DISCLAIMER: Characters and situations in this story borrowed from Dark Angel and NCIS. No profits made.
A/N: This story continues the adventures of Max and Logan begun in the S1-esque cross-over with NCIS, Concurrent Jurisdiction, in which Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly) are cousins. As much as I'd like to make this readable for those who haven't waded through that story yet, I'm afraid a good many references are from that story. This is fully AU, picking up just a month from where CJ left off.
This sequel is dedicated to all of you who were so encouraging about CJ, with my thanks for your patience and comments along with way. For those special folks in the world of DA who have lent a shoulder, an ear, their thoughts and humor, their knowledge and talents, their understanding and sympathy, kindness and patience, allegiance and indignation ... for the times that were especially dark, you'll never know what light you've been. Sincere thanks.
And for this story: Reilyn, thank you for the guidance on Portland facilities. Your help made this much easier to set up. And a big, big thanks to Mari83 for taking the time to read an early draft and offer her insights as to whether or not this was a decent way to start off the CJ Sequel. Mari stayed up to the wee hours of the morning half way across the world, 'til I could send it for her read-though. Mari, thank you – now get some sleep!
No more A/N babbling. As ever, any and all comments and reviews appreciated.
"Choosing Appropriate Forum When Federal and State Courts Share Concurrent Jurisdiction: Because the federal court generally utilizes the applicable state 'long arm' statute to obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the federal and state courts typically share the same territorial limits on jurisdiction. However, under some circumstances, the federal court may be able to effect nationwide service of process. The defendant must still have the constitutionally required 'minimum contacts' with the forum."
1-1 Federal Litigation Guide P 1.12, Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., 2006.
PORTLAND, OREGON: March 14, 2020; 8:22 a.m.
Hilton Hotel, Vancouver, Washington
Logan Cale was like a little kid.
Max knew this. She'd figured it out fairly soon after she'd met him, although hadn't put a label to it that early. At various times over the year that she'd known him, in various circumstances, she found this character trait amusing, maddening, endearing, annoying – but had seen it, through his seriousness and intense focus on his mission, behind the mask and the walls he built around his emotions ... though his pain and though his stubbornness. He'd managed to hide most of the external evidence of it, all of it but the deep-seated, endless, doggedly optimistic hope at his core, even down past his frequent brooding, which led him to try, time after time, to make Seattle a better place. But deep, deep down, it was there, and it fueled his energy, his passions, his intelligence ... his loneliness ...
...and now it was fueling his anticipation and – really, is this the serious Eyes Only I've had to knock heads with all these months? she allowed herself, amused once more – his excitement. She stifled a grin as she heard him in the corridor again, calling to her.
"C'mon, Max, we gotta go! Who knows how long it will take to get there, and find a place to park?"
He was popping with excitement, game face on and ready for battle, unable to sit still. The transformation, begun with his cousin's visit laying the ground work, had appeared in earnest mere days after Tony left: with its official entry into the Northwest regional wheelchair basketball tournament, Logan's basketball team had practiced and drilled and turned their motley band of pick-up ball players into an eager team that easily captured the local tourney games in Seattle.
From there, not only did the team travel on the following weekend to Portland for the regional round, but Logan's energy and enthusiasm for the game, for his work – and for Max – had bloomed as well. Each time she came to watch him play, with each game, each practice, he seemed to believe a little more that she wanted to be there for him, to watch and support him, to be more a part of his life than merely a handy errand girl. His favorite brooding spot in front of the large penthouse windows had been empty for weeks. His focus on his work was intense but buoyant; he attacked his research and his investigations with a vigor and intensity borne of his physical strength and his newly-returning confidence. I love you, Max, he'd even dared to tell her. If you're okay with the way I am ... who am I to argue?
He didn't believe it all yet, despite those tough words, but he was getting closer. Max smiled again, involuntarily, as she remembered his child-like awkwardness in planning their hotel accommodations for the play-offs. It was so early in their "couple-hood" that they'd barely explored each other's lips, let alone the rest. But as with everything else in this nascent relationship, Max had been two steps ahead of him, emboldened by the trust she'd discovered in herself, for him, back at the cabin during Tony's visit, and had found a way to lead in this as well:
Max, they have rooms that have connecting doors; we wouldn't have to get one, but if you wanted to ... he'd begun. He hadn't been able to look her in the eye, even in the soft candlelight of their dinner, even in the hush of the quiet penthouse...
Who were you wanting to connect with, Logan? In contrast, suddenly sensing her opportunity, her eyes bored suggestively toward his, daring him to make contact; she knew he would, and at his glance up to her, her eyes locked onto his, challenging him as reached for his hand, turning it in hers and sensually stroking his palm with the tips of her fingers. Dinner unfinished, Max somehow knew that this was the perfect time for another installment of 'convincing Logan.' Simply laying down her fork, she rose from her chair and made her way into his lap before he could speak. As she began unbuttoning his shirt, she growled, as lustily as she knew how, are you thinking of wasting your money on more than one room...?
He was helpless under her attack, of course; his eyes had gone wide, he stammered a little and blushed a lot. Max... I just ... I mean, we haven't, and I thought we were going to take our time...
Shhh... her lips took his, and Max let her hands follow the contours and planes of his strengthening chest, his shoulders and back... And I'm taking my 'time' now, she teased, knowing how nervous he was, but knowing this was her opening to push past that unnecessary shame, knowing that he would always be reticent until she proved to him he had no reason to be ... seeing that he was caving already, his hands snaking up under her sweater, caressing the soft skin underneath, she grinned ferally and pulled his shirt away from his beautiful form. C'mon, Logan ... she breathed in his ear, let's practice for the tournament...
And now, back in Portland for a second weekend, his team in the tourney's final four, Logan's excitement with the games and his trust in letting Max see it – in letting Max into his life – was, at least for the morning, leaving Max with a companion more like an energetic ten year old than a beleaguered underground warrior. She tried to once again stifle her grin, but it was a losing battle. Face it, Max, she told herself as she headed out to meet him, you're as much of a push-over as he is...
She just made it to the doorway before he set off down the corridor, barely waiting for her as she pulled the hotel room door shut behind her. "It's a lot better to make you wait now than to hear you moan for five years about not getting the game on tape," she called out behind him, waggling the small video camera in his direction. "After all that time you spent making sure I knew how to use it ... I mean, what could little ol' me know about complicated, pesky ol' machinery..."
Her sarcasm getting through his enthusiasm, Logan glanced up to roll his eyes at her and could barely manage it, lost after just one look back up at the beautiful face, eyes twinkling for him, her smile reacting to his wound-up anticipation of the tournament games ahead. Max, there at his side, at his games, faithfully wearing one of the tee shirts he presented to the team once they made it to the finals, for family and friends, the black shirt proudly bearing, over her heart, a smaller version of the team logo Max had designed...
What the hell has happened to me? he managed to wonder for the hundredth time that weekend. Look at yourself ... look at her ... you're alive and excited and happy, and she loves it! She loves you... who'd've imagined...? "Are you trying to say I overdid it?" he managed to say, his own mouth curving into that hopeless look of affection he so often wore around her.
"Maybe a little." They came to the elevator and as they waited in the quiet, elegant hallway, the sort that let them pretend that the Pulse had never occurred, Max tried, "you have everything, right? Gloves, some water... anything else you need?"
"Nope – checked about five times." He fidgeted with the zipper on his warm-up jacket, pulling it down again, too warmed up inside to really need it. "Oh, Max," he suddenly looked back up to her, alarmed. "The extra batteries and tape; did you get...?"
"All in the bag," she patted the camera case at her side, and, dropping her voice, teased, "Geez, Logan, you'd think I'd never been on a mission for you before."
Expression settling again once he heard that Max had the filming covered, Logan relented into a smile and, eyes warm, lifted his hand to entwine it with hers, affectionately. "Never one so important as filming this game..." he teased, abruptly dropping her hand to grab his rims when the sudden ding of the elevator announced its arrival. Staring at the slow-to-open doors, jittering his wheels, he crowed when they finally began to pull apart. "Aha! Showtime!"
The doors opened too slowly to make Logan happy, and he pushed his way inside before they'd fully retracted. He snapped around in a tight pivot as Max came in behind him and punched the lobby button, arching an eyebrow toward him. "Maybe you ought to let me drive," she suggested.
"I'm fine," he snorted, a bit surprised. "I'm just ready for the game."
"I know, Champ," she explained, "but in addition to all that extra adrenaline jetting around in you 'for the game,' making me wonder just how focused you'd be on the traffic – you were worried about parking, with the lot torn up like it was last weekend. If I drive and we don't have much luck, I can drop you at the door, you can get in to the warm-ups without tearing up your wheels too badly or having to wait to switch chairs inside – and I'll find a us a parking spot."
Again relenting at her patient tolerance of his eagerness, Logan reached out to caress her back, lovingly. "Am I making you crazy?" he asked, almost contrite.
"I'm used to ya," she smiled softly, relenting herself to lean over and offer him a sweet, still-amused kiss, held for the few moments left before the elevator settled. As the doors rolled open, Max straightened, and leading Logan out of the elevator, turned to ask, with a smirk, "So, you handing over your keys?"
Never taking his eyes off hers, Logan grinned wryly and immediately reached around to dig in his backpack to pull out his key ring. Handing them to her obediently, he confessed, "why is it you always know just how to say things in just the right way?"
"Say them, or smooch for them?" Bling and Sandra, decked out in their "fan shirts" as well, walked up from where they'd been waiting in the lobby, Bling's voice drawling quietly as he saw their expressions. "Max has a way with words, but she seems to be having more luck these days with the latter..."
As morning greetings were exchanged among Max, Sandra and Bling, Logan's cheeks reddened slightly, still unused to having his feelings for Max be so publicly aired – or admitted. "Isn't it just wrong for a man of your training and size and abilities to call it 'smooching?'" he challenged.
"Call 'em as I see 'em. You ready for this game?" The trainer asked, and saw Logan's immediate, enthusiastic grin in return.
Max rolled her eyes, laughing, "Try holding him back. He's been chomping at the bit for an hour and a half."
"Breakfast?" Bling demanded, looking back at his charge. "We didn't see you in the dining room."
"Room service," Logan explained. "I wanted to eat a bit earlier, to let it digest..."
"Plenty of protein?"
"And carbs. Yes, Coach. Can we go?" Logan's impatient excitement returned, and his hands plucked again at his wheel rims, making the chair dance. As Bling threw up his hands in surrender and turned toward the parking garage, the others moved with him, Logan fussing to Bling and Sandra, "you two will help out Max with the camera, right? In case she needs a break?"
"I think that's Logan-speak for 'in case she loses interest.'" Max grinned back at the flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, his enthusiasm infusing her with joy for him, joy with him. No one deserves this moment of sheer enjoyment and fun more than he does, she thought yet again. Whatever it is that fires him up about this, please let the fires never go out... "I'll let them know if I need a potty-break."
The four went on to Logan's car and, with Logan's transfer into the passenger seat, Bling deftly moved to break down his chair, for stowing in the back beside the waiting court chair. As Bling moved toward the back with the chair, and Sandra toward the backseat, Logan spoke quickly, his voice suddenly carrying some hesitancy. "Max?" She turned back, from having started around to the driver's side. She came close, saying nothing, eyebrows raised, waiting. Again, he reached for her hand. "Thank you for this ... for getting us here ... for being here." He looked into her eyes, still hopeful, but that small thread of lingering disbelief again left him unsure, so certain it couldn't be real. Still almost afraid to voice it, for fear of jinxing his luck, he battled down his demons to say, bravely, in a low voice just for her, "I love you."
Her smile bloomed, and he felt his breath catch in his chest. "You'd better," she teased, her voice warm and liquid. "Because I love you, adrenaline and all." She watched as this round of his still-appearing insecurity disappeared, and he smiled for her. "Now can I please get us over there, so you can win this game?"
His smile widened even more. "Haven't I been trying to get you to move all morning?" As she came around the front of the car to open the driver's side door, and Bling slid in next to Sandra in the back, Logan suddenly hooted. "Let's roll, c'mon!" The inner kid was back out now, on full display. "I got a game to win!"
OREGON: March 14, 2020; 10:45 a.m.
Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center
The ball arced up, rolled ... and dropped... and Max whooped, trying not to jump in excitement as Logan's shot pulled them to a comfortable twelve points at the halftime buzzer. So who'd'a thought I'd be the wrong choice for cameraman? she beamed, waving wildly when she saw Logan turn to search the crowd for her as he pushed out at the half with the rest of the team, flushed with success. Who thought I'd turn into a shrieking cheerleader? His joyous feeling of freedom was contagious, and seeing him feeling so strong, after so many months of watching him believe he was less than a man, half-dead, was pure happiness for Max. So maybe he won't mind the camera jiggling each time he scored, she grinned to herself, if he knows that he had me jumping and yelling each time...
"Hey Max, we're going to grab a soda – want to come?" As family and friends of the players mingled around her at the halftime break, Sandra walked over to Max, on the sidelines, who had long before left her seat to get better shots of the team.
"No; you go ahead. I'd better switch tapes," she looked at the deck, showing more than half gone, what with all the warm up and pep talk footage she'd sneaked in.
"Want us to bring you anything?" Sandra asked as Bling finished talking with some others in their group and came up behind her.
Max shook her head. "I'm good. I might just get a few more shots of the people here, you know, the atmosphere," she looked around the crowd, larger than she'd expected. A real tournament, she noted, knowing it must have pleased Logan and the team, when they saw it...
Bling chuckled. "Logan's going to be impressed with all your work on this, Max."
She grinned again, self consciously. "Have I turned into one of those squealing, gushing girls I've always hated?"
"No – you turned into a woman who has admitted to herself how she feels about a certain man – and suddenly his victories are as sweet to you as they are to him." Bling nodded, happily. "Just the way it should be."
Max felt her cheeks warm as Bling's words touched her deeply, as they often did, even standing there in the middle of a crowd. Bling knew Logan Cale better than anyone did – and usually knew what was going on behind the green eyes. His observations about Logan – and her newly emerging relationship with him – meant a lot. "About time he got himself some victories, too," she tried to move Bling's attention back onto his employer.
But the smile simply grew wider – and more pointed. "He's had his biggest victory, Max, at least as far as he's concerned." Bling raised an affectionate hand to Sandra's back as they started to move off toward the concession stands. "The woman he loves, loves him. The rest is window-dressing."
As they left, Max let Bling's words roll around in her thoughts, and, feeling herself blush, decided she liked them. Maybe I should cut the squealers some slack, she mused. Maybe they found the perfect match for themselves, too... She lifted the camera to take a few more shots, seeing friends and family of Logan's team mates, others who had made the caravan trip with them, all wearing the black shirts that identified them as team fans. What a weird little life this has suddenly become, she allowed herself, happily recognizing that she had started living the 'normal' life, at least for these few hours over the past few weekends, the sort she never believed she could have. What's next? Baking brownies? Bridge club, with Aunt Margo?
Or... dare she even consider such a thought... the PTA...?
Woah, slow down, Girl... she grinned to herself. Give yourself some time to enjoy being with Logan, and living this life opening up to you both, before you start thinking about the pitter-patter of little Cale feet around the house...
"Excuse me." A voice interrupted her daydreams. "Hello..." A pleasant voice neared Max, and she turned to see a slim, attractive woman of about forty or so, smiling merrily at her. "You're Max, right?"
"Yeah." She tried not to be wary, she really did, because these days so many things in her life were not malevolent and Manticore-related. But wariness had kept her alive so far ... and she smiled as calmly as she could, waiting. Just someone with the team, she breathed inwardly, half in reassurance ... half in prayer ...
"It's such a pleasure to meet you. My name's Barbara." The woman offered her hand for a warm, meaningful handshake, and added, with a wry smile, understanding the look of uncertainty in the younger woman's eyes. "I believe you're coming to my wedding next month..."
Aaaannnnndddd... they're off! More to come...