A/N: Here it is—the final chapter! I first posted this story three years ago(!) after a chat conversation about a theory posted on a message board. Moonshadow, if you're reading this, I hope you've enjoyed the idea you sparked. :) My original intention with this fic was to write an ending to the second season, which I didn't like, that would allow for a great third season. Obviously Fox was not on my wavelength, but I've enjoyed writing this story anyway—especially the last few chapters. It was a fun challenge to set up potential episodes while giving the characters the happy ending they deserved.
Thanks to Alaidh and Kasman for betaing. Thanks also goes to my chat friends who have entertained me, helped me brainstorm when I was stuck, and provided their own expertise. Finally, many thanks to all who have been reading. Whether you read just a paragraph here and there or every word of every chapter, I'm honored.
"Home," Max repeated softly. It felt strange to think about. She'd concentrated so much in the past few hours on getting out of captivity that she'd barely had time to think past her escape. Now she was free, Manticore was burning—for real this time—and Logan was with her. She was done. At long last, she could go home.
Suddenly she couldn't wait. She looked at Logan, eyes shining, and squeezed his hand. "Let's get out of here," she said, breaking into a wide smile.
He returned it, happy beyond belief to have her nearby and free. He resisted the urge to envelop her in another passionate kiss. There would be plenty of time for that on the drive back to Seattle, and the sooner they got away from the site of Max's former prison, the better. He settled for squeezing her hand again and giving it a brief kiss before letting it go to turn around.
"I'll drive," said Syl behind them. Max turned to look at Krit and Syl, having momentarily forgotten they were there. Both of them were smiling. She rushed over to them and gave each one a tight, longed-for hug.
"Thank you," Max said to each.
"Glad to have you back, baby sister," Syl said.
"You really think we'd leave you in there?" Krit asked, making a feeble attempt at a joke to ward off the emotion of the moment.
Max shook her head, suddenly not trusting her voice. She finished the hugs and led Krit and Syl to the van, catching up to Logan almost immediately. She threw her arms around him from behind and squeezed him tightly. She managed to whisper in his ear, "Thank you."
He stopped and raised his hands to her arm, just below his neck, returning the squeeze. "You're welcome, Max."
She came around to reach his lips and kissed him. So much for waiting, he thought happily as he closed his eyes and returned the kiss. God, it was so good to feel her lips on his again…
Krit cleared his throat. "Ready and waiting, guys." They looked up at him. He was leaning on the open sliding door of the van, looking impatient. Syl was climbing into the driver's seat.
Max and Logan looked at each other with feigned exasperation and reluctantly separated. He gestured for her to enter the van first. While he worked on transferring in, she chose a seat and set about removing her boots and socks.
"Ahhh," she sighed happily when they were off. She'd had them on for 48 hours straight. She was tempted to chuck them out the window, as a symbol of the torture she'd been put through, but she wouldn't want to go into a rest stop or restaurant in bare feet. Besides, who knew what Seattle's weather would be like when they arrived? She settled for wiggling her toes to give them air.
Logan glanced at her, amused. "Comfortable?"
"Very," she grinned. "Come closer and I'll be even more comfortable…"
"Are we gonna have to hose you two down?" Krit asked just before he slid the door closed and climbed into the front seat.
Max rolled her eyes and leaned contentedly on Logan once he was settled next to her. As much as she loved him, she didn't want to make out with him right now. She just wanted to be with him…feel him…know that he was near. She wouldn't have admitted that a year ago, not even to herself. But things were different now.
Beside her, Logan was thinking the same thing. A year ago he'd closed himself off, and it had only been a waste of time. He was happy to put his arm around her now and breathe in her scent. He resolved never to take that for granted.
Syl picked up the key that had been lying on the dash, inserted it into the ignition, and turned it. The engine came to life. She put the van in gear and pulled onto the isolated wilderness road. "Say goodbye to Manticore," she said with great satisfaction.
"Good riddance," said everyone else at the same time. They grinned at each other as the van turned a corner and the burning complex disappeared from view.
An hour later, the group made a much-needed pit stop. They took advantage of an all-night fast-food restaurant, using the restrooms and ordering some food to go. As soon as they piled back into the van, Max began wolfing down her meal.
"Got enough fries, Max?" Krit asked with amusement. Her order was large, even for an X5 with revved-up metabolism.
"I haven't eaten in two days," she answered. "I don't even care that it's junk."
Logan, who had barely even thought of food during the past 24 hours, now realized his own mouth was watering. He reached for the fries. "We get back, I'll make you a good breakfast." He glanced at his watch. "Or lunch."
"God, that'll be great," Max sighed. "I really missed your cooking."
Syl nodded, glancing at her in the rear-view mirror. "Three months on bland Manticore grub…"
"Yeah," Max agreed, but she exchanged a look with Logan to let him know it wasn't just the food itself she had missed. She'd missed the effort he put into it, the love with which he prepared it…his company while they shared it.
He got the message and smiled. He was looking forward to cooking for her again.
Eventually the van reached the highway, and its occupants settled into the rhythmic movement. Syl talked with Krit quietly in the front seat. Logan felt his eyelids drooping. The tension and adrenaline from the past few days were gone, replaced by relief and a full stomach. Together with the long night, they proved to be a powerful combination. He fought to stay awake. He didn't want to miss a moment with Max.
A pothole in the pitted road jolted his eyes open long enough for him to glance over at her. To his surprise—he knew she needed very little sleep—she seemed to be nodding off as well.
"Tired?" he asked quietly.
"I haven't slept in a week," she murmured, snuggling closer to him. "You make a good pillow."
"Good," he said, finally allowing his own eyes to close. "We can sleep together, then."
They were both so tired that they only smiled at the inadvertent double entendre before drifting off to sleep.
A few hours later, Logan pulled out his cell phone. "Original Cindy's been waiting for a phone call."
"Who?" Syl and Krit asked simultaneously with some consternation. Years of hiding their origins for fear of betrayal or incidental casualties made them suspicious now, much like Zack had been when he'd found out Logan knew.
"Friend of mine," Max answered. "Don't worry, she's cool." She turned back to Logan. "You told her about the mission? You told her about Eyes Only?"
"No," Logan said, smiling a little bit at Max's concern for his and Original Cindy's safety. "I told her I was going out of town with Lydecker to get some information. She made me promise to call when I was done and let her know I was okay. There was arm-twisting involved."
"Since when are you two all buddy-buddy?" This was definitely new. Logan and Original Cindy had never been particularly close. Max was glad they were friends now, but she couldn't help feeling a little bit squeezed out.
"Misery loves company," he explained simply, looking into her eyes. Immediately she realized they had become closer out of grief. She felt bad about causing them such pain.
You destroy everyone that you love...
Max shook her head. She wasn't going to let the memory of Renfro's psychological assault mess her up. Those awful events that had nearly broken her hadn't been real at all, and it wasn't her fault that Manticore had taken her away from Logan and Original Cindy. She didn't have to feel guilty.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that," she said quietly. She cast her eyes downward, as if overcome by emotion and memory. "I…I was miserable, too. I missed you…"
When she didn't continue, he cupped her cheek and soothed, "It's all over now."
"Yeah," she said, closing her eyes.
Logan, not for the first time, wondered what Max had been through during her captivity. Had she been tortured? Brainwashed? She certainly had been unresponsive when he'd first contacted her in her cell. She seemed to be herself now, and he was happy about that, but he wondered what scars her experience would leave. He hoped someday she would be able to tell him about her time there.
In return, when she was ready, he would tell her what that time had been like for him. At first, it had been like a light had gone out. He'd sat on the couch in shock for days. Time had passed and he'd learned how to function without her, not knowing whether she was dead or alive, but he knew he hadn't been the same person. Original Cindy had told him as much one day.
Now that Max was back, he felt like himself again. He wasn't the old Logan, though, the one who'd been so busy refusing to accept his future that he let the present slip away. Now he knew what really mattered.
Original Cindy would be proud of him. Speaking of whom..."I think I'd better make that phone call," he said, reluctantly letting go of Max's cheek.
Her eyes opened. A mischievous grin slowly spread across her face. "I have a better idea. Let me surprise her." When Logan handed her his phone, she shook her head. "In person, I mean."
"You sure? She did threaten to kick my ass if I didn't call…"
"It's the way I've been imagining it all this time," Max told him. "I sneak in, surprise her, give her a heart attack…"
Logan smiled. He could picture her roommate's reaction.
"So you've imagined your return…" He had imagined Max's return many times, when he had dared to hope, but for some reason it had never occurred to him that she might be doing the same thing. "How did you imagine it with me?"
"I'll tell you later," she said, a soft smile on her lips. She laid her head on his shoulder. Logan rested his chin comfortably on the top of her head. The van followed a bend in the road, and he found himself gazing out the window at the rising sun.
At a rest station just off the highway, hundreds of miles away, Lydecker dialed his cell phone to make a secure call. He stood in a pay phone shelter. The troop transport vehicle waited in the parking lot on the other side of the building, out of earshot.
As the phone rang, he subconsciously patted the watch pocket of his jeans to make sure that two tiny disks were still there. He now carried them on his person at all times. The first contained the audio surveillance from the pen he'd slipped Sandoval months ago, along with the original mission instructions from the hoverdrone that had nearly killed him. The second disk was a recent acquisition; it came from the briefcase he'd retrieved from the sedan's back seat after shooting Renfro.
The line on the other end picked up. A man Lydecker had tracked down four weeks ago greeted him. "Congratulations."
"Did you play the file?" Lydecker asked. He had sent the man copies of both files soon after first making contact with him. They had decided to hold the evidence until Eyes Only could expose Manticore and bring about its corrupt director's downfall. Now Lydecker was about to find out whether the decision had been correct.
The man on the other end responded, "I did. As soon as the soldiers began escaping."
"And they didn't believe it at first. Since Renfro had them convinced you murdered Sandoval, they assumed you'd doctored the audio file. But as soon as I showed them the hoverdrone's original instruction file, they came around," the man said with satisfaction. "They know it was self-defense. You're no longer a wanted man."
Lydecker had hardened himself quite a bit over the years. War experiences, and then his work training soldiers, had given him thick skin and a grim confidence in his ability to accomplish objectives. Even so, he felt enormous relief at hearing from someone he trusted that he'd been crossed off the elimination list. "Think they'll believe us when we tell them she was killing X5s?"
"Renfro's failure to eliminate Eyes Only and secure Manticore already guaranteed she wouldn't be taking a top spot at Gemini. Your files have convinced them she's had more up her sleeve than she let on. I think they'll be very interested in hearing the truth."
"I appreciate your going to bat for me," Lydecker said. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back again. "It's a shame you had to take medical leave. If she hadn't taken your place as Director, we wouldn't have had to destroy Manticore."
The man on the other end remained silent for a moment. "You're sure no one in the basement survived..."
"Positive. All of the anomalies were eliminated."
"I left one down there once," the other man mused, "shortly after I joined the project, long before you came in. Before we set up at Gillette, even. Total mistake. The genetics came out all wrong."
Thinking of the X2s he had trained and watched self-destruct, Lydecker muttered, "Not the only time that's happened."
"It was obvious at birth—the defects manifested physically, rather than psychologically like they eventually did in the X2s. I was young and softhearted. Couldn't bear to put him down. I thought hiding him in the basement would be for the best."
"If you hide a mistake in an experiment, the mistake will get repeated." The same went for missions. Debriefings were more accurate and punishments less frequent once the kids learned that lesson.
The other man confirmed the assertion. "The other X3s came out severely defective. We put the ones who survived in the basement for observation." The man paused. "I haven't seen that one, or any of them, since I left Seattle to direct the Gillette facility in '04."
"The point is moot," Lydecker said. All were dead now.
The man on the other end of the line seemed to gather himself and focus once more on the task at hand. "Bring the soldiers here. Let the Committee debrief you. Considering Renfro's corruption and failure, and your general record at Manticore, I'm sure they'll agree with me that you should continue training soldiers at Gemini."
"I'll be there," Lydecker told General Sandeman. He hung up the phone, tucked it into his pocket, and rejoined Kalins in the cab of the transport vehicle.
Max watched with rapt attention as the van drove into Seattle, looking through the windows with a wonder Logan was amazed to see. After her three months in isolation, and the prospect of never seeing it again, the broken-down city looked like paradise to her. She supposed soon enough she would be rolling her eyes again and cursing the unavailability of everyday necessities, but in the meantime she was happy to see sector cops and street thugs. It meant she was home.
Krit got out and opened the door to the storage facility where the trip had begun. Logan was relieved to see his Aztek still parked safely inside. The facility was on the edge of town, and nobody had been around when he'd parked there, but he'd still been nervous leaving the car unattended so long with no way to lock the storage room's door. He pulled out his keys and aimed the remote control through the van's window to unlock his car.
Syl disembarked immediately after parking the van. "Ahhh," she breathed, stretching. "Feels good to get out and walk around. I hate long car rides." Max edged past Logan to open the side door and jump out as well. The three X5s began to unload the van while Logan transferred out.
"Why'd you bring this along if you weren't gonna use it?" Max asked him, lifting the exoskeleton out of the van.
"I did. Ended up having to use a part for something else, though," he answered. He nodded at the satellite dish Syl was plucking from the roof. "It's fixable." In another lifetime, he would have wanted to fix it as soon as possible. Today he didn't care. He'd rather spend that time with Max.
She shrugged and put it in the back of the Aztek.
When they were done, Krit announced that he and Syl would be splitting up and leaving town after returning the van.
"Why?" Max asked, disappointed. She'd been hoping they would stick around for a while. "I just got out of Manticore. I've only seen you twice in eleven years. Why are you going to leave?"
"Lydecker's not the only one who's had a hit out on me," Krit answered, "and I'm not so sure he's done looking, either. We told you about Gemini."
Syl nodded. "He helped us get you out…but Lydecker's Lydecker. Who knows what he's got in mind."
"It's better for us all to stay apart. At least for a while," Krit added.
At his words, Max flashed back to the night she'd met Zack for the first time since the escape.
"We can't stay together, Max," Zack had told her at the rail yard that night. "It'll compromise everyone's safety." Despite her protests, he'd turned around and walked away without so much as a backward glance.
"Don't tell me you guys agree with Zack," she said now, smiling weakly.
Syl grinned. "Not entirely. I, for one, plan on staying in contact. Logan's got the number." She glanced at him to confirm that he still had it. He nodded.
"We'll come and see you later, Max. Get your life back first," Krit added.
Still disappointed, but relieved that her siblings wanted to keep in touch, Max smiled for real. She drew them each into a goodbye hug. "Okay. As long as you promise…"
"Promise," they told her with a smile.
"Thanks for coming to help," Logan told them as well. "It meant a lot to me."
"Glad to," Krit told him. He reached over to shake Logan's hand. He was happy to note that Logan was already looking much better than he had the day before. "Take care of Max, okay?"
Logan nodded his agreement, glancing at Max and smiling. She returned his smile.
Syl and Krit climbed back in the van and started it up. They waved goodbye and drove slowly out of the storage room. Soon they were out of sight.
Max watched them go, sighing. Her eyes remained fixed on the exit long after the van had left. "I'm gonna miss them, Logan."
"You'll see 'em again," he reassured her, reaching for her hand.
In the silent moment that followed, Logan wondered what Max's next plan was. Did she want to go straight home, or would she want to come over to his place? He'd like nothing more than to take her back to his apartment and make up for lost time, but he supposed Max should make that decision. She was the one who had just been set free.
"Come on," he said, giving her hand a little tug to break her gaze, "I'll take you home. Original Cindy will be glad to see you."
"Mind if I come over afterwards?" Max asked with a smile, looking down at him. "I need a hot shower like nobody's business. And there is that gourmet meal you promised me…"
Logan grinned. "Anything you want, Max."
"Anything? Hmmm," she said thoughtfully, with a mischievous look on her face. "I'll have to bear that offer in mind."
"There's no expiration date on it," he answered, pulling her down for another passionate kiss.
"Here we are," Logan announced as he parked the Aztek outside Max's apartment building. It was about two in the afternoon. Before they'd left the warehouse, he'd called Jam Pony and given Normal a phony reason for Original Cindy to stop home for a while. By now enough time had passed that she would be upstairs, waiting.
Max didn't respond. She was staring out the window at the building.
"Max?" he asked a moment later. "You okay?"
"Yeah," she answered, glancing at him before turning back to look out the window. "I just...didn't realize how much I missed it." After another moment, she murmured, "Kinda feels funny to come back to it."
"Nothing's changed in there," he told her, guessing correctly what Max had been wondering.
She smiled at him. "Spend a lot of time there this summer?"
"Come up with me," she said suddenly.
Logan was surprised. He'd thought she wanted him to drop her off. "You sure?"
"She'll have to get back to work before long, and I really do need a shower, so you might as well wait. And..." Max looked up at the building as she spoke. It took her a minute to finish her thought, not quite sure it should be voiced. Her self-protective instinct fought her better judgment before finally losing. "...I just...don't want to be alone."
She didn't quite dare turn away from the window and look at Logan. She'd hoped she could be strong when she returned to life as usual, and for the most part she was succeeding, but the truth was the thought of being completely on her own terrified her. She knew she'd get over it eventually. She just hated to admit to it in the meantime.
"Hey," Logan said, putting a finger under Max's chin and turning her head toward him. Her eyes followed. "You've been through a lot. It's okay to want company." His voice softened to a whisper, his thumb stroking her jawline. "I learned that."
For the first time—and she felt guilty about it later—Max was glad Logan had gone through so much hardship in his life. He really did know how it felt, and he knew exactly what she needed to hear.
"Thanks," she whispered.
They kept eye contact for a moment longer before getting out of the car.
The ride upstairs was quiet at first. Soon, though, Max became excited about seeing Original Cindy again. By the time the freight elevator reached her floor, she was grinning in anticipation. She quickly pushed aside the gate that separated the car from the hallway and jogged down to her door.
Logan turned on the speed to keep up with her. He didn't want to miss this.
When he pulled up behind her, Max was turning the doorknob extremely slowly to avoid making a sound. She opened the door just a crack and peered into the apartment. Original Cindy stood at the end of the kitchen counter island, sipping a cup of coffee, her back to the door. Max exchanged mischievous smiles with Logan before silently opening the door and sneaking inside. He stayed where he was, not schooled as Max was in the art of soundless travel and not sure he could pull it off even if he had been. Instead he sat back to enjoy the show.
Max stepped lightly, holding her breath, until she was just behind her roommate. She watched Original Cindy take a sip of coffee. Just as the mug met her lips, Max said, "Got any of that for me?"
Coffee sprayed from Original Cindy's mouth in a hot mist. She whirled around, coffee sloshing over the side of the mug. Her eyes widened when she saw Max standing there, grinning from ear to ear.
"Max!" she cried, putting the coffee down and pulling Max into a giant bear hug. "Oh, my God!"
"I'm glad to see you, too," Max said happily, squeezing back.
Original Cindy held her at arm's length to look at her. "I can't believe it!" she exclaimed. "It's really you!"
"I take it you missed me?"
"Oh, shugga, you have no idea," she said, pulling Max into an embrace once again. "I'm so glad you're back."
As the hug ended, Original Cindy caught sight of Logan sitting in the doorway, grinning widely. "You!" she exclaimed in mock indignation. "You set me up!"
"Guilty as charged," he said. The grin didn't leave his face as he came in and closed the door. "I just wish I had a camera."
"Well, Original Cindy doesn't care," she announced, breaking into another smile. "Max is alive and she is here. What could be better than that?"
"A little joe wouldn't hurt," Max grinned.
"Sit down. Let me get you a cup and you tell me all about it."
"I'll tell you later, okay?" Max said gently, remaining standing. "I don't really wanna go into it right now. You gotta get back to work soon and I gotta get a hot shower."
At that, Original Cindy looked up from the coffee she was pouring. She glanced from Max to Logan and back again, and raised her eyebrows. "Okay with me. I bet it's just what you need," she said in her usual Max-is-hot-for-Logan voice.
"Calm down," Max said, rolling her eyes at her friend's teasing tone. She no longer denied the attraction, but she didn't want Logan to think she was ready for a shower duet, either. "Just don't tell the peeps at Jam Pony yet. I wanna surprise 'em."
"I'm gonna go back to work burstin' at the seams. But it'll be worth it." Original Cindy handed Max her coffee. "Glad to have you back, boo."
An hour later, Max stood in Logan's shower and let the hot water pour over her.
It was pure bliss. For months, all her showers had been cold, quick, and supervised; now she stood in her own warm cocoon. It felt so good to lean into the spray and feel it wash Manticore away. For minutes on end she stood there without thinking, simply relaxing into the water and letting it soothe her body and mind.
Once she was clean, she turned off the water and dried off with one of Logan's thick, soft towels. She wrapped herself in it and examined her reflection in the mirror. Her wet hair hung down almost to the small of her back, stick-straight and heavy. The large towel emphasized her thin frame; she could practically see her bones through her skin. Original Cindy, after getting over the shock of seeing Max again, had commented on her appearance and resolved to restore her to her natural state.
I wonder if she'd kill me if I took a pair of scissors right now and got rid of a few inches, Max mused. She decided Original Cindy would indeed beat on her. The thought made her smile.
She left the hair-shortening for another day and turned to the clothes folded neatly on the counter. Logan hadn't said anything about them; he'd merely left them there for her to find. She picked them up and recognized them as an outfit she'd worn after an Eyes Only mission many months ago. So that's where I left that shirt! she thought, pulling it over her head.
She fingered the hem for a moment, touched that Logan had kept these clothes for her all this time. Had he always known she'd be back? Or had he kept them as a memento because he'd thought her dead? She'd never been the sentimental type—except maybe compared to Zack—but she knew now that if the shoe had been on the other foot, she would have kept anything Logan had left her.
Her stomach growled, pulling Max out of her thoughts. Quickly she pulled on her jeans and socks, combed her hair, and padded out into the kitchen. It smelled wonderful.
Logan sat at the stove, putting the finishing touches on a hearty stew he had thawed out the previous day. When he heard her approach, he smiled and turned his head to look at her. His eyes widened. She could tell he skipped a breath. She blushed a bit.
"I didn't know if you'd ever walk into the room again," he said quietly, explaining his reaction. "I feel like I'm seeing things."
"I could make it a little more real for you," she smiled. She made good on her offer by planting a kiss on his lips. He accepted eagerly.
It felt strange just coming out and kissing Logan like that, after denying her love for so long. But recent experience had taught Max to take nothing for granted. She had a funny feeling Logan had learned the same thing.
"Almost done?" she asked when they were finished, nodding at the thick stew bubbling in the saucepan. "I'm starved."
"Yep. I was just waiting for you to get out of the shower before dishing it up."
She took the bowls he handed her and carried them to the table, where red wine and crusty garlic bread awaited. He followed and took his place across from her.
The meal passed in comfortable silence. Logan was content to watch Max, happy that she once again occupied the seat that had been empty for so long. She ate slowly, savoring every bite. For once he finished before she did.
"That was great, Logan. Thank you," she said sincerely when she was done.
He reached across the table and took her hand, playing with her fingers. For a moment their hands engaged in a dance, fingers stroking and winding around each other. He lifted his eyes to hers. She stood up and leaned across the table to whisper in his ear.
"Meet me on the couch," she said.
He gladly left the dishes on the table and followed her to the living room. Sunshine streamed through the windows, motes drifting in the warm light, as Max waited for him to transfer. When he was settled, she straddled his lap to face him and greedily pulled his lips to hers. He responded in kind.
Soon their kiss grew more passionate. Fingers explored faces, hair, and shoulders as breathing grew ragged.
When their lips parted, Logan asked huskily, "Do you...want to..."
"I do. But not yet," Max answered, stroking his jawline as they touched foreheads. As many times as she'd dreamed of making love to him, the prospect of doing it right now was too overwhelming. She'd been through a lot in recent days and had only just escaped Manticore hours earlier. She'd have to get her head on straight first—reestablish her own identity before she entwined it so intimately with another.
"I don't think I'm ready," she admitted.
"Okay." He nodded, as if he'd been expecting that answer even while hoping for a different one. "You'll...you'll let me know, though, right?"
"Oh, yeah," she grinned, and confirmed it with a sweet kiss. After that, she stood up from his lap and sat on the couch, curling up next to him. He drew her closer with an arm around her shoulders.
"So Original Cindy said you've been having lunch together once a week," she said.
"I'm glad. You needed to get out more," she grinned, only half kidding.
"For the moment, I think I'll stay right here," Logan said, taking a lock of her hair and playing with it. He curled it around one finger.
"Mmm," she murmured. "Me too."
Time passed. It went by largely in silence as they enjoyed simply being in each other's company. Max wondered, not for the first time, why she'd kept Logan at arm's length for so long. He'd broken through her defenses, and she'd come to trust him like nobody she'd ever known—but even when she'd finally figured out what she felt for him, she'd hesitated. If only she'd known what she was missing!
That's over now, she thought happily. We're here, and I don't have to be afraid anymore.
She reached up and brushed Logan with a kiss.
"Mmm. What was that for?" he asked, smiling.
"Just because I felt like it."
He kissed her back. His kiss was seeking, ravenous, as though he was satisfying a craving. She returned it eagerly. When they were done, she grinned. "I think I can guess what you feel like."
"Am I that obvious?" The look on Logan's face was mischievous.
"No, actually, you're one of the most inscrutable people I've ever met." Max gazed thoughtfully into space as she spoke. "It took me a while to figure you out. I'd never met anyone like you."
He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I could say the same about you. It's like you opened up a whole new world to me." He paused before continuing, recognizing that this was one more thing he never would have had the courage to vocalize before she'd been taken from him. "I...I wasn't sure I'd ever fit into that world."
"Of course you do," she said with a grin and just a hint of sass. "You belong there. I wouldn't have it any other way."
She laid her head on his shoulder and rested one palm on his chest.
"I'm glad you're back, Max," Logan told her, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. "Welcome home."
She sighed happily.
It's been a long few months. There were a lot of days when I thought nothing would ever be right again. But Logan stuck with me, and got me out. So here we are. I'm back in Seattle, just where I want to be.
It's all good.