A/N: Another attempt (with the emphasis on attempt) to write a Secret Santa story for Shywr1ter'swishes of "warm, fuzzy, intimate moment w/ just M & L", "Christmas plans /celebration/festivities of some sort" and "hope and happiness".

I blame all the Christmas cookie sweetness for the overload of sappiness. Actually an overdose of gingerbread spices will be a convenient scapegoat for the mistakes and oddities in here, too.

Thanks to Griever for being my test-reader.

Timeline: Not exactly a direct continuation, just something that could happen in this universe in a very hypothetic future, developing from S1 sometime before 'Camera'.

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On Christmas morning 2021 Logan was awakened by a finger repeatedly poking his ribs.

Curling Max' offending hand with his own, he brought it down to his chest, intending to enjoy the feeling of her body against his, of her silky hair in the crook of his neck a little longer.

Max however seemed to have other plans. "Logan…?"

Something in her voice, free from the strain of the multiple roles she was forced to play throughout the day, nagged at his comfortably sleepy state of mind. Still not he quite up yet to forming complete sentences, his answering "Hm…?" was slurred from the lingering feeling of comfort and relaxation.

"I want that tree."

With this finally opening his eyes to the early morning gloom, Logan's arms reassuringly tightened their embrace as he squinted at the alarm clock showing an untimely 5:30.

They hadn't made any special plans for the holidays, out of habit continuing with their normal routines while everybody around them was busy with shopping and preparations. But there was more to their lack of Christmas spirit than the simple absence of shared tradition which could have been easily compensated if they both had felt the wish to participate in the world's sudden obsession with cheerful merriness. But while Logan had entertained the idea for the first time in many years, Max had become more and more quiet the closer Christmas came, in her absent brooding retreating from him and his growing concern.

Logan had put it down to the fact that it was the time of year when everybody went to see their families, involuntarily isolating those who didn't have a home to which they could return for nostalgic childhood memories. And despite all his research on her siblings, Max still was alone, her only comfort the ambivalent knowledge that Zack registered her every step even though he would never show up for something as sentimentally silly as Christmas.

As he watched how she disinterestedly finished his carefully prepared Christmas Eve dinner, Logan decided that it was time to act. In the hope of getting through her recent introversion, he gave his voice that rare hint of playfulness which had turned out to be a reliable remedy for her frustrations with Normal, the eternal rain or the state of the world in general ."I've been thinking… How about I winterize Eyes Only for tomorrow and we drive out of town for a little winter picnic in the wilderness? And after you and your superpowers could get us a real Christmas tree fresh from the woods…"

Logan had figured it would be a nice distraction to get away from Seattle's grey, dirty streets for a few hours, to enjoy a quiet afternoon in one of those beautiful, little clearings that should be accessible to him and still deserted enough for Max to freely use her abilities.

Max reaction, however, wasn't the one he'd anticipated. Stacking together their empty dishes, her face went blank in that evasive passiveness reserved for the subject of Manticore, Lydecker or those dead siblings she hardly ever mentioned. Then she stood up abruptly, turning her back to him as she headed to the kitchen in a gesture Logan by now easily recognized as badly masked escapism.

Despite their new closeness, their many shared moments, Max still seemed to fear that he would reject her if he knew about her past, that he would withdraw all the love and affection mistakenly given to the genetically messed-up freak she was in reality. She wouldn't tell him about her weaknesses and nightmares, her memories and experiences, pretending the normalcy she wished for and yet never reached completely.

In a way Logan could understand her, was aware that his own defensive reactions weren't all that different … and still, he just wished that she could finally believe that neither her genetic make-up nor her defective up-bringing would change what she meant to him.

And so, despite better knowledge, he committed the mistake of trying to make her talk, following her into the kitchen without bothering to hide his startled confusion.

It was his worriedly questioning 'Max?' that triggered her typical, cornered flight-reflex. Stopping the futile distraction of loading the dishwasher she turned around, her eyes meeting his for a long, apologetic look before she stiffly walked past him toward the door.

She stayed away for the rest of the evening, leaving Logan with a stack of Eyes Only material to burn off the nervous energy that urged him to call her and make sure she was alright.

He could only guess what had made her so sensitive about the topic… but alone knowing that her group had fled in winter, spending their first days of freedom in the hostile surroundings of Wyoming's frozen wilderness, should have made him careful about suggesting anything that might remind her of that time. He should have understood that for her a trip to the snow-powdered winter forest didn't hold the usual romantic notion, should have considered that his view of the world didn't automatically apply to someone who must have been forced to do outdoor survival trainings no matter the temperatures.

She came back sometime around two in the morning, just when he'd finally fallen asleep, bringing the cold night air with her as she slipped into bed next to him.

She had stayed nestled to his side throughout the night, the calming sensation of her steady breathing still distracting Logan as he belatedly confirmed her wish. "A tree it is then… later, after this mere mortal had just a bit more sleep…"

The last thing he heard before dozing off again for another moment of rare, undisturbed peace was her amused snort as she untangled herself from their shared warmth of limbs and sheets, mumbling something about making coffee and breakfast.

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