A/N: So this is the end, but as you'll see, it sets forth the possibility for a whole new adventure. Hopefully I'll be able to develop it into a nice little story with a plot. Of course, that will take a bit more time than this, but I'm kind of looking forward to it for as long as my inspiration is flowing. Thanks to all the readers and especially the reviewers. Thanks again for the warm welcome to the DA universe.
Epilogue – Sleight of Hand and Twist of Fate
She woke in his arms, turned toward the window, currently featuring little rivers of rain cascading down its surface. The clock was on his side of the bed, but she was warm, comfortable, and content. Plus, it was Saturday. She tried to settle back in beside him without moving or making a sound. He'd gotten decent sleep in the past two nights, but she knew there were plenty where he never made it to bed, working on one thing or another. His chest moved rhythmically against her back, giving away his continued slumber. She wanted to be able to stay here with him, wrapped up like this, but suddenly the need to move overtook her. As she tried to extricate herself nimbly from his embrace, arms tightened around her. His breathing pattern changed as his body stirred against her.
"Hi," he whispered into her hair.
She pulled his hands tighter against her and placed hers on them. "Morning," she answered, more to the room than to him. She felt his arms turning her toward him. "Hey," she protested playfully, "I like being the little spoon."
"Oh, yeah? Well, it's gonna have to wait." He placed his hands on her hips, continuing down to her backside. Every muscle in her body tightened reflexively, but the tension slowly leaked away as his hands continued to survey her.
As much as she wanted this scene to continue indefinitely, she knew she had to tell him what she'd been keeping to herself for the past week. Realizing that it would probably change everything made it all the more difficult, but if she truly loved him, she was going to have to give him this choice. The way she had it figured, there were two options. He could understand why she had done things the way she had and forgive her or he could hate her. It would have to be his decision.
"Logan?" she started quietly. "Are you awake?"
He yawned above her and stretched slightly. "Yeah. What's up?"
She swallowed hard and took a deep breath, almost sighing. "I have to tell you something." She turned so that her back was against his chest again. Then, she balled her knees into her own midsection and scooted to the edge of the bed, taking a seat there. She moved a bit toward his feet so she could see his face when she turned, even though she wasn't sure she wanted to.
"Okay?" he conceded. She was sitting there, shoulders rounded in defeat. He couldn't imagine anything that could weigh so heavily on her at this moment. "What is it, Max? What's wrong?"
"I think I can help you walk," she murmured, knowing now that there was so much more than walking involved. It still didn't matter to her, she'd never been dishonest to him about that, but she was really beginning to realize how globally the injury had affected his life. She wanted him to know that she loved him, Logan, the man who wanted to know everything about her, who wanted to help her find her family and destroy those who had hurt her. The man who challenged her to chess matches and cooked her dinner, who gave her oil and parts for her baby. The man who took her into his arms and loved her in a way she had never been loved or satisfied before. It didn't matter to her one bit whether he was sitting or standing while he was doing all of this, but she knew that to him it did. And that's what love was, putting the needs and wants of the other person first, even if you don't necessarily think it's the right thing for them. She felt like she'd matured in that knowledge over the past three days. Now it would be up to him to judge whether her concession was too little too late.
"You what?" He rubbed a hand over his eyes, trying to wipe away the confusion with the sleep.
"Seems like Dr. Vertes did get around to selling some of her secrets before she became so careful about whom she was associating with. At least she was communicating her research with other colleagues. Not only was there the one in Tokyo she mentioned, who was also Manticore, by the way, but there's another doctor based out of Osaka who's working on similar research and treatments."
"What are you talking about? How do you know this? Where did you find that information?" The questions mounted more quickly in his head than he could verbalize them.
"When I went back for your file, there was another folder on Vertes' desk, but I didn't really have a chance to look at it because I dropped yours and all the papers fell out. I saw the part about, well, I was picking it up off the floor and I had to get back to you. And then with everything else going on," she paused, "With Jace and all," she lied.
"I forgot about it, but after things calmed down a little last week, I was able to think a little more clearly. I remembered about the file and the name, Makiko Takahashi. I did some research through my contacts, and your internet, and I found out some things. But after that day," And the gun, she omitted, "I wasn't sure if I could make it happen, and if something went wrong again, well, I didn't know how you would take it." Actually, she had a pretty good idea of how it might play out, how it almost had.
"And this doctor, what was her name?"
"Does Dr. Takahashi have a Manticore past as well?" Logan inquired, trying to find out not only why Max had hidden this from him but also why she was bringing it up now.
Max shook her head. "No. As far as I can tell, she's a good bit younger than Vertes. Her research interests seem to be more altruistic than anything that ever came out of Manticore, too. One of her professors had worked with Vertes and the Tokyo colleague. They've all shared a good bit of clinical information on immunosuppression in the setting of stem cell transplantation, specifically for neuron regeneration. Vertes wasn't lying; their methods have worked before. I found a couple of case reports. It all looked legit, write-ups in peer-reviewed journals and all that, so a few days ago, I called her. I didn't want to invade your privacy, but I told her a little bit about you. She's anxious to meet with us.
"You'll need more stem cells. Mine are probably all gone now, she said, and since your body has seen my cells before, the immune response will be a lot faster to develop if we use my blood again. I didn't get into the whole Manticore super stem cell thing with her, but she said she had a couple options for other donors, but then, so do we, right?"
Logan shook his head and blinked a couple of times, trying to make what she was saying register in his head. "Max, what the," he attempted, but she was still talking.
"I mean, we have an idea of where Jace is. And if we can somehow get in contact with Zack, he knows about Tinga, Zane, Syl, Krit, Jondy, and Ben. He knows where they all are. One of them, or all of them, I can ask them for some blood and the doctor can find the one that will work best, right?" She was on her knees now, crawling back on the bed toward him. He'd managed to push himself into a sitting position. Her eyes shone as she rambled off her plan to him. "I told her you know Kyoto better than Osaka, and she said she can meet us there or even in Hawaii or LA. She'd rather not come to Seattle, but who can blame her for that. You've been talking about a vacation for as long as I've known you, so why not meet with her and take care of both things at the same time?"
He held his weight on one arm and grabbed her hand with the other. His breathing came in ragged, shallow rasps. "Max. Stop. Why are you telling me this now?" He almost stopped himself from speaking the next words, but he didn't. "Is it about yesterday?"
She looked confused, and then mortified as she realized what he was suggesting. She pulled her hand away from him as though his touch was burning her. She rubbed her wrist and backpedaled out of his reach as she looked at him, her head shaking as disgust settled over her face. "I can't believe you'd say that, Logan. I can't believe you'd even think it, much less say that to me."
Immediately, his defensive walls sprang back into place. "Well, I mean, before it was all theoretical, you being okay with me 'just the way I am.' It never really interfered with what you wanted, but now…" He knew he was being irrational and myopic, but why the hell would she bring this up now?
"Fuck you, Logan. And in case that confuses you more, this still has nothing to do with fucking. Not on my end, anyway." She stood up and walked out of the room, grabbing a robe on her way out to cover her nakedness.
"Max! Wait." He reached for the chair but realized he was naked, too, plus he needed the bathroom first. The clock's numbers blinked, mocking him, his eight-hour schedule, and the knowledge of what would happen if he didn't follow it. "Fuck!" He yelled into the room and the whole situation, knowing she would hear his frustration anywhere in the apartment. A moment later, she slammed the lobby door, and the penthouse plunged into silence. "Fuck," he whispered now to no one. "Fuck."
He went into the bathroom and got ready to face the day, more out of necessity than anything else. He knew he'd have to give her some time to cool off and with good reason. Everything he'd said to her that morning had been so incredibly hurtful and wrong. He knew exactly why she hadn't mentioned it to him before. She hadn't really talked to him overtly about the gun, but he knew her policy on guns in general, and he realized she'd been sticking awfully close lately, even when he hadn't had jobs for her, even before they started making out. She didn't want to him to have to experience all that heartache again. But then why did she even bring it up? And then he realized it – he was such an asshole. She was willing to give him this chance, this crazy long shot chance that most likely wouldn't pan out, because she truly cared about him and what was important to him.
He finished his shower, dried and pulled on some clothes before heading out into the kitchen to make some coffee. As it brewed, he pulled a mug from the low shelf. He sat it on the counter before moving through the living room and into the office.
"Jesus, Max!" he exclaimed to the young woman sitting silently on the couch, facing the window. "You nearly scared me to death."
She turned back toward him. "Sorry. I was just waiting for you to come out."
The fact that she had come back of her own accord spoke volumes to him about the new level their relationship had reached. "I'm really sorry about back there, Max," he dropped his head, "Seems like I'm apologizing an awful lot lately for saying and doing the wrong thing, but I really am sorry."
She moved forward and placed her hand under his chin, lifting it slightly. "I know you are, Logan. And I know this is a really difficult and emotional subject for you." He took her fingers and kissed the tips of them. "And I know I should have told you as soon as I knew anything so you could look into it yourself, but I wanted to do something for you for a change. And I wanted to make sure you'd be okay with it, no matter how things turned out."
"I know that Max. I didn't mean what I said back there. I don't think that at all." He transferred to the couch to sit beside her. She scooted over to make room. "And I know you understand what the prospect of a cure means to me." He stared straight into her eyes, "And I know you can look past the chair," his voice started to break, "And that you'd be here either way." She nodded as he tried to continue. "I just want it back. I want to wake up, swing my legs over the bed, and go take a piss, standing up, in my bathroom. I want to be able to go anywhere I want without worrying about if the elevator is working or if there's a ramp. I want people to look at me again like I'm a person again, not just some pathetic being or even worse, not look at me at all.. I want to pick you up, carry you into that bedroom, and have sex with you, real sex the real way without any techniques or enhancements or anything other than you and me. I want to be able to give you a baby when the time comes and then be able to do all the regular dad stuff with that kid, you know?"
She nodded again. "I do know Logan. That's why I told you about Dr. Takahashi, because I finally realized that you need to do this. You need to explore all the options for you, not for me. This doesn't have anything to do with me. I would be happy with you even if nothing ever changed, but I know you have to try."
"I don't deserve you, Max. Not even close." He shook his head, amazed at how quickly he'd almost managed to screw up the best thing that had ever happened to him.
She leaned over and kissed him. "True, but I'm willing to put up with you. For now."
"Can I, I mean, do you think I could take a look at the files?" He asked as she released the embrace.
She rolled her eyes and hopped up from the couch. "Sure," she agreed, "After you fix me breakfast." She grinned back at him. "And while we're at it, we can throw on our two thousand dollar watches and start planning that vacation."
"We just might have to do that," he conceded as he moved into the chair and followed her into the kitchen. "Max," he stated solemnly as she opened the cupboards and refrigerator in search of breakfast ingredients. She stopped and turned back toward him. "This is gonna be okay."
She smiled at him. "Better than okay," she decided. She'd make sure that it was.