Pointless little bit of Christmas nothingness that came to me when I was trying to talk people into coming up with a challenge. Wasn't going to post bc my computer has decided to have a meltdown, but I figured with the last few hours of Xmas remaining why not finish it. It's not great…Kinda pretty dumb in parts, but hey it's just a little Christmas story.


The Big Picture

Great, he thought as his eyes started to open…The start of another day, the sarcastic tone present even in his own mind.

He'd probably be a lot happier if everyone wasn't quite so cheery.

He debated closing his eyes again.

Couldn't do it…Just because it was the holidays didn't mean there weren't still a million things to do. Hell, the holidays seemed to have tripled his workload. Apparently bad guys missed the 'Goodwill towards man.'

The fake charities, the stores who took layaway payments and then jacked up the price at the end…There had been a rash of burglaries, but those had been in a well-off area, Eyes Only didn't need to worry about that, the cops would take care of it.

Holiday themed atrocities atop of the normal ones.

Merry freakin Christmas to all…

He groaned.

He stopped and gave a confused look as he was mid-stretch.

What was that?

A look down.

Nah, that was insane.

He was feeling the woven blankets on his arm. Not his toes.

Phantom sensation, hethought still lying there perplexed. It had gone away after the exo, but it must have returned.

That warm, almost cuddly feeling wasn't from his flannel pants, just the warmth he was feeling covered in so many blankets and he was simply thinking he felt it there.

Yea, just ignore it Cale.

You know better by now.

His hands placed to his sides. He pulled himself up into a seating position.

Okay seriously…

He stopped again and looked down at his covered legs.

He blinked as his toes twitched.

Stared at them for another moment and watched it again. Covers flew off.

Cooler air hit his exposed toes and they curled in response.

What the hell was going on?

He swung his legs over to the side and cautiously went to stand.

He slowly pushed up and braced himself for the fall he expected.

Then stared down at the straight legs and feet on the cool wood floors.

One step, two…He looked down and smiled, hell he was about to break out in a jig.

"Sure you can walk, but can you fly?"

From walking to jumping in no time flat.

He blinked quickly, but as his eyes opened his uncle was still there.

This was not good.

"Surprised to see me Junior?" Logan's shock and discomfort obviously amused his uncle a great deal.

"Uncle Jonas…" Logan said simply standing in a pair of red plaid pajama bottoms and mismatched black tee-shirt with a faded logo.

"Glad to know you haven't forgotten me," he nodded. "So what's a man got to do to get a drink around here? Die? Oh wait, that right I already did that," he chuckled still highly amused by his sense of humor, which apparently hadn't improved any in the afterlife.

Logan simply stared.

"Junior," his voice snapped his nephew back to attention.

"Drink?" Logan repeated the word from earlier.

"Good man," he nodded, "I don't suppose you happen to have any of that bourbon still left that I gave you last year?"

"Sorry."

He sighed. "Well what do you have?" his uncle started heading for the door.

Logan turned to grab his glasses from the nightstand.

"You're a paralyzed man walking and having a conversation with his dead uncle…Do you really think you need those?"

Logan's hand froze.

His uncle scoffed, "And you were supposed to be the future of our family…" and left Logan to follow him out of the room.

-o-o-o-

"Such a waste," his uncle sighed viewing Logan as he poured two stiff drinks for them both.

Logan was confused yet again. He hadn't spilled any…

"You were given the world on a silver platter…" He took the drink, "Money, good family," he took a sip, "good looks, intelligence…So I've been told," another sip as he turned, "And this is how you chose to live your life." He looked around, "A bullet in your back for people that would sacrifice you in a second to save their own asses," he sighed and shook his head.

"At least I can look at myself in the mirror," Logan retorted with.

Jonas turned with a smile, "Oh I looked at myself just fine...It was a community service Logan, those men deserved to die. They were unrepentant criminals."

"They were human beings."

His uncle dismissed him with a wave of his hand.

Logan took a sip of his drink, feeling the anger fully replace the shock.

"You were always such a curious boy and you haven't asked me why I'm here yet," his uncle said walking away from him.

Logan followed and hated himself for it, "You actually have a reason and this isn't just a common nightmare?"

"You dream of me on a regular basis Junior?" Jonas's lips twitched up and he seated himself behind Logan's computer. "Nice to know I haven't been forgotten…Though maybe your mother was right in wanting to send you to that shrink."

"I never went to a shrink," Logan said as he was curious to what his uncle was up to.

"I said wanted. Your father wouldn't allow her."

"My mother never wanted-"

"You didn't cry," his uncle cut in annoyed with this discussion already, "one of your closest friends died and you didn't cry. Your father told her you were finally becoming a man and to leave it at that."

Todd, he'd been twelve…Had a little too much fun at his brother's party and took a pill he shouldn't have, took several in fact.

He'd been worried if he cried a little, he wouldn't be able to stop and he'd just been so angry…

"So much trouble for such a little thing," Jonas's voice pulled Logan out of the memory.

A picture of Max was up on the screen. The first picture of Max, a frozen video from that first day.

"Maybe you really are a Cale…We have a problem with beautiful things…" he looked wistfully at her as he remembered all the exquisite things from his own life.

"What's Max got to do with any of this?" Then again what was this?

He turned, "The problem with my 'community service' is apparently they thought I was so good at it down here that I should continue it up there," he pointed upwards.

Logan leaned up against a table and looked over with crossed arms, like the pissed off teenager he'd once been, "So what you're here to help me with my problems with Max? Things are actually going pretty well between us, expect for that whole I touch her I die thing."

His uncle shrugged and stood, "Nothing I can do to help you with that."

"So why are you here?"

"To remind you of things," his uncle nodded and walked out of the room leaving Logan once more to follow.

"What things?"

"Your past, your present, your future…You hide from it all Logan," his uncle picked up a wood carving his mother had brought home from her travels with his father, she'd picked it up in a market in Morocco. "Their things, but not them."

"Well they're dead," like you should be.

"Not a single photograph, not that I was every a big fan of photographs they always made me look a little rotund."

I think that was the alcohol and not the photograph's fault.

"You just don't see the big picture Logan..." his uncle sighed, "And apparently it's my job to show it to you."

"What do you-"

Whoa, his mind thought aloud as he was instantly in his parents' house. Surrounded by chintz, antiques and his family…

The traditional Christmas tree complete with circling train and packages galore, wrapping paper of every color scattered around six well dressed, but seemingly insane children, including himself as he paused in his dives underneath the tree to scratch underneath the collar of his green argyle sweater.

The parents, his own, an already balding Jonas (though with chestnut colored waves instead) and Margo, his aunt Natalie and her husband David. They all sat around sipping their coffee laced with enough booze to make the squeals of excited children tolerable so early in the morning.

Judging his family as an outsider he would have assumed they would have made the event more orderly and organized, but they didn't. They allowed the children to dive into their gifts once they were all properly dressed, a few biscuits and drinks tided the adults over long enough for the kids to unwrap their gifts and Christmas could begin. His uncle and father always said, "Let the boys be boys," and allowed them to dive like civilized madmen into the pile of gifts. If their wives or sister or brother-in-law had ever thought to complain, they must have come to their senses in time and kept their mouths shut.

Occasionally a parent stopped in their snack and accepted a gift from one of the kids ranging from preschool to middle school.

He looked back over at himself instead of studying all of those formally distant memories suddenly before him.

What was he? Five, six?

He remembered that sweater, it itself hadn't been scratchy, it had been from the heat of the white shirt underneath and the sweater, it had made it almost unbearable.

'Do you like your present Mommy?' young Logan asked looking back away from his gifts for only a moment.

'I do,' she smiled and nodded and tucked back a strand of hair to show her son the sapphire earrings now being worn. A join effort between his father's account at a local jewelers, his nanny, himself and a stepstool. 'I love them both,' she raised up the small pinecone wreath/picture frame that was getting green and red glitter across her skirt.

The grownup Logan walked up behind his mother as the younger Logan turned around to open more gifts. He looked down at the picture, summer vacation at a rented villa in the Mediterranean. His mother had pulled off the large floppy hat and sunglasses she'd been wearing to take the photograph, they rested against him as he was positioned in front of her white dress making his tan look even darker. He and his father were a dark golden tan, but his mother held just the slightest glow. Protective of her skin at such a young age, preparing for an old age that would never come.

"You didn't need to bother Mom," Logan whispered and saw her shiver as if she felt him behind her.

He walked around to the front of the chairs, 'You okay sweetheart?' his father asked leaning in to her. His father, the Cale family's golden boy. The title was supposed to have passed to him, but he'd run away from it.

Tan with short golden waves, a perfect target for his brother's envy. Blue eyes compassionately looked into green as he stroked a creamy white cheek.

'Just a cold chill,' she smiled.

They were so young, he thought squatting before them.

The perfect golden couple.

They should have been the ones to survive.

"You never grow old…You're always like this," he said looking at their close faces as they looked right through him, his father now warming his mother with an arm around her shoulders. "Not even ten years. Ten years and then you're just gone forever..."

They both frowned slightly.

"Look at you," his uncle's pompous voice called out. He walked towards Logan as he stood and turned. "Here you are in one of your happiest memories and you're telling them how they left you, ignoring the fact that they're here, right now they're here. Look at them. Smiling and watching you, they're there in that moment, who cares where they are a decade from now…You're missing the big picture."

"Wouldn't the big picture be that they died, they where here then, but they weren't later."

"Oh who cares about later, look at them now."

Logan turned back, his mother was curled into his father's side, they hadn't loved like that when he was older, he'd almost forgotten they ever had.

He looked at himself, playing on the floor, already ramming a truck into his cousin's even though there were more gifts left to be opened.

"We were happy," he whispered.

"Almost disgustingly so," his uncle agreed.

Amongst the nannies, the private schools, the sleep away camps, the business trips, the social functions, the housekeeper and everything else, he'd forgotten that. They'd been happy, they were a happy family. A happy family that had ended because landing gear had gotten stuck…

'I cried then Mom,' Logan said squatting down before her. 'Not in front of anyone else, but I cried,' he reassured her.

She let out a soft sigh. Her eyes refocused, ' Logan, sweetheart open that big gold one,' she pointed towards the side of the tree.

"Okay enough of the family togetherness; I think I may be sick soon."

-o-o-o-

"Can you give me some warning before you do that?" Logan snapped, annoyed to find himself back in his cold and empty apartment instead of with his family.

'There's something on the table for you,' he heard his own voice.

'Why Logan Cale did you get me a Christmas gift?' her voice was so light and teasing…

The present day Logan turned and felt the feelings of the old and past rush through him.

She had such a cocky walk, that little swagger to it…

She had kissed him…

The past thoughts rushed through him as the other Logan followed her…She had kissed him…kissed him and then saved his life.

'Figured it was the least I could do,' his own voice held a tinge of cockiness, a joking as if it didn't really matter, when it had always mattered so much.

'Gasoline,' she laughed and turned back. 'You shouldn't have,' she joked.

'Hey,' he said with a pointed hand, 'I want those canisters back.'

She rolled her eyes.

'There's something else,' he nodded, 'look in the folder.'

'The Roosevelt Veteran's Hospital in Louisville, Idaho?'

'There was a influx of staff and patients between 1998 and 2002, the majority of the patients were female,' he supplied.

'Are you saying you think my mother was one of those patients?'

'I don't know, main records aren't online. Just names, I haven't been able to pull up much past history on either the staff or the patients. It might be a lead though, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with Manticore.'

She smiled and nodded down looking at the folder.

'It could just be a waste of time though,' he reminded.

'Worth a try,' she shrugged. 'Guess you deserve this,' he watched her nostrils puff out a little with that breath.

Both Logans smiled, but only one was able to think what was going on is his heart. You know you love someone when a nostril puff is so incredibly adorable and charming.

Her bag was slung a little more gently than normal off her back and dropped down on the table.

First a bottle emerged and she presented it like a bottle of wine.

'Truffle oil?' The past Logan chuckled.

'Not done yet,' Max stood it up on the table and went back into her bag as he looked up with waiting eyes.

'Supposedly it's the good stuff,' she said as she pulled out a small tin.

Astara Sevruga Caviar, the tin read.

'Where did you get this?' He asked taking it from her.

'Do you really want to know?' she asked with a cocked head.

He looked down and then up, 'Probably not.'

'So explain to me the whole fish eggs thing,' she asked dropped down to a chair as he continued to look it over in his hands.

'It's an acquired taste,' he answered honestly. 'I should probably put this in the fridge,' he looked down at it again.

'We're not going to try it now?'

'Somehow I don't think you're going to like fish eggs plain and I don't have anything here to eat it with.' He started to wheel away and she stood to follow. 'I'll send Bennett into do a little recon while I distract Aunt Margo tomorrow. Maybe they'll have something.'

'Ah so you're going to the Cale Clan's tomorrow,' she said as he put it away.

'Unfortunately yes,' he turned.

'So who's going to be there?' she asked hopping up onto the counter with questioning eyes.

'Just my aunt and uncle, two of my cousins and my cousin, Steven's wife.'

'How many cousins do you have?'

'Two on my mother's side, four on my father's now.'

'Now?'

'My youngest cousin, Brittany was on the plane with my parents and my aunt when it crashed.'

The older Logan watched with interest how detached the other Logan appeared to be, how detached he forced himself to be.

He realized now that was why it was so difficult to be around Brittany. The elder Brittany might have been older and with brown hair, but just the name brought everything so long buried to the surface. Everything he struggled to keep buried.

He noticed the pain now in Max's eyes, it wasn't pity like he assumed then. It was simply pain. 'I'm sorry.'

He shot down her attempt at compassion, 'It was a long time ago,' he responded curtly.

The observing Logan watched the pain flash through Max's eyes and saw her throw up the walls.

'I guess I'll let you get back at it then,' she hopped down.

Damn it Logan, you fool. He watched her walking away.

'If you're not in a rush,' Logan said stopping her in her tracks, 'I could probably whip up a truffle oil vinaigrette,' the words rushed out, the only ones he could think of. 'I'm sure there's some stuff I could throw together. If you wanted to try it.'

She turned slowly and a smile followed suit, 'I could be persuaded to stay,' she smiled.

There was a well-hidden sigh of relief as he turned to once more open his fridge.

"God you're stupid…You don't see what's right in front of you," Logan said to himself as he sat on the stool next to Max. "You don't see how you hurt her," he stroked her cheek. God he missed her skin.

"She's right there waiting for you to make your move," Logan shook his head still looking at her.

'So you want any help or anything?' she asked.

'Um maybe,' Logan said still peering into the fridge, 'as soon as I have any idea what I'm doing,' he chuckled.

"You know talking to yourself is a sign of insanity," Jonas finally said coming over to join them instead of watching from the sidelines.

"So is talking to dead people," he covered Max's hand with his own.

"She turns your brain to mush…Your education was over a quarter of a million dollars…And this is what your parents got for it," his uncle said obviously appalled by it.

"Remind me why you're here?" Logan asked turning.

Suddenly his hand went cold and he looked down, the warmth of hers was now gone and it was once more the two men alone in the penthouse.

"Where is she this year?"

Logan froze, he'd tried calling her, but she kept putting off seeing him.

"Hey where you goin Boo?" OC asked walking out into the living room as Max pushed her bike towards the door.

"Thought I'd go for a ride," she nodded.

OC rubbed the side of her head, her mind still not up and fully running yet. "You gonna hit up the annual Christmas Eve Smorgasbord over at Charlie's?" The local restaurant by their job, an all you could eat deal.

"Might," she nodded again, itching to get out of the apartment.

"Swiped a few candy canes from the last house I delivered to yesterday, if you want to take a few over to Joshua."

"Already scored one," she patted her pocket.

"Kay well I'm gonna go into work…Sure you don't want to join? Tips are damn good on Christmas Eve."

It was a Saturday, they weren't required to work unless they were on the skeleton shift Normal kept for Saturdays, but Normal highly encouraged it.

"Not today…You should get ready for work, no one's going to tip you if you show up like that," Max flicked a finger up.

"Haha, fine. But page me with your plans. Don't want to sit around waiting for you all night."

Logan watched as Cindy went back into her room and Max went out the door. "So are we going to follow her?" he asked his uncle.

"Why, she's just going to do as she said, go for a ride."

"Okay so what was the point of this?"

"I don't know Logan, I just know past, present and future…This is your present."

Logan shook his head, "Okay so then what's my future."

The room suddenly went quiet. Original Cindy's muffled noises from the room next door stopped as did all sound.

He walked over to the window and saw nothing. No movement, nothing. The cars were still there, but everything was still.

"What the hell is going on?" he asked.

His uncle simply raised his eyebrows. Logan headed for the door, he opened it and was hit with a horrible smell, he pulled up the shirt to cover his nose. Decaying meat?

"Decomposing flesh," his uncle followed making a face.

"What the hell happened?" Logan asked turning, still muffled by his shirt.

"I can't tell you that. I can just tell you that this is the future if things don't change."

"What's supposed to change?" Logan asked dropped his shirt to yell.

Once more he was in his apartment.

"Thank god that smell was horrible," his uncle said taking a deep breath.

"So tell me how to prevent it!"

"I can't do that Junior. You have to figure that out yourself. I can just tell you, you have to change."

Change what! He was about to scream.

"Something's going to happen and you're going to behave like you always do."

"What's going to happen?"

"I can't tell you that either, if you follow your instincts…"

"You can't be serious," Logan just looked at his uncle in shock.

"I can tell you, it'll happen soon, after that it's up to you."

"Are you-"

"Don't make the same mistakes I did Logan," he walked back into the office and to the picture of Max. "You know where your aunt is right now?"

After what his uncle had just shown him, he was talking about Margo?

"In bed with her tennis instructor. I never could figure out why her game didn't improve after five years of lessons…" He sat down, "But that one…how she looks at you…"

"What the-"

The curse was still on Logan's lips as his eyes flew open.

He moved to jump out of bed, but his body didn't comply.

Dammit!

God did he drink last night? He wondered as the dream was already fading from his mind.

He rubbed his face and made a move to transfer into the chair. God he could still feel the wood under his feet…

-o-o-o-

He paused in the kitchen as he was making his breakfast, looking at the olive oil. He remembered launching bottle of Truffle Oil clear across the room after she'd died.

He stopped what he was doing and made his way to the phone and punched in her pager number.

-o-o-o-

"What's up?" she asked as he picked up the phone five minutes later.

"I wanted to know if you had plans for tonight."

She hesitated, "I told OC I'd hit up Charlie's with her." She paused and then spoke again when he didn't despite herself, "Why?"

"Well I was thinking of picking up a six pack and a couple of pizzas. No touching, no possibilities of a stray germ touching me, no dishes to wash later, an impossible to contaminate meal."

"Pizza on Christmas Eve?" she sounded disbelieving.

"It's not really about the food, it's about the company. So what do you say?"

"I don't know…"

"Come on Max," he coaxed, "opposite ends of the table I swear. You can even carry your own garbage to the shoot."

She laughed, "I'll talk to OC."

"I'll see you at 7? 8?"

"Seven's good," he could almost hear her smile across the phone.

-o-o-o-

She was hunkered down on the cold concrete floor by the large Christmas tree covered in various bits of decorated paper, including paper chains he'd spent a few hours making with her. She was trying to explain, not for the first time, that dolls were for playing with and not for use in mock battle set ups.

They still didn't get that whole mom/dad/family thing despite the fact that several tvs had been set up around Terminal City, so playing house was still a foreign concept to them.

Trying to teach a child to be a child was harder than he had ever imagined.

They all kept trying though.

Teaching them to not be scared when they started laughing, especially in the presence of adults. To run around, be loud, be creative. They had been taught to be creative, but only in instances where it suited their instructors.

The floors were scattered with rag dolls, whistles, spinning tops…Anything the adults could think of to make, the older kids had gotten involved as well. Not everyone of course, but more got involved than they had expected.

People had started to laugh and bond in joy instead of fear and hard work as they had for so many months beforehand.

People like Mole still stood on the sidelines and scoffed.

He was in the minority though. Others made board games, rattles, dolls, play dough like substances, a goop like creation that even the adults were using to make farting noises.

Christmas cheer had spread through TC like a disease and he, Logan Cale was one of the infected.

He for once finally saw everything he did have.

He had a dream last Christmas, one that had faded into a distant memory rapidly. He had barely even remembered it when he'd been so wrapped up in his own pain, the sense of staggering loss and betrayal that had come with believing he had lost Max to Alec.

Then he'd been on the phone with his cousin.

His aunt had come up…Her finances. Bennett had wondered the point of paying for tennis lessons when she never seemed to get any better.

He'd remembered the dream then.

Something was supposed to change.

He was supposed to change.

That's when it had become clear.

His first instinct had been to say, 'Fuck you,' and walk away from her as she had done to him.

To run away when things got tough, to hide, to pack up the pain and shove it down so deep that he almost forgot it was there.

Maybe he had shut down afterwards. But he stayed, not with the cause, but with her. He stayed and he allowed himself to slowly see the truth.

It had hurt like hell, but he had stayed.

-o-o-o-

There was Max on the outside and Max behind closed doors…

Maybe she wasn't so different from Max on the outside…Controlling as all hell, joking/cocky…But this one was pretty damn affectionate and a major flirt.

Leaning up against the desk that resided in the room they shared when he stayed overnight in TC. Leaning against that desk which he had spent many hours behind, Max wearing a pair of jeans, a black v-neck and a red bow dangling down from her neck and of course a conceited little smile.

He smiled in appreciation.

"I'm taking it that means you like your Christmas gift?"

It was the last full sentence she spoke for awhile.

-o-o-o-

"What's wrong?" he asked upon waking to see her sitting on the bed with her knees pulled up, he sat up and kissed her shoulder and slid an arm around her waist.

She didn't lean back into him as she normally did, "Just thinking."

"About what?" he asked as he moved the hair away from the side of her face to better see her.

She shrugged.

"Max," he simply said her name.

"Same old questions Logan," her face betrayed itself and she allowed the emotions she normally kept so hidden to show.

"Max, I hate to break it to you. There are a lot of the same old questions."

"What happens if this is our last Christmas Logan?" she said it quickly, as if taking too long would give it more power than it already had.

"Well then," he kissed her shoulder, "it was a good Christmas. It's not such a bad one to go out on."

She sighed and leaned back.

"There's a good chance it won't be Max."

"So what happens if it isn't?"

A stroke along her arm as he debated his answer.

"What then Logan?" she asked quickly turning out of his arms. "Where do we go? What do we do? Are we supposed to just stay here?"

"I don't know," he stroked her cheek.

"Real useful Cale," she jokingly mocked.

He laughed, "We'll figure something Max, contrary to popular opinion it's a big world. We'll find somewhere they'll have never even heard of the word transgenic."

She rolled her eyes.

"At least in our language," he threw in.

She laughed.

"You're missing the big picture," he said with another kiss to her shoulder and pulled her back in, "we're together. Right here, right now, it's just you and me."

She smiled looking at him, "That is the big picture isn't it?"

"It's the only thing I see that matters," he kissed her.

-o-o-o-

"Transgénicos," she said some time later.

He chuckled, "Ou transgéniques?"

She groaned.

He wrapped his arms around her tighter, "The big picture Max," he reminded in a low voice.

This was all that mattered, all that would ever really matter.


I hope everyone to whom it applies had a good holiday and everyone else, had a good normal day! Thanks for reading.