Title: Nowhere Called Home
Disclaimer: I have never owned a television show in my life.
Summary: In another life, things are different. A pseudo-AU [ML]
Author’s note: In retrospect, this was definitely inspired by Supernatural’s episode “What Is and What Should Never Be.” Not that anything’s similar except the basic premise. (And btw if you guys aren’t watching SPN, you should be. Best thing to air since DA was canceled.)
Nowhere Called Home
The last thing Logan remembers is Alec’s voice, loud and frantic, over the com screaming at them to get out. They’ve tracked the conclave down to a warehouse in sector two. It had taken hours of work on the computer, jumping past firewalls and sidestepping any security triggers, but Logan had found it. Max hadn’t wanted him to tag along, but he’d insisted that he needed to get at the Familiar’s computers to pull up anything concrete on the Coming. It’s really just an excuse to be close to her. She’s been avoiding him for weeks.
And tomorrow’s their fourth anniversary.
Logan! Max! Alec’s screams are distorted over the poor connection, static, you’ve got to -----! They’ve got—place---wired-----it’s armed!
Beside him, Max’s eyes widen.
Logan fights the uncontrollable urge to grab her hand.
Run! Alec screams.
He doesn’t even hear the explosion.
Logan wakes up to the sun leaking through an open window. He blinks blearily and instinctively gropes for his glasses. He finds them on the nightstand, fingers tightening around the thin wire frames.
This isn’t his penthouse and it’s definitely not Sandeman’s. The room has white walls and a dark blue carpet. He’s wearing pajamas that he’s never seen before and outside the window is a green lawn and a white picket fence. He breathes in deep and swings his feet off the bed. The exoskeleton’s missing, but he feels fine, he wiggles his toes just to makes sure, but he’s completely free of the pain that has haunted him ever since the shooting. He traces his fingers up the back of the spine and finds nothing but smooth skin. None of the nasty puckered skin of his scar, nothing to even suggest surgery, much less a bullet wound.
In a daze, he pushes himself up to his feet and moves towards the closet. Half of the clothes are feminine, about Max’s size and well worn, but he recognizes the rest of it as his own. Feeling more than a little distracted, he pulls on a gray t-shirt and a pair of well worn jeans. He makes his way out of the room slowly and almost has a heart attack when something small and quick latches onto his left leg.
He stares down into a gap-toothed smile and big blue eyes. “Daddy!” the little boy says.
“Hey kiddo,” Logan says and tries to keep his voice from cracking.
He makes waffles for breakfast, thick and soft and fluffy and the little boy gobbles them up eagerly chatting happily. Logan can’t take his eyes off the boy. He’s just a little over three years old with his eyes and Max’s coloring and a smile that lights up the room.
Logan doesn’t know his name and that fact burns some unknown part of him.
There’s a picture of the three of them on the wall, him and Max with the little boy smiling between them. This isn’t his world, but his wishes it was.
Bling calls as he’s cleaning the kitchen and Logan opens his mouth to tell Bling everything, but Bling with a smile in his voice as if he’s prepared for the invasion.
“What?” Logan says, dumbfounded.
“Max’s sibs. She talked you into one of those reunions of hers.”
As if on cue, the doorbell rings. “Got to go,” Logan says and hangs up before Bling can reply.
The kid beats him to the door pulling it open wide without even checking to see who it is. Logan’s too surprised to even call a warning. He knows what it’s like in the post-pulse world. A house this nice without the added protection of his penthouse’s height is prime target for looters and worse.
But his panic is short lived. Alec sweeps the boy into his arms. “Hey there, Jack! How’s my favorite nephew.”
“Alec,” Logan says.
“Long time, no see, man,” Alec says, smiling. “Am I the first one? Where’s Max?”
“Max?” Logan parrots.
“You know, Max,” Alec bounces the boy (Jack?) in his arms. “Your wife.” He frowns. “She was hanging with Jondy and Zack for the weekend right? When they coming in?”
Logan blinks, completely bewildered. “Anytime now,” he guesses.
“Down!” squeals Jack.
“Logan, you’ve got to wake up,” Alec says.
“What?” Logan says. A block of ice has dropped into his stomach and the cold settles heavily, seeping down his arms and into his extremities
“I know,” Alec says as Jack darts past Logan’s legs and into the next room. “Ben joining a monastery. I swear the guy’s not related to me. The genetic twin thing must just be coincidence.”
The door rings and the next thing Logan knows, Jondy and Charlie are standing in the doorframe, Case peaking out from under his mother’s legs. “Say hello to Uncle Logan,” Jondy coaxes.
“Seriously all the kid’s talked about for weeks is seeing his cousin Jack. The second he gets here, he clams up.” Charlie shakes his head and smiles. “Been a long time, man. You got a beer?”
“Make that two!” Alec calls from the other room.
Logan obliges, walking in through a dream.
The parade of friendly faces, keeps coming, a steady trickle of the family Max had always wanted. An X-5 reunion.
Only they weren’t X-5s. Logan catches a glimpse of Alec’s bare smooth neck. No barcode. No barcode on him or Tinga or Krit or Syl or Zane who Logan’s just met but already likes. Max rolls in next to last, smiling and joking with Zack (and just seeing that guy smile unnerves Logan more than anything).
Max herself gives him a brief smile and a hello before immersing herself in the lives of her siblings. Zane and Alec take over the grill. They bicker the entire time, and they’re laughing so hard they burn the burgers. Logan doesn’t mind much. Despite his inbreed taste for fine foods; he’s always had a soft spot for charred burgers. Zack strikes up a conversation with him about the Mariner’s prospects for the year.
And that’s about the time he’s had enough of the surreal.
He makes an excuse to duck out of the conversation, retreating back into the house moving from room to room until he finds a computer.
He only has one computer, no hacking equipment. He pulls up an internet browser. Microsoft, he notices, they’ve been out of business ever since the pulse hit. Hard to regain faith in a company who’d had a monopoly when the Pulse hit. People always looked to point fingers…
Only there is no mention of the Pulse. The connection is smooth and glitch-free and the biggest thing that happened in 2009 was an earthquake that killed a hundred in California. As far as Logan can tell, the Pulse never happened.
Which means, Eyes Only never happened which means Logan Cale was never shot which means nothing was there to hold him back when he met Max… who was still the strong, perfect, beautiful woman he knew, except there had never been a Manticore either, never been an escape which means Max never spent the years looking over here shoulder, never spent years not knowing what happened to her siblings.
It should have meant she never broke into Logan Cale’s apartment intent on stealing the golden statue of Bast. But here they are, living a perfect lie.
Tinga, Charlie and Case have never been broken apart.
Alec, as it turns out is great with kids.
Zack’s a baseball fan.
Logan’s never been shot, never had his life shattered and rebuilt from scratch.
Max doesn’t have a barcode on the back of her neck.
This, Logan realizes with a chill, is a world where everything has gone right.
He doesn’t belong here.
Logan pushed himself back from the computer, but the motion, well-practiced because of his time in a wheelchair feels clumsy and awkward. There are pictures on the wall; him and Max and little Jack all smiling, laughing. Out the window, he can see a clubhouse with a slide and a vibrant green lawn encircled by a white picket fence. Logan feels suddenly empty. This isn’t his life, isn’t his world. This house, this smiling, perfect family isn’t his. It belongs to some other Logan Cale, some doppelganger with his face and all the luck he’s never had. He suddenly understands how Max must have felt that night in the penthouse when he’d tried to recruit her for Eyes Only; terrified of getting trapped in a cause that wasn’t hers, a life that she didn’t know at all.
Logan quietly shuts the computer down and creeps out the door and down the wood-paneled hallway back towards the front door completely prepared to make a run for it, but when he opens the door, who’s standing before him but Donald Lydecker with hair that’s a little too shaggy and a smile that’s a little too soft.
He stops dead in his tracks and only just manages to keep his jaw from dropping.
“Who is it?” Tinga calls from the next room.
“Lydecker,” breathes Logan.
“Mr. Lydecker to you, son,” Lydecker says, but there’s something different on his face, something in his voice that sounds like he’s teasing and not threatening.
“Hey dad!” Zack calls from inside. “We saved the hard liquor for you!”
A chorus of laughter sweeps the room behind him.
Lydecker shakes his head. “I’ll never know what possessed me to keep all of those kids together. Run the shelter for twenty years and I only ever had one group who didn’t want to leave.”
Logan blinks once, twice, again. Lydecker smiles fondly. “This bunch managed to get kicked out of ever single foster home.” Logan hopes he’s imagining it, but Lydecker sounds a little proud. “Just wanted to stay together and well, here we are.” He claps a friendly hand on Logan’s shoulder. Logan stares at it, horrified. “How have you been treating my Maxie?”
Forget fleeing. What Logan really needs right now is a beer.
Logan sits alone on the back porch and stares at the perfectly manicured lawn, empty beer bottle shaking in his hands. Is this what his life is now? Yard upkeep, family cookouts, chasing after hyperactive children and having Lydecker for a father-in-law?
It’s what he wants. What he’s fought for so desperately ever since the Pulse hit.
“He looks just like you,” a voice says from somewhere above him. He turns to see it’s Max. He offers her a weak smile. She tosses him another beer and sits down beside him, just far enough to avoid any accidental contact. Logan stares at her, drinking in her every feature. Her hair’s in curls again, he’s missed the curls, missed her smiles…
Max herself is fixated on Jack running after Case and Alec in some colossal game of tag no adult is really meant to understand. “Hard to believe it, huh?” Max says. “After all those years.” She shakes her head. “Nothing ever goes this well.”
“This isn’t our world,” Logan says.
“Zack’s getting married,” Max continues as if she hadn’t heard. “This little blonde thing who’s got him wrapped around her little finger and Tinga’s alive and Krit and Syl, God, I’ve never seen any of them so happy.”
“Lydecker, Zack and Charlie are inside playing a drinking game,” Logan says. “What’s right about this?”
“Stranger thins have happened,” Max retorts.
“Name one,” Logan challenges.
“Us,” Max replies.
Logan nods slowly and turns his gaze back out to Jack, the little boy’s features are the best of both of them, bits of Logan and Max all cobbled into one. He feels a strange sense of pride watching him, but at the same time an overwhelming sense of loss.
“You think we made it to the hospital?” Max asks listlessly. “Or do you think we’re still in that warehouse burning?”
Logan doesn’t answer. Doesn’t even want to contemplate that possibility. He licks his lips, opens his mouth, closes it again, takes a long swig of his lukewarm beer, swallows and finally says, “We don’t belong here.”
Out on the lawn, Case and Jack have Alec pinned to the ground and are tickling him mercilessly. Laughter echoes from all sides.
Logan swallows again, almost chokes on his resolve. “We’ve got to get back. Got to wake up.”
There is a lump in his throat that is suffocating him and nothing he does can make it go away.
The party winds to a close sometime after eight as Krit and Syl say their goodbyes and Zane promises that next time it’ll be his place. Between the two of them, they manage to coax Jack into bed. They spend a few hours talking through their predicament but that ends in a shouting match. Max stalks off to the shower. Logan knows she’ll be a while when she realizes it has hot water. He pulls a book off the shelf, lies down on the bed, and starts reading. When Max reenters the room, she’s wearing a pair of baggy sweats and what looks like one of his old t-shirts.
Logan stands up sheepishly. “I’ll take the couch.”
Max shakes her head. “Plenty of room for the both of us.” She shrugs. “Besides, it’s not like I sleep.”
Somewhere in the distance, a clock chimes . Max offers him a small smile. “Happy anniversary, Logan.”
Even, no especially, after nearly three years with the virus, her touch is electric.
But even as her lips cover his own, he knows it can’t last.
Logan wakes up to the rain pouring outside. It’s so loud it drowns out the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor. Alec’s asleep on one of the visitor’s chair. There’s a tube in his mouth. He coughs explosively.
Alec snaps to attention, leaps to his feet. “Logan!”
This world’s not perfect. The people, his friends, this world are all still broken.
But it’s his.
And he’s happy to be alive.