Diclaimer: It's not mine... le sigh...
A/N: Wow, people I am so sorry that this took so long. But, I do have a valid excuse, I recently moved from New York to California so things were pretty hectic for a while with all the planes and boxes and stuff.
Anyway, forget whatever it was I promised in the last chapter because this story I've rewritten and changed a lot sinse I posted that last chapter. But, I think it turned out alright in the end. Enjoy.
PS Sighting is being worked on still, so fear not! This is not the last you'll hear from Toblerone! Chocolate forever!
At Least This
Once again he wakes to an empty bed. Eyes not yet open, he slides a hand over the empty space she has left. The glowing red digits of her alarm clock inform him that it is half past nine in the morning. He hasn't slept this late in a while. He like to get an early start on his investigations normally, he sees no reason to waste precious hours snoozing. He does not think he will get much work done today though.
Seeing no point in laying awake in Max's (surprising comfortable) bed without her with him, he sits up and begins to move his lifeless legs. For moment he allows himself to stare down at his feet touching her floor, dishearteningly observing how skinny they've gotten. He wonders if Max noticed, and if it bothered her at all. Sure, her attention had mostly seemed to be focused on his upper torso, where he still has sensation, but still he wonders… and worries.
His wheelchair is thankfully still within reach. His button-less shirt is gone, but his stolen boxers are now folded atop his pants. His glasses are still nowhere to be found. His eyebrow quirks at his lack of a shirt (he's sure he saw it earlier…), but he decides to make do with what he has and proceeds to dress himself. It's not until places his bare feet on the footrests that he realizes he has no idea where his socks and shoes are. He tries to recall when and where they were removed, but his memory fails him. Did Max take them off or did I?
He finds the kitchen and living area empty and for a moment dread fills him. Has she come to her senses and fled the apartment to avoid any further awkwardness? Is she hoping he'll just take the hint and leave before she comes back?
She emerges from Kendra's curtained room before he can get too lost in his fears. He's seen her in the tank top before but never in the pajama bottoms. He'd never pictured her as someone who would wear plaid purple cotton, but he supposes one can never tell that sort of thing. Her hair up in a pony tail, and he decides he likes it that way. He wonders if she ever wears her hair up, neck exposed, around Kendra or Cindy. They know nothing of Manticore, of barcodes, of a fateful frozen night, of getting stuck under the ice while Jondy ran. Only he knows.
Her eyes run over his shirtless upper body for a moment before (almost regretfully) presenting him with faded, gray men's T-shirt.
"Kendra collects them," she explains as he scrutinizes the fairly worn garment.
She shrugs in response to his somewhat dubious look.
"I'm fairly sure she washes them," she says with a teasing smirk.
"Hey, that one smelled the best."
There's an awkward pause. The talking and touching that was so easy earlier in the morning seems to elude them now. They're no longer lying level face to face, forced by a lack of space to be close to one another. They're clothed and apart now, and she's standing again while he's still sitting. He has to look up to look her in the eye, as is normally the case. This reminder of the usual makes him nervous. He tries to push the nagging, persistent doubts aside. He'd been so sure, previous to last night, that his feelings were one sided.
He slips the shirt on as she turns and heads towards the fridge. It's a little small for him. He wonders if Kendra has a preference for thin men, never suspecting that the tight fit is the exact reason that this particular shirt was chosen.
"So, I've got good news," his view of her is obstructed as she rummages through the rusty 'fridge, but the cheeriness in her voice calms him.
"Yes," she offers no explanation, only smirks. Their roles constantly seem to reverse at unexpected intervals. He is often the optimist, but not always, and on those rare occasions that his outlook darkens and he stares solemnly out rainy windows, she'll softly sympathize or teasingly barb, until his only contemplations involve her soft eyes and rare grins. Sometimes it is she who comforts, rather than him.
"Are you going to tell me the good news or do I have to guess?"
"We," she presents a carton triumphantly "have eggs."
"That is good news," he replies with a smile. Her enthusiasm is infectious and he lets it take hold of him.
"But, wait, there's more," she grins mischievously and he decides she looks particularly beautiful this morning.
"What could possibly compete with us having eggs?"
"Well," she leaves the eggs on the counter and makes her way to him.
"I just happen to have my own personal culinary miracle worker at my disposal this morning," she finds herself touching him with out even really thinking about it. Her fingers lightly caress the side of his face and then trail down his neck. She watches as he swallows and idly wonders at the sudden change in temperature.
"Do you?" he asks huskily, his throat suddenly dry. She leans down and kisses him quickly on lips before moving to his neck.
"I do," she breathes into his ear as she settles into his lap.
"Well that is extremely convenient," he comments, shuddering as he silently prays that he'll never wake from the incredibly prolonged daydream he's found himself in.
"It is," she replies, before taking what is hers.
He sinks into the kiss, but is hesitant to touch her at first. He has to remind himself that it was only a few hours ago that she was breathily assuring that she loved the way he touched her. When she had began to pull away from him, earlier in the morning he'd been caught in that strange place between sleep and wakefulness and had responded instinctively – the way he would have in a dream. Now, she seeks him out, which reassures him tremendously. Soon, all he can focus on is the way her mouth moves against his and how he likes the way it feels when she runs her hands through his hair.
"I like doing that," she says after pulling her lips away, resting her forehead against his.
"Me too," he murmurs.
They sit for a moment, savoring their closeness before she slides away from him again.
"Okay, so food," she states with a somewhat false determination.
"Yes," he chuckles, glad that he's not the only one hopelessly distracted, "food."
"Make me eggs. I'm going to fix your shirt."
He snorts. "My shirt?"
She points to the table where they had enjoyed dinner the night before, where his missing garments are now neatly arranged. His torn shirt (next to a very small pile of buttons), shoes, socks, jacket, and glasses sit atop the table as if they had been there all along, had he cared to look. She grabs the glasses before he can, and happily placing them behind his ears, letting the bridge fall at the very edge of his nose.
"I was wondering what you had done with all my clothes."
"I like you better without 'em." She replies seriously, without hesitation. He feels his face burn in spite of himself. She makes him feel like a teenager, smiling in a way that makes him gulp. Everything seems new and not quite allowed.
"Kendra could only find four."
"Four?" He is still somewhat dazed.
"Buttons." She decides she rather likes it when he's like this. Enlightening conversations about life, poverty, and the American-way and mentally stimulating chess matches are all very well and interesting (even enjoyable at times) but, she muses, nothing can compare to having your heart's desire stutter and stammer… Over you…
"Oh…" his mind catches up, "you can sew?" He raises an eyebrow incredulously.
"Yeah, I can sew," she rolls her eyes, "I'm a bike messenger Logan, you get caught on stuff, or it rains or some idiot bumps into you. You gotta know the basics if you want to survive in this city Logan."
"Oh I see. Yes survival is very important. But Max," he says very seriously, "correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't food just a tad bit important for the hard core bike messenger on the go?"
"Hey! I may not be a gourmet chef, but I know how to feed myself."
"Max, I never, ever, suspected that you have any sort of trouble feeding yourself. You feed yourself just fine every time you're in my apartment… sometimes when I'm not even ther—"
"Ok, do you want this shirt fixed or not?"
"Yes. That way I can use all four buttons to cover myself."
"Exactly, there's no downside to this."
He blushes again and wonders how long it will take for him to get used to her sweeping looks and alluring flattery.
Feigning a stern look, she points in the direction of her stove. He rolls his eyes, softly grinning to himself, content to do as she wishes. Her kitchen – the counters and stove – are a little high for him from the chair, but he manages as best he can. He's become a master at improvising in awkward spaces.
She threads the needle on the first try, as she always does. The thread is a light gray, but she hopes it will pass as white. She hasn't seen real white thread in years. It's strange, the things that are missing from the post pulse world. Gray and brown are common but black, white and blue are rare. She supposes that it must have something to do with the dyes. Maybe all the good thread goes to those who can afford it, just like with everything else in America.
She doesn't realize how domestic the scene they present is, until the third button is securely sewn. She pauses to watch his long fingers grip the spatula. He hums to himself when he cooks. She never comments on it, she teases him about many things but the humming is sacred. It's like when he rubs his hands up and down his thighs when he's nervous or anxious, or how he taps his pencil against his note pad when an errant thought escaped him. Or the tender look he thinks she never sees, when he stares at her. During particularly lonely moments she'll think of his unconscious, endearing quirks. They always make her feel less alone. She has no idea why.
I chose to stay. She thinks, out of the blue. Zack made me leave but I came back. I stayed. For him. With him.
And just like that she knows. With perfect clarity she sees past her own fears and defenses – she can't leave him. She couldn't before, she'd tried and failed. Lydecker could come tomorrow and find out where she worked, where she lived and it wouldn't matter. Black SUVs could surround Jam Pony and still she would stay.
Come hell or high water…
There'd been an emptiness all her life, that she had never truly understood. Something was missing. She'd assumed the gap inside her was somehow related to her lack of humanity. Maybe when she found her family, people like her, she would feel whole. Maybe she'd feel like a real girl did. But then there he was, and she felt alive when he was near. She could breathe easy and relax in a way she'd never imagined. She wasn't a failed experiment or a super soldier when he looked at her the way he did. She was Max.
I love him. He feels her gaze and looks over with an easy smile. I love him.
"Done. Help me with the plates?"
"Ok." She nods and leaves the ruined shirt.
They eat in relative silence. She's quiet now and it makes him a little uneasy, but she doesn't seem upset. When they finish she places her hand over his. She says nothing, looking their overlapping fingers, noticing the differences in size and color. His fingers are so long – the kind a musician or surgeon should have – while hers were relatively small in comparison.
"I want this." Her voice is soft and he can barely hear her. She doesn't elaborate or even look at him.
"this" could mean anything, he knows, but for once he dares to hope. Oh please, please mean what I think you mean.
"This," her eyes meet his, "Us. You."
Elation he doesn't even fully comprehend envelops him. She stares at their hands again, missing his joyful grin.
"I know that we're really… I know I'm this crazy revved thing, and you have enough stuff to deal without all my problems, but do you think that maybe we could… that we could try?"
He's astonished at her shaky request and her unsure expression. Could it be that she had been uncertain about her position in his heart? How could she not know how totally and completely he admired her, pined for her, loved her?
He takes her face in his hands and before she can give him a questioning look, they're engaged in a tender embrace. His lips are soft and his kiss now familiar and she wishes for a lifetime of such encounters. When he pulls her into his lap and holds her she allows herself to believe that such a life is possible.
"Max, there's nothing I want more than to be with you. Nothing."
Sighing, she clings to him, feeling weak yet safe encased in his arms.
"I need this," she mumbles against his shoulder, "I think I'll die if I can't have at least this… if I can't have you."
"Me too," he confesses. "I don't know what I'd do if you were gone again."
"I'll never be gone again," she promises, praying that her words stay true.
"I'm yours," she whispers, firm in her decision. "Your mine."
"I know," he replies, for the first time in his life completely certain about his place in the world.
So there it is. I hoped you all liked it. As always, reviews are very much appreciated.