Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel

A/N: Hugest thanks to Shywr1ter for betaing and suggestions! Sending you a life-sized marzipan Logan:-) Of course all remaining mistakes are mine.

This one was written as my application for AURCLO / Shirtless Logan association at DAR and happens somewhere in between BBWW and Art Attack, I think.

Also a very, very late birthday present for Lisa316.

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Logan's Apartment, evening:

His kitchen was a warm, cozy island of light in the otherwise dark penthouse, drawing her closer with its aromatic smells. From Max's hidden position – just past where the mellow light cut into the cold evening gloom that seeped in through the windows – this gently glowing place looked exactly like what she imagined a home to be.

Its inhabitant, the guy who was willing to share all this with her, didn't notice Max, but was happily immersed in the simple task of cutting down a bell pepper into precise, little squares for whichever culinary miracle he'd invented for her this time.

As she often did, Max just stood there and watched, enjoying the quiet peacefulness of Logan's apartment. It had become a habit of hers to sneak in unnoticed when he'd paged her, or to come some minutes earlier when he'd asked her over for dinner, using all her transgenic stealth and training just to catch him unawares while he was furiously mistreating his keyboard in frustration over all the misery out there… or even sometimes just absentmindedly staring into empty space, leaving her to wonder if one day Logan would trust her enough to share his thoughts.

She regularly used those moments for some seconds of silent observation. They were her only chance to see the other, unguarded side of Logan before it was covered up again by that tightly controlled and deceivingly placid version of himself which he considered safe for the world to see. She always announced her presence before he had any opportunity to feel watched, uttering some smart remark that carefully shielded the sentimental ideas brought up by the sight of him and which usually elicited a startled but pleased smile from Logan.

Today Max was even earlier than usual after prematurely leaving work and a startled boss who hadn't been fast enough to catch her for more deliveries. In her boredom with work and Sketchy's never-ending, not even faintly intelligent ramblings, she had emptied her messenger bag in record time, her sudden eagerness to get away fuelled even more by the thought of a more intellectually challenging conversation and the grumbling of her stomach demanding to be fed.

Her impatience to get over to Fogle Towers was rewarded by the rare sight of Logan not wearing his standard sweater, but only a grey, tightly fitting shirt, seemingly having shed his pullover due to the steamy heat that emanated from the pots and tinted his cheeks with just the faintest bit of color. He was relaxed, now stirring one of the softly sizzling pots with the calm security of someone indulging in the contentment and familiarity of a long-standing hobby.

Max knew that it was impolite to just stand here and watch, that Logan wouldn't like to be observed in this dangerously relaxed state, when maybe some treacherous emotion could escape his otherwise so tight control. She understood his need to protect his vulnerable core from the world, and was aware that she should move and let him know of her presence… but she just couldn't bring herself to disturb this strangely calming picture of Logan so at peace with himself.

So Max stayed and watched Logan's back bend down as he got out a sauce boat and then turned a bit to the side to lift a steaming little pot filled to its rim with what looked like chocolate sauce. With a steady hand he started pouring the creamy liquid into the sauce boat, while with the other nudging the chair a bit closer to the work bench. His move, however, was a bit too pronounced, banging the footrest into the counter and triggering a chain-reaction as he tried to counterbalance the pot against the impact with a jerking movement that sent a generous splash of sauce onto his shirt

A surprised hiss was heard as the hot chocolate hit Logan's shirt, merging into an annoyed groan that told Max that he wasn't injured seriously. Still, getting the hot, wet fabric off his skin seemed to be the first thing on his mind as, with a quick, practiced move, his glasses were put on his lap. Then, careful not to smear the sauce all over his face, he pulled the shirt over his head and carefully balled it to a grey-brown-colored heap.

Max caught a short glimpse of the broad, smooth surface of his back and the two red scars running up his spine – the one a reminder of how she'd failed to protect him, the other of how he had almost died not so long ago. Then her attention was drawn by the easy, effortless tensing and relaxing of Logan's muscles, the strong up and down movement of his arm as he vigorously rubbed first at a spot on his chest, then at the chocolate splashes on his pants with a clean corner of his shirt.

All her Manticore instincts told Max that she should escape and evade before Logan caught her and got angry because she had been staring. But something that wasn't Manticore, and not heat-induced craving either, something she had not experienced before, wanted her to take this different opportunity to see 'more' of Logan…

Of course her decision to stay was a mistake. With a sudden, decisive grip on his wheels Logan turned, not giving Max in her unmilitary oblivion any opportunity to step back and discretely melt with the shadows.

Lifting his eyes from his stained pants Logan gave his chair a strong forward push that skidded to an abrupt stop at the realization that he wasn't alone. For a second there was no reaction at all, only Logan staring at her as if suddenly finding himself confronted with an alien life form in his kitchen. As he finally leant back, a strong blush already starting to spread over his cheeks, he gave her an expectant look her as if awaiting some kind of explanation, underlining this attitude with a rather mistrusting, indignant "Max…".

As she showed no inclination to answer, every valid excuse escaping her usually so quick-witted brain, he tried again, his question coming out with a long breath, as if he'd just remembered the need for oxygen. "You're… early…?"

Her only answer was a shrugged, apologetic "Yep", paired with a blinding smile of which she hoped that it would put him into a forgiving mood and make him forget to ask how long she had been standing there.

Again there was a moment of silence as, in his indecision to move while she was halfway blocking his path out of the kitchen, Logan's eyes darted everywhere but onto her. While Max watched how his fingers fiddled with the sauce-soaked shirt, briefly lifting it as if considering using it as a cover, she wondered why Logan was so embarrassed. She had seen Sketchy's attemps to give his pale chest a tan often enough to know that male nudity wasn't usually taboo above the waist, and that if Sketchy had Logan's well-developed upper body he would show it off proudly…

So maybe this was a high society thing, or he didn't want her to see his scars, or it was just his surprise at being caught in this half-dressed state… Perhaps, Max dared to consider, the very idea finally making her avert her eyes from Logan's form, perhaps it even was because of her, because Logan wanted her to find him attractive, cared what she thought about his looks…

It was this last thought, quickly dismissed as wishful thinking, that now in turn colored Max's face, eventually moving her to step back and allowing Logan to pass her with a muttered 'I… uh… need to change…".

Max bit her lip, hoping he hadn't noticed her blush. Shaking herself out her daydreaming mode, she made her offer of peace to his pale, bare shoulders as they worked on a hasty retreat into the safety of his bedroom. "I'll take charge of the food…"

In the distance of the hallway she heard him snort in amusement, her comment just the right thing to make him forget that she had invaded his privacy and his reaction telling her that they would have a quiet evening of comfortable, non-committal friendship after all.

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