Disclaimer: I do not own anything, nothing significant at all. My net worth is a negative number. Nothing to sue here people. Move along. (imagine a hand waving).
This blackout was longer than most, and at a horrible time. Seattle was experiencing a vicious cold snap, even for the middle of February. Even the emergency generator at Fogle Towers had run out of fuel. Normally Eyes Only would be looking into why power had not been restored for so many days, although it could be that the ice storm had caused more damage than could be repaired quickly . In this particular instance it was Eyes Only that Max was worried about saving. Logan may not be willing to share the details of his condition with her, but Bling and the library had no such qualms. Heck, even his own computers yielded more information on his condition than he did; she just needed to sneak in after he had gone to bed. Good thing she didn't sleep. She knew that even under the best circumstances Logan would have trouble regulating his body temperature. A three-day blackout and the worst cold snap this century were not the best circumstances. Max did not like the cold, and everyone thought she was crazy for going out in, but as an X5 it was not dangerous to her.
Max parked her Baby in the garage next to Logan's Aztek. With only a passing thought on 'borrowing' some gas so she did not have to go stand in line in the 10 degree weather, she rushed up the stairs. By the time she reached the penthouse she was warm from the exertion.
Letting herself into the apartment, Max found Logan bundled up on the sofa, trying to read a book by candlelight. There was probably not enough light for Logan to read easily, but Max could see perfectly. She did not like what she saw. Logan was pale and shivering, he looked miserable but when he saw her he looked up and managed a smile. "Hey."
"Hey, yourself." She returned his smile. "I brought dinner. Don't worry I didn't cook it. It's not one of your masterpieces, but at least it's warm." She set the insulated bag that had, hopefully, kept their dinner warm all the way from sector 5, on the table. She unzipped the bag and triumphantly withdrew a large carafe, "and hot coffee, too!" She poured a cup and handed it to him.
"You brought some for Mrs. Moreno too?" he asked.
Max smiled. No matter how bad off he was, Logan always cared about other people. "Of course." Mrs. Moreno was one of the few residents left in Fogle Towers. She was too old, too frail or too broke to go stay at a hotel with heat, as Max had been trying to convince Logan to do for days. Perhaps now that his last laptop battery had finally died he would let her carry him down the stairs. "You start with some hot coffee and I will take this up to her. I'll be back in a minute."
She would have been back in a minute, but she forgot to factor in how long it would take Mrs. Moreno to answer her door. Max had been about to pick the lock when she finally came to the door. She felt guilty for rushing off when Mrs. Moreno was obviously lonely but she was far too worried about Logan's pallor to stay and chat. Fortunately Mrs. Moreno understood that Max's dinner was getting cold and accepted the promise to come talk … later.
When Max returned to the penthouse Logan had gotten up to get plates. His shaking hands where fumbling with the silverware as Max got in.
"Get back under the blankets right now!" Max ordered, in what she hoped was her best command voice.
"I will. I was just getting some silverware for us to eat with."
"I would have done that."
"I am NOT helpless."
"I know, but you are freezing. Logan, look at you. Your skin is pale; you are shivering, classic symptoms of hypothermia. I should call an ambulance to come get you."
"How?" he challenged. He had a point. His cell phone battery had died earlier and the phones had been out for days.
With a resigned frown Max again tried to give orders to the most stubborn man on the planet, "Then get back under those blankets right now!" If anyone could do it, it was an X5. They were bred to be officers and officers were to be obeyed! Right?
"I just need to get some forks." and he reached out with an unsteady, shivering hand to the silverware drawer. His suffering was more than Max could stand. Pushing aside the thought of why his suffering affected her so much she moved with speed that only she could. She put two forks on top of the plates on his lap, pushed his wheelchair back to the sofa and was about to pick him up when . . .
"MAX!" he shouted.
"I can do this." And far more slowly and unsteadily than Max would have liked, he did. "I'm not helpless." he muttered softly.
"I know." she soothed as she pulled the covers over him. He looked at her and she could not tell if it was anguish or frustration or irritation. Finally he spoke, "I just hate being so … dependent, helpless." and he closed his eyes.
Max tried to think of something, anything she could say to make him feel better. This was not her strong suit. She was made and trained for destruction, not comfort. Still, she owed this man her best effort, no matter how lame it may be. "Logan Cale, you are NOT helpless. I know that." Max poured him another cup of hot coffee and wrapped his cold hands around the warm cup, leaving her warm hands covering his. For warmth, she told herself. Then more softly, "I don't mean to make you feel that way."
She hoped that the warm food and the coffee would make him feel better and they ate in a companionable silence, mostly. It was broken only by the occasional small talk. Max filled him in on the state of the city. The ice storms had caused wide spread blackouts, but apparently the city was actually trying to get power back. There was no estimate on when the power at Fogle Towers would be back on again. There were not many deliveries to be made at Jam Pony, and it would have been a slow work day for Max, if she were not one of only a few riders willing to brave the cold and ice.
Once dinner was finished, and cleaned up, Max returned to where Logan was bundled up on the sofa. Logan was under every warm blanket in the penthouse, and still shivering. He looked very unhappy and very cold. Max sat down next to him.
"I'm sorry" she stated simply.
"For what?" he asked, genuinely puzzled by what she thought she could have done wrong.
With a deep sigh she tried to explain. "That I make you feel bad when I try to help you. You do so much for me; the research, the dinners, a regular supply of Tryptophan that can't be traced to me. … You do so much for me …"
" … all the time. I want to return the favor, like friends do. I know we had a quid pro quo, but neither of us have really been keeping track for a while now. … I don't know. "
"I don't mean to make you feel bad. It is not intentional. I mean, you know I, of all people, didn't have what anyone would consider a normal childhood. I guess I just do not know how to . . ."
"MAX!" his shout finally got her attention. "I am sorry."
"For what?" she asked. Déjà vu. Hadn't they just been here? Only backward?
He tried to explain. "It's not you. It's me." Max frowned as she had an unwelcome flash back to Eric.
Logan noted the frown, knew he was just screwing up again, but pressed on because it was the right thing to do. And Logan Cale always did the right thing… right? He wondered if he was shivering because of the cold, or something else. "I am just not used to needing help; at least … not at the level I need it now. You are not doing anything wrong. I am just too used to being able to take care of myself and other people too." With a deep sign of resignation, "I guess I have to get used to being a cripple."
"YOU ARE Not…" Max's immediate denial trailed off. " I mean,… I have never thought of you that way."
"Obviously not." He finally smiled. "I appreciate your help. And you are absolutely right. We do help each other. I will stop complaining about it."
Max arched an eyebrow and looked at him. "Promise?"
"I promise." he answered sincerely as he remembered another promise she had coaxed from him while they were dancing in a dream. His smile was warm and he found himself staring into her eyes.
"Good!" she said as she kicked off her shoes and climbed under the covers with him.
"Max, what are doing?" Logan asked even as part of him was screaming at him to shut up and enjoy it, whatever it was.
"Brining up your core temperature. Logan Cale, this broken world needs you far too much for me to let you die or suffer permanent damage from hypothermia. Nothing bad is going to happen to you on my watch." She snuggled up, adjusting the blankets over them. "You promised." she reminded him.
Logan smiled and wrapped his arms around her. What would it hurt to just hold her for a little while? Where would be the harm in pretending, just for a little while, that he was not broken and she were in his arms because she wanted to be, not because he was in danger of freezing to death in his own apartment. After a while he noticed her breathing become even and he let his mind wonder. He felt her warmth seeping into him. He imagined her saying softly "I need you, too." Again she was saving him, as she had so often; from Bruno, from falling off a building, from bleeding to death, from Bronck, from despair… Again she was sharing herself, her life with him. He no longer felt the cold, he only felt her. He wished more than anything that he could be a whole man for her, although he had to admit, if he was then she probably would be noticing something hard pressing against her stomach right about now. He was convinced that she was asleep. His let his mind wonder . . . pretending that he was whole, and she was his . . . He was not even aware that his hands had been caressing her until he felt a soft vibration throughout Max's body and heard a very loud PUUUUURRRRRRRR
The sound stopped abruptly as they both jumped. Pale green eyes stared into dark brown eyes and neither one of them had any clue what to say next . . . .
To be continued . . .