Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel.
A/N: Originally this was meant to be only a few Bling-thoughts on S1… but it stretched out a bit and now also touches the time before the Pilot.
All hints at Bling's past and background – here especially his connection to Logan's bodyguard Peter – are gratefully borrowed from Shywr1ter's (by now nearly Bling-canon:-) story "Still Waters".
Big thanks to Shywr1ter for betaing, suggestions and very patiently answering my nitpicky questions.
Something about Logan Cale intrigued Bling. From the very beginning the man had sparked this same curiosity with people that had led him to his job as a physical therapist where empathic observation and psychological knowledge often were more important than medical facts.
Even when Logan was barely more than a stranger, only one person among many in Eyes Only's ambitious project, Bling had found himself observing him, unable to quite figure out what it was about the guy that somehow set him apart from the rest.
They met on his second job for Eyes Only, when Peter called him over to a tall, slender man whose blond, spiky head, formerly concentrated on three different laptops, went up with a warm smile as Peter introduced him as Logan Cale, journalist and Eyes Only's computer wizard. Offering his hand with a serene smile of his own, Bling quietly took in Cale's handsome face and intelligent eyes, curious about what this man had done to deserve the unmistakable respect in Peter's voice.
Just for a few seconds, as their hands connected in a firm shake, their eyes met, sharing the depressing knowledge that they were part of a small minority, fighting for the same ideals. Then though, in unexpected, puzzling abruptness, Logan averted his gaze, avoiding any further eye contact as he shifted his attention back to the surveillance tapes his monitors displayed.
On all his missions for the informant net Bling kept a close eye on his surroundings, the former SEAL in him wanting to be prepared if the situation got risky – but he also was curious to see who those people were that Eyes Only had gathered around him. Most of them were fairly easy to figure out: There was the random cop or city employee who tried to make up at night for the damage his corrupted colleagues caused throughout the day, the father who had lost a child to the city's inability to provide clean water or the little shop-owner wanting to make his neighborhood a place where children could play safely.
Cale's motives, however, weren't that obvious. This didn't seem to be his fight, not with his name, recognizable for its connection with one of Seattle's richest and influential families. And yet… something must have happened to this wealthy journalist that kept him from writing about golf and wine and traveling…It was this irregularity, Logan's choosing another way of living than anticipated, that gripped Bling's interest first. Why didn't Cale enjoy a life of leisure away from the ugliness of the Post Pulse world? What drove him to spend his nights in the clammy cold of Seattle's streets?
Bling knew that he wasn't the only one to whom Logan's clear commitment remained an unknown. He had noted how the voices of some of the others took on a reserved, sometimes even questioning tone when the conversation came around to Cale. Those doubts never were uttered in Logan's presence…but Bling had been around often enough to note that for one or two of Eyes Only's crew, the journalist wasn't much more than a spoiled rich kid who was out here for a little thrill and an escape from his boring life, handy to have on their side with all his connections and gadgets, but not really one of them, either. Bling, however, found it hard to minimize Logan's participation to such a simple cliché. Unlike those who were quick with their judgment, he saw the idealism in Logan's eyes, noticed the focused intensity and single-minded determination tinting his voice the few times he spoke up, or the impatient frustration when he tried and failed to hack his way through some security system. Bling had marked how Logan never shared details from his personal life and only occasionally joined the joking and chatting of the others, seeming to consider such diversions a waste of time.
There seemed to be more behind the quiet intelligence and lonely seriousness of Cale's journalist-persona, and with every new mission this mysterious something challenged Bling, fueling his curiosity for an hour or two before each went back to his respecting life, connected only by their occasional work for the informant net.
Then came the day when Eyes Only's plan to bring down Edgar Sonrisa's drug-syndicate ended with the death of one man and perilous injuries to another, with a little girl enduring the horror of a kidnapping and a mother going crazy with the fear of losing her child to her husband's murderer.
The former SEAL in Bling had known all along that something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. If you went up against such mighty opponents they inevitably would seek revenge – and then even the best security and most careful precautions couldn't prevent a mission from turning into a nightmare. Victims were a logical outcome, something one just had to expect.
However, despite all his statistical knowledge and military training, Bling hadn't expected that this shooting would change his own life in such a drastic way. He hadn't been prepared to see his best friend get killed by a bullet, not once they had left the navy, nor counted on finding out that the other victim was Eyes Only, whose death could mean the end to so much more than just his own life. Least of all, he hadn't expected Eyes Only to be Logan Cale.
Bling had always refused to participate in the gossip about who might be behind the blue-white mask, repeatedly reminding the others that the anonymity of their leader was crucial for the survival of the movement. Any knowledge about his identity, even if it came from harmless rumors, menaced the whole mission.
But even if he had joined the guessing, he wouldn't have put his bet on Cale being the big leader. Despite Cale's intriguing personality, Bling wouldn't have suspected this quiet, inconspicuous journalist to have a bigger part in the organization. For only a moment, a flicker of surprise at learning the true identity of Eyes Only replaced the shock of Peter' death, now mingling with the sickening grief of losing an old friend. Logan Cale indeed was Seattle's most famous urban myth… and now he was his patient.
In the weeks that followed the shooting, Bling got a first hand look at the all the intricate thoughts, idealistic motives and hapless circumstances forming Logan Cale….and coining Eyes Only. Almost none of his new knowledge came from Logan himself, who, unlike many other patients facing such a life-changing injury, didn't feel the need to entrust his therapist with his life-story. Quite contrary, Logan was as tight-lipped as ever with everything concerning his life or feelings… only now, hopelessness, defeat and melancholic vulnerability had conquered the place of idealistic optimism.
A few, raw facts were all he managed to elicit from Logan as, wondering and worrying about the complete absence of visitors so far, Bling started asking if maybe he wanted anybody to be informed about his hospital stay – parents, a wife or girlfriend, relatives or friends.
All he got was an emotionless 'no' that left no room for discussion. In the hope that Logan just needed a bit of encouragement with the challenging task of confronting people with his injury, Bling tried again, prodding his patient if there really was nobody at all. It wasn't before his fourth attempt a few days later that he finally got an answer. As he fixed his trainer with a cold, defensive stare, Logan spilled out a single, rushed sentence, calmly informing Bling that his parents were dead and that his closest relatives were the family of his uncle, Jonas Cale, who shouldn't be bothered, just like his ex-wife, who had her own problems anyway. Then his gaze dropped on the clean, white sheets, stubbornly refusing to look up again and be baited into any further personal admission. He avoided meeting Bling's serene gaze, and so he missed the short flicker of empathy softening the eyes of his PT, in an expression so unquestionably genuine that not even someone as touchy as Logan might have misread it as patronizing pity. This subtle reaction was all Bling allowed himself at the unsurprising revelation that Logan fell in the unfortunate category of those who preferred to face a difficult time alone, rather than together with friends or relatives that didn't promise any support at all.
As much as Bling had hoped for some external encouragement to help with Logan's therapy, normally, Logan's wish for privacy would have been respected. However, in the case of his aunt and uncle it was already too late. Not even waiting until Logan woke up from the first surgery, Dr. Carr had ordered one of the nurses to call them and ask about their blood type in case Logan would need another, sudden surgery – a wise move given Logan's rare blood-type and the overall scarcity of blood reserves.
The Cales had known right away that their nephew had been severely injured in that spectacular shooting repeated in the news all day, had been told soon after that Logan was in ICU, with a severed spinal cord, his survival uncertain – and still, despite news that would send most families rushing to the hospital, Logan's relatives hadn't found it necessary even to visit. Their absence in that first critical week after the shooting, when Logan awoke from anesthesia to fight pain and confusion along with a bleak diagnosis, had told Bling all he needed to know about Logan's family.
His aunt and uncle finally turned up, at week three after injury, probably figuring it had been a safe amount of time to spare them the picture of Logan hooked up to machines and monitors that would remind them too much of their responsibilities.
It seemed to be dutiful politeness that led the expensively-clad couple to Metro Medical's neurological station where they approached Bling – marked by his nametag as an employee – to curtly demand the whereabouts of Mr. Cale. Refusing to be intimidated by the bossy air of the man nor by the exotic flower arrangement his wife held in front of her like a shield from the accumulated illness around her, he led both to Logan's room, gesturing for them to wait as he cautiously peeked through the door and announced the visitors. In the few seconds passing between Bling's words and the appearance of the Cales in the doorframe, Logan's expression changed from mild surprise at the prospect of a visit to a brief display of cornered unease, poorly hidden under a polite smile.
Bling had left the three alone…but, as his irritation about the lack of comfort on both sides turned into concern for Logan, he didn't go further than to the corridor, protectively pondering if he should interrupt a visit from people who triggered such clear discomfort from his usually so withdrawn patient.
An interruption hadn't been necessary. After barely 10 minutes the couple had left, their expressions speaking equally of anger, self-righteousness… and even embarrassment – all emotions which had been strangely mirrored in Logan's face, together with just a faint trace of hurt and disappointment, when Bling looked after him an instant later.
Then there was Logan's apartment, located in the fortunate part of Seattle, where cardboard shacks and rat-infested apartments were an unknown. Upon entering the spacious penthouse for the first time, alone and outfitted by Logan with the keys, Bling had felt as if he had stepped into a world where the Pulse had never happened, where goods still were available in abundance and nobody worried about curfew and sector cops.
Bling wasn't one to judge people by the state of their bank account or the price of their furniture – and yet, here in the immaculate surroundings of Logan's apartment, he found himself caught in a short moment of simple amazement at this place that seemed so far away from the rest of Seattle, where people were grateful for a simple meal and a modest shelter.
It just wasn't what he had Eyes Only's expected place to be, Bling ruefully admitted to himself as his eyes wandered over the various pieces of artwork decorating walls and side-tables. A quick, cynical smirk effectively dismissed those thoughts, creasing his ever-composed expression, as he berated himself for suddenly being so rash to expect anything, least of all that Eyes Only led the life of an ascetic, depriving himself of all pleasures and comfort. A life of poverty wouldn't have made Logan's efforts any nobler. Bling knew this, just as he knew the source of his sudden superficiality.
He sighed, leaning heavily against one of the wooden room-dividers in a moment of untypical self-incrimination, eyes focused on the spectacular view of nightly Seattle while his weary mind futilely tried to catch up with the still unreal events of the last week. He needed to be fair, couldn't allow the stress and grief cloud his judgment. For all he knew Logan had enough money to allow him a carefree life in a mansion on Hawaii, far away from all the discomfort post-Pulse life meant even for the wealthy – and still, even though nobody seemed to tie him down here, Logan had chosen to stay in the ugly ruins of this formerly beautiful city.
Feeling more balanced after a few minutes of watching the oddly soothing lights outside, Bling took up his stride through the vacant silence again, now calmly assessing the more subtle imprints Logan had left on his space as he took notes for the workers that would make the apartment wheelchair-accessible.
The first thing catching his eye was the office, stuffed with more high-end computer-equipment than he had seen in one place since his days in the navy. The machines and monitors spoke of their owner's vast knowledge and fascination with technology, of his dedication, maybe even obsession, with his work.
The other room that caught Bling's attention, as if it was a counterweight to the office, was the kitchen, clean and shiny but nevertheless seemingly in regular use with enough gadgets, spices and exotic ingredients to make a professional cook envious. Bling smiled, relief and satisfaction tickling the corners of his mouth at discovering the place where Logan had found relaxation and distance from the disheartening responsibility of being Eyes Only.
Stopping his inspection for a moment for a glass of water from the tap, Bling imagined Logan's lanky figure moving easily between counter and stove, cutting vegetables or bending over steaming pots. For whom had he cooked? Had he gone through all the effort just for himself – or had there been somebody who kept him company and breached the quiet solitude with carefree chatting? The only signs of other inhabitants were in the guestroom which still was set up to accommodate the woman and her daughter with whom Logan had been willing to share his personal space, probably introducing the little girl to an unknown world of luxury. Apart from the last weeks, the penthouse apparently had been a lonely place, where, according to the doorman, visitors were a rare event.
With a last, pondering glance back, Bling closed the door behind him, for now leaving the rooms to their eerie stillness. Finally, in the quiet hum of the elevator riding down to his waiting car, Bling added his discovery of a lifeless home to the others pieces of Logan's life, concern growing despite his outwards calm. The notion of leaving the hospital for Logan didn't seem to hold the promising power it had for many other patients, who were welcomed home by the cheer of their children or the loving embrace of a long-missed partner. Bling could very well understand Logan's secretive behavior – after all it was necessary to hide the place where Eyes Only's broadcasts were recorded – and yet, for the man behind the mask, the one who was facing the prospect of a long, difficult recovery, Bling wished he had found something else… maybe a closet with woman's clothes, or a picture-frame on the bedside table filled with the smiling face of a girl…
Logan's apartment, in all its spacious luxury, was a lonely place, just as Logan himself seemed to be a loner. Bling had no way of knowing if this was just Logan's nature – but whether or not he had been an introverted child before his parents died, growing up under the obvious resentment of his aunt and uncle was reason enough to unfold defenses that were strong to kick in even when they weren't needed. Under these circumstances it was no surprise that over the years Logan's self-protection had developed into his maddeningly illogical attitude that being able to help others was a sign of strength while standing on the other side of giving and receiving lessened your worth and dignity. It was an ironic contradiction for the guy who was Eyes Only.
Surely this self-reliant behavior had been an indispensable shield against the barbs and insults of his family, with which Logan seem to avoid any contact. Now, though, it caused him to stubbornly fight any attempts to get past this trusted protective shell, no matter the motives of those who tried to get closer. Not even the trust and friendship Bling earned himself in the many weeks of therapy were enough to gain him any other place in Logan's sparsely populated universe than that of a close observer, near enough to notice the struggles of his charge but too distant to be a real support.
By the time Logan was released from the hospital, Bling grudgingly accepted his unhealthy way of dealing, resigned to the knowledge that he could neither force Logan to talk nor erase the erratic imprints of decades of mistrust with a simple snap of his fingers… and yet, even his endless patience was put to the test by the strained expression of despondent exhaustion marking Logan's face in unobserved moments. He was smart enough, though, to hide his worries under the calm, untroubled appearance that over the years had become his trademark, well aware that Logan, in his own crazy thinking, would feel mothered to see them, probably even diminished, as if the simple caring of a friend would turn him into a guy who was unable to take care of himself.
All he could do was to unobtrusively show Logan that he cared – by encouraging words when a long day's research resulted in nothing but strained eyes and a headache, by a gentle clap on his shoulder when a straining workout seemed fruitless to his ever impatient patient, by his repeated offers of a game of basketball or just an evening's beer with a friend.
And still… Bling couldn't help but wonder whether just waiting and watching until Logan was ready to open up was the right thing to. From his doubly-troubling position of friend and therapist, he worriedly observed how, in typical self-neglect, Logan burdened himself with the crazy impossibility of righting every wrong, so much did he dread the enormous torrent of doubt and questions, self-incrimination and bitterness that even a little moment of rest would trigger.
Bling worried, cared, observed…. and sometimes, when he saw how his friend bottled up all that frustration, anger and hopelessness, he found himself fearing the inevitable moment when all that pressure would burst Logan's brittle armor of 'I'm fine' and catapult him to a place where the deceptively easy temptation of suicide was dangled before his face as the promise of eternal peace.
……To be continued (I think)…..