A/N: So here's the last bit, which contains modified versions of two of Shywriter's other wish list requests. I should also probably mention that she stipulated that there be no major character deaths. So, I have technically not violated that request. Okay, I hope you enjoy…

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

On a mundane Sunday afternoon, Logan wheeled back into his apartment, relieved to find Max curled up on his couch reading. She smiled at him, as she always did now, and his heart leapt in response. He only wished he had something better to reward that unspoken greeting with then the news he had to give.

He didn't have to say it; she could tell from him face that something was wrong, and so she righted herself on the couch, moving to a much more formal, controlled sitting position.

"Max…" Logan began, direct as he always was with her, "the super just contacted me; it seems that he was checking on Mrs. Moreno's stove this morning when he found her unconscious. He called for an ambulance…but she was already gone."

Max sat completely still, unsure of what she felt.

Finally she stated, "I just talk to her yesterday… I didn't go and see her this morning. I…"

"There is nothing you could have done. She died instantly."

Max nodded, tears that didn't fall filled her eyes. She needed to get out, to hide, to repress. As if hearing her thoughts, Logan attempted to intervene.

"Max…"

"I'm going for a ride. I'll be back later."

"Max…" he attempted again, grabbing on to her arm as she attempted to walk past him to the door. She paused briefly, her swimming brown eyes meeting his caring green. "Let me…" he pleaded.

"I can't, I have to go," she interrupted, pulling away from him. She needed to breath, to think, and she couldn't do that with Logan there. He made her want to just curl up in his arms, to lose herself in his comfort – and she couldn't.

Max rode for a long time that day, finally ending up on the Space Needle when it was dark enough to escape notice. She stayed there until late, looking for the peace that usually came. When it finally did, it was only partly ameliorative. Max knew Mrs. Moreno had lived a long, fulfilling life; that she, of all people, wouldn't want Max to mourn. Nevertheless, Max had experienced so much loss in her short life that the knowledge only gave her partial comfort.

She still had so much she wanted to learn from the joyful old woman, and now she never could. It just wasn't fair. Why did everyone she cared about leave her?

XXX

As she turned the lock to Logan's penthouse, Max noted with a twinge of disappointment that the lights were out. She had run from him earlier, and it seems that he hadn't bothered to wait for her to run back, something she could hardly blame him for. Almost silently she moved to sit in the living room, to her reading spot to think.

He was there. She saw him, of course, her night vision picked him up immediately, but what she didn't expect was that he would be able to sense her too. He was staring out the window when she entered, with his journal on his lap and Max couldn't help but wonder what it contained.

As she had debated whether or not to let her presence be known, Logan had suddenly stated: "I was worried about you."

Max flinched slightly. She wasn't use to being the one discovered; when she hid, she stayed hidden. She wanted to ask him how he knew she was there, but didn't.

"Just went for a ride to clear my head," her voice was steady, aloof even.

Logan had turned in his chair to face the doorway, but whether he could actually see her or not Max wasn't sure of. Either way, there was no mistaking him when he firmly demanded: "Come here."

Any other man she would have laughed at, any other man she would have disobeyed, but the intensity of his voice and the darkness of the room were compelling forces and Max took a few tentative steps toward him. He didn't seem to expect her to go the whole way, and Max could distinguish the small smile at her partial compliance. He filled the rest of the way himself, wheeling forward until he stood in front of her.

"Sit with me."

This time his voice was like a soft caress, and without waiting for her response, Logan went over to the couch and transferred himself onto it. Max wasn't sure whether she felt relieved that he had moved to the wider space of the couch or disappointed that she wouldn't be forced to sit in his lap in the chair. Either way, Max felt like she shouldn't just leave him hanging over there by himself, and so after a moment's hesitation she complied.

She sat on the middle cushion close enough to feel his body heat but far enough away so they didn't touch. He didn't attempt to speak or issue any more requests, he just sat there with her in the dark.

Eventually, his fingers lightly brushed her cheek. There were no tears there, and Max noticed his face registered no surprise at that. Softly, the fingers caressed the face, eventually winding back into her hair where he gently massaged her scalp. In the light, it would have been far too intimate of a gesture, but here where only Max could see, it was acceptable.

She knew what he was doing, offering comfort in a physical space where he had a disadvantage. It gave Max the authority, the power, and at the same time made it her obligation not to leave him. When his hand finally reached the back of her head and exerted the smallest amount of pressure, she went to him, wrapping her limbs around his frame, pillowing her head against his shoulder. Logan did the same, wrapping his arms around her form, resting his lips against her hair, and drawing wide soothing circles on her back with the palm of his hand.

It was both a full-body search for comfort and a deep surrender for both of them. They weren't just mourning for Mrs. Moreno, but for a host of other painful events that they normally were forced to ignore, not just to themselves, but in one another.

It was meant chastely, the necessity of the dark was for their defense barriers not to add to the highly erotic feeling of their bodies touching so intimately.

Nevertheless, their breath grew harsh and rapid in the dark from the contact, which they both scrupulously ignored. Just this soothing, comforting gesture was almost too much after months of intense wanting. But Logan was able to pull back, he kept control even as Max buried her lips into the crook of his neck, next to his pulse; she was the one hurting, and so he would be the one to maintain restraint.

They eventually fell asleep like that, neither wanting to break away from this monumental collapse in control before they had to. It wasn't until the morning, at the rapping on the door that Max finally untangled herself from Logan to answer it.

She had already taken the envelope addressed to her from the suited man, opened it, and began to read before Logan had sleepily asked, "What was that?"

Scanning a second time through the letter, Max finally replied, "Mrs. Moreno's lawyer. Apparently, he needs to meet with me."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Five days later…

Max wandered through the apartment appraising the various decorations and conveniences with a disinterested eye. It was almost like she was surveying someone else's space, certainly not her own brand new apartment in Seattle's exclusive Sector 11.

She didn't seem like someone who'd just scored a rent-free new digs in the very building of her favorite cyber-journalist. Maybe it was shock, or perhaps reverence for the dead, or some mixture of deep and elusive emotions that stemmed from her years living in gray at Manticore, but Max still couldn't believe that after knowing Mrs. Moreno for such a short period of time that the old woman had left her her home.

The will had been changed after their first morning tea together, when Max had unthinkingly told the woman her reason for staying with Logan. The capricious nature of the woman's action didn't strike Max as out of character, but the extent of her generosity did. How anybody could make such a huge 

decision for someone they barely knew – a decision that would cause her funeral services to be much more modest since there wouldn't have the price of apartment to contribute – made Max's head spin.

The woman had only left a few lines of explanation in her will: "Dear Max, in a world that can change in an instant, everyone needs their own space to call home. Just call this gesture my spiritual repayment to the summer of love."

Max had to laugh at the woman's veiled reference to her free-spirited life style; apparently, she was hoping to inspire a legacy. The woman would have had much better luck with either Kendra or Original Cindy.

Speaking of which, the one should be along shortly.

Max had originally assumed that she wouldn't be able to accept the apartment. Renting on the sly was one thing, but an apartment for which she had a signed contract could be a very dangerous thing when you had Manticore on your tail.

It was Logan who had disabused her of that thought.

"Max… I know you've never had the misfortune of waving around money, but it has its own innate power behind it. What do you think is going to be harder to track down – an apartment where a slum-lord could easily be bribed or intimidated, or an up-town building where things like the name on the lease can easily be changed and building security is paid for discretion?"

"So I guess it wasn't just the penthouse view you were after."

"No, not totally. If you want, I'll make your name untraceable to the apartment."

"Well I guess kicking it here wouldn't be too rough. Plus, I hear the neighbors aren't half bad."

She'd given him a wide smile, but Logan had only returned her a half one, which had pretty much been the pattern for the last few days. Something was bothering him, and Max had been unable to nail down what it was exactly.

Max was abruptly jolted for her thoughts when a buzz from down below signaled the arrival of a guest.

"Yes?" she called into the building's telecom system, just for the fun of it.

The attitude on the other line was unmistaken: "What Miss Thing, you too high and mighty to come down and get your friend? Buzz me in before I lay the smack down on these guards."

Max laughed in appreciation and quickly buzzed Original Cindy up.

"Damn girl… it looks like the inside of a greenhouse went and exploded in your apartment. Look at all these floral patterns, gives Original Cindy hay fever just standing here."

Max smiled at her friend, "The woman who lived here had a thing for flowers, she self-identified with them."

Cindy gave Max a closer look before asking: "You okay, sugar? This woman and you tight?"

"I'm okay. I mean it's a little weird to be packing her stuff away and getting to know her even more after she died, but yeah, it's all good. She had a long life."

"I'm happy to hear that, Boo. And I appreciate you letting me stay here for a while until I can find my own place. Original Cindy ain't no woman's bitch."

"Chrisette take the news okay?"

"Nah… girl acted like she so surprised. Did the whole baby I love you thing, and I was like well maybe if you hadn't threatened Sketchy with a beer bottle we'd have some room to talk, but that's just one step over the cliff for me, if you get my drift."

"Damn… jealous over Sketchy. What's next?"

"That's what I'm saying! If you can't trust Original Cindy with a male, then there are some serious boundary issues."

"So, how are you dealing with it?" Max questioned.

"I'm ariight. Besides I met this fine lickity chick when I was doing my runs today. She's meeting me at Crash later."

Max shook her head, "Wasting no time I see."

"So what about you, Boo? Any luck with roller boy? Figured a few weeks spent living with one another would create enough tension to set a fire to the place."

"We're all good, and we're not…" Max paused, thinking about the journals and what they meant. Original Cindy raised an eyebrow in expectation. "We're not like that… yet."

The eyebrow went a few centimeters higher. "But?" Original Cindy prodded.

"I'm working on it."

The two women looked at each other a moment. The grin on Original Cindy's face was irrepressible, but there was no taunting or I told you so when she spoke.

"Glad to hear your finally coming round, Boo. Need any advice?"

"Nah… I mean he's been different lately, ever since we found out about the apartment. And I'm not sure why."

"Maybe he's missing you."

"Maybe…but I haven't gone anywhere yet."

"Or maybe he's worried that with a sweet-ass apartment of your own, you're not going to be needing him no more." Original Cindy offered.

"That can't be…" Max paused.

"Hmmm. Seems to me the male gender needs to feel their worth, maybe you should let your squeeze know his."

"Thanks, OC."

"No problem. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to use your hot shower to begin my beautifying routine. I need to be fine tonight."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Max stared at the recipe book she'd borrowed from Logan's.

She had finally finished moving into her and Cindy's new place, and had invited him over for dinner to celebrate. The invitation, just like the other one, had fallen off her lips before she'd had time to contemplate the consequences. It meant she'd have to cook.

Before, the problem had been solved by Kendra's timely intervention. This time, she was on her own.

Initially, she thought about scoring a chicken, something she knew how to cook, but the market had been bare of them. Then, she'd considered trying to bribe OC, who'd for some unknown reason had bowed out with a cryptic comment. "There's no way I'm stepping between you are your goal, Boo."

So here Max Guevara was, cookbook in hand, trying to figure out the most simplistic recipe so that she wouldn't end up poisoning them. She figured there was no way Logan was going to trust her to cook again if she couldn't provide something decent, and then he'd feel obligated to always invite her over.

That thought made Max hesitate. She was sure Logan's recent aloofness was caused by his feelings of uselessness… and, if she didn't want him to feel useless then…

Abruptly, Max changed tactics. Instead, of looking for simplest recipe she began searching for the most complex, something that required patience and technique…

This was certainly going to be interesting.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Logan arrived at Max's apartment, having just taken the elevator one floor. It was an odd feeling, knowing that he was separated from her by only a floor, and yet also separated from her by a world of experiences.

Mrs. Moreno leaving Max her apartment should have been the best thing that could have happened to them, but now that Max was indeed leaving he found himself plagued by many of the old doubts. His plans to move their relationship forward had centered on providing her with small luxuries that she didn't have. Not just gourmet meals, but a continuation of their morning ritual with the offer of his shower. Now that she had a working stove and hot water tank, Logan felt some of his leverage slipping. He still had his library, but felt that since she was only a floor below, she could simply snatch a book and go back downstairs.

He wanted her, but wasn't sure what exactly he could give her as compensation for his own shortcomings. That was the issue on his mind when he knocked on her door, only to hear a distracted, "Come in!"

As he wheeled into her new apartment, noting the new paint which covered the walls and her and Cindy's stuff littered throughout the apartment, he couldn't help but smile at the way she was able to immediately and effectively take over whatever space she occupied. The place already felt like a home, despite her limited time here.

"In the kitchen!" she called.

And soon he found her, standing amidst an explosion of cooking items. "Hey. I'm hoping dinner will be ready in a few minutes… well I think it will be," Max offered, even as she turned to frown at the pot in front of her.

"What are we having?" Logan asked, hoping to keep the dubiousness of his voice. There was a smell emanating from one of the small pots on the stove that smelled, for lack of a more sophisticated word, burnt.

"Mushroom risotto with a balsamic vinegar reduction," Max dutifully repeated. She had actually tried her hardest to make the dish, knowing feigned failure wouldn't be convincing. Apparently, she hadn't needed to worry.

"Sounds great, how long have you been cooking?" Logan asked, well aware that it wasn't a dish for beginners.

"Don't know… maybe hour and a half, on and off." Max volunteered, as she picked up the bottle of wine Logan had brought, "Pre-pulse. Nice. Mind pouring me a glass?"

"On and off?" Logan inquired, as he opened the bottle.

"Yeah, it required so much time stirring I figured I break it up a little." Max responded, actually pretty proud of herself for that one. The recipe had called for constant stirring, which of course was boring, and so rather than attempting to speed it up as she normally would, Max had gone in spurts.

"Uh-huh." Logan murmured, handing her a glass and pouring one for himself.

"Damn thing's still liquidy though. Guess it wouldn't hurt if I…" Max stated as she poured more rice into the pot.

Internally Logan cringed, knowing beyond a doubt that the rice just added would never have a chance to soften. They sat in relative silence as Max fought with the dish, her eyes noting how Logan's kept glancing over at the smaller pot on the stove. Finally she snapped: "What? Why do you keep looking at the small pan? It's got the reduction sauce in it."

Logan cleared his throat, embarrassed that he been caught: "Uh, no reason," but when Max continued to glare at him, he finally offered meekly, "It smells like it's done."

"Of course it's done. It's been done for 45 minutes. I'm just keeping it warm… What?!" she asked, exasperated.

"It's just you have the heat up a bit too high and it might be burning."

So that was that smell, Max thought, as she transferred it off the hot burner. No doubt about it, she realized, originally syrupy mixture was now stuck to the bottom of the pan in a hard glob.

Despite knowing that she would probably screw up the meal, Max was having a difficult time accepting her failure. She hated Logan's sympathetic and knowing gaze and became determined to save what was left of the meal.

"Go sit," she grumbled. "I'll bring it out in a second."

XXX

The risotto resembled a bunch of rice dumped in a puddle of seasoned water, with the bottom formed into a gloppy crust. Some of the rice was crunchy, other bits were piles of mush – none of it resembled the delicious creamy mixture that Logan had made from time to time.

Max found herself scowling at the dish, as if it were an arch nemesis. She hated it; hated the way it mocked her lack of domestic abilities and seemed to suggest she was an inept little chimera. It made her feel pissy just looking at it.

Logan, sensing her mood, had tried to distract her with banter as he spooned the dish onto his plate. He had just paused his anecdote about the informant net, to take a bite of the dish, when a loud crunching noise filled the air. Bravely, Logan kept chewing, wishing he could distract Max from the inappropriate crackle that stemmed from the consistency of the dish.

Hastily he swallowed, so that he could reassure her of how good it was, but the small smile of reassurance he gave her only made Max bust out into a loud hoot of self-derisive laughter. The laughter was contagious, and before they knew it both were talking in animated voices over the horrendous dish, as Max tossed the pseudo-risotto into the trash can, and Logan did his best to soften the reduction.

"I don't know what happened; I thought I followed the directions," Max remarked.

"Uh… Max. You did use a short grain rice, right?"

"Sure. I mean the grains looked pretty short to me. I..." she stopped, noting Logan's amused smirk, "I guess there's a difference between rice grains?"

"Yeah," was all Logan managed, his smile wide and bright.

"Whatever." Max threw out, annoyed that she hadn't known that.

Shaking his head in mirthful enjoyment, Logan finally suggested: "So I guess that means I get to retain my job as head chef."

"You bet your ass, Cale," Max smiled at him, grateful to see that her plot had worked, even if it had caused her some minor discomfort.

"What do you say I whip us up something simple to celebrate your first night in your new place?" he proposed.

"We don't exactly have very much stuff…" Max warned.

"That's okay, I'll make due. And if your cupboard is totally bare, I happen to know a refrigerator we can raid," his eyes twinkling in amusement.

XXXX

Grilled cheese sandwiches in hand, Max chattered to Logan about the additions that Original Cindy and she were planning for the apartment. Although Mrs. Moreno's place was certainly much nicer and roomier than their previous apartment they'd had, it lacked the square footage and grandeur of the Penthouse. Which was fine by Max, who knew she could always pick the lock when the need for contemporary elegance struck. In the meantime, she was interested in creating a vibe of pure homey comfort.

"So Original Cindy's here for good?" Logan asked, happy to be with her when she was in such a good mood.

"Yep. She's kissed Chrisette goodbye and she's already hooking up with some new girl she met on one of her runs."

"Hmm… good to know OC hasn't lost her game. I was pretty sure she was totally whipped a few weeks ago," teased Logan.

"Says the man who wore a lavender tie and vest to his wedding," Max joked back.

It was the look on his face that made Max pause with the wine glass halfway to her lips and realize what she'd just said.

Although his voice was calm, there was no mistaking the strain behind it as he stated, "Funny. I don't remember leaving out any keepsakes of that day. Want to tell me how you found out that information?"

"Sensitive or something Logan?" Max attempted to kid, hoping to buy some more time as her mind raced to come up with an excuse.

"It is a rather emasculating color scheme from what I hear," he bantered back, his own mind doing a series of calculations trying to find the most plausible source of her info.

She saw the second he came to the only logical conclusion. She saw it in the way his eyes hardened and his pulse sped up in his agitation.

"Things are marked personal for a reason Max; not to serve for your personal amusement." His voice was harsh, but measured, and Max felt the sting that was behind the words.

She couldn't stand it, and so she jumped up to take the dishes off the table and into the kitchen. She knew he was running through a mental check-list of the things contained within the box, and that sooner or later he'd ask her about the journals. She hoped he'd just leave, that he'd get so angry he'd go charging out of her place. As bad as that would be it would be better than…

"So can I take this to mean you entertained yourself with my journals as well?" Logan demanded from the kitchen entrance.

Well… that.

This was so much worse than when they had a fight at his apartment, Max realized. Before when she felt trapped she could just storm out and go home. Here there was no escape; not unless she really wanted to look like a coward.

So, taking a deep breath, Max did what they so rarely did in their relationship… she told him truth.

"Not all of them." Max told him, beginning to scrub the plate in her hand as a distraction.

"What? Found yourself bored with my innermost thoughts?"

His sneer contained a palpable anger, and he wasn't backing down. Max had embarrassed him on a level that Logan wasn't sure was possible, and he damn well wanted an explanation.

Max visibly flinched under the attack and struggled to keep herself from getting emotional. In a small voice she answered: "No, found the answers I was looking for. Didn't want to pry further."

Logan eyed her angrily, but she refused to make eye contact. "And what exactly were the answers you were looking for, Max? What was so deep and dark that you apparently couldn't just ask me?" he demanded. "Look at me," he added, frustrated he couldn't read her.

Slowly, she raised her eyes to his, and the depths of her embarrassment and contrition became perceptible. "I'm… sorry, Logan. I shouldn't have looked."

Her eyes did more to calm him than anything else could. She had probably thought of it as innocent fun, he thought quietly… just an amusing thing to do one night. Nevertheless, her actions had forfeited her right to hide from him, and so he pressed: "What answers, Max?"

"About Valerie," she finally answered, a blush suffusing her cheeks but a determined look in her eyes. Max Guevara backed down from no one.

"What about Valerie," Logan asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"I wanted to know what went down between you two." Max responded.

He hadn't expected that, especially not from Max. Letting out a short humorless laugh, Logan wryly stated: "I could have saved you the trouble of looking, Max. I have no idea."

She shrugged. "That's okay, I do."

He raised his eyebrows in surprise, still upset, but feeling his anger beginning to dissipate at his confusion. "Care to share?"

"Sure…. She's ordinary."

"Excuse me?"

"She's too regular Logan, too commonplace. There's no way she could get you."

Logan simply stared at her, daring her to explain herself. After a moment, Max capitulated, well aware that she owed it to him.

"It's like this, Logan - we always accuse men of having this stereo-type of the perfect female; the helpless, air-headed, big boob blond who's bubbly, fun, and not so bright."

"We do?" he dryly asked, amused despite himself.

But Max wasn't joking as she continued: "Society does. But the truth is women have just as big a stereo-type surrounding our male figures. Women want the fantasy too. They want the perennial bad boy with the heart of gold, who they'll be able to convert into the perfect boyfriend. The guy who is into one woman, passionately and totally; even though he's not so nice to the general population. Valerie's not evil, she's just ordinary... and stupid."

Logan stared at her, surprised by her articulate answer to this, and began to wonder just how long she'd been considering the issue.

Max didn't notice, and continued on her tirade: "She'd rather have the muscle-bound, bad-boy – the one who in real life will cheat on her, lie to her, manipulate her, the guy who's a dime and dozen – rather than the good guy – the one who's passionate about life and others, who loves but not with a single-minded possessiveness that blinds him to everything else. You're just too damn esoteric for the majority of women, Logan. Your humanity is perceived as a weakness, your passion for helping others as coldness toward individuals. She didn't understand you. She didn't know what to do with you. You weren't on her radar. He was; that guy she ended up with. She knew his type and how she was suppose to act with him."

Her cheeks were flushed red at this point, and it took Max all her well-trained focus to get the final part out. "Who and what you are… you're just too much for someone like her. You make her ashamed of herself, not intentionally, but by comparison. You force her to see what she isn't."

"And what isn't she?" Logan gently prodded, intelligent enough to see the undercurrents of this conversation.

Max shrugged, forcing herself to make her words unequivocally apply to Valerie: "She's weak, needy, and dependent. She wants adoration to fill up the hole… Anyway, that guy is average enough not to remind her of her own faults."

How they had ended up here, with Max making an impassioned manifesto on the breakdown of Logan's marriage was a mystery to them both. Embarrassed though he was by the circumstances and the subject, Logan was determined not to let this opportunity to slip by.

"And what are you, Max? Do you consider yourself ordinary?"

It was almost a rhetorical question; they both knew the answer to it.

Still, she responded, "Hardly."

Logan's mouth twitched up into a small smile before lightly teasing: "So can I take that to mean if someone like you had to choose between someone like him and someone like me…"

"Guess you'd have to sign me up for theLogan Cale brigade." Max smiled. She was pleased the he was allowing the conversation to head back into their usual banter; her previous speech had left her feeling exposed.

"Hmm…despite my predilection for Eyes Only wilderness retreats and recon during dinner?" he teased, yet simultaneously probed, wanting to hear the words.

"Hey, cut me a break. You're much more demanding of the genetically enhanced girls than regular ones."

Logan nodded, "Yeah I am. I think more highly of them, so I guess I unfairly expect more."

"Good to know," Max replied softly.

"Yes," Logan answered back, "It is."

The electricity in their gaze continued to gain in intensity before Max pulled away.

"So? You still mad?" she cheekily asked.

"Yeah, but let's just say I'm rapidly getting over it."

One more shared smile and Logan's resolve was back on track.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Max stood pacing in her apartment. She was bored, again. She ran through her different options, well aware that the last time she'd been in a mood like this it has resulted in some seriously wrong behavior.

Debating the likelihood that Original Cindy would kick her butt if she tried to wake her, Max decided she'd better not push it, especially when OC had just agreed to ditching the Xena poster in favor of some more sophisticated décor.

Besides, that's not really what she wanted.

Again and again, Max's thoughts strayed to Logan. He had promised her more than once before leaving that he'd get over his annoyance with her, even threatening to prolong his aggravation if she didn't stop asking. Max didn't want to push her luck, but she really wanted to curl up with a book in his living room.

Deciding he need never know, Max crept upstairs, into his penthouse, and finally – gathering her resolve – into his bedroom where his books lay. She had only done this once before when he was sleeping, feeling like somehow it was forbidden territory. So now, she did it as quietly as possible, at first refusing to look at his sleeping form, and instead concentrating on the variety of titles in front of her.

Finding one that Logan had mentioned on a previous occasion, she stealthily took it off the shelf, being careful not to dislodge anything around it and turned to go.

She almost made too, except upon deciding to cast on quick glance on the dreaming cyber journalist, she'd been arrested by the bare-chested hotness that was Logan Cale in unconscious form.

Damn, Max thought as she appreciated the sculpted chest and tight abdominal muscles. She sent out a quick thanks to that wonderful sheet which had migrated all the way to his lower torso. He was also impossibly adorable with the matted hair and thick lashes. She found herself fantasizing over a number of dangerous and naughty ideas on how she'd like to take advantage of the picture in front of her. And in a purely hedonistic move, she decided to lean back against the wall and indulge for a little while.

Immediately she cursed, as her body dislodged a book on the shelf she had leaned into. Some cat burglar, she sarcastically thought as she noticed Logan rousing.

"Max?" he murmured, sleepily, forcing himself into a semi-upright position.

If Max considered the moment to be surreal, she was certainly the only one. Logan was well versed in this particular dream, and without wasting anytime, blurrily called over to her: "Why are you over there?"

Feeling extremely uncomfortable, Max responded, "Sorry to wake you, I was just grabbing a book off your shelf. For reading…" she added, immediately cursing the obviousness of that response.

"Hmmm…" Logan seemed to consider her for a moment, before giving her a wide, sexy smile. "Come here and show me it to me."

Was he serious? Apparently.

Slowly, Max complied, walking carefully so that if he made any sign that this wasn't what he meant she could quickly turn and save face. He didn't, just continued to look at her with that disconcerting grin that sent waves of want coursing through her. She needed to be very careful.

Tentatively, she sat on the edge of his bed, making sure not to dislodge any of the sheets and held out the book to him. He made no move to reach for it or the lamp on the stand beside him, instead his gaze was focus on her dark shadowy form at the edge of the bed.

"I won't bite," he teased, leaning back into the headboard as he considered her. Max was glad he couldn't see that small swallowing motion she made or the way she needed to wet her suddenly dry lips…this couldn't be happening.

With one fluid motion she moved herself up the bed to sit side by side with Logan against the headboard. Mustering all the sarcasm she could, she asked. "What? You want me to read you a bedtime story?"

Logan's smile never wavered, but he did lean in slightly as he answered in a low tone, "That's exactly what I want you to do."

This time there was no covering the shudder that shook her frame as his breath touched her neck and ear. Max squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to block out the temptation sitting next to her.

"Cold?" Logan solicitously asked, his smile carefully contained. "Get under the covers, and I'll warm you."

Mingled with her desire came an awareness that this could be a conscientious seduction on Logan's part, a design to get her in bed. Certainly he couldn't think her shudder was from cold, her bear, burning upper arm pressed against his. Max realized she needed to get up now or accept the consequences of waking Logan in the middle of the night when apparently his player side was unmodified by his usual caution.

Max had a moment when she could have pulled away, but she didn't. And wordlessly, she let Logan pull the book from her unfeeling fingers, lay it on the bed-side table, and life the sheets from her to climb underneath.

Silently, she did. Maybe Logan wasn't aware of what he was doing, Max thought, but to be with him like this was an opportunity she decided not to resist. She wanted this.

Logan easily reached up and tugged her down into his waiting arms, cocooning her next to his body. Max found herself surrounded by heat, and skin, and pure unadulterated Logan. It was wonderful and erotic, and she found herself no longer restless, but content to stay put and let him seduce her.

Something about the action seemed to move Logan from drowsiness to awareness, and Max could feel the tension that immediately entered his body when he realized this wasn't an allusion. So that was the impetus behind his actions, she thought. Max was really in his arms, in his bed and it was obvious Logan had no idea what to do with her. Max almost laughed aloud at his worry, his apparent guilt.

After a minute or two, Logan groggily murmured, "I'm not sleeping, am I?"

Max couldn't suppress the smile in her voice as she quietly answered, "Nope."

"Want me to let you up?" he asked, casually as possible.

"Nah. I'm good." Max answered, and she was.

XXXXXXXXXXX

Max waited for the minutes to tick by… 6:14; 6:17; 6:23. From her vantage point in Logan's arms, she could make out the alarm clock on his dresser and was counting down the minutes until she could wriggle out of his arms and wake him with the sound of her shower.

The night had proven both wonderful and torturous. After their exchange the two had lay entwined in bed silent and completely still. Neither of them wished to upset the momentary calm or to deal with potentially awkward places that shifting could cause their hands to go. Wide awake, they had laid until the heat generated from their merged bodies lulled Logan into a deep sleep.

That had left Max free to indulge her fantasies, if not her desires. She had literally been submerged in the essence of Logan, physically closer to him then she'd ever been – and yet she had been restrained from doing all the tempting things her mind had had time to conjure up.

And not just physically either, all the anecdotes, reflections, and questions that she thought of had needed to be delayed as he slept. Max never realized how many of the things that went through her mind would eventually be shared in conversation with Logan.

She was restless; both turned-on and tuned up.

With military discipline she waited until the clock struck exactly 6:30, and hastily twisted out his grasp. Time to wake up, she mentally crowed.

XXXX

An utterly confounded and confused Logan sat desperately beside the coffee pot, begging it to brew faster. He could have sworn last night he'd pulled a willing Max into his bed and spent the night cuddling her in his arms. His mind hazily recalled it; and his unruly body seemed to definitely recollect it – and Max was assuredly in his shower – but Logan couldn't necessarily remember the details of how such an event had come to pass, and he had too many dreams to take his half-waking mind on faith.

For some unknown reason, Max had decided to take the shortest shower in the history of their relationship, and was suddenly standing at the doorway to the kitchen before Logan could even get an ounce of the magic draught to his lips.

As was her habit, she was attired in his red robe, smelling fresh and clean, with her hair forming wet ringlets around her face.

It was Logan's breaking point.

"Damn it Max, do you have to wear that robe in the morning?" Logan snapped, never removing his eyes from her lithe form.

She smiled, puzzled but encouraged. Stalking toward him, she asked: "Why; what's wrong with it?"

"Do you have any idea what it does to me?" Logan inquired, his heated gaze meeting with hers.

That was Max's breaking point.

"Not really," she stated suggestively, swaying her hips ever so slightly as she glided toward him. "But I'd like to find out."

As soon as she was within arm reach, Logan pulled her down into her lap, beginning a blistering kiss that had their lips clashing with fierce need.

The coffee was ignored, the headlines went unread, work was postponed. It was morning, and pure insanity reigned as Logan made short work of that single knot….

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Epilogue

5 New Patterns of Max and Logan

/1/ Breakfast…

"Morning." Max cheerfully stated to the middle-aged couple from down the hall whom she was sharing the elevator with.

She ignored their startled gaze, aware that they weren't use to see a freshly showered young woman in a red robe taking the elevator to the penthouse at 7 in the morning.

Oh well, they might as well get use to it.

Briskly, Max stepped off and made her way into Logan's front door.

"You're late," he called to her, hearing her enter. "I'm already on my third cup."

"Sorry. I was enjoying a nice hot shower in my own apartment. Got anything to eat?" she innocently asked.

"Yeah, there are some waffles over on the stove… and orange juice…" He paused, finally glancing up from the newspaper in front of him, and catching sight of what she was wearing.

Feigning nonchalance, Max quickly walked over to the refrigerator, "Mmmm… orange juice, you know I can't enough of the stuff..."

Before she got a chance to say anything more, Logan had wheeled up behind her. Quickly, he grabbed her by the waist in order to spin her around and pull her onto his lap, forcing her to straddle him.

"God, Max…" Logan murmured, deftly undoing the single knot and thoroughly kissing ever inch of skin he exposed.

"Hey… you know how I get when I'm hungry," she teased, even as she arched her neck slightly to give him more access.

"Hmm… and you know how I get when you wear this…" he huskily whispered back.

Yep, Max thought, groaning as he pulled the robe from her shoulders and trailed his mouth lower, she certainly did….

/2/ Lunch…

"Hey Boo, this is a damn good sandwich, what is it?" Original Cindy asked, before she took another bite of the lunch he had prepared for them.

"It's a Panini," Logan responded, using two of Max and Cindy's heaviest frying pans to create the dish.

"Remind me to get some cooking lessons from you. Original Cindy needs some new ways to entice her latest lickity chick."

Max laughed, "And how goes it in the single world."

"Not like either of you two care, but Crash has had a new insurgence of fineness. Damn near hurt my neck, twisting around to look at all the goods."

Both Logan and Max laughed, happy for Original Cindy and content with their own lot in life.

/3/ Work…

"Hey… you paged?"

"Oh, hey Max," Logan called, looking up from his computer. "I'm working on this lead and I was wondering if you could break into this location in South Market to bring me back some files."

"Maybe…" she teased, as she plopped down into Logan's lap. "Tell me what's up."

Kissing the top of her head, Logan began, "Well you see, these guys have been running a smuggling ring through some local tattoo parlors. At first, it seemed like nothing major, but…"

Logan found himself struggling to concentrate as Max squirmed on his lap and played with his fingers. Finally needing to address the issue, he scolded her… "Max, stop it. This is important."

She laughed at him, turning to give him a quick kiss on the lips before resuming her attention on the screen. "Sorry… so okay, you think these guys are trying to smuggle in some high grade weapons from across the way and…"

Max's focus began to slip as Logan's sexy fingers started to draw circles higher and higher on her thigh.

Refusing to lose this round of distraction tactics, especially when she was the one who had introduced the game, Max forced herself to articulate her Eyes Only mission, only to lose track of the last few syllables of her words in a soft moan of ecstasy as Logan began to trace her barcode with his tongue.

"No fair, you know that's my weak point," she muttered.

"Mmm… all's fair in war, Max." Logan bantered, before placing small kisses down the back of her throat. "Besides… you're my weak point."

/4/ Dinner…

"Are you going to feed me, or just sit there all day?" Max demanded.

Dinner didn't change.

Logan still cooked; Max still ate; both enjoyed their witty repartee.

They just looked forward to more than chess once it finished.

/5/ Night…

"Can I read this to you, Logan?" Max asked, delighted in the cleverness of the author's prose.

"Of course," Logan responded, placing a quick kiss on Max's bare shoulder before leaning back against the bed's headboard and setting his journal aside, inspiration had been easy to come by lately.

Contentedly, Max began to read, enjoying the soft strokes of Logan's fingers as he wove them through her curls. She knew he'd let her continue until she was finished, never interrupting, even if he began to nod off. This was the ritual, their cherished time together away from the pressures of the world.

Herbal had been right, Max thought, she'd ended up just where she needed to be.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

The End.