The Challenge:

Don't Wish List:

1)anything Season 2
2)Zack
3)Madame X

Wish List:

1)M-rating
2)Bennett and Marianne
3)Logan playing basketball
4)Max trying to cook
5)Normal and Logan conversation


AN: Since Tigrou requested an M-rating, which yea sooo isn't happening. :-P I'm going to follow Season One up until Max gets captured. Max and Logan have kissed, were interrupted, Tinga did die, Zack however was NOT captured (he is not in the story, but he is also not in Manticore), Max was gravely wounded, but not fatally, Logan and Lydecker got her back to the van and she was saved.

Logan and Max are now on that tentative path to a relationship.

This story begins a few weeks after Max was shot.

(Shy held my hand through the basketball part of the story, so hopefully I didn't screw up her play too much---Ooh and do try to find Shy's exact words in there, it's like a super easy 'Where's Waldo').


Like That

It was a simple concept. Water and dry pasta equals meal.

Boiling salted water, which despite Sketchy's claims did not make the water boil faster, she was guessing a chemistry class taken after the Pulse wasn't as informative as it should have been, or then again knowing Sketchy if he only paid attention when it was time to blow things up.

Boiling salted (which was for the slight, truthfully non-existent change in flavor), non-oiled water, which explained why the sauce always seemed to slide off Original Cindy's spaghetti, water.

Boiling, salted, non-oily water that had been sped to a boil by putting a top on, she was pretty sure Sketchy had missed all of physics.

Of course, then she hadn't been paying attention as she dumped the penne in and had just tossed the top back on as she'd gone to listen at Logan's bathroom door, to figure out if he'd decided to drown himself in the shower. Which considering his attitude earlier wouldn't have been too surprising.

Completely ignoring the meal on the stove as her hand hovered over the knob, wondering if she should go check on him because maybe more than just his ego had been hurt as the exo decided to malfunction, yet again, while they'd been taking a walk in the park after the storm and into a giant mud puddle he had fallen while trying to coax her towards the swings.

He, of course, then sat in the mud instead of allowing her to help him, until the exo decided to be functional again

So it wasn't surprising as she debated surprising Logan in the shower, when they hadn't even gotten to the most memorable part of, 'like that,' inwardly fighting with herself that it wouldn't be that wrong since he'd seen most of her 'like that' when they'd ripped off her shirt in the van, trying to find and stem the bleeding. Granted though, those weren't really the prime conditions she'd wanted him to see her 'like that.' The shower though…

As long as she wasn't surprising him freshly out of the shower in the cooler air…

And it would at least be a warm shower…

Unless he was really angry and needed to cool off…

His ego probably wouldn't do well with that, especially today.

So it wasn't too surprising that it took a moment to hear the salty, starchy water slosh over the side of the pot and land with an angry hiss on Logan's previously pristine range.

And she cursed realizing that simple concept was completely beyond her as she burned her fingers slightly as she tossed off the lid, dropping it with a clatter to the counter as she realized she'd forgotten, 'flame plus metal equaled hot.'

"Stupid freakin," she muttered as she desperately tried to break up the pasta that was now stuck together in the pot.

Then the doorbell rang, "Just great," was the next mutter as she abandoned her spoon to the top of the can of tomatoes she hadn't even gotten around to opening.

It would be Bling, for a PT session Logan would have forgotten to mention or forgotten all together.

Original Cindy announcing Sky was being held for ransom….Druid had gotten himself signed up for indentured servitude and was being shipped off to South America as they spoke.

Lydecker announcing he had a new 'surefire plan' to bring down Manticore.

Zack announcing one of their sibs was in trouble and they had to go immediately.

If it was Zack, she was just going to hit him. She decided before going to look out the peephole. At least he'd be able to take it.

Marianne and Bennett, her nose crinkled as she saw them, definitely not expecting them. Definitely couldn't hit them.

'If he wasn't already cranky, this would do it,' she thought as she opened the door plastering a fake smile on her face and greeted them with a bright, "Hi."

Bennett's eyes narrowed and his finger came up to point at her as his lips twitched up in a smile, "Max right?"

"Got it in one," she continued to fake. Pocahontas had nothing on her, she greeted unwanted strangers better than anyone in history, especially considering just how unwanted they were.

" Logan around?" he asked walking into the apartment without being invited.

It forced her to step back, "He's in the shower; he should be out soon." She hoped.

"Great," he smiled, "I got a call from a friend Logan and I went to high school with, I have to show him something online."

Marianne smiled apologetically at Max, "I'm sorry, I tried to convince him to just call. But he insisted they see it together."

"It's a guy thing," he promised his wife.

Max just nodded, "Guess I'll take your word on that."

"Is something burning?" Marianne asked with a creased brow as she smelled something slightly off.

Max flinched, "Probably Logan's kitchen." Her eyes closed briefly, "I'll be right back," she promised before dashing off.

Marianne hit her husband as he began to chuckle.

He tried to look contrite, before admitting, "What? It was funny."

Marianne followed after the younger girl with Bennett soon on her heels.

"Too much water in the pot," Marianne informed as she saw the younger girl mopping excess the moisture off the stove.

"Too little water, it's starchy, too much, I have a flood," she tried to joke, but was too annoyed to.

Marianne chuckled a bit, "What are you making?"

"Penne vodka," she picked up the can of tomatoes and waved it for a viewing, "I figured I watched Logan do it enough times…" she shrugged, she'd seen him do it twice, it was apparently not enough, especially considering she hadn't made it past the penne.

"Here let me help, since we invaded," Marianne tenderly smiled.

"I've got it," Max shook her head.

"Why don't you chop the tomatoes, I'll put the oil on," Marianne suggested.

"I can do that," Max nodded deciding to concede defeat. Boiling, salted, non-oily water 1 : Max 0.

"What should I do?" Bennett asked suddenly feeling useless.

"I'm gonna go with, stay out of our way," his wife teased.

"I can do that, Logan's liquor is…"

"There should be a bottle of white in the fridge." It was normally a white with penne alla vodka, so she hoped it was in there since they discussed dinner before leaving the apartment.

Bennett nodded and headed towards the fridge. "Veneto Soave," he said pulling it out and raising it up for inspection, "ooh," he said noticing the rest of the label, "Masi's normally really good," he turned to his wife, "right?"

She laughed, "You finished off the whole bottle last time; I had a glass."

He smiled at Max, "I promise I'll leave some for Logan."

"Screw Logan," she smiled, "what about me?"

"I should probably pour your glass now to be on the safe side," he seriously nodded before turning back to his wife with a smile, "want one too Mar?"

"I'm good. I did just have a glass with dinner."

"A glass," he shook his head in mock disgust, "how are you a Cale?"

"You married me for my liver didn't you?" she laughed and waved the knife at him that she had just taken out for the garlic.

"Come on Mar," he joked as he poured, "you know this, if Jay ever needs a liver you're giving it and if I ever need one, Hannah's my girl," he said referring to his brother's wife. "Got to make sure you ladies don't have any incentive to let us die."

"Yea because we couldn't figure out that whole, 'Throw Mama from the Train,' concept." She nodded, "Actually, you two are pretty well off still, I bet we'd just need to let one of you die then split the inheritance."

"What blood type are you Max?" Bennett asked handing over a glass of wine with hopeful eyes.

"The kind that you aren't getting any," she smiled and began to pulse the tomatoes.

-x-x-X-x-x-

"Max do you need any-" Logan began to ask a few moments later as he wheeled out of the bathroom during a pause in the food processor.

All three turned to face Logan, clad in a long white towel, tightly secured at his waist that landed just past his knees, another towel bunched on his lap to dry his hair and a rather exposed chest.

Bennett laughed into his wine.

"Marianne, Bennett," he nodded.

"Hi Logan," Marianne smiled brightly as her cheeks were tinged with pink

"Bennett has something he needs to show you," Max informed as a means of apologizing, knowing the last thing Logan had wanted was company.

His head tilted looking at his cousin.

"I got a call from Mike Walsh while we were at dinner and I have to show you what he found," Bennett enthusiastically, yet cryptically informed not wanting to give away his surprise.

Logan simply continued to look at his cousin.

"Your computer?" Bennett hopefully suggested, realizing his cousin wasn't taking the bait.

"It's down the hall," Logan tossed his head back lightly, gesturing its location, before his hands returned their movements to the wheels.

"You don't want to get dressed?" Bennett questioned, not moving.

"How long is this surprise going to take?"

"A few minutes," Bennett guessed.

"Then no," he continued back on his way.

"He alright?" Marianne asked a moment later once she was sure they were safely out of hearing range.

"He will be," Max truthfully answered knowing it was always the case.

Marianne thoughtfully nodded as she gave the garlic cooking in the pan another shake, "He has a lot more chest hair than I would have expected."

"Yea," Max turned, actually thankful to have another girl to discuss that with because discussing chest hair with Original Cindy would probably result more in a 'switching teams' discussion than the actual topic. Her nose scrunched in confusion as she forgot all about the tomatoes. "He's so fair and even with all the facial hair-"

"You don't expect him to have that much chest hair," Marianne finished for her, amazed by the rather dense patch on Logan's chest.

"I know," Max said not being at all aware at what laughter this conversation would bring any of her friends, in her mind not at all a stereotypical 'girl conversation,' just someone to grasp her similar awe in the subject that was Logan.

"And it's really dark too," Marianne ended with her mouth slightly agape as her eyes shrunk as it made no sense in her mind.

"I know," Max nodded back before pulsing the tomatoes for another few seconds before returning to the conversation, "I mean I know his hair isn't exactly light, but I-"

"I know," Marianne nodded. "Those are done," she nodded again before Max's finger touched the button again.

"You ready for them?" Max asked before going to disengage it from the processor.

"Yea bring them over," Marianne confirmed before moving back to their conversation, "It's not like a mat though."

"More like a dense smattering across his chest," Max confirmed, not noticing she just used the word smattering.

A bob of agreement from Marianne before she added on, "Not too much on his stomach, that's just nasty," her eyes rolled back.

Max laughed.

Marianne's head shook, " Logan's shoulders are clear right?" pretty sure she'd gotten a good enough look at Logan as he wheeled away.

Max gave her a confused look as Marianne helped control the slight pour Max had of the tomatoes going into the pan with a spoon.

"Bennett has hair on his shoulders," Marianne made a face, "not a lot granted, but still," her face scrunched thinking of the unpleasantness of it. "We had to get it waxed before we went away for our honeymoon."

"Yea no, Logan doesn't have that."

"Be grateful," Marianne smiled.

"I suddenly am," Max let out a short puff of air.

"Okay guys it's ready," Bennett's voice called across the apartment.

As Logan's of, 'You really came all the way over here to show me this,' drifted only towards Max's and his intended target's ears.

'We always used to watch this,' the target wondered in confusion, not realizing the great change.

"You go," Marianne nodded, "I'll finish this up."

"You don't want to see-" Max began to question.

"Ben told me," she nodded in explanation, "not really my thing. Enjoy."

"Thanks," Max said handing off the vodka and cream she'd just retrieved as Marianne had been stirring, not fully paying attention to the other woman as she listed in on the conversation Marianne was oblivious to as anything other than background chatter.

'Always being the operative word, we've seen this how many times?'

'We haven't seen it since the Pulse,' Bennett defended.

'Well I was there when it happened and I did watch it countless times afterwards.'

'You always loved watching this,' Bennett was completely puzzled, expecting a very different reaction.

Max was puzzled too. "What's going on?" She asked leaning against the doorway.

Bennett shot an annoyed look down to his cousin and Logan's eyes shifted away from Max as he tried to hide his discomfort. " Logan's final school basketball game."

"I didn't know you played in college," she questioned.

"High school, we weren't that good," he quickly answered.

"Weren't that-" Bennett looked appalled. "We were 16 to 2."

"Sounds impressive," she nodded decisively, not looking at Logan, but at Bennett.

"Impressive enough for Logan to have almost been a Bulldog."

"A…" Max trailed off waiting for an answer.

"Yale's the Bulldogs," Logan once again quickly replied.

Max's attention focused on him," Right, Huskies," she said referring to their local college team, "would have gotten that if you hadn't said you didn't play in college."

"Never did," his eyes locked with hers, not wavering under her intense focus.

Bennett laughed remembering a memory instead of grasping what was going on between the couple, unaware of the day's events. "I swear, I still don't know how you guys-"

Logan cut him off while continuing to look at Max, "Chris wiped out; I was too close. Wasn't that funny when you were the one with the broken collarbone."

The humor left Bennett's eyes as he was once more shocked by his cousin's words and reactions, "That's odd because I remember you and Chris up in the kiddie ward cracking up."

"I'm sure the concussions had nothing to do with that," Logan quickly retorted growing more annoyed by the minute.

"Surfing?" Max questioned, not quite grasping how broken collarbones and concussions would be funny while drowning.

"Mountain biking."

She just nodded.

"It was dumb," he bluntly admitted, annoyed with himself for taking such a risk, "we knew better, but…"

" Yea Carey Creek was bad enough under normal conditions, the rain-"

"You were mountain biking in the rain?" she asked, shocked by that, granted Logan on occasion had taken a few risks she hadn't agreed with, but that was just dumb.

"Two days later," Logan shook his head. "It didn't seem that bad. Probably would have happened anyway that place was a mess."

"You loved it because it was a mess," Bennett countered remembering the challenge his cousin had craved.

"And it landed me in the hospital," Logan quickly responded.

Max held in her sigh, knowing the two cousins were talking about completely different accidents over a decade apart. "So what about this game?" she asked before they truly went at it.

"Oh you've got to watch it-" Bennett enthusiastically demanded.

"It's really not that interesting," Logan argued.

Both Max and Bennett shot him a look.

"Just remember its a high school game," he added as Bennett was about to hit play.

"Same thing you say about street ball, yet you keep playing," she pointed out.

"You still play?" Bennett looked a little shocked by that.

"Traveling's a little different now," his words biting.

"We gonna hit play or what? Penne alla Vodka doesn't take that long and my stomach's 'bout to eat itself," she kept them on track.

"Right," Bennett nodded, "now here's what you need to-"

"How about you just hit play Bennett so I can go get dressed?"

Max shot Logan a look informing him just what an ass he was being.

He just shot her back one of annoyance.

"Fine," Bennett curtly responded, "how about we're about to lose and be completely humiliated and 29's our best shooter," he dumbed it down for Max as he had for Marianne though more abruptly than he had to his wife earlier. He hit play.

She saw Logan immediately, clad in the blue jersey bearing the number 68, longer hair being held back by a white headband, which reminded her of a little club boy and she eagerly anticipated teasing him about it later. She watched him intercept the ball and start heading down the court, then a quick fake out and the ball was flying through the air, easily caught by 29. 29 moved across the court and then no sooner than she realized he wouldn't be able to take the shot, the ball was flying caught by Logan on the move, the person guarding him had no shot at succeeding, Logan was too close to the basket and the move too unexpected, the ball was going through the hoop almost before she realized what had happened. She heard the buzzer and listened to the cheers overtaking the gym as Logan and his teammates had a near pileup on each other as they celebrated. True joy, she realized seeing the shot of Logan's youthful face, so at odds with the one she turned to face now. Blank, emotionless, a wall blocking others from what he was thinking, if he even allowed himself thought.

"So Logan shot the winning basket," she summed up, trying to play it off for Logan's sake, he really wasn't in a place to deal with this today.

" Logan…" Bennett looked stunned at her summed up version, he shook his head, she just didn't grasp the complexities of the moment, "Logan faked and passed to our best shooter, but when he got double teamed, Logan then pulled off a pick and roll in the last 2 seconds that won the game--gave the coach a heart attack, but they never saw it coming." His head shook, "Hell, I didn't see it coming… Logan shot the winning basket," his head shook in disgust as he mocked her words.

"All of that summed up does mean…" she asked Logan with large eyes.

"That I shot the winning basket," he nodded.

"Once more pretty impressive," her head bobbed.

"It was a good way to end it," he conceded.

"So they kick you off the Bulldogs because of a broken collarbone?"

He looked up at her with honest, yet guarded eyes, "By the time I could play again," he froze, "it wasn't for me."

"Craziest decision my cousin has ever made," Bennett laughed, "who chooses writing for a school newspaper over playing ball at the college level?"

Logan laughed slightly, "I was short and not that good. I would have spent the majority of the season sitting on the benches," he explained to Max.

"Yet you would have still been on the basketball team," Bennett pointed out. "You used to love playing."

"I still do and I still did then. I just chose to spend my time more wisely."

"My father used to say that if Logan hadn't been injured he would have never changed his major."

"I'm sure I would have come to my senses eventually," Logan offered a charming smile trying to move past the issue.

"So was the 'can't miss' event as entertaining as Bennett promised?" Marianne asked walking into the room.

"Absolutely thrilling," Logan dryly answered.

Max continued to hold in her sigh and she realized there was no way in hell she was going to broach the subject with Logan of giving up on the exo, pointing out that if a team of government scientists hadn't been able to figure it out, then he probably wouldn't be able to divest it of its kinks. She'd sit in mud with him for as long as he needed to figure that out on his own, but she wasn't about to mention it. Maybe a casual reminder to hold onto railing firmly when attempting to walk down a flight of stairs and crossed fingers instead.

"Well I'm glad it's done because so is your dinner and I'm sure you still want to get dressed," Marianne smiled, though sadly aware that her husband's eager enthusiasm over the visual proof of his older cousin's triumph so many years ago that he had been sure would please Logan, had been as poor an idea as she'd suspected it. "And I was promised a movie before bed."

"A movie," Bennett smirked, "man this honeymoon period is really going to do me in."

-x-x-X-x-x-

They avoided the topic at dinner, not hard to do since Logan had received an 'urgent' call from Matt and he 'had' to go check something out on his computer just before settling down to eat and he had liberally threaded the 'emergency' throughout their dinner conversation, effectively keeping anything else off the table.

He made a quick excuse at the end of dinner about getting back to work and she'd offered to take care of the dishes.

"Thought you were working," she said sneaking up behind him to see him on screen flying up in the air in order to make the game saving shot.

"Yea," he quickly nodded and shut the window. "I was. It was just open."

She moved around him and deposited herself in his lap and went to open the file again. "That's some interesting hair," she said referring to the long hair that looked like it fell past his ears, tucked back by the sweatband.

He let out a low chuckle, "That is the hair everyone had."

"You look like a little clubber," she responded with a scrunched nose, nearly nose to nose with him.

"I was definitely not," he promised.

She turned back and hit play and clicked the screen to see the middle of the game, she watched for a moment before turning back to him. "I think I prefer street ball," she nodded watching for a second. "Grittier."

Another low chuckle, "Tends to happen when there aren't any refs."

She clicked ahead to the end, easily finding the timestamp from earlier, "Kinda impressive though," she said watching the ball sail into Logan's hands and Logan sail towards the basket, making it look effortless.

He didn't say anything.

"Not as impressive as you playing through a bloody nose," she rolled her eyes remembering a past game.

"Once more, I would have stopped if I'd realized," it hadn't been till the ball had been swooshing through the hoop that he'd noticed the blood streaming into his mouth.

"No you wouldn't have, you play to win," she pointed out, it was all or nothing.

"It wasn't that bad," he replied. Maybe he'd noticed something was off a little earlier than he let on.

"You ever get that stain out?"

"I didn't even try," he offhandedly remarked, preoccupied with watching himself on screen with his teammates celebrating their victory.

"So why'd you stop?" she asked, seeing the unadulterated joy in Logan's youthful face.

"The paper was a better use of my time," he nodded watching the screen, "basketball wasn't going anywhere. I could have played for a couple more years." His head shook, "Jay's girlfriend was on the newspaper at the time, she asked for my help."

"Some great travesty taking place on the Yale campus?" she smiled.

"Yea," he smirked, "they overbooked. Half of the freshman had an extra roommate in an already cramped space."

She laughed. "And you gave up basketball for that?"

"Yea," he knocked his head to look at her instead of the screen, "that seems a little odd doesn't it."

"Ya think?"

He laughed, "I wasn't good at it," he added.

Her eyebrows rose.

"I had the potential to be though," he continued watching the screen now frozen on a final shot someone had edited in of the yearbook's team picture. "It felt like it was lining up."

She twisted and looked at him.

"My future," he stroked her cheek. "I wasn't angry when I found out I couldn't play for awhile, I should have been angry. Then with Renee asking me to help her with her story, the editor asking me to do a book review after hearing me get into it with the person originally doing it and my English teacher, freshman lit, telling me I should stick with it. Up until those few weeks," he stroked her cheek again, "it was all planned out for me. Business major with a minor in computer science, Daphne, Cale Industries…It forced me to see those weren't the things I wanted, like basketball. I was doing it because it was expected of me, one because of my height; the other my lineage."

"This," she said leaning forward to once more move the mouse over the proper timestamp and watching Logan passing the ball, "is still pretty impressive," she added as he scored. "Not quite as impressive as you checking that bald guy the other guy," she added.

"I didn't check him, I blocked him, it's not hockey."

"Hey," she smiled, "I saw what I saw and trust me that was no normal blocking."

He laughed.

"Gotta tell you, that was a lot more impressive than this," she clicked the video back.

He gave her a look, after all it had been a normal game.

"Not only have you only been wheeling for a year versus the 16 years you'd been running, but you had to un-learn what you knew as basketball for thirty years. Dribbling, traveling, not to mention shooting from an entirely different angle…"

"You adjust," he played it off.

"And you look really hot while doing it," she emphatically nodded.

"Are you trying to make me feel better?" he warily eyed her.

"Depends," her head dropped, "is it making you feel better?"

"I'm not sure."

She chuckled and shifted around so she was straddling him, "Talking was never really my thing, I'm more of an action girl," she smirked.

"Oh really?" he asked with a blinding smile as his hands went to her waist.

"Mmmhmm," she answered bending down.

"Be careful," he ordered with hands firmly clutching her waist a few minutes later as she moved to shift into a better position as she straddled him.

"Drop a guy on his head once and he never lets you forget it," she smirked over him.

"It's hard, it'll survive," he replied with dry eyes, "a little more concerned about you."

"Oh come on, you heard Sam, I'm fine."

"No, I heard you disregard his orders and go back to work early, I heard you strong arm him into saying you know your body better than anyone."

"I'm fine," she promised and shifted back on his lap. "Wanna see?"

Before he could respond the maroon top was being tossed off and left in its place was Max, his Max in just a simple cotton black bra leaning back so he could get a better look.

"Granted not as appealing as it was before, but considering the alternative, I'm okay with it," she casually shrugged.

His fingers traced the angry, raised, red skin marring her before he looked up at her.

"Healing nicely, a few months you won't even be able to see it," she added.

He gave her a stern look, "A few months yes, right now it's only been a few weeks," he bent over to grab her shirt from next to his wheel and dropped it onto the chair with them.

"Quick healer," she popped forward and claimed his lips.

"You're not distracting me," he countered.

"Yet," she amended with a smile.

"At all," he smiled and gently pushed back her arms, "weren't we going to watch that movie you got from Sketchy?"

"We were going to check and see if it was legit so I'd know if he was going to live another day," she corrected.

"You bought it that means you want to watch it," he replied as he lifted the locks off his wheels.

"I bought it because I talked him down to five and I thought you'd like it," she dutifully informed him.

"And we aren't going to know the answer to that until we watch it," he pointed out as he began to turn with her still in his lap.

-x-x-X-x-x-

"Max," he pitifully murmured as she began to nibble on an earlobe, effectively blocking his view of the television as she straddled him, not that he would have been able to focus on the television with her doing that.

"Hmm," she responded as she trailed down his neck.

"We're not starting this again," he decreed.

"Starting what?" she innocently questioned.

"Max," he groaned.

"That's my name," she teased.

"You heard what Sam said," he reminded.

"I heard him say I know my body better than anyone else," she once again corrected.

"Yea well I heard the part about the strenuous activity."

"Been busting my hump riding around the city for three days."

"Busting is the proper word since you had to nap on Wednesday and you've been sleeping through the night."

"Do you have my girl spying on me?" she asked leaning away in anger.

"I had to get creative since you won't tell me what you're feeling."

"At the moment, not wanted," she bitingly responded.

"You're wanted," he said automatically pulling her back, despite trying to push her away earlier. "Just in one piece."

"I'm fine," she quickly retorted, sick of everyone treating her like she was made of fine China.

"You're not fine," he stroked her cheek, "why can't you admit that? You still flinch when you bend the wrong way."

"Flinch Logan. Flinch. Shot pretty much at point blank. Ripped apart and stitched back together by some hack in the middle of nowhere."

"And I wonder why I'd ever think you weren't fine," he asked turning her back gently with a finger to face him.

"But-"

"You nearly bled out in my lap," he reminded her.

"Guessing those stains didn't come out either?"

He didn't bother sharing with her by the time he had returned to his apartment with Syl and Krit taking turns in the other shower, leaving him alone in his bathroom his hands had been going to remove his clothing…The blood soaked, darkened fabric…He had shook. He shook for minutes as he realized just how close he had been to losing her, trembling uncontrollably, fighting the urge the throw up as the adrenaline, relief, fear and exhaustion overtook him. It hadn't been till he was ripping off his clothing and shoving it in the garbage can that he even realized tears were streaming down his cheeks.

"Once more, I didn't even try."

"You know Kendra does some-"

"I don't-"

"I think its vinegar…Or maybe that's oil not blood? Maybe wine?" she frowned.

"Max," he once more tenderly turned her head back to him. "I don't care about clothing. I care about you."

She huffed and tossed herself off him like a pouty child, arms crossed and all. Secretly touched, but nevertheless still annoyed with three weeks of being treated like a delicate flower. It was odd to have so much concern and worry about her, odd to have people that truly cared. Not that she was complaining, okay well maybe a little. It could get rather tiring.

He chuckled.

She turned, "Admit it," her head cocked, "this is still payback for me flippin' you in the chair."

He turned and gave her a dry eye, "More like you only managed to soften my blow and not stop it. And the fact that you looked like you were going to throw up for a few minutes afterwards didn't escape me."

Damn, she hadn't played that off as well as she thought she had.

"And then you went back to work the next day," he added.

"That was three days ago," she pointed out.

He gave her another disbelieving look.

"I'm fine," she once more adamantly declared.

"I just want you to take it easy," he gently reminded.

She smirked, "I can do easy." She shifted again, away from her sulking position next to him, to right back to on top of him, "And slow," she added.

"Max," he chuckled slightly as his hands once more went immediately to her waist.

"I promise," she swore with large eyes and a gentle smile.

"Well if you promise," he bit back his chuckle this time as he conceded; after all he was only human and more importantly male.

"I do," she slowly nodded, keeping up the teasing game that was emerging between them and dropped her head to slowly grace his lips with a teasing, brushing kiss. "Of course you know," her voice informed him in a husky whisper into his ear, "the bed does have more padding just in case."

He smirked, "That is a good point."

She leaned back smiling, "With how our luck has been going."

"Oh you mean, you start to fall, I'd try to save you and we'd end up in a crumbled heap on the floor?"

"More like twisted carnage half on the coffee table, half on the floor," she seriously nodded, before letting out a smile.

He looked over her shoulder to the coffee table. "Valid argument," he nodded and looked back at her, "we should move, just to err on the side of safety."

"That's what I thought," she replied with a straight face and another nod.

She hopped off with a swiftness and an ease that not only proved she was like no one he'd ever met before, but also that she was healing at a rate that countermanded Sam's expectations, especially after going back to work so early.

"You coming or what?" she asked as she reached the edge of the living room, throwing a smile over her shoulder to find him making no move to transfer.

"I'm coming," he promised.

She smirked, but didn't say anything.

"I'll be right there," he chuckled and pulled his chair in closer.

"I'll be waiting," she smiled and headed on without him.

She stood in his doorway, watching the changing lights send the room from daylight to pitch black as she fiddled with the dial, listening to Logan starting to make his move across the apartment.

It was a simple concept, one even a child should understand, one that Sketchy, Original Cindy, Kendra, Bling, her sibs, hell even Normal got before she did.

Max and Logan equaled 'like that.'

Best lesson she ever learned.


Oh man that was the CHEESIEST ending ever! But well ya know holidays equal saccharine sweet and I couldn't figure out how to end it and it made sense to work the title in somewhere (especially considering, I'd also written it in the summary as well).

I hope you all enjoyed Shy's MASSIVE basketball contribution (it may not seem like much, but it took five times longer than the rest of the story), she explained as much as she could about height and basketball as the little sports related part of my brain could accept (seriously her emails were story length trying to explain everything to me and trying to understand what I was looking for). She not only found, but explained a clip of what a pick and roll is and Bennett's whole little speech regarding it are exactly Shy's words for it. She wrote it out for a character to explain it to me and HOW could I leave it out when it actually explained the move to people who know what they're talking about when it comes to basketball. :-P

I hope you're having a good Christmas in July Tigrou!

(Oh and PS- thanks for helping out with my story, I'm loving it so far!)