This is my Christmas story to LISA who wanted:
1) really good UST – Uh. Probably not as good as you wanted it to be
2) an injury - Check
3) max's apartment as a setting - Check
4) Alec and logan interaction - Check
5) a shared bed - Check
6) a really good villain - I couldn't. I'm SO SORRY, Lisa. I just couldn't find a way to fit one in, all the good villains were on holiday, I think...
That being said, hope this is just what you wanted for Christmas, and if it isn't, just say that it is ;-P
Merry Christmas LISA!!
Christmas was one holiday Max couldn't appreciate. It was cold, to the point that even her genetically engineered body felt uncomfortable going out doors. The snow prevented her from going on her nightly bike excursions. The roads were not properly shovelled, snow gathered in clumps everywhere, and she didn't want to risk losing control avoiding them and damaging her baby. Joshua consistently complained to her about the cold, as if she had any control over it. He questioned her incessantly about Christmas, most of the time ending up with her making up the answers as she didn't have a clue what they really were. Max desperately wanted Christmas go away.
On the eve Christmas Eve, Max found another reason to hate Christmas. Cindy has heading home to visit her relatives. Max had come home from Crash to a very messy apartment, wrapping paper littering the floor and clothing flying out of her roommate's room. Thinking Cindy was in another one of her weird 'must get rid of everything because the presents will replace them' mood, she'd left her alone before heading to catch a few hours of a well deserved sleep.
Just as Max started to drift off, she was rudely woken up.
"Boo, I need a bed."
Her room door had flung open, and Cindy stood at her doorway. She entered with a big smile on her face and settled herself beside Max on her bed. Max sighed, making room for her and turned away from her over excited friend.
"I just got into bed, Cin, I don't want to wake up." Max muttered, pulling the covers over her head. She felt Cindy squirm, lifting the thin blanket and then snuggling herself in beside her. She heard Cindy chuckle and pat her head patronizingly.
"Original Cindy ain't askin' ya to wake up, boo. Just scoot over 'cause Original Cindy's bed is too damn full of presents for her peeps back home." She said, instantly making Max sit up and reconfirm what she'd just heard. Yes, she'd heard correctly, Original Cindy was heading home for Christmas and was leaving Max to her own devices until the New Year.
Cindy had fallen asleep next to her smiling after that, but Max remained awake for a long time before exhaustion decided to take over.
The next day, on Christmas Eve, after convincing Normal to let her off early from work, Cindy boarded the evening bus home, leaving Max to mentally add to her already long list of why she absolutely despised Christmas. It had stolen her best friend from her.
In the wee hours of the morning of Christmas Day, as the first few flakes of snow of the day drifted earthbound with sunrise threatening to brighten the sky in a few hours, two men stood in front of a lone skinny Christmas tree, in the middle of a clearing, an area where there used to be more healthy looking trees. Tell tale signs of tree stumps, fallen branches, green spindly leaves and deep drag marks in the snow indicated that more had been in there, but had been taken by earlier, more responsible people.
One of the men lifted his arm, revealing a handheld battery powered chainsaw while the other held the tree, bracing it as the chainsaw came to life in a loud electrical hum. One swift motion and a loud 'crack' later, the tree leaned sideways, its pointy top brushing the forehead of the two men. They both steadied it, and then started to drag it towards the blue Aztec waiting for them further away.
"You know, Logan, when you said this was urgent, I was thinking of something more along the lines of kicking some Familiar ass, not cutting down some lame tree. Don't you have someone else to do these things for you?"
"It was the only way to make you hurry up." Logan replied, and then stepped away from the tree retrieving the chainsaw and leaving Alec to hold it by himself.
"Besides, I can't do this on my own and who else can I ask?" He added a moment later as he watched, somewhat admirably oat Alec's ability to singlehandedly drag the tree towards the car.
Alec stopped mid track and looked back at him incredulously. "Man, are you forgetting someone? You know, brunette, about five six, constantly in a bad mood?"
"This is for Max, Alec." Logan said with a sigh. He trudged up to Alec, snow falling into his eyes and held out a thick rope. Alec took it reluctantly and removed his gloves to gain a better grip on the rope.
"This is not because I screwed up your chances with the Manticore tech, is it? Because you know, I already apologized for that." Alec remarked, heaving the tree onto the top of the Aztec. He twisted the rope in his hands and threw one end over the tree to other side where Logan was waiting. The rope went taut in his hands, and then came back to him from under the metal railings on top of the car.
"It's not because of that." Came Logan's reply, although, Alec realised, it was late by several seconds. He secured the tree and gave it a hard shove to see if it was tightly bound to the top. Alec felt a sharp pain in his hand, and noticed he had a small trickle of blood running down his palm, courtesy a rather big splinter embedded beneath his skin.
"One day, Romeo, when this stupid virus shit is done for, you two better name your first born after me." He muttered, earning a short chuckle of laughter from Logan. He gave the offending tree one last push, and stepped down.
Logan had already started the engine, the loud chugging echoing in the silent forest. As the first rays of sunshine touched the top of the larger trees in the forest, the both of them headed back out into the not so peaceful Seattle and into Christmas morning.
For probably the hundredth time that morning, Max irritably brushed off the snow that had landed on her shoulders as she made her deliveries around town. Her backpack weighed a ton, more than she'd ever carried on a single run before, last minute presents to almost forgotten relatives, invitations to parties, festive cards. One could always trust Normal to have Jam Pony up and running on a public holiday when every other messenger service to shut down for the week. She shook her head, hoping to get most of the snow off her hair, and twisted her bike handles to avoid an icy patch on the ground.
All day, she had been avoiding the puddles of melted snow, unmelted snow and Christmas paraphernalia that had fallen onto the streets and it was making her hate Christmas even more. And it was cold. She was freezing her ass off and seeing as how half of Jam Pony had gone on holiday, back revisiting relatives or just plain getting away from it all, she was stuck with double the work load, and longer hours. Even Alec had gone MIA, taking a sick day and she couldn't vent her frustrations on him.
She missed her roommate. She also missed a certain blonde, 6 foot 2, green eyed someone, but she could only blame herself for that, as she had turned down his offer for a traditional Christmas dinner with him, fearing that she might end up giving Logan the gift of death instead if she accepted.
At least White and his goons seemed to be the festive kind, they had been quiet the entire week and there wasn't a single sign pointing to them ruining her Christmas even more. Max returned to Jam Pony after her last delivery and handed in her signature sheet to Normal, at the same time wondering why Normal didn't have anything else better to do on Christmas day. She shrugged the question away and zipped up her jacket, preparing to head home to spend her Christmas night alone.
She opened the door to her apartment and almost immediately sensed that something was out of place. In a split second, she realised that it was the familiar scent of the sandalwood aromatherapy candles Logan had around his place, in case of a brown out. That, and a modestly decorated Christmas tree had miraculously appeared in the middle of the hall, with Christmas lights draped around it blinking to their own silent melody.
Her furniture had been moved around to make space for the Christmas tree which really looked out of place in her undecorated apartment. Candles littered the place, casting a warm glow in the apartment. A few plates of food had been laid out on the small table by the tree, and there was Logan standing by it, a wine bottle in his hand smiling apologetically at her.
"I broke in, I'm sorry. But you're right in time for dinner."
Her first instinct was to chase him out of the apartment, scream at him and tell him that her Christmas was supposed to be a lonely one, without anyone spending it with her. But she'd been disarmed by his smile, the smell of a hot dinner and the promise of pleasant company. After the past few days she had had, she was willing to let this one go. Better to enjoy whatever little that she could, even with the dark cloud of possible death hanging over them.
"What exactly is all of this, Logan? Didn't I already say no to you?" She asked, knowing full well what it was, but needing to hear it from him. She dropped her jacket on her couch and approached him, taking a long whiff of whatever had been placed on the table. Max glanced back at Logan, now pouring the wine into glasses he probably brought from his own apartment. It was then she noticed the white gloves he had on, and subconsciously ran a finger down the seams of her own leather gloves.
"This is a Christmas dinner." He replied, placing the glasses on the table top. He gestured vaguely around the apartment. "I figured you couldn't say no to me again if it's in your own living room and all laid out for you. Everyone deserves to have a Christmas dinner once in their entire life."
Max fell silent, remembering her earlier disdain for Christmas, her hatred for the snow and the cold. It suddenly dawned upon her that her problem with Christmas was the fact that she was going to spend it alone. It brought back memories of shivering in the dark, watching from the corner of the street as families sat together eating and laughing with a big tree behind them decorated with the shiny ornaments she liked so much. As much as Max tried to deny it, even then, she hated being alone.
Max gave herself a moment to take it all in, the smell of food wafting towards her, the blinking Christmas tree, the sudden warmth she felt when she realised Logan was the one responsible for all of it. Standing there in his turtleneck sweater, exo-skeleton whirring as he moved about, she mentally reprimanded herself for ever turning down his invitation.
"Thank you." She half whispered, and then gave Logan a small smile. She noticed he'd taken the effort to shave, and his hair was shorter and better behaved than she had seen in a long time.
"You're looking good tonight." She remarked, indicating with a small nod at Logan's face. He let out a soft laugh and grinned.
"Yeah, it was getting a bit wild." He said as reached out to adjust a string of lights that had fallen out of place on the tree, careful to mind his distance. He shot her another smile. Max admired him for a second longer, appreciating the months he'd spent working on his upper body as the sweater he was wearing hinted at the muscles beneath them. She bit her lip, knowing that she was crossing dangerous territory, only to realise that Logan in turn had been watching her unabashedly. Suddenly conscious of the tight sweater she was wearing, a Christmas present from Cindy, she turned towards the tantalising spread laid out on the table.
"Shall we start then?"
Dinner passed comfortably, both of them content to just enjoy each other's company after months of an uneasy friendship. Her laughter as he related Alec's reluctance in helping him reminded him of the year they'd had before she had gotten recaptured. His smiles and lingering glances at her reminded her of how much she craved his company, of how it was him that had gotten her through the nightmare which was Manticore.
The apartment was silent for a moment after dinner as the last of the laughter died away, leaving only the whirr of the exoskeleton echoing between them.
"Thank you for all of this." Max said suddenly. "The tree, dinner, and the candles..."
"It was no problem at all, Max," Logan said, his voice rich with emotion as he got up to gather the empty plates. "You know I'd do anything for you. Screw the virus."
Max avoided Logan's eyes for a moment, unsure of how to react to his admission, only to realise that it wasn't something she didn't already know. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was that 'Christmas spirit' thing taking over the more sensible part of her brain, but as she stepped away from the table and moved closer to Logan, she realised that she wanted him to know that she felt exactly the same way about him.
She felt slightly giddy, and with a quick glance out of her window noticed that the snow had stopped falling outside. The city was blanketed in a layer of white, like something from a fairy tale. The lights from the Christmas tree pulsated with rhythmic determination.
"We'll get through this, Logan, I promise. And when we do, we'll have the best Christmas ever, with a proper dinner, and presents and everything. But until then," Max paused, taking a deep breath, her eyes shining bright with unshed tears.
Her hands, gloved in leather reached out to Logan, who stood unflinching in front of her. Her hands cupped his face as the first few drops of tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Until then, we still have us. And nobody can take that away, ever. Merry Christmas, Logan." She ended in barely a whisper, swallowing a lump in her throat. Logan, his own hands clad in the rubber gloves moved her hands, shifting them so that he was clasping her fingers tightly in his own.
"Merry Christmas, Max."
And Merry Christmas to all of you just waking up and finding this story! Hope it wasn't too sad :-) A million thanks to all of you who put up with my whining and complaining about the cold and my uncooperative muse. Review, and my Christmas will be even merrier.