KISS THE STARS - Chapter 8

"Hey," Max said when Logan opened his front door. He smiled at her warily.

"Hey yourself," he said.

"I'm good now," she told him, walking through the door, careful as always to keep a safe distance from him.

"That's good," he said, following her into the living room. She took a seat on the sofa and fidgeted. "What's up, Max?"

"Why were you at my place last night?" she asked. He flushed slightly.

"Oh, well, it was late. Or early, depending on..." He trailed off, stopped, sat down across from her. "I thought-" He let out his breath. "I was stupid, I don't know what I was thinking." He was lying, she could tell. He was too embarrassed to say it.

"Tell me," she said. He sat there for a long time and then quickly mumbled something that sounded like, 'I-guess-I-was-drinking-and-I-got-this-crazy-idea-that-maybe-if-you-really-loved-me-you-would-resist-your-heat-and-if-you-didn't-then-I'd-know-for-sure.'

"You'd also be dead," she said quietly after a minute.

"Yeah, like I said, it was stupid."

"So why did you think I didn't... you know..." She didn't want to say the word 'love,' though she didn't really know why. She'd been able to- barely- say it to Alec the night before, after all. And she'd meant it. She'd just always had trouble saying it, leftover from Manticore, she supposed, where you weren't supposed to ever say anything like that to anyone.

"You've been acting so distant lately, Max," Logan said. "I thought we were past all that 12-hour stuff, that we were going to hang in there until the virus could be cured. But you hardly ever come over anymore, and when you do you act all uncomfortable and moody." Max bit her lip, going over the past couple of weeks in her mind, when she had been thinking almost non-stop about Alec, her situation with him and what to do about it. Logan was right, she had been shutting him out, she just hadn't known it.

"I'm sorry," she said softly from where she sat across from him, staring down at her hands. Tears sprung to her eyes and she tried unsuccessfully to blink them back.

"What's wrong?" Logan asked, alarmed. Max swallowed, looked up at him hesitantly.

"I was in heat," she said softly. "And Alec was there. It does something funny to them, too. X5 males. I guess that makes sense." She was rambling. "Good thing Zack-" She stopped, saw the expression on his face. "Logan, I am so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. Please believe me."

"When was it?" he asked, his voice low and defeated. "Last night after I left?" His face paled. "Or was it- God, Max, is that what you were doing when I-" He ran a hand through his hair.

"No!" she assured him quickly. "No, no, it was a week ago." It was the wrong thing to say.

"What?" he breathed. "And you didn't- A week ago?"

"I'm sorry, Logan. I didn't know how to tell you. Alec made up that I was in heat yesterday. He wanted to give us a chance to talk, I don't know. He was afraid I'd wreck you and me and he wanted me to be happy." She smiled a little, but Logan did not look convinced. "Really," she said.

"So, what, you're running off with him?" he asked, slightly sarcastic.

"We're not running anywhere."

"I thought we had something, Max."

"We did, Logan. We did. I loved you- I still do. That isn't going to change."

"Then what the hell is all this?"

"It's too much, worrying every morning, will there be an accident today, will I kill him? Or going to bed each night wondering, will we ever find a cure at all? It's too much, Logan."

"What, so it's too hard so you're copping out?" he asked. "Giving up?"

"Stop it," she hissed. "God, you sound like Zack!"

"Max, we had something."

"I know! I'm not saying we didn't. That's not all of it."

"What, so you're saying it's too much, it's too hard, you love me but you don't know if we'll ever get over it, and... what? What else?"

"I love you, Logan," she said again, glanced away. "But I think I love him, too."

"What?" he sputtered. "Alec? Alec who you complain about all the time, who you can't stand?"

"That was before."

"Before what, before you couldn't control yourself and he took advantage of you?" Max visibly cringed, for both the jab at her and the one at Alec.

"That was harsh."

"Yeah, well, so is everything you're saying, so get used to it."

"Stop getting mad, I'm trying to explain how I'm feeling!" She took a breath, started again. "Look, Alec is- He understands why- I can't- I don't know why, but-" She sighed. "I can't explain to you why I think I'm falling for him because it's for a lot of reasons. And if I do try to explain it won't be worth how much it's going to hurt you. But I have to explore this. I have to see." She wanted to hug him, put a hand on his arm, something, but she suspected he'd only smack it away even if she could. She got to her feet, stood there for a few moments. "I'm sorry, Logan, I really am. I hope you can believe that." She thought of saying, This will be better for both of us, you can be happier without me, with some girl you can touch. Asha, maybe. But that would only sound like an excuse, even though it was true. So she brushed the tears from her face, gave him a weak smile, and then left the penthouse.

Alec was waiting for her in the hall, looking almost afraid of what she'd said, that she might have changed her mind and stayed with Logan after all. Max stopped in front of him and they just stood there for a few minutes, neither of them talking, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence. Finally Alec reached out a hand to her questioningly. Max smiled a little, took it. She looked at their entwined fingers, something she and Logan couldn't do, maybe would never be able to do, and met Alec's eyes.

"Max?" he asked. "Are you okay?"

"I think so," she said. "I will be."

"Are you sure about this?" he asked after a moment, quietly. He was giving her an out, like he'd done before she'd gone in there. "Are you really sure this is what you want?" He really did want her to be happy, even at his own expense.

"Alec," she said. "I made the right decision. I know what I want."

"Okay," he said. "If you're sure." She took a step toward him, kissed him, gave his hand a squeeze and watched the smile spread over his face. He smiled and started walking toward the stairs. Her arm tugged as she stopped, stared at the closed door she'd gone through so many times, the door to Logan's, the first man she'd ever let in, ever told everything to. She turned, looked at Alec, who already knew everything and didn't have to ask. They were both good for her, in their own ways, neither better than the other really, just different. Life is about choices, not decisions, someone once told her. It was true. She turned away from the door to Logan's and headed with Alec to the stairs, her heart beating with both uncertainty and love, equally exciting and frightening. She looked at their entwined hands, at his eyes watching her.

"I'm sure," she said as they entered the stairwell, the door clicking shut behind them, closing on her former life. She glanced over at Alec, smiled at him. "I know what I want."

A/N: So there you have it, the short (sorry about that), sweet ending that I still don't think is quite right but did leave me with a feel-good feeling, which is more than I can say for a certain other story I'm working on right now... Anyway, I must have written this chapter about a thousand times. I just couldn't get Max and Logan to act in character because I couldn't see them breaking up on the show even though I am a far cry from a M/L shipper. I wasn't going to resort to something like Logan sleeping with Asha, either, because I just don't think he'd do it. I hope you guys enjoyed it anyway and please review me even though I know it's the end and there isn't tons of incentive. Thanks for reading and as experiments go I think this was actually quite a success! Maybe I'll try another complete romance someday after I'm done 'Strange Fruit.' Thanks again for reading!! :)