Disclaimer: Dark Angel is not mine and that makes me cry every day. I make no money with this story.
A/N: This is my response for the Christmas in July challenge. TEXANQUE wanted: Max argument with Logan about his issues with the chair (yes, got that), Bling as referee (got that, too, only is he judging Logan's clothes), an argument between ML leads to Max's departure. If Logan wants to see her again, he'll have to run after her (got that, sort of), wedding (definitely got that), a baby (before or after wedding, got that). However, they didn't want: Logan walking, someone else with Logan or Max, virus all through the story (check, check and check). This story had a minimum of beta-influence and all remaining mistakes are mine.
TEXANQUE, I hope you like your gift!
ChrismasInJuly: THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS
Somewhen past midnight
Uncle Jonas and Lydecker look at him with unmasked curiosity. "How much longer do you think he'll have?" asks Uncle Jonas and drops another olive into his martini glass. "I'm not to sure, but I think she could take another one" says the Colonel and readjusts his glowing red clown's nose. Logan can't see what exactly they are doing, but he can hear Max's screams and he knows they have thrown another snake into the cage. He struggles hard to free himself from the giant spider web that ties him to the ceiling. He has to help her, but he can't move. He can't move. He. Can't. Not. Move.
Dark curls on white sheets and strong arms circling his shoulders tenderly. He closes his eyes again and smiles relieved. It is early morning, the sun not more than a sheen of light at the horizon, and she is still next laying to him. Or again, judging by the dampness of her hair and the scent of night air in his bedroom.
"Hey" she says with a lazy smile and leans forward to place a light kiss on his forehead. "Almost thought you'd pull a sleeping beauty on me".
He blinks at the clock on the nightstand, groans at the early hoar, and then remembers the importance of the date. He lets his head fall back on the pillow and puts a hand over his face to shield his eyes from the rising sun and Max's enquiring look. Her smile broadens and she seizes the opportunity to trail small kisses along his jaw, neck and collar bone. Logan sighs, knowing too well they won't have the time for anything more than these few kisses, and pulls her down to his chest. They lie still for a minute; he playing with her hair and enjoying her soft breathing, she listening to his heart beat and amazed by the thought that one year after the transfusion her blood still streams through his veins.
"Can you tell me why it has to be that early?"
"Because it takes you at least one hour to shower and get dressed. Because it takes you half an hour to have breakfast and another thirty minutes to check your e-mails. And because it will take you an hour to get to city hall on a Sunday"
"Do I have to go? After all they are your friends."
"Yes, Mister I-always-do-the-right-thing. WE have to go. Don't you dare letting me down on this one" and with a final kiss Max hops out of his bed, grabs her clothes and is dressed so fast her movements become blurry. "Gotta blaze. I promised to help with the preparations. We meet there at tenhundred."
She disappears. Logan stares at the ceiling for another minute, trying to ignore a tiny headache crawling into his temples, trying hard to shake off the last memories of his nightmare and wishing nothing than more to be at the end of the day.
Logan stares gloomily at his breakfast. He has showered, hell, even shaved, yet he tries to stall the moment he has to put on the tuxedo. When Bling finds him, he is uninterestedly watching how his cereals get sodden, an untouched glass of cranberry juice in front of him.
"Oh my god, Logan. What happened to your face" Bling quips. Logan's eyes throw daggers at his broad shoulders. "Oh come on, man. Today is a day to celebrate. Most people marry just once, you know." Logan groans, as he can guess where this is heading. His instincts don't betray him. "As we speak of it, when will you make Max a decent woman. You've been together for a year now. Don't you think it's time to - "
"Shut up, Bling. Please, please, let's not talk about it."
"I was just saying you two should-"
"Ok, ok…"Logan is putting on a white shirt, when Bling enters his bedroom with the unfazed nonchalance of someone who knows he can't be fired.
"I wouldn't wear that" he says and sits down on the bed. Logan stops buttoning the shirt and glares at him defiantly. "Oh, yes. And why?" Bling chuckles.
"When was the last time you went to a wedding that wasn't a member's of the upper ten thousand?" Logan's jaw turns into stone for the quarter of a second, then he turns the chair around and looks provokingly at Bling. "Well then. What would you recommend then?"
He has never felt that stupid-looking in his whole life, Logan contemplates as he pushes up the ramp to the city hall. This is worse than everything his family has ever forced on him, and the strict rules of "What to wear and do on which social occasion" may not have been branded into his brain deeply enough to make him shave for his cousin's wedding, but they strongly object the burgundy red shirt, dark blue jeans and the leather jacket he is wearing at the moment. On the other hand, if college has taught him one thing, it is to accept fashion advice from a gay guy, and Bling seemed to be adamant in his conviction that "sporty casual" was the right thing to wear.
He sees a group of women waving at him in front of the entrance. Kendra, Original Cindy and Daphne, all of them wearing identical red skirts and black tops, stand there, and Max, his beautiful Max, in jeans and a bright blue sweater, has Kendra's three months old daughter Sakura on her arm. "Oh Lord, why do you hate me?" he thinks and pushes reluctantly closer to the happy group.
He greets them with a smile and Max bends down for a little kiss.
"Richie Rich, what happened to your face? Attacked by the Razor Police?" Original Cindy begins, and Daphne adds fuel to the fire: "Logan, the last time I saw you without stubble you were what? Seventeen?"
"I kinda like it" says Kendra huskily,. "You look like some sort of special agent. As long as you don't change the hair. I've always liked it that - spiky". It sounds exactly like the sexual allusion it probably is. Or most likely is, considering it came from Kendra. He remembers how four days after giving birth to her daughter she left this police guy for a doctor she had met at the hospital.
Max interrupts their laughter by handing the baby back to Kendra. "Come on, girls. Don't you think Sketchy would notice it if his best man was MIA?"
"And you're the most beautiful best man in the world, Max" says Logan, hoping to please both Max and OC with this comment. Max grins. "Of course, I am. Ok, girls. Listen and remember. After the ceremony Sketchy and Natalie will spend some time with her parents. At 1500 sharp we will meet at my place for a small reception among friends. Got it?"
"Got it, Sergeant." Daphne mocks her. Logan and OC exchange a grin behind her back.
Logan secretly thanks Bling about a hundred times, once he has entered the city hall and gets a closer look at the people in the room. All of them seem to be young, careless, maybe Jam Pony messengers or maybe …. actually he can't think of possible jobs for them. "If Aunt Margo could see this, she would have a stroke", he thinks and scrutinizes a young man whose mohawk is dyed in every color of the rainbow. That seems to be the motto of the day anyway: "Go and try to dress as colourful as possible". He spotts Max talking to a man – or woman, he can't tell – wearing something that resembles a yellow jumpsuit and again he is amazed by the lack of formality or even formal clothes and the unforced atmosphere of the event.
He remembers Benett's wedding almost a year ago and the immaculate tuxedos, fancy gowns and costly decorations. There are no flowers in this room, impossible to come by in these days. Then it strucks him like a lightning.
These people are wearing formal clothes. Most of them would never be able to afford a tuxedo. Most of them probably haven't seen a flower for the last ten years. Most of them are just hard working people who came to celebrate with a friend, not a business partner, and thus they wear their best clothes – which in this dirty dark times, where everything is grey and falling apart, are as colourful as can be - to show their sincere joy and happiness. "The times they are a-changing", Logan thinks and suddenly he feels twice as old.
Natalie is the most radiant bride Logan has ever seen. Her dress is a simple day dress, cream with flowers printed on it, and she has pink flowers in her hair and a bridal bouquet of pink roses. A gift from Max, according to Kendra's whispering. "Night air and damp hair; my thoughtful Max" Logan smirks. Aunt Margo wouldn't approve of that outfit, of course, but when did she ever approve of anything?
Natalie stands in front of the civil servant, and Logan wonders how someone who intends to spend the rest of her life with Sketchy can seem to be so happy. When he looks at some other faces in the room, he can tell that he is not alone with this thought. He tries hard not to think of Valerie. Everytime her red hair crawls back into his mind, he tries to get a better look at Max, standing next to the groom, all focused on her mission.
When Sketchy and Natalie say their vows, Logan and Max make eye contact and smile at each other, both reminded of another wedding almost a lifetime ago.
Daphne and Original Cindy are making out in the back row.
"It won't take long and you two'll have a little one on your own, so you'd better get used to it" says Kendra cheerily, and somehow that line touches him deep inside and it hurts. They sit around the table of Max's apartment; Kendra, Daphne, Original Cindy and him. The women take turns in holding the Sarkura, and he has refused every time one of them offers to lay the tiny child in his arms. For three months now, he has avoided holding her, using urgent phone calls or steaming pots as an excuse not to be confronted with the creamy skin and sweet baby scent that has turned Max into a mother hen. It just doesn't feel right to hold the baby, and after Kendra's comment he knows why.
There won't be a child in their future, just like there won't be a wedding or a quiet evening at home without Zack storming in or an Eyes Only emergency. They will never have the peace to raise a child, not with Manticore on their trail and the world in shambles and even if they had, he still couldn't…"I doubt that" he says a little too insistently and cringes at his own gloomy voice. They startle, and he feels three pairs of sympathetic eyes on him. There is a great deal of surprise in their faces and also a little pity. He clears his throat. "I don't think that I want to have children." The moment he notices that they don't longer look at him but at a point over his left shoulder, he knows that he has made a mistake.
He swivels around, and can see Max's retreating form in the doorway. "Max, wait!" he calls and tries to follow her into the hallway. Thank God that Sketchy is a moron, as it's his stumbling figure that reminds Max of her best man duties. She stops to make sure Sketchy is alright and in these precious moments Logan can catch up with her. He corners her between a drunken Sketchy and a stoned Herbal. When she turns to look down at him, her eyes are narrowed with anger.
"Spare your words, Logan" she snarls at him, every word venom in his ears and heart. "If you don't want to breed with the chimera, fine. If you don't want to raise your kids with a genetically enhanced killing machine, fine. I might have never had a mother, but – "He has to interrupt her, has to make her understand that the problem is him, not her, and that he would do everything, literally everything to make her happy. Logan grips the wheel rims of his chair tightly, bracing himself for what he has to say, but before he even has the time to open his mouth, he can see the understanding dawning in her face. "The chair? Haven't we had that months ago?" she says dismissively, and that gets him. If she rubs him that way, she can get what she wants.
"O yeah? And didn't we discuss the whole "I'm a freaky manmade monster, nothing more than a killing machine" thing right in the beginning?" he spats back at her. Max stares at him with wide open eyes.
"Fuck you, Logan" she says quietly and then she turns around and leaves him with the urgent desire to bang his head against the wall.
He finds her in her room, sitting on her bed and cradling little Sakura. Max has cried; he can see traces of tears still glistening on her cheeks. Her eyes are cold as stone as she stares at a point on the opposite wall, and he know that she would give everything to be on the top of the space needle right now, or just be riding her motorcycle at an irresponsibly dangerous speed through deserted streets. But she has promised to look after her goddaughter, promised to be best man, and so X5-452 is chained to this place and this tiny creature in her arms. She is trapped by her attachment, by love and friendship, and suddenly Logan understands how many more issues are involved in this fight than just his disability.
"Max" he pleads softly, like one would speak to a wounded animal. "Look at me"
Her only reaction is holding the sleeping child a little tighter.
"I'm so sorry. You know I didn't mean it like that"
She doesn't even blink.
"Look, I can take care of her for half an hour. Just go, OC is still here, she can help and don't worry about Sketchy. He's too drunk to notice anyway. Go, drive your baby and then come back when you feel better and we can talk, ok?"
She looks up, an unbelieving smile on her face. "You would?" she asks, and the surprise on her beautiful features stings in his heart like thousand little needles. He nods.
When she comes back, the adults are busy in the kitchen, eating, drinking, enjoying themselves… and Logan is reading "Beauty and the Beast" to a bunch of pre-schoolers. Still in her room, he is surrounded by the children of the apartment block, Sakura tied to his chest with one of OC's scarves and in his lap a copy of "Grimm's fairy tales" he found next to her bed. Silently she sits down on the bed, as close to him possible, and listens to his beautiful voice. She notices how he blows a little kiss on the baby's head every time he turns a page and how he plays with her little fingers. She isn't sure if it has been a mistake to leave him alone with this task, but he seems to be comfortable and the children love him. After sometime he has finished the story, closes the book and tells the kids to go and look for their parents. They object – who wouldn't? – and Logan's heart just can't resist their shining eyes and the prospect of stalling the overdue conversation with Max. So he reads another story, and then another one, only interrupted when Kendra comes to pick up Sakura and say goodbye, teasing him about future babysitter duties. Max can tell that it's hard for him to let go of the baby, just like it's hard for her every time again. It is complicated to untangle the secure straps around his chest, and after the baby's gone, so is the warmth of her. He immediately misses the feeling. Sometime during "The Frog King", Max vanishes to help with the dishes and settle an argument between OC and Sketchy, but she returns in time for the happy ending.
He closes the book again, and as most children know when adults aren't fun anymore they leave the room to explore the building and try if they can spot the "giant mutant rat" Omar saw on the fourth floor a week ago.
Max and Logan are alone again, sitting next to each other, staring at the wall, both waiting for the other one to make the first step. Again it is Logan's guilty conscience to break the silence.
"I didn't know you liked fairy tales" he says lightly and looks at her from the corner of his eye.
"Girl needs some sort of happy ending in her life" she replies in the same light teasing tone and turns her head to look at him.
He is again busy with examining the floor to his feet. She has made a peace-offering, but he knows there are things they have to talk about.
"Listen, I'm sorry, Max, that I'm not the Prince of your dreams" he starts tentatively and is stopped by an unbelieving snort. He looks up and sees the first signs of revived anger appearing on her forehead. Swiftly, he grabs her hand and looks away again.
"Please Max, just listen. Don't bolt now. I NEED you to listen. I'm sorry that I can't make your nightmares go away. I'm sorry that you have to rescue me every other week. I'm sorry that I can't protect you from Manticore. I'm sorry that I couldn't find your mother. I'm sorry that I can't cure your seizures. I'm sorry that I couldn't find all of your siblings. I'm sorry that I will never be able to give you a family."
He stops. She is squeezing his hand so hard; it almost brings tears to his eyes. He doesn't dare to look at her, waiting for another outburst of her – more than justified- anger, but her voice is soft, so soft the word "kitten" comes to his mind involuntarily.
"Logan Cale, you are the biggest idiot that has ever lived. Do you really think all these things matter to me? Do you really think that it doesn't matter way more that you are there for me when I need you?"
He can't help himself; he needs her in his arms now, so he pulls her in his lap and hugs her. She nuzzles his neck and he strokes her hair, more relaxed than he has been the whole day and maybe ever in their relationship.
"What you said about not being able to give me a family… What exactly did you mean with that?" she asks, her fingers entangled with his. He sighs.
"You know that …" It is still hard for him to find the words, even after more than a year. "I mean that I –" She interrupts him with a kiss and a smile.
"Because, Logan Cale, I would say that you should have thought about that a month ago."
"You're pregnant?" he asks and there is not a bit of incredulity in voice.
She nods, unsure what to think of his reaction. Hesitantly, she gets up and looks down at him. Logan holds both her hands in his and then he lets go of her left one and puts his hand – his beautiful long-fingered hand- on her flat stomach.
"You're pregnant" he repeats, his expressive eyes suddenly gleaming like he has lit a fire in them. She kneels down and they kiss with the same needy desire they kissed that very first time in front of the cabin, both eager to prove they have no second thought about their love, both eager to receive reassurance they are loved despite all their imperfections.
Logan hasn't been that ridiculously happy since… actually, he has never been that happy ever in his life, and if a fairy godmother offered him his legs, the end of crime on Earth and a pot of gold right now, he could not be happier.
Max hasn't been that scared ever in her life, but he's here, and she knows that he will protect her. Nothing bad will happen as long as Logan is by her side.
They part, gazing lovingly into each others eyes. He strokes her belly and smiles.
Of course, Sketchy has to interrupt them, filled to his gills. Of course, Natalie and Cindy come looking for Sketchy. Of course, everyone makes fun of their dreamy faces all evening.
Of course, Max and Logan don't care a bit.
Blue-green eyes in the dark and strong arms circling her tenderly. It's not late. On a usual day Max would be at Crash and Logan would brood about the rotten state of the world in front of his panorama window. It's not a usual day, and they are in his bed, laying next to each other. He strokes her bare back, and she is glad that for the moment he is distracted from his newly-acquired obsession with her belly .
He chuckles a bit, then he asks: "A month? When you were in heat and we had sex in the bathtub?" He can feel her nod on his chest.
"Would you mind if we don't… I mean… " he just cannot find the right words. Try again, Cale. "Max, do you in insist on marriage or would you just not marry me?" He just knows that she's looking at him now, feline eyes examining him in the dark. He takes a deep breath. "I promised this once and it didn't turn out well and…." Again, she silences him with a kiss. "You just made me the luckiest girl on earth, Logan" she says with so much relief in her voice it makes him feel a little rejected. But he knows why he has asked her and that his decision was right.
"Yes", Logan thinks, "marriage would be just another cage for her. Give her occasional bike rides and lonely nights on top of the Space Needle. Give her a warm place to come to, food and shelter, help her to raise the young. But don't imprison her. She appears to be tame, she appears to be human. She's not. But whatever she is and whatever you are, the only thing that matters is that you love her more than you love your life."
THE (VERY HAPPY) END
Special thanks to Lisa and Griever!
Dear reader, you survived the fluff fest, so please review. You would make a little tiger very happy with just a "Read it. Liked it" or just a "Read it. Didn't hate it"... And go and check out all the other wonderful ChristmasInJuly stories!