DISCLAIMER: Dark Angel borrowed; as always, no profits realized.

A/N: My thanks to everyone who has stayed around for this, but a very special thanks is due to those of you reviewing this story, even more than usual. As explained in an A/N at the end, this story, told entirely from the point of view of a non-DA character, developed that way in response to some reviews. Reviews really do matter! They very much affected this story, and made it more fun in the long run. So my thanks once again, and thanks for reading. S

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Asylum

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He'd started the story a dozen times that night, each start trailing off down one path or another that he found he didn't want to go. He tried writing what he had intended to write originally, what now seemed eons ago, knowing it wouldn't be published but hoping for a start on the story that would. He gave up a dozen times more, each time hearing Cale's voice echoing that he'd "bitten off a mouthful" and now had to make something of what he'd put in motion... He wrote whatever came into his head and tried to cut and paste from there...

...he went out for a walk to clear his head. He went back for a jog when the walk didn't help.

Nothing helped. Nothing at all let him see it – not until, in the buzzing exhaustion of a 2:00 a.m., caffeine riddled flashback, he remembered something from Journalism 201, said by an ancient, stooped professor to a room full of other young hopefuls like him: Every editorial needs a theme, an overall objective. It's not just the point you want to make, but your purpose in making it; not just your opinion, but your strategy, both overt and between the lines, to bring your readers to your point of view. An editorial is written about a subject that matters. It will be all the better if it matters to you. When you write ... you should never inflate or misrepresent your facts, but with tools like emphasis or word choice, you can present them in a way that leaves your interpretation of the situation as the only one worth considering. And, that, my friends, is what they call persuasive writing...

Butler could hear it again as clearly as if it happened today. Great, for an editorial. But not for a news feature. And he'd always scoffed at human interest writing, calling it tabloid treacle; Carter had opined that was precisely what he was chasing with the Logan Cale/Eyes Only story, and at the time he'd bristled with offense. But Carter had been right all along, about his obsession, about the story... and maybe about the kind of story this would be...

...so create your own sort of piece. Carter would give him free rein in that. With no pretense of being a news report, it could be anything he wanted it to be. It could be an opinion piece. A tribute? Or an exposé? Maybe there was a place for 'human interest,' if done effectively, and if Tom Butler was going to put his name on such a story, now was the time, if it would serve his purpose. He could do it, and would do it well.

It could work. It could be just what he needed. It could certainly be persuasive ...

Tom dropped back into the chair at the desk, cleared out most of what he had, and started writing, driven now. His objective? Simple --

Reveal Eyes Only.

The truth about Eyes Only, as it was now.

He began to smile broadly as his fingers flew over the keyboard. And I'm just the guy to do it...

... several hours later, he woke with a start, splayed across the bed, as the phone in his room jangled. It was the hotel phone, he realized, not his cell. Fuzzy with sleep, he groped for it and croaked a response. "Butler," he managed. He glanced at the clock. 9 AM...

"Mr. Butler? Oh, you are there..." the woman's voice carried insincere surprise, telling him she knew full well he was still there. "Robert Eastman called for you this morning – you left your wallet at the shop."

He hadn't ... but he had, in yet another unheard-of break from journalistic form, e-mailed a copy of his story to Cale when he finished it about four hours earlier, before passing out in exhaustion across the quilted coverlet. Shit, he thought; "oh," he managed, suddenly wondering not only whether or not Cale approved of his story, but that he'd sent it to him at all ...

"He thought you'd want to know right away. He can't leave the shop to bring it by 'til noon, when Mr. Papasian comes in, but thought you might want it sooner. He'll be there all morning, he said, so if you wanted to stop by..."

"I will; thanks." Tom hung up, blearily crossing over to his laptop, sliding slowly into the desk chair as he began to read the story yet again. Would it sound the same in the unforgiving light of morning? Would it do what he hoped it would accomplish, and was it as well done as it could be? Would it have any effect at all? Would it change any lives, in Seattle? Or here...?

As he read, he wasn't as certain as he'd been the night before, when he'd been fueled by emotion and relief in finding a way to write the story he wanted. But it's not bad, he grudged ... maybe even has a few moments... Another read, and he decided it would stand as it was. At least for now, he bargained with himself. And if Cale did read it, and has anything to say...

He shut down his computer and headed toward the shower. Cale must've read it, then – how could he not, given what all could come of it?– and now, apparently wanted to discuss it.

Butler suddenly entertained the idea of bolting, of getting out of town before he learned Cale's reaction; knew there was still time to do it. But now that he'd taken the unprecedented step of letting a subject see the story about himself before it was even published, he might as well go all the way and discuss it with him, if that was what he wanted.

... might as well... Tom's mind skipped – leapt – from thought to thought as he showered and shaved and hurried ... and dallied ... to get over to see Cale:

Logan Cale read my story about him and wants to discuss it. Who wouldn't be nervous?

What the hell were you thinking anyway, sending him the story? Any chance at all that he didn't read it?

Logan Cale read my story about him and wants to discuss it. Doesn't change a thing...

I'm nearly packed; car's gassed up. I could get in the car and never look back...

You're a professional; so is he. You've been at this a while, almost as long as he has. Other than his wondering what the hell you were thinking, sending him the story, he might understand what you did, and why...

..and nearly as exhausted after his inner battles as he'd been after his long sleepless hours the night before, Tom finally stepped out into the hall, pulled his door shut behind him silently, and slowly walked down the stairs to head out the front door...

This time, his walk from the hotel was slower, more "final:" where Tom had felt excitement before, finally getting to meet the subject of his story– his personal role model and hero – and, he'd believed then, to find answers to his questions, this time there was sort of a fatalistic air about it all, his investigation done, the story written. Maybe he had sent the story to Cale seeking absolution; maybe he was stalling, so he could have an out to change it even now, knowing that the likelihood of that was nil. Maybe he was just suffering the inevitable letdown after finishing this particular sprint, getting the race done and packing to go home...

He neared the storefront, swallowing the inner debate and looking for some focus for what he knew would be his last, in-person meeting with Cale. When he'd jumped into this story, he'd had no clue that it would be such an emotional ride for him. After years of knowing who he was and comfortable with his work, he'd discovered he was more emotional, and more easily manipulated by events, than a wet- behind- the- ears high school reporter. Something else I 'learned' from Logan Cale, he realized belatedly, the thought twisting into his mind with a stab of irony as he crossed the street toward the little shop. Guess I'd better remember to thank him for that little insight, too...

Coming toward the shop door, Butler again saw Cale inside, alone in the shop, but this time further back near the far wall, hunkered over a frame that looked at first glance like a stripped down, three-wheeled go-cart.

..the bike Cale's friend mentioned? He noted the assembly at the front of the cart, where it appeared that Cale was securing a bicycle-type axle mounted almost two feet above the base, with handgrips on the crankarms where the pedals would normally be, and was easing a bicycle chain from the assembly to the large, single wheel out in front. The back end seemed in place with two similar wheels and a slightly recumbent seat nestled between them. The 'bicycle' he'd been too busy to finish, lately...

...did it mean anything, that he was working to finish it now? Would it mean anything to someone not as obsessed with his subject as I've been? Shaking off the thought, and gripping the door handle to face the music ... Tom let himself in the shop...

Cale looked up and, seeing Tom there, straightened from his work. "Hey," he said, once again noncommittal.

Butler nodded, mumbling his hello. "Is this a good time?' he tried.

Understanding, his subject nodded, grabbing a towel to quickly clean his hands. "We're alone," he assured Tom, moving forward, as Tom stood rooted near the door. "It's okay to talk here." He looked long at the writer, giving him the chance to speak first. When he didn't, Cale drew a breath, not dropping his gaze, and offered, "there's coffee..."

Tom wavered, but needed as much caffeine as he could get to make it though the day – and through this meeting. "Yeah, that would be great," he admitted.

Cale nodded, turning toward the kitchen as he had the day before. "C'mon back..." he said, not waiting to see if Tom was moving. Butler followed him silently, nervousness inexplicably taking him again. As he had the day before, Cale poured him a mug and offered it to the writer; he poured his own and crossed to the table, where, this time, a laptop computer stood opened, the screen turned away from Tom's view . After another moment of silence, Cale spoke. "I was pretty surprised that you sent me the article..."

"It hasn't been published – or even turned in yet..."

"I know." Butler looked up, not surprised to hear it, but wondering how even he could know that. Cale considered him, and added, "I take it you don't make it a habit of doing that..."

Tim snorted, a sound of self-directed irritation. "No."

Cale nodded once at the response, at both the verbal and the non-verbal aspects of it. "Why now?"

So the journalist in him was curious, too? "I don't know... I..." Tom stopped, thinking it over all again. "I think ... in the circumstances ... I wanted your trust, about what would be published. I know I up-ended things here and ... given how much I've learned from your articles, about how to write ... about the government and corruption and the need for a free press, from your hacks..."

"... from Eyes Only's hacks..." Cale's voice interrupted, gently, and Butler looked up to see the man's expression has softened, an appreciative look there now. "What you did, in your story – both what you said, and how you presented it all, between the lines ... it was good, Tom. And ... selfishly ... I am very appreciative of what you've done..."

"You did read it, then..." Butler breathed his relief. And understood my purpose ... and my objective...

"As if I wouldn't, " a soft snort accompanied Cale's quirky smile, the relief the man had felt after reading the story obvious. "On occasion, people I knew used to accuse me of being schizophrenic about Eyes Only, talking about 'his' work as if 'he' was a separate person. Tom, you were able to take that very idea ... and what I said yesterday about the change in things, once I was outed ... and used those ideas to invent a very convincing argument that Eyes Only outgrew Logan Cale long before I was outed, that it's thriving and growing now that it's rid of me, that it was headed that way before I left and is now continuing to develop quite healthily, even now." His smile took on a rueful quality as he added, "three years ago, if you'd somehow written the very same thing I'd've fought tooth and nail – at least in myself – to prove you were wrong, for fear that Eyes Only would somehow be taken away from me. But given what's happened since – this is the best thing that you could have done, to try and protect all that I have, here."

Relief flooded Butler, that Cale got it – and accepted it all in the way it had been meant. "I' m not naive enough to think that the story will turn everyone around, or that some of those who still want to find you will suddenly change their minds..." Butler minimized.

"It couldn't hurt," Cale shrugged. "Actually, I don't think I've ever appreciated being marginalized quite so much." His eyebrow lifted in humor at the irony. " And – hypothetically – were I trying to stay a part of things, even from here ... it would be easier, just being one of Eyes Only's nameless foot soldiers again."

An offer, in trust, Tom realized, to admit that much ... there's so much in this man to admire, so much to emulate...

Cale was quiet a moment, and his face became more serious, shifting into a look of sincere gratitude. "Whether or not it changes a thing, Tom – thank you for how you chose to do the story."

And so much owed, for all he'd given... "So you know..." Tom began, not looking at his subject at first, feeling as if he was still working to make right all the things he'd rattled loose by suddenly appearing in Cale's life. "Because I had information that you were using an assumed name, I knew you were trying to hide – and so, not knowing what I'd find, I did take some precautions, in doing the story: no one but my editor, Ross Carter, knew that I was working on this story, and other than the few, unconnected hits on my research, I communicated with no one about what I was learning. No one but Carter knew where I've come. I drove out here, used cash for gas and food, slept in my car. The phone I've used to call Seattle has been a pre-pay disposable." He dared to look up and saw appreciation in the intelligent eyes. Barely stopping, he pressed on, "but in case anyone's found I was here, and might put two and two together to figure out where you are from where I've been – when I leave tomorrow morning, I'm going back to Seattle the same way, same precautions. I've booked a flight into Edmonton, leaving right after I'm back, then after a couple days I'll 'follow a lead' to Yellowknife. I'll be there a few days, then return to Seattle. The story will run maybe a day or two after I'm back." He paused, and, finally running out of steam to look back to his mentor's face, shrugged, allowing a hopeful look. "All the good money's on your having gone to Canada anyway; why not take advantage of it?"

The expression he saw in return was one of clear surprise – and deep gratitude. Appearing rattled for a moment by what he'd just heard, Cale was silent ... then sipped at his coffee ... then nodded, cleared his throat, and offered, softly, "that's above and beyond..."

"And necessary, given this can of worms I opened. But you know – if I could find you, so can any number of others ..."

Cale nodded again, balance returning even with the more serious side of him appearing at the thought. "I know." He sighed, and admitted, "I think I allowed myself to forget that. Fourteen months without any sign at all of that life coming back to find us, and I'd started to think that maybe, finally, we'd gotten far enough away, and people had lost interest, grudges had been forgotten."

'Us,' he finally said, Butler noted, not just 'I'...

Cale continued, "So I owe you my thanks for that reminder as well – and I'm keenly aware of how lucky I am that it was you who came looking, and not someone who wants to get to me – or to someone close to me. A good warning that we'd gotten careless. We'll be ready next time."

Butler nodded, feeling drained. "Not a bad idea." The story was written, but as he'd told Cale, he had more to do to extract himself from this place and go on to Canada and back before the saga was done. And he had to polish off his cable-company routine too, and needed to be seen on the street at least this one last day... Still, Tom had one more question begging an answer, just to satisfy his own curiosity ... "Just ... one more thing, something I don't get..." Tom began. "I never would have figured you for a small town type – you spent all your life in Seattle, except for school; you went back to the city after college and suddenly, here ... you look as if you were made for this life." Tom asked for himself, not only about Cale, finding himself imagining his own future. "Are you really as happy here as you seem to be?"

Understanding crossed the man's features, and the look of real happiness Tom had seen before flickered again in his eyes. "Seattle is still home; it will always be home, and I never imagined living anywhere else, either – certainly nothing this rural." He smiled, "but this is home, too, now. It's home in a way Seattle never was for me, and could never be. I love Seattle... but I'm happy, here. I never really was, back there, not like this..." He paused. "Maybe it's just circumstances, and things there could have been as good as they are here, but..." He shrugged, "I suspect that it's more than just timing." He looked to the journalist, and raised an eyebrow. "Worth a try, when you're ready to pack it all in, Tom. It's a whole different world than we're used to..."

Butler looked at the eyes he'd felt he knew, all this time, and saw a man who had come through prosperity and pain, through the most fearsome times and who, at every turn, had acquitted himself honorably. He deserved any happiness he could find. "I'll remember that," he offered a wan smile of his own. Pressed by all the loose ends he needed to tie up before leaving, Tom stood, feeling a bit of regret that he had to leave. "Thanks for the coffee," he began, and, hesitantly, added, "and... thanks for everything. Everything you've given Seattle ... everything you've given me. I am deeply in your debt, Mr. Cale."

"Logan," the familiar voice urged quietly.

"Logan." Tom tried it out, still felt unworthy. "And because of that debt – I do owe you an apology, for this intrusion..."

"It's a story I would have done," Cale offered. "And as I told you, I did what you did once, and it ended a man's life ... but here, the story you've done may help, far more than you know."

"I hope so – it's the least I could do." He started to move, but hesitated to add, "and I promise you, that's the story that will run. Nothing to connect you to this place, to anyone, nothing to indicate that I even talked with you recently."

"You have our sincere thanks for that."

As he moved toward the hall, Tom glanced over to the open laptop, and saw that it displayed his e-mailed story, the last paragraphs showing there. Having read the words repeatedly after writing them, Tom could almost recite them with a quick handful of the words he saw in his glance toward the screen, on his way past:

Like so many political or social movements, Eyes Only has become far more than only the acts of its founder, and much greater than the sum of its parts. Whatever Logan Cale may have done for the movement, or whatever role he played, is now a part of the historical archives. He is no longer Eyes Only, and Eyes Only has grown and thrived since his departure. All the speculation about where he's gone and why and what drove him miss the point, the point he himself understood well when he refused to answer the litany of questions thrown at him. He's said the reasons are personal and will stay that way. Those few who still seek him, still believe there is reason to do so, are merely feeding the gossip tabloids, which are willingly aided by government insiders who still hope to minimize the import of the movement. He has been gone for fourteen months and Eyes Only has thrived. Whether unkind or not, it may even be said that his abandonment of the project gave Eyes Only new life. And as soon as we all catch on to that, the sooner Eyes Only can really get to work.

Whether it remains the private social force its been, or, as some have opined, is evolving in to a political action coalition or even, one day soon, a political party in its own right, it has blossomed beyond the handful of computers and cameras that brought it first to life. The offspring has left the nest and now soars on its own, well beyond the boundaries of the city or state, well beyond what one person or even a small handful of people can achieve. Eyes Only is still becoming all it can be, and is the hope for many of us who value a truly free voice in this world. Let's all work to let it be heard, unshackled by the past or the future.

Peace. Out.

He walked through the storage area and crossed through the shop to the door, silently, Cale following on whispered tread. Hand on the doorknob, Butler paused to offer one last, heartfelt apology. "After all you've done – I'm sorry it's come to this –your having to leave Seattle, the way you were treated... the way you and I are so enthusiastic over minimizing your contributions. I know life isn't fair, and I'm glad to know that at least, out of all of this, you've found a life here, and your own peace. But..." he shrugged. "This time, still ... the balance is way off."

In response, Cale pursed his lips, thought for a moment... and a small smile again graced his features. "But things are what they are, and in all this you brought us a good reminder of what's been out there, and what can still pop up. We'll learn from that. But more than anything," the smile was genuine, "because of your story, what you decided to write – tonight I'll be going home, here – to have dinner with my wife. And I want to thank you for that."

Suddenly emotional again, Tom could only nod. With a deep breath, he gulped, and cleared his throat. "It was a privilege, Logan." He opened the door and left, not looking back...

Epilogue:

One last time... Tom slipped into the bushes and weeds that had served to hide him on previous visits, for one, last look...

One last trip, just so he could return to Seattle with a better image in mind, one last return as the stalker, the Peeping Tom Butler, needing to see that he left the Cales – the Eastmans – in the same condition he'd found them. If nothing else, if they just could have the happiness he'd seen that first evening here, they had hope ... they could have the life they deserved.

He peered out toward the quiet scene, stillness surrounding the home. It wouldn't be hard to find peace here, he observed. And once you were ready to leave city life, once and for all, a place like this might be just the place to escape...

Tom leaned into the nest of sweet-smelling grasses, the warm afternoon and humming insects working on his sleep-deprived body to temp him into a doze... fighting sleep, he watched the house, watched the lake, and suspected he was the only human being presently within ten miles of the place... there was no guarantee that either of them would be there that evening; no guarantee that Linda was close enough to get back by this evening. But Cale had mentioned dinner at home, with his wife... and Butler prayed for a chance to see proof that they survived his blunders...

If he could just see that their lives were intact, the insects murmured ... It was the only thing he asked, for all his efforts, the grasses whispered ... and the birds agreed, without it, he would never know if he'd harmed the man who had given him so much...

...the sound of tires crunching on gravel awoke Tom from his stupor. Looking across the grassy lot with his camera, he saw Cale's vehicle pull up to the back of the house, Cale apparently alone inside. But before he could even open his door all the way, the back door slammed open, and the beautiful young woman – in a short, silken robe, her feet bare and hair still apparently damp from a shower–sprinted to the porch's edge, pausing only a moment to take in his appearance. In the blink of an eye she was down the ramp, launching herself into his arms at the open door, while he was still behind the wheel...

He held her close, his long fingers tangling in her hair... they kissed for long moments, as if quenching a thirst ... they finally broke apart, Cale grabbing his wheelchair out of the back, the woman fairly dancing as she waited, and almost knocking them both over as she bounced into his lap. The laughter carried to Tom's ears; the joy was back... and after more long moments of elated reunion out in the peaceful, dappled sunlight, Cale began to slowly, easily, move himself... and his bride... up the ramp into their home...

... the end ...

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A/N: As mentioned above, this story was directed in very large part by a few early reviews that commented on the fact that the story was all from the perspective of Tom Butler, an outsider. I had not originally intended it to be only his perception for the entire story, but it seemed to be an interesting challenge, and allowed for a storyteller, Tom, who knew less about the characters than the readers, even though the readers don't know everything that is going on in the circumstances. It was a challenge to be limited to only one person's perceptions, and made my brain work a bit harder – and that made the story even that much more fun to do.

All that to say, if you ever doubt the value of your reviews – please don't! They often help the story take on unplanned direction...

Of course, that means that there are bits left on my files from others' perspectives – as in, the Max & Logan "goodbye" scene, info about where Max went ... what the others were doing while Logan met with Tom. These raise opportunities for the story to be rehashed from their POVs – Sandra, Bling, Logan, Max ... even the café waitress or Mr. Papasian.

...anyone curious? And if so, who should be next? And should we answer the pressing question: has Logan really gone out and gotten himself a flannel shirt...?

Thanks to you all who stuck around...

S