Chapter Two: "Confession"
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Dark Angel belong to FOX and/or James Cameron/Chic Eglee.
Spoilers: Season 2, Medium Is The Message.
A/N: I really appreciate the feedback on the last chapter, as always, and I'd love a chance to respond here, especially since some of the more critical reviews were anonymous. It's going to be a long A/N, so get ready or skip over. Sorry, but it's been so long since I last posted that you might need to re-read the last chapter and the reviews to understand my response. If you want to discuss the last chapter further, feel free to email me privately.
IMO, Max, in the previous chapter, was not harsh – she was *acting* harsh. She was not so much upset at the guy's death, but she was devastated that she had let Logan down. Be that as it may, Max would *never* beg for forgiveness from anyone – no matter how much she loves Logan. It's not in her nature. She'd never admit her feelings of failure, or the horror of disappointing Logan. Watch any S1 episode – Max acts pretty harsh, or at least callous, with Logan and everyone else, when she is directly challenged. If you watch with the volume turned down, which is really hard to express with the written word, she does seem much softer. Her eyes and expressions are often loving, but her words are much less often.
As for Logan, I disagree with those who compared this situation with the one in SiL. Informants assume certain risks, and Logan accepts that. That man may or may not have been killed because of his EO work. The dealer in this chapter called Logan and *begged* EO to help him. He pretty much said, if you don't help me, I'm going to die. And Logan finds out that Max talked to the guy, and purposefully kept the message from him, and as a result, the guy was gunned down. You'd have to have a pretty hard heart to spend weeks convincing someone it's in their best interest to help you, that you'll help them in return, and then not feel anything if they're killed because you didn't check your messages. I'm glad my Logan is devastated. It doesn't make him weak, it makes him human. And for those who said he was wimpy...he yelled at Max and kicked her out. Doesn't sound like a wimp to me – sounds like a guy who's hurting, and angry, and is so secure in his love for his girlfriend that he knows he can scream and stomp (figuratively) and tell her to go away, and know she'll still love him in the morning.
Finally, one reviewer wondered if I decided to stop posting at ff.net because of some negative reviews. Were that true, let me tell you, I'd be out playing the lottery – because I wrote my A/N last chapter before I received any of those reviews. I'm not going to post at ff.net anymore because it's redundant – I have a website (www.willowsdarkangelfic.freeservers.com and thank you to my web guru, Denise). Catch my updates there from now on. Thanks for reading, everyone.
"What are you doing here?"
Max had just pushed open the door to her apartment, and the sudden question caught her off guard as she stripped off her backpack and let it drop to the floor. She looked over and saw Original Cindy stretched out on the couch, already in her nightshirt and flipping through a magazine. "Always nice to be wanted," she replied with a teasing smile.
Original Cindy didn't even notice the smile, because the sadness in Max's eyes cast a shadow over her whole face. "Figured you'd be crashing at Logan's," she said, "since you split so fast after work. But you two had a fight, so come on over here and sit your butt down and tell Original Cindy all about what a typical man he is." She swung her legs over the side of the couch and patted the seat soothingly.
Max hesitated, then obeyed her friend and headed to the couch, the smile she'd mustered slipping from her face. "One of Logan's informants called on Christmas Eve. I didn't give him the message, and the guy got killed, and Logan freaked."
"So what?" Original Cindy exclaimed. "I know your boy's got a mission and all that, but tell him to get an answering service or something!"
"The message was that the guy's cover was blown, and now he's dead." Her shoulders slumped. "I mean yeah, so I screwed up. But the guy was a street dealer – he probably had it coming!" she said fiercely. "And..."
"And you feelin' guilty, and so is Logan, and both of you decided to deal with it by blaming someone else," Original Cindy finished. "Instead of fessin' up saying how you really felt." She rolled her eyes and sighed loudly. "When are you two ever gonna learn?"
"Never, I guess." Max stared miserably at her friend. "Doesn't matter. Logan's never gonna trust me again, anyway. And you can't be with someone you don't trust."
"This ain't got nothing to do with trust," Original Cindy snapped. "Logan trusts you more than anyone. He's just bent out of shape, and when men are bent, the testosterone takes over their brains and their mouths so they can't see straight."
Max shrugged. "Maybe he shouldn't trust me. I heard what the guy said, and I totally spaced. But Logan didn't even give me the chance to explain."
"Just give him a while to cool off," Original Cindy said. "You guys have gone through too much to let some druggie stand between you. But listen, boo, you got to tell Logan what you told me. None of this defensive mess you're so good at. Logan ain't gonna think any less of you if you tell him you messed up big time and you throw yourself on his mercy." She smiled and winked. "Lots of ways to make it up to the boy."
Max managed a weak smile. "I don't think it's gonna be that easy, O.C. Eyes Only is Logan's life, and he thinks I betrayed the mission."
"Max," Original Cindy replied, taking her friend by the shoulders. "You are Logan's life, and if it ain't clear enough by the way he looks at you, then just take my word for it...a'iight?"
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Logan pushed open the door to his apartment and walked in, his steps slow and heavy. He'd just met Matt Sung for lunch, and received the disturbing news that the Steelheads had solidified their power in the run-down neighborhood where they'd set up shop. Everyone, good and bad alike, was scared stiff after the execution of Logan's informant. Matt was even convinced that they'd managed to buy off a few beat cops so they could go about business unbothered.
After they'd parted ways, Logan had hit the streets for a while, turning a couple of informants who told him in no uncertain terms that they were severing their relationship with Eyes Only for good. The drug dealer informant had told a few associates that he was undercover for Eyes Only, betting that after the Steelheads were gone, he'd be able to consolidate his own reign over the neighborhood. Now there was no way Logan was going to get help going up against the Steelheads, especially since there was living – well, actually dead – proof that Eyes Only couldn't, or wouldn't, protect anyone who agreed to.
Sighing heavily, Logan stripped off his jacket and headed to the answering machine, whose light was blinking energetically, as it often did. The message was from Bling. "Hey. I was hoping you could get to the safe house today," the physical therapist began. He rattled off a few groceries the Kennedys needed, and then said, after a pause, in a lower voice, "...and Logan? Use the chair, okay?"
Logan ran a hand through his already-tousled hair and looked down at the tops of his boots, the exoskeleton curving over the thick leather. Great, he thought. It's one thing if I'm not already in the damn thing, but he wants me to take it off and go shopping in the wheelchair when I'm up and walking? Despite his irritation, Logan had heard the tone in Bling's voice, and knew better than to ignore the request. He went to the workout room and pulled the chair close to the therapy table, then stripped off his shoes and pants and sat down to remove the exoskeleton.
Once in the chair, Logan grabbed his backpack from the floor and sat it on his lap, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket. He slipped the wallet inside the backpack and draped it on the backrest of the chair. He was halfway out the door when he caught a glimpse of his shoes still sitting on the floor beside the table, and he peered over in irritation at his white sock-covered feet on the footrest. Sighing, he went back and pulled on the heavy boots. He never wore them in the chair, because they were so heavy, and it was difficult to cram them both onto the footrest. But not wanting to spare the time to go hunt another pair, he tugged his cargo pants down over the thick ankles and headed out.
He stopped by the market nearest Fogle Towers to pick up the vegetables and eggs Bling had requested, and then drove straight to the safe house. Maggie was waiting, as always, at the window, and he was still transferring into the chair when she burst out of the house and ran down the ramp to greet him. Yvonne appeared in the doorway a few seconds later.
"Maggie!" she called crossly. "Get back in here right now, young lady!"
Maggie stopped and turned. "Mo-om," she whined petulantly, looking back at the Aztek.
"Be there in a second," Logan called to Maggie to encourage her to go back. He heard her run back up the ramp, and he slammed the car door, coming around the side of the car, grocery bags in his lap. Maggie was standing in the doorway, waiting, and she pounced on him when he reached her.
"Hi, Logan!" she sang, trying to scramble into his lap.
"Hey, there," he said, smiling. "Why don't you take these groceries in to your mom, and then I'll give you a ride, okay?"
"Okay," Maggie agreed, grabbing the two bags and dragging them on the ground on either side of her as she struggled up the ramp to where her mother was waiting on the porch.
Logan followed more slowly, cursing Bling again for making him wheel instead of walk, but he managed another smile for Yvonne as he reached the door. "Hi there," he said. "Everything okay here?"
Yvonne, now holding the two grocery bags, smiled briefly, but it wasn't enough to erase the worry lines that creased her forehead. "I'm glad you came..."she said, and though she didn't finish the thought, Logan didn't miss the way her eyes darted down to the wheelchair.
He expected her to go back in the house, especially since it was freezing cold and he was only wearing a light jacket, but she stood in the doorway, fidgeting. "What's up?" he asked, furtively rubbing his hands together to warm them.
"It's Colin," she said, sighing. "He...he tried on the exoskeleton this morning. Bling wasn't here, and I told him I didn't think it was a good idea, but...he did it anyway."
Logan smiled, although he wondered why she didn't look happy about it. "That's great! I hope it worked okay."
"It...it worked fine, but he wasn't ready, Logan. It was too soon." She shot a look into the house, as if checking to see if anyone was listening. "He pushed too hard. He...he started having those spasms, and the thing went out of control—"
Logan just stared at her, his enthusiasm deflating. "Yvonne, it's my fault. I'm sorry...I should've told him."
"No, Logan, you didn't know he was going to try it this soon, and by himself. It's just my stupid husband. He's so damn stubborn! Bling tried to tell him...He almost kicked Maggie. He couldn't control it. We finally got it turned off. He's in bed – the spasms are really bad. Bling had to go get something stronger than the usual medicine. He's in a lot of pain."
"Let's go inside," Logan suggested, realizing her thin blouse was even less of a shield against the cold than his jacket. He nudged the door open and wheeled past her into the house. She followed him silently and shut the door.
Maggie had gotten distracted by cartoons on the TV, but when she heard them, she turned around. "Hey, Logan, my daddy was trying to walk like you, eeeeee-oooooooo," she said, singing the exoskeleton noise she'd perfected. "But something bad happened and he had to go to bed."
"I know," Logan said. "He just needs some more practice. But it might be a while until he can practice again."
"That's okay," Maggie said. "It was kinda scary. But he's the same daddy in his wheelchair, and he can give me rides, so I don't really care." She shrugged and turned back to the TV, Logan's offer of a ride temporarily forgotten.
"Logan." Logan turned toward the sound of his name and saw Bling coming down the hallway. His face was grim, and Logan dreaded the lecture he knew was sure to follow.
"Listen, Bling, I did not tell Colin to try the exoskeleton before you gave the go-ahead—"
"I know," Bling said, cutting him off. "But you've been strutting around here for weeks now, tempting him just the same. I've been trying to tell you, it's not fair for you to expect him to get to the same place in four weeks that you've had a year and a half to get to."
Logan sighed, gripping his wheels. "I'm just living my life, Bling, wheeling and walking. I saw the chance to get him the exo, and I did it. End of story."
"For you, maybe." Bling started to continue, then stopped and said, "He's pretty down. You better go try to cheer him up. And not by praying to the almighty exoskeleton god." His face was grim as he turned away.
Logan blew air slowly through his nose, feeling irritation rather than the guilt he knew Bling was aiming for. He wheeled down the hall and into the master bedroom. Colin was propped up on a couple of pillows, under the covers, his eyes closed. He opened them as Logan came in. "Not another lecture, okay?" he said preemptively.
Logan smiled. "Nah, I know Bling's got it covered. You okay?"
Colin shrugged, then winced. "Pretty loaded up on whatever he shot me full of. Thought I was dying, the muscle spasms were so bad."
Logan nodded. "Yeah, they're bad. I'd never had a problem with spasms until I tried the exoskeleton the first time. Max was supposed to come over, but I was glad she didn't, later that night. I didn't have any meds, and my legs were shaking so bad I couldn't even hold a glass of Scotch."
Colin laughed. "That's bad," he agreed. "But the worst is the back spasms – the ones I can feel. So bad you wish someone had a gun to put you out of your misery."
Both of them were silent for a moment, then Colin said, "Sorry. Guess my foot made it all the way up to my mouth that time, eh?"
Logan shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I can't feel the back spasms much, but when I do, it always helps to lie on my side."
"I'll remember that for next time," Colin said. "Anyway, I know I screwed up. I just...the thing was just standing there in the living room. Felt like it was watching me. I didn't think it would hurt just to give it a try. And Logan? When I put it on...it was like flying."
Logan smiled, remembering his first time. "Yeah. I know. Even though you can barely put one foot in front of the other."
Colin made a dismissive gesture with his mouth. "Doesn't matter. It was the best feeling in the world."
"Well, for right now, you better think of the exoskeleton like a drug high. Might feel pretty good while you're doing it, but you're going to pay the price."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. You said no lectures," Colin reminded him.
Max pulled her bicycle up in front of the safe house and put the kickstand down. She started up the ramp, then went back and pulled out the lock, wrapping it around the porch railing. No sense leaving the thing out here to get stolen, she thought. She wondered again why she'd decided to visit the Kennedys. Joshua was at home, as usual, but he'd started a new painting, and it was obvious after a few minutes that Max was just a distraction to him that night. So she'd started toward Logan's, and then remembered. Original Cindy was meeting someone at Crash, and Max just didn't feel like going home alone. So here she was.
headed into the house, but no one was in the living room, so she continued on
into the kitchen, where she heard female voices. Maggie was sitting on the counter while Yvonne fixed dinner.
"Max!" Yvonne greeted her. "I'm glad you stopped by. We'll have a full house for dinner."
here, too?" Max wondered aloud.
"Yes, and—" Yvonne started, but Maggie interrupted.
"I'm helping make the spaghetti sauce," she told Max proudly. "My daddy usually makes it, but he's in bed."
"What's wrong?" Max asked Yvonne.
She turned away from the stove toward Max, rolling her eyes. "He decided to try on the exoskeleton when Bling went out this morning. Now he's laid up with spasms. It was a total disaster."
Max absorbed that news, her eyes widening slightly. "But he's okay...right?"
"He'll be fine. Logan didn't tell us that spasms make the thing go crazy. He almost hurt Maggie. I mean, he didn't mean to, of course, but still." Yvonne shuddered with the memory.
"Men are so pig-headed," Max muttered, jumping up to sit on the counter opposite Maggie. "Logan worked day and night on the thing when he first got it. He was obsessed with getting it to work. Bling told me later. Logan didn't even tell me he had it, if you can believe that."
"Trust me, I can believe it," Yvonne said. "Colin was pretty humiliated this afternoon. I don't think men like us to seem them fail. Logan was probably just scared it wouldn't work, and he didn't want you to see it."
Max shrugged. "Like I said, pig-headed and pathetic." She and Yvonne exchanged a knowing smile.
"So, what are you doing here?" Yvonne asked her. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, but you haven't been by in a while."
Max shrugged again. "Just thought I check up, see how you're doin'."
"Did Logan tell you he was going to be here?" Yvonne asked innocently, stirring the boiling pasta.
The color drained from Max's face. "No. Is he?"
Yvonne turned, surprised. "Yeah, he's in the bedroom with Colin. I thought maybe that's why you came."
Max emitted a mirthless laugh. "Hardly. I don't think he wouldn't come if he knew I was going to be here."
Yvonne's look of surprise deepened. "Why not? Did you have a fight?"
"He got all bent out of shape about an...an Eyes Only thing," Max finished, remembering that she knew. "I forgot to give him a message on Christmas Eve."
"Surely he's not upset about that."
"One of his informants got killed. The one who called. So he's blaming me."
"Oh, Max, I'm sorry." Yvonne fidgeted, not knowing what to do or say. "I know you didn't mean for that to happen. I'm sure Logan does, too. He'll get over it."
Max continued to look indifferent. "Maybe, but maybe I won't. He acted like I was just as bad as the druggie who bit it, just for forgetting a message."
"And you didn't, by any chance, get the tiniest bit defensive, did you?" Yvonne probed gently.
Max's eyes narrowed. "Wouldn't you, if Colin had said you didn't give a damn whether people lived or died?"
"Did he really say that?" Yvonne said. "That's harsh. But you know what? I bet he didn't really mean it. I bet he was just really upset."
"Yeah, well..." Max couldn't tell Yvonne, but she'd always suspected that Logan still had doubts about Max's true nature in the back of his mind, even though he'd long since shredded the picture of the murdered man in the woods at Manticore. That's why she'd lashed out at him, she knew. But she just couldn't go there with him. She was too afraid that she was right. And then what?
"So then, she basically says she doesn't give a damn about the guy, and I shouldn't either," Logan finished angrily.
"Logan, Logan, Logan," Colin said patronizingly. "She didn't mean it, and you know it. She was just pissed at you for getting so worked up when she felt so shitty already."
Logan rolled his eyes. "You don't know Max."
"So you're telling me that you actually believe that she didn't care one little bit that the guy died because she didn't give you the message?" Colin pressed him. "Hate to say it, but if you do think that, then good riddance, right?"
Logan sat silently, thinking about that. Colin was right, he thought. Not the 'good riddance' part, of course. But that Logan really knew, deep down, that Max didn't feel that way. He couldn't love someone who felt that way. But she'd said it, and he'd been feeling so bad, he just flew off the handle. Stupid.
He sighed. "You're right. Max had to care. She just...she's not very good at admitting fault, or showing it to other people."
Colin smiled. "Ahhh...so then, no problem. You just go find her and make her talk to you. If she really just forgot to give you the message, she owes you an apology, but it was an honest mistake. You have to let it go."
"She did apologize, in her own stubborn way. I was just too angry to see it for what it was." Logan managed a smile. "Thanks. I guess I can be pretty stubborn myself sometimes."
"Well, I wouldn't know anything about that," Colin joked.
Just then, Yvonne called, "Dinner's ready!" from the front of the house, and Logan started to back up. "I guess Yvonne will bring you some of our leftovers...if there are any," he smirked.
Logan headed back down the hallway, but before he could turn into the kitchen, he stopped short when he caught sight of Max, quietly sitting in one of the recliners in the living room. She didn't look mad, or even surprised to see him, he noticed. She must have talked to Yvonne. "What are you doing here?" he asked softly, detouring over to her. He stopped at the far end of the coffee table, afraid to get too close, not knowing where they were with each other.
Max shrugged. "Didn't have anywhere else to go."
"Max, I—" He stopped and looked down, then back up at her. "I'm sorry for last night. I said some pretty harsh things. I...protecting my informants is just really important to me, and I kind of lost it when I found out he was dead."
Max looked away out the window, not making eye contact. "And I kinda lost it when you lost it. You...you weren't really giving me the benefit of the doubt." Her soulful brown eyes finally met his, and he saw the apology and the hurt within them.
He wheeled over to her and carefully took her hands in his, holding them on his lap. "I was upset with you for not giving me the message. I still am, I guess," he admitted. "But I know you didn't mean for him to get killed. You just forgot. We'll both be more careful next time."
Max nearly sighed with relief. "I didn't, Logan. Eyes Only is really important to me. Not so much the drug dealers, but I know you need their help to 'fight the power.'" She smiled.
"Don't forget 'protect the downtrodden,'" he said softly. He put a finger under her chin, and lifted her lips, bending over to kiss them. "Are we okay?" he asked.
"I'm kinda hungry, actually," she said flippantly. "Let's go eat."