Disclaimer: See chapter 1
A/N: Finally finishing this, after only two years... To the 2008 Seattle crowd!
The Penthouse, 9:30 PM
Alec's call came completely out of the blue, catching Logan when he'd finally managed to focus on an anonymous Eyes Only file, far from the whole depressing mess of virus and Manticore.
It was his regular phone that drilled into his concentration, the landline that connected him to the world simply as Logan Cale, journalist and reclusive lost nephew. Hands refusing to return the keyboard, Logan was tempted to just let it ring. In all likelihood it was just Aunt Margo with her disdain over his last missed family gathering. But ever since Max's death he had been unable to ignore phone and doorbell, always hoping for a miracle…
He immediately recognized Alec's voice. In a disorienting reflex it brought back the nightmare unfolding after Max's kiss, his memories vague and alarming.
Logan hadn't paid attention to the first signs of not feeling well, putting down the sudden dizziness to the big rush of Max being back, alive, her skin tingling under his fingers. Just seconds later though, as he collapsed with a strange, disorienting fatigue, he knew that something was wrong, seriously wrong. The world around him started to spin, yet even through the swooshing echo of his own pulse he could clearly hear a stranger's voice, disinterested and almost a bit amused. "You killed him..."
Then there was Max's voice, slipping from frantic anger into panic. She sounded faraway, surreal as in his dreams, but even in his fever haze Logan registered enough of the guy's answer to understand their catastrophic meaning. Retrovirus. His DNA. Max...
The last thing he remembered was the stranger again, countering Max's loathing with the cynic boredom of someone who'd never learnt to care. "Fine. Fine, but when he's dead, can I go home?"
"Logan? You there?
Logan's answer was short and clipped, the feeling of helpless inferiority still lingering. "Yeah. What do you want?"
The brief silence on the other end was long enough for Logan to regret his harshness. And still, Alec's smooth reply was quick enough to fool anybody not familiar with Max's flippancy. "Just thought you might want to know… I run into Max on the Space Needle. Looks like she's having the shakes."
The Space Needle, 10 PM
Logan had a lot of time to think as he climbed the stairs of the Space Needle, the exo's monotone whirring testing his patience. Yet even if he'd given more than just a passing thought to the possibility that Alec's call was some kind of trap, even if he hadn't just trusted his instinct and the uneasy urgency in Alec's voice... even then the idea of Max up there alone, no longer coming to him for comfort, would have made him head out without caring for the consequences.
Finally he reached the last step, the way up so much longer when there was a purpose. The heavy door separating the staircase from the former visitor center no longer existed and so Logan directly stepped into the panorama of nightly Seattle, still impressive behind the splintered windows.
He only noticed Alec because he knew to expect him, somewhere there between the unmoving silhouettes that stood out against the grey sky. Casually leaning against one of the broken, dusty displays that had once attracted the tourists, the other man seemed indifferent to the sparkling skyline behind him, his eyes focused onto the door.
If he felt uneasy in his role as Max's guardian, Alec's carefully composed tone didn't give him away. Skipping his usual smart comments, he simply tipped his head towards the roof. "She's still up there, a bit better by the sound of it."
Even though he was edgy with the image of Max shivering in the cold, Logan paused, catching his breath as he gave the other man a long, appraising look. Under the shades of grey, gloomy light that filtered onto his face Alec looked tired, worn-out….
Ever since that night of Max's return, Logan had instinctively encountered Alec with a feeling of defensive caution. It wasn't just the way they'd met or not knowing why the transgenic hadn't killed him, it wasn't even that Alec had just watched as Max had infected him with the virus. More subtly, Alec's cynic nonchalance had something that made Logan uncomfortably aware of his abilities, of the assignments and missions he must have gone through to become so assimilated to the outside.
Without Zack's stoic predictability or Tinga's protective smile for Case, Alec reminded Logan of Max's deriding smartness early on, only that this time it couldn't be disarmed with a charming smile. Only that with Alec he couldn't see the softness underneath, couldn't find that stubborn, sentimental yearning for her siblings. With Alec, Logan had never see that irritating suaveness fail.
Now though he wasn't so sure. Looking at the other man, noting how he still wore the same clothes in which he'd last seen him, Logan was reminded of those barely grown-up teenagers who populated the streets now, keeping themselves save with hard, unforgiving faces.
As Logan's gaze lingered, the other man shifted his position, fidgeting almost in guarded unrest as if he didn't know how to counter such calm, wordless interest. His voice was hoarse as he ended their mutual taxing, lacking that unconcerned self-assuredness of their first encounters. „I'll be around another minute, in case you need a hand for getting her down safely."
Nodding his thanks, Logan turned around to the hidden maintenance ladder leading up to the roof, fleetingly wondering whether Alec's pride would accept some help with settling down.
With her shaking back to him, all Logan could see was the familiar leather jacket, covered with tousled strands of hair that was regaining some of its old curl up here in the humid breeze. Even though she must have heard them, she didn't move at the sound of his boots on the steel, maybe worn out from the seizure… or awkward with his presence, unsure how to react…
Logan sighed, briefly wondering it trying to put his arm around her shoulders would scare her enough to throw them both over the edge. Instead he did the best he could, forcing himself to forget how good it would feel to touch her.
"You know… that's my spot." Keeping out the worry and strain now always between them, his voice was light and affectionate in his attempt to make it easy for her.
As if she'd waited for him to speak up, Max turned her head, her face a puzzle of darkness and light. Logan had expected her to display that withdrawn distance so typical for her in times of distress, now magnified a hundred times by the virus. But there was none of it. Looking disturbingly young and tired, she smiled at him, just faintly but not bothering to hide the warmth in her eyes…
Logan had to force himself not to give her a wide, dazzling grin in return, reminding himself that she probably just mirrored his own relief. And still… for the first time in weeks her delight over seeing him seemed to outweigh the fear… for the first time since she'd started to retreat there seemed to be a reason to believe that things would work out.
Holding her gaze for a moment, he covered the few steps between them, then averted his eyes, keeping things light as he concentrated on sitting down on the steep, slippery surface. Being this close to the edge gave him the familiar, numbing rush of vertigo, so welcome in the last months… only that now with Max's presence he couldn't savor it anymore. Just the knowledge that she was back had changed everything, from early in the morning when he decided not to let his stubble become a beard until dinner time when he took the time to plan a meal just because she might come over.
Logan's absent smile lingered as he fumbled in the pockets of his jacket for the items awkwardly stowed there. Choosing a safe distance that wouldn't scare her, he put down a half-empty bottle of Tryptophan on the cold surface between them.
He waited for a moment, hiding his relief as she swallowed a handful of pills without hesitation. Then his fingers slid into his pocket again, presenting the small milk carton he'd hastily grabbed as an afterthought before leaving the apartment, together with that last, half-melted chocolate bar he'd kept for special occasions.
His helpless gesture was the closest he could come to physical comfort, a weak attempt to bring some of the Penthouse's soothing calm. But it seemed to work, Logan noted as he allowed himself to watch just long enough to catch her smirk at his familiar feeding habits. It was this tired glimpse of the old, up-beat Max that he'd hoped to see, if nothing else restoring what they'd had before.
And there was more, a new, tender thoughtfulness emerging from this first quiet moment together since she'd come back, only to be engaged in a parade of missions and emergencies. Now finally it was just the two of them and simply sitting here felt like a truce in their new pattern of her running away and his attempts to make her stay.
Unwilling to destroy their rare moment of peace, Logan focused on a single light in the distance, the silent testimony of someone kept up alone there in one of the high-rise towers. Below them, the city looked almost peaceful. Like a precious miniature world, it stretched out under the glow of the moon that seemed so much closer up here. Its pale, placid light let the water come alive in a mosaic of serene, shining vastness, a pattern unharmed by a luckless decade.
The sight of Seattle at night was nothing new for Logan. Unlike his boyhood room in the Cale mansion, providing him only with suburban green, the Penthouse's wide glass fronts exposed him to the city day and night, its defective skyline a perpetual reminder of his responsibility. With the city in front of him and the ever-present whirring of his computers from behind, there was no escape from Eyes Only, no running away from those needing help.
Up here though, the city's former grandeur shone through the brokenness like a promise of hope. Touching an almost forgotten inspiration, the muted view calmed him with its vow that things would get better, even if things seemed hopelessly bleak.
Sensing more than that he saw how Max's shaking abated, Logan finally spoke, still keeping his tone light. "I could never really understand why you came here, how you could find some kind of peace and perspective when all I saw from my windows was brokenness. The Needle just seemed to be a part of it, a cynic proof of how things had been, of the light carefree life we'd had, the disappointments ever since." Logan paused, thinking of how different that life had been, of all the things that had changed. "But after you we're… gone… I came up here, trying to see what you had seen."
Trying to find her…
He needed to get away from the penthouse where everything reminded him of Max, everything from the kitchen stool still arranged in an angle to watch him cook to the rest of milk turning sour in the fridge, from her extra clothes folded neatly on his dryer to the tiny bag of curry powder she'd somehow sneaked into his cupboard, almost breaking him when he found it. Even his bedroom, a space untouched by her imprints, was invaded by a procession of vivid daydreams that continued to materialize as if nothing had happened.
Yet even while running from all the memories he wanted to be close to her, erratically driving through the streets in his search for the impossible. Of course he ended up at the Needle, its provoking profile drawing him closer in concentric circles. It was the last place where they'd been together, before hope and fear had tilted towards the catastrophe. So he went up and solemnly occupied her place, finding comfort in imagining how often she must have sat here while he stared down at the city from his own ivory tower, both of them awake and dreaming.
Max still hadn't said a word, hadn't even nodded at his explanations. But Logan didn't need these confirmations to know that she was listening. And so he kept talking, his voice a soothing flow between them as he lulled her with childhood memories of a different, happier Seattle.
Sensing how her shaking calmed down, Logan finally allowed himself to tip his head to the side to just watch her. He took in how she sat there in that vulnerable, self-hugging pose, with her arms around her knees, noted the glassy, faraway stare that was the first sign of her after-seizure drowsiness. As always when he witnessed that very core of Max, stripped from all pretenses, Logan just wanted to hug protect her, to caress her and softly stroke her hair… yet now, after having lost her, it was overwhelming, almost a physical urge.
But it was impossible and so he simply stood up, offering his out-stretched arm with the securely gloved hand. "The sheets on the guest bed haven't been changed for a while… but who knows, there might be some kind of culinary miracle waiting for you when you wake up…"
He did his best to sound calm and confident but on the inside all he could do was to hope that the reminiscence of their familiar pattern would be enough to lure her back.
As she looked up, her eyes blank with impossibility, Logan thought for a second that he'd ruined it. Her gaze flickered away from him, restlessly searching for something down there in the light-dotted darkness and leaving him to helplessly scrutinize her face.
The moment she was on her feet though, Max's eyes were back on him, focusing on Logan with an intensity that seemed to question everything he had said, all he had meant… daring him to look away and lose her. Knowing better than to let go, he felt her hand on his, breaking the taboo. Hesitant at first, her grip became firm and confident, enclosing his hand as if she was making a promise, confirming a vow. Before Logan had time to react, her hand was already sliding out of his, fingers tracing his arm with a trace of that old, playful cockiness. Then the last opportunity to keep her close was gone and Logan stayed behind, watching Max make her way back to the inside.
xxx The end (finally) xxx
Sorry Lisa, failing on the smut-part, but in my little fantasy world the cure is just around the corner and then...