...Mightier Than the Sword
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by Rose Wilde-Irish
All characters owned by Fox, Cameron, Eglee et all; original story by me. No profit is intended from this story, just scratching an itch. Please don't sue.
NOTE: This story was written prior to the episode "Blah Blah Woof Woof" and is the first of a multi-part, interwoven story series. Although this story is rated PG, future parts will be intended for adult only readers.

Part One

LOGAN CALE triggered the remote to shut off the "Eyes Only" broadcast. He rubbed his tired eyes and the bridge of his nose before placing his glasses back on his face. He allowed himself one self-indulgent sigh before bracing himself, straightening up and moving to face the world again. He was tired, dead tired, and he wanted only to sleep. To have the problems he was facing go away, or at least be someone else's problems for a while.

He knew this weariness came from more than just a general malaise about the world. The conflict he'd been fighting with himself didn't get any easier with time. In fact, he reflected as he wheeled in to face his visitor, it only got worse, especially the closer he got to Max.

Would he ever stop wanting more from her? He knew it was stupid; knew it could only lead to pushing her further away. And yet he couldn't stop himself.

Some of his troubles must've shown on his face; Max's usual cool detachment wasn't present in her eyes. She actually looked worried for him. If it wasn't so laughably tragic, he'd be touched. O.K., he leveled with himself, more touched than he currently was.

"Bad day at the office, huh," she stated more than asked. He noted the slight tremor in her hands and almost said the same, but knowing her as he did, he was sure it would push her away. So he merely nodded wordlessly. She made a half-start towards him but then stopped. "I'd offer a killer backrub, but the tryptophan hasn't kicked in yet," and she held up her trembling hand.

"I'll take a rain check," he said gently, ignoring all the usual unstated subtext. Sometimes he was so tired of the world he lived in. He'd used that as a reason to get fired up to fight it, to fight for a better world, once. Now he just moved through the days, doing as he expected himself to do. His bright spots were also a reason to wallow in self-pity, centering as they did on the girl before him.

"Might not have to," she said, surprising him. "I just took the stuff. It might kick in in a little bit."

"That's O.K.," he said. "I'm actually pretty tired. I just want to get some sleep." He went to move on, but something in her eyes stopped him. It was the little girl lost look, the look that had claimed him from the start. "That can wait, though, if you need a little company. Just till the rough patch smooths out." It had become their catchphrase for these times.

She nodded. "Just till the rough patch smooths out." She started to move over to the couch.

Logan started to wheel over to her, but paused as an idea hit.. It was an idea that wasn't new to him, but it would be the first time he'd actually stated it. He didn't like to push Max when he didn't have to; he liked to save that for getting his way on the important stuff. But he hadn't lied when he said he was tired; the latest hack had taken all night and most of the day, and, come to think of it, he hadn't eaten since sometime at the start of it. No wonder he was in a funk.

"I was thinking...ah...hmm. How about this. I see if I can get someone to make us something to eat, then we crash someplace a little more...comfortable."

She looked up from the couch, a gleam in her eyes. "Why, Mr. Cale," she cooed. "That almost sounds like a proposition."

Logan laughed, although he couldn't keep a short bitter bark out of it. "I've been working all night, Max. Not all of us have your engineered advantages. Even if that were possible, I couldn't do anything this tired. Besides, you know your virtue's safe with me...what there is of it."

"Relax, Logan, you take things much too seriously," she stated. He felt the seriousness behind her playful tone. "Besides, you had me at 'something to eat.'"

"It might help, you know," Logan said. "If you haven't eaten, maybe that's why it's taking a bit for the tryptophan to kick in."

"That's possible, I suppose. I forget to eat, sometimes."

"'Now I've forgotten a lot of things, but you have to be a special kind of stupid to forget to eat,'" Logan quoted, and was rewarded with her short laugh. "And I'm pretty sure that 'sometimes' means 'today'." He could tell by her slightly guilty look that he was right. "Be right back."

He used the time it took to contact his staff and ask for the spicy Thai food he knew Max loved (and he was getting fond of, in between regrowing the taste buds in his mouth) to try to figure out what it was this time. Probably more "family" stuff, maybe about Brin. He grimaced. Maybe about Zack.

Logan worked with Bling in getting a small and cozy table set up while he thought about Zack. Zack and Max. There was a bond there; that was something any fool could see. Or maybe just any infatuated fool. He had the feeling that it had to do with either their shared upbringing, their enhancements...or maybe both. At least, he hoped that was it. Otherwise, he'd better get used to disappointment where Max was concerned.

Maybe it'd just be easier if he let his heart get broken now. Maybe it would hurt less in the long run.

He headed back to Max and the couch.

Dinner was wonderful; he knew he benefited from hiring the best. Max's presence made him come alive again. He'd like to think he did the same for her, but he'd never seen her any different with him than she was all the time. The only down portion was when Max spilled her drink on herself and the table. He pretended not to notice as Bling silently and efficiently stepped in, cleaned up and replaced the drink. Max only looked tired and hurt by the effect of her trembling. He'd long ago given up worrying about the effects her seizures had and the wisdom of her attempting to eat during them. Max wouldn't be swayed. And she'd survived this long with them, so she ought to know what she could and couldn't do. He hoped.

By the end of the meal, her hands-and the rest of her-were steady. She stared directly into his eyes. "Want that rain check?"

At that moment, he wanted nothing more. Dinner had done more than grant him a bit more energy; it had given his body time to remind him in rather loud and obnoxious tones that he'd cashed in on reserves he didn't have. The wine he'd drunk had done nothing to dull the pains that crept in, and only augmented the weariness. Not trusting himself to avoid making a flip remark, he merely nodded, rubbing his forehead.

"Where to?" she asked, and he must've imagined the note of uncertainty in her voice. He had to have. Max was never uncertain.

He realized she was leaving location up to him. And he realized she'd never been in his bedroom, past the time she'd first come into his life as thief. Business partner, friend, whatever their relationship was-she'd avoided going there. But he didn't care any more. If she wasn't comfortable with it, fine, but he needed to collapse. "Bedroom," he said simply, and started off in that direction. He never saw her hesitation, though he knew it when she followed.

He looked up as she came in behind him, expecting to see Bling's omnipresence behind her, ready to help him into bed as he always did. Max was motioning him away, indicating that she would take care of him. Logan ignored the conflict of the anger and embarrassment his condition placed him in, versus the warm feeling that her gesture sparked in him, and said, "Max, it might be easier for him to--"

That was as far as his protest got. She lifted him bodily and easily out of his chair and set him gently into the bed. He realized he could be angry or throw himself back into self-pity. He chose instead to be amused and shook his head, smiling at his mental lapse. "What is it?" she asked. Being mere inches away, he realized she couldn't possibly miss anything. Not that she ever did.

"Even though I know you have it, I keep forgetting that you've got all that enhanced strength. If I could stand, you'd just come up to my shoulder..." He trailed off in morose thought. If he could stand.

"If you could stand, I'd knock you on your ass for that kind of self pity," she said. He laughed a short laugh. Only Max.

"Logan..." she began in an uncertain voice.

"What?" he asked. She shifted in embarrassment.

"You're going to need to take off your shirt, and then we need to get you into position."

"Yes ma'am," he said, earning a roll of her eyes and a swat. He busied himself with the buttons of his shirt, and didn't make eye contact with her as he removed it. It wasn't anything special, he reminded himself. They were just friends. And it wasn't like he had to worry about anything happening. Stray bullets had taken care of that. The fact that his heart rate was up was pointless.

When he looked up, she was busying herself across the room. A moment later, a soft hint of sandalwood wafted over to him, and he realized that she must've found his stash of incense. With lowered lights and a few mysterious bottles, she moved towards him. He loved to watch her move. The only one he'd seen who moved remotely like her was Zack. It was almost a disappointment when she arrived beside him.

"Now what?" he asked.

"Well," she said, with a hint of pique, "it is called a 'back' rub. Lying on the primary body part doesn't help matters."

A muscle in his jaw twitched as he clenched his teeth. "I'm going to need some help with my legs." He was happy with the neutral tone he'd maintained while admitting that.

"Of course," she said. "All part of the service."

A moment later he was in the proper position and could feel her settling into hers. Well, part of it, anyway. Her knees at his sides, but not her weight on his butt. He wondered when he'd get used to that.

For a moment, there was nothing but the gentle sound of the whoosh of her hands with something he presumed came from one of the mysterious bottles. When her touch came, it brought such a wonderful feeling of release of pressure that he moaned softly. He tried to feel some sense of embarrassment, but failed. He'd always had his hedonistic moments.

"Like that, do you," she said quietly.

"You have two million years to stop that," he replied, sure he was going to end up drooling by the end of it. He could feel her smile.

She continued to do fantastic things to him, moving slowly down his back. When she reached the point where he could no longer feel her hands, he couldn't help his disappointment. "I can't feel that," he protested.

"Oh, trust me, you will. You need this more than you realize. You're a mess; you should never let yourself get this knotted up."

"There's an opening for masseuse," he said, only half-jokingly.

"Sorry, from the feel of it, that's more overtime than I care to put in," she replied. He hoped the feeling-your-smile thing worked both ways. Eventually he felt her hands again as they made their way back up.

He wasn't sure how long she continued her ministrations, he was just grateful for the soothing feel of her hands on him. He could feel himself drifting away, despite wanting to experience every moment fully. The wine and her work relaxed him too much. He was almost asleep when he felt her moving away.

"Nmfph," he protested.

"Shhh, Logan. It's time for me to go."

"Stay. Need you...need to roll over," he mumbled. A moment later she helped to flip him and he caught her hand. "Don't go," he said, more coherently. "Stay here." He could hear her start a protest but he'd been pulling her steadily closer, until his hands snaked around her neck. "Logan, I can't-" she started as he pulled her face to his and kissed her.

More awake and he wouldn't have done it. Less wine and it would be unthinkable. He didn't think, he just acted. For a split second she didn't respond and the small portion of him still prone to thinking was certain he'd blown it. He started to break off the kiss, fingers still intertwined in her hair, when a miracle occurred.

She kissed him back, in that gentle, tender way he'd started. He was still half-fogged and didn't want to come any further out of it, in case this was a dream. Besides, coming out of it would require him to think about what he was doing. And thinking was bad, very bad, if it caused this to stop.

He wasn't sure when he fell asleep. What he did know was either they alternately kissed and caressed each other all night, through various stages of waking and sleeping, or he had pleasant dreams of such the entire night. And he'd never felt so rested.

MAX SLEEPING looked like an angel. Logan figured he could watch her the rest of his life, stomach and biology allowing. He remembered a snippet of prose or poem he'd once read, and decided to believe in God again, just to have someone to thank for the beauty before him. He reached out with tentative fingers to gently stroke her forehead. He hadn't even made contact with her when her eyes snapped open. With a shiver of fear he realized that she'd stopped an attack before he'd noticed. His eyes slid sideways, staring at her poised hand and arm. Yep, had to figure that would've hurt.

"Not a good way to wake me," she said. "At least, not on the first...not at first."

"Noted," he said huskily. And did one of the bravest things he'd ever done: finished the movement to trace her hairline, down past her ear and to her jaw. She closed her eyes and leaned into it slightly. She breathed a heavy breath, and he could tell by the shift in the muscles in her face that she was about to tell him something he wouldn't like.

Fine. He could stall with the best of them. "Breakfast?" he asked, shifting away from her. For a moment, he felt the top of her head rest against his back, then felt her nod.

"Sure," she said, and inwardly he sighed. Disaster averted, at least for now. He wasn't sure of much this morning, but he was certain he wasn't ready for whatever conversation they almost had. He reached for the buzzer to summon the ever-present Bling.

Tension made a poor companion to breakfast. It was hard for Logan to look at Max, and hard for him not to look at her. Replaying the events of the night endlessly in his mind, he couldn't decide if he was disgusted with himself, or pleased. Well, at least it was a little more than "something" between them now. He just hoped it wouldn't end up driving her away.

Finally he couldn't stand it. He dropped his fork onto the table with a loud clank and a sigh. He could feel Max's eyes on him. "Look," he said, and shook his head when she tried to interrupt. "Not this time, Max. I need to speak my piece, for once."

"For once? C'mon, Logan, that's all you ever do," she cut in, insistently. "You're worse than a mother."

He stared at her for a moment, amazed in his comprehension. How could she compare the "Eyes Only" stuff, the work stuff, to this? Actually, he could think of several reasons, but none helped him say what needed to be said.

"That's different," he said.

"Oh yeah?" she countered.

"Yes! Max, this is serious. And important. Maybe...maybe only to me, but it is. I don't often take time just for me." His eyes had dropped to his plate on the last sentence, and after a pause, he looked up. She was staring at him, little girl lost again. He swore he could almost hear her silently pleading with him, but Don't say it seemed equally torn with Say it. At least, he hoped so. He guessed he was about to find out. Once again, he sighed, and looked away.

"I...haven't exactly been fair to you, I know. I keep throwing 'Eyes Only' stuff at you and ignoring...other things." He inhaled slowly, let it out. In every way he'd imagined this, he'd always been more...smooth, more glib. He looked at her, trying to gage her response. It was apparently her turn to stare at the table.

"I told you once I wasn't going anywhere. That still holds, no matter what. I wouldn't change Eyes Only even if I wanted to...but no matter what, I want you in my life." He couldn't stand not looking directly into her eyes, so he reached out his hand and lifted her chin. She looked up, silently pleading her double agenda. "With or without Eyes Only. I...need you Max. However you choose to be here."

She jerked away from him, stood up awkwardly. "I can't deal with this right now, Logan. My life...you know my life. I can't make promises I can't keep." There was an edge of anger in her voice.

"I'm not asking you to-" Logan started heatedly.

"Look, I gotta blaze," she said, turning and moving towards the door. "Jam Pony-"

It was as far as she got before he caught up with her, caught her hand in his. "Max-" he said, raw emotion in his voice. She froze, one hand on the door, the other one in his, back to him. He breathed in, breathed out. "Max," he said, calmer. She turned to look at him as he let his hand slide from hers. A moment passed, where he saw through her eyes to her naked soul. He hoped she could see his. He didn't know how long they stood like that, but it didn't feel long at all. And finally, he could feel a smile start from somewhere within him, a smile mirrored on her face. It was tied to all their shared moments, and it spoke of many more to come. He didn't know how, but he felt that somehow, it was going to be all right. "Have a good day," he said. And got the surprise of his life when she leaned in and gave him a quick, hard kiss of her own before bolting out the door.

He sat for a long time, fingers pressed wonderingly to his lips, knowing what his next move was going to be and wondering when the decision had come. It was going to be a lot of work, but for Max, he knew he'd do anything.

End part one

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