He said ten minutes.
Alec balanced on the balls of his feet on the couch. His knees pressed to the back of the sofa as he stared hard down the hallway the foyer led into from the door. He mentally calculated how long it would take to get food, park the car and ride the elevator up. He determined Logan was behind schedule by six minutes and thirteen seconds. Two demerits, Logan. Alec checked his watch. Shit, make that seven minutes. Four demerits.
When Alec heard the snick of a keycard sliding into a slot, tumblers turning inside a lock, he jumped up to his feet. He repositioned himself leaning against the couch just as the sticky tread of a wheelchair quietly rolled into the apartment.
Salt, grease, pork and spices drifted into the space first. Alec wrinkled his nose. He could pick out every scent but one. He folded his arms in front of him when Logan came into view.
Alec did a quick tally: two arms, two legs, one dorky mess of brown hair, lush lower lip, eyes pale and—
"Took you long enough," Alec blurted out by way of greeting.
The wheelchair halted. Logan blinked up at him. He appeared startled to see Alec.
"I didn't know what kind of eggroll you wanted, so I got some of each."
Alec's smirk faded. Logan didn't look at him again, steering straight for the kitchen. A large oily spotted paper sack balanced on his lap.
"Hey, doesn't matter. I was going to eat the rest of your peanut butter if you didn't get back soon enough." Alec edged closer to Logan as he stopped in front of his sink. He stared at the dishes on the drying rack. Maybe he was checking if Alec had left a mess?
A feeling niggled in Alec's gut as he approached the stiff posture. Logan appeared to be having trouble taking off his fingerless gloves. "So what you get?"
"Eggrolls." Logan gave up trying to pull his grip gloves off and resorted to using his teeth.
The squirming in Alec's stomach twisted further. "Damn, I was hoping you would get some of that fried rice from last tim—I was only kidding about the rice!" Alec grabbed a handlebar when Logan swiveled his wheelchair back towards the hallway.
The treads squeaked to a halt.
Logan peered up owlishly at Alec. "So you didn't want rice?"
"Did I wan—" Alec squeezed the handlebar tighter until it dug into the fleshy part of his palm. "No, I don't want any—What's the matter with you?"
"Long day." Logan stopped fighting Alec's tug of war on his wheelchair. He blankly stared at his gloves in his hand before shaking his head and tossing them up to the kitchen island.
"The police are going to be scaling back on their patrols soon."
"That's great." Alec watched Logan as he poked through the bag. Logan didn't seem to notice the steam fogging up his lenses.
Logan stared into the bag on his lap; his eyebrows furrowed.
"I got a lot of egg rolls."
Alec rolled his eyes. "Uh huh. Look, is this a porn thing? You get an appetite going after some hot and heavy? Let me grab that. That sack is probably hot—Shit!"
The moment Alec tugged the bag away from Logan's lap and onto the counter, the unidentifiable faint tinge registered the same time Logan's jacket fell open, exposing the brown-reddish stain crawled halfway up his shirt.
Alec dropped to his knees by the chair. He ignored the protest murmured over his head as he frantically pawed open the jacket. His fingers were unsteady as he brushed them on the crusty texture of dried blood that went from shirt's hem up to the sternum.
"Oh my God," Alec breathed as he tried to figure out how many liters that was. He'll need to sterilize some tubing, create something with a vacuum. He could jury rig an IV transfusion with a hypodermic needle...
"It's not my blood."
Alec's eyes jerked up to Logan. His hazel eyes were dull even under the glare of the kitchen lights.
"What?" Alec's fingers twisted the shirt hem. His skin prickled up his arm when he felt dry blood crack.
"It's not my blood." Logan gazed down at himself.
"Then who's is it?"
Logan kept staring at himself.
"What the hell happened?" Alec straightened higher on his knees. He curled a hand around Logan's forearm.
Logan stirred. Eyes ringed with brown, still dim and dazed, lifted.
"I killed someone." Logan's throat worked visibly. He absently brushed a hand over his shirt, testing if it was there. He paled further, the shadows under his eyes were more pronounced in contrast.
"More than one." Logan's throat worked. His jaw visibly flexed. "Tried to put traps around the cabin but they..." He shook his head.
Bile souring at the back of his throat, Alec shifted closer. He gripped the armrests.
"They? Was that what you were talking about yesterday? In Cape Haven? Why the hell didn't you say—" Alec released the armrests when he realized his fingers were digging deep enough to tear the padding.
Logan rubbed his forehead. "I thought I had all the exits covered. Thought I could get them to back off long enough for Sage to get away."
Alec didn't know who Sage was. He didn't care. "Sage? Was that your backup? Is he taking care of the bodies?"
Dazed, Logan frowned at Alec. "Bodies? Sage? No." He shook his head slowly. His face contorted; the move clearly nauseated him.
Alec swore under his breath as he slipped hands over both of Logan's clammy wrists. He could feel his pulse beating frantically.
How the hell did Logan get back here? Did Sage drive him back? Was he back in Cape Haven or did the bastard ditch Logan with the clean up?
"Was Sage going to dispose of the bodies?" Alec tried once more, but Logan looked like he didn't hear him. He smoothed a palm over his shirt, flinching to himself at the feel.
Half mast eyes lifted up. Alec reached out and curled hands around bowed shoulders. He gave Logan a careful shake, more careful than he thought himself capable.
"You with me?" Quiet, even tones when Alec wanted to be shouting.
Logan gave a small nod. It wasn't convincing though. At least Logan looked like he was focusing on Alec's face now.
Alec took a deep breath. "Where are the bodies?"
"Are they still in Cape Haven?" Alec absently rubbed Logan's arms up and down. Logan's skin felt cold even under the layers. Alec ran his hands more briskly over the chilled arms.
"I can get there before high tide starts. They could be dumped and carried out to sea, or I could grab a boat, go out further—"
"The police already know."
Alec's eyes snapped up. "What?"
Logan shrugged a shoulder, but he didn't fool Alec, not when Alec could feel the minute tremors coursing down his arms like they were a live wire.
"I'm not in trouble with them," Logan said after catching Alec's scowl. He smiled, but it died quickly. "They're not charging me with anything. It was self-defense."
Alec rocked back on his heels. His hands, leaden, flopped to his sides. Christ, his body felt like it took off for Cape Haven anyway.
"Oh. That's...that's good. That why you took so long?"
"I needed to wait for Sage's mother to get him and—"
"Wait. His mother?" Alec glowered at Logan. "How old was this backup of yours?"
When Logan's eyes slid sideways, Alec hopped up to his feet and paced. The faster he went, the more the taut feeling in his chest cinched tighter.
"He needed help."
"Well, apparently so did you!" Alec jabbed a finger Logan's way. "You should have said something!"
Logan snapped out of his stupor. His face darkened. "You don't mean that."
"That old bastard hasn't caught even a whiff of me once—"
"Because he doesn't know you're here. He's so fixated in finding—" Logan's mouth shut. He took an unsteady breath.
"Look, as long as he thinks you're nowhere near Seattle, he's not going to look for you. You're safe as long as he's not looking for you."
"Hell, why should you care?" Alec muttered. He stilled at Logan's sharp inhale. He turned to Logan, who smiled tightly up at him, his knuckles white over his chair's armrests.
"I shouldn't." Logan's eyes drifted away from Alec again.
Alec's words died in his throat. He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. "Yeah. Don't...don't know why you do." He glanced to the floor, at Logan's soaked boots.
"You're getting all kinds of shit dripping on your floor. I'm not cleaning that up."
Logan choked back a laugh. It didn't sound like he thought it was funny though. "I've had worse messes."
Alec abruptly twisted around and poked through the contents. It was a safer option.
The paper bag rustled noisily as Alec's hands grappled clumsily for the contents. His legs ached to carry him to Cape Haven. His arms, however, wanted to grab hold of Logan. It didn't make a hell lot of sense; Logan was clearly not going anywhere, much less back to that dump.
"Geez. Where did you get all this?" Alec sniffed each carton loudly as he pulled them out.
"Chicken. Bean sprouts. Seriously? Mushroom. Tof—"
Alec gaped at the rickshaw print cartons.
"What kind of eggroll has tofu? You got crab too? Damn, did you splurge and got any with beef—"
"I never killed anyone before."
Alec stilled. The carton of shrimp eggrolls dangled in his hands before he could wave it like a trophy.
The wheelchair groaned when Logan shifted his weight. Alec could sense him against the back of his legs. Briefly, he leaned into the heat; he soaked up the warmth before the chair retreated.
Alec lowered the carton.
"I have," Alec said quietly. He didn't turn around. He didn't know why; he just couldn't.
"Don't know how many though. I didn't keep count." Alec stared hard at the bottom of the bag, emptied of everything but the opaque orange packets of duck sauce, three small pints of complimentary soup and only one fortune cookie. Stingy bastards.
"Four." Logan said it carefully like he was taking count in his head to be sure. "There were four of them."
This time, Alec did turn around. Logan was staring at the counter. Not at the cartons. Not at Alec's legs. Just the side of the island counter and its boring ass brushed metal surface.
Logan's shadowed expression met Alec's eyes.
It was on the tip of Alec's tongue to say something. Hell, four for Alec was Manticore's favorite type of morning cardio before a brisk 20K run. And if he were faster than the others, he would even get breakfast.
Alec took a deep breath. He wished he had some DNA from some genius psychiatrist, but Manticore was more about the sciences you could toy with in a test tube. He thought about what he should say, but then he realized no one ever said it to him.
So Alec just shrugged.
"It's either them or you? Kill or be killed?" Alec offered. When his gut clenched at the thought, he fumbled out, "In case you're interested, I rather you kill them. If that helps, I mean."
Logan's mouth cracked into a grimace. "No. Not really. Sorry."
Alec lined up the cartons on the counter, first by alphabetical order then by what smelled most appealing first.
"It would have sucked if you had bought it..." Alec mumbled. He rubbed the back of his neck. He stole a glance at Logan. "I mean..."
"Who would get your stuff?"
Logan stared. And stared. Finally, he ducked his head, his breath seeping out in a long sigh or a sort of broken laugh. He pinched his nose under his spectacles.
Unbidden, Alec's eyes drifted to Logan's stained shirt. Luckily Logan wore his jacket; the gruesome sight would have the cops stopping Logan on the street or at least freaked out the egg roll people.
"How close did they get?" Alec wished he didn't ask because it drew Logan's attention back to his shirt.
This time, it was a sigh. Logan pressed tentatively on his shirt.
"They weren't supposed to get that close." Logan dropped his hands, his throat working. "One did. His shot knocked me right out of my chai—What are you doing?"
Alec was on his knees by the chair again. One hand gripping the hem, midway from yanking up the shirt, he froze.
"You said none of this was your blood," Alec bit out before he continued to pull up the shirt. His upper lip curled at the bloom of purple and red that wrapped possessively on Logan's left shoulder and side. He settled a palm over the bruising. The heat soaked into his hand.
"I wore armor."
Alec set his jaw to hold back what he thought about the armor's usefulness.
"So the blood?" Alec asked evenly.
"They're all his. We fought. He had a knife." Logan's shrug was audible in his voice. "Wheelchair. Upper body strength."
Alec released Logan's shirt. Absently, he smoothed it down over the battered torso.
"Buckshot?" Alec asked, mostly to himself.
"Rifle. I think. There hadn't been time really to see."
Alec nodded. "Sounds about right. The bruising pattern distributed on your—" He frowned. He rubbed a thumb over the dried blood. The trembling was getting worse.
Logan reached up to adjust his glasses. He missed. He lowered his hand quickly, but Alec caught the twitching in his fingers.
Not bothering to ask (Hell, he almost stripped Logan just now), Alec grabbed a wrist and pressed his fingers on the pulse. He didn't look. He didn't want to think about how fragile the thin blue vines appeared under the skin.
"What are you doing?" Logan asked. He didn't pull his hand away which was freaking out Alec.
"You're going into shock," Alec told him. He got up from his knees. "Come on." He waved at the bedroom. "You stink, too. Hot shower. Clean clothes. Food. Then bed." When Logan didn't move, still staring up at him, Alec waggled his eyebrows.
"Want some company?"
Logan huffed. He turned his chair; his shoulders tensed. They relaxed when he realized Alec wasn't going to push his chair.
Alec kept the smirk on his face. When the door shut behind Logan, Alec felt his smile drop. His knees shook for some reason. He found himself leaning heavily on the counter, his nostrils filled with the greasy, salty tang of the eggrolls.
"What the hell?" Alec muttered. Blindly, he grabbed a carton. Moist heat clung to his face when he pulled the flaps opened. He crunched on the first eggroll he reached. He made a face.
Chewing it, Alec kept making faces but hell, food was food and he's had worst, more questionable things and so what if it smelled like crot—
Unbidden, Alec glanced to the floor. There was a dark red shard that must have flaked free from the caked stain on Logan's shirt. Not his blood. Someone else's; close enough to bleed on Logan, close enough to kill Lo—
Alec opened another carton. He chomped on a beef one next. He had finished in three bites before he grabbed a chicken one. Then the shrimp one.
The food sat uncomfortably like a lump in his gut by the time Alec tried the mushroom one last. He couldn't remember what any of them tasted like. And his stomach churned like it wanted to throw all of it back up. He wiped his oily fingers on his jeans and swiped his tongue across his upper teeth. Even they felt greasy and gross. Damn, it's been a while since he could splurge on freshly fried food, but he'd forgotten how disgusting—
Logan's been taking a long time in the shower.
Alec idly picked his teeth with his pinky as he gazed at the shut bedroom door. He hadn't heard a body thud (they're very distinctive) or any hysterical weeping (Logan didn't look like the type, thank God).
One eye trained at the door, Alec reheated one of the cartons of shrimp eggrolls and steered for the bedroom door.
"I'm coming in," Alec singsonged. "You better be naked in the—"
His boot easily nudged the door open, but Alec found himself standing under the doorway at the sight of Logan hunched over on the foot of his bed.
"Hey." Alec set down the food and found himself once again crouched by Logan's knees.
"Thought I told you to hit the showers, Stinky." Alec curled a hand around Logan's wrist. His throat worked at the feel of clammy skin.
"Couldn't get out of my jacket," Logan muttered.
"Yeah, your ribs probably so hate you right now. Here, watch your arms." Alec tugged the jacket carefully off Logan's shoulders. The shivering increased.
"Come on." Alec carefully plucked Logan's spectacles off. It got him some weird startled look, but it at least shook Logan out of whatever haze he was in.
"Bathroom's over there." Alec tracked Logan as he transferred back into his chair and wordlessly rolled towards the bathroom.
Alec didn't realize he followed Logan in until he bumped into the back of Logan's wheelchair. But Alec didn't say anything. Neither did Logan.
Dull green eyes followed Alec as he ducked into the shower and set the water to just short of scalding.
"There you go." Alec made a sweeping gesture towards the shower. "Now please. Do our noses a favor and take a shower."
The tan colored curtain snapped shut behind Logan. Alec could hear the slide of his shirt and jeans before they were discarded. Alec listened for him transferring over to shower, his breathing harsh and short but other than that, Logan didn't say a word.
"I'm gonna use your mouthwash," Alec said loudly as he hovered near the sinks. Geez, two sinks. Really? One to wash his hands, the other to spit into?
"I'm gonna use your toothbrush too," Alec went on. He ignored the toothbrush though. He smirked at the purple guy in the cracked mug with the faded logo of the last newspaper Logan wrote for before the Pulse.
"Don't worry, Manticore splice and diced the possibilities of cavities out of us." Alec gargled loudly. Huh. Peppermint. Awesome.
"You can get mouthwash," Alec grumbled after he rinsed, "But I gotta hock my spare boots to get a quart of apple juice? How messed up is that?"
The water trickled like rain behind the curtain. There was a shadow bowed under the shower. It sat unmoving for a beat before arms finally reached up for the soap.
Alec tore his gaze away from the curtain. He cleared his throat. "Might as well. My breath ranked from those eggrolls. Hey, they're pretty good, you know? I liked the shrimp ones. The beef didn't taste like beef though. I think there was some horse mix in there, but what you don't know can't kill you, right?"
There was the quiet squeak of wet soap sliding across a porcelain ledge and shit, Alec didn't want to think about Logan and soap and—
"The chicken ones were salty." Alec fumbled to put down the purple toothbrush he found himself twirling between his fingers.
"I don't get it. You can get salt, but there's a shortage on pepper? Doesn't that stuff grow wild in sidewalk cracks?" Of course, they didn't. Alec can give you the genus of the species but damn it, he suddenly got verbal diarrhea, what the hell?
Alec talked about a restaurant he squatted in (no one ever checks the roofs) and the food he smelled and on what days people splurged on what. There was a pattern, Alec told Logan or at least to the shower curtain, to what people want. All the beef and short ribs get ordered on Fridays; vegetables are high in demand on Mondays after the fat cats finally feel guilty about their waistlines, seafood gets devoured mid-week because the prices drop. And screw it when it rains, because then...
Somewhere after Alec told Logan about the desserts and the one guy selling the over-riped tomatoes at the back door for snorting cash, the shower stopped.
Alec's monologue petered into silence. He waited. He could hear the showerhead dripping its last trickles of water. He could hear slick skin, skidding on damp tile. The shower bench creaked. The shower curtain rustled. But no Logan.
The shadow behind the curtain was motionless. Alec stared at it. He opened and closed his mouth a few times. He couldn't think of anything to say, but he couldn't look away either.
"Hey, you're not passed out in there, are you?" Alec said at last. He didn't get an answer but pushed on anyway. "If you are going to, can it be naked 'cause I'd been meaning to practice my naked CPR and—"
The shower curtain twitched. A damp towel smacked Alec square on the face.
Alec didn't know why, but as he left the bathroom, peeling off the towel, he found himself smiling.
The chicken eggrolls weren't bad cold.
The thought of helping Logan dress pooled hot tendrils in Alec's groin. He escaped to the kitchen for more egg rolls. He tried not to listen for the hushed sounds of clothing against clean skin. The uncomfortable heat growing between his legs was all for manhandling a naked Logan into clothes, maybe into those soft worn, gray sweats, but boxers or no box—
Alec hastily crammed another egg roll into his mouth before he imagined either on Logan. He coughed, his face heating up from the exertion. Flushed, Alec gulped down water. The heat on his face, though, didn't quite go away.
Pals aren't supposed to be helping each other into or out of their clothes. They don't do this. Pals stay over, eat their food, give sympathetic pats on shoulders but no naked times. No, no, no.
The bedroom doorway was still shut. Alec kept glancing over as he dumped a little bit of everything on a new plate to heat up in the fancy microwave perched too high on the kitchen counter. Considering how it was shoved all the way back, Alec suspected that was why it looked untouched.
Alec tugged the appliance down to the countertop. He hated reaching for the stupid thing.
While the microwave hummed, the bedroom door finally opened. Alec stared intently at the eggrolls as Logan wheeled out in the faded navy blue sweats Alec had pulled out from the closet.
"Better?" Alec asked as he straightened. He frowned when Logan didn't answer.
Red-rimmed eyes blearily looked around.
"Have you seen my laptop?" Logan sounded puzzled and also bone-tired.
"Nope." Alec made a point not to look at the dining area where he may or may not have tucked the damn thing at the bottom of one of the towers of files.
"Food's ready," Alec announced at the tiny beep.
Logan pulled a face. "I don't think I can eat."
"After slaving all day in the kitchen?" Alec groused as he grabbed the reheated food. He tucked a couple of water bottles under his arm. He jerked his head towards the couch.
"Go. Before I put you there myself. I'll cop a feel for payment."
To Alec's amusement, Logan gave him a squinty look over his glasses. His smirk faded when Logan didn't argue and obediently transferred off his chair to the couch.
Alec set the plate down on the coffee table with a flourish. He studied the floor, shrugged then promptly dropped down next to Logan instead.
The smudges under Logan's eyes seemed darker this up close. Logan stared blankly at the window before idly glancing at the food. His throat worked.
"I'm not in the moo—"
"Not in the mood. Yeah, you never are," Alec said sharply. "I don't care. I'm not asking you to enjoy it. Just eat it."
Alec stuck an eggroll halfway in his mouth.
"Want me to feed you?" Alec pointed with both hands at the other half. He waggled his eyebrows.
Logan huffed. His mouth twitched at the corner. He reached forward and—
"Whoa." Alec grabbed Logan by the shoulders before he could faceplant onto the plate on the coffee table. He braced Logan against him.
Shallow breathing tickled the side of Alec's throat. He pressed his hands harder into Logan's shoulders, pulling him close. Logan rested his forehead on Alec's shoulder, his hand curled into the crook of Alec''s elbow. His breathing calmed.
Alec absently rubbed the stiffness he could feel down the line of Logan's back. Logan's shoulders relaxed against him.
"I said eat the food, not wear it," Alec murmured into Logan's ear. He closed his eyes briefly and counted the pulse he could feel beating against him.
"Sorry. Dizzy," muttered Logan. "Maybe later?" He sagged back into the couch. His eyes started to slide down.
"No, no, wait, hold up." Alec gave Logan a shake. He was rewarded with a slit of cloudy green eyes. "Stay awake, okay? Until you get some food and water in you. You're definitely getting shocky."
Logan squeezed his eyes shut then forced them open wider. He braced a hand on his forehead. Maybe it was the other way around. All Alec knew was the couch and his hands were the only thing keeping Logan upright. Sort of.
Alec shoved a greasy eggroll into Logan's other hand.
"Eat," Alec urged. "Just a couple. They don't taste like it, but the sugar and protein will do you good." He grabbed a water bottle, cracked it open and pressed it into Logan's hand once he started eating. "And finish that."
Alec didn't wait for Logan's reply. He went back into the bedroom in three long strides. He yanked the covers down halfway, grabbed the fleece blanket and ducked into the bathroom. The first aid kit he found was disturbingly well-stocked; it even contained a surgical sewing kit with dissolvable thread.
Not dwelling on why Logan needs all this, Alec set the kit on the end table and went back to the living room with the blanket. A glance told him Logan finished the water but only two eggrolls. He scowled.
"Here." Alec unfurled the blanket over Logan's head. As Logan struggled out from under it, Alec snuck another eggroll in his hand.
Logan blinked myopically at it then at Alec. He smiled faintly and bit a small part of the fried top off.
The sun was starting its descent as they ate. Alec kept looking over; Logan slouched within the folds of the blanket made his chest clench. There was a bit of a flush on Logan's skin again but not a lot. The navy fleece was a stark contrast against Logan's ashy pallor.
"Bed," Alec announced after Logan finished his second bottle of water. He ignored Logan's stare when he checked his pulse once more. It was still too fast and there was a faint trembling thrumming under the clammy skin.
"I need to—"
"Nope." Alec shoved Logan at the shoulder. "Get in that chair and to bed. Now."
"I have work I need to—"
"What's today's date?" Alec demanded.
Startled, Logan's protests trailed off. "What? Today's...today's..."
"Uh huh," Alec scoffed when Logan's brow knitted. "I thought so. Come on. First aid kit is in there too. Get that cute ass of yours in bed. I want to check those ribs."
"I'm fine," Logan protested even as he transferred back into his chair. He started when he felt Alec nudged the chair forward with his knee.
"Either you go in there or I'll carry you and trust me, that'll be an experience one of us will enjoy."
Logan didn't turn around, but his shoulders slumped. Much to Alec's worry, he didn't argue.
Alec stared after Logan as he wheeled into the bedroom. The mattress creaked moments later.
"Great idea," Alec muttered when he realized he'd just ordered Logan to bed.
Logan was sitting up, his shirt pulled up to his arms. He repeatedly poked the bruise on his side when Alec came in.
"That's my job." Alec gestured towards the bed. "Lie back."
"I have a doctor," Logan grumbled but swiveled around and did just that.
"Yeah? I don't see you calling him." Alec shot back.
"That's because I feel fin—shit."
Alec winced at Logan's sharp inhale when he pressed down. He left his palm wrapped around the upper left side. Logan's heartbeat thumped steadily under his touch.
"Oops." Alec carefully probed the outer edge of the bruise. His hand barely covered half of the discolored area. "Take a deep breath."
Logan grimaced but complied.
"Deeper." Alec watched Logan's face. His hands slipped over to bracket either side of Logan's chest.
"Think you can take an even deeper one?" He felt Logan's ribs expand, his flat stomach sinking to inhale and shit, should it be that easy to count his ribs?
Alec pulled his hand away when he realized he was stroking the indent the third and fourth rib made.
"Doesn't sound like they're broken," Alec rasped. "I mean, your breathing sounds okay, but bet they hurt like a bitch, huh?"
"I've hurt worse," Logan murmured, his eyes on the ceiling.
Alec's throat squeezed. "Great." He swept his palm over the bruise, trailing down to where the discoloring ended just below the diaphragm. He was glad the blood was gone, even if it was someone else's.
"How close was that guy?" Alec said as he pressed down on Logan's abdomen. No rebound. Thank God.
Stomach muscles clenched.
"I...he was on top of me when he pulled out his..." Logan said, his eyes still ceiling-ward. His throat worked. "Close. He was close."
Alec brushed his palm over Logan's stomach. His eyes tracked the faint dark hairs peeking out just above his pants' waist; a promising enticing trail that led to the soft bulge nestled between Logan's legs.
Hastily, Alec pulled his hand away.
"You hit your head?"
Logan paused at the question. He shook his head after a beat. "No...I don't think so."
Uh huh. Alec leaned in and slipped his hands under Logan's head. Ceiling now blocked, Logan's gaze had nowhere else to go but Alec's face as Alec wove his fingers through Logan's hair. It was still cool; his hair was damp from the shower. Streaked brown strands slipped through his searching fingers then curled up in odd directions.
Sure enough, there was a tender spot Alec found on the back of Logan's skull. Logan hissed on contact.
A check at Logan's pupils proved them to be even. Logan looked wearily bemused when Alec asked him to squeeze both his hands.
"Should I be calling you doctor from now on?" Logan murmured as he watched Alec.
Alec felt around his neck, the right side of his ribs and his pulse again.
"Only if you want kinky, Heather," Alec quipped. He sat back on his heels as Logan tugged back down his shirt. He placed a hand on Logan's chest. "Whoa, where do you think you're going?"
"I have to—"
Alec scowled. "It can wait." He could see the shaking from where he was.
"No, it can't." Logan shook his head. Abruptly, he paled even further.
"Whoops. Hang on." Alec vaulted neatly off the bed, got the trash bin and helped Logan lean sideways just in time.
Logan's shoulder bunched under Alec's grip as he retched. Alec grimaced, his own stomach churning in response.
"Bad eggroll?" Alec joked weakly when Logan was done. He got a washcloth and sat on a corner of the bed, watching Logan as he cleaned his mouth.
Logan nodded wearily when Alec passed him a water bottle. "Bad eggroll." He slumped forward and cradled the water bottle between his hands.
The label crinkled sandwiched between Logan's palms. The noise filled the bedroom. Alec grimaced. It sounded like brittle bones crackling.
"Look," Alec said quietly. "Whatever you think you gotta do, it can wait, all right?"
Logan wordlessly shook his head. He didn't move though.
Alec dropped a hand over the water bottle, halting its rolling.
"Just get some rest first, get your head on straight." Alec waved feebly at Logan. "Your pulse is still pretty high and you got that gross toad skin thing going. Your ribs feel okay but I bet you're crashing pretty hard right now."
Logan was silent for a beat before he reluctantly nodded.
"Maybe an hour," Logan croaked. "I have to—"
"Yeah, yeah, back to your porn, Heather. Gotcha." Alec twisted the cap off the water bottle. "Finish that." He watched the long line of Logan's throat as Logan drained the bottle.
"An hour." Logan sounded like he needed another bottle.
"Just lie back, all right?"
Alec watched Logan ease down on his back with a grimace. His brow furrowed when he caught a tremor.
"Can't seem to get warm." Logan lay on the bed. He looked small; like he shrunk from the time he was in Cape Haven and back. He rubbed his arms up and down absently.
"You're shocky. It'll take a while." Alec nodded towards the spare pillow. "Tuck that to your stomach and roll onto your sid—Oh." He rubbed the back of his neck.
Logan gave a strained laugh. "The worst part is I used to be a side sleeper but now..." He folded his arms over his stomach. He warily eyed Alec.
"You're going to watch me sleep?"
Alec leered. "Is that an invitation?"
Logan scoffed. His eyes slid shut. His brow furrowed as another shiver racked his frame.
"Here." Alec tugged the covers up to Logan's chest. Logan sleepily murmured his thanks.
Alec left his hand curled over Logan's shoulder. He frowned.
"You still feel cold." Alec glowered at the bed. The guy hardly has anything useful on the bed.
"Want some socks?" Alec offered hesitantly.
"I don't think they'll help," Logan sighed. He peeled one eye opened to study Alec.
Alec pulled his hand away. He absently rubbed it on the bed. "What?"
Something flickered across Logan's face. "The bodies."
Alec frowned. "What about them?"
"You asked where they were."
"Yeah, so?" Alec tugged the covers higher over Logan. He debated tucking the fleece around Logan's feet.
"You were going to get rid of them. No questions asked."
Logan sounded uncertain if he heard correctly, but whatever assurances Alec knew he should say stayed stuck in his throat.
A hand gingerly touched Alec's before pulling away.
"I wouldn't have put you in that position," Logan rasped. "Thank you for offering, Alec, but...I wouldn't have risked you like that."
"It wouldn't have been a big deal," Alec muttered. He rubbed a thumb across the lingering heat on his knuckles where Logan had touched him. "Nothing I haven't done before." He looked over to Logan, but the pained gaze made his eyes slide away. He cleared his throat.
"I'm gonna finish up your food, all right?"
Logan was still staring at Alec like there was so much he wanted to say. Alec rose to his feet.
"Not the tofu ones though," Alec said hurriedly. "They taste like...yeah, those are all yours."
With Logan's eyes skewering his back, Alec left the bedroom. He was only hurrying because the food was getting cold.
He'd forgotten about the video.
Alec paced from kitchen to living room and back until the exposed red and green wires under the flat screen caught his eye. He stopped, staring at it blankly until he remembered.
The wires were tucked back in place and the flashdrive was retrieved. Alec cupped the drive with both hands. He stared at the memory stick.
Alec wondered if the body armor was the same as before; the same useless piece of shit that a bullet punched through into Logan's spine—
The flashdrive snapped in half in Alec's fist. He started.
The pieces of plastic and metal looked innocuous in his hands. But it held six minutes four seconds of film that changed Logan's life.
Alec wondered why Logan didn't pick up the phone and call him.
Alec wondered if Logan picked up the phone back then. Would someone have picked up? Maybe that Max guy? Where the hell was Max when Logan was ambushed? Or did Logan went solo then to keep Max under the radar?
Someone should have been there then.
Someone should have been there in Cape Haven.
The shattered drive dug into Alec's palm. He jerked at the smell of his own blood. He picked out the pieces. The cuts weren't deep. And he'll heal. He always does—
Alec abruptly threw the drive into his pack. He didn't think about it as he washed his hand clean of blood before steering straight for the bedroom.
Logan's eyes flew open when the bed dipped.
"Move over," Alec ordered. He yanked his shirt over his head. He could feel Logan's startled eyes on his bared skin.
"What are you—"
"Move over," Alec repeated, his voice unsteady. He gave Logan a half-hearted shove at the shoulder. "Quit hogging the bed." He lifted up his palms.
"You're still shocky. Your body temp's too low. Best way to get you warmed up is shared body heat." Alec paused at Logan's stare. He swallowed.
"You're only getting a very expensive genetically engineered hot water bottle, okay? Don't get handsy."
Logan wordlessly lifted a corner of the blanket before he shuffled over. His eyes tracked Alec as he lay down next to him.
Backs on the bed, shoulders touching, they both stared at the ceiling.
Alec's throat worked. He could feel Logan's arm pressed up against his. He coughed.
"Wow, this isn't awkward at all."
Logan surprised them both by laughing. "Exactly what I was thinking."
Alec turned his head. He studied Logan's profile. Hazel eyes slid sideways to meet his.
"Ready?" Alec rasped.
Logan's throat bobbed. He said nothing as he struggled to turn his shoulders. He rolled awkwardly onto his right side.
Before Logan rolled over completely, Alec slipped an arm under him, catching him mid-turn. He wrapped the other arm around Logan. He fidgeted closer until his chin was resting on top of Logan's shoulder, his chest flushed to the length of Logan's spine.
Alec's arms felt leaden when he pulled Logan closer, his hands clasped over Logan's abdomen. He wanted to pull Logan closer, wrap around him better than any shitty armor ever could. He wanted to gather Logan and shield him from any more bullets.
"Relax," Alec murmured into the side of Logan's throat. Logan was stiff and unyielding in his arms. He felt Logan swallow hard against his jaw. "You got 99.9 degrees wrapped around you for free."
"Not 98?" Logan breathed shakily.
Alec pressed his face onto Logan's shoulder blade so he could feel Alec's grin. "Hey, Manticore splice and diced us to run on the warm side. You think I was kidding when I said I was hot?"
Logan shook, his chuckles vibrating through his body and into Alec. "I thought you were being modest." His chuckles died down as a shudder rocked through him. "Damn it."
"Easy," Alec shushed. Before he could think against it, he spread his right palm open and slipped it underneath the soft sweatshirt. Logan stiffened.
"What are you—"
"Sh," Alec hushed. He massaged circles on Logan's stomach. He moved clockwise, his thumb pressing over the rigidness of muscles as his entire hand swept over Logan's stomach.
"It's the shock that's cramping you up. I don't even know how you made it back here like this."
"Wanted to go home," Logan mumbled. He trembled. "Wanted to come back."
"Well, you're here now. Relax. Deep breaths." Alec continued smoothing circles over the firm muscles. The skin felt like silk taut yet sleek with its strength underneath.
Logan's back lost its stiff posture. Alec felt Logan's weight settling against him, body molding into the cradle of his.
"Better?" Alec whispered as he reached over and snagged the covers. He tugged them over their bodies.
Logan nodded. "Just for a bit," he sleepily reminded Alec. "I have to get back to work."
"Uh huh," Alec murmured. He snaked his arm back around Logan. "Sure. You better not snore."
Logan scoffed. He took a deep breath then another.
"You didn't have to do this," Logan slurred.
Alec hummed as more and more of Logan's weight sagged against him. "I'm a saint."
There was a drowsy snort.
Alec gave Logan a squeeze. "Shut up and sleep, Heather."
He rolled him over just in time to see the light in his eyes fade.
And that was it. He was gone.
As he held him in his arms, unable to breathe, unable to think, Lydecker stepped out of the shadows.
His stopwatch beeped when he stopped it.
"Good job, 494."
Alec jolted. He almost jumped out of bed until the weight on his outstretched arm registered. He nuzzled the fine hairs that formed the start of Logan's nape and wondered what woke him.
Against him, Logan minutely tensed. He muttered; his voice was low and distressed.
"Hey," Alec murmured when he felt Logan twitch again. He eased his arm out from under, staying close so Logan wouldn't roll onto his front.
Alec gave him a brief shake by the shoulder. Then a harder one.
"You kept stealing the blankets," Alec eased back behind Logan. He didn't think about how easy it was to slip his arms around back him. "And you do snore, you bastard."
Harsh breathing expanded the chest against him; Logan's upper spine was an odd sensation against Alec's sternum. Alec tentatively rubbed Logan's stomach again.
Logan felt warmer now, his skin now a smooth heat under Alec's touch. He could feel the other breathing: in and out, in and out. He felt something swell in his chest. His arms pulled Logan in closer. He folded his knees behind Logan's. Chilled feet touched Alec's; a startling cold shock that only Alec could feel. He tucked Logan's feet between his. He should have grabbed Logan some socks after all.
Alec thought about Logan, ninety four point six miles away in a crappy fishing town, almost dead.
But there is no almost, is there? Dead was dead and Logan Cale would have tipped over to that side of the ledger while Alec ate cold pork chops and walked around his place barefoot in carpet.
A sharp inhale tugged Alec back to the present; his arms had started squeezing Logan.
"Sorry." Alec loosened his grip. But he couldn't bring himself to pull away completely. "Still cold?"
Another deep breath but nothing else.
"You got, like, a thousand eggrolls left in the kitchen. Want some?"
This time, there was a headshake. Alec watched, transfixed as the longer strands of Logan's hair clung to the pillow.
"Ribs all right?" Alec gently rubbed his knuckles along the defined muscles that hugged Logan's obliques. "Want me to kiss and make them better?"
Logan chuckled weakly but didn't comment.
Alec rested his chin on Logan's left shoulder. He breathed in deep. Logan smelled like soap and warm sleep. The sour tang of fear and sweat had evaporated the minute Alec woke him.
"Go back to sleep." Alec pressed his lips to the back of Logan's head. Logan sucked in his breath.
Alec froze when he realized what he had done. But then Logan's shaky voice cut through his "Oh shit, fuck, stupid" moment.
"I can still see him."
Logan's whisper was lost under the covers.
Panic bled away. Alec's hands loosened but stayed clasped over Logan's stomach.
"Just him?" Alec rested his forehead on Logan's shoulder.
Logan swallowed hard. Alec could see the motion moving the muscles on the nape of his neck. There was still a faint scent of soap.
"All of them."
"Yeah," Alec rasped. He tentatively leaned in to nose over that pale stripe of skin. It looked vulnerable. It looked cold. He pushed his mouth into the spot and exhaled.
Another swallow. It was fascinating to watch the subtle muscles at play from this angle.
"Alec...Does it ever go away?"
Canton, Lisbon, Cambridge, Berrisford, Ventura...
Alec's mouth worked to get past the achiness in his throat.
"Sure," Alec whispered. He bit his lower lip and pressed his blurring eyes into that vulnerable, unmarked neck.
"I forgot as soon as I stepped out the door."
Night had absorbed the sounds of city life below. In the silence, their breaths were harsh in the bedroom, too loud in his ears.
Hesitantly, Logan's hand covered Alec's on his stomach.
Alec squeezed his eyes shut even tighter and listened to their breathing fall into sync.
When the bed moved underneath him, Alec jerked awake. He kept his eyes closed once he determined there was no threat.
"Where are you going?" Alec whined as he wiggled his now freed arm towards what used to be a very nice warm spot. "Get back over here. I'm not done molesting you yet."
There was a huff in response.
Alec peeled one eye open, reluctant to shake off the unfamiliar fuzzy sensation of lethargy. Logan had levered himself up to sit, his legs hanging over the edge of the bed.
"I need to get back to work."
Alec scowled. "Seriously? You can take a day off from...whatever."
Logan shook his head. He straightened his sweatshirt. He proceeded to do the awkward hip and hand drag to the side of the bed where the wheelchair was.
Completely awake now, Alec propped himself up with an elbow.
"So that's it? Take a nap, shake it off then back to work, heigh, ho, heigh, ho?"
The bed stilled. Logan sat there, both arms straight out and stiff on the mattress.
"I can't ignore this." Logan grunted as he transferred into his chair. He rolled up the fleece blanket crumpled there and tucked it behind him.
Logan shook his head. The brakes snapped free and the chair inched away.
"You know," Alec said evenly as he yanked his shirt off the floor. He jerkily pulled it over his head. "Whatever fancy exposé Mr. Logan Cale is writing up better be worth all this."
The chair stopped by the doorway. "It's not...I'm not doing this for an article."
Alec's head popped free. He yanked impatiently at his shirt. "Yeah? Then for what? What was so damn important about some rundown town? How did it end up with four dead bodies?"
The light in the living room framed Logan, cloaking his back and his chair in darkness. "I don't want you involved."
Alec rolled his eyes. "I don't want to be involved. I told you: I'm not trying to cut in on your action."
"I'm not..." Logan sucked in his breath. "Look, there's no action, no profit just...I'm trying to...There are things out there that needs...fixing." He gripped his armrests tightly. "It's not something you should get involved in. I'll deal with it myself."
The scoff came out before Alec stopped himself.
Logan gave him a sharp look before wheeling out.
"I don't get you," Alec griped as he padded out behind Logan. "You get a sector pass; you could have lived it up anywhere. Hell, blow a few days in LA but instead, you go to Cape Haven, to do what?" He tracked Logan as he made a circuit around the kitchen, collecting the cartons of eggrolls. Logan didn't look at them. He just put them all in the refrigerator before he steered for his office.
"Who the hell is Sage?"
The wheelchair halted with a squeak. Logan darted Alec a look.
"Uh huh." Alec counted off what he knew. "Obviously a kid since he had to wait for his mom, what's his relation with the guy you wanted to talk to?"
Logan set his jaw.
Alec wanted to grab the moron by the shoulders—whether to shake him or haul him back to bed, he couldn't decide.
"Lydecker left town." Logan shot Alec a look. His eyes slid away. "The police had already pulled out of some sectors to stay by the gates."
"And you know this how?" Alec clocked his hip against the couch. "Between your search for your mysterious guy, babysitting this Sage kid and playing bad ass, where did you find the time to check up on Lydecker?"
"I have my sources."
"Sources," Alec muttered under his breath. He snatched his boots up by the couch. "Of course he has sources," he mumbled as he shoved his feet into his boots.
"What?" Alec focused on redoing up his laces. One snapped off. Damn it.
"I..." Logan exhaled. He looked pained. "I can't explain. I'm sorry. I didn't want to drag you into any of this. I'm sorry. You're right. You don't need this hassle."
Reluctantly, Alec lifted his eyes. The wheelchair was halfway into the computer area, angled in a way that hid Logan in the shadows.
"It's only a hassle because you're making it into one." When Logan wouldn't look his way, Alec jerked at his laces. The other disintegrated with a simple tug.
Alec swore and stomped hard on the carpet. The laces were still shitty, but it made him feel a little better.
"Just leave it alone, Alec." Logan turned at Alec's scoff.
Alec's retort faded at the bleak face. He looked down at his boots.
"Need-to-know, huh?" Alec murmured. "Does matter if I want to know?"
"Trust me; it's safer for you if you don't."
Alec bit back a snort. Trust him? He sobered at Logan's drawn expression. The guy looked like he was scared for Alec, not of and Alec wasn't sure how he was suppose to react to that.
"Your neighbor on 5B got in some boxes yesterday." Alec turned away. His throat felt tight. "Think a little pay day is in order."
Logan's chair creaked. Alec quickly scanned it. It didn't look like it was going to fold up and drop Logan on his ass though. Alec straightened from his crouch.
"The Gregors." Logan eased into the computer area. He fiddled with an earpiece. "Wife has been claiming disability. Husband is an authenticator for the few museums we have left. He's suspected of bringing his work home." His shoulders tensed.
"At one point he might have stolen a Jackson Pollack from a couple going through bankruptcy but it never resurfaced in any of the black markets."
"Pollack, huh? Expensive?"
Logan's face twisted. "Most of our Pollacks were sold right off our museums' walls. We don't have many national treasures left."
Alec shrugged. "Whatever. I need new boots." He twirled a broken shoelace in the air. He zipped up his jacket and checked to make sure his pack was good. He poked inside until he spotted the gray wool scarf curled up inside.
"Thanks for letting me squat here," Alec said brightly as he wound the soft material around his neck. He inwardly winced at how loud it sounded in his ears. "Gotta blaze. Back to work. I'm gonna grab a bag some of those eggrolls to go."
"Thanks, Alec," Logan said quietly. He didn't turn around. "For everything."
"Sure. No big deal."
"Maybe not to you." Logan curled and uncurled a hand over his earpiece.
Alec stared at Logan's bowed head.
"You know I'm not trying to cut in on whatever you got going, right?" Alec said nonchalantly. "But you got me curious."
"Curiosity kills the cat, Alec."
When Logan offered nothing more, Alec abruptly turned on his heels. Fine, the guy could keep his damn secrets.
"Don't bitch if you find anything missing." Alec headed for his window. Behind him, he heard Logan roll deeper into his computer area. Before he could say "Later", the glass partitions slid shut around him.
Alec stared at the vague shape behind the glass. For some reason, Logan didn't go to his desk. He sat there, middle of the space.
Gradually, Logan wheeled towards his desk. He reached up.
The hum of the white noise generators was Alec's only warning before Alec's ears popped with abrupt pressure. He made a face; he tugged his ears to sooth the throbbing in his ear canals.
Alec glowered at the shape on the glass.
"Whatever," Alec muttered as he jerkily yanked on his climbing gear, hooked up with the line he left dangling from the roof.
With one more frown towards the glass walls, Alec slipped out, reset the alarm and headed down to the fifth floor.
The Gregors kept a lot of shit.
The boxes Alec had spied arriving to 5B contained a bunch of statuettes and old books that were handwritten and smelled like dust and ink. Alec slipped what he could into his pack. He flipped off the couple sleeping in their bedroom.
As Alec made his way towards the window, a spotty painting on the wall caught his eye.
Alec left the painting by Logan's dining table. He could hear underwater like sounds coming from the computer area. Heather was still hard at work. He set the painting next to the folders of Mount Cale. To pay for the eats, the chicken, that nasty goat milk. He didn't like debts, especially over food.
The noise generator hummed, burying Logan's tenor under layers of frequencies. Like a body under dirt. The comparison left Alec feeling cold. He left with an uncomfortable knot in his throat.
The small hole in the wall today sat in-between Logan's fancy neighborhood and Alec's current bolt hole. It was a decent place for cheap food. It was a pair of RVs, streaked with rust, welded together and looked like it needed a wash with some acid. It was dragged around the city by a decommissioned and illegally purchased military jeep whenever the 'licensing fee' Seattle PD demanded was too high.
The nameless, wandering eatery still had the television set Alec traded for a couple of meals. It was also one of the rare places where the owner Cole—a pot bellied balding dude trying to earn money to immigrate to Spain—didn't want Alec anything more than the occasional creative acquiring of junk to pretty up his dump. He didn't eye Alec, trying to imagine him on his knees, nor did he appear tempted to ask for something more than crumpled bills for his food. It was refreshing.
"Jason!" Cole gestured at the television set hanging precariously over the three oil barrels that served as the bar. "This piece of shit is busted. Again!"
Alec shrugged one shoulder then slapped a palm on the side of the set. It gurgled, blinked and went back to hockey. He grinned cheekily at Cole.
Cole flipped him a finger and told him to sit his ass down.
Fingers tapping on the lopsided table, one boot pressed against one leg to keep it steady, Alec surveyed the space and the customers. No one of interest, no one looking at him with interest as well. Then again, the last guy who tried to ask for a sample, Cole threw out with a meaty fist; he hollered he ran a diner, not a rutting brothel.
The loot from the Gregors sold for an okay amount. It contributed to his tattoo fund, but not enough to fill his coffers before spring gets here. But going back to watch Logan pay more attention to that stupid laptop of his or spend the time finding a new mark didn't appeal to him. Not tonight.
Alec absently touched the scarf around his neck; he'll have no reason to wear this soon. He'll have to double up his jobs tomorrow.
"Do not attempt to adjust your set..."
"Again?" someone complained.
Alec looked up in time to see a bone sail across to the screen. Cole promptly threw the guy out.
"...years ago, police struggled to maintain control over a population rioting after the Pulse..."
"This guy's broadcast been repeating the same two hacks every few hours," Cole griped as he slapped down a chipped plate of food in front of Alec. The salty gravy slopped over onto Alec's hand.
"Customers come to bitch at hockey, not at the police in some hick town." Cole waved a dirty paw towards the television. "Can't you do anything about that? This is bad for business."
"It's a hack, not static," Alec mumbled around a bite of chicken. Mm, not bad but it could use some carrots.
"You were raised in a barn? Don't talk with your mouth full." Cole slapped the back of Alec's head. The smell of grease lingered on his hair.
"Raised in a test tube actually," Alec quipped but as usual, Cole just grunted, unimpressed.
"...unarmed protestors were rounded up, executed and buried..."
"He's gonna wreck my business," Cole muttered. "That guy needs a life."
"...a source, killed in the act of protecting others..."
Alec shrugged as he wiped his plate clean of gravy. Cole hid a slab of day old bread under a pile of shredded chicken meat. The fat bastard didn't like being seen playing favorites.
"Over and over," Cole grumbled. "He was quiet for a few days. Thought maybe he bought it."
Alec frowned at the thought. "Hey, he's here to fight the fight, the down trodden, etcetera, etcetera. He's the only free voice left in the city." Plus, he sounded kind of hot.
"Who the hell cares about what happened in Cape Haven?"
Stomach suddenly clenched, Alec stilled. He gulped hard to force the bit of food in his mouth to go down. It actually hurt.
"What?" Alec managed.
Cole gestured towards the set again. He stomped back to his cook top as more customers straggled in. Alec stared at the television.
"...murdered in their own home and the local militia covered the truth. Four locals..."
He said it was four guys.
"...one officer stepped forward, witness to corruption during the post-Pulse riots. Fearing reprisal, he had fled to Cape Haven where he redeemed himself ultimately..."
The eyes staring out the screen were the wrong color.
"There was no police. Everyone was sent to the cities to control the protestors. Towns, once safe towns, were left forgotten, lawless..."
But the longer Alec stared, the more he could see the shape of the eyes; he could imagine the brown swept of the brow. Even barely blinking, Alec could imagine what those eyes would look like: crinkled at the corners in a rare blink of amusement.
The television flickered back to hockey. Some cheered. Alec felt the bottom of his stomach drop out.