DISCLAIMER: Characters and situations in this story borrowed from Dark Angel and NCIS. No profits made.
A/N: Thanks for coming back to read, even life updates have been coming slowing in this story. Would love to hear from you so I know you're still out there! All comments and thoughts welcome.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: April 1, 2020; 5:41 p.m.
SECTOR 9; Fogle Towers. Penthouse
April Fools Day had been chilly, damp and gray. For so many days the only thing that could pull Logan out of bed to his computer, or away from his computer out into the world below his penthouse, was his work, some informant or lead or factoid to be uncovered. Days like this had been the worst; along with everything else that had happened – last year and recently – the weather seemed to be a perfect realization of what his life had felt like: first, without his previous mobility and agility, and now, without Max in his life, things seemed gray and cold, without joy or energy or beauty – without spark or spirit or fire; without life.
Some days he could bow to his duty, put his head down and slog through to accomplish his project for the day – whatever research or investigation he had in front of him. Other days – like today – it seemed pointless. Tilting at windmills, his uncle had once said, derisively, about Eyes Only. That type never gets it ... and never gets anywhere far. You'll see who disappears first – this outlaw or the people who really make things happen...
His uncle's words had never come back to haunt him when Max was around. Even if she'd never said too much directly about his work, the way she threw herself into her work while helping him, the things she'd report overhearing about his hacks, the way she looked at him sometimes, when his work led to changes for the better – all of that was like adrenalin to him, buoyed him and filled him with energy and drive to keep at his work. Even without trying she let him see the good in what he did and helped him past any set-backs. With Max's involvement in his work and their growing relationship making him feel valued and whole again, his uncle's pronouncement rarely intruded.
Then Max left, and it was as if she had taken all the color out of his life.
All the color, and much of his success. As the elevator rose back up toward his penthouse, Logan again wondered if he was approaching things differently since she'd gone, maybe even tainting his work – he was having trouble getting a handle on the project he was working on now. Informants were coming up dry about the rumored government contracts he was investigating, people seemed edgy and unwilling to talk, and he was unable to get any sort of traction to either verify that the rumors he was chasing were true, or flesh them out as merely another batch of unsupported allegations from disgruntled former employees.
He decided that, even if he had some part in things, it wasn't all him. This investigation felt off, for a number of reasons. Coming to his door, he keyed off his alarm system and unlocked his door, moving inside quickly to reset everything before dropping his keys on the side table and shrugging out of his damp jacket. He sighed. His place was dusky and silent; his kitchen too quiet, compared to how things used to be. Not much point in cooking for one...
He pushed on down the hall toward his computer room, wondering vaguely if finding some new approach to his research might kick some life into his work. In the dim, chilly penthouse, it seemed unlikely that anything could useful would appear...
Until he heard the smallest of sounds from his front room, a sort of shifting – and with a sudden snick of the switch, a small, warm pool of light spilled out from the lamp near the couch – near Max. Max, who sat silently on the arm of his couch, one knee drawn to her chest and looking much younger than her two decades.
He'd startled with the sudden sound and sight, of course, but his being frozen in place, silent, was more his apprehension of what her return, unannounced, might mean. As long as she stayed away, he could pretend that things might one day be better. With the way Max looked, this had the feel of a showdown of some sort. Bad or good, he didn't know, but with Max here – apparently she was ready to talk. He wondered if he ever could be...
He swallowed, throat dry, and slowly came into the room, moving closer to her. The light was slightly in front of her, making it difficult to see the details of her expression, and Logan wondered briefly if she'd meant for that to happen. She'd come to him so it fell to her to talk, to take things to wherever she had in mind – but at least once more, he could welcome her there. "Max," he said softly. "How are you?"
The question carried true concern for her and what was going with her now, Max recognized, not just a clichéd greeting. She just nodded, then shrugged. "Okay. You?"
He smiled hollowly, and managed, "okay." After a beat, he offered, "if you're hungry, I can find something..."
She shook her head, and he refused to let himself succumb to the clutch of literal fear her response left in his gut. Max not hungry meant Max was there to confront things – confront him – and maybe even meant she wasn't planning to be there long. Unconsciously he chewed his lip, though, a gesture not missed by Max. Her dark eyes darted to his mouth and then up to his eyes; he saw her glance soften ever so slightly and wondered at what it might mean.
Her whole bearing, her movements, everything about her was quiet, as quiet as he'd ever seen her. It wasn't ninja quiet, which was full of tension and energy, but careful and cautious, as if she was afraid of re-opening a wound. The image surprised him and he frowned a little, but before he could process even more she drew a long, slow breath to speak and, when she did, her voice carried a pain he'd never heard from her before. "Logan, I've tried to sort all this out, everything that happened, and ... what it meant to me. Fair to you or not ... this one was big. The worst. Of everything that we've done or said, this time ... " her words died in the air as she trailed off.
He willed his breathing to remain even, and wondered if he should say something, or just nod as if he was listening, or just ...wait for her to finish. The air around him was brittle, like glass, and he found himself almost afraid to breathe...
"I don't know if I can trust you again."
Her words pierced him, but weren't completely unexpected, given her reaction when he'd told her. The silence following was oppressive and after long moments, he spoke, as honest as he'd ever been. "I understand."
"No, I don't think you do," she said immediately, shaking her head forcefully, "I don't think you can. I didn't even know, until..." She paused, looking at him with an unreadable expression, then looked away, looking down at her hands as she raised them together, closed tightly, as if holding something trapped inside. "Until last year, all my life, everyone around me, everyone – no matter their words, they communicated that they couldn't be trusted, not really. Either they were out to hurt me, or dissect me, or use me, or they were clueless, and didn't know what they were getting into with me. Didn't matter which it was, I just knew that there were things that I couldn't let anyone know, because they would come back on me. So I kept it all in and no one knew about what went on those first years. It might not be the best life but I was safe and I knew I could depend on me."
"But then ... damn you ... you showed up in my life. And damn if you didn't get under my skin. And what's worse, you just ... you just kept doing things right, kept gettin' my back or looking to find the other kids for me. Everything you did was the opposite of everyone else, and just showed time after time that you were someone whom I could trust to get my back. And you'd found out my biggest secret right away, and didn't seem all that freaked out by who I was. So little by little, I let out a little more about things, and hung with you a little more, and it was all good and you could take it all and not let anything slip. More than anything, you understood, you knew about Manticore and why it was important not to go back, why, no matter what else happened, I had to stay away from them and keep the rest of the kids safe, too. And on top of that," she slumped a little, and her brow puckered in her hurt, "you have that noble streak, out saving the world for people like Original Cindy and Sketchy and even Normal, all the peeps just tryin' to get by. I don't know how I couldn't fall for you in all that. And with all that goin' on, pretty soon I just let you have it all, and gave you everything of me, everything I had, because I knew that no matter what, you had my back... you had me..." she whispered, a tear streaking down her face as her hands, which had opened slowly, like flower petals, now were fully opened before her. "And I was never so happy or felt so normal in my life..."
She let her hands drop. She didn't have to say what happened next...
"I get that you wanted to ignore things, too," she went on, eyes cast down again, her voice soft, "and that if you didn't tell me maybe we could just pretend that Tony might not be a threat, even if he never would mean to be. It's just ..." She wavered, looking back to him, not sure she could ever make anyone understand. "Maybe it's not fair ... but up 'til then, Logan, I thought you were some kind of a superhero, always doing the right thing, even when you were doing something stupid to put yourself in danger, it was always for the right reason, and I never thought..." She trailed, looking for the right words, "I thought that if ever there was something that threatened our lives here – my life – you would do the right thing – or what I saw was the right thing." She sighed and admitted, "I know that it was pretty selfish of me to see it only from my side, but I think we both have to admit that 'my side' has bigger things at stake than just messing up our domestic tranquility."
Logan thought he'd seen where things were going, but wasn't so sure with her admission, and when she suddenly looked back in his eyes, deeply, he knew that something between them had broken and he didn't know if they would ever have it back. "Max..." he began, afraid to hear more.
"Maybe it's all really unfair to you, to have had some impossible idea of who you are, and unfair to have saddled you with all of me, but ... I did, Logan. I exposed everything to you because you were the one person I'd ever met who I thought I could trust and I trusted with everything – but you turned out like all the rest ... and I don't know that I can trust you again..."
Logan felt his chest tighten, as if squeezed by some invisible force, and his eyes stung with her words and what he was certain he would hear next.
"...but I want to." Her voice was suddenly softer, and there was an unmistakable note of hurt and longing there. Surprised, he blinked rapidly, as if staring at her more closely would confirm those last words and tell him if there was any hope to be had in them. "More than anything I want to turn back the clock and go back to where we were, where I was, when I felt as if I could just hide in your arms and be safe, when everything was safe with you..."
His eyes spilled over.
"...but I just don't know if it's possible."
Silently, he lifted a hand to her, reaching out for hers. "Max," he crooned, his pulse racing in fear that she wouldn't come to him.
She stood, took a hesitant step, then another. "I know ... it was only one time, but ... if you knew how..."
"Max..." He pushed forward the last few inches between them and reached for her hand, gently lifting her fingers with his.
"...it wouldn't have been anything if..." her voice was trembling now, and the dampness on her cheek glittered faintly in the soft lamplight. "...if I didn't care so much about ...'
He wrapped his long fingers around hers and pulled her close, pulled her into his arms and into his lap and into his chest, wrapping her in his warmth and need for her. She folded into his embrace and he let out his breath, and as he felt her relax slightly as she nestled deeper in his arms he started to believe they might find their way back from the nightmare their lives had become. "Max, I am so, so sorry to have hurt you like that..." His words were barely as loud as his warm breath in the crook of her neck, the salt of his own tears mixing with hers. "The fact that you trusted me with so much in your life, and that you trusted me with your love, have always meant more than anything, and I know I haven't shown you that as I should have – especially then. " His words broke off as he looked for a way to express that he knew what he'd jeopardized between them. "For what I've done to make you doubt me, or doubt how much I love you..."
Max pulled back a little, looking at him again, searching his eyes, to dare, "as much as you want to trust Tony, I don't know if I can, not in the way you'd want me to. What will happen if you have to make a choice like that again?"
Logan held her eyes for a moment, then looked away and nodded, painfully, understanding what she needed to know. "When Tony told me he knew ... in those first few seconds, the only thing I could think of was how to take Tony out for whatever time it would take for you to get away, how I could incapacitate him for the twenty four to forty eight hours you'd need to get over the border ... wondering for all of about ten seconds if I could go on the lam with you ... wondering how I could lose you again ... knowing that it meant having to make a choice between the two of you and knowing in the circumstances I just might end up losing you both, but knowing ..." He reached up to brush her cheek, "I would have to find a way to keep you in my life, on the lam with you or not. And if it meant cutting ties with Tony ... it would have to be done."
His voice was even, but Max saw the truth of his words reflected in his eyes, and she suddenly knew that she wasn't the only one who had suffered all because, all those years ago, Tony's path had happened to cross hers. She remembered the terrible loss she'd felt with Zack's orders that they split up, still sharp more than a decade later, and could understand a little more why Logan had kept things secret as he had. Truly relaxing a little for the first time in weeks, Max leaned in to rest her forehead against Logan's. "No one hopes more than I do that you're right about everything, and there's no need for any of that."
"Max..." His hope was still alive, but he wasn't all that sure where things were with them. "I love you, and I was stupid to put anything before your safety. I will fight like hell never to make a mistake like that again."
She smiled softly and shrugged, "at least you didn't just say you'd never do it again – I like a man who knows himself well enough to admit that sometimes he makes stupid mistakes."
Logan had watched her smile grow as she spoke, and seeing it, began to believe he had been granted another chance with her. "Then you'll love me when I tell you just how stupid I can be."
Her smile softened again as she nodded. "Yeah. I do love you." But she sobered a little, and looked away to add, "but Logan ... I don't know if it can be the same; it took me a long time to be able to trust anyone so completely and if I can't ..."
"I will do all I can to let you trust me again, Max, I can promise you that."
Her smile flickered up again a bit in her own hope, and she looked at him again, again with her deep, searching look for what was behind his intelligent green eyes. Breaking the look suddenly, she moved back into his arms to tuck herself in against his chest, longing for the comfort he offered her. "Then letting me be right here is a good start..."