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Email: Joy: email@example.com, Aquila: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Summary: Max and Logan finish the game they started
Spoilers: Post-Haven, but otherwise nothing serious.
Author's Notes: Here's my half of the story. If you enjoyed this little piece please be sure to thank Joy, as it was entirely her idea.
"Nice doin' business with ya." The bartender answers, with and overly wide grin, as he pockets the cash I'd just handed him and wipes his greasy hands on his short apron at his waist. "Now ya know, you can't touch the alcohol…"
"That's fine," I answer with a grin of my own. It's not the alcohol I'm after. What I want is sitting in the far corner of the room, lit by its stained-glass lamp hanging overhead.
"So… can I ask ya what ya want with my bar tonight?" He fixes me with a sidelong gaze, like I'm some mob boss planning a clandestine meeting or something.
I gaze back at him over my glasses and shake my head solemnly, deciding to play the role to the hilt. "It's best you don't know."
"Right. Got ya." He answers turning away, and I have to stifle a chuckle. "Well, I'm outta here. Don't forget to clean up and lock up when you're done." He calls over his shoulder as he slips a ratty old bomber jacket over his large, muscular arms and slips out the back door.
I can't help but laugh out loud. I feel like I've slipped back into an old 1930's gangland movie or something. Me, the godfather, sitting in my wheelchair with an old machine-gun over my lap. An unwanted shiver creeps over me at the thought of a gun in my hand again. Ever since that trip to Cape Haven, I wake up in the middle of the night with an immense feeling of guilt. I took four lives that night. Sure I'd fired a gun and fought back in other ways before, but I had never killed anyone. But as I remember those men determined to wipe out Max, Sage and myself, all I can hear in my head are the words of the sheriff. 'Kill or be killed' and I wanted to live more.
Furiously, I shake my head. This is not why I came here tonight. I'm not here to resurrect old ghosts. Tonight, I'm going to have some fun. Another thing had been left unfinished up at Cape Haven. Max and I never finished our game, which is why I'm sitting here in a darkened, empty bar, with a silly grin creeping across my face. What is it they say? Turnabout is fair play? After all those nights of losing to her at chess, I think I've finally found an even playing field.
"So ya going to tell me why you dragged me out to a dive like this in the middle of the night?" Her voice always makes my heart speed up ever so slightly. I can't help but smile at the obvious curiosity in her voice. I love it when I can keep Max guessing. It doesn't happen very often.
"Do you have a job for me?"
I turn to face her with a sly smile. "No, Max, no work tonight." I swear I almost see a hint of disappointment in her eyes, but it's quickly squelched as her brow furrows in confusion. In answer to her silent question, I nod towards the only lighted corner of the room. "We have some unfinished business to attend to."
She laughs lightly, a sound I wish I could hear more often. "You're kidding right?"
"What? You afraid I might actually beat you?" I can't resist playing on her ego. I know she can never pass up a challenge.
"As if." She shoots back with a shake of her head as she rounds the pool table and picks up a cue. "C'mon Cale, let's see what you've got."
I can't seem to hold back the broad smile that claims my face as I eagerly roll up to the table beside her and pick up a cue of my own. "Care to break?"
She smiles wickedly as she leans over the edge of the table, positioning herself for her first shot. Leaning back in my chair, I can't help but 'admire the view' as she concentrates on the small white ball in front of her. I'm mesmerized by the sliding of the cue between her fingers. I'm certain she knows I'm watching and I feel my heart speed up and warmth flush my cheeks at the realization, but I just can't tear my eyes away.
The crack of the balls on the table snaps me out of my warn haze with a start. The sound of Max's soft giggle washes over me. "Did I scare you Logan?"
Looking up, I am snared by her dark eyes dancing with merriment. Flashing her a sly grin I wheel closer to the table and chalk my cue. "Nope," I answer as nonchalantly as my suddenly overworked nervous system will allow. "Just planning my strategy."
"Logan you are aware you're up against an expert military strategist." Her voice is almost haughty with her claim.
"Oh really?" I mock.
I playfully blow the excess chalk in her direction. "Then let's see what you've got."
"Eight ball in the corner pocket" I can't keep the note of satisfaction out of my voice as I move to set up my final shot. I, Logan Cale am actually beating Max at a game of skill. Seems my experience is winning out over her strategic expertise.
"Oh really?" She echoes my mocking words from earlier as I ignore her and lean forward on the table, settling the cue in my left hand and contemplating my winning shot.
As I focus in on the ball in front of me, I suddenly feel Max leaning in next to me, as close as she can get without actually touching. 'What is she doing?' Her warmth washes over me, creeping into my bones and setting my heart tripping into overdrive.
I release the breath I didn't realize I was holding as she finishes checking over my positioning and murmurs softly in my ear "Looks good." A soft curl brushes against my neck and it takes everything in my power to keep my cool. I'm not going to let her get to me.
She makes no move to back away and I can feel every working muscle in my body tense with anticipation. I try to focus my breathing by concentrating on the cue between my fingers, slowly sliding it back and forth, matching the rhythm of my breathing. 'In and out, in and out…just breathe Cale.' I refuse to let her know how much her closeness is affecting me. Gradually, through the heady haze of warmth, permeated with the scent of cherries and just Max, I realize I can hear her breathing, slowly and carefully. Her breaths are as measured as mine. This sudden realization brings me a new sense of confidence. I decide it's time for a little turnabout. Very slowly, I turn my head towards her and snag her eyes. For a moment, all coherent though flies out of my mind and I feel myself drowning in their dark depths. I can feel her warm breath on my face and it takes all my strength no to lose myself in her. It doesn't take long to realize I'm in over my head. My eyes are drawn down to her lips and a slow smile quirks my face at the thought of how easy it would be to just lean in and… glancing back up at her eyes the uncertainty there appeals to my better judgement and I reluctantly tear myself away, focussing the last threads of my concentration on the final shot I was about to make.
In a swift, decisive strike I finish the game. I can't help but grin like a child as I lean back in my chair, with an immense feeling of satisfaction. The sudden sense of loss as I put some distance between us surprises me, but I'm still riding the high of my victory.
"Nice shot." She admits with a rueful smile, but her eyes are dancing with laughter.
"Thanks. Best two out of three?" I ask, cocking an eyebrow. I know she can't resist a dare and I'm not ready for this night to end.
"You're on!" Max exclaims as she slowly straightens up and goes to rack the balls. I can't hide my delight at her eagerness to stay. A similar smile has found its way to her lips, lighting up her features in the dim room. My eyes are drawn to her smile, as she finishes setting up.
I'm not finished with her yet. Our game isn't finished and I'm content to continue playing as long as I have to. For this one night, nothing else matters, not Eyes Only, not my chair, not Manticore. Tonight, in this darkened barroom, it's just Max and I, enjoying one another and pushing the limits as much as we dare. For one night, we can forget the world except for the one that's shining in each other's eyes.