A/N: If Zack never interrupted that kiss in "Meow" and AJBAC never happened.
Not sure if this sounds like Max. If not, oh well! It could be worse. Plus, it's stream of consciousness which begs the question "then how can it be written down?" Reviews craved.
I've had better days. Much better days. Days without bloodshed or fighting or insults that rip away all my defenses and leave me raw. Stuff like "killing machine" and "genetic mistake" I can handle. Funny how one ill-timed "slut" pushed me over the edge.
I don't even know the name of the guy whose ass I just kicked. He saw me coming down the street with Original Cindy and sneered at me and called me a slut, suggested how he and I could hook up. I only borrowed Kendra's "hot little red number" to try and make Logan salivate; I could wear a potato sack and that man would still look at me with that dark little gleam in his eye, hold out his hands and say "c'mere" in the voice I only get to hear when Bling isn't around. Sometimes I like to make his ears perk up on purpose, so I dressed up. But this toxic waste case took one look at me and decided he wanted me and thought "hey, you slut" was an acceptable pick-up line. And he never even saw what I have on for underwear.
Original Cindy thinks I should have just walked away. And I have, dozens of times. Guys playing it off for their friends, shooting off their mouths 'cause they're hurt or jealous or whiny, whatever. Wasn't the first time my ears heard that choice little nickname. I guess I'm just off my game. Don't know why. Yeah, I do; no matter how much Logan forgives me, and that man's capability for grace is astounding, I can't shake Rafer out of my head. Not like I ever wanna see him again; he delivered a wheel of extra cheese to Jam Pony the other day and the sight of him turned my stomach. It's just that whole animal instinct thing won't leave my DNA any time soon, so I live in constant fear that the next time I'm in heat it'll happen again. I'll be out of control, ready to spread my legs for whatever male wants it. S-l-u-t, ready and willing.
So I beat on this skinny slacker because my skin's not thick enough. Like, once I let it slip how much I hate the mating cycle thing, those emotions popped up and I couldn't smack them down. It's like playing whack-a-mole at the Green Street Arcade. You shove something down, it comes back up somewhere else. Now I'm all sensitive and hot-headed about an area of my life I used to let roll off my back like water. Luckily the blood didn't get on Kendra's dress. Just a little on my knuckles, and I washed that off at Logan's sink while he lit the candles.
He knew something was up with me. Before I announced I had to go wash some idiot's blood off my hands, that is. I felt so stupid explaining the run-in with him, it was almost like trying to explain to Zack why I missed a target at point-blank range. But Logan just sat there, patiently hearing me out, before crinkling up his forehead and asking me why I thought I was a slut. That threw me. I fully expected him to bawl me out for picking a fight with an obvious low-life human, but instead he went right for the open paper cut and poured acid on it.
"I'm not a slut," I spat.
"God, Max!" Logan gasped. "I never said that. I asked…"
"I know what you asked," I said, cutting him off. "And I'm telling you I'm not about that. I would never run around on you."
"Never crossed my mind," Logan said calmly. "You wanna talk about this?"
I shrugged it off and he changed the subject, some sort of Eyes Only thing. I zoned out and was suddenly struck with one of those thoughts that feels like an ice water shower. It was a lame idea, sounded more like a sleazy talk show subject than anything legitimate. But it tickled my brain and I had to go there.
Am I ashamed of who I am?
After my heat cycles I come as close to suicidal as a Manticore soldier ever gets and the shame parade stretches on for several blocks. Knowing that this force takes over my brain and makes the chemicals go on sexual overload is embarrassing, but the actions I take are still mine. I feel so low I never even try to hook up with anyone during the off-season. Sex during heat is fast, wild, furious, and very forgettable. It's all sweaty instinct. Fun, I guess, nothing spectacular. Not poetic enough to make me want to dive through the hoops of dating. Subconsciously, I think sex is a bad thing. It brings me such truckloads of trouble, it has to be bad.
Logan doesn't know how bad it's been.
Would he look at me the same if he knew? Would he touch me the same? Or would he hold back, suggest blood tests, pull away gradually? I don't wanna know the answer to that. Besides, we haven't actually "closed the deal" yet. It's been too much fun taking it slow. As I told Kendra when she teased me about it, we took a year to even admit we liked each other, so it doesn't make sense to pass go and collect $200. And yet, if I don't tell him, he'll keep meeting this stony silence every time the topic of my sexual insecurity comes into play. So, I scoot away from him a little bit on the couch and let go of his hand. He's been playing with my fingers, stroking his thumb over the veins in my wrist, which drives me wild. I don't want to be wild just now.
"Ready now?" he asks quietly. Bastard. He knows me so well. I guess I should trust him a little more, but then again, he doesn't really know the dark side.
"Moron-guy tonight really threw me," I started, not looking at him. Instead I focused on the candle flame. "I don't know how to talk about this. It's humiliating."
All the Canadian import magazines say I should be so lucky as to have a man look at me the way Logan is right now, blue eyes full of kindness, posture relaxed and ready to listen. Love makes me nauseous sometimes. I flick my eyes away and focus on the candle again.
"I'm not adjusting well to us. The new part of us," I add, hoping he knows what I mean. I don't want to say it out loud. "Brings up old dragons I thought I slayed."
"I don't care about your sexual past, Max. I understand about the Heat thing."
Sweet, sweet man. Still clueless, though. But the sweetness, and the fact that his hair is so cute sticking up in the back, is enough for me to not lay into him for not getting it.
"I want you to care about my past," I say, and can see I've changed his rules. "Before we actually… I'm scared."
This is the part in movies where the guy hugs the girl, and assures her of undying love, and then she cries and is miraculously healed of all inhibitions and baggage. But this isn't a movie, and Logan doesn't do that. Instead he just nods and sits there, hands folded in his lap like he's afraid I'll bolt if he tries to touch me. Suddenly, I wish I'd chosen the potato sack instead of the red dress.
"I know where we're heading," I say, and can't help but smile. He smiles a little too, which is nice. "But I don't have a lot of experience and what I do have isn't exactly fodder for your poetry notebook. I'm afraid if you know what I've been through it'll ruin some image you have of me, or that I have of me. I know it's your choice, but I'd much rather keep you in the dark and try and forget it ever happened."
There. That's honest.
"When you think about us making love, what scares you?" he asks.
Those two words scare me the most. I know nothing about "making love" since I've never been in love before, and I tell him so. He's obviously pleased at this. That gives me the strength to go on and tell him about the first time I went into heat. I was probably all of fifteen, maybe younger, since these barcodes don't come with birthdays attached. That was the time I locked myself in the closet and cried for the first two days, thinking I was going to self-destruct. I honestly thought it was some sort of trick, some time-release mechanism Manticore put inside me to make me come running back. I kicked the door down on the last day and attacked the first male I saw, which unfortunately happened to be the slumlord of the place I was renting. It hurt like hell and I think I still had blood on my thighs when I snuck out in the middle of the night to avoid being sold to a kiddie porn outfit one of his buddies ran out of the basement. After that I never gave into it. The horror of that first time kept my willpower iron-man strong until I came to Seattle, met Kendra and Original Cindy, and learned that sex wasn't a tool of Satan meant to punish bad little runaway chimeras. It was easier to give in when my friends were all for it. Enter the three or four losers I kicked it with. Random unknown club guy, Leo, Darrin, and Rafer. Pretty forgettable experiences, though they tried to do the loverboy thing, call me, cuddle me, say nice stuff. Not like any of those guys ever showed any interest in me when I wasn't reeking of pheromones. Not like any guy showed interest, period. Except for Logan. And Zack, though I'm glad that never really got fleshed out. Love and lust lines with my own brother… ugh. Not something I want to explore.
So there it is. Stark raving honesty.
Logan surprises me a lot. After hearing my sick little tale he looks like he's blinking back tears. And then he's not blinking them back anymore but is actually letting them spill down his face, crying my tears for me. It's cathartic for me too, releasing all those secrets. Logan cups my face in his hands and kisses me, and my cheeks come away wet. He tells me all the stuff I should know but I don't: how Manticore is to blame, how I should not be sorry or ashamed, how I'm not a slut, how I'm beautiful and special and loved. The last part he repeats a lot, saying "I love you" over and over again until I think it might actually be true. I kiss him back, hard, wanting to wrap myself around him and never let go. I haven't felt this kind of fierce protection for anyone before, not even my siblings. I don't know when we stopped crying and started making out, but it sort of blended in naturally and neither one of us cared. And for once, I didn't have that nagging voice in the back of my head.
So yeah, I've had better days. This one ended up okay, though. And if Logan discovers I'm wearing fancy underwear Kendra picked out, it'll turn out to be better than okay.