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Silver and Gold

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“Please Vee?”

 

“No.”

 

“Come with me.”

 

“No.  I’m not ready.”

 

“Puh-leeeeze?  What do you need?  I’ll do anything at this point.”

 

Veronica raised her feet in the air, bringing her heels down soundly on the wall above her bed as she let out a small groan of displeasure.

 

“Now you’re trying to bribe me?  Really, Logan?”  An exasperated huff following her words.

 

“Veronica, I will do anything not to have to spend the holidays alone with my Mom.  Any-thing,” Logan replied.

 

The clock on her bedside table flashed exactly 10 p.m.  Veronica’s phone conversation with Logan had officially hit the one hour mark – short by their normal standards of talking until after midnight – but tonight it felt like they had talked forever.  It was clear from the hesitation in his voice through the last hour that he was gearing up for something, but this was not the direction she expected things to take.

 

Sitting up, Veronica grabbed a pillow and dropped it behind her head before flopping back down on her bed with a groan.

“Logan, I just don’t know...” she said, her voice dropping slightly.  Veronica’s eyes fixed on the cracked, peeling ceiling above her, trying to focus on something to keep her emotions in check.

 

“Veronica, I know this is going to be a hard Christmas for you with New Year’s Eve and all,” Logan said, his voice taking on a soft, soothing tone.  “but you’re my best friend – who are we kidding, you’re my only friend – and I really can’t do this alone.  Not this year.”

 

Veronica closed her eyes, taking a deep, slow breath through her nose to calm her nerves.  “Almost one year since Dad died.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Logan said.  “Almost one year since the accident.  And two-years since Lilly left me at the altar.  And three years since Duncan and Meg ran off together.”

 

“Christmas is a curse,” she muttered, dropping her arm over her eyes.

 

“I know.  But this year, I need your help to break that curse,” Logan continued.  “My Mom – she’s in a bad place.  Like Norma-Desmond-locked-in-her-mansion-ranting-about-the-old-days bad.  Mrs. Navarro called me and told me if I don’t come over the holidays, she thinks my mom may do something...to herself.”

 

A dull ache rose in Veronica’s chest – the one that came and went as the holidays approached each year.  Once upon a time, when they were teenagers, Christmas was a time of fun and festivities, not anxiety and dread. 

 

They.

 

Logan and Lilly. 

 

Veronica and Duncan. 

 

The four best friends.; beautiful and vivacious Lilly Kane and her brother, smart and charming Duncan Kane; Logan Echolls, the handsome son of two movies stars; and Veronica Mars, the pretty and wholesome daughter of the county Sherriff.   Their teen years were the stuff of privilege -- sneaking bottles of champagne out to the pool house during Aaron and Lynn Echolls’ annual holiday party; partying on the beach all night during summer holidays; taking off to Catalina on someone’s yacht for the weekend.

 

Veronica’s skin prickled as she remembered the cold nights in the hot tub at Lilly and Duncan’s house.  Making love to Duncan for the first time one New Year’s Eve.  The engagement ring for Lilly from Logan, tucked into her Christmas stocking one morning.  Looking back, she should have known, it all seemed too magical to be real.

 

But then, High School ended, and Veronica and Logan moved across the country for University – Veronica at NYU School of Law, Logan at Harvard working towards his PhD in Sociology.  The first Christmas they returned to Neptune, Veronica was greeted with the news that Duncan had been cheating on her with Meg.  What Veronica did not know at the time was that Meg was pregnant, and since her family didn’t approve, quietly, on Christmas Day, she and Duncan ran off to parts unknown, leaving Veronica broken hearted.  The following Christmas – after two years of careful and expensive preparations – Logan and Lilly were to be married on Christmas Eve in a lavish ceremony (photographed and reported on by both People Magazine and InStyle).  That was the plan – until Lilly had maid-of-honour Veronica deliver a plain white envelope to Logan on their wedding day.   The enclosed letter explained in great detail how Lilly couldn’t marry Logan because she was in love with his father, Aaron.  Last Veronica heard, Aaron and Lilly lived in a villa in Italy where Aaron produced low-budget European movies and Lilly hosted dinner parties with George Clooney and Matt Damon on the guest list.  Then last year, two days after Veronica returned to New York from visiting her family in Neptune, Keith Mars was killed when a drunken Lianne Mars drove their car into a tree on New Year’s Eve.   Veronica didn’t even know where her mother was in the world this Christmas, and she really didn’t care.

 

“Please, Veronica,” Logan said again.  “I can’t lose her too.  You and my Mom are the only people I have right now.  I need your help.”

 

Veronica shook her head back and forth, but her lips were a different matter.  “Fine.  Fine.  You win.”

 

“Yes!  Thank you!   Thank you!  Thank you, Vee.”

 

“Okay, but I’m going to set some ground rules,” Veronica continued, removing her arm from over her eyes.  “Number one...you have to pay the exorbitant airline fees to get me across the country during the holidays.”

 

“Deal!  I’m pulling out my laptop to start looking at flights ASAP,” Logan said, shuffling around on the other side of the call.

 

“Second, I don’t leave your Mom’s mansion.  No going out to relive old fun times.  No trying to get me to visit my Dad’s grave to give me ‘closure’ or anything stupid like that,” she said.

 

“Veronica, I would never – ” Logan began.

 

“Yeah, well, I just want to make sure you’re not going to pull the best-friend card and do something that you think will help me when it clearly won’t,” Veronica said, a twinge of anger in her voice.  “And third, I need the ingredients for Snickerdoodles stocked because that was what I was going to make myself for Christmas dinner this year.”

 

Logan let out a low chuckle.  “You were going to eat nothing but cookies for dinner?”

 

“I’m a single woman in New York.  I was looking forward to a lovely holiday with the Die Hard movies, Snickerdoodles, and my vibrator to keep me company this year,” she snarked, dropping her feet from the wall and rolling onto her side.

 

“You can bring those too if you want,” Logan said, a hint of mischief in his voice.  “I like Die Hard.  And I’ll make sure Santa brings you some extra batteries in your stocking.”

 

“Ha ha ha,” she replied sarcastically, swinging her legs over the end of the bed to sit up.  “But be sure to put me in a bedroom far away from your Mom’s...you know...just in case.”

 

Veronica rose from the bed and took a few steps towards the window in her tiny apartment.  The snow fell gently that evening and each flake catching the streetlights causing them to twinkle and dance as they drifted to the ground.  The old metal radiator hissed and she made sure to stay a safe distance away, should it begin to rattle and shake as it often did at two in the morning.  She could hear the sounds of Christmas music floating down the hall and it snuck under her door, along with the faintest smell from someone smoking Pot somewhere on her floor.  Glancing around her one-room apartment, she let out a deep sigh.  She really wasn’t looking forward to spending the holidays here, but Neptune didn’t seem much better right now either.

 

“Veronica,” Logan said, his voice becoming deeper.  “Thank you for doing this for me.”

 

“Okay,” Veronica replied quietly.  “Let’s just try and get through this, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

Christmas had not arrived at the Echolls mansion when Veronica showed up, two days before Christmas Eve.  Even last year, Lynn Echolls had at least made the effort to make it seem like the holidays mattered – the outside gates normally adorned with lights, wreaths, and garlands – but this year, as the limo moved slowly up the driveway, there was no indication of potential merriment in the coming days.  Veronica took a deep breath, removing her seat belt and pausing to wait for the driver to come around and open the door for her.  Nervously, she smoothed down her long blond hair and adjusted her jacket on her shoulders.

 

As the driver opened her door, Logan appeared at the top of the steps.  He was barefoot, in jeans and an old green Henley shirt, a scruffy brown beard covering his face, and his short brown hair standing upright, dishevelled on his head.   Veronica frowned at him as he quickly descended the steps to greet her.  Opening her arms for a hug, Veronica stepped towards him.

 

“Hey, best –”

 

Her words were lost as Logan’s lips pressed against hers quickly, holding for a brief moment before releasing her as his arms wrapped tightly around her body.

 

“No time to explain right now – ” he hissed, his lips moving next to her ear.  “Mom thinks we’re dating and I didn’t correct her.  Don’t kill me.  Please just go with it.”

 

“Logan!  What the ever loving fu –” Veronica gasped.

 

“Veronica!” Lynn called out in her lovely sing-song voice from behind Logan.  “I’m so happy you could come for Christmas!”

 

Veronica shifted her gaze over Logan’s shoulder as they continued their embrace.  Lynn was standing at the top of the steps, in a long, flowing silk Kimono, 4 inch red heels, a champagne glass in her hand.  Her short, dark brown hair was immaculately done, and her make-up looked like she had just stepped off a movie set.  But her eyes were dead, having lost the vivacious twinkle Veronica remembered from long ago. 

 

Logan’s arms loosened and Veronica stepped back, her eyes darting back to Logan’s pleading gaze.  Tugging at the hem of her jacket, Veronica took a second to readjust her brain to what needed to be done.  Willing the muscles in her mouth to turn up into a big grin, Veronica dropped her hand to hold Logan’s.  His grip tightened around her fingers as he pivoted towards Lynn.

 

“Well, thank you for having me, Lynn,” Veronica said as she and Logan began to walk up the steps.  “I wasn’t too sure if Logan could get me a flight this close to Christmas.”

 

The couple paused near the front doors a few feet from Lynn and Logan squeezed Veronica’s hand again.  “Mom was really happy to hear you were coming.  She said you were her Christmas present from me.”

 

Lynn let out a girlish giggle and stepped towards Veronica.  Veronica’s body tightened, unsure of what to do next.

 

“Oh Veronica, when Logan confirmed what I suspected about the two of you, I couldn’t have been more thrilled,” Lynn said, reaching her long, manicured fingers up to cradle Veronica’s face.  “Maybe, this Christmas, we can all put the past behind us, and start fresh, as our own little family.”

 

Veronica’s eyes opened wide in shock.  “What’s that now?”

 

Lynn giggled again, dropping her hand from Veronica’s cheek.  “Well, for the past week, Logan has been acting all quiet and secretive, and I kept asking him over and over about any girls he’s been seeing and being so evasive and then one night, I asked him if you were the one he was dating and he confirmed it, and I was so excited, well, I just burst into tears of joy.”

 

Logan cleared his throat and Veronica’s gaze shot back up at him.  He glanced down at her and shrugged, a crooked smile appearing on his face.

 

“Just couldn’t hide our secret anymore, Sugarpuss,” he said.

 

Veronica pressed her lips together and squeezed her fingers tightly around his until she saw him slightly flinch.

 

“Oh, but where are my manners,” Lynn said.  “Veronica, you’ve been traveling since last night.  You must be exhausted!  Logan, take her bags up to your room so she can lie down for a while.”

 

Logan released her hand and walked over to the suitcases that now sat waiting a few feet away from them. 

 

“Your room?” Veronica said.

 

“Why yes,” Lynn said with a giggle.  “I’m not a prude.  I know you are two consenting adults in a relationship.  Of course you two can stay together while you’re here.”

 

A shiver rushed through Veronica.  It wasn’t like Logan and she hadn’t crashed in the same bed before. Once upon a time, they all did, fully clothed, across Lilly’s king-sized bed, after a night of partying, or squished together like sardines in the master bedroom on Aaron’s yacht.  But never alone, just the two of them.

 

Logan jerked his head towards the open door.  “Come on.  Mom has us in the main guest room upstairs.”

 

“Yes, I turned Logan’s old room into a craft room,” Lynn said.  “Serves me right for becoming friends with Martha Stewart while vacationing in Napa.”

 

Veronica gave her head a little shake, still trying to comprehend the situation she found herself in.  “Okay, honey, you lead the way,” she said, forcing a smile in Logan’s direction.

 

He nodded and began walking quietly through the house as Veronica followed.  Once inside, climbing the long, winding staircase up to the second floor, Veronica scanned the house for signs of Christmas.  The main foyer, normally decorated from baseboard to chandelier with glittering ornament, was bare.  Breathing in deeply, she thought she smelled the subtle pine scent of a tree, from somewhere in the house, but it could have just been the cleaner Mrs. Navarro chose to use.  Following Logan down the second-floor hallway, he stopped in front of a set of double-doors, across from Lynn’s bedroom. 

 

Veronica glanced at Lynn’s door and then back to the double doors of “their” room.  “Guess I won’t have to worry about your mom hearing my vibrator, huh?”

 

“I swear, I can explain.” Logan released the bags and reached for the door knob. “Let’s just go somewhere more private, okay?”

 

Rolling her eyes, Veronica brushed past Logan and entered the bedroom.  She paused at the foot of the queen-sized bed, looking around at the room.  The room was done in a soft grey palate, with accents of red and gold in the bedding and drapes.  There was a door to a bathroom and next to that, several dressers spread across one wall; Logan’s things – keys, wallet, textbooks – lay scattered on top.

 

Veronica slowly exhaled, exhaustion flooding over her body.  Turning, she sat on the end of the bed, shaking off her jacket and tossing it towards a chair near the door.  Logan chuckled when she missed completely and it hit the ground with a small thud.  He closed the door and placed her bags near the closet next to the bathroom door.

 

“So, we’re alone.  Now tell me...how the hell did this happen?” she said, placing her palms behind her on the bed and leaning back on her arms.

 

Logan’s hands swept through his hair, his hand stopping to rub the back of his neck.  “It was all just a very strange mistake.”

 

“Mistake, huh?”

 

He let out a little groan and leaned against the door frame of the closet, scratching his beard.  “Okay, so, I’ve been here a week already, and Mom just hasn’t left me alone.  She’s completely manic – talking about everything that happened to us incessantly and drinking and following me around the house like I’m a toddler.  So, one day, she’s nagging me about how she thinks I have a ‘secret girlfriend’ because I won’t discuss my love life, and I just tuned her out.  She just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher at that point, you know?  Well, I guess, while I was tuned out, she asked if you were my secret girlfriend, and I didn’t know what she said, but I agreed with her.”

 

Veronica’s head lolled back to look at the ceiling.  “Great.”

 

“I know, I know,” he said, scratching at his beard again.  “I suck.  But she was on me for almost an entire week about how I should move on, and why haven’t I brought anyone by to meet her, and there are plenty of fish in the sea.  And then I fucked up, but she was so happy to hear that I was with someone – someone she knows and cares about – that I couldn’t correct her.  And I’m so, so sorry.”

 

Veronica glanced over at Logan and shook her head.  “So what happens now?  We pretend to be together until I leave in a few days?”

 

“Basically, yeah.”  Logan nodded.  “Then in a few months I tell her that we broke up because we decided just to be friends again.”

 

Veronica released her arms and fell back onto the bed with a groan.  “I can’t believe this is happening.”

 

“I know, relationships aren’t your thing.  You know they’re not mine either,” he said, walking towards the bed.  Veronica looked up at his sad eyes as he sat on the edge of the bed next to her.  “But please, for a few days, let’s try to pretend that we may actually live happily ever after with someone.”

 

Deep wrinkles crossed Veronica’s forehead and her eyes narrowed.  “Fine.  Fine, fine, fine.   But I have new ground rules.”

 

A snort-laugh escaped Logan and he rolled his eyes.  “Of course you do.  You are nothing if not a ‘rules girl’.  So out with it...what do you want?”

 

Veronica pointed her index finger at him, pulling an imaginary trigger.  “Well for starters, you need to sleep in your sweat pants.  I know that you like to sleep in the buff, but that won’t cut it in here.”

 

Logan let out a deep laugh, crossing his arms and shaking his head at her request.  “Not a problem.  Anything else?”

 

“When we get into bed, there will be no touching of any kind,” she stated.  “The space in between us will be filled with pillows and neither one of us will pass the big, puffy wall.”

 

“Also not a problem,” he said.  “Anything else?”

 

Veronica bit her lip, changing her focus from his face back up to the ceiling.  “You can kiss me on the cheek, but not on the lips, in front of your mom.”

 

“Fair enough.  Sorry for that one by the car.  I panicked.”

 

A tingle rushed over Veronica’s skin as her mind flashed back Logan’s surprise kiss when she arrived.  Frowning at herself, she decided to push that thought to the back of her brain for the time being.

 

“It’s okay.  But let’s keep the lovey, dovey stuff to a minimum,” she said.  “Oh, and you have to shave that beard.”

 

“Wha-da-ya-mean?” he gasped in mock indignation.  “I love this beard.  I grew this beard over exams this year and it has done a great job of disguising me when I’ve gone out and about around Neptune.”

 

“Really?” Veronica said, her gaze falling on the wiry brown hairs on his chin.

 

“Yep.   I pair this beard with a baseball hat, cheap sunglasses, and a jean jacket, and not a soul has recognized me,” he bragged.  “I even stood beside Madison Sinclair in line at the Macy’s perfume counter for 10-minutes and she didn’t recognize me.”

 

Veronica let out a small snort.  “You just weren’t cute enough for her.  Or you didn’t look rich enough.”

 

Logan grinned through his fur.  “You’ll get used to it.”

 

“Fine -- as long as that scratchy thing stays away from me, I’m good.” Veronica snarked.

 

“So I should return the t-shirt I bought that says ‘free beard rides’?” he said, playfully wiggling his eyebrows at her.

 

“Ugh,” she groaned, sticking her tongue out in disgust.  “For God’s sake, yes...return it immediately.  There’s no way you’ll ever find a real girlfriend wearing it.”

 

Logan chuckled, flopping himself down on the bed next to Veronica.  “I take it old what’s-his-name Brad-Brian didn’t have a beard?”

 

Veronica let out a laugh and shook her head.  “Fuck, he was a disaster.  In hindsight, I should have known that someone who was in the middle of writing his thesis on the women who inspired Charles Bukowski’s writing -- and go on to  ‘explain’ feminism in Jane Austin’s works to me over dinner --would end up being terrible in bed, and fall asleep two minutes after he was ‘done’.”

 

“That’s even more brutal that the last one you ‘dated’.”  His fingers moving in air quotes above their heads.

 

“Ummmm...your last ‘girlfriend’ made you spank her and called you ‘Daddy.’” Veronica turned her head towards Logan and laughed.

 

“Hey...don’t kink-shame my women.” Logan shot back, a look of mischief twinkling in his eye.  “At least I know how to make them come, and generally, as a rule, do not fall asleep after.  I am kind and considerate, and leave their homes promptly, after a generous 30-minutes of snuggling.”

 

“Do you remember any of their names?  First and/or last name will do.”  Veronica giggled.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous,”  Logan replied.  “Last names are way too intimate.  Only first names are ever involved.”

 

Veronica laughed again and rolled on her side to face Logan, just as he rolled towards her.  For a moment they were quiet, smiling like fools at each other.

 

“Hey, best friend,” she said quietly.  “I’ve missed you.”

 

Logan nodded.  “I’ve missed you too.”

Chapter Text

Veronica turned slowly in the shower, allowing the six jets to massage every part of her skin.  She stopped and pressed one wrinkled hand against the wall, her head dropping back to allow the rain-shower wash gently over her face.  The nap she took this afternoon had helped with her jet lag, and the shower was the finishing touch to help her feel acclimated to California again.

 

She missed hot showers.  When her dad died her mom received everything with the exception of a small insurance policy that Keith left in Veronica’s name.  She assumed what money Lianne got went towards the fancy lawyers that kept her from staying in jail for involuntary manslaughter and the rest of the money was probably consumed in the form of expensive vodka and gin.  When he was alive, Keith had helped her pay for housing in New York, but with him gone, she had been forced out of her lovely little apartment and into a tiny hole-in-the-wall place that she could pay for by working on campus.  Most of the time, she was lucky if she got any hot water from the shower, and instead took to boiling water on the stove to heat up water for her old claw-foot tub.

 

With a sigh, she reached for the taps and turned off the water, lingering for a moment to enjoy the prickling that ran across her flesh as the intense heat disappeared.  She stepped out onto the mat and grabbed a towel, giving her body a quick rub to dry herself before tossing it over her hair.  A little moan of contentment escaped her as she rubbed the super-soft towel against her hair to dry it.  She missed this feeling of being naked after a shower in the heat – something you could get away with in Southern California but could only do in the summer in New York.  Breezing across the bathroom, she opened the door to her room.

 

“Thought you’d be in there for – holy shit!”

 

Veronica pulled the towel off her head, letting out a loud shriek of surprise as she launched herself backwards into the bathroom again.

 

“What are you doing there?” she yelled at Logan.

 

“I...just...waiting...I...” Logan stammered loudly from the bedroom.  “Why are you naked?”

 

Veronica wrapped the towel in her hand around her body, her heart pounding against her knuckles as she tucked the end tightly between her breasts.

 

“Because I was going into my room!” she called back.  Taking a deep cleansing breath, she marched back into the room.  “What are you doing in here?”

 

Logan was sitting up on the bed in jeans and a t-shirt, his hands covering his eyes.  “I came in to see if you wanted to go for a swim before dinner.  But you were in the shower so I just waited.  I didn’t think...I mean...like...do you always walk around naked?  Is this a thing?”

 

“No.  Not always.  But I usually live alone.”  Veronica rolled her eyes.  “Just keep your hands over your eyes; I have to change.”

 

Logan nodded and leaned back against the headboard, his hands still clamped down on his eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I really never thought you would choose naked over that lovely robe that is hanging on the back of the door.”

 

Crossing quickly to her open suitcase, she dug through, grabbing a bra, panties, and a jersey dress from inside.  She stood and slipped her underwear on under the towel, watching Logan to make sure he wasn’t about to sneak a peek as she changed.

 

“Fine.  Whatever.  This is all just a crazy situation anyway.  Let’s just chalk it up to that and move on,” she muttered, dropping her towel to put on her bra and slip her dress over her head.

 

“Okay.  But can I point out something ironic first?”  Logan said, a small smile pulling on his lips.

 

Veronica shifted to lean on the dresser, her eyes narrowing.  “Okay Alanis Morisette...what’s so ironic?”

 

A big toothy grin appeared as Logan licked his lips.  “Well, I appeared for Christmas with all this hair on my face but it seems as though the hair on your body has all disappeared.”

 

Veronica gasped.  It was true.  In anticipation of swimming every day and lounging in the hot tub, she had treated herself to a bikini and leg wax – something she used to do with Lilly on a regular basis, but had neglected in the passing years.

 

She blinked, and in the nanosecond her eyes were closed, the image of Logan’s bearded face, pressed intimately against her naked body flashed through her mind.  Heat flushed across her skin for a moment before she gained her composure.

 

“You shithead,” she said before scooping her towel off the floor and chucking it across the room, hard, at Logan’s head.  Not being able to see the projectile, Logan let out a yelp when it hit him square in the face.  He quickly tossed it off his head, his eyes connecting with hers.

 

“I’m sorry, I had to,” he replied, his eyebrow arching mischievously at her.  “Gotta keep up my jackass cred or you’ll think I’m going soft.”

 

Hands on her hips, Veronica sighed and shook her head, a smile creeping across her face.  “Going soft.  Does that happen to you often with naked women, Logan?”

 

Logan let out a throaty chuckle.  “Ooooo...obligatory penis joke comeback.  Nicely played.”  He hopped off the bed and strode towards her, a slight arrogant swagger to his walk.  A chill ran down Veronica’s spine as he approached, stopping inches in front of her.  She cast her gaze up at him as he towered above her.

 

“While this has been fun, I am actually going to go for a swim before dinner.  You can join me if you want.  Or not.”

 

Veronica’s breath caught in her throat for a moment.  “Yeah.  Just give me some time to get ready.”

 

Logan nodded and reached out to pat her shoulder.  “Sounds good,” he said, letting his hand linger for a moment before letting go.  “See you downstairs.”

 

“Okay,” she replied, continuing to stare into his eyes.  The smile slowly withdrew from Logan’s lips, his forehead wrinkling and his eyes narrowing.  Dropping his hand from her, he quietly left their room, closing the door behind him.

 

Exhaling deeply Veronica turned towards the mirror.  Her face was flushed, her pupils dilated.  “Keep it together, girl,” she said quietly to her reflection.

 

Over the years, she had learned to control her feelings for Logan, burying them down deep in her heart.  It seemed so much easier when they were teenagers.  When they first met, she was far too young to think of him as anything but Duncan and Lilly’s friend.  But then, when puberty finally struck, she found herself blushing deeply every time he was around.  The heartbreak of him and Lilly hooking up allowed her to push her feelings aside for years – turning to Duncan as an outlet for her emotions.  But over the past few years – as their friendship grew independent of the Kane siblings -- she found herself becoming a little too excited at the prospect of Logan driving up to New York to visit her for the weekend, every few months.  And so she tried to distract herself again with random boyfriends that made her feel nothing but boredom and regret.

 

But now, here with him in her room, in her bed, she knew she would have to work a little harder to keep her feelings from him, or chance losing him forever.

 

--------------------------------------

“Do you think that Mrs. Navarro would ship her chicken enchiladas to me in New York every week?”

 

Veronica lay on the puffy leather couch in the living room, one hand over her round belly.  The celebratory “Welcome Home” meal Lynn had planned included all of Veronica’s favorite foods and Veronica found herself unable to stop herself from stuffing herself almost sick.  Confined to a strict diet of Raman noodles and pasta in New York, the dinner left her feeling euphoric.

 

“Maybe I can make arrangements,” Logan laughed, flopping himself down on the couch across from her.  She glanced over to see him set down a big bottle of expensive tequila, a hand full of sliced limes, and a salt shaker onto the glass coffee table.

 

“Oh God, no more!” she gasped.  “If I put one more thing in my stomach I may explode.”

 

Logan pulled two shot glasses from his t-shirt pocket and planted them down by the bottle.  “But tequila and bullshitting until dawn is our tradition,” he countered, unscrewing the bottle and pouring a liberal amount into each glass.  “Besides, we need to celebrate.”

 

Veronica sat up with a groan, pulling her feet up next to her on the couch.  She was glad she decided to change back into her jersey dress after swimming – pants would have burst by this point.  “Celebrate what?”

 

Logan pushed a shot glass toward her before picking up the salt shaker.  Licking the back of his hand, he sprinkled salt on his skin.  “Celebrate how happy my mom is.  Did you hear her tonight?  I mean, she wasn’t manic, she was coherent, she was funny, she even mentioned going back to acting.”

 

Picking up the shot glass, Veronica smiled.   There was something dazzling about Lynn that night – a spark that she hadn’t seen in a long time.  When Veronica mentioned seeing some friends in off-Broadway productions, Lynn seemed to light-up, setting off a flurry of hysterically funny stories of her time in the theatre when she was younger.

 

“She was really happy, wasn’t she,” Veronica murmured, reaching across the table for the salt shaker.  Licking the back of her hand, she applied some salt before setting down the shaker and grabbing a lime wedge.

 

“Just wait until they deliver the tree and trimmings tomorrow,” Logan said, excitedly.  “I don’t think we’ve ever had a real tree in this fake house.  We can put everything up and decorate with her, and maybe it will bring her around completely.”

 

Glancing up at Logan, Veronica bit her lip to hold back a big smile.  Despite the beard, Logan looked like a happy little boy, getting excited for Christmas.  A few days prior to her arrival, he had convinced Lynn to let him do some decorating.   When she agreed, he set about ordering everything he had always wanted as a kid – a big Douglas fir tree, real strands of Holly, and wreaths made from twigs and pine boughs.

 

Veronica’s mind immediately jumped to Christmas’ past.  The year Lilly showed up at Logan’s with a crate full of random craft supplies and proceeded to lead Veronica, Logan, and Duncan in an impromptu ornament-making session.  So much glitter.  Everywhere.  On them.  On the floors.  On everything in the Echolls kitchen.  A pang of regret shot through Veronica’s heart as she realized it was probably Mrs. Navarro who had to clean up the mess.

 

Veronica raised her glass to him and winked.  “Well, it certainly sounds like a wonderful plan.  Just no glitter, okay?”

 

Logan raised his shot glass in response and nodded, letting out a soft chuckle as he caught the reference.  In a synchronized move they had done many times before, they dragged their tongues over the salt, letting it prickle on their taste buds, before downing their shots and popping the lime slices in their mouths.  They both brought their shot glasses down hard on the coffee table, letting out a small gasp of satisfaction.

 

“So what are we up to tonight?  Talking?  Watching a movie?  Truth or dare?”  Veronica sunk back into the couch, letting her body relax into the big cushions.

 

Logan shrugged and leaned forward to pour another round.  “I was thinking that just sitting around, getting drunk, and then going to sleep, had a nice ring to it.  These past few days with Mom have me completely wound up.”

 

Veronica nodded and leaned forward to grab her shot glass again.  “I’m good with that.  Let’s just drink until we can’t think.  About anything or anyone.”

 

His eyes narrowed at her for a moment, his forehead wrinkling as if he wanted to say something, but thought the best of it.  For a second, she held his gaze, a flush of warmth reaching up through her chest to her cheeks.  Drinking until she couldn’t think about her feelings for Logan was exactly what she needed tonight.

Chapter Text

Veronica woke with a start, momentarily dazed by the bright morning light filling the room.

What the hell was that noise?

“Ssssssnorrrrrk!”

Rolling onto her side, she reached out her arm, pressing down on the billowing pillow mountain that ran down the middle of the bed.

On the other side, Logan lay stretched out on his back, asleep in his sweats and a t-shirt, arms raised over his head, head bent awkwardly to one side, his mouth agape. A small trickle of drool dripped from the corner of his mouth and caught in his scraggly brown beard.

Veronica wrinkled her nose in disgust. She had a fleeting thought that, if she could find some clippers, she could shave at least part of his beard off as he slept, but the tequila she consumed last night made her stomach toss a bit at the thought of all the clumps of hair that would litter the bed.

Flopping back down on her side of the bed, she began running through the sequence of events from the night before in her mind.  Tequila.  Laughing.  Lots of bullshitting.  Tequila.  Raiding the fridge for ice cream.  More Tequila.  Attempting to start a fire in the fireplace.  Failing.  Even more laughing.  Even more tequila.  It all got a little blurry after that.  She was still in the clothes she had on last night, so she assumed she either made it upstairs with help or probably fell asleep on the couch and Logan managed to somehow carry or drag her up to bed.

“Ssssssnorrrrrk!”

Rolling onto her side, Veronica pressed her palm to the mattress and pushed herself up to a seated position.  She felt the contents of her stomach slosh around and she pressed her lips together, hard, to keep the ice cream and tequila from coming up on her.  Breathing through her nose, she closed her eyes for a moment as the room spun a few times before coming to a halt.

“Ssssssnorrrrrk!”

Opening one eye, she turned her head gently and glanced at Logan.  She would have to remember this moment the next time she found herself thinking about him – he was definitely not in peak fantasy form this morning.  With a small shake of her head, she rose and began to shuffle towards the bathroom in search of something to cure the headache she knew would develop once she was fully awake. 

Closing the door behind her, Veronica fixed her attention on the many, many drawers that made up the bathroom counter.  Opening the first one, she found brand new toothbrushes, in their packages, and a new tube of toothpaste. 

“Score!” 

She picked up a red handled toothbrush and the toothpaste before closing the drawer.  Opening the drawer next to it, she found a variety of hair-styling products and tools.  Still not what she needed, but still good to know about.

Pulling open the next drawer, she paused and frowned, before letting out a small scoff of a laugh.  Picking up the sealed box of XL condoms, she held them up and checked the expiry date.  They seemed to be new, but the question was, who put them there?  

“Interesting,” she muttered before dropping the condoms back into the drawer.  If Lynn thought Veronica and Logan were dating, did she put them in there when she was stocking the bathroom?  Or maybe she instructed Mrs. Navarro to do it?  Or what if it was Logan, thinking he was going to get lucky with some girl from town, before the whole “my mom thinks we’re dating” thing spoiled his potential good time?

Opening the next drawer, Veronica sighed with relief as she found a bottle of Advil.  Turning her attention back to her own needs at the moment, she opened the package and poured two pills into her palm before turning on the faucet and filling a glass to the brim with water.  Looking up at her reflection, she wrinkled her nose at herself; an unsettling feeling tickling through her veins.  Her hair was a mass of kinky curls, sticking out in all directions and deep purple bags under her eyes contrasted against her pale skin. Quickly popping the Advil into her mouth, she drank the water down in one long sip before replacing the glass to its holder on the counter.  Looking back at her reflection she realized what was so unsettling.

“I look like Lianne,” she said to her reflection, her brain morphing her own image with that of her mother’s. 

When Veronica was little, she would stand in the doorway to the bathroom, and watch her mom get ready for her day.  Lianne in front of the mirror, straightening her wild hair, covering the bags under her eyes with makeup, adding rouge to give her dehydrated complexion life, and taking two mysterious pills before heading out to her room to get dressed, Veronica following close behind.  Coming downstairs for breakfast later to find her dad overly happy to see her – a move she later realized was overcompensation for her mother's behaviour.  There were some memories alcohol could erase for Veronica and some memories it just made even more painful.

Refocusing her gaze, Veronica reached for the toothbrush and began ripping it out of the packaging.  If she was going to try and put all the other Christmas’ behind her, she was going to have to work harder.

She applied a generous amount of toothpaste and began scrubbing the hangover fur from her mouth, trying not to look at herself in the mirror.  When she was done, she dropped her toothbrush on the counter and stripped, leaving a trail leading to the shower.  Stepping inside, she turned on the water, gasping and jumping back as the first little bit of cold water hit her before the hot water emerged.  

Veronica lost track of time as she let the water wash all thoughts of Lianne and her dad off of her.  It wasn't until she noticed her skin turning lobster-esque that she realized she may have been under the hot water a little too long.  Turning off the shower and stepping into the bathroom, she reached for the big, white robe and tossed it on before entering the bedroom.

While she was gone, Logan's snoring had stopped, mainly because he had rolled onto his side, one leg tossed over the mountain of pillows, his arm squeezing one of them to his chest.

She couldn't help letting her gaze linger on his flexed bicep as it hugged the pillow.  There was something about how his t-shirt stretched across his muscles that always seemed to make her weak in the knees.  When they met up on the East coast, they often teased each other about their pasty-white appearance.  From the soft darkening of Logan's skin, in contrast to his white t-shirt, she guessed he had spent a lot of time in the last week, outside enjoying the West coast sunshine.

Logan shifted slightly and Veronica's breath caught in her chest at the unexpected movement.  He pulled the pillow closer and sighed.

"God, you feel good."

Veronica's mouth dropped open as Logan's leg pressed down onto the pillows.  He was obviously dreaming -- probably about one of the many women he had slept with in recent months.  The ones he talk about last night, while Veronica drank the pain of hearing about it away.

Sadness and longing rose in her, making her chest tight.  She needed to leave.  Now.

Grabbing a pair of jeans out of her suitcase, she threw them on under her robe.  Turning her back to Logan, she dropped her robe and tossed a grey NYU hoodie over her head, pulling it down her torso.  She slipped into a pair of sandals and quickly made her way towards the door.

As her fingers grasped the doorknob, Logan let out a deep sigh.

"I love you too."

Veronica stopped dead in her tracks, her heart beating hard in her chest.  Whoever he was dreaming about was not just a fling -- Logan was in love.  Veronica closed her eyes, feeling warm tears moisten her eyelashes.

Was it Lilly he was dreaming about?  Or someone else?  Someone he hadn't told her about last night.

Resting her forehead on the door, Veronica took a steadying breathe.  This was no time for jealousy -- they were, and always would be, just friends.  She had no right to feel this way, in fact she should be happy -- especially if this meant he was finally moving on from Lilly.

Slowly, Veronica raised her head and wiped her tears with the back of her hand.  Turning the doorknob gently as not to wake Logan, she slipped out of their room in search of breakfast.

----------------------------

As Veronica approached the kitchen island, Lynn looked up from the paper she was writing on, a dazzling smile across her lips.  Her short brown hair was tousled with a hairdresser’s precision and she was dressed in a stylish black pant-suit.  The low strains of the Nutcracker Suite streamed through the speakers placed in the walls around the room and Veronica thought, just for a moment that maybe Christmas would arrive at the Echolls’ after all.

“Well hello, Veronica.  I was starting to think I wouldn’t see either of you today.”

Veronica ducked her head, her cheeks growing hot from embarrassment.  Lynn probably thought Veronica and Logan had done more than just sleep in their room last night.  But the truth was very far from that assumption.

“What time is it?” Veronica continued to walk through the kitchen, avoiding Lynn’s eye, but following her nose towards the coffee pot.  Reaching for the handle, she was relieved to find it was still warm.

“11:30.  You both missed breakfast but I had Lettie leave you both a charcuterie platter -- some meats and cheeses and such -- for lunch.”

Veronica poured her coffee into one of the two ceramic mugs left out on the counter, taking a deep inhale of the warm, nutty scent that rose.  Cupping the mug with two hands, she turned towards Lynn and leaned against the counter.

“Thank you.  Does that mean that you won’t be joining us?”

Lynn folded the paper in front of her, running a red manicured nail across the fold before tapping it with the tip.

“No.  I really haven’t felt like Christmas shopping – until today, and my gosh – Christmas Eve is tomorrow night." Lynn let out a girlish giggle.  "The Christmas trees are supposed to arrive this afternoon and we will have nothing to put under them, so I’m going into town to find some last-minute things for you and Logan.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Veronica said, stepping toward Lynn and coming to stop across the island from her.  “I really can’t afford a lot of presents so I only brought a little something for you and Logan and Mrs. Navarro this year.”

Reaching out across the cool marble counter, Lynn lay her fingers gently on Veronica’s arm.  “Oh Veronica, please let me do this.  For you.  And Logan.”

Veronica’s body tensed, the memory of being cared for by a parent overtaking her.  It felt like so long ago that she barely remembered what it was like until Lynn reached out.

“I heard you and Logan last night – laughing and talking downstairs,”  Lynn said, her eyes locking with Veronica’s.  “Then upstairs – well I’m a little ashamed to say that I heard you both coming up the stairs -- giggling and whispering in the hallway before you went to bed.  And it just filled me with such joy to hear happiness and love in my home again.  I just want to give you both a very, merry Christmas.  That’s all.”

Biting her lip, Veronica lowered her eyes.  Another memory – more recent – came flooding back to her.  Last night.  Deciding to go upstairs to sleep.  Logan slipping his arm around her to help her stagger up the stairs.  For some reason, she couldn’t keep her hands off his beard, which they both found funny.  They were laughing – but quietly, as not to wake Lynn – as they headed towards the bedroom.  But then she sat down on the ground just outside and  when he opened the door, she wouldn’t move, so he took her hands and dragging her in across the carpet while she laughed.  She remembered he managed to pick her up and deposit her onto her side of the bed.  Then the image of him, standing above her, looking down at her as she lay there, his eyes turning dark and serious.  She remembered in the pit of her stomach and wished she had the guts to ask him to join her on ‘her’ side of the bed.  But instead, she rolled to her side and closed her eyes.  She didn’t remember the rest because she must have fallen asleep.

Veronica took a deep breath.  She wanted to tell Lynn how she felt about Logan.  She wanted to tell her how much she missed her father and even her mother.  She even wanted to tell her how she missed her best friend, Lilly, but she knew she couldn’t and shouldn’t.  So instead she nodded, a small smile forced across her lips.

“Thank you, Lynn.  That’s very thoughtful of you.”  Veronica took a short sip of her coffee, her eyes darting to the side in avoidance.

Lynn reached back to her note on the counter and folded it again before placing it in her bright red Birkin bag.  Tossing the purse over her shoulder she gave a little wave toward Veronica.

“Let Logan know that I found the ornaments this morning.  They’re the silver and gold ones in Aaro—I mean – the front office.”

Veronica nodded again and smiled.  “I'll tell him.  Have fun with all the other last minute shoppers in Neptune.”

Lynn threw her a wink as she strode across the kitchen.  “Oh sweetie, this is shopping.  I excel at this sport!”

A giggle escaped Veronica and she put her fingers against her lips to keep her coffee inside her mouth.  Listening as Lynn’s heels clicked across the foyer before the sound of the front door shutting signaled that Veronica could relax.

Bringing the coffee cup up to her lips again, she smiled at her reflection in the thick, black liquid. 

“Yes Veronica, there is a Santa Claus.  And she wears very high heels.”

 

Chapter Text

“A  little to the left.  No.  My left.” Veronica held her hand up and waved her palm indicating which ‘left’ she meant.

 

The two men positioned under the giant tree muttered something before shifting the tree in its stand ever so slightly to Veronica’s left – their right.  Hands on her hips, Veronica frowned, contemplating whether the tree was, in fact, straight.

 

“Looks good from here.”

 

Veronica turned to find Logan, standing near the bottom of the stairs, inspecting the garland-trimmed banister.  His hair was wet and his beard had been trimmed to a neat shape close to his face.  The black t-shirt he was wearing clung to his still damp body in spots, highlighting his toned torso.  He smiled a wide, toothy grin that reached all the way to his eyes.

 

“It’s better than I pictured it,” he said with delight.

 

With a small shrug, Veronica turned her attention back to the tree, with the workers still underneath.  “You heard the man – looks good.”

 

“Thank God,” one of the workmen said as they shimmied out from under the foliage.  “That’s it then.”

 

“Yes, thank you so much,” Veronica said, walking closer to the two.  “Everything looks great.”

 

“Everything also smells great,” Logan stated as he descended the final fews stairs, headed toward the group.

 

It did smell wonderful.  Veronica loved getting a real Christmas tree every year with her family.   She loved the way she would catch a whiff of the pine every morning when she came out of her bedroom.  She loved how her hands would get sticky with sap when she hung the lights.  She even loved crawling under the tree to water it every day, reminding her of playing in the trees in the yard at her Grandma Reynolds’s house when she was little.  The moment the workmen started hauling in the garlands, the scent instantly transported Veronica back to those special times, in her mind.

 

Logan reached inside his tight jeans pocket and pulled out two, one-hundred dollar bills.  The workman’s eyes lit up as he handed one to each.  “Merry Christmas, fellas.”

 

The men both nodded, large smiles on their faces.  “Thank you Mr. Echolls...Mrs. Echolls.  And Merry Christmas to you both.”

 

Veronica opened her mouth to correct the man but stopped when Logan slipped his arm around her waist, pulling her hip close to his. 

 

“Thank you,” he said, giving Veronica’s hip a slight squeeze.

 

A soft smile turned up on Veronica’s lips and she exhaled slowly, a warm glow spreading through her body.  They held their position for a moment as the men made their way to the door.  As soon as it closed, Logan dropped his hand from her, taking a step away to look around.

 

At exactly noon, two men with two trucks had shown up to deliver the “few” items Logan had ordered.  This included not one but two trees – a seven-foot Douglas fir for the sitting room and a twelve-foot fir for the main entryway.  There was a large wreath with a red ribbon on it for the front door, a garland with holly, berries, and red ribbons for over the fireplace that matched the one that now ran down the entire length of the banister to the main staircase.  Since Logan was still asleep and Lynn had left, Veronica set about instructing the men on where to put everything, all the while picking at the meats, cheeses, crackers, and fruit that was left for them for lunch.

 

“Nice work.  Apparently you have a knack for bossing people around like a rich, bored housewife.”

 

Veronica tossed her hair in an exaggerated movement over her shoulder, letting out a haughty little sigh.   “What can I say – you know I’m just going to NYU to get my M.R.S. degree, right?”

 

Logan chuckled, reaching around to rub the back of his neck, before tossing her a brilliant smile.  “Yeah.  Sure.  That sounds like you.”

 

Veronica let out a little sigh and walked over to stand beside him.  Together, they looked up towards the top of the monolithic tree.  “How are we even going to decorate this thing? It’s just way too big.”

 

“No such thing as too big.”  He countered with a wink.

 

Veronica let out a groan, putting her hands on her hips.  “Okay Paul Bunyan, you get to decorate everything over the five-foot mark.  I will decorate below.”

 

Logan chuckled.  “Deal.  When Mom’s in her heels, she’s pretty much my height so we can do the high parts for you.”

 

“Not going to happen, my friend,” Veronica said, gesturing towards the door to the office.  “She gave up on us ever getting out of bed and went shopping for Christmas presents.  But she left us the ornaments you wanted her to find.”

 

“She went out?  For real?”  Logan scratched his beard in thought.  “That’s a good sign.  I couldn’t even coax her to come out for dinner with me when I got home.”

 

“Speaking of which...walk and talk.  I need more food.” Veronica gestured for Logan to follow her as she made her way to the kitchen.  “She said she wanted to buy us some Christmas gifts, even though I told her she didn’t have to buy me anything, but she insisted.”

 

Bellying up to the island, Veronica snatched another piece of truffle-infused gouda off the platter and placed it on a cracker before popping it in her mouth.  Logan walked around to the other side and reached for a piece of prosciutto, which he rolled into a tube and popped into his mouth.

 

“So I guess we’re spending the rest of the day decorating?”  Veronica said as she prepared herself another expensive cheese-and-cracker morsel. 

 

“Yep.  That’s the plan.  Figured we could turn up the Christmas music...eat all the food...maybe make a mimosa or two?”

 

Veronica wrinkled her nose in disgust.  “No.  No more alcohol for me -- unless you want to make them ‘virgin’.”

 

Logan stroked his bearded chin, his face turning pensive.  “Hmmmm...I don’t think I’ve ever made someone a ‘virgin’ before...usually in the business of de-virginizing.  But as long as I have your concent...”

 

“Does your mind ever leave the gutter.”  Veronica giggled, shaking her head at him.   “Is sex really all you think about?”

 

He shrugged and looked down, focusing for the moment on making a line of crackers in front of him.  He paused a moment to place a piece of cheese on each before starting to assemble a folded piece of meat on top of that.

 

“Nah.  Not really,” he began, still not looking up.  “But it’s better than thinking about love – lost love, faded love, unrequited love – and all that goes along with it.”

 

Veronica’s eyes went wide with surprise – his change in mood throwing her.  He was in love.  Or at least pining for someone.

 

“Who is she?”  The words slipped from Veronica’s mouth before she could stop them.

 

Logan looked up and frowned.  “What do you mean?”

 

“Who is she?”  Veronica continued, hesitating as she gathered her nerve.  “I heard you this morning – you were dreaming – you said ‘I love you’ to someone in your dream, but you said it out loud.”

 

Logan’s lowered his eyes back towards his line of food, licking his lips slowly.  “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Veronica leaned her hands on the counter, becoming braver with her words.  “Not even with me?  Your best friend?  You don’t want to tell me who this mysterious new love is?”

 

 “Leave it alone Veronica.  Please.” Logan picked up a cracker and inspected it for a moment before popping it in his mouth.  “At least for now.  I shouldn’t have said anything in the first place.  I’m sorry.”

 

Pursing her lips, Veronica tapped her foot impatiently.  “Fine.”

 

She stared at Logan for a second, hoping he would change his mind and say something, but he continued to devour his line-up of food before starting to build another row of crackers, avoiding all eye contact with her.

 

With a small huff, Veronica turned away from the counter, unable to look at him anymore.  “I’m going to go get the ornaments.  Come and help me when you’re done eating.”

 

Veronica heard him mutter “okay” as she quickly made her way out of the room, but her mind was someplace else -- her brain already churning through what she could remember of their conversations last night.  She needed to find out about this mysterious woman – the one he was hiding from Lynn and was now hiding from Veronica.  Could she coax it out of him?  Trick him?  Or just yell at him until he spilled his guts?  It really didn’t matter to her at this point, she just needed to know before she left for New York, to give her mind some peace.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Four hours, three hundred glass balls, and what felt like ten-thousand tiny twinkling white lights later, Logan and Veronica stood at the bottom of the twelve-foot tree, admiring their work.  The smaller tree in the sitting room was much easier to decorate, but this massive fir required Logan to go out to the garage to find a six-foot ladder to wind the lights all the way to the top of it.

 

“It really is beautiful, Logan,” Veronica said, her eyes skimming the gold and silver balls once more.

 

“Good team effort,” he replied, his hand coming up to rest on her shoulder. 

 

Reaching up, Veronica placed her hand over his and they paused, savouring this perfect moment.  Dispite their awkward start, the two had quickly fallen back into their easy rapport – teasing, talking, laughing – as they decorated.  And as they did, Veronica began to relish the tiny intimacies that would take place as they moved around each other.  Logan letting his palm rest briefly on the small of her back as he manouvered around her, winding the lights around the tree.  Veronica running her fingers through his hair to brush away the pine needles.  Logan offering his hand to her, to help her off the ground after she crawled under the tree to water it for the first time.  With each simple touch, Veronica’s heart began to wish that the charade of being a couple would somehow turn real.

 

“Just one more thing – ” he said, dropping his hand from her shoulder and moving to the box of decorations.  Reaching in, he pulled out a sparkling silver star, covered with tiny crystals.  “I think you need to do the honours and put this on top of our tree.”

 

Our.

 

Placing her palm over her heart, Veronica shook her head, overwhelmed by the thought of her and Logan together.

 

“I – I don’t think I’m tall enough,” she said, quietly, attempting to make a joke to cover her emotions.

 

“If you get on the ladder you should be,” Logan replied, gesturing toward the ladder standing near the wall.  “It’s a six-foot ladder.  You’re five-feet tall.  That’s eleven-feet.  You just need to stretch your arm up to compensate for the extra foot.”

 

Veronica gave a little snort-laugh at Logan’s explaination.  Handing the star over to her, he jogged around the tree and shuffled the ladder closer to where she was standing.  With a deep sigh, she looked up the ladder then back down to Logan, who was now holding on to one of the rungs, securing it in place.

 

“Come on.  You’ll be fine.  I’ve got you,” he said, reaching out his hand to her.

 

“Oh, God – ” Veronica muttered before taking his hand.   Guiding her to the ladder, he stepped back to let her take the first step before coming in closer, his body closing in on hers as he grabbed the other side of the ladder to steady it.

 

“Don’t worry.”  Logan moved his lips closer to her ear, speaking in a low, soothing voice.  “I’ve got you.”

 

A chill ran down Veronica’s spine and for a split second, she considered gathering her nerve, turning around, and kissing him.  Instead, she took another deep breath and began to ascend the ladder.

 

Once she got to the last rung, she stopped, reaching up to try and plant the star on the highest bough, but coming up a little short.  “I can’t reach!”

 

“Go right to the top of the ladder!” Logan countered.

 

“I can’t!  You’re not supposed to actually stand on the very top of the ladder!”

 

“Who says?”

 

“Uhhhhh....everyone?  My dad showed me that it actually says on the ladder somewhere that you shouldn’t do it.”

 

There was a pause in the argument and she looked down to see Logan searching the ladder for evidence of her claim.

 

“Huh.  I guess you’re right,” he replied, returning to his original position.  “The little man in the picture does say that.”

 

Before she could launch a counter-snark to his admission, the ladder moved slightly and she watched in horror as Logan began to climb the steps towards her.

 

“What are you doing?” she shrieked, holding on to the top of the ladder with one hand while trying to balance the star in the other.

 

Logan’s body brushed against hers as he made it to the step just under her.  “Go up to the top.  I’ll hold you.”

 

“What?”  she gasped.  “That’s insane!  We’ll both fall and break our fool necks!”

 

“Then at least we’ll go together,” he replied, his hands reaching out to take hold of her hips.  “Come on.  Just trust me.”

 

Veronica bit her lip, hard.  She knew in her head that this was a very bad idea...but....

 

With a resolved sigh, she let go of the ladder, letting Logan’s hands brace her before she took a tentative step up to the top.  Focusing on the top bough, she quickly planted the star on top before sliding her foot back down to the safety of the rung.  Her heart was beating wildly and she gripped the top of the ladder, her knuckles turning white.

 

“See.  I told you I’ve got you.”  Logan whispered, his lips so close to her ear that his beard tickled her neck ever so gently. 

 

His chest pressed along her back, Veronica could feel his heart beating hard against her, one hand still holding her hip firmly.  This was it.  She couldn’t take the torture of holding her feelings for him in for one minute more.  If he loved someone else, she needed to know, and if he didn’t, well, she needed to know that too.

 

“Logan – ” she began, her voice hushed.  “I need to tell you something.”

 

“What?”

 

“Ho ho ho!  Merry Christmas!”

 

Veronica and Logan’s heads snapped towards the door that Lynn had just thrown open.  In one hand, she carried a bunch of bags, filled with wrapped presents; in the other she carried what appeared to be a fluffy red mink stole.

 

“Oh my God!  What are you two doing up there?” Lynn exclaimed, stopping in her tracks near the bottom of the tree.

 

Logan cleared his throat before scampering down the ladder.  “Just putting the finishing touches on the tree, Mom.”

 

Veronica stayed frozen in place, watching as Logan went over and kissed Lynn on the cheek before taking the bags from her hands and heading toward the sitting room.

 

“You know, two people shouldn’t be on a ladder.  That’s very dangerous.”  Lynn called after Logan as he retreated.

 

“Yeah.  Thanks for the tip, Mom!” Logan hollered back from the other room.

 

Quietly, Veronica descended the ladder.  At the bottom, Lynn walked up to her, giving her a quick motherly kiss on the cheek.

 

“Oh Veronica, I can’t wait for you to see what I got you!  Christmas morning is going to be so much fun!”

 

Lynn slipped her arm into Veronica’s, leading her into the sitting room.

 

“I’m looking forward to it,”  Veronica murmured, trying to sound excited but voice falling flat.

 

Lynn tossed her fur over the back of the couch and proceeded to give an eloquent monologue about her adventures in shopping.  But Veronica didn’t hear a word, her focus instead turning inward, thinking about what would or could have happened if she admitted her feelings to Logan just moments ago.  Her head finally concluded that her heart was delusional, and it was for the best that Lynn interrupted them before Veronica said something she would regret later.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Veronica lay in bed, staring at the ceiling as the reflection from the pool lights shining through the outside the window danced above her.  Through the bathroom door, she could hear the rhythmic shushing sound of Logan brushing his teeth.  She had hoped that she would be asleep before he came to bed, but here she lay in the semi-darkness, with a large pile of pillows next to her, keeping her warm.

 

Logan was quite proud of the pillow-wall he built tonight – having apparently improved on his original design from last night in a way that Veronica didn’t quite understand but nodded approvingly when he told her.  Now she just waited for him to join her on his side of the wall.

 

The click of the bathroom light made her jump as he opened the bathroom door.  She heard him crawl into bed – the mattress shifting slightly on her side as he did -- and let out a long, low sigh.

 

“Busy day,” she said into the darkness.

 

“That it was,”  he replied.

 

For a moment, the only sound it the room was the both of them breathing.

 

“Hey Veronica?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Thanks again for putting up with all this.”

 

Veronica let out a sigh.  “There’s nothing to put up with.  I enjoyed today.”

 

“You did?”

 

“Yeah.  Why?”

 

Another silence drifted between them before Logan spoke again.  “I don’t know.  You just seemed kind of preoccupied, that’s all.”

 

Closing her eyes, Veronica pulled the covers up to her chest.  “I know.  I’m sorry.  I just have a lot going on in my head right now.  Okay?”

 

She heard the cluck of Logan snapping his tongue in his mouth.  “Yeah.  Okay.”

 

Another silence, this one lasting so long that Veronica was sure Logan had fallen asleep.  Rolling onto her side, facing the pillows, she let out another deep sigh.

 

“Hey Veronica?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re here.  You’ve been around for every Christmas for the past, like, ten years.  Even the shitty ones.”

 

Veronica let out a small chuckle.  “Thanks.  I think.”

 

“What I’m saying is that, with you around, it feels like Christmas.”

 

Veronica’s cheeks warmed as she smiled.  “Really?”

 

“Yeah.  Really.  So thanks for coming.”

 

Closing her eyes, a calm swept through Veronica’s body.   She loved Logan so much, but this -- being best friends with him -- was not something she wanted to lose.  Ever.

 

“Thanks for inviting me.  Good night, Logan.”

 

There was another small silence before she heard him speak quietly into in the darkness.

 

“Good night, Veronica.”

Chapter Text

The love/hate relationship Veronica had with her favorite little black cocktail dress continued. Straining to contort her arms around her back, flailing for the tiny zipper, she let out another loud groan. She had managed to get the zipper up to the middle of her back before losing the pull from her grasp. If she was at home, getting ready for a date, she would have used the wire hanger she had fashioned into a hook, just for this very job, but she was sure that Lynn was a ‘no wire hangers’ sort of woman, and didn’t expect to find one in her closet.

Logan knocked from the other side of the bathroom door. “You okay in there?”

With a resolved sigh, Veronica dropped her hands to her sides. “No. Come in. I need help.”

Catching his reflection as Logan entered the room, Veronica smiled. “Can’t get the zipper on my dress up all the way.”

Logan winked at her, returning her smile, walking up behind her while keeping her gaze in the mirror. He was dressed in a dark navy blue suit, a crisp white shirt underneath with the top few buttons open just enough to show the ridges of his collarbone.

“This is exactly the kind of thing pretend-boyfriends are good at. Zippers.”

Veronica reached around her back, sweeping her long curls away. Lynn had requested that they all dress-up for Christmas Eve dinner, and so Veronica spent a good amount of time curling her hair and doing her make-up, as if she was going to a night at the symphony, and not just a catered dinner downstairs.

“Thank you. I was starting to think I would have to dislocate my shoulder to get it.” Glancing back up at the mirror, she caught Logan’s eye again as he stood directly behind her. His smile had disappeared and he gazed back at her with a darkened eyes.

His hand gripped the bottom of the zipper, brushing her lower back and causing all the hair on her body to stand at attention. Her breath hitched as his fingers grasped the zipper pull, brushing against the exposed skin beneath her black lace bra. Slowly, he dragged the zipper up until it reached the top of her dress – his eyes never straying from hers. Reaching up, he cupped her shoulders with his hands.

“You look beautiful tonight.” His voice was thick, barely above a whisper.

Veronica’s eyes traveled down her outfit – the jewel neckline of her dress came up and across her collarbone, the fitted bodice hugging the curves of her torso before flaring out over several layers of black tulle. The warm California weather made her abandon her usual black stalkings in favour of a pair of strappy black high-heeled sandals that gave her about two-inches more in height.

“Thank you,” she replied quietly. “You look good too.”

He nodded, frowning slightly. “Look, I know this whole ‘playing a couple’ thing isn’t exactly how you pictured this Christmas, but if we can just get through tonight at dinner and tomorrow, then we shouldn’t have to pretend anymore after that.”

“Why? What do you mean?” Veronica’s frown now matching Logan’s.

“I mean we really only have to spend time with my mom for, what, the next 24 hours? And then you leave the day after Christmas so it’s done.”

Veronica’s heart tightened. “Yeah. Right.”

The silence that fell between them seemed to take with it all the air from the room. Averting her gaze from his, Veronica shrugged her shoulders in an exaggerated movement and Logan dropped his hands from her skin.

“We should go downstairs,” she murmured, turning her back on Logan and walking towards the bathroom door.

Crossing the bedroom, she hurried over to the dresser, picking up the silver cuff bracelet she had set out and clasping it around her wrist. This time, she kept her eyes safely averted from Logan’s reflection as he joined her in the room. She knew in her head this was a fake relationship. She knew that their time together was fleeting and it wasn’t supposed to be anything but two friends, together for the holidays. But each time Logan touched her, she was sure her heart would leap out of her chest. The intensity of his gaze in the bathroom, the way he lingered as he did up her dress, the way he touched her shoulders – something about all of it just felt so...intimate...as if she wasn’t alone in her feelings. It was all too much to process, so for now, it would have to wait.

Taking a deep breath, she paused before turning around, a fake smile plastered to her lips. “Shall we go?”

Logan nodded, taking a step before opening the door for her. With a small nod of recognition, Veronica walked into the hallway, forcing all her feelings for Logan down into the pit of her stomach once more.

-------------------------------------------------------------

“We should have all worn sweatpants, Mom. You ordered enough food for an army.” Logan flopped down onto the couch next to Veronica, his arm extending out along the pillows behind her.

“I think my dress may pop a seam,” Veronica said, leaning back a bit onto his arm as she propped her feet up onto the coffee table to stretch out. Logan did likewise and she glanced up at him and smiled.

“You’re supposed to stuff yourselves on Christmas Eve,” Lynn replied, walking over to the two with a tray of filled champagne glasses. “Here – the bubbles from the champagne will do your stomach’s good.” She placed the tray on the coffee table, handing a glass to Veronica and then Logan before sitting down in the chair near them with her own glass in hand.

Logan leaned his glass toward Veronica and she tapped her glass against his, making a beautiful ringing sound as the crystal vibrated from the touch. Lynn had the caterers prepare a full course meal of turkey, stuffing, and vegetables – each dish seemed to be a build up to another more delicious dish, until the final dessert of chocolate mousse sent Veronica over the edge.

“I think that could be the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” Veronica stated, taking a sip of champagne.

“I really want to say something very, very dirty, but it’s Christmas Eve, so I'll refrain,” Logan said with a laugh before taking a long sip of his drink.

Lynn shook her head, standing up from her chair with a sigh. “Oh Logan. Can’t we just have an elegant, civilized dinner without the comments?”

Logan exchanged glances with Veronica, a twinkle of mischief in his eye. “Nope. Not going to happen. Sorry Mom.”

“Well, then,” she said, walking over to the kitchen and grabbing a large envelope from the counter before heading back. “I have no choice but to embarrass you in front of your girlfriend.”

Logan sat up straighter, dropping his feet to the ground. A smug smirk crossed Lynn’s dark red lips as she sat back down in her chair. Reaching out, she handed the envelope to Veronica.

Sitting up, Veronica put her feet down on the ground and placed her glass on the table. “What is this?”

Lynn waved her hand in the air and giggled. “Open it. I found this when I was going through the storage downstairs, looking for the Christmas decorations.”

“Oh God,” Logan muttered next to her. “If it’s a baby picture of me naked on a bearskin rug, I’m leaving.”

Veronica laughed as she opened the flap of the envelope before pulling out the clear plastic folder inside. Logan’s breath hitched next to her before he let out a small groan. The words on the outside of the binding read:

Logan Echolls
Visual Arts – Grade 8 – Room 104
"Beauty" Project

Opening the binder to the first page, Veronica gasped to see her own young, smiling face looking back at hers. It was a photo of her, seated at one of the benches at school, her head slightly angled towards the ground, and she was pushing back her long, blond hair off her face. It was obvious from the picture that she had been surprised and amused by the photographer, her eyes lit up with happiness. Veronica flipped the page to find another photo of herself, standing at the beach; her jeans rolled up to her knees, standing at the edge of the ocean, her hair flying in the wind. Although the photo was of her from behind, the back of the soccer shirt she had on clearly said “MARS 31”.

“I had to do a project for art class.” Logan began speaking quietly next to her. “We were supposed to go out and find beauty in the world and capture it somehow, with our art.”

Emotion rushed up to Veronica’s face, prickling her nose and eyes. “Me?”

Logan chuckled. “Back then, I was pretty sure you were the most beautiful creature ever to walk the face of the earth.”

Veronica flipped the page again, her hand shaking slightly as she did. The next picture was of her, leaning over to another person – Lilly – and whispering something in her ear. Lilly was obscured by Veronica’s hand, cupping her ear, but the smile on Veronica’s face, and the way her eyes were lit up with excitement were in full view.

“And now,” Veronica said quietly, turning to look Logan in the eyes. “What do you think of me now?”

Logan licked his lips, pausing for a moment as his eyes scanned her face. “I still think, and will always think, that you are the most beautiful woman in the world.”

She wanted to cry. She wanted to kiss him. She wanted to throw her arms around him and tell him to never let go. But as her mind ran through all the things she wanted to say and do, all that came out of her mouth was:

“Oh.”

Logan licked his lips again, a wide grin stretching across his face. Leaning over towards her, he placed a delicate kiss on her forehead, his beard scratching her nose. When his face realigned with hers, Veronica smiled.

Logan’s arm came around to rest across her shoulders, his hand dropping onto her bare arm. Glancing back down at the school project, Veronica’s cheeks began to radiate heat. Trying to keep her emotions in check, she continued to flip through the project. Veronica at soccer practice. Veronica sitting up high in a tree.  Veronica tossing a ball for Backup to fetch, in her back yard. Logan’s hand came down before she could flip to the last page.

“Don’t look at that one,” he said quietly.

“Why?” She looked out of the corner of her eye, narrowing her eyes with confusion.

“Your dad is in it.”

Looking down at Logan’s large hand spread protectively across the page, she pressed her fingers to his and gently guided them out of the way before flipping the page. The final image was of Keith, dressed in his Sherriff uniform, his arms around Veronica as her legs kicked back in the air, her arms around his neck. The photo looked like it was from the same day as the picture of her and Backup, as she was wearing the same jean shorts and t-shirt. Since she was still just shy of five-feet at that age, she could still easily launch herself at her dad for a giant hug. Veronica forced herself to look at her dad, just one more time, seeing his eyes lit up, a giant smile on his face, as he caught her.

One tear managed to escape before Veronica took a deep, steadying breath, her chest aching as she fought to keep control. Closing the book, she wiped the tear from her face, bringing the book to her chest and squeezing it tightly.

“I don’t remember you doing this,” she said, her voice quivering slightly as she spoke.

“I never told you about my project. It was just a few weeks where I carried around my camera, taking random shots of us all,” he explained. “But then I made this.”

Veronica sniffled, turning her head towards him. “What was your grade?”

“B+. The teacher thought my composition was off on a few shots.” Logan chuckled.

“Well, there, you see – it was all meant to be,” Lynn said, rising from her chair again and walking over to the Christmas tree near the window. “Logan and Veronica. Veronica and Logan.”

Logan heaved a deep sigh. “Mom, please.”

“Oh hush,” she said, waving her hand dismissively at him. “All the great romances start with a great origin story. And you spending your pre-pubescent years pining for the woman you ended up with is yours.”

Veronica placed her hand up to her lips, trying to hide her widening smile. Glancing between Logan and Lynn, she couldn’t help but giggle at the shade of red the exposed pieces of skin on Logan’s face were turning. Good thing he had that beard to cover the rest up.

“Just...fine...whatever...” he sputtered, his hand waving back at her in some motion that Veronica couldn’t tell was dismissive or just mildly frantic over what was happening. “Mother, just be helpful and hand me the black box with the red bow on it, please.”


Lynn raised her champagne glass to him and took a sip before crouching to the bottom of the Christmas tree. Growing up, it was Lynn’s family tradition that everyone opened one gift on Christmas Eve. And tonight, they were going to carry on that tradition. Pulling out a small, flat black box, she fluffed the bow before taking two more gifts in her hand and rising again. Juggling the boxes and her glass, she made her way back to the coffee table, placing the black box in front of Veronica and a long red box with a blue bow in front of Logan. She kept the small white box for herself and returned to her seat.

“Logan, you go first,” Lynn said, tilting her glass towards him.

Logan nodded, bringing his arm from around Veronica; he sat forward, reaching for the present. Picking it up, he read the tag, “To Logan, Love Mom.”

Pulling the top of the box off, Logan let out a low whistle. Reaching inside, he pulled out a soft brown leather satchel, a small metal plate baring the initials “L.E.” was on the front clasp.

“I thought that since you are at school to become a professor, you should have a bag for your books that makes you look like a professor,” Lynn said.

Logan nodded, smiling up at Lynn. “Thanks, Mom. This really is great.”

“Oh! Now my turn!” Lynn said happily. “To Lynn, From Veronica.”

Opening the small box, Lynn gave a little squeal of delight. “Oh Veronica, they’re beautiful!” Reaching inside, she pulled out two ornate antique rhinestone earrings. The top of the earrings formed a small flower before a line of rhinestones dropped down to end at a tear-shaped stone.

“I know they’re fake, but the woman in the thrift store said they were from the 1950s and I though you would like them,” Veronica explained. “I didn't have a lot of money to spend.”

“They’re lovely. Thank you so much,” Lynn said as she began removing her diamond earrings to replace them with her gift.

“Now you,” Logan said, reaching over to hand Veronica her gift. “From me.”

Veronica looked down at the box. “Too small to be a Porsche,” she teased.

“And too big to be earrings,” he replied.

Scrunching up her nose in anticipation, Veronica lifted the lid, gasping as she saw her gift. Inside the box was a delicate strand of pearls, held with an antique gold clasp.

“The pearls,” she whispered.

“The same ones,” Logan replied. “The ones we saw this summer in that little antique store in Soho, when I came to visit.”

“The ones I wanted so much,” she replied, lifting the necklace from the box and holding it up to look at.

“The ones I made a completely disgusting ‘pearl necklace’ joke about that made the owner blush, then had to call her from my hotel that night to purchase them and have her send them directly to my place in Boston,” Logan chuckled. “FYI…she remembered me.”

Veronica gave a small laugh. “Yeah. That’s them.” Sweeping her hair from around her back, she turned away from Logan, but held the pearls up in the air. “Put them on me?”

Logan’s hand closed around hers, holding it for a moment before taking the pearls from her. She heard the click of the clasp before he brought them around her, his fingers grazing the soft dip in the back of her neck as he secured them. Veronica’s fingers came up to touch the cool pearls that now lay against her collarbone.

“Thank you,” she murmured, glancing over her shoulder at him. “I love them.”

“I’m glad,” he replied in a whisper, his breath caressing her cheek.

Veronica closed her eyes briefly, inhaling the sandalwood scent of his cologne. This was all too good to be true. There was no denying now that he had some strong feelings for her. The question was, what should Veronica do now?

“Picture time!”

Lynn’s exclamation shocked Veronica out of her head and she jumped a little on the couch. Lynn stood and hurried over to the kitchen, picking up a point-and-shoot camera, and gesturing for Veronica and Logan to follow.

“Come on! I want to get a photo of you kids near the big tree!” she said, waving her hand towards the foyer.

“Oh, God...Mom...” Logan began, standing up and putting his hands on his hips, as if he was a teenager still.

Veronica giggled, rising close to him. “Oh come on – it’ll be fun.” Taking his hand she smiled at him, tugging him to follow her.

He let out a deep sigh as she pulled him towards the spot where Lynn was standing. Once there, Lynn put her hands on Veronica’s shoulders and shimmied the duo into place.

Standing stone still, the two held hands, facing Lynn – slightly unsure what to do next.

“You two look like some old married couple!” Lynn complained as she moved back to take the photo. “Logan! Put your arms around your girlfriend, please.”

With a shrug, Logan turned to face Veronica, a frown crossing his brow. She fake-frowned back before giving him a playful swat to the arm. “Come on. One picture for Mom.”

“Fine,” he said and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him.

The heat of desire began to pulse through Veronica as their bodies pressed together. In the hopes of giving them some space, she pulled her hands up, placing them between their bodies on his chest. She looked up to see him staring straight at the camera.

“Now darlings, look up.”

Together, Logan and Veronica looked above them to the archway they were under.

Mistletoe.

“Who put that there?” Logan demanded, dropping his eyes back to shoot daggers at his mother.

“You’re not the only one who can climb a ladder,” Lynn snarked at her son. “Now give your girlfriend a kiss for posterity.”

Veronica’s glanced up into Logan’s eyes, watching as they turned from annoyance to surprise to twinkling mischief. She licked her lips and smiled back at him.

“If your mom insists,” she teased. “You’d better do what she says.”

Logan’s tongue darted across his lips. “Well, if you're sure -"

Rising up on her tiptoes, their lips met, pressing gently against each other. Veronica saw the flash from the camera behind her closed eyelids but she didn’t open them, instead shifting to grasp Logan’s shirt tightly so he wouldn’t pull back.

Logan shifted too, his head moving sideways as her lips followed his, hungry to keep their connection. Veronica’s whole body vibrated as all thoughts in her head began to vanish. It was just her and Logan, Logan and her.

Finally pulling away from their kiss, Veronica opened her eyes to find Logan looking down at her, still smiling.

“Mom?”

Lynn giggled. “Yes Logan.”

“Say ‘good night’, Mom.”

Veronica bit her lip to keep back a laugh.

“Good night you two,” Lynn said, the sound of her heels quickly walking past them echoing in the foyer. “Merry Christmas!”

The two didn’t move from their spots as Lynn’s heels retreated up the stairs to her room; the sound of the bedroom door closing signalling they were alone.

Logan’s thumb brushed against Veronica’s cheek and she closed her eyes, leaning herself into his palm.

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” he said.

“Then why didn’t you tell me when I showed up this week?” She asked, opening her eyes to meet his gaze.

“I really was going to when you got here, but then that whole misunderstanding happened with my mom thinking we were a couple, and you really didn't want to be here anyway and then you seemed really pissed off to have to 'pretend' to be my girlfriend, that I panicked. And last year, when I wanted to tell you how I felt, it just seemed, I don’t know....weird...to tell you on the first anniversary of my fiancée – your best friend – leaving me at the altar. I mean, I thought you may think I was doing it because of that.  And I was still afraid that you may still have feelings for Duncan.”

Veronica leaned her body closer to his. “And now...why?”

“Why?  Because I’ve been enthralled with you since the moment I first met you on the soccer field when we were 12 years old. Because I never thought I was good enough or smart enough to be with you, and I wanted to wait until I made something of myself. Because I was going to tell you after Christmas last year, but then your dad died and I didn’t want us to be together because you were feeling sad and lost. Because I have loved every minute of being your best friend.” Logan took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before continuing.

“Because I don’t know if my heart can take another year of me hiding my feelings for you. Because if you haven’t noticed yet, I am madly, passionately, and extraordinarily in love with you, Veronica Mars.”

Veronica bit her lower lip, trying to contain the immense joy that was spreading through her body.

“I love you, Logan Echolls. And I have, for a long time too.”

Logan pulled her closer and her arms slipped up and around his neck as his lips brushed hers again. She closed her eyes, relishing the gently passes of his lips against hers, before opening her mouth ever so slightly, deepening their kiss. Her fingers threaded through his hair and she moved with him as his head moved back and forth, letting his tongue begin to explore her mouth. When the tip of her tongue met his, a moan rose from the back of her throat and echoed through him.

She began to feel light headed, dizzy from the emotions surging through her and she anchored herself to him, grabbing his lapel with her hand. Her lips began to throb as they continued their connection, and her upper lip became itchy as she realized his beard was scratching her skin. Pulling away from their kiss, she let out a little laugh, covering her mouth with her hand.

“What’s wrong?” 

“Scratchy beard." She reached up to tweak the wiry hairs on his chin. “I’ll get used to it.”

“Good.” He chuckled, leaning down to rub his beard against the soft nape of her neck causing her to squeal.  "Because I still like it."

Reaching down, she found his hand and threaded her fingers through his. “Come on,” she said, swinging his arm with hers slightly. “We need to go to bed soon.”

“Really?”

Veronica looked up, playfully wiggling her eyebrows at him. “Santa Claus comes tonight. We need to make sure we’re tucked into bed before he arrives.”

“Oh, right.” Logan replied, giving her a knowing wink. "Stocking stuffing and all that."

Walking towards the stairs, Veronica held Logan’s hand and he followed her as they began to climb.

“So when we get up there,” Logan said as he walked behind her. “We’re going to go straight to bed?”

“We’re going to bed,” Veronica replied, a coy little tease in her voice. “But we’re not going to sleep. Not for a while.”

Stopping at their bedroom door, Veronica turned, her back against the door frame. Logan stopped just inches away and smiled down at her.

“Whatever you want, Veronica.” Logan leaned over and kissed her forehead. “I would be content just to hold you in my arms all night, but we can go further, if you want. It’s all up to you.”

Veronica reached out and opened the door to the bedroom. Taking Logan’s hand once more, she led him into the dark room before closing the door for the night.

Chapter Text

Logan’s hand rested for a moment on Veronica’s hip before making its way across the smooth satin fabric of her dress, his arm wrapping around her waist.  She paused in the darkness, allowing him to come closer, his body pressing against her back.  Keeping her fingers threaded through his, she wrapped his other arm around her waist, her head dropping back to rest on his chest.  The wirey bristles of his beard tickled her neck and she giggled; when his lips met the soft skin just under where her pearl necklace lay, her giggle turned to a soft moan of pleasure.

 

“What now?” he whispered before planting another kiss on her nape.

 

“Sit down on the bed.”

 

Releasing her from his grasp, Logan walked around her and dutifully sat on the edge of the bed, his arms stretching behind him, his palms pressed to the mattress.  Veronica’s eyes adjusted to the darkness – the lights from the pool casting a soft glow through the windows -- Logan’s jacket was spread open, his white button down shirt straining slightly against his muscular chest.  The thought of ripping open the shirt and ravaging him did dance through her head, but instead, she walked slowly over to him, hiked up the skirt of her dress ever so slightly and climbed up to straddle his lap.

 

His hand came around her waist as he sat up slightly, grasping her lower back to hold her closer.  The bulge of his fly pressed against her lace underwear and she moved slightly to escape the jolt of pleasure that shot through her. Now, nose to nose, she gave him a quick kiss on the lips before retreating.

 

“I have some questions...” she began softly.

 

“Of course you do.” Logan chuckled, his eyes twinkling with happiness. “You wouldn’t be you without some form of questioning.”

 

He shifted back on the bed, taking Veronica with him and lay down, his hands coming up behind his head as she still sat perched above him. 

 

“Okay.  I’m comfortable now.  Shoot!”

 

Veronica smiled down at him and placed her hands to rest on his chest.  “So, tell me honestly...did your mom really ‘mistake’ us for a couple, or did you set that up?”

 

“What?  You don’t believe me?”  Logan clutched his chest with one hand and gasped dramatically.  “I saw you space out when she started going on about her misadventures in shopping – can you see how I started ignoring her when she goes on one of her tangents?”

 

“Okay.  I get the ‘tuning out’ part,” she said with an exasperated sigh.  “But you gave her no indication about your feelings for me?”

 

Rolling his eyes, Logan stretched his arm back behind him.  “Well, I think she could have guessed – considering that you are, in fact, all I talk about.  She just made a lucky guess that you were the one I was pining for and happened to catch me with my guard down.  That’s it, I swear.”

 

Veronica let out a small chuckle, dropping her forehead to his chest for a second before raising it back up to look at him once more. “What is this?  What are we doing?”

 

Logan’s eyes darted around the room before catching her gaze again.  “Uhhh?  Do you mean tonight or in general?”

 

“Both,” she replied, biting her lip to keep from laughing.

 

“I would say, in general – considering our relationship is only –” He raised his hand to glance at a fake wristwatch before returning his hand behind his head. “ – approximately 15 minute old – that we are going to date while we are still both in school before we decide how and where we will settle down.  But again, not having a lot of time to consider this, that's my best answer.”

 

“So...seeing each other on school breaks and stuff,” she added.  “Calls every night?”

 

“Yes, exactly.  Kind of like being best friends, but I reserve the right to initiate phone sex now that we are dating.”

 

Licking her lips, she quirked her eyebrow at him.  “Ah yes...sex.  Does that mean we are going into a strictly monogamous relationship then?”

 

Logan chuckled.  “Well, I know we haven’t actually had sex yet, but yes, I am pretty damn sure that you are the only person I want to have sex with.  Ever.  And as often as humanly possible....please and thank you.”

 

Veronica rolled her tongue around her cheek, trying to keep serious about her questions, but her smile giving her playfulness away.  “So does that mean the condoms in the bathroom are yours?”

 

“Yes, they are,” he said, running his palm over his beard.  “I brought them, just in case I actually had the guts to tell you how I really felt about you this year.  And, like, you felt the same way.”

 

“So, did you tell me you love me just so we would have sex?” she questioned, crossing her arms over her chest, trying to act serious but the twisted, silly grin on her face giving her away.

 

“That’s exactly why I said that!  How did you guess my evil motives?” Logan stroked the end of his beard with his thumb and forefinger, his eyes narrowing in an attempt to look dastardly.  “Did the beard give it away?”

 

Veronica giggled, lowering herself down to lay on top of Logan, her forehead resting just under his chin.  He kissed the top of her head gently before wrapping his arms around her once more.

 

“And just in case I need to say it again, we don’t actually have to have sex tonight, if you don’t want to rush things.”  Logan began stroking her hair, and Veronica let her body relax into his.  “I would just be happy if the pillow wall came down for a night or two.”

 

Letting out a contented sigh, Veronica paused.  For the first time in a long time, her brain and her heart seemed to be in sync, and they were both sending her the same message.

 

“Logan?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can you help me with my zipper?”

 

There was a pause before Logan replied, his voice deepening.  “Yeah.  I can.”

 

Veronica closed her eyes, concentrating on his fingers as he moved to the top of her dress, gently grasping her hair and moving it to the side before taking the tiny pull and slowly lowering the zipper down to the bottom.  She shivered as her warm skin was exposed to the air and her body began to hum with anticipation of his touch.  Slowly, she rose slowly back up to her seated position, her eyes never leaving his.

 

Crossing her arms, she grasped her dress by the waist before pulling it off over her head, letting it fall beside her on the mattress.  Catching Logan’s gaze again, she watched his pupils darken at the sight of her in nothing but her black lace underwear, necklace, and heels.  Leaning slightly to one side, she undid one strappy sandal, then the other, removing them and dropping them to the floor.

 

Logan’s hands came to rest on her hips and her breath hitched as she glanced across his clothed body under her near-naked form.  Reaching around under her hair, she found the clasp to her necklace.

 

“No,” he said quietly.  “Leave the pearls on.”

 

Veronica’s hand shook at the command, the hairs on her body at attention as a surge of heat rushed through her.  Dropping her hands down slightly, she unhooked her bra, slipping it off her arms slowly and dropping it across Logan’s body.

 

His tongue swept across his lips as his eyes followed her body, his hand sliding up her curves before coming to rest under her arm.  Veronica held her breath as his thumb began tracing the outside of her breast, slowly moving inwards until it connected with her hard flesh.  A moan of pleasure escaped as she finally exhaled, relishing the agonizingly soft touch of his fingers on her.  Her hips began to move against him in a steady rhythm as he continued to brush against her hard nipples.

 

Quiet mewls of satisfaction were now falling from her lips and he answered them by moving his other hand to press against her lace underwear as she rolled her hips.  Veronica arched her back, her sounds becoming louder as Logan continued his stimulation.  The brief thought that Lynn could hear her passed through her head, before Logan slipped his finger past the lace boundary and all rational thoughts in her head quickly fell away.

 

His thumb now securely tucked against her soft, wet clit, Veronica began moving her hips faster, seeking gratification.  Her focus adjusted to Logan’s face – his eyes now deep and serious as he concentrated on her body.  Giving her a quick nod, he released her, sitting up in one swift motion and wrapping his arms around her, his lips now pressed against hers in a passionate kiss.  Releasing his lips, she squealed as he clung to her body, turning them over and letting her down onto the mattress safely.  Before her brain had time to adjust to the new position, his head ducked down between her legs, removing her underwear with ease before pressing his lips to her again. 

 

The prickles of his beard against her soft mound sent a shock of pain mixed with pleasure through her, but when the tip of his tongue connected with her swollen clit, the rush of desire cancelled out any other feelings.  Looking down at him pressed intimately between her thighs, she recalled her original thought of him in this position and smiled.  Catching his gaze once more, his eyes sparkled back at her.

 

Veronica dropped her head back on the bed, concentrating now on only the pleasure he was giving to her.  Her fingers threaded through his hair as her hips bucked; her voice now filled the room with deep moans and her body began to tense, knowing the end would be near.   As if sensing her needs, Logan slowly slipped two fingers inside of her and she let out a frenzied wail as he began to stimulate her from deep inside.  Every muscle in her body contracted,  then released, sending out a torrent of pulsating vibrations through every part of her.

 

Closing her eyes, she enjoyed the waves of orgasm that continued well after Logan released himself from her.  She felt the bed shift and opened her eyes again to see him on all fours, hovering just above her, a wide grin across his face.  Reaching her head up to his, she kissed him, holding their lips together long enough that she caught the musky smell of herself lingering in his beard.  When she finally dropped her head back down, releasing him from their kiss, she let her hand linger on his cheek and smiled.

 

“You’re wearing too many clothes,” she teased.

 

Logan chuckled before rolling himself to the side of the bed, then off.  He stood by her for a moment before holding up his index finger.  “Just a sec.”  

 

Dashing over to the bathroom, he disappeared for a second, emerging with the box of condoms.  He dropped them on the side table before stepping back slightly, toeing off his shoes and kicking them under the bed.

 

“Strip for me, boy.”  Veronica rolled on her side, her hand bracing her head, and wiggled her eyebrows at him.

 

“Your wish is my command,” he teased before grasping the lapels of his jacket and pulling it off in an exaggerated gesture.  Swinging it from side to side, he let go and it landed across a nearby chair.

 

Veronica squealed with laughter as he began swinging his hips to some imaginary music, slowly undoing the cuffs of his sleeves before moving to unbutton the front of his shirt, pulling it off and tossing it over his suit jacket.  Turning back to her, he paused, his hands on his hips, a smirk twisted up at the corner of his lips.

 

“Shall I go further?”

 

Her eyes scanned his muscular chest, following the small valley that ran from his neck all the way down to his navel.  The shadows from the low light seemed to accentuate every ripple of muscle under his skin, and she shivered slightly when she got to the small trail of dark hair that appeared just above his belt. 

 

“Come here and lay with me,” she whispered, offering her hand to him.

 

His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed before taking her hand in his and stretching himself out next to her naked body.  Moving her body closer, she kissed him gently, letting her lips linger for a few moments before pulling back.  He reached out, kissing her forehead before returning to her lips for more.  For a time they lay there, brushing delicate lips to lips, each time staying together a bit longer before making another pass.  Veronica’s fingers trailed down Logan’s chest, landing on his belt and pausing.  He released her; pressing his forehead to hers a she slowly pulled his belt through the buckle, the sound of metal on metal echoing in the quiet room as she loosened it.  When she slipped her fingers over his waistband to undo the button, his breath hitched; as she slowly drew his zipper down, a little moan escaped as his breathing returned.  Sliding her hand through the opening in his pants, she cupped her palm around the bulging fabric underneath and he swelled in her grasp.  She stayed like that for a minute, stroking her hand back and forth, enjoying the small sounds of pleasure that came from the back of his throat.  He strained at the fabric between them and she finally took pity on him, moving her hand up past the waistband of his underwear and grasping him, skin to skin.  She stroked him gently, watching his face contort with pleasure under her control, becoming slick against her palm.  She imagined the sticky, salty taste of him on her tongue and a craving swelled in her belly.

 

Before she could do anything, he moved away, forcing her to release him as he slid off the bed, quickly shedding the rest of his clothes, presenting his nakedness in full view to her.  As he stretched to grab the box of condoms, Veronica spun on her stomach towards him, wrapping her lips around him, sucking him, hard to the back of her throat.  He swore – his voice loud and thick – as she began moving back and forth on him, satisfying her own appetite for him.  Logan’s hand rested on the back of her head, as deep guttural moans came from his throat.  Rising on all fours, Veronica rocked back and forth with an agonizingly slow pace, keeping him hard in her mouth, but holding back so he wouldn't come.  When she noticed his legs begin to shake, she moved off of him, sitting back on her heels, a satisfied smirk on her face.  Logan was breathing hard, his skin flushed a deep red, and it took him a second to recover before lifting the condom wrapper up to his teeth, ripping open the package. 

 

Veronica held out her hand and after a brief hesitation, he handed her the condom.  Shimmying herself closer, she placed the condom on him, rolling it easily over his taut skin.  For a moment she held him in her hand, her eyes connecting with his.

 

Reaching around her head, he wove his fingers through her hair, cradling her in his palm.  “I love you.”

 

“I love you,” she replied, her voice catching slightly as her emotions began to bubble in her chest.

 

Logan caught her upper lip between his briefly; Veronica closed her eyes as he continued to tease her – kissing her gently back and forth before releasing – until she couldn't take much more.  Wrapping her arms around his head, she caught him as his lips passed hers, pressing against him, deepening their contact. Logan's hand came between them, coming to rest on her breast, the pad of his thumb brushing against her hard nipple.  Deep moan of need echoed between them as they continued their connection. The mattress shifted as he brought his knee up and Veronica began to lower herself down, taking Logan along with her.

 

The weight of his body – sticky with perspiration -- pressing her deep into the bed made her feel like they were one entity, fused together with the heat of their skin.  Bringing her legs up around his, she hooked herself over his thighs, her body now spread, and waiting for him. 

 

When he finally released her from their kiss, Logan pressed his forehead to hers, looking deep into her eyes.  The both let out a gasp as he slipped inside her, followed by a moan of gratification.  Slowly, he worked himself deeper inside of her and Veronica thought for a moment that there was no end to him.  Pausing, she watched his face as it contorted, his eyes closed, fighting to keep control of his body.  Her hand came up to caress his soft beard and he opened his eyes, a dazzling smile on his lips.  It was her that finally broke their pause, rolling her hips underneath him as he moaned and swore at the friction.

                                                                                                                                                                                           

Slowly, the moved together, rocking gently as pleasure covered every part of Veronica; all her senses focused on the exquisite waves of endorphins that washed over her. 

 

“Come with me, Veronica,” Logan whispered, his voice gravelly and strained.

 

Unhooking her legs, she slipped them back under him, closing them tightly, trapping him inside her.  Logan swore loudly as she tightened her opening, her clit now positioned to rub against him.  When he continued his thrusts, she cried out as the stimulation overwhelmed her, the sounds of their lovemaking now filling the room.

 

Veronica clung to Logan's shoulders, an unearthly wail rising from her chest as her orgasm consumed her in a flash of white hot light behind her eyelids.  His body tensed, then suddenly relaxed as she felt him pulse inside of her, his breathing ragged and heavy above her.  For the briefest minute, as they lingered together, it was as if there was no one else on earth.  There was no past.  There was no future.  All that mattered was her and Logan in the present.  Her body relaxing, she released him and he kissed her tenderly before rolling onto his side on the bed.

 

“I’ll be back,” he whispered before standing and quickly escaping to the bathroom, Veronica following his naked form before he disappeared.

 

A chill covered her warm body with goose bumps and she shimmied under the duvet to warm up, tossing one side open in invitation to Logan when he returned.  As second later, he returned, jogging around the bed and sliding quickly under the covers to join her.  Veronica squealed as his cold, naked body made contact with hers, wrapping his arms around her, drawing her close to him.  He kissed her forehead and she let out a contented sigh, resting her head in the crook of his shoulder.

 

“What now?” she asked, stifling a yawn that followed her question.

 

“Now?  Now we sleep,” Logan replied quietly.  “We sleep the best sleep of our lives.”

 

Veronica yawned again, one hand stretching across his waist and coming to rest on his firm buttocks.  “And later?”

 

“Later?”  Logan chuckled.  “We wake up and make love again.  And again.  And again.”

 

Kissing his pecs, Veronica licked the salty sweat from her lips and smiled.  “I like that plan.”

 

Logan squeezed her tightly before relaxing again.  “But first, sleep.”

 

“But first, sleep.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Veronica’s long white summer dress brushed the ground as she wandered through the rose garden, the gently sound of bees buzzing busily from flower to flower hummed.

“Buzz.”

She flicked her hand, gently shooing the fat little insects away from her as she walked.

“Ow!”

Opening her eyes, Veronica realized she wasn’t in a garden at all.

“Buzz.”

“You didn’t have to smack me,” Logan grumbled from behind her, his lips close to her ear. “I just said your phone is vibrating.”

“Buzz.”

Veronica let out a deep sigh. “Sorry – I was dreaming you were a bee.”

Glancing up at the clock, the time – 7:30 am – flashed and she groaned.

“Probably some Grandma calling to wish someone Merry Christmas and she screwed up the numbers --” Veronica murmured, choosing to close her eyes and ignore the phone. “-- since the only person who ever calls is lying naked beside me.”

The phone let out a tiny ‘ping’ indicating the caller had left a message and she briefly considered getting up to listen to it, until Logan’s long body stretched behind hers under the covers. She arched her back, pressing her bottom against him he hardened, responding her soft, warm skin. Pulling her closer, his arms wrapping tightly around her once more.

They woke twice last night to make love and she momentarily marveled he could still get an erection with so much sex and so little sleep. She reached up and loosened the pearl necklace from around her neck; musing to herself that it may be permanently attached to her body as her fingers skimmed the round indentations in her skin.

“Merry Christmas,” he murmured, dropping his head to kiss the nape of her neck.

“Merry Christmas,” she replied with a yawn. “Should we get up? Or is it too early to check out what Santa put in our stockings?”

The vibration from Logan’s chuckle shook Veronica slightly and she giggled.

“Haven’t you had your stocking stuffed enough?”

Veronica bit her lip. The joke was terrible and crude, but a tickle of desire rose in her again at the thought of him inside her.

“Ha ha. I really don’t know how I feel about you sexualizing Santa.” Veronica teased.

Logan’s hand dropped down to cup her bare mound, his middle finger sweeping past her folds through her wetness.

“Hmmmm...from what I can detect you feel pretty good about it.” His voice grew husky as he stroked her gently. “In fact, the buzzing of your phone gave me an idea.”

Veronica’s breath hitched and she closed her eyes. “Oh?”

“Did you bring your vibrator with you?”

And just like that, Veronica was hungry for him again.

“Yes. It’s in the zipper compartment of my suitcase.”

Rolling away from her, Logan threw back the covers and headed for her suitcase across the room. As he passed the dresser, he reached for her phone and looked at the display.

“Missed call from Arizona.”

Veronica shrugged, sitting up so she could see her suitcase. “Don’t know anyone there. Must’ve been a wrong number.”

Logan held down a button on her phone, turning it off completely before tossing it back on the dresser. “Just in case Grandma really, really wants to talk to her grandchildren --”

Crouching by the suitcase, he opened it, quickly finding the compartment and reached inside, pulling out the, long, thin blue vibrator. Pressing the button on the top of it once, it began to hum and Veronica’s clit immediately hardened thinking of all the times she fantasized about Logan while using the object.

Standing, he turned towards the bed, and her eyes focused on his hardening flesh. Veronica manage to pull her gaze away from him and rolled towards the side table, grabbing another condom. Before she could roll back, Logan was under the covers again, spooned against her body.

Her breath hitched as he reached between her legs from behind, briefly touching the tip of the vibrator to her swollen sex. Veronica responded by pulling her leg up on the bed a little higher, opening herself to him fully. This time, when the vibrator made contact with her clit, he let it linger a little longer until little mewls of need emerged from the back of her throat. His lips brushed her neck, nibbling her nape from behind as he continued to tease her with the vibrator. Sliding his arm under her, his hand came up and pinched one of her nipples with just the right amount of pressure, causing Veronica’s pleasure to came to an immediate peak, hovering close to orgasm. Her hips bucked against Logan, trying to move herself along the vibrator, in search of more stimulation. Instead, Logan moved the vibrator away, the loss of sensation making her growl with displeasure. Snatching the condom package from her hand, he expertly sheathed himself in a series of swift motions. When he returned to her, he wrapped himself around her from behind, pressing himself against her soft, wet opening.

“Please Logan,” she begged, her voice cracking with need. “Please, love, please.”

Entering her, they gasped in sync as he moved with force inside of her. Veronica clutched the pillow, the intensity of the friction sending desire shooting through her veins. The sound of the vibrator passing her ear caught her attention and Logan rolled her back onto him slightly as he moved it down to press against her clit. It was only a matter of seconds before her orgasm caught her, contracting her entire body before releasing a rush of exquisite endorphins through her. But instead of removing the vibrator, Logan continued, rolling his hips up into her as she screamed out at the intensity of her continued orgasm, sweat now dripping from her skin. When he came deep inside her, the barbaric call that rose from his chest echoed in the room, and he finally dropped the vibrator to the mattress.

There they lay for a few moments, panting, dripping in sweat, fused together once more.

“That’s got to be a record.” Veronica gasped, trying to catch her breath. “Longest...orgasm...ever.”

Logan slipped away from her, a small chuckle shaking his body. “I felt that one in my teeth.”

Veronica giggled, tossing him a smile over her shoulder. “Nice use of the equipment. The Russian judge gives you 9.0. You really stuck the landing too.”

Rolling away from her, he placed the vibrator on the nightstand. “Still worried my Mom will hear the vibrator?”

The heat of embarrassment swept through Veronica. There was no way Lynn didn’t hear them making love all night – there we astronauts in space that probably heard them.

“Oh God – how are we supposed to face her this morning?”

Logan laughed, rising from the bed; he made his way around the bedroom as Veronica followed his glistening, muscular body. “Well, the first thing we need to do is wash the smell of sex off us. Then, maybe crack a window to air the room out too.”

Veronica sniffed the air – the musky, sweet scent of sweat and cum seemed to permeate the room.

“Good plan,” she said and wrinkled her nose.

Logan chuckled as he disappeared into the bathroom, the sound of the bathtub filling starting a few moments later. Returning, he stood near the edge of the bed and, without warning, reached down and hoisted Veronica out from under the covers in his arms. She squealed and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“And as for my mom, we just act natural; you know, like boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Veronica kissed his cheek, his beard pricking her lips. “The real thing this time – not pretend.”

Logan returned her affection with a quick peck on the forehead. “Exactly.”

Resting her head on Logan’s shoulder, Veronica let him carry her off into the bathroom, her toe catching the edge of the door to kick it shut behind them.

-------------------------------------------------------

Almost two hours later – after a leisurely bath in the Jacuzzi, a heavy make-out session pressed against the bathroom counter, and finally getting dressed – Logan and Veronica appeared, hand in hand, in the kitchen on Christmas morning. Lynn had an ornate red scarf wrapped around her head, black palazzo pants, a red cowl-neck sweater, and an elegant embroidered red apron that made her look Christmas-ready this morning. Placing her hand on her hips, she clicked her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

“Well, well. If it isn’t the love birds. Merry Christmas you two.”

Logan let go of Veronica’s hand and walked over to his mom, planting a quick kiss on Lynn’s cheek. “Merry Christmas, Mom.”

“Merry Christmas, Lynn.” Veronica chimed in before coming around the kitchen island to sit on one of the stools at the counter. The smell of cooking bacon caught her senses and her stomach growled with anticipation.

Lynn must have heard the deep rumbling and laughed, picking up a spatula and pointing it at Veronica playfully. “Bacon is cooking in the oven; as is the frittata. Logan – why don’t you pour us all some coffee and start making toast to go with everything. I’m sure you can manage that.”

Logan’s forehead wrinkled, his eyes narrowing at his mom. “Hey! I know how to make more than just toast. I’ll have you know I can also reheat a frozen lasagne and make spaghetti.”

Raising her hand to cover her mouth, Veronica guffawed. In her last apartment, Logan tried to show off his culinary skills to her, and promptly burned the bottom of her spaghetti pot. It was, in fact, Veronica who taught him how to cook when they left home through a series of phone calls and hands-on experience.

Walking around his mother, Logan reached up into the cupboard and grabbed three mugs. “I just really happen to like toast,” he muttered as he poured the coffee.

“It’s okay, honey,” Veronica said, pulling her hands into the sleeves of the Harvard sweatshirt she was wearing. “As long as you keep yourself fed...that’s the main thing.”

Logan let out a little snort laugh and added two spoonful’s of sugar to her coffee cup before sliding it across the counter to her. “Thanks for your encouragement, Sugarpuss.”

“Anytime.” Veronica blew him a kiss and he pretended to catch it in mid-air before placing it on his heart, rolling his eyes dramatically. He chuckled, turning away from Veronica for a moment to take a few steps towards Lynn, putting her black coffee down next to her on the counter.

Lynn lifted the cup with two hands wrapped around it and smiled, glancing between the both of them. A rush of embarrassment shot through Veronica as she thought of Lynn hearing them last night, and she looked away, focusing on her own cup of coffee for the moment.

“So what’s the plan Mom?” Logan dropped four slices of bread in the toaster and set them to cook before turning around again.

“Well, we have some time before breakfast is ready – should we open our stockings? I’m pretty sure I heard Santa banging around down here last night.”

Veronica caught Logan’s eye and she swiveled around quickly to hide the giant, goofy grin that had spread across her face.

“That wasn’t Santa banging –” Logan commented before taking a sip of his coffee.

Hiding her face in her hands, Veronica groaned. This was not happening.

“Logan – a bit of decorum, please.” Lynn chastised. “So I heard you guys having sex -- so what. If you think you can embarrass me, you are barking up the wrong tree mister; because the next thing that comes out of storage are the photos of you in a sailor suit at the yacht club.”

Veronica swiveled around to face them again. “No! Really?”

Glancing between Lynn and Logan, Veronica watched Logan’s face turn serious. “You wouldn’t.”

Lynn wagged her finger at him. “Oh yes I would. The fact that you were 10 years old makes them even more special.”

An unladylike snort-laugh rose from Veronica and Logan scowled. “You win this round, Mother -- Veronica, why don’t you grab all of our stockings from the mantle and bring them over here for us.”

Veronica hopped off her stool, turning on her heels to face Logan; she gave him a small salute. “Aye, aye, Captain.”

Lynn’s giggling echoed through the room. Veronica crossed the sitting room, releasing three velvet stockings from their hangers – a blue one with rhinestone snowflakes, a red one with a tree, and a gold one with stars.

Veronica handed the red one to Lynn, the blue one to Logan, keeping the gold one for herself. When she put her presents in everyone’s stockings last night, they were empty. She deduced that Logan must have snuck out of bed in the night to put some things in, followed by Lynn at some point last night or this morning.

“Why don’t you start us off?” Lynn gave a small nod in Veronica’s direction and smiled.

A rush of excitement rose in Veronica – as if she was still a kid and not an adult – at the thought of her presents. When she reached into the stocking, the first thing she pulled out was a gift card to Whole Foods in the amount of $200.

“Santa doesn’t want you to starve in New York,” Lynn said from across the counter.

“Thank you,” Veronica replied, a warm feeling spreading through her chest. It had been a very long time since she felt cared for by a parent, something she deeply missed.

A lovely floral print pen, a small pink leather daytimer, and a cute pink Kate Spade wallet followed. When she opened the wallet, she found a pre-paid calling card in the front credit card holder.

“For when you get lonely.” Lynn explained her voice barely above a whisper. “If you ever need anything – someone to talk to, someone to brag about something to, someone’s shoulder to cry on – please call me, anytime, from anywhere. I just...I understand what it’s like to be alone.”

Veronica bit her lip. Even though her mom was still alive – somewhere out there – she spent the past year feeling like an orphan; the loneliness inside of her almost consuming her completely some days, causing her to seek out comfort in places she knew she wouldn’t find it. The anger and sadness seemed to meld together, causing her to become cold and removed most days from what was going on around her; except when Logan was around. She still somehow managed to carry her feelings for him, warm and thriving in her heart as everything else became icy and numb.

“Thank you.” Veronica couldn’t bring herself to look at Lynn, lest the emotions that were starting to bubble up in her chest would turn into actual tears.

Next she pulled out a little box of chocolates and her stomach gurgled as she pressed them to her nose.

“From me,” Logan said, waving his hand at her. “Along with the other box in there.”

Veronica scrunched her nose and pushed her hand into the toe of the socking. Grabbing the heavy box, she pulled it out, frowning for a second before she realized exactly why Logan gave her a container of AA batteries. Glancing up at him, he wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“In case you get too lonely in New York without me and require some...er...assistance.”

Biting her lip to keep a silly grin off her face, Veronica looked back down at the box.

“What a thoughtful boyfriend.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm. “Thank you, Honey.”

The toast popped out of the toaster and Logan turned around to fetch it, exchanging them with fresh bread before returning to the counter.

“Your turn, Logan,” Lynn said, waving her fingers in his direction. “Let’s see if there’s some coal in there.”

“I’ve been a very good boy, Mother.” Logan teased as he pulled out the first item – a leather wallet. A Fossil watch with a soft-leather wristband followed.

Reaching in deeper, Logan pulled out a box of soap and frowned. “Someone thinks I stink.”

“That’s from me – it’s a shaving soap puck,” Veronica said quickly. “It’s part of the rest of the stuff that’s in there.”

Logan smiled and reached in again, producing a long, green box. When he lifted the lid, it revealed a shiny steel safety-razor and a box of blades.

“I bought it before I knew about the beard. It just seemed very professor-like to use an old-fashioned razor to shave.”

“I love it,” Logan said, scratching his beard. “When I shave this off, I’ll use it.”

She smiled and watched as he reached inside for the final item – a soft bristled shaving brush. His eyes lit up when he saw it and he playfully swept it across his palm a few times. “This is so great. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Veronica said, resting her chin in her hands, letting out a contented sigh.

“My turn!” Lynn exclaimed in a sing-song voice.

“Everything in there is from the both of us, Mom,” Logan said, smiling at Veronica before turning to change over the toast once more.

“I just didn’t have a lot of time to shop,” Veronica said as Lynn reached into her stocking. “So I threw around some ideas with Logan and he picked them up while he was here.”

Pulling out a small red box, Lynn lifted the lid and squealed with delight. Angling it towards Veronica, she showed off the Swarovski crystal snowflake necklace. “I love it. It’s so delicate.”

“I was thinking, Mom --” Logan said, coming up beside her. “-- maybe we can spend the holidays next year on the East Coast. That way, we actually have snow at Christmas.”

Lynn kissed Logan’s cheek and smiled. “I love it. We should all definitely celebrate in Boston – or New York – next year.”

Veronica caught Logan’s eye and smiled. The thought of spending Christmas with him next year made her slightly giddy.

Lynn reached in and pulled out a paperback book. “’The Life of Pi’ is one of my favourites,” Veronica explained. “I had to read it for a class and just fell in love with it. I hope you like it too.”

Turning the book over to skim the back description, Lynn smiled. “It’s wonderful. Thank you. I look forward to reading it by the pool today.”

Reaching back in, Lynn pulled out a long, long piece of ornate silk fabric from the toe of the stocking. Letting it sail through the air, she gasped as the blue, grey, and gold chain pattern came into focus.

“From me,” Logan said. “It’s Versace.”

Lynn shook her head as she let the large scarf cover her shoulders. “I can’t believe you stuffed a designer silk scarf into the toe of a stocking.”

Logan shrugged. “The box wouldn’t fit. Total miscalculation on my part; besides you can steam any wrinkles out.”

Lynn tied the ends of the scarf together around her neck. “I love it – wrinkles and all. Thank you both so much.”

Coming around the island, Logan stood behind Veronica, wrapping his arms around her waist. She leaned into him, letting out a content sigh as he placed a soft kiss on her cheek.

“Merry Christmas, my love,” he whispered in her ear.

Veronica gave him a quick peck on the lips, weaving her fingers in between his. “Merry Christmas.”

-------------------------------------------------------------

After breakfast – after the mountain of presents – after the egg-nog – after the cleanup of all the wrapping paper – Logan and Veronica trudged up the stairs to their room. Without a word, they both moved to the edge of the bed and collapsed on top of the messy blankets, completely spent.

“I’m so exhausted,” Veronica muttered the side of her face smushed into the mattress.

“Me too,” Logan groaned as he rolled to face her. “Damn you for being so irresistible and keeping me up all night.”

Veronica giggled, reaching out to place her hand on his cheek. “Damn you for giving me seven...no...eight orgasms. Each one just made me greedy for more.”

“If it makes you feel better, I think it’s physically impossible for me to get it up right now. The rum in that egg nog completely finished me off. All I want is a very, very long nap.”

Veronica stretched, her arms rising above her head. “Sounds like an excellent plan. And just to be sure there’s no hanky-panky, I’m going to toss on a nightgown.”

Logan rose up on his elbow, his hand propping his head. “Nightgowns can be removed you know. Or just pushed up.”

Rolling away from him, Veronica stood up, walking over to her suitcase.

“Later. For now, we sleep.”

Rummaging around, she pulled out a giant nightshirt and dropped it on the dresser. Keeping her back turned to Logan, she pulled off his sweatshirt, dropping her jeans to the floor.

“Just come to bed like that,” Logan said from his position on the bed. “I promise – I’ll be good.”

“Nope.” Veronica removed her red lace bra before tossing the navy blue nightshirt over her head.

Turning around, she watched Logan’s nose wrinkle as he read the words “F**K off! I’m sleeping!” scrawled in big white letters across her nightgown.

“Fine. I’ll go put on my sweatpants,” he said as he stood up from the bed and disappeared into the bathroom.

Veronica snickered, leaning for a moment against the dresser. Looking down, she caught a glimpse of her phone and frowned, remembering the call that came in earlier this morning. Picking it up, she pressed the button, waiting a second for the phone to turn on. When it did, she scanned the number of the caller – the screen identifying it as only from Arizona.

“Whatcha doing?” Logan returned to the room, naked except for his sweatpants slung low on his hips.

“Checking who called,” she muttered as she accessed her voice mail. “It’ll only be a minute.”

Pressing the phone to her ear, she frowned at the pause that started the message before the caller started speaking.

“Merry Christmas, Veronica.”

Lianne’s voice whispered into her ear. The shock of hearing her mother caused Veronica to nearly drop the phone.

“This is the first Christmas morning I haven’t spent with you and I was thinking about all those ones we did spend together and missing you so much.”

Veronica gripped the edge of the dresser, closing her eyes to keep control as her chest grew tight with a mix of pain and anger.

“I just wanted to wish you Merry Christmas this morning. I hope you’re keeping warm in New York. I worry about you all the time. I know you may not think I do, but I do. Because you’re still my little girl and I miss you.”

Strong hands gripped Veronica’s shoulders and she gasped as tears sprang to her eyes.

“And I miss your dad. And I miss our lives. I sent a big poinsettia plant to your father, so he knows that we’re thinking about him today.”

As Veronica’s body began to shake, Logan’s arm wrapped around her waist, keeping her knees from giving out completely.

“I...I don’t know what else to say...I just want you to know that I love you, Veronica. And I hope that someday you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

Lianne’s voice disappeared and for a second, Veronica listened to the dead air between them. Slowly, she turned off the phone, dropping it on the dresser again.

“What’s wrong, Veronica? Who was that?”

“Lianne,” Veronica whispered, unable to move.

Logan tightened his arms around her and she reached up to brush the tears from her eyes. A chill washed over her as every muscle tightened in anger.

“She sent a plant to dad's grave for Christmas,” Veronica spat. “She killed him, but she sent him a plant.”

“Veronica – ” Logan began slowly, calmly. “Are you okay?”

Wriggling away from his arms, she stepped back, waving her hands in front of her. “No. No I’m not. Why did she have to call? Why couldn’t she just stay dead too? ‘Cause that’s how I feel about her – she’s dead to me now.”

Her eyes darting around the room, Veronica focused on her suitcase, pushing Logan aside to reach it before beginning to ransack it for clothes.

“I gotta get out of her,” she muttered, grabbing a blue sweater from the bottom of the pile. Quickly, she pulled her nightshirt over her head and put on the sweater before bending to grab her jeans off the floor. Logan moved away as she hopped into the jeans, her eyes scanning the ground for her Keds.

“I’ll take you wherever you want to go.” Logan offered, walking over to his dresser and grabbing a set of keys.

“No,” Veronica snapped. She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on her white sneakers before rising and grabbing her jacket from a nearby chair. “Give me the keys. I’m going by myself.”

Logan frowned, hesitating as he glanced down at Veronica’s outstretched hand. With a resolved sigh, he dropped them in her palm.

“I love you. Please be careful.”

She wanted to tell Logan she loved him too, but the words caught in her throat. Instead she nodded, ducking her head away from his gaze.

“I will,” she replied before heading out the bedroom door.

 

Chapter Text

The Range Rover drove slowly over the gravel road; the popping sound of rocks under the tires echoing in the quiet of the vehicle. Veronica scanned the cemetery for the turn off that lead to her father’s grave.

The plot had originally been a rose garden near the edge of the cemetery, but when Keith died, the county decided to make room for a grave right in front of the flowers.  So it was there on a chilly January afternoon almost one year ago – surrounded by county dignitaries, the entire Sherriff’s department, and a few friends – Veronica watched six deputies lower Keith’s coffin into the ground.

Her father’s friend, Cliff McCormick – a local lawyer of dubious skills and intentions – had emailed Veronica about a month later with photos of the black granite ledger that eventually covered the grave site. The portrait photo of her father, laser-etched into a cameo near the top of the stone; the words “Sheriff Keith Mars – Integrity - Honor - Respect” underneath. Veronica only looked at the pictures once before deleting them from her computer; the images haunting her dreams for months after.

Making the slow turn onto the access road, Veronica’s eyes narrowed as she spied the reason for her trip; perched atop her father’s gravestone was a massive red poinsettia in a plastic gold pot with a red ribbon around it.

“Fuck, what was she thinking?” Veronica muttered as she pulled to a stop near the site, her anger beginning to rise once more. She jumped out of the vehicle, aiming all of her rage at the tacky arrangement that dared to touch her father’s grave.

Grabbing the massive pot off the granite, she groaned, forgetting that it was heavy with soil, and dropped the plant to the ground. Tossing her hair off her face, she heaved it up into her arms again, this time compensating for the weight and swiveled, looking around the cemetery quickly before spying a garbage can several yards away.

“Be right back, Dad.”

With another groan, Veronica ambled with her load towards the garbage, trying to avoid the other graves along the way. When she arrived at her destination, she dropped the plant onto the ground with a deep thud. Glancing between the garbage can and the poinsettia, she realized it was almost the size of the can and there was no way to get the plant it inside without a fight. Veronica decided to leave it right where it was, giving the offending plant a spiteful kick, knocking it over on its side.

Returning to the gravesite, Veronica brushed the dirt from her jacket and pants. Standing at the foot of the ledge stone, she paused, closing her eyes, imagining that her dad was right there with her, alive and well; his warm smile, the permanent twinkle of mischief in his eyes, the soft stubble on his face after working the night shift. When she opened her eyes, she had hoped that he would magically appear in the flesh, but instead, there was just his service picture, casting a dignified gaze at some far off place.

“Sorry Dad. Merry Christmas, I guess,” Veronica said, kneeling up onto the raised stone to pluck the fallen poinsettia leaves off the surface and drop them to the ground.

Climbing up, she sat down cross-legged at the foot of the gravestone, wrapping her arms around her as the chill of the granite transferred through her body.

“I can’t believe she did that. I mean, really…can’t she just leave well enough alone -- just leave us in peace?”

Veronica waited a moment, half expecting an answer, but the only thing she heard was the chirping of birds in the nearby oak trees. Leaning forward, she pressed the palms of her hands to the stone.

“I miss you, Daddy, like, every minute of the day,” Veronica began slowly, taking a deep breath to try and keep control of her emotions. “This year has been awful. First you, and then the trial, and I had to move, and Mom took off, and I am so angry all...the...time. And when I’m not angry, I’m sad or just really tired of everything, you know?”

A breeze rustled the trees and Veronica sat up, pulling her hands into her jacket sleeves for warmth.

“God, Dad...I’ve made some stupid mistakes this year. This apartment…I took because it was cheap and available and I’ll probably get stabbed in the hallway one day. And...oh shit...the guys I’ve been ‘dating’...” Veronica snickered. “If you thought you hated Duncan, I’ve dated some guys this year that...well...let’s just say you would have stripped them naked and left on the PCH for dead.”

An image of Logan, laying beside her on his pillow -- his sparkling brown eyes and soft pale lips smiling back at her, dishevelled hair and scraggly beard – floated through her head and she smiled, in spite of her surroundings.

“Except for one – one you may have liked --”

Slowly, Veronica shifted onto her knees before lowering herself down to lay on her side across her father’s grave, one arm moving up under her head, the other coming to rest over the word “Keith.”

“Logan,” she whispered. “Logan and I are...together.”

Her eyes glanced up towards the heavens and she briefly hoped her dad wasn’t some sort of guardian angel watching her every move.

“You knew I had a crush on him since, well, forever – well it seems he felt the same way.” Veronica took her index finger and began tracing the indentations of Keith’s name in the stone. “I can just see you now, shaking your head at me. You always said that if I liked a boy, I should just tell him. Well, you were right. Again. I should have. And maybe things would have been different.”

Veronica bit her lip, holding back tears. “Maybe if I did, he and I would have been together sooner -- and I wouldn’t have been in New York last year for New Year's Eve. Maybe you would have been at the Echolls’ on New Year’s Eve with us and not following Mom to the Camelot that night. Maybe you wouldn’t have jumped in her car when she tried to run off from you and Jake Kane arguing in the parking lot. And maybe you would be alive.”

Try as she might, she couldn’t make herself numb to her sadness and anger anymore and she let her tears fall in a puddle on the stone beneath her.

“Because I’ve played that phone call from Deputy Sacks over and over again in my head so many times...telling me what happened...and each time, part of me dies again with you.”

Her chest began to heave as Veronica cried the deep howling cry she normally kept reserved for the 2 a.m. panic attacks that often consumed her.

“I miss you so much, Daddy. And I feel so lost without you.”

She cried and cried in the safety of the empty cemetery until she had nothing left. Her lids growing heavy, she closed them, quietly hoping that when she opened them, the nightmare would be over.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

“Veronica?”

A sharp chill ran through Veronica and her entire body quaked. But instead of a small shiver, the chill kept going, hitting her in waves as her body trembled. Something warm pressed against her cheek.

“She’s ice cold.” A woman’s voice, Veronica registered.

“I’ll get her in the car.” A man.

Arms wrapped underneath her and she rose, her body pressing against someone warm as they moved. Veronica swallowed hard, the inside of her mouth dry as she tried to speak.

“Lo-gan?”

Warm lips pressed to her icy forehead. “I’ve got you.”

She opened her eyes briefly to see Lynn holding open the passenger door of the Range Rover. Gathering her strength, Veronica slipped from Logan’s arms and into the seat. His arms maneuvered around her to buckle her in before Lynn appeared, wrapping a woolen car blanket around Veronica, tucking it tightly to her body.

“This may be the first time we’ve ever had to use the seat warmers in this car.” Lynn teased her gently and a small smile passed briefly over Veronica’s lips.

The passenger door closed, shaking the car, as Logan climbed into the driver’s seat next to her and started the engine.

“I don’t think you have hypothermia – but sleeping out here you probably caught a pretty good chill.” He placed his hand on the top of her seat and looked behind him before throwing the car in reverse, expertly backing up all the way to the main road.

Veronica shivered, the warmth of the seat beginning to move through her, causing her skin to prickle.

“I was just so tired – from everything.” Gazing out the window, she noticed the sky turning a brilliant pink. “What time is it?”

“Almost five o’clock,” Logan said, the car crawling down the gravel road. “After a few hours -- when you didn’t come back -- Mom and I got worried and decided to come and look for you.”

Pulling the blanket up to her chin, Veronica caught sight of Lynn’s red Mercedes in the rear view mirror, following them slowly. “Oh.”

“I figured you came here to get rid of the plant and then headed to the beach or the old house or something. I didn’t really expect you to be here still.”

Her energy returning as her body warmed, Veronica sat up in her seat, pulling her feet up underneath her to warm her legs under the blanket.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you guys to worry. It just kind of happened --”

“Bygones,” he replied. Logan’s hand moved from the stick shift to her knee, his thumb moving back and forth on the blanket. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

“Okay? Yeah, I’m ‘okay’.” Veronica rolled her eyes. “I just took out all my rage for my mother on a defenceless potted plant and I fell asleep on my father’s grave. I’m going to admit that I am clearly not okay and I probably shouldn’t have come back here in the first place.”

A heavy silence consumed the car as Veronica realized what she had said.

“I – I don’t mean –”

Logan’s hand moved back to the gear shift as he came to a stop at the exit to the cemetery, pausing for non-existent traffic a little longer than he should have. The muscles in his jaw twitched under his beard and his eyes fixed firmly on the road.

“No, you’re right. I shouldn’t have pressured you into coming back to Neptune when you weren’t ready. I’m sorry.”

Veronica’s hand reached out from under the blanket to rest on Logan’s arm and his body tensed at her touch. His eyes never left the road and Veronica retracted her hand with a small sigh, her chest tightening with regret.

“Logan – I –” she stammered, trying to find the words to tell him how she felt. How she loved him. How happy he made her in the midst of her sadness and anger. How she wished they had admitted their feelings sooner.

“Look, we can talk about this more when I’m not driving,” he said, his voice tinged with sadness. “Let’s just get you home and in a hot shower and fed. Alright?”

Biting her lip, Veronica turned to glance out her window, pushing her feelings down deep into her belly.

“Alright,” she replied, growing cold inside.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Veronica moved through the evening separated from her body – her actions disconnected from her mind, which had grown numb from the constant bombardment of thoughts and emotions. When they arrived home, Veronica took a long, hot shower before changing into warm clothes. Instead of making dinner, Lynn decided to order Chinese food and as the three sat for a quiet meal. Lynn made a few jokes about the Chinese restaurant scene from “A Christmas Story” along with small chatter about mundane entertainment news and gossip, and for the most part, Logan engaged in his mother’s chatter, but he kept his eyes averted from Veronica’s. Gone were the subtle touches under the table, the sexual innuendoes, and the lively banter from this morning and Veronica mentally chastised herself for the things she said in the car.

After dinner, Veronica began gathering up the gifts Lynn had spoiled her and Logan with – creating two piles, one for his suitcase and one for hers. The goose-down arctic coat Lynn bought her – since she was worried about how Veronica managed to stay warm during East Coast winters – would have to be carry-on, she realized, but the assortments of beautiful bath products, perfumes, and jewellery would easily fit in her bag.

“I think I’m going to go upstairs and pack,” she said, crouched near the tree. “Logan arranged for a car to pick me up at 8 a.m. so it makes more sense to do it now.”

Gathering her presents in her arms, she turned towards Lynn, who was seated near her in a big chair, martini in hand.

“Where’s Logan?”

“He went upstairs to study while you were organizing things,” Lynn said, gesturing up to the ceiling. “I think he’s at a loss for what to do.”

“Do? About what?” Veronica asked.

“About you, dear.” Lynn took a sip of her drink, her sad eyes gazing back at Veronica. “He wants to help you through everything with your family, but he doesn’t know how.”

Veronica sighed, shifting her weight back and forth on her legs. “I don’t know how he can either. All my sadness isn’t going to magically go away now that we’re together.”

“I know that, sweetheart. And he knows that too. But maybe, if you both remember to be kind and open with one another, maybe you’ll both find a way to happiness.”

Lynn stood, her long legs striding up to Veronica. Placing her hands gently on her shoulders, Lynn kissed one of Veronica’s cheeks, and then another.

“I’ll say my goodbyes to you now, since I’m not sure if I’ll see you before you leave tomorrow morning. And I’m pretty sure you won’t be coming down again when you go up to your room with Logan.” Lynn teased.

Veronica’s cheeks turned warm, but she smiled through her embarrassment at Lynn's innuendo.

“Good-bye Lynn; thank you so much for everything. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too, Veronica.” Lynn replied as Veronica made her way through the room and up the stairs.

With each step, Veronica thought of what to say to Logan to make things better between them. She regretted going to the cemetery with every fibre of her being and cursed her mother yet again, for making her so angry when everything had been going so well.

Pausing at the bedroom door, Veronica took a deep breath. Juggling her presents in her arms, she managed to open the door without dropping anything. Moving quickly to the bed, she dumped everything onto the mattress near Logan’s feet. He looked up from the textbook he was reading giving her a small smile in greeting.

“Whatcha doing?” He asked, closing the book and placing it on his lap.

“Packing. I’d rather do it now than at 6 a.m. when I’m half asleep.” Veronica turned and walked to her suitcase. Bending, she quickly zipped it up before grabbing it by the handle and dragging it to the bed. When she tossed it on the mattress, Logan bounced in the bed slightly and he laughed.

“I think your suitcase may weigh more than you do after you pack.”

Veronica unzipped it again and laughed. “Thank God I have wheels on this puppy or I would have to take you with me, just to carry my luggage.”

“Do you want me to?”

Veronica froze, her heart skipping a beat. “What?”

“Come with you to New York and spend the rest of the holidays together.” Logan’s hands came up to rest behind his head and he relaxed into the pillows. “I know you have to go back to work for a couple of days, but we could have dinners and evenings together. And New Year’s Eve.”

A pang of sadness echoed in her heart at the thought of New Year’s Eve.

“I...I don’t know...” Veronica stammered. “I just...maybe...I think I need to be alone on New Year’s. I mean, I won’t be much fun.”

Logan nodded, the smile disappearing into a tight line. “Okay. I understand.”

Veronica closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing for a second as her anxiety swept through her. “I just think I need to deal with this alone before I know how to deal with this with you.”

“I didn’t know I needed to be dealt with.”

Veronica opened her eyes in time to see the pain register on Logan’s face before he turned to rise from the bed.

“That’s not what I meant.” Veronica’s words caught in her throat and she swallowed hard.

He didn’t turn around to look at her, instead walking to his dresser and grabbing his swim trunks from the top drawer.

“What did you mean then?”

“I –l just mean that I love you but I don’t know what I need right now.”

Logan turned, biting his bottom lip he caught Veronica’s gaze for a moment before dropping his eyes towards the ground.

“I’m going for a swim before bed. I’ll let you pack in peace.”

Veronica opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. She wanted to stop him, tell him not to go, ask him to hold her and caress her and tell her everything was going to be fine. But instead, she closed her lips into a firm line as she watched him leave the room without another word.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Tossing and turning, Veronica pulled the covers up to her chin, heaving a large sigh. She thought that nothing could distract her from her thoughts of her Dad and Lianne, but instead, she managed to obsessively think of nothing but her disagreements with Logan as she packed her suitcase. The regret she was feeling mingled with a tinge of anger that he didn’t seem to understand the turmoil she was going through. If he loved her, he wouldn't have run off. If he loved her, he wouldn't have twisted her words to be about him and not her family. If…if…if…

As she obsessed, her mind began to turn dark as her fears began to manifest into thoughts. What if they started dating and it didn’t work out? Would she lose him forever? And what if he found someone else at University, while they were dating long-distance? Would he leave like Duncan? Or worse – what if she received a call from Lynn, like the one she got from Deputy Sacks, telling her something terrible happened to Logan?

When Logan didn’t return to their room, she decided to take another hot shower, get into her cozy nightshirt, and curl up in bed. Another hour passed as Veronica tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

Footsteps outside the door set Veronica to high alert. Curling up on her side, she closed her eyes, deciding that playing possum was the best choice at the moment. The door creaked open slowly and Logan’s shadow passed over her as he entered the room. Her heartbeat pounded in her chest as he closed the door, moving around in the dark on his side of the bed. The mattress rocked and the blankets shifted as he climbed into bed near her. Keeping his distance, the warmth of his body radiated under the covers and Veronica fought the urge to roll towards him.

“I don’t know if you’re really asleep or awake --” Logan began in a hushed voice. “-- but whether you are or not, I need to say this, to get it off my chest.”

He paused, shifting near her but still not touching her body and Veronica opened her eyes, her brain now fully focused on his words.

“I love you, Veronica, and I know that this has been a terrible, terrible year for you. And I also know that I must have caught you off guard with everything that’s happened this Christmas. So, if you need time to process all of this, I understand. I really, really do.” He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I think that maybe, when you go back to New York, you should take some time and decide if getting into a relationship with me is what you want – because, to be quite honest, I don’t want this to be just some little fling. If we are going to do this, Veronica, I want us to try our damndest to make this – forever -- or an approximation thereof.”

Veronica bit her lip, holding back the feelings that were beginning to swell inside her.

“So again, if it takes some time for you to get used to the idea of having me around for that long, then I completely understand. Go back to New York tomorrow and think about it. What happens next is all up to you.”

Closing her eyes again, Veronica clutched her heart with her hands, steadying her breathing as she absorbed Logan’s words in her head. Slowly, she turned towards him, encountering the back of his head on the next pillow as she moved. She reached out, placing her palm on his back and his body tensed in response. Shuffling below the covers, she slipped her hand across his white t-shirt, coming to rest on his heart, spooning his body with hers.

Veronica sighed and her breath caused goose bumps to appear on Logan’s neck. She kissed his nape, nuzzling his skin for a moment before returning to the pillow.

“I do want you. I swear this is what I want. Christmas with you has been so wonderful --”

“But?”

Veronica sighed. “But I’m just worried that I’m distracting myself from things I need to deal with – like Lianne and my dad and school and work. Because trust me, if I could stay holed up in this room with you for the next year, I think I would be perfectly happy to do it.”

Logan’s soft chuckle made his body shake against hers, her body responding by sending out a glorious flush of warmth across her skin.

“I think you’re right though -- I think I have to go back to New York and figure some things out before we jump into a long term relationship.” Logan’s muscles tightened as she pressed herself against him.

“I’m not going to lie – I know that the string of losers I’ve been dating has been because I don’t want what happened with Duncan to happen again, but also because they distract me from the pain of losing Dad. And you're right – this was probably the last thing I ever thought would happen this Christmas. I guess I just need some time to wrap my head around how my fantasy of being with you actually happens in real life.”

He squeezed her hand and she kissed the back of his neck, tenderly. “The ‘fantasy of being with me’ huh?”

Veronica’s lips moved to the nape of his neck again, giving him a playful nibble before planting a series of small kisses over his skin.

“You know what I mean. Having a crush on you is one thing...having you all to myself is quite another.”

Releasing her hand, Logan spun in her arms to face her on the pillow and she let out a little squeal of delight as his arms wrapped around her, pulling her close.

“So then, my ‘rules girl’ -- I know how much you like to make order out of chaos – what now?” He punctuated his sentence with a quick peck on the lips.

“Well...” Veronica replied coyly. “I go back to New York and go back to work...finish the assignments I’ve been ignoring...chase out any mice that have taken up residence in my apartment...call you when I have time....”

Logan nodded along in agreement with her points. “Yes...all completely sane and rational things...go on.”

“But no phone sex...or sexting...or anything like that...” she added quickly. “Go back to us not being a physical thing and see if we can actually just date like normal, everyday people. And then, in a few weeks, we can meet up – either in Boston or New York like we always do --and do something date-like -- maybe dinner or a show or something. Just slow things down so I have time to think, okay?”

A groan rumbled through Logan and Veronica giggled.

“Fine. No sex. But I reserve the right to think about all the wonderful things we did last night when I’m by myself.”

Veronica fought back a grin, trying to maintain seriousness to her tone. “Alright. That’s completely fair.”

His palm gently cradled her cheek, his thumb softly following her cheek bone. “And tonight?”

Her hands slid between them to press against his chest, feeling his heartbeat radiate through her. Avoiding his eyes, a shyness came upon her that she did not expect. Not after the night before and all the wonderful ways they touched each other.

“Tonight?” Veronica whispered. “Tonight...could you just hold me? Let me sleep in your arms before I go tomorrow?”

Logan’s lips pressed to her forehead and she looked up into his smiling eyes. “I can do that.”

A moment later Logan rolled onto his back, his arms stretched wide across the bed, inviting her to him. With a smile, Veronica placed her head on his shoulder, her body pressed against his side, her leg slung over his thigh. She exhaled slowly as his arms came around her, keeping her close to him. He kissed her forehead again and she closed her eyes, savouring the comfort of his body.

“I love you, Veronica,” he whispered.

Veronica wrapped her arm around his chest and squeezed him gently. “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Five days.  It was five days since Veronica kissed Logan good-bye on his doorstep – slowly, tenderly -- lingering so long that the driver was forced to remind them she would miss her flight if they didn’t leave soon.  Sitting on the airplane from San Diego to New York, she both chastised herself for not having sex with him one last time that night and patted herself on the back for her adult-like self control.  The flight gave her several hours to obsess about Logan, her father, school, her life and when she got home, her thoughts just intensified.  She tried to lose herself in the mundane day-to-day of work and studying, but here it was, New Year’s Eve, and instead of eating the Snickerdoodles she just baked and listening to “Die Hard” while she studied, she was doodling a large number  “5” over and over in her notebook. 

 

Veronica had spoken to Logan a few times since she got home -- briefly before bed each night -- but jet lag and work kept her from staying awake to continue their conversations for any great length of time.  She texted him during the day with funny things that happened at work, and he responded with something snarky and hilarious each time, but ut there were no jokes about sex, no mention of what happened between them;  they slipped back into their habit of being friends and Veronica wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

 

When she woke up on December 31 however, things had changed – her father’s death was back in the forefront as her mind walked her through her day, one year ago.  One year ago she got up late; today she woke up early to get to work.  One year ago she made herself pancakes in her lovely apartment; today she made Pop Tarts and instant coffee in her kitchenette.  One year ago she made plans to go out in the evening to bar with a few girls from school; tonight she stayed home to hide.

 

Putting down her book on the coffee table, she stretched, picking up her phone to check the time.   It was almost 10 p.m and Veronica’s memory jumped to an imaginary countdown to 1 a.m. – the time she got the call from Deputy Sacks informing her of her dad’s death.  Her heart began to beat faster as her anxiety grew, her mind stuck in a loop as she replayed the conversation in her head.   Seeing the Balboa County ID come up on her phone; stepping out of the bar and onto the street so she could hear Sacks better; the sound of her scream echoing against the brick building when her heart caught up to what Sacks was telling her.

 

When her phone buzzed in her hand she jumped, letting out a little yelp in surprise.  Logan’s number appeared in the call display and she clutched the phone to her chest for a second, calming herself before she answered.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hey to you.  How are you doing?”

 

Veronica stretched her legs out from under her to rest on the coffee table, grabbing the remote to pause the movie.

 

“Awful.  My brain is working overtime tonight.”

 

“PTSD -- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – we’ve talked a lot about it in my classes,” he replied.  “Your brain is replaying everything leading up to your dad’s death, isn’t it?”

 

Veronica closed her eyes, resting her head on the back of the chair.  “Yeah, it is.”

 

“That’s why I called;  I thought you may want to talk about it.”

 

Looking up at the ceiling, Veronica covered her heart with her hand.  “Thank you.  That means a lot.”

 

“So talk to me then; what are you feeling?”

 

Letting out a long breath, Veronica raised her head, her eyes focusing for a moment on the image of Bruce Willis, his face frozen in time on her TV screen.  

 

“I’m feeling afraid – I want my brain to stop before I begin to relive everything about Dad’s death in too much detail.  I’m worried that my mom will call again and just add to my stress.   I’m feeling sad because I miss Dad so much.   I’m feeling lonely because I really, really miss you right now.”

 

“Really?  You miss me?”

 

Standing, Veronica stretched before wandering across the room to her window.  “Yes really.  Why would you think I didn’t?”

 

“I...I really didn’t think you were thinking about me at all right now.”

 

“Oh trust me, you have played a starring role in most of my waking thoughts lately and possibly some of my sleeping ones too.”  Veronica laughed, looking down at the billowing green t-shirt she was wearing over her sleep shorts.    “I have to admit, I stole one of your t-shirts when I was packing so it even smells like you around here; in fact I’m wearing it now.”

 

Logan groaned and Veronica laughed again. “Now I’m thinking about nothing but you,” he replied, letting out a small huff before continuing.

 

“But back to the original conversation – thinking about what happened on this day last year is completely normal.   I hate to say it, this will probably always happen on the anniversary of his death; that’s kind of how our brains are hard-wired.”

 

Lowering her gaze to the ground, Veronica strolled across her apartment  before flopping down onto her bed.  “Great.  Tell me, when you took all these sociology and psychology classes, did you think you would eventually need them for your basket-case girlfriend?”

 

“You’re not a basket-case.”  Logan whispered.  “I’m telling you, everything you’ve been going through is completely normal.”

 

“Normal.”  Veronica chuckled sarcastically.  “Normal.  I don’t even know what ‘normal’ is anymore.”

 

“It may not be the ‘old’ normal, but you can make your own ‘new’ normal, Veronica.  Things may seem out of control, but you are in fact still in control.”  Logan’s voice carried with it a wonderful monotone of calm that seemed to float through the phone and spread through Veronica’s body, soothing her spirit.  “Close your eyes.  What does your ‘new’ normal look like?”

 

She flopped her arm over her eyes, closing them tightly, shutting out everything – the apartment, the movie, the sound of traffic, the hissing of radiator – as she attempted to focus her mind.

 

“Normal.”  Veronica sighed.  “Normal, normal, normal...”

 

In the stillness, images began floating through her head:  Logan, sleeping on the pillow next to her; making pancakes in a small apartment kitchen, laughing and drinking coffee with soft morning light streaming through the window; walking to classes together on some campus before reaching up on her toes to give him a quick peck on the lips before leaving; the smile on his face – his eyes soft and loving – as they grab a cup of coffee in the cafeteria; sitting across a kitchen table from him, textbooks spread out around them, the gentle sound of music on the radio in the background, back in their apartment.

 

“What do you see, Veronica?”

 

Her breath hitched and she opened her eyes, blinking back tears.  “You.  I see you and me.  All year, I could barely see to the next day, but now I can see everything so clearly.  You and me.  An apartment.  Going to university together.  Working on our futures -- together.”

 

The sound of Logan breathing was the only response and for a second Veronica wondered if she had scared him off.

 

“Logan?”

 

“I...I...wow.”  He finally spoke, stammering in shock.  “I mean...I just...wow.”

 

Panic swept though Veronica and she sat up on her bed.  “It was just what came to my head, I’m sorry if it was too crazy or too fast or --”

 

“No!  I’m just surprised because this was not the conversation I was expecting  when I called,” he said quickly. 

 

“Well, maybe this is the conversation we should be having now.”  Veronica let out a deep breath, her heart now beating faster thinking about Logan.  “I miss my dad and I don’t think a day will ever go by that I don’t think about him and feel some deep sadness, but I’m sure if he were here he would tell me that putting my happiness on hold was a ridiculous way to handle things.   I need to find my way to happiness, whatever that may be.”

 

She swallowed hard, tears beginning to brim on her eyelashes.   “And you, Logan...you are my happiness.  I’ve been thinking about us so much these last few days – not just Christmas but all the other times we’ve been together as friends – and I keep coming back to how good it feels to just be with you.  And I want that feeling to last, don’t you?”

 

“I do too.  More than anything,” he replied, his voice husky and strained.  “I love you so much, Veronica.”

 

“I love you too,” she said, wiping her tears from her face.  “Fuck, I wish I had taken you up on your offer to come to New York this week.”

 

Logan chuckled, low and deep into her ear.  “I was hoping you would say that.  Hold on.”

 

Veronica frowned.  Through the phone she heard a car door slam and the sound of movement before the banging of feet on a floor.  She was frozen to her spot, trying to hear what was happening, her heart beating faster.  When a sharp knock radiated from her front door, she nearly jumped out of her skin.

 

“Open the door,” Logan said in her ear.

 

Dropping the phone on the bed, Veronica scrambled to her feet and launched herself across the room, pulling the kitchen chair that was propped under the doorknob away from the door and unlocking the three locks before throwing the door open.

 

Logan stood on the other side, still holding the phone to his clean-shaven face, smiling back at her.

 

“You shaved,” she gasped, her brain still trying to catch up to what was happening.

 

“I really like that razor you gave me,” he said, turning off his phone and putting it in the pocket of his parka.  “Nice shirt.”

 

Veronica glanced down at the green t-shirt – “Free Beard Rides” with the image of a smiling burly man stretched across the front -- and grinned. 

 

“Thanks.”

 

For a split second they stood there, staring at each other, waiting.  Stepping into the hallway, Veronica reached up, grasping Logan’s head with her hands on his soft face before kissing him passionately.  His cold hands slipped under her buttocks, lifting her up and she wrapped her legs around him, pressing herself into his soft coat.  Logan staggered with her into the apartment and she released one of her hands to catch the edge of the door, slamming it shut behind them.  He spun her around in a move that made her momentarily dizzy, before pressing her up against the back of the door, the pillowy softness of his jacket enveloping her.    Veronica tightened her legs around his waist, her head pulling back for a second to gasp for air before his mouth came down on hers again, hungrily searching for her lips once more.  Her tongue swept through his mouth, seeking connection with his, and they moaned in unison as they touched.  A trickle of sweat reached her fingers and her eyes darted to his forehead to see little droplets of perspiration appearing.

 

Manoeuvring her lips away from his, she giggled.  “You’re going to melt  if you don’t take off that parka.”

 

Logan chuckled, resting his sticky forehead against hers.  “Maybe you’re just that hot.”

 

Releasing her legs from around his waist, Veronica shimmied her body down so she was standing once more.  “My radiator is also a little wonky and I boil most of the time - which is why I’m wearing nothing but your t-shirt in the middle of winter.”

 

Slipping out from her position between him and the door, she scampered over to the window, pulling the venetian blinds down and closing them, blocking out the world.  The radiator hissed at her, as if it knew she was talking about it and she smiled, pivoting on her toes to face Logan.  He had removed his boots at the door and dropped his jacket on the chair near the TV. 

 

“Looks like you have the Snickerdoodles and ‘Die Hard’ portion of the evening started --” he joked, jerking his thumb towards the screen. 

 

A coy smile crossed Veronica’s lips and she stepped slowly across the floor, swinging her hips confidently as she made her way towards him.  “Don’t think I’ll need the vibrator tonight, though.”

 

Logan’s eyes grew dark, a smirk of enjoyment pulling at the corners of his lips, a dimple appearing in his cheek.  Arriving in front of him, she reached up, pressing her palm to the smooth skin on his cheek. 

 

“I can’t believe you’re here.”  Veronica’s eyes met his, his palm cupping her cheek gently as his fingers wove through her hair.

 

“I thought I would come to New York, just in case you needed me.  I don’t know why, but I thought that if we were in the same city and talked, even just by phone, then you wouldn’t feel so alone tonight.  But then you said you missed me –”  He averted his eyes for a moment before fixing his gaze back into her.  “I was in a cab downstairs and I figured if you just wanted to talk I would be content to stay in there and then head back to my hotel; but then you said those things about our future and I couldn’t stay away.”

 

Veronica’s heart swelled with love and she kissed him gently on the lips before resting her head on his shoulder, her body pressing against his as he wrapped his arms around her, drawing her closer to him.

 

“I don’t even know what it means – do I try and transfer to Harvard or you to NYU?  Do we both transfer to another school?  All I know is that now that for the first time in a long time, I see my future, and I want it to start, tonight.”

 

Logan swallowed hard, his eyes becoming glassy.  “I want that too.  More than you could ever imagine.”

 

Veronica slipped her hands under Logan’s grey Henley, his muscles tensing as her fingers skimmed his cool skin.   With a quick motion, he pulled the shirt over his head, his chest rising and falling rapidly.  Biting her bottom lip, Veronica let her hands fall lower, resting for a second  on his belt before slowly unclasping the buckle.  His breathing hitched as she unzipped his fly, giving his jeans a quick tug to guide them down to the ground.  Goosebumps covered his skin and Veronica couldn’t resist running her fingers over his arm hair as it stood on end.  Glancing up at him, she licked her lips, reaching for the edge of her shirt, she pulled it over her head, letting the fabric drop to the ground.

 

Her eyes followed Logan as he dropped to his knees in silent reverence, his forehead pressing against her belly, his breath soft and warm across her skin.  Veronica’s fingers wove through his hair and he wrapped his arms around her, keeping her close to him.   When his lips brushed her stomach, Veronica’s knees buckled slightly, the anticipation of him putting her body on alert.  He continued planting small kisses on her abdomen, circling around her navel before pausing.  With a swift sweep of his arms, he stood, gathering her up close to him and she let out an involuntary squeal, her arms wrapping around his neck.

 

Veronica’s lips trembled as Logan’s brushed against hers, teasing softness back and forth as she held her breath, waiting for him to give her more.  Carrying her the few steps to her bed, Logan paused near one side, kissing her slowly, deeply before drawing his head back with a smile.

 

“This may be the world's smallest bed.”  He jerked his head down towards the single mattress and chuckled.

 

Veronica craned her neck to glance down at the unmade bed.  “Sorry.  Had to abandon the queen-size one when I moved.”

 

He winked at her, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  “I'll make it work.”

 

Veronica giggled as he eased her down onto the mattress.  She kicked the messy bedding onto the ground, leaving her nearly naked across the sheets, Logan towering over her.  Raising her hands above her head, Veronica crossed them at her wrists, stretching her body as Logan's eyes skimmed over her form. Lowering himself down onto his knees again, Logan reached out his hand to gently brush some stray hairs from her forehead.

 

“I really, really want to make love to you,” he said quietly.  “But I was so unprepared for this, that I didn't bring any protection.”

 

Veronica dragged her teeth over her bottom lip, a wide smile crossing her lips.  “Side table – top drawer -- stole a few condoms you before I left, just in case you showed up here some weekend.”

 

Logan quirked his eyebrows at her, a grin spreading from dimple to dimple.  Reaching over to the small white table, he opened the drawer and blindly fished around inside before producing a line of condoms, dramatically waving them in the air. 

 

“So you stole the t-shirt and my condoms; anything else you happened to make off with before you left town?”

 

“Maybe a silver spoon or two,” she teased, batting her eyelashes at him with a giggle.

 

Logan lowered his face to hers, brushing the tip of his nose to hers.  “God, I adore you.”

 

Veronica parted her lips to respond, but Logan's lips connected with hers and all her words were gone in an instant.  Nothing mattered but the gentle press of his lips with hers as his fingers trailed down her body.  A small tug on the edge of her panties caused an involuntary moan to rise from Veronica.  Slipping away from their kiss, Logan slid his body down towards the end of the bed, taking her delicate underwear with him.  Her sensitive skin prickled with anticipation as Logan knelt at her feet again, kissing the tip of her toes.

 

Logan's hands stretched up across the top of her legs, coming to a stop at her hips, his long fingers wrapped around to press into her soft buttocks.  Slowly, he eased her down towards him, her body skimming across the sheets.  Veronica exhaled, all her muscles relaxing, letting him take complete control.  Her legs now dangled off the edge and she spread them around his torso opening herself to him.  When his warm breath swept over her bare mound, she let out a soft mewl of satisfaction and he responded, his tongue connecting with her sex.

 

Veronica closed her eyes, her hands dropping to weave through Logan's hair, soft whimpers of need filling her throat.  He continued lavishing his desire on her as she moved her hips in rhythm to his intimate motions.  Her body began to tense, her legs shaking against him, going from tender pleasure to pressing need in a heartbeat, and her moans turned to pleads. 

 

In an instant, Logan released her at the top of her pleasure and she cried out in frustration.

 

“Not yet,” he murmured.

 

The sound of the condom package ripping alerted her to open her eyes, glancing down to watch him quickly roll the protection over his hard flesh.

 

Leaning towards her, he grasped her hips again, pulling her to the edge of the bed, her legs now spread wide in front of him.  As she sat up, he pressed his lips to hers, his tongue moving in search of hers.  He positioned himself at her opening and she moaned in his mouth, her hands hooking around the back of his shoulders, her nails digging into his skin.

 

His first thrust made Veronica gasp, releasing his lips from hers.  Logan pressed his forehead to hers, thrusting into her again and they moaned again in unison.  With a final thrust, they connected deeply, and she wrapped her legs around his waist, keeping him as close to her as humanly possible.  Her breasts moved against his pecs and a vibration of pleasure radiated from her sensitive nipples.

 

“I love you.”  Logan's lips brushed across hers as he spoke.  “I love you so much.”

 

“I love you, Logan.” Veronica’s voice shook slightly.  “I never want anyone else but you.”

 

Gently, their lips connected again, this time holding their position together as he began to rock them, his thrusts long and slow.  He took his time, easing in and out of her with such tenderness she was sure she would stay on the brink of pleasure all night.  Only when her quiet moans began to turn to high whimpers of need did he slide his hand between them, caressing her clit until her orgasm consumed her in a wave that never seemed to end.  His head dropped to her shoulder as he came with her, both of them crying out in combined ecstasy.

 

For a moment they stayed clinging to one another, unwilling to part, as their ragged breathing finally became normal once more.  Logan slipped away from her towards the bathroom and Veronica rolled to the edge of the bed, grabbing the covers off the floor as she made her way to the head of the bed.  When he returned, she rolled on her side and pulled back to covers, inviting him in with her.

 

Logan pressed his body against hers, spooning around her as close as he could, before pulling the covers back over them.  It took them a few seconds of shifting and shuffling before they found a comfortable position together on the tiny mattress, limbs wrapped around limbs under the warmth of the blanket.

 

“Wherever we live, I'm buying us a king size bed.” Logan kissed the nape of her neck before returning to lay his head behind hers on the pillow.

 

Veronica let out a contented sigh.  “I don’t know – I kind of like being like this.”

 

She giggled as he buried his face in her hair, attempting to close what little gaps there were between them.  “Tell me if you’re comfortable tomorrow morning after a night of sleeping like this.”

 

Glancing up at the clock on her bedside table, Veronica inhaled sharply as her anxiety rose once more. 

 

“11:55,” she stated.  “Almost midnight.”

 

“It’s okay, Veronica,  I’m here to help you through tonight,” he replied, giving her a small squeeze of affection.

 

“I know.  You have no idea how grateful I am that you didn’t listen to me and came to New York.”

 

Logan’s fingers caressed her hip, making their way up her torso and down again and Veronica began to relax into his body.  They stayed that way until the sound of fireworks and honking horns outside signaled that it was midnight.

 

“Happy New Year.”  Logan tenderly kissed Veronica’s shoulder and a shiver ran through her.

 

“Happy New Year,” she replied quietly, pausing to think about the meaning of her words.  “Do you think this means the curse is lifted?”

 

“We were never really cursed.”  Logan whispered.  “Duncan and Lilly leaving us was the best thing that could have happened to us.”

 

“And why’s that?”  Veronica closed her eyes, letting his words sink in.

 

“Without them, I would have never met you.  And if either of us were still with them, we would have spent this Christmas still secretly pining for each other, and that wouldn’t have been fair to anyone.”

 

“Maybe you’re right; but what about my dad?”

 

“You’re dad was just one of those terrible, horrible things that happens in life, unconnected to anything other than your mom’s addictions.”

 

Veronica glanced at the clock again, her brain still counting down to the moment in time when Sacks called her.

 

“And us?  What about us?”

 

Logan’s breath tickled her ear as he spoke, his voice husky with emotion.  “We are each other’s past and present and future.  We’re best friends.  We’re lovers.  We’re partners.”

 

“Partners,”  Veronica murmmerd.  “I like that.  It makes us sound like we’re one step ahead of the law.”

 

“Then partners it is.”  Logan chuckled.  “So what do you want to do now, partner?”

 

Veronica let out a long, cleansing breath.  She knew tomorrow morning would be difficult again, as thoughts of her father started to creep back into her head; she knew what she was proposing about living with Logan would be complicated; she knew that their road may still be filled with life’s obstacles to overcome, but right now, having Logan here with her made her feel like anything was possible, as long as they were together. 

 

“Sleep,” Veronica replied, her voice a dreamy softness.  “Just sleep.”