Not that anyone really needed another Freak Nation tag, but here you go… (:

Caught by the wind, Joshua's flag unravels, and all Logan can do is stare up at it and feel awed. His cold hand in Max's, he does not feel the softness of her skin, not through their gloves. But he still remembers.

There is always hope. Especially now that their little gesture tells him - no, confirms to him that it was all just a hoax, the whole Max and Alec thing. Not that Logan is not aware of that special tension between the two X5s. (Sexual tension, he might even call it if he were honest with himself - which he tries not to be.) No, quite the contrary, it's what made it so easy to believe the lie in the first place. But now, with her slender hand in his, he knows that Max's feelings - those that really matter - are still aimed at him. She does still love him after all. She does, like Logan still loves her, so much it hurts.

He cherishes this moment with her, hears himself say, "Now look what you've done." He is aware of the awe and pride in his voice, and some other undertones. Hope. He squeezes her hand and feels her respond in like manner. Then, a minute later, maybe an eternity, their hands break their contact, Max smiles at him, turns around to fully face him…

… and he points to where he feels Alec's presence leave along with the other transgenics, and he does the unthinkable thing and opens his mouth to say something other than, "I love you, Max" and "This is a new start, for us, too." Because what Logan says is, "Gotta talk to Alec real quick, Max."


She frowns at him, bewildered, and moves to grab his hand again. He feels his heart nearly burst inside of him as he walks farther away from her.

"I'm sorry. Unfortunately, this can't wait."

Max smiles at him, and he can't quite place that smile. She indicates the empty space around her and says, "I'll still be up here, if anyone should ask for me," her words kept vague and full of implications. He can't help but smile, too. This is his Max; on the one hand letting him in again, on the other never quite letting down her guard. A way out of this is still kept open wide. For both of them.

Their hand-holding? For now only a possibility, easy to be denied.

Logan nods, gets out a dumb "I'll let them know," and leaves.

"Hey, Alec!" Logan calls out, already grabbing the other's shoulder in an effort to stop him from going any farther. Only when Alec quickly turns at the contact and stares straight into Logan's face does he realize that he must have grazed the guy's injury.

"Geez, I'm sorry, did I hurt—"

"Logan, my man! What is it?" Alec says, smirking.

Logan can't help but notice that he doesn't let on whether Logan accidentally hurt him. But that is Alec, of course. The guy's abrupt denial of any possibility of pain makes Logan's brain stutter for a second, before he remembers about what he came to see the younger man.

"This," he eventually begins, but the words evade him, and he falls silent again.

"This?" Alec repeats, stretching out an arm in a questioning gesture, sounding slightly amused at the other's sudden speechlessness. When Logan fails to explain himself any further, his mind and tongue obviously deciding to deny him their service, as if protesting against what he is about to do, Alec finally asks, "No offense, but, what about this - whatever 'this' is, anyway - is so overwhelming that it makes my eloquent hacker-friend lose his ability to speak, huh?"

"I'm sorry, I - guess I lost it there for a minute, it's just… You and Max…"

"What about us?" Suddenly, Alec's whole posture is a lot warier than before. His guarded smirk is still firmly in place, but a new distance is palpable between him and Logan. He can feel it quite distinctly and it chills him. Logan's gaze wanders over the transgenic's face, searching for the real Alec - for his well guarded true feelings - when he notices the strong discoloration on Alec's temple. He assumes that that ferocious Familiar must have managed to kick the X5 pretty savagely back at Jam Pony.

"Did you get that checked?" Logan hears himself say, his finger pointing to the side of Alec's head. Instantly he berates himself for saying that when he notices something shutter behind Alec's eyes in response.

His stare bores into Logan, his smile still in place, yet different, his whole body tense. His tone level, he says, "Thanks for your concern, Logan. I'm fine. You were saying?"

Their eyes meet, their gazes lock, then Logan lowers his head and studies the pattern of the ground beneath his feet.

Suddenly he looks up again, his mind newly made up.


"I know that Max - all this," with one hand he gestures aimlessly, "was her warped way of protecting me, from the virus - from her. You were just trying to help her, being a friend."

Alec doesn't interrupt him, not once, he is not making any stupid jokes, is not denying anything, he is completely still, listens, lets Logan do the talking. Which doesn't make it easier.

"I know you guys' - 'relationship' was a hoax. Max just told me as much, so to speak. Well, not in so many words, but, you know... Anyways. If I'll go up there again now, she'll still be there, waiting - for me."

Alec doesn't move, and Logan is on the verge of losing his temper due to the lack of any kind of response, when the younger one eventually says, "Well, I'm glad the two of you finally figured it out then; and about that friggin' virus-bitch, I'm sure—"

It's at that exact moment that Logan's frustration does win over and all he can do is blurt out one pained "Don't!" before he turns away from the other, burying his face in his hands, breathing heavily now, as if he had run instead of talked.

"Whoa whoa," Alec makes, showing his utter incomprehension. When Logan turns around again the kid is still holding up both hands in a show of defense.

"I'm sorry," Logan apologizes, hands fidgeting at his sides. "Tell me something, Alec: is Max - is it helping her to know that I'm…safe?" He eyes the X5 intently, astonished to find Alec allowing him to see through his usual mask. "That there's one thing less she needs to worry about?"

Alec tilts his head ever so slightly, one hint at compassion, nothing either man would acknowledge, but it's there. "Yes," he simply whispers.

Logan knows it's true. He nods, rubs his neck with one hand, grins a little helplessly, not quite able to keep the expression intact for long. Hope burns inside of him, makes him feel giddy with the prospect of returning to Max's side, and it is so hard to extinguish that persistent feeling. He knows he can't, it will have to die on its own, burn out, slowly, painfully. He wants to laugh, but the sound that escapes him is a snort bordering way too dangerously on something more desperate.

"You'll be there for her, right?" he asks, knowing Alec will, needing to hear the verbal confirmation nonetheless.


Logan slowly nods, and, already half-turning, his gaze locks on Alec's again. "I know you love her, Alec, if maybe not in that way. But I know you do, and she loves you." This time he does laugh, a harsh, miserable sound. "Coulda fooled me, the two of you, you know that? I mean, you did, at first. - I love Max, Alec."

"I know."

"I love her." It finally dawns on him then, what he is about to do, and his whole being is revolting against it, against the silent decision he has made. He feels sick to his stomach, drained, and hollow. Already, it hurts more than he can handle. "But she can't be burdened with - this, not now, not after yesterday. Any other time…" He stops himself there, his wish to talk dying eventually, along with his heart.

"She's up there, still. Do you mind-" But he can't bring himself to finish that sentence. He doesn't have to. Seeing Alec nod, Logan leaves. He leaves Terminal City behind and heads home. He might leave Seattle, too, Washington. Maybe even the States. Trying to reassemble the mess that is his life. Without Max.

(What if he hadn't talked to Alec...)

With his eyes Alec follows the ordinary until he sees him vanish, a deep frown on his face.

Well, that was awkward.

Logan's not a bad guy, he figures, just a little annoying with the whole hero-complex he got going. Alec feels sorry for the guy, for Max. It saddens him to know what they lost.

He runs a hand through his hair in silent dread, anxious about what might await him up there, where Max is still waiting - for Logan. He is sure that neither of the two admitted to the hoax, but he saw that little hand-holding scene, and he knows what it means.

He knows Max, better than he knows anyone, better than he knows himself, anyway. And he knows that a gesture like that is not a slip, it's determinate. With Max, everything is.

He shakes his head in dismay and regrets it instantly as that motion causes the pain in his head to make itself known again. "Guess I'm not getting rid of that headache as easily," he resignedly mutters to himself before he starts walking back up to Max.

She whirls around at the first motion behind her, and her dark eyes meet his.

"Hey," he says, finally nudging her side, and "Hey," she whispers back; a lost word, coming from a lonely girl, and Alec flinches at the sound. Other than that, no trace of how disappointed she surely is at seeing him instead of Logan in his ever polished armor.

"Nice view?" Alec asks, deciding to go over the awkwardness, just as usual. But he doesn't get an answer. He can feel the slight tremble running through Max's body, can feel her grow tense. He sighs, wordlessly cursing that idiot Logan. And himself.

"See this?" he tries again, after Max has failed to answer his first question for too long.

"Uh huh. Joshua's flag."

"No," he breathes, barely audible, then slowly raises one hand.

Reluctantly following Alec's pointing finger with her eyes, Max eventually mutters, "The sun's up," before returning her gaze to him.

It's not difficult for him to discern the sadness in her tone, though she does fight hard to quench it. From his viewpoint a little above her he sees tears shimmering in her eyes, threatening to fall, and his arms come up around her as if of their own accord.

"Didn't think I'd live to see the day when it's not overcast or raining in this damn city," he says, intending to sound humorous, but failing miserably.

Max, lips trembling, leans further into him, silently accepting his close proximity, his arms around her middle.

She has heard the awe in his voice, the sincerity. He never thought he'd survive that long. She tries not to think about the fact that Logan left - in order to talk to Alec - and hasn't come back yet. She offered him a possibility, made up her mind to let him in again, and he declined that offer. It hurts, more than the last time. A sob is burning in her throat, stuck half-way in and out. She tries so hard to not let on how disappointed she is, how hurt.

She expected Logan to return to her.

Not Alec. He never left.

He doesn't once mention having talked to Logan, but his silence is telling in itself. She could ask him what it was all about. But she can imagine; and she is grateful for the things he doesn't say.

"Come on, Maxie," Alec's voice eventually jolts her out of her thoughts, and she turns around to face him, taking in his handsome face, his kind, understanding eyes. She knows she doesn't have to say anything to explain herself. Not to him. He understands.

"I bet the whole freak parade is waiting for you to make some more life-altering decisions for them." He stares down at her, eyes shining with mirth.

"Alec, stop calling them names like that."

"What? Freaks?" He smirks, evades her smacking hand, then comes closer again, lightly wrapping an arm around her shoulders. He draws her closer and places one gentle kiss on her hair, his soft breath a short touch of warmth. "Let's not let them wait for too long now, shall we? Huh, you little freak, you?"

Annoyed, she glares at him until he laughs.

And she laughs, too, her hand grabbing the back of his jacket.


"Love you, too, Max."

I know… Thanks for reading, folks (: