Original Cindy turned to Herbal, "Have you ever noticed," she began, "how my homegirl goes crazy every few months, just 'bout the same time?" Sketchy opened his mouth just as Cindy pointed her finger at him. "And don't you even try to lay that tired old PMS bullshit on me! This ain't about Max getting bitchy...it's all about my girl going from borderline Femi-Nazi to a little freaker, trying to get her groove on!" Herbal nodded sagely, "'Tis something deepah here, but all manners of all tings will be well..." Original Cindy rolled her eyes and glanced toward the bar, "Does that look like all things are well?" she asked. The three friends looked over at Max, surrounded by the usual riff-raff that hung out at the bar. She was laughing, flashing her jewel-like eyes around the room, sending out signals to every available man in the place. Herbal just shook his head. Cindy sat back in her chair, "Exactly," she said, "that's not the Max I know."
Max looked across the room at her friends. They all looked so down, and she knew why. It was getting harder to explain her actions when she went into heat, she couldn't let them know too much, or they might accidentally give her away. She hadn't planned on this happening, she had just come in to hang with her friends from Jam Pony, and the it had hit her from out of nowhere. Now she was closed in on all sides by willing male flesh, and it was almost too much to bear. Her body was crying out for something she had never had, something she had never allowed herself to follow through. Max had been able to keep control ever since the heat started a few years back, but she knew she was at the edge tonight. "Careful, girl," she thought, "or this could end badly." The animal instinct hidden in her DNA was trying to take over, she wasn't even attracted to any of these men, but her body told her it was time to breed. Her convictions wavered....then she picked the Alpha male from among the crowd of admirers and made her way to the dance floor.
Lying alone in his bed, Logan reflected on the past few months and how much everything had changed. His confinement to the wheelchair was at the top of the list. His ex-wife showing up out of the blue. The incident at the genetics conference. And Max, of course. He wasn't sure what there was between them. He knew how he felt, but had never found the right time to broach the subject with Max. Logan heaved a sigh and reached for the syringe next to the bed, it was time for another injection. Just last week he had come across a paper published on the Internet about how surgery combined with gene therapy had cured some paraplegics. After researching the doctor involved, Logan had decided that he had nothing to lose and made an appointment to be screened for the surgery. He hadn't told anyone about his decision, just in case it didn't work. The surgery had gone well, it was very minor, considering what it promised to accomplish. That was two days ago, and he felt no pain from the wound on his back, but the gene therapy / hormone injections were another story. The liquid itself was thick, syrupy, and it bruised where he injected himself. But after only two days, he swore he could feel some sensitivity coming back into his legs. Earlier, he had realized that his feet were cold. His feet hadn't been cold since he was shot...so that must be a good sign. Logan slid the needle into his right thigh and slowly depressed the plunger. He gritted his teeth in response to the pain, then gasped as he realized that the shot hurt. It hurt! He could feel the thick liquid forcing it's way into his tissues....
Max felt like she was slowly being crushed to death. The Alpha male she had chosen to dance with was huge, and he obviously had never heard of personal space, because he was pressed tight against her. The hidden animal in her was excited by such a show of power, but Max, herself, was repulsed by this man. She willed herself to push away from him, to walk away, to exert her human side and bring herself under control. But Alpha males don't like being rejected. He reached out his massive hand and caught her by the upper arm, pulling her back against him. "Where do you think you're going?" he growled. Surprised by his anger, Max just stared at him. "You think I'm done with you?" he asked. "You teased and teased back at the bar and now you aren't going anywhere until I say you can!" Max felt her rage building up inside, but she couldn't let it out in front of everyone. If she dropped this punk, then everyone would know she wasn't just a normal girl. But what the hell, if she had to put up with him much longer she might slip back into her subservient role. And who knew what might happen then? "Let go of me!" Max snarled, pushing him away. As he stumbled back, caught off guard, Max fled the dance floor. She headed for the door, slowing only to grab her helmet from the rack next to the bar. Throwing open the door, she was out in the night, making a beeline for her baby, the Ninja. Behind her, the door crashed open, and big boy was fast on her tail. Max glanced around, no one in sight, so she slowed a bit, waiting. As he grabbed for her, she spun around and tossed him easily over her shoulder. Max leaned down, savoring the stunned look in his eyes. She squeezed his throat lightly with one hand and whispered, "No means no, sooner you learn that...then the sooner I can stop kicking your ass!" Big boy squirmed a bit, until Max applied a little more pressure to his windpipe. "Are you ready to quit now?" she asked sweetly. He gave her a sullen look, but slowly nodded. "Good," she said, "now don't ever let me see you hanging out here again. Got it?" He nodded again and Max released his throat. He scrambled away from her, coughing, then got to his feet and ran. Max grinned and climbed on her baby. Revving it up, she thought for a moment about where to go. The heat was still on her and Kendra had her man back at the apartment tonight. "Well," Max thought, "I can always go to Logan's...I know I'll be safe there." She peeled out of the parking lot and headed uptown.
Logan sat on the edge of his bed, stretching out his legs one at a time. He was grinning like a maniac and wanted to just get up and dance, but he knew that he had lost a bit of muscle over the last two months. His thigh muscles felt incredibly tight and his calves were in knots. But he welcomed the pain, knowing that the deep ache in his muscles was a miracle, it was a physical reminder that he was whole again. Logan finally couldn't wait any longer, he pulled the hated wheelchair over to him. Using it like a walker, he slowly stood up, balancing his weight between the chair and his own legs. Shakily, he took his first step in two months. Then another, making his way across the room. Logan was glad he had kept up on his physical therapy since the shooting, if he hadn't, well, he might've been in a heap on the carpet before the first step. He kept going, crossing the room back and forth, feeling the strength flooding back into his legs bit by bit. Logan laughed like a child, he couldn't wait to see Max's face when he showed her that he could walk again.
Max pulled up in front of Logan's building. Shutting down the engine, she removed her helmet and looked up, seeing the lights on in his apartment. She drifted for a moment, thinking back to the night she and Logan had met. He had been so surprised when she went out his window, landing on her feet far below. She had been equally surprised when Logan had showed up at Jam Pony, looking for her. Original Cindy loved to tease Max about her rich 'boyfriend' since Max usually bristled at the word. But, when she was alone, she had to admit that she felt something for Logan. She wasn't sure what it was that she felt, but she was sure of one thing, it scared the hell out of her.
Max dismounted from her baby and headed into the building, trying hard not to turn her full attention on the doorman. Poor old guy would probably drop dead if she came onto him. She entered the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor, hoping she could ride to the top alone. When the doors opened onto Logan's floor, Max heard music coming from his apartment. She groaned, hoping that Logan didn't have company, she just couldn't deal with that right now.
Forcing the door open, she entered without knocking, calling out, "Logan? It's Max...where are you?". She heard a noise from the living room and headed in that direction, hoping that Logan hadn't fallen from his chair again. He hated to appear helpless in front of anyone. Max poked her head around the corner and came face to face with Logan, he was sitting in his chair just inside the doorway. "Gotcha!" he laughed, rolling backwards a few feet. Max had jumped a little and now she blushed, embarrassed that he had caught her. Logan spun his chair a few times, "I was just about to page you," he said, "and now here you are! Is it luck? Or fate?" Max frowned at him, he was acting strangely...way too upbeat for the Logan she knew. "It was neither," she answered, "I just didn't have anywhere else to go that I knew was safe." Logan's eyes darkened, "Are you OK? You're not in any trouble, are you?" "Yes...I mean no, I...well, I'm mostly OK and not in any trouble that I can't handle." Logan looked puzzled. Max sighed and said, "It's the same trouble I'm in every month when the moon is full....get it? I'm in heat and I can't be out there right now. I nearly got into it at the bar and I have to just lay low until this passes." Now Logan looked a little more subdued to Max, she thought he was embarrassed by her being in heat, but that wasn't it at all. Logan was down because he realized that he couldn't surprise Max with his newly recovered ability to walk. If she realized that he was whole again, then she wouldn't feel safe with him. He decided to wait until morning, until Max had come out of heat, to tell her his good news.
They spent the rest of the night sitting in Logan's living room, talking about everything under the sun. Logan opened up about his family and his ex-wife. Max spoke of Manticore in more detail than she ever had before. They found out quite a bit about each other that they hadn't known before. Max held herself together admirably, with only a few slips. Once, when the animalistic urges became too strong to hold in check, Max leaned over and placed her hands on Logan's chest. She unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt and slipped her hands inside. Logan held very still, and spoke softly to her, trying to call her back from wherever the rational Max had gone. She whimpered as she stroked his skin, "Please Logan, just let me touch you for a moment...I need to feel flesh against me...I won't hurt you...just let me work this out of my system." Logan took Max by the wrists and said, "That's enough, Max...this isn't you...just stop." Max squirmed on the couch, the hunger plain on her face. Finally, she withdrew her hands and sat back, panting.
"Sorry," she said, obviously embarrassed, "I thought I had it under control." "It's OK," Logan answered, "I'm going to go make us something to eat...I'll be back." He rolled out of the living room, tortured by what he had just witnessed. He would've given anything to have Max approach him like that, but not during her heat, it would've been nothing but physical, and he wanted more than that from her. He set about the business of preparing food and forced himself not to think of what had almost happened in the other room. If he had been any weaker...well, who knows where it might have led?
Max sat on the couch, overwhelmed with emotions. Embarrassment, lust, sorrow, and many more all twisted inside her. She thought about how she felt as she touched Logan's bare skin. How the flame of excitement had flared inside her body. How much she had wanted him to hold her, to touch her like she had touched him. Her thoughts were skipping over all the times she had seen Logan, all the way back to the first time. She realized that she had felt that flame burn a little brighter each time she had been close to him. It was slowly growing stronger over time. Suddenly it all became clear to her...this was what love felt like...she loved Logan. Max gripped her head in her hands...how was she supposed to deal with this? Every day was a timebomb to her, she never knew when someone would show up and try to rip her world apart. And ever since the incident with Brin and Lydecker, Max had been worried that she would develop some horrible disease. That the genome would betray her like it had Brin, and several others in the group. Could she bring Logan even deeper into this than he already was? Would she want him to be in harm's way just so they could be together? Would Logan even feel the same about her? Max felt like her head was splitting open.
Logan rolled through the doorway with a tray across the arms of his wheelchair. He saw Max with her head bowed and stopped just inside the room. "Max? Are you OK?" he asked. She looked up and saw such concern on his face, her heart swelled with hope...hope that this wonderful man just might love her in return. Just as quick as it had come, the heat suddenly fled. The urgency to breed was gone, but Max was surprised to find that the flame of love still burned within her heart. She stood, crossed the room and took the tray of food from Logan. She knelt in front of his chair, laid her head in his lap and started to sob like a child. Logan's hands shook as he placed them on the back of Max's head, stroking her hair. He consoled her as best he could, running his trembling hands over her hair the whole time. "Careful, Logan," Max half sobbed, half laughed, "you'll make me purr." Logan tilted her face to him, "What is going on with you? I've never seen you cry...is it the heat?" "No, that's over. I'm done for another few months....but I'm crying because I'm confused...I'm feeling something I never thought I would ever be lucky enough to feel. And I'm scared...I'm scared this feeling will kill me...it's so strong...I don't know what to do..." Logan looked deep into her eyes. He said, "Well, you should do what feels right to you...do what you want to do...you always have before. Why should this be any different?" Max realized he was right, there was no other way to do this except to go right ahead and do it, consequences be damned.
She slipped her hand around the back of Logan's neck and pulled him down to her. As her lips touched his, Max felt an electric jolt run through her body, it was like nothing she had ever felt before. Softly, she kissed Logan, expanding her senses until she could hear his heart beating faster, smell the confusion and excitement leaking from his pores. Logan broke the kiss first, looked into her eyes and asked, "Is this really you? It's not the heat? You want this?" Max blushed and replied, "I want this more than you'll ever know." She climbed onto Logan's lap and kissed him, parting her lips slightly and feeling him respond. They moved slowly, dreamily, stroking each other's face, lips, hair. Max gasped at the sensations that rocked through her body. Marveling at the fact that she was ready to give everything to this man.
She dragged her lips over his ear, whispering, "Logan, I love you. I realize now that I've been falling in love with you since the minute we met. You mean everything to me and I want to be with you...only you." Logan wrapped his arms around Max and buried his face in her hair, "God Max, I love you, too...you don't know how close I've come to telling you. But I was afraid you didn't feel the same. It's been killing me to act normal around you when all I wanted to do was pour out my heart." Max laughed and hugged him back, so happy that her heart was about to burst. "Wait," Logan said, "there's something else...stand up for a second...I've got a surprise for you..." Max stood up and backed off a few steps, watching Logan curiously. "Now close your eyes." He commanded, "and no peeking!" She covered her eyes with both hands, grinning, waiting for her surprise.
Logan carefully raised himself from his chair, pushing it a few feet away, amazed at how easy it was to stand. "OK," he said, "open your eyes...". Max peeked from between her fingers, gasped and reached for Logan. He held up his hand, "No, just watch." Moving carefully, he took a step toward her, then another, until he was encircled in her arms. Max was shocked, she kissed him deeply and cried for joy, "I...I can't believe it! When did this happen?". Logan smiled down at her, "Last night, just before you got here. I had experimental surgery a few days ago, paired with gene therapy...and, well, you can see the results!" Max grew quiet, "You were...fully functional last night? And you didn't let me..." she paused, embarrassed, "you know....even though you could've?" Logan brushed a strand of hair from Max's face, "No," he answered, "I didn't. It would've been taking advantage of you...and that's the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't tell you when you got here because I was afraid you wouldn't feel safe with me. And now, here we are, standing, holding one another...and we have something special between us...this is what I wanted. Not just the physical relationship...but the emotional one also." Max laid her head against Logan's chest, listening to her heartbeat mesh with his. "I don't deserve someone like you, Logan. You're too good for me..." "No, Max," he replied, "I'm not good enough...but we have the rest of our lives to prove we're good enough for each other..."
The sun rose over the buildings as they held one another. The world didn't seem so bad anymore, now that they had each other...