know they were back to where they were last night, he pulled two granola bars out of his pocket, the closet thing he could find to travel breakfast food. "Call-"
She looked up from the magazine once more and smiled trying to put him at ease, "Go already."
"Bye," he nodded and contained the urge to walk over and at least tuck in the infant he hadn't been apart from since those first few hours of the newborn's life.
Another smile, this one a goodbye as her attention returned to the magazine.
She fed the baby and carried him into the bedroom before she headed off to the shower. Hoping a shower would help to get rid of some of this...whatever it was…Unease, despair, misplaced anger. She was guessing though if her ride last night hadn't helped nothing would, but it didn't hurt to try.
Her mind halfway managed to successfully turn off somewhere between the shampoo and conditioner. She was in a semi relaxed state just standing under the water looking up as the cd she turned on played drowning out what was left of the thoughts in her head.
His cry shot her head down and her eyes open, that same 'something's wrong' cry he'd done while she and Logan were taking their bath. Water turned off, towel went wrapped around her and she was by his side before the chorus of the song completed.
"What's wrong?" she asked as she slipped an arm underneath him sure to catch the blanket this time to limit his contact with her wet skin.
He quieted instantly, his eyes focused upwards towards her.
She laughed softly as she sank down onto the bed with him, "Were you just lonely?" she asked in a teasing voice.
His hands flared out looking for something to grab, her finger automatically went to his hand to allow him to grab on.
"It's okay," she said to the child now once more completely happy, "you're not alone. I'm here." Her voice paused for a second, "I'm not going anywhere."
Okay that's the end. Or at least I think it is. I'd be more sure about it if I liked the chapter, even my final lines, which are kinda almost the lines I always had in mind didn't work for me. That's how I wanted to it to end though, a nice simple, almost uncomplicated moment between Max and Will while everything else is so uncomplicated. Nothing's really settled, there are nine and a half million questions left to answer and whatnot.
Oh well. I hope you enjoyed and you know I'd love it if you left a review and told me what you thought or hell even just that you read the story. :-D Thanks for reading!