The noise on Logan's porch brings his head up from the computer console with a snap so violent that he'll be feeling it in the morning. He's able to leap to his feet since he still has the exoskeleton on – was just getting ready to take it off because it's 2 am and the damn thing is jabbing into his hip. He starts toward the door, but he's not even there yet when the doorknob twists and Max stumbles in the doorway, dragging a limp and dripping Alec.
Logan hurries to Alec's other side. "Max! What happened?"
"Logan," she huffs in greeting. Her hair is stringy with damp, speckled with melting snowflakes and her cheeks are red from the cold, but she seems mostly dry. Alec's body though is rigid and jerking with violent shivers. Hustling him into a chair is like handling a jumping wooden board. Max kneels to tug at his bootlaces with cold-reddened fingers.
"Supply raid on a tanker at pier. Security saw us, started shooting. Alec pushed me out of the way and managed to fall into the water at the same time. Dumbass." She pulls one of his boots off with a grunt, deposits it on the floor with a sloshy plop. "They musta been former military – actually knew what they were doing. Nearly caught us. Alec was in the water for more than an hour before I could fish him out and put him on the bike."
Logan grasps Alec's frigid chin, turns the transgenic's wet face to the side to see how he's doing. There's no sign of injury, which is something, he guesses, but Alec's lips are blue and trembling and his skin is the color of milk. Ice crystals decorate the wet hair near his ears. He blinks at Logan lazily, eyes unfocused and heavily lidded.
"On the bike," Logan repeats. "You had a soaked man on the back of a bike in the middle of the coldest storm front in fifty years."
She frowns, drawing her lips down in that little girl pout that she's probably not even aware she makes. "We thought that it was a perfect time for a raid – guards were supposed to be inside next to a heater, not out doing their jobs."
"Hey, I'm taking care of him. It's why I stopped here to begin with. He told me to take us back to Terminal City. That was before he lost consciousness, though. Anyhow, are you gonna help or sit there bitching?"
"What, I can't do both?"
She narrows her eyes and thins her lips in the patented Max Guevara expression of annoyed impatience as she drops Alec's other boot between her and Logan. A thin spray of mud splashes across Logan's white designer shirt.
Logan raises both hands in a posture of surrender and gets up to rummage in the broken down linen closet of what he still mostly thinks of as Joshua's old place, and comes back to Max with a couple of blankets. She yanks Alec's long-sleeved black shirt over his head to reveal a marble white chest with nipples that look as hard as nails.
"Undo his jeans, will you?" Max asks as she twists around to pull Alec up by his shoulders so that they can yank his pants off. The idea of getting up close and personal with Alec's twig and berries, which must be microscopic due to the cold, is just about as delightful as cleaning out a sewer system with his toothbrush, but he doesn't complain – just undoes the button and pulls down the zipper on the stiff fabric, slides pants and briefs off Alec's slim hips. It's a struggle to get the heavy, wet material to yield, but after a few minutes, the transgenic is as naked as the day he was popped from a test tube. Max spreads one of the blankets around his shoulders. She covers his head and tries to get him to clutch the blankets with his stiff fingers, and although it looks like Alec's trying, he can't manage it. He's making a low, distressed moan in the back of his throat, and gives the overall appearance of a drowned rat. But that could be Logan's bitterness speaking, since this is the man Max supposedly dumped him for.
"Come on," Logan says, standing. "Let's get him into my bed."
They position themselves on either side of him and guide him toward Logan's unmade bed sitting on the far side of the living room, thankfully right next to the heater, which has been steadily ticking since afternoon. They dump Alec on the mattress. Max sets to tucking blankets around his shivering form and fluffing the pillow under his head while Logan returns to the linen closet to empty it of anything that might produce warmth. He brings the motley assortment of quilts, throw rugs and towels to the bed and watches as Max piles them on Alec's quivering body.
When she's done, she feels his forehead with the back of her hand, then skims her fingers down his cheek, her face softening with tenderness. The look makes something tighten in Logan's chest, and suddenly he feels like an intruder in his own house.
Alec stirs, and blinks, croaks out, "Max. What …?"
"Shhhh. Everything is okay. You just rest now, all right?"
He flails around until he's propped up on one elbow, and looks around dazedly, eyes skimming around the room and past Logan without recognition. He only seems to have eyes for Max. "Max … stay."
He collapses back onto the bed with a sigh, and murmurs, "Max," before turning on his left side, curling into himself like a child.
Max stands and takes off her jacket, kicks off her shoes and gestures to the right hand side of the bed. "You get in behind him, okay?"
Then she crawls around Alec's body to flip the covers back and slip underneath them. She arranges herself facing Alec, then pauses, looking expectantly at Logan. "Don't just stand there."
Logan can practically hear the hinges of his jaw as it swings open. "What are you …? I can't get in bed with you. He's naked!"
"He's hypothermic. He needs body heat to warm him up slowly, so that his heart doesn't stop. Now get your ass in here and help me."
"I'm not getting in bed with your naked boyfriend!"
Max rolls her eyes. "Who knew you were such a prude? Sheesh, put some boxers on him if you're that worried about it."
"Now you want me to put my underwear on your boyfriend? That's … " he fumbles for a word to adequately describe his disgust at that notion when Max snaps, "Logan! For God's sake, you're not a thirteen year old girl – he needs help."
And Max's tone – genuinely distressed – makes him stop for just a second and realize that she's right. Alec does need help. And – dammit – he and Max are the only ones who can give it to him.
He stomps over to his chest of drawers and yanks open the top drawer, where he keeps his socks and underwear, and pulls out his least favorite pair of boxers – a paisley pair with a scratchy tag. Then he and Max spend the most uncomfortable few moments of his life wrestling said pair of paisley boxer shorts on Alec's prone, still shivering form.
Afterward, he gives one last pleading, futile look at Max before sighing in resignation. He takes off his glasses and shoes, unbuckles the exoskeleton and props it up next to the night stand, and crawls into the bed right up against Alec's quaking, frigid body. He lays on his side, chest pressed against Alec's back, then (in for a penny, in for a pound, right?) rests his hand on the crook of his elbow, keeping a careful distance from Max's poisonous skin. Alec smells faintly of seawater and fabric softener. Or maybe the fabric softener is from the towels. Whatever.
Alec makes a little snuffling noise and scoots his ass into the bowl of Logan's hips, then nuzzles against Max's neck, before finding the perfect spot, his forehead pressing against Max's neck, lips resting lightly on her collarbone. He sighs in complete contentment, causing Max to give a fond little smile.
Logan feels his blood pressure spike. Well, isn't this just perfectly horrible? He's in bed with the woman of his dreams – a situation that has occupied many a wistful imagining. But if he touches her he'll die quickly and violently. And, oh yeah, her semi-naked boyfriend is separating them with his annoyingly perfect if somewhat frigid body.
Logan broods for a while about the unfairness of life, knowing full well that he's being petty and not really caring. He's not tired. That last cup of coffee is still working its magic. He'd been planning on a long night of computer-aided world rescuing and general intrigue as Eyes Only when Max interrupted him. Now his evening just looks … long. And lonely.
It takes at least half an hour before Alec stops jerking and twitching and falls into a deep, healing sleep, his lips slack and parted gently against Max's beautiful skin. Max has either been exhausted by the night's activities or she's been sleeping even less than usual because she falls asleep, too, one of Alec's hands cradled between both of hers as if she's holding something rare and precious. And maybe she is.
He's struck, suddenly, by how damned young and vulnerable the two transgenics look, curled one into the other, their perfect, smooth faces unlined by the horrors they have witnessed--and visited upon others. They remind him of young lions, predators who maim and kill with nearly effortless grace. Alec, whose wit is as sharp as claws and Max with her big brown eyes and devastating right hook. They look so innocent now that he feel a painful twist down somewhere deep in his belly. Innocent and deadly. Since the day he'd met Max he'd always been able to touch the core of humanity that lay encoded in those genetically engineered genes. On some level he'd been convinced that he and Max were meant to be together, forever and always, despite whatever obstacles appeared on the surface. It hurts to even consider that he may have been mistaken.
He removes his hand from Alec's arm, rests it for a moment on the curve of the young man's skull, hair soft and still damp to the touch. Alec's color is good once again, and other than being understandably tired, he seems the picture of health – probably is. Logan just watches he and Max for a while, realizing that this hurts worst of all, the sight of them sleeping so peacefully, so at ease in one another's presence, because it's so obvious now that he can't believe he didn't see it before, how perfectly made for one another they are.
He withdraws his hand, bends his elbow and puts it behind his head, shifts to lie on his back so that he's staring at the ceiling, listening to the soft breaths of the transgenics beside him and wondering if he's a big enough man to let Max go graciously, or fight tooth and nail for a relationship they can't consummate now, and perhaps never.
He's unsure, suddenly, which path he should take. He smoothes a hand over his brow briefly. It hurts his head to think about he and Max; now even more than usual.
There's one thing he's completely sure about, though. Those paisley boxers? Are going in the incinerator the instant Alec returns them.