Timeframe: This story takes place a week after "Blah, Blah, Woof, Woof".
A/N: I don't own any DA character … just borrow them to have some fun. I tried my best to do OC and Sketchy justice, but I have no idea if I succeeded. Please, let me know what you think. Constructive criticism appreciated.
THANKS to Maria for the beta!
Hope you enjoy!
1. Drifting Off
Crash, Thursday Evening, about 9:30 p.m.
The air in the crowded bar was sticky, filled with cigarette smoke and the faint odor of alcohol. Loud hip hop music was bawling from big loudspeakers, and neck-breaking stunts were displayed on an oversized screen. It was hot at Crash, and the place was even more crammed than normal.
Max and Original Cindy had managed to snatch two chairs at the wooden bar while Sketchy leaned against it, watching the stunt videos with enraptured attention, his left hand securely wrapped around a glass of beer.
"Damn, Normal pissed me off today," OC announced with a frown. She took a big gulp of the bitter tasting liquid that was far from the "Miller" it promised to be and then added with disdain. "Original Cindy brought a package to those Rydin Forties dudes in Clemson Street, and Normal had nothing better to do than to yell about gettin' a signature when OC was glad to have got outta there in one piece … without losin' her bike to some 10-year-olds with guns … that is."
Max grinned. "Guy probably doesn't even know what it looks like in those parts of town," she shrugged; at the same time making a mental note to take care of those dangerous rides in the future or at least offer back up.
It felt good to be with her friends after a long day at work. Weird enough, not even Normal had been able to get on her nerves today. Everything was fine as long as her thoughts were distracted from wandering back to Zack as he was dragged away, hands and feet secured with unbreakable steel chains … struggling … sacrificing his freedom for her … or back to that disturbing moment when she'd thought she had to leave Seattle … and Logan.
And the noisy bar was just the right place to prevent her from thinking, from drifting into that dream again…
Dancing … being so close to Logan … feeling so good … protected …
"Guess Normal should take a bike and pedal through town once in a while," OC complained sourly. "What's the guy thinkin' we're doing out there? A good boss should care about his peeps."
"Uh-huuuh." Max nodded, trying to focus on her friend's words. She fought vehemently to keep her mind from slipping into that orange fog of soft touches and gentle movements … for the billionth time in the last seven days.
They were dancing … his right hand tightly on the small of her back … holding her close. It felt so good, so right … as if they really belonged to each other.
Damn. What was it that kept her thinking about the dream? It was like a drug … a dangerous drug … a dissembling sentimentality. Max shook her head, willing the treacherous thoughts to vanish.
Suddenly a faint tremor touched her hands … ever so slightly … like a feather stroke, and her heart skipped a beat, her blood running cold. Her eyes grew wide until they focused on her friends again. Get a grip, Max!
"Yep." Sketchy finally tore his eyes away from the screen, a foolish grin plastered on his pale face. "Let's send Normal outta there into Rydin Forties territory, see if he comes back with his clothes on."
OC and Sketchy laughed and bumped fists, both of them well entertained by Sketchy's idea. Max forced a grin onto her lips. Her glance settled on the glass in front of her. She took a big gulp of her beer and concentrated on the bitter taste on her tongue, calculating how many glasses it would take to feel some tipsiness.
Damn genes … damn Manticore … she wasn't even able to drown her misery.
OC's and Sketchy's attention shifted from their discussion about Normal's crankiness to a group of dark clad punks. One of them seemed about to start a fight, but unfortunately the guy was already tripping over his own feet, his sluggish words completely incomprehensible in the noisy bar. He just looked pathetic as he wildly waved about with his arms, held by one of his buddies; his face an ugly mask of alcohol drenched fury.
Max pursed her lips in disdain and directed her attention on her beer again, putting the glass back on the bar. Maybe she didn't want to get wasted … not really.
The orange brown liquid swirled around in the glass, softly drawing her in. Loud music was slowly replaced by slower rhythms … Sibelius – sad but nevertheless beautiful. It filled her senses, tuned out her surroundings.
Max was stepping into a room that was bathed in soft orange-yellow light. Hundreds of tiny light bulbs were scattered about the room, decorating the window, cascading in chains down the white, lucent curtains. Max stared straight into a pair of intense green eyes, once again trapped in her dream that felt just too real. The distinct, male scent of Logan filled her nostrils, and it felt as if they were the only ones left on earth … no strings attached, neither Manticore nor Eyes Only lingering to pull them apart.
Dance with me.
Sure you can. Mind over matter.
See, my problem is I can't walk.
I'm not asking you to walk. Just dance.
Finally giving in to her soft demands, Logan stood up, pushing the wheelchair away. Easily. The chair had never mattered to her and now it was out of the way for good, dissolved into orange glimmering air. Finally.
She'd almost forgotten how tall he was. And now he looked down on her, his hair spiky, a hint of half-day-old whiskers on his chin … and sexy as hell.
Her food connected with the leg of her chair … THUD … and Max was quickly pushed back into the real world, loud music crashing down on her. She felt another slight tremor of her hands, just a tiny notch stronger than before. It left her helpless and scared, unable to ignore the approach of a seizure. The faint pressure of a headache began to form at the back of her head, throbbing, a dark forebode of the pain that would soon rage through her body.
Eyes wide … dark and troubled, Max looked up, only to meet OC's concerned glance.
"You okay?" her friend asked softly.
Max slowly shook her head. She tried to smile, but failed miserably and finally admitted with a small shrug: "Maybe I caught the flu or something. I gotta jet."
Two pairs of eyes where now attentively directed at Max, and OC offered, "I can take you home, boo. You really look kinda pale."
"No, I'll be fine … but thanks." Max placed a five dollar note under the now almost empty pitcher and then put on her leather jacket. "See you at work tomorrow."
A strained smile graced her features as she waved her friends good-bye, hurrying to leave the bar. She fought desperately to keep her gait steady and the shivers under control.
Damn morons at Manticore, she cursed inwardly. Wannabe scientists … charlatans … creating perfect soldiers … pah … I'm just defect merchandise … Even Lydecker said we're flawed. She shook her head, willing all thoughts of Manticore to vanish. Too soon would they fill her completely and drag her back into a gray world of coldness.
Max opened the door. She quickly exited Crash and mounted her bike, glad about the cool night air that cleared her senses. An emergency package of Tryptophan was always in the inside pocket of her jacket, and with a soft sigh of relief Max took a small handful of pills. Fear seeped through the core of her being. She had to get home and she had to get there fast. Without so much as a backward glance she took off as fast as she dared, praying that she would reach home before the next wave of seizures hit.
Fogle tower, same evening, 10:20 p.m.
The penthouse apartment was sparsely lit and almost completely silent. Only the soft humming of electronic devices was audible, and now and then the fast clattering noise of keys interrupted the quietness as the keyboard got attacked by long, elegant fingers in a desperate sense of urgency. As usually, Logan sat in front of his monitors, apparently intently looking at the information that popped up on the different screens, seemingly concentrated on his latest Eyes Only victim, a major bad guy named Gerhard Bronck. Oddly enough his normally so focused mind kept drifting off into an ocean of orange, filled with soft music and warm light.
… Max looked so gorgeous … like a fairy, clad in a beautiful, white gown, her pearl earrings and necklace sparkling. Her dark hair was pinned up at the back of hair head, only some strands framing her face and covering her neck.
He felt lightheaded and as if he'd been freed from all restraints. The chair wasn't important any more. It had been easy to push it away. Anything and everything was possible. He just wanted to be close to her, hold her … it was the only thing that mattered. Deep inside he knew it was a dream, it had to be, but he didn't care. Never waking up again? Fine with him.
Max looked up, dark eyes shining. She'd asked him to dance with her, her soft voice compelling. Now she lifted her left hand in an inviting gesture and again Logan was struck by her supernatural beauty. She took his breath away. He wasn't able to resist … didn't want to resist. And finally he stepped forward, bridging the gap between them.
Whose dream is this, anyway? Yours or mine?
Logan had to ask, he had to know.
He felt Max's hand on his shoulder, warm and soft. Their fingertips met and a faint smile touched her lips.
Don't ask me. …
His computer beeped, announcing that an important message had reached the inbox. He had to concentrate, Logan told himself again and again. There where important things on his to-do list; emails needed to be answered, informants had to be contacted. But when he finally managed to detach himself from the spell, it just took a few minutes until either the dream or Max's desperate kiss haunted him again … for the billionth time in the last seven days.
Her eyes had been a pool of sadness and desperation, reflecting his own feelings when he thought he'd lost her. She was about to leave Seattle (and him!) and only God knew if she was ever coming back.
After she'd left the car, taking every bit of warmth with her, Logan had felt so lost … so empty and miserable. But Max had come back, had suddenly pressed her warm lips onto his; taking his breath away, and within a split second she had catapulted him into heaven.
The kiss had seemed to take forever. He'd held her head with both hands, had kissed her back with silent urgency, never to let go again. And it had felt so good, so right … as if they really belonged to each other.
A rattling noise suddenly demanded his attention, cruelly pushing him back into reality again. Logan turned the chair with determined force, his heart suddenly beating out of his chest.
The apartment was way too dark, he realized, as he left the "holy room" to search for the source of the noise, a small gun placed in his lap. Worst case scenarios hovered through his mind.
"Hello?" Logan's deep voice echoed through the silence as he pushed himself through the empty living area. No answer was provided, and the soft noise of rubber wheels on the hardwood floor seemed suddenly unnaturally loud. Logan cursed the chair. Coldness crawled up his spine. Don't panic, he told himself and took a deep, steadying breath, reaching the front door where he finally found the intruder.
His throat tightened and all of his senses sharpened. Lying there on the threshold in a black, shaking heap was his personal cat burglar, the one person that had prevented his death just seven days ago, the person that had so frequently followed him into his dreams … his angel.
"Oh my God, Max," he whispered.
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