Summary: Rated PG-13 for some language and angst. Kinda mushy. AU, Angst, Logan/Max. Set before ‘Meow’. Some bad news leads to new beginnings and inevitable endings.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Dark Angel, nor do I pretend to. I am not getting money for this story, so no copyright infringement is being made.
Note: This is my first Dark Angel fan fic, so please be kind. Oh, and I don’t usually swear, but I do in this story because it fits the characters. If you would like to read the Star Trek: Voyager fic I have written, go to www.angelfire.com/scifi/daffnie/fanfic.html.
Archiving: Sure, just ask first.
By Daffnie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When Max peddled, the chain on her bike rattled, but it went unnoticed among the cries and murmurs the emanated from the people hovering over burning trash, trying to absorb the heat before the cold Seattle night swept over. Dirty hands reached for her, attempting to grab on to her coat, leg, or anything that would make her stop...or fall...so they could take the things that seemed like riches. She was like an angel among the shunned. She clearly stood out amid the filthy faces of malnourished children and adults, alike, who fought over pieces of garbage to eat or incinerate in a barrel. What a savage place the world has turned into.
Max felt tears of compassion well up behind powdered eyelids, and she felt guilty for passing by so quickly, not offering any sort of succor. She continued her trek, however, knowing that if she stopped to help, Normal would fire her for being late again. “One more time, Max, and you’re gone,” he said not long ago. “You deliver the packages you’re assigned and return back here immediately. No stops, no breaks, no ‘But-Normal-I-Had-Other-Business-To-Deal-With’. I’m sick of your excuses, Max, and if you don’t shape up, you will no longer be welcomed here. Got it?”
“Sure, Normal. I got it,” she said to no one, steadying her bike from wobbling after she hit the handle bars with her palm. She was angry at herself for not being able to help. She knew all too well what it was like to be powerless and lost, and it didn’t seem fair for anyone else to suffer.
...And as she proceeded along the litter-covered sidewalk, the tears fell. Max’s hand quickly wiped them away, fearing someone would see her -the competent soldier who could take down anyone- crying. No, it just wasn’t right. She needed to be in control. That’s what she was trained to do, and that’s the way it was going to be.
*Who am I fooling?* she thought. *I’m not at Manticore anymore, and I’m not a warrior. I won’t be another one of Lydecker’s puppets. His mission will not be tolerated. I will take countermeasures; I will escape and evade; I will defy. Ugh! What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep thinking like a soldier?*
Heading for a shortcut to Jam Pony and lost in thought, Max turned a corner sharply. The tires squealed on the concrete, and the bike slipped out from under her. Leaving black skid marks and pitching her to the ground like a rag doll, the bike rolled a few feet more before crashing into a collection of trash cans. Max moaned and slowly lifted her face from the pavement. She felt hot blood dribble onto her lips and down her chin, and she watched in consternation as the drops fell into a large, crimson puddle. Her hand shot to her nose to try to stop the bleeding, and she uttered a few profanities at her sudden misfortune and extreme pain. Her face felt like it was on fire, and her head was pounding.
His hand struck her face, and she felt the blood run from her nose onto her lips. She was tempted to brush it away but knew that would earn her another slap, so she held her arms stiffly at her side. The blood dripped onto the floor.
“Clean that floor again, X5! It looks like you never even bothered to mop it!”
She nodded solemnly and responded, “Sir, yes sir!”
“Pay attention when you do something! What if this was a survival mission instead of just cleaning a floor? Would you settle for less than the best when it would risk not only your life but those of the other X5s? Would you not watch the ground for trip wires? Would you keep your knife blade dull?”
“Then wipe up your mess and clean it again! Do it until you got it right!”
Lydecker stormed out of the barracks, and Max closed her eyes to keep back the tears.
*Soldiers don’t cry. Soldiers don’t cry,* she told herself and went back to scrubbing the bloody floor.
In spite of the dire situation, Max couldn’t afford to wallow in self-pity (or the growing pool of blood). She shot to her feet, ignoring the agony, grabbed her slightly bent-up bicycle, and was off again. She used one hand to steer and the other to prevent drops from spattering all over her. Winding quickly through the backstreets of the city, she was more careful this time to watch where she was going. Now, she didn’t even notice the people huddled along the way.
When she finally arrived back at Jam Pony, she rushed inside, hoping that no one would notice her tardiness. Unfortunately, Normal was leaning against the front of his desk, staring intently at his watch, tapping his foot impatiently.
“You’re three minutes and seventeen seconds late, Max,” he declared in a sing-song voice, looking up at her with a look that said ‘gotcha!’ dancing in his eyes. “Sorry, but that’s the end of the line.”
Before she could protest, Original Cindy slammed her locker, strode over to them, and spoke up on her behalf.
“Just chill, Normal, ‘kay? So what if she’s a few minutes late? I’m sure my girl had a good reason,” she retorted. “Right, Boo?”
“Yeah,” Max agreed. “Of course.”
Normal cocked his head.
“Why are you covering your nose like that?”
“Oh, some jerk tried to steal my package,” she lied with a matter-of-fact voice, “so I hit him, and he punched me back before I could get away. Broke my nose.”
“Yeah, so give her a second chance, would ya? There’s nothing she could’ve done about getting her nose busted,” Cindy said, knowing very well that she was backing a lie.
He looked at them skeptically.
“Alright, but I’m giving you only *one* more chance, Max. Screw up and you’re out. Understand? One more chance. That’s all you get.”
Max muttered a ‘thank you’ from behind her hand.
“Now, you’d better go do something about that bloody nose before it gets all over the floor and leaves a stain that *I’ll* have to clean up,” Normal grumbled.
It was coming, and this Logan dreaded, praying desperately that it would leave him alone. But it was welling up inside of him, ready to terrorize...it was there, growing, surging, laughing at his weakness like a hyena laughs at its prey before consuming it. *Not another one! Not now!* Logan willed it to go away, fearing it like he feared death, but his pleas went unheard. The seizure came, forcing his body into violent spasms, jerking him around in his wheelchair. He closed his eyes hard, still not wanting to accept the circumstances, but his mind soon went numb, as did the rest of his body. He was pulled into a state of semi-consciousness; knowing what was going on, but at the same time half-dead. Sometime between the spasms, he opened his mouth to scream. Nothing came out. Then...everything became still and silent. He purposely went stiff, scared that another one would come, bracing himself for it, but soon he managed to force his eyes open...only to see the floor. Frightened, he tried to lift himself up, but his arms wouldn’t cooperate. He tried again, but nothing would move. It was no use.
He was supposed to be sleeping, but 9-year-old Logan laid in his bed with his eyes open, staring at the ceiling. He had heard people walking around on the floor above him before, but he never met them. Now, he wondered who they were. What were they like?
It became his favorite mystery. Every time he went outside, he looked up at the window directly above his, hoping he’d see someone or something moving. But each time, there was no one there. Rarely were there lights on, and the shade was usually drawn down.
Sometimes he had dreams about the people living upstairs. They were friendly and young and there would be kids for him to meet and get to know. The rooms they lived in were bright and cheery (unlike his dull room), and the people would always walk around with a smile on their faces. They always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and never were rude to anyone. The people upstairs were the best people in the world.
But of course, Logan knew it was all a fantasy, and the people upstairs were probably wicked creatures that wanted to eat him alive. For that reason, he feared to actually meet them. Hopefully, though, he would get to see them sometime, even though he wasn’t supposed to roam around getting himself into places that were ‘out-of-limits’. But he still wanted to catch a glimpse, just to find out if they wore a smile.
As Logan stared at the ceiling, plagued with insomnia, he heard someone scream. It was shrill, and it came from upstairs. Then he heard a man yelling, and someone, the same one who screamed he supposed, began crying. Then there was a loud shatter, another scream, a thump, a gunshot, and then everything was silent again.
When work was done for the day, Max felt up to the challenge of dealing with Logan’s current state of mind. Ever since his legs went limp under him once again...seemingly for good this time...he had become choleric. He stopped doing Eyes Only, and the only time she ever seen him smile recently was when she visited. Apparently, he enjoyed her company as much as she did his.
Max stepped up to the door and knocked on the dark wood. When no one answered, she knocked again. Still no answer. She let herself in. The apartment was dark...unusual since Logan often left several lights on even when sleeping. He said it was easier that way because some of the switches were difficult to reach from his wheelchair. But now, the only light in the room was that of the crescent moon shining through the penthouse’s large windows.
“Hello?” she called. “Logan? Are you here?”
“Logan?” she said again, peeking into his computer room. All the monitors were shut off.
Max wandered around the apartment until she noticed the wheelchair sans its usual occupant toppled over on its side next to his couch. Lying next to it, face down, was Logan. She rushed over to help him only to find that he wasn’t moving.
“Oh my gosh! What happened?” she asked more to herself than anyone, knowing that trying to ask him would ultimately be futile. She stooped down next to him and checked his pulse in his neck. It was strong, and he was breathing steadily. She sighed with relief. At least he was alive. Now, she had to figure out what to do.
Call the paramedics? No, because a police officer would accompany them, and Eyes Only could be discovered...and so might she.
Call Bling? No, Logan wouldn’t want his physical therapist seeing him so weak and helpless when he had been doing so well.
Sweat began to bead on her forehead, her heart rate accelerated, and she dug her fingernails into her palms. In her head, she ran though all the potential people she could think of that could come and help. Kendra, Original Cindy, Herbal, Sketchy, Normal, Zack... Out of the six, only Zack would have been any real help, but he left to find the other X5s weeks ago. Terrible timing on his part.
Max groaned in panic and frustration and rolled Logan over onto his back when his breathing became raspy.
What was she supposed to do?
...And then Logan snored. Max let out a sound of utter disbelief. *Ugh! Why do you get me worked up over nothing?*
“Logan, you jerk!” she yelled, annoyed, and nudged him in his ribs with her toe. “Wake up!”
He mumbled something in his sleep and turned his head away.
“Wake up! You’re on the floor!”
Logan’s eyes snapped open.
“Max!” he said in surprise and mild embarrassment. He sat up quickly and reached for the wheelchair, acting like if he got back in, she would never have seen anything.
“How’d you get on the floor? Are you hurt?”
“I must’ve fallen asleep, that’s all. And then I guess I fell out,” he lied.
She put the wheelchair in its proper position, then went behind him and help to lift him up into it. Once he was seated comfortably, she stared at him with her hands firmly planted on her hips.
“What?” he asked. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Logan, if you needed help walking, why didn’t you ask someone? I’m sure Bling wouldn’t mind.”
He looked away.
“Or you could’ve paged me,” she continued, “and I would’ve been over here in a flash. No problem.”
“I’m not going to have you lose your job over me, Max. You’ve been late too many times for it, and I’m not worth the trouble.”
“Don’t patronize yourself.”
“I’m not. I’m only speaking the truth. It wouldn’t be worth it to have to find another job just because I couldn’t get up and walk to the kitchen. That’s not fair to you.”
Max’s arms dropped to her sides. Her expression softened; her dark eyes full of compassion, but her lips forming a quasi-frown.
“That’s really sweet of you to think of me, but I’m not the issue here. Your health is what’s at stake, and I’m willing to sacrifice my job if it’ll help you. I’m not just some bad-ass girl who’s too caught up in her own self not to help out a friend. I have a heart.”
“Max, I couldn’t-”
“Yes, you could. And you’re going to.”
“Max, no. Please,” he pleaded.
Her pager went off, and she shrugged.
“Normal,” she said and rolled her eyes. “Aiight Logan, but if this ever happens again, I want you to call me. ‘kay?”
“Gotta blaze. See ya later.”
“What now, Normal? Work ended an hour ago,” she complained, striding casually into Jam Pony.
“Work never ends, Max. It’s what makes the world go round.” Max flashed an annoyed expression at him. “Now I need you to deliver this package.”
He tossed a manila envelope on the counter. Max picked it up, looked it over, and frowned. She threw the envelope at Normal in disgust. He fumbled with it before it fell to the ground at his feet. He bent down behind the desk, and when he came back up, the scowl on his face was serious.
“I don’t want to go to the other side of the city just to deliver some letter. Have Sketchy do it. I’m sure he won’t mind than much. Besides, I’ve got more important things to do.”
She began walking off.
“Max, do you or do you not want to keep this job?” he called to her.
She turned around and shrugged. “I dunno. I guess so. Pays better than some other places.”
“Then deliver it,” Normal said sternly, holding the letter.
Max groaned and snatched the envelope from his hands.
“Fine, but don’t expect me to do any more house calls, okay? If you keep this up, I’ll quit and save you the trouble of firing me.”
Normal raised his eyebrows at her sassiness as she hopped on her bike. Original Cindy approached her before she was able to ride off.
“Dang, Suga’. If it’s such a big deal, I’ll take it for ya. I’m sure whatever business you have to take care of is more worth it than this. Go on. I’ll handle Normal for you.”
Max gave her a crooked smile.
“No problem, Boo.”
Max jumped on her motorcycle and sped off towards Logan’s penthouse. Once she arrived, she glanced up at his windows. No lights were on...again. Hopefully he was in his computer room or somewhere not visible from the street. Max ran inside and took the elevator to his apartment. She didn’t even bother knocking this time.
Fortunately, she found Logan perfectly fine, typing away at a computer like normal.
“Hey, while you were gone I followed up on Lydecker,” he said, staring at the monitor. “He went after an X5 someone reported seeing way over in North Dakota. I can’t find who it is, but there’s a picture.”
He moved his mouse and clicked on an icon. A window came up, showing the decadent, pale face of one of her sibs.
“It’s Ivy. But I thought she was killed when we escaped,” she whispered.
“Well, it says here that she was just brought back to Manticore after being captured two days ago. She tried to escape yesterday, and they shot her. She was killed, but they didn’t keep her body at Manticore.”
“What did they do with it?”
“Sold it to the highest bidder. A company in Germany called ‘Frestance’ was interested in her DNA, and they bought her corpse for thirty two million dollars.”
Max closed her eyes and said a silent prayer to the Blue Lady, asking her to bring Ivy to the ‘Good Place’. Then, she cursed all those people at Frestance for messing with her sib. When she opened her eyes, Logan was facing her.
“I’m sorry, Max. I know how much you cared for all of them.”
Suddenly, Logan felt a seizure coming, but he was strong enough to suppress the spasms and violent jerks that had tossed him to the floor previously. In spite of his success with that, he blacked out, and his head hit the keyboard. Max gasped at his unexpected behavior and rushed to lift his head up.
“Logan!” she exclaimed.
He didn’t respond.
“Logan!” Max repeated.
As she held his head in her hands, he opened his eyes slowly, and they focused on her face.
“What’s wrong? Something’s been wrong with you lately. What is it?”
He was silent for one moment too long before lying, “Narcalepsy. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.”
He sat up and pulled at his shirt to straighten it.
“Logan, you need someone to be here if you keep doing this.”
“No, Max. Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing.”
“Don’t tell me that it’s nothing when you black out like that. That’s not normal, and you know it. You need some help, and I’m gunna call Normal and tell him he can find another runner. In fact, I’ll go do that right now,” she said and began to walk off.
Logan caught up to her and grabbed her arm. She stopped and spun around.
“Don’t, please. That’s not necessary.”
“Let it go, Logan. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need help sometimes.”
“Don’t you get it?! Don’t smother me! I don’t need your assistance!” he shouted, then said in a softer voice, “As much as I appreciate your offer, you couldn’t help me even if you wanted to.”
“The truth is,” he paused and drew in a breath, “I’m dying, Max.”
Her eyes widened.
“What?!” she whispered in disbelief.
Her world instantly shattered. All she was, all the wonderful things that have ever happened to her, revolved around him. He was one of the few people who gave some effort in showing that he cared. And now...it would all come to an end. Her quality of life would once again dwindle to the level of being at Manticore. Being on the run was bearable with him around, but once he was gone, she had no idea what would become of her. Maybe she’ll have to find Zack again, and she hated that idea. He was too controlling.
Logan continued, “The doctors say that because of the accident, the synaptic pathways running from my spine to my brain are deteriorating slowly, and it’s going to spread through my entire brain, too. That’s why my legs won’t work anymore.”
“How...” she cleared her throat and blinked back traces of tears that crept to her eyes. “How long? You know...‘til you...”
“About a year, at the most. But even before then, I will be completely paralyzed.”
He didn’t dare say more, fearing that it would be too much for her to handle. He didn’t tell her that as he got worse, he would suffer from seizures, he didn’t tell her that one had already come...that was why he was on the floor, and he didn’t tell her that his ‘about a year’ estimate was a very optimistic one. Max must have read something in his eyes, and said, “Isn’t there anything they can do? A drug or surgery or something?”
He shook his head sadly. It was a struggle to keep the tears from falling...for both of them.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I think you know why, Max.”
Yes, she did know. Logan’s pride often got on the way when it came to admitting a weakness. She saw it frequently dancing about his expression when he had to use a cane to walk. She also saw the fear in his eyes while he was gripping the countertop in the kitchen one time a while back. It looked like he was holding on for dear life...and in a way, he was. Max knew what was going on then, but she pretended not to. She didn’t want to injure his pride...or his hope.
“So, have you written any new poetry lately?”
“Don’t change the subject,” he said sternly, then added quietly, “But yes, I have.”
“Can I read it?”
“No. You can’t. Now please, don’t change the subject.”
“Why can’t I read it?”
“Max...” he warned.
“You know, I took that one poem you wrote about me. I wasn’t ever going to tell you, but ya know...”
“...you’d notice that it was missing sooner or later, anyways. And it was really good, too. I’ve never had anyone write a poem about me before.”
“Max, I want that back-”
“If all your poems are like that, you should try publishing some,” she said honestly. “Oh, and you can have it back.”
She dug into her pocket and pulled out his folded poem.
She tried to hand it to him, but he pushed it away.
“No, you keep it.”
“Really?” *Why the sudden change of mind?*
“It’ll be something to remember me by when I’m gone,” he said and hung his head.
“Logan Cale, quit with the whole death thing. Enjoy the time you have while you still have the strength.”
“It’s hard to ignore it when it’s what controls my life now.” He looked back up. “How on earth can you be so passive about this?”
“‘Cause I’ve been there before. I know what it’s like to look death in the face then kick its butt and laugh. I have to do that practically every day. You know what it’s like for me, Logan. You know that I live on the run from Manticore, from Lydecker, but I deal with it and move on.”
“But I’m not a genetically engineered soldier like you. I can’t run from my problems, literally and figuratively, so how am I supposed to just ‘deal with it’ when I can’t even stand up?”
“Logan, I don’t expect you to try to run from your problems...just be able to live with them. Like you said, it’s what controls your life now. Why not make the best of a bad situation?”
“Damn it, Max! I can’t!” he screamed. “I can’t accept the fact that I’m going to die before I’m 24! I can’t accept the fact that I will never be able run a mile, or be a father, or even walk over to the kitchen to get a glass of milk anymore! I cannot just ‘deal with it’! I’m going to die, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it! How in the hell can you expect me to make the best of death?!”
Max was stunned into silence. She had never seen Logan explode on her like this before, and it scared her to death. Or maybe it was the whole situation that scared her. Funny, she could take on a mob with knives and machine guns and grenades without feeling frightened, but now, it was a different story entirely. Now, she felt weak for the first time in her life. *This must be what Logan feels like everyday. And I yelled at him for it...*
“I’m so sorry, Logan,” she said sympathetically, tears welling up. She blinked several times.
Then she turned around and left, shutting the door quietly behind her. Max leaned against the exterior wall of his apartment, sank to the floor, and cried. She wrapped her arms around her knees and cradled her head as she rocked back and forth slowly.
The view from atop the Space Needle wasn’t a pleasant one, but atleast it wasn’t as loud up there as it was down on the streets. The Pulse had ruined everything beautiful, leaving behind a filthy wasteland, and the Needle was one of the few retreats that was peaceful enough to let Max hear herself think...although her current introspection was exclusively disturbing.
She sat down on the metal roof of the highest saucer, being careful not to slip on its smooth surface. The roof was bitterly cold from the onset of nighttime, but she took no notice to it. All that occupied her thoughts was Logan. In this insane situation, dealing with the frightfully new concepts of sorrow and of demise, all she could focus her mind on was how he was going to die so soon...it wasn’t fair. How unnatural it seemed, though, that she would worry about him, but when she tried to express it in words, it came out in defense of him and herself. She wanted to protect him from sickness, from frailty, but her words were all wrong, and she was afraid that she insulted him with her unwilled audacity. She never meant to talk to him like that...it must have been hard enough to face his plight, let alone her cockiness towards him.
From her lips escaped a sigh, turning into a billowing, hazy cloud in the frosty air. She closed her eyes and tried to put herself in Logan’s skin, but it was no use. They had some things in common -constantly looking over their shoulders for the enemy, struggling just to make it through each day- , but this time, things were much different. She wasn’t facing inevitable death like he was...well, atleast not as soon, she hoped.
How was she supposed to help him, though? She didn’t know where to start, mainly because she didn’t know the whole story. Logan would never tell her everything, no matter how much she insisted, so she had to find some other source for her information.
Max surveyed the neighborhood...it was nicer than most places around. There weren’t as many homeless people crowded on the sidewalks, the houses hadn’t suffered as much wear and tear, and the graffiti was at a bare minimum. Down right welcoming.
She stepped up to the door that had once been just wood but was now covered in iron lattice. Apparently, the house’s occupants were as scared of the world as everyone else was. Max knocked on the metal grating, and a female voice called from within.
“Who is it?”
Max looked over her shoulder, seeing if any anyone or anything was around that might hear her and give her away. Not spotting anyone, she replied, “My name’s Max. I’m Logan’s friend.”
After a moment, she heard several locks being unbolted, and the door opened a crack. The woman peered at her for a second, deciding whether or not Max was trustworthy. Then the door opened all the way, and the woman -young, with black hair, sapphire eyes, and a scar running above her right eyebrow- smiled.
“It’s nice to meet you, Max. My name is Carmen Schultz. Logan has said so much about you,” she said warmly, then gestured towards a couch nearby. “Please, come in. Have a seat.”
Max accepted the invitation and sat down as the doctor closed and locked the door.
“Would you like some tea?” she asked politely.
Carmen smiled again and went into the kitchen. Max looked around the living room. It was dark, even though the windows were open and several lights were on. There was a strange sort of gloominess about the house that gave her the creeps. Her gaze shifted to the other side of the room where several picture-less frames resided on a long table. *What’s up with that?* Max thought. She was about to get up to inspect the oddities more closely when Carmen came back in. She set a cup of tea and a saucer on the coffee table in front of Max.
The doctor nodded. “Would you like something else?”
“No thanks. I just came here to talk.”
“Okay...” Carmen prompted, taking a seat on a wing chair across from her. The upholstery was faded and worn from use, as was the sofa Max was sitting on. In fact, the entire house looked worn with age, but not necessarily old...just used. “What would you like to talk about?”
“First of all, what exactly did Logan say about me?” Max asked out of curiosity.
“Oh, nothing bad, if that’s what you’re thinking. What he said was quite nice, actually. He went on and on about your hair, your eyes, things like that. He’s rather infatuated with you.”
Max felt herself blush. She thought their feelings for each other were mutual, but apparently he fell far deeper into obsession than she could have imagined.
“Did he say anything else...besides what I looked like?”
“Well,” the doctor started, thought about it for a few moments, then continued, “I do recall him saying that you are an X5.”
*Oh, no. Why did Logan tell her that? How much does she know about me?*
“It must be terrible for you guys,” Carmen went on. “Always on the run. You should feel lucky you have each other. You make a good team, you know that? Two heads together for a common goal.” She paused to take a breath. “So, has Manticore given you two any trouble lately? I know Logan is having a hard time lately for obvious reasons, but what about you? How do you keep them away from finding him, with his handicap and all? I would think he’d be an easy target.”
“What are you talking about?” Max demanded. This wasn’t making any sense.
“What do you mean?”
“Keep who away from finding him?”
“Lydecker, of course. Who else? Is there someone else after you guys that I don’t know about?”
Max suddenly became quiet as the truth sank in.
Logan was an X5.
“No,” she said softly. “There’s no one else. I gotta blaze. Thanks for the tea.”
“But you didn’t drink-”
The sentence went unfinished when the door slammed shut. Max left as quickly as she had come.
*How did I not know Logan was one of us? I don’t remember him ever being at Manticore. And why didn’t he ever tell me? Man, this changes everything, but now I understand why he was so willing to help me...we have more in common than I thought. But if he’s an X5, where’s his bar code? Where are the seizures? It just doesn’t make any sense.*
All the questions were beginning to irk her, and she kicked an empty pop can laying on the sidewalk in an attempt to release some frustration. It flew for a moment, then skittered across the cement. She walked towards it and kicked it again. The can clunked against a lamp post and rolled backwards, into the street. Max watched as it keep on rolling until it disappeared into an open man-hole. She shrugged at the minor loss and approached her motorcycle as she pushed locks of wavy hair behind her ear. Mounting her bike, she wondered what Logan was thinking right then.
Logan stared out a window as rain sheeted down it like a waterfall, and he wondered where Max went off to. *No doubt she went to talk to Original Cindy or Kendra.* He sighed, regretting that he yelled at her, regretting that he took out his anger on someone else when it was his problem, and his problem only. *Sure, it was nice of her to offer to help me, but that would be pointless. What is there to help, anyway? There’s nothing that can be done to slow it, and if she was around here all the time, she’d lose her job. I can’t do that to her...*
He propped his hand under his chin and choked down a sudden wave of anger. He was angry at himself for the way he acted; he was angry at himself for dying; he was angry at the world for treating him the way it did...a world full of hypocrites and Lydeckers.
Escape and evade. That’s what he’d been taught, and that’s exactly what he was doing. So why were they coming after them? Why were gun shots ringing from every direction and people screaming?
He hurdled a fallen log, but his foot hit a branch. He went crashing down into the snow, and he heard them getting closer. His heart raced, and he jumped back to his feet. The muffled voices were becoming clearer. Too clear. The snow made his feet so cold they felt like they were burning, but he put priorities first. Life came first, pain came later.
Escape and evade.
They were coming after them with dogs and guns and helicopters and the same skills they themselves were taught. The X5s were few, and their pursuers were many. It wasn’t fair, but that was the game. Kill or be killed.
He was running so fast that he felt like he was flying, his arms were pumping, and the sweat was pouring down his face. He quickly glanced over his shoulder to see if any of the enemies were around. Thankfully, there was no one, no human-formed shadows, no foot prints besides those made by bare-footed children running for their lives. Running from captivity.
They were children longing to be free, not caring how genetic engineering could improve their bodies or make them jump higher or make them stronger. All that mattered in this game was survival.
His breathing became harder, and his heart was pounding faster and faster.
Escape and evade.
Escape and evade.
Logan blinked and was brought back to reality. Something had brought him out of his nightmarish memory. He looked around his living room suspiciously, but when his eyes found nothing, he figured it was his mind playing tricks on him.
Then he heard foot fall in the hallway and was close to panicking when Max came around the corner.
“Door was open. I let myself in,” she said quietly.
“I have a doorbell, you know.”
“Yeah, I know,” she smirked and sat in a chair near by.
Logan sighed and pulled out his poetry book he had put in a drawer. He flipped through several pages before finding the poem he wanted, the poem he read in times like these.
“Here. You should read this,” he murmured.
“What is it?” she asked, taking the poem he handed to her.
“Just a little something I wrote a long time ago.”
Her eyes fell upon the poem, and after reading a few lines, she looked at him with an expression he had never seen before.
But he said nothing in response, and she read on. When she finished, it was difficult for her to look him in his eyes. What the poem said -its depth and the time that was obviously put into creating it- was so profound that she felt like crying. What he had revealed to her in that poem was more than anything she could have ever imagined, and she didn’t know whether to blush or to run away.
There was a dead silence in the room that made them both uncomfortable. Max held her breath in fear that if she exhaled, it would mean she would have to talk. That scared her. She wasn’t ready for this. Sure, she knew it was coming...she felt it every time his hand accidentally brushed hers, or when their stares lingered for a moment too long, or those long nights spent on the Needle when she couldn’t take her mind off him. This was all one huge cliché, and she wasn’t sure what to do about it.
“So, what do you think of my poem?” Logan suddenly blurted out.
She was caught off guard.
What did she think of it?
It was what she wanted to hear for so long.
It was what she dreamed of, waking up smiling, grinning the rest of the day, walking past the stares because Max the Ice Queen was happy for some reason, and that didn’t seem to happen too often.
It was what made her strive to continue when it felt that everything was wrong.
It was what she lived for, wanted to die for, wanted to keep all to herself, but at the same time share it with the world, let everyone know what she felt.
It was what kept her from screaming and punching Lydecker’s face in whenever she saw him.
It was what held her fragile self together.
“It’s...nice,” she said, and immediately wanted to kick herself for being so subtle. *Since when was I so shy? What’s the matter with me?*
She looked at him, and he met her glance.
“You go first,” Logan offered.
She shook her head. “No, you.”
“Alright,” he breathed. “I...um.” He cleared his throat like he did whenever he was nervous. “I think you should know something else.”
Max smiled because she knew exactly what he was going to say. “I know, Logan. It’s okay.”
His eyes widened. *Does she really know?* “What? How’d you find out?”
“Connections,” she replied cryptically.
He became silent once again, but Max continued.
“I know you’re scared, Logan. I am, too, but I’ll keep Lydecker off your back. And I’ll be around as much as possible to help you out. Don’t try to get that narcalepsy crap past me again. I didn’t believe it the first time, anyway. You’re not a very good liar, you know that?”
“I wouldn’t say that. I kept my little secret quiet for a long time, and you never thought anything of it. You never would have suspected if you hadn’t found me on the floor.”
“Well, it’s better that the damn thing won’t be hovering over you like a cloud. Atleast you got it out in the open.”
He forced a smile. “Then I suppose I shouldn’t bother hiding it anymore, then. I shouldn’t have a problem from now on with my guardian angel watching over me.”
She smiled back...and it was sincere.
“There’s just one thing I don’t understand,” she said just above a whisper.
“Where’s your barcode?”
Logan winced but laughed to himself.
“One word: acid.”
“Yeah...so...you wanna get something to eat?” he asked innocently.
“Are you asking me out on a date, Logan Cale?” *Please be asking me out.* “Why? Would you be offended if I am? Or is there some sort of X5 code I don’t know about that forbids us to?”
“So you accept?”
“Hell yeah,” she smirked.