He watches her as she sits on the edge of the bed, rubbing lotion onto her legs, fresh out of the shower. Her thin cotton robe is already threatening to come untied and her hair drips water onto the sheets. He often finds that he’s still mesmerized by her doing the simplest of tasks.
“Are you watching me again?” she asks without turning to look at him.
“I might be.”
She snaps the lid closed on the lotion bottle. “Come home more often I do this nightly.”
He crawls toward her on the bed, wrapping his arms around her torso from behind her. Logan kisses the top of her head. “I do what I can, okay?”
She hums, shifting out of his grip to put the lotion bottle back in the bathroom.
“You know what I think about a lot?” Veronica asks, leaning against the doorframe and crossing her arms over her chest.
“Hmmm yes,” she says nodding, “But also how we’ve known each other since we were 12.”
Logan grunts, moving back to sit on his side of the bed with his back against the headboard. “Yeah, I try not to think about that.”
She scrunches her eyebrows together in confusion. “You do? Why?”
“Because I was awful to you.”
Her expression softens and she moves back over to the bed, curling up against his side. “Not at 12 you weren’t. I seem to recall you telling me that 12-year-old you thought 12-year-old me was hot.”
He laughs a little at that. “You think you could still fit into that soccer uniform?”
“Okay perv,” she says shoving him much like she had the night he first confessed this in their Homecoming limo.
He keeps laughing. “You brought it up."
“Need I remind you that you’re already fulfilling that 12-year-old fantasy just sans the uniform?”
“No, it was never about you,” he says, shaking his head. “Just the uniform.”
She gasps, feigning hurt. “Okay that’s it, I’m leaving.”
She starts to get out of bed, but Logan pulls her back. They’re both laughing at this point and he finds himself wondering why he picked a career that constantly keeps him in other countries and away from her.
Veronica settles back against the headboard as her laughter subsides. “Okay, but I’m serious though. We’ve known each other since middle school, don’t you ever think about how crazy that is? I mean yes, we’ve had the ultimate on again off again relationship, but look at us now. How many people get to say they’ve known their significant other for most of their life?”
He reaches out toward her, rubbing the back of her neck. “What’s with the sudden nostalgia?”
She shrugs, expelling a sigh. Her sudden excitement falters. “Nothing. Just a thought I’ve had lately.”
“Veronica, I’ve known you since we were 12. It’s never just nothing with you.”
She narrows her eyes at him. She always hates it when he uses her own words against her. Which is exactly why he makes a point to do it as often as possible.
“What happened?” he tries again.
She runs a hand through her wet hair. “This couple’s been married for 30 years. They were next door neighbors as kids, grew up together. One day the husband decides his wife isn’t doing it for him anymore and signs up for some dating website for widows. Mind you, his wife is still very much alive and now hiring us to dig up dirt on the cheating bastard.”
“You still do it for me. Even without the soccer uniform.”
She shoots him another look.
“We’re not them,” Logan tells her, scooting closer to her on the bed. “Just because we’ve known each other a long time doesn’t mean we’re going to end up like that.”
“I know,” she says softly. “I mean just the way you watch me brush my hair tells me you’re not looking at anybody else like that.”
“I’m that obvious, huh?”
She nods. “You’re not slick.”
Logan leans forward and kisses her temple.
“But it got me thinking,” Veronica continues. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We’ve been through some serious shit storms – seen so much, hurt so much – and yet here we are, living oh so domestically whenever you’re not busy doing who knows what who knows where because I don’t have clearance.”
He nudges her with his shoulder. “Imagine telling 16-year-old us we’d end up here.”
She clucks her tongue. “God, I hated your guts.”
“Pretty sure I hated yours more. Did I ever apologize about your headlights by the way? Because I really am sorry. I’m sorry for all of it. I was more of a dick than Dick.”
She turns her head to look at him. “How did we ever manage to fall for each other? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we did, but…how?”
“Well,” he starts, draping an arm around her shoulders and drawing her into his side. “We were sort of friends in middle school. And then we started dating each other’s best friend, so we were pretty much always together until Lily… and then I think we were both just looking for that same sort of normalcy and comfort. Someone who understood us. We both lost Lily, we both lost our moms, but we found each other.”
Her head drops to his shoulder. “And then we had to lose each other a couple of times before we really found each other.”
He nods, thinking about the pain they’d caused each other in the past that always seemed to end with pushing the other away. “We’ve finally grown up, huh?”
Logan laughs, wrapping his other arm around her torso and pulling her in for a kiss.
“Or maybe,” he starts, pressing his forehead against hers, “all we needed was some extended time apart to realize what we had together.”
“Okay well, you’ve made your point. I miss you when you’re not around. You win.”
She shakes her head, shifting her weight back away from him. “I know it’s your job. I know it’s important to you. And you’ve put up with my PI business practically the entire time you’ve known me. So, I have no place to complain, especially because I never listen to you when you think I’m about to get in over my head at work. But just this once, let me be the annoying girlfriend complaining about how much long-distance sucks.”
“I’d say that makes you more of the loving girlfriend than the annoying one.”
There’s that same look again he earns himself in response.
“By extended time I meant –”
She cuts him off. “I know you meant. After our breakup first year at Hearst. Doesn’t make the fact that I’ve only seen you on a grainy webcam for the past month any easier. That whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing is bullshit. Had enough of that during those years I thought I’d never run into you again.”
“It’s hard on me too, you know. There’s so much time and so many wrongs I want to make up for. I can’t do that on a video call or an e-mail thread, no matter how dirty they may accidentally get.”
“If this is all part of that epic love story of ours you talked about it, I’m ready to trade it in for a trashy romance novel.”
“The kind with the half-naked men on the front cover?”
“Well your abs certainly fit the criteria.”
They fall into a silence, neither of them quite knowing what to say. Veronica settles back against him and Logan wraps his arms around her again. Her head is pillowed on his chest and he thinks she may just doze off like this, leaving everything they just talked about hanging in the air without much resolution.
They’ve known each other most of their lives, but that doesn’t have to mean they’re going to grow apart. If anything, they’re closer now than they ever have been. They don’t hurt each other anymore like they used to.
But maybe he’s still hurting her, still hurting them both, with the alternating spans of long distance. He sees it on her face every time he has to leave again, every time they have to end their video calls.
Her pain. Her understanding. Her hurt. Her love.
Every time she tries to hide it and that almost kills him more.
“Do you remember Madison Sinclair’s 14th birthday party?” he asks, a thought coming to him, a point he wants to make.
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” she mutters, sounding like she was close to sleep.
“Just…I have a point, I promise.”
Veronica yawns. “I wasn’t invited.”
“Shit, she’s had it out for you for that long?” Suddenly the point he was going to make isn’t going to make much sense to her.
“Any idea why?”
“Because I’m prettier than her and she knows it. Clearly.” She shifts so she’s sitting up more and able to look at him. “Where are you trying to go with this?”
“I have a point okay, hear me out.”
She nods, motioning for him to continue.
“So, it was your typical middle school party. People wanted to play spin the bottle, and Madison had this god awful romantic comedy on in the background.”
He sees her cringe at the mention of spin the bottle. “I already don’t like where this is going.”
But he continues on, ignoring her protest. “And this movie was so bad. The acting was terrible, the plotline was predictable, but I couldn’t stop myself from paying attention to it.”
Her brow furrows. “Is the point you’re trying to make related to some cheesy movie plotline you half remember?”
“My point is the couple in the movie were in a long-distance relationship and it almost destroyed them. And it would make more sense if you had seen the movie, but I have no idea what it was called.”
She lays her head back down on his chest. “You couldn’t have just started this off with ‘I saw this movie once’ instead of bringing Madison into it?”
“Can you just let me finish one thought here?”
She burrows closer into his side. “Sorry, go ahead.”
He takes a deep breath, almost afraid to hear the answer to his question. “Is this long-distance thing going to destroy us?”
She’s quiet. And he’s not sure if it’s because he asked her to stop interrupting or if it’s because she doesn’t know how to respond to it.
“Now you can talk,” he tells her, giving her a gentle nudge.
She still doesn’t say anything. The only noise coming from her is the sound of her breathing.
He shouldn’t have said anything. He should have just let her fall asleep after making the comment that his abs would make a great book cover.
“It’s just hard, you know?” her voice is soft.
And then she’s quiet again. But she doesn’t shift away from him, doesn’t act like she has any intention to move.
“You didn’t answer my question,” he says, running a hand through her hair.
“I don’t want to be with anyone else. I’m not losing you again.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Not in that sense anyway.”
“How long are you home for this time?”
“I have to leave on Sunday.”
She lifts her head to look at the clock. 12:35 AM. “It’s already Thursday.”
“We’ll make the most of it then,” he tells her, still absentmindedly playing with her hair. “I should be back for longer next time.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” she mumbles, fighting sleep again.
“Get some rest, babe. I’ll still be here when you wake up.”
He’s lying on his stomach with his arms tucked under the pillow, when he feels the tentative pressure of her fingers at his back.
“This one’s new,” she says softly, her fingers brushing over the spot just above his hip where a stray piece of shrapnel had caught him as he dove away from the blast just in time on his last deployment.
“You have the scars on my back memorized that well?”
She hums, tracing over the shape of it again. “Maybe I do. Years of practice. On and off.” Her fingers still. “How’d it happen?”
“You get any new scars lately?”
“Logan,” she exhales his name on a sigh.
He clucks his tongue at her. “You know the deal. I’ll tell you about one of mine, if you tell me about one of yours.”
“We were in college when we made that deal. You know about all of my scars by now.”
“Guess you’re out of luck then.”
She narrows her eyes at him. “So I have to wait until I accidentally injure myself again for you to talk to me?”
He sighs, rolling onto his back. “Flying shrapnel gone awry. Looks worse than it is.”
She exhales sharply, her fingers reaching back for his hip. “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
He didn’t want to tell her because she worries. And he can see it on her face that telling her didn’t ease her mind at all, only served to make the thoughts swimming in her head worse. But she plays it off like it didn’t, pretending to be relieved that just a flying chunk of metal was the cause. He knows that even after all this time, it hasn’t gotten any easier for her.
His knuckles graze over a purple-yellow spot of skin on her thigh. “You could tell me about this bruise.”
“Always a competition with you isn’t it? Who can worry about the other person more?”
All that being said, he doesn’t worry about her and her profession any less these days either. As she’s gotten older, the cases she involves herself in have only gotten more dangerous. People don’t ask her to find their missing dogs or track down the individual spreading lies about them on the internet anymore. She’s graduated to the types of cases and criminals only her dad would handle in the past. And he was barely comfortable watching her handle the Hearst rapist case.
Logan keeps his eyes locked on hers, his knuckles still brushing over her skin where the bruise is. She shakes her head, lacing her fingers through his against her leg.
“I had to tackle a bail jumper. I left my taser in my other purse.”
He laughs at that, full and hearty, while she stares at him like he’s gone crazy. It’s just that sometimes he forgets that he doesn’t need to worry about her as fiercely as he does. She’s the strongest person he knows, hell even tougher than some of the men he works with. She can definitely handle her own.
“You sure that shrapnel didn’t hit you in the head?” she asks.
Logan catches his breath. “You ever wonder what our lives would be like with safer, more normal careers?”
“Boring as hell?”
He laughs again but stops when he notices that her smirk has faded. Her gaze is focused on her left knee, and she’s absentmindedly tracing over the scar that’s there. The first one she told him about, from falling off her bike when she was seven.
“Hey,” he starts, skimming his fingers up her side. “Where’d you go?”
She spreads her hands flat against her thigh and looks back over her shoulder to meet his gaze.
“Just thinking back to how this whole ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ thing started. Alternate career paths wouldn’t erase much.”
He sits up, gently pulling her into his arms. “I’m okay, Veronica. He doesn’t haunt my thoughts anymore.”
“I know,” she says softly. “But still –”
“You don’t want to know,” Logan tells her, watching her eyes roam over his back, likely taking in the scars she’s never had this long to look at before.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You’re not asking very loudly.”
She hums, her gaze drifting away from his back to meet his eyes instead. “I’m trying to respect your privacy. I like to think that if you wanted to talk about it, you would. But you and I both know neither of us are very good at sharing.”
“Maybe we should get better at that then. I hear sharing is a solid foundation for a healthy relationship.”
“Us? In a healthy relationship? Now you’re talking crazy.”
Logan smirks at her, rolling onto his side and propping his head up on his hand, his elbow resting on his pillow. “Ask.”
He raises an eyebrow at her expectantly.
Veronica sighs. “You know you’re not going to tell me.”
“Alright I’ll make you a deal,” he starts. “For every scar of yours you tell me about, I’ll tell you about one of mine.”
She sits up, copying his position. “You’re serious.”
He nods. “I am.”
She bites her lip, staring at him for a moment, before sitting up even more and pulling the sheet off of her. She points to her left knee. “I got this when I was seven. I fell off my bike after my dad lied to me about how he was still holding on to it.”
Logan smiles, sitting up and leaning forward to kiss her knee. He hears her breath hitch at the gesture. He knows how intimate he’s just made this conversation, knows how much this sort of thing freaks her out. But he wants her to know that he’s in this, this time. He has no intention of losing her again.
“Surfing accident,” he says, lifting his right hand and pointing to the little moon shaped scar on the side of his wrist. “Took on a wave bigger than I was ready to handle and completely wiped out. This is courtesy of some rock I scraped up against.”
She traces over it with her index finger before giving in and bringing his wrist up to her lips. She meets his gaze, giving him a look that tells him she’s not going anywhere either.
“Let’s see,” she starts, looking at her hands. “I can never remember which finger it’s on because it’s so small.” She holds her right hand out to him. “On my thumb. Curling iron incident from the 8th grade dance. After arguing with my mom that I did in fact know how to use a curling iron without burning myself, I burned myself.”
He smiles, keeping his eyes locked on hers as he kisses her thumb. He swears it makes her blush, but he knows she’ll deny it.
“This one,” he draws his left knee into his chest and points at his big toe. “Is all thanks to one very drunk Dick Casablancas and a glass bottle of tequila he dropped on my foot. The alcohol really added that something extra to the cut.”
She winces at the thought, brushing over the scar with her thumb. “Okay ouch. But I’m not kissing your foot.”
“There goes my theory about you having a foot fetish.”
Veronica groans and shoves him, shaking her head.
“Hmm what else?” she asks more to herself than to him, her eyes roaming over her skin for more stories to tell.
“What about this one?” Logan asks, brushing his thumb over a short scar on her hip.
She looks down at it and her whole body tenses up. “I – uh – I don’t remember. I mean I have an idea, but I don’t – know.”
“Did you get blackout drunk again and not invite me?” Logan teases, bumping his shoulder against hers.
But when she doesn’t crack a smile or return a witty retort, not even another gentle shove in its place, he knows he’s crossed the line. And he too has an idea about where it came from.
“Shelly’s party?” he asks quietly.
She shrugs, picking at the edge of the bedsheet. “The cut was there when I woke up. I don’t know what it’s from.”
He can feel the weight of it on his chest. The things from their past they don’t talk about. The trauma they’ve both endured that the other knows is there, but they let each other keep buried. The scars that aren’t from learning to do new things as a kid or having one too many drinks with friends. The ones she had loudly not been asking about. It didn’t even occur to him that she would have those too. And now he’s kicking himself for this little game. He had wanted to make opening up to her about his dad easier on himself. He’d never meant to drag her into her dark places too.
Logan moves from her side to lay back down so he can kiss the scar on her hip.
“I’m so sorry,” he says, kissing it a second time.
Veronica runs her fingers through his hair. “For all I know, I got it from falling onto something while I was druggily stumbling around. It might not even be from…Cassidy.”
“But the drugs –” he starts, the guilt still tightening in his chest every time he lets himself think about that night.
“I know,” she cuts him off, her fingers still lazily running through his hair. “But you have to stop blaming yourself for what happened.”
“But I could’ve at least stopped –”
“No,” she cuts him off again, shaking her head. “Don’t let yourself get caught up in the what ifs. Once you go down that road they won’t stop and all it will do is continue to haunt you.”
There’s so much about their past he wishes he could take back; that night more than any of it. The ways in which she trusts him now never cease to amaze him. He doesn’t deserve her. Doesn’t think he ever will.
“Your turn,” Veronica says softly, skimming her hand down his back.
Logan knows it’s her way of telling him that she’s done talking about that night.
He sighs, draping his arms across her thighs, and pillowing his head on them. He can’t look at her when he talks about this. “The ones on my back? Aaron had a thing for belts. Any time I did something wrong or pissed him off. The cigarette burn though…that was a very special evening. I got this remote-control car for my birthday and as I was trying to get a hang of it and the controller, I ran it right into his wine rack. And of course, as my luck would have it, his most expensive bottle shattered on the equally expensive Persian rug. He had so much anger in him. Makes me wonder how he never managed to kill me, just my girlfriend.”
She runs her hands down his back again. He knows his current position on top of her is keeping her from being able to keep up the ritual he started with the kisses, but he thinks he’s better off this way. He wouldn’t be able to handle it. Her lips at his back, on the remnants of his father? That would break him for sure.
“Logan?” her voice is quiet, tentative.
“You’re nothing like him.”
“Did I lose you again?” Logan asks, drawing her back to the present.
“I’m here,” she responds, curling tighter into his side. “Just thinking about what an asshole your dad was.”
He hums, kissing the top of her head. “It’s okay,” he starts, having finally accepted what she’s tried to assure him for years. “I’m nothing like him.”
“You’re right,” she tells him. “You’re not. While we’re on this topic though –”
“Topic of my father?”
“Not directly. Just the scars.”
“Okay, I’m with you. What about them?”
“That night, when we made that first deal about sharing scar stories…how much do you remember?”
He skims a hand up and down her back. “All of it. The stories, that it was the first night we spent together, the feeling that we really had something real this time and there was no breaking it…”
She nods. “We did have something real, still do. Just took about a nine year or so break in the middle.”
“Yeah, but I remember thinking that night that I never wanted us to end. I wanted to be in it for you.”
“I know,” she says, skimming a hand across his chest. “That’s why you opened up to me about your dad even when I was too afraid to ask.”
“What are you trying to see if I remember?”
“Just how intimate it was. I mean we were 19 and that’s still one of the most intimate conversations we’ve had.”
“Ah young love,” he sighs, still rubbing her back. “Although this love thing we’ve got going for us now is pretty great too.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
Veronica grins up at him. “Just don’t make me go looking next time, okay? If you get hurt, tell me about it.”
He hugs her to him a little tighter. The last time he was home, she wasn’t coping well with his constant absence. This time she’s not coping well with the nature of his job itself. The depth of her love for him still amazes him.
“I just don’t want you to worry about me more than I already know you do.”
“But it’s better if I know what it is I’m worrying about,” she protests. “If you want me to start detailing to you every bail jumper gone awry story in return, I can do that. Not sure if you’d actually want all of those details though, but –”
“Okay, now I’m both concerned and intrigued.”
She shakes her head. “People are idiots, babe. But that’s not news.”
“Okay, let’s propose a new deal here. I’ll tell you about my work-related injuries, if you tell me about yours. No prompting or scars required.”
She reaches up to kiss his cheek. “Deal.”
She’s just reaching over to turn off the bedside light for the night, when Logan catches her completely off guard with the next question out of his mouth.
“How come we never fucked in high school?”
Her hand freezes, hovering over the switch on the lamp. Speechless. He’s finally managed to leave her speechless. Veronica abandons the lamp switch and turns to look at him, her mouth still open in what she assumes to be shock.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I know you heard me.”
He’s not looking at her, his gaze instead focused on some spot on the ceiling.
“Logan, I – how am I supposed to respond to that?”
He shrugs. “You slept with Duncan in high school.”
She continues to gape at him. “I’m sorry, what year is it? Did we not just have sex like an hour ago?”
His gaze drifts over to her. “It’s something I’ve always wondered but have always been too afraid to ask.”
“So tonight seemed like a good night to bring it up? When we have to be up at 7:00 for Noah’s baptism tomorrow? Wallace will kill me if we’re late.”
“Were you just more attracted to him or…?”
“God,” she starts, scrubbing a hand over her face. “Do you really not remember?”
“Remember what?” he asks, panic starting to flash on his face. “We didn’t sleep together until after graduation, right?"
Veronica rolls her eyes, shaking her head. “Yeah, but not for lack of trying.”
“What do you mean?”
“How do you not remember this? Every time we were alone together, we got interrupted. One of our dads would walk in, or Dick would come over, or some PCHers would throw shit at us in your car. It’s not that I didn’t want to have sex with you, Logan. It’s just that we never got the chance.”
He sits up a little straighter at that, leaning toward her on the bed. “Wait, you were trying to sleep with me?”
She sighs, rolling her eyes again. “What gave it away? The time I got off straddling your thigh when Dick just barged into your house with no warning or the time my dad almost caught us with your hand down my pants?”
“Well I –” he stammers.
“No? Okay well your hands were definitely up my shirt when the PCHers attacked your car. And that time your dad walked in on us on the couch? The way my hips were tilting up against yours wasn’t any indication of what I wanted to happen there?”
Logan holds up his index finger. “Okay, wait, pause, can we go back for a second here? You got off straddling my thigh?”
Veronica smirks at him. “I can’t believe you don’t remember that. I’ve never seen you so mad at Dick before. I thought you were going to punch him for interrupting.”
“How? I –”
“What, do you want a reenactment? Help jog your memory?”
He’s still staring at her with a stunned expression on his face.
“Okay fine,” she starts, pulling back the covers and moving to straddle his thigh. “Imagine we’re both wearing jeans though, because that’s how it happened.”
She leans forward and kisses him. “So, we were making out and your hands were on my ass.” She kisses him again. “Put your hands on my ass.”
“Were you this demanding in high school too?” he asks, obliging her request.
“Surely you already know the answer to that,” she teases, kissing him again. “Anyway, we were very much into the kissing and I was very much into the way your thigh felt between my legs and -”
“Veronica?” Logan starts, unable to hide his grin at feeling her already wet through her thin cotton shorts against his thigh. “I remember.”
She huffs and smacks his chest, starting to slide off of him, but he holds her in place.
“I remember when your dad almost caught us too.” He slides one of his hands around her hip, his fingers toying with the waistband of her shorts. “I was a little shocked you let me go there, to be honest.”
He slides his hand down the front of her shorts and runs his index finger through her wetness. Her breath hitches and she braces herself against his shoulders.
“But you were so into it,” Logan continues, circling his index finger around her clit. “And I remember thinking about how the previous week I got you to cum without even trying. You know. The incident you were just describing? So I thought, what’s going to happen if I actually try?”
He curls his finger into her and her hips pitch forward against him.
“Good to know I haven’t lost my touch,” he whispers against her ear, adding a second finger inside of her as his thumb moves to rub at her clit. “Pun intended.”
“Was this conversation just an excuse to initiate another round of sex?” she asks breathlessly as her eyes slip closed.
“No, it was a genuine question,” he says, continuing to work her over. “And those little moans I was drawing from you, not unlike the ones you’re giving me right now, I remember thinking they were a sound I wanted to hear over and over.”
He starts accentuating his words by thrusting his fingers into her in time to the cadence of his voice. “And I could tell you were getting closer by the way you stopped kissing me back. By the way those little moans changed pitch when I started kissing your neck.”
Logan starts kissing her neck and, just as he’s learned from her over the years, her little moans turn into more of a growl as she gets closer to the edge.
“I had you right there,” he continues. “You were so close, so fucking close. And then we heard that key in the lock and you pulled that blanket out of nowhere and we had an entire conversation with your father with my fingers still inside of you under that blanket because I was too afraid he’d question any movement.”
He takes his fingers out of her and she whimpers at the loss of his touch. He smirks at her, knowing she didn’t finish.
“You son of a bitch,” she grumbles, rocking her hips into his thigh, trying to find friction.
“Ah high school,” he sighs, lacing his hands behind his head and leaning back into the headboard. “You’re right. We did try, but we never were successful.”
She finally opens her eyes, glaring at him. “I hate you.”
Logan shakes his head. “I don’t think any part of that is true.”
Veronica huffs, still shifting against him. “Are you gonna make me do it myself or are you gonna help?”
“Messing with you is truly my favorite pastime,” he smiles as he leans forward and dips his hand below her shorts again.
He works her back up and over this time, her growl turning into more of a cry as she cums for him. She presses her forehead against his as her breathing evens out and he rubs the inside of her thigh as she comes down from her high.
“See? Was that so hard?” she asks.
He kisses her nose in response before she rolls off to his side. She scrubs a hand over her face staring at the same spot on the ceiling he had been looking at earlier.
“Fuck, I forgot your fingers were still in me during that conversation, I must have blocked that out.”
“It was pretty scarring,” Logan nods.
“Do you think he knew?” she asks, turning to look at him.
“I think he knew he walked in on us fooling around. I don’t think he knew it was still happening while we were talking.”
“No wonder he never liked you.”
“Right yeah I’m sure the entirety of his disliking me was due to that one single day.”
Veronica slips her legs back under the covers and starts to reach over and turn off the lamp again. She is once again interrupted.
“So we only tried those four times then?”
She settles back against the headboard without turning off the lamp and stares over at him in disbelief. “Why does it matter? You have me now, don’t you?”
Logan shrugs in response.
“Babe, if I wasn’t attracted to you, I wouldn’t have stuck around this long. Where is this coming from?”
He shrugs again. “Found one of our old yearbooks today while trying to clean out more space in the closet. And I remembered how all over each other we were in the beginning. I was just curious what your intentions were.”
She starts laughing. “Okay first of all, we’re still all over each other. The literal only upside to this long-distance relationship is how much sex we get in when you come home. And second of all, my intentions? Why, Mr. Echolls I believe I was trying to court you. Is that what the kids are still calling it these days?”
“Why’d you stop?”
“Okay,” she starts, reaching for the lamp once more. “We are not having that conversation again.”
She sighs, nearly ready to just try and sleep with the light on and to let him turn it off when he can get out of his head.
“Do you think things would be different now if we hadn’t both kept screwing up back then?”
“Do you want things to be different?”
He shakes his head. “No. I mean I wish I was home more, but that’s neither here nor there. Just thinking about lost time we could have had together.”
“Okay, are we talking about when we broke up right before senior year? Or have we moved on to what happened at Hearst?”
He gives her another non-committal shrug and she moves closer to him. She reaches up to cup his face in her hands.
“Look, with you in the Naval Academy and me in law school, I don’t think we would have made the time for each other our relationship would have needed to survive. I think we had to finish growing up without each other to get to the place we are now.”
She leans in and kisses him.
“How did such a fun and playful conversation get so serious?” she asks.
He wraps his arms around her waist, holding her against him. “Still working on finding good lead ins for these types of conversations. I didn’t intend for it to get as physical as it did when I started.”
She lets her head fall onto his shoulder. “I hope you don’t have that same issue with your therapist. I’m sure she doesn’t appreciate you coming on to her all of the time.”
Logan laughs, shaking his head. “No, no I don’t have that issue with her. She’s easy to talk to.”
She sits back up at that, hurt flashing in her eyes as she meets his gaze. “And I’m not?”
“It’s our history together, Vee. I never know what’s fair game and what’s like walking around on eggshells with you.”
“You can talk to me about anything. Hell, if you want hash out why I broke up with you in high school again we can do it. I just think you know the answer to that by now.”
He closes his eyes and she knows immediately she’s not going to like where this is going.
“Anything? So, marriage?”
“You said –”
“You know –”
Veronica untangles herself from his side and leans back against the headboard. Her gaze focuses on that same damn spot on the ceiling. She presses her thumb and index finger into the bridge of her nose, her eyes slipping closed.
“Eggshells,” he says quietly.
Her tears break after that. She’s never been able to break the habit of crying when she’s frustrated. At least not when it comes to him.
“You know how much I love you, right?” she asks. “I know I don’t say it very often, but I mean it. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to be with anyone else. I just want you. I’m in this thing. The long haul. You and me together. I don’t care about the fights we’ve had in the past. I don’t care about who else you’ve been with when we were apart. I just want to know at the end of the day when I come home and you’re in town, that you’re here. In my arms. In our bed. I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that. I just need you.”
Logan pulls her back against him and she presses herself into his side, clinging to him like she’s afraid he might leave.
“I’m sorry,” he says softly, his lips brushing against the top of her head. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“So what, all of this so you could bring that up again?” she asks softly.
“No, I really did just want to ask about lost time between us. I didn’t mean for it to turn like that. But I still don’t understand the difference. We don’t have to be married to destroy each other. I think our history together has taught us that.”
“I know you don’t understand me. I don’t understand me.”
They sit in silence for a few minutes, wrapped up in each other, listening to each other breathe.
“You know how much I love you, right?” Veronica asks, breaking the silence and repeating herself from earlier, needing to hear his answer.
“I do,” he says, trying to hold her even closer. “And I need you to know that our differing opinions on marriage aren’t going to scare me away. I’m not losing any more time with you.”
She nods, wiping at her eyes.
“I’ll finally let you turn that lamp off now.”
She laughs a little at that. “We’re gonna be late for the baptism tomorrow, aren’t we?”
“Nah, I’m still on military time. I’ll wake you up.”
“I don’t want to lose any more time with you either.”
“You’re awfully quiet tonight,” Veronica tells him from the bathroom as she finishes washing her face. “Something on your mind?”
Logan doesn’t answer, the only noise filling the silence being the air conditioning turning on. And that worries her. In her experience, a quiet Logan is never a good sign.
She walks out of the bathroom to find an empty bedroom. That would explain the lack of response, but she still can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. She finds him in the kitchen, hunched over the kitchen counter and staring at his phone.
“Is it work?” she asks, stepping behind him and wrapping her arms around his torso. She presses herself into his back, the sinking feeling that he’s about to leave again starting to settle in.
“Yeah,” he sighs.
“How long until I leave or how long until I get back?”
He spins in her grip so he’s facing her, and he reaches out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “They’re looking at flights to send me out tomorrow. It sounds like I might be gone for a while with this one.”
She visibly deflates, stepping away from him. She busies herself by getting a glass of water to try and keep the tears she feels stinging her eyes at bay.
“You’ve been home for three days,” she says more to the cupboard filled with glasses than to him.
“And last time you told me you were supposed to be home for longer this month.”
She pulls a glass down and fills it with tap water, but merely sets it on the counter and stares at it. She isn’t actually thirsty.
Logan moves to stand beside her at the sink, reaching out to rub her back.
“I don’t want to leave you either,” he says softly. “It’s never been harder to leave than has it been since we’ve gotten back together.”
“Shame on you for picking a career without consulting me, your then ex-girlfriend, first.”
“That is my bad. I should have known you wouldn’t be able to stay away from me forever. I’m too irresistible.”
“You ever think that maybe I’m the irresistible one?”
He smirks, kissing the top of her head. “Yes, all five feet of you.”
Veronica scoffs. “Excuse me, I am 5’1”. And stop making fun of my height.”
He laughs, pulling her into his side and guiding her over to the couch.
“This is not our bed,” she tells him, still sitting next to him when he tugs on her arm.
“I leave tomorrow and you want to sleep?”
She hesitates. “Well no, but there are other things –”
He smirks at her again. “I feel like you wanted to talk about something when you came out here looking for me. What’s on your mind?”
Veronica sighs, deciding that maybe she’s too tired from giving up sleep the past two nights to do “other things” to seduce him again tonight. “That’s what I was trying to ask you, when I realized you weren’t in bed. You were really quiet tonight at dinner with my dad. Were you thinking about work?”
He shakes his head, laughing a little. “No, it’s just hard to get a word in when you two are together.”
“Are you jealous of our banter? Don’t take it personally, he’s had more years to practice with me. But hey, I think our banter has its own thing going for it.”
He laughs again. “No, it’s just…that thing you have with your dad? I’ve never had that.”
“What? His constant disappointment that I’m not using my expensive law degree? Honestly, it’s been years he should be over that by now. I don’t know why he keeps trying to bring it up –”
“No, I just meant how close you guys are. How you’ve always been this way for as long as I’ve known the two of you. I’ve never had that.”
“You have me,” she says, faking a pout.
Logan smiles. “I do.” He leans over and kisses her. “And I wouldn’t trade you for anything. But it’s not like we ever finish each other’s –”
He shoots her a confused look. “Not where I was going with that, but no, we don’t do that either.”
“So what, I can’t be your person because we don’t share the weird telepathy thing I have with my dad?”
“Oh no, you’re my person,” he tells her, draping an arm around her shoulders. “You’re mostly my only person because really, how reliable has Dick ever been? But uh, it’s different.”
“You want to share my dad? I think you’re growing on him.”
He laughs, shaking his head again. “Are you that tired that you can’t understand where I’m going with this?”
She hums, lacing her fingers through his at her shoulder. “No, I get what you’re saying. But I like to think that I’m more of your family than they ever were. And I can’t make your parents or your sister into better people, but I can be here for you. Even if it’s only in three-day increments.”
“So, you’re not here for me when I’m overseas? Do you have a secret boyfriend I don’t know about?’
“You caught me. Out of sight, out of mind.”
He rolls his eyes, pushing himself off of the couch.
“What? You don’t believe me? His name is…Pete. Pete the Fireman.”
“Veronica? Last week you sent me an e-mail complaining that you had to wash the sheets on the bed because it made my side no longer smell like me. And when I Skyped you later in the week, you complained that I packed your favorite sweatshirt of mine, so you couldn’t wear it.”
She huffs, sinking back into the couch cushions and crossing her arms over her chest. “Well at least I’m consistent. What are you doing?”
He’s fiddling with his old iPod he keeps docked in his just as ancient iHome he insists on keeping in their living room. As music starts to fill the room, she recognizes the song after the first few sets of guitar chords. Second Chances by Gregory Alan Isakov. He’d sent it to her during those first 180 days they’d spent apart after getting back together. Said it reminded him of them. She told him this was more like their fourth chance, but she understood the sentiment nonetheless.
All of my heroes sit up straight
They stare at the ground
“Dance with me,” Logan says, extending his hand in her direction.
“Are we in a romantic comedy?” she smirks at him. “Does this make me Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts?”
“Come on, up.”
Me, I'm mumbling in the kitchen for the sun to pay up
Lonely is a ring on a cold coffee cup
I'm some sick hound
Digging for bones
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone
“When did you become such a sap?” she groans, reluctantly pushing herself off of the couch.
“Since I only get to see you three days a month. Humor me.”
Veronica steps into the circle of his arms as he slips them around her waist, bringing her arms up around his neck. “Just don’t use this as another excuse to make fun of my height.”
“I’ve always liked how tiny you are.”
My hands they were strangers lost in the night
They're waving around in the dusty light
She lets out a contented sigh, allowing herself to sink into him further. “You know if we thought 17-year-old us wouldn’t be able to handle the fact that we fell for each other, they certainly wouldn’t believe that we’ve ended up here slow dancing in the living room at nearly 1 AM.”
Logan laughs. “I think adult you is still having a hard time processing this.”
I'm waiting in the wings while the trees undress
Cupping my ear to hear the wind confess
“Is this supposed to be the equivalent of that teddy bear you never won me?” she asks.
“Hey now I never promised to win it. Just buy it for you at the mall like any other rich son of movie stars.”
She rolls her eyes at him. “Right so, what you’re telling me is that you’re cheap because I never got one.”
“I’ll bring you one back from my next deployment.”
“I’m holding you to that.”
I'm a ghost in the garden
Scaring the crows
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone
“We should make plans for when I’m home next,” he suggests.
“That implies you actually plan to be home instead of this dance and dash thing we’ve got going for us.”
“I’ll make sure of it. Ask for a longer leave.”
“It isn’t fair to you, Veronica. It’s not fair to us.”
“Has anything about our relationship ever been fair?”
I'm running from nothing, no thoughts in my mind
Oh my heart was all black
But I saw something shine
Thought that part was yours, but it might just be mine
I could share it with you, if you gave me the time
“I don’t know about you,” he starts. “But I want this time, this chance, to be different. I don’t want us carrying along like everything is fine, when it’s really crumbling to the ground.”
She presses in closer to him. “Nothing is crumbling. And this time is different. I’ve never been able to quit you, Logan Echolls. I’ve accepted that and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Good,” he replies, kissing the top of her head. “Because I’m not going anywhere. Well except for to work…In this relationship, I’m not going anywhere.”
I'm all bloody knuckles, longing for home
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone
“So what are you looking to do when you come next?” Veronica asks. “Besides me?”
He laughs. “Well, I plan to do you repeatedly.”
“And then…I don’t know. What do normal couples our age do?”
“Uhh have kids?” she tenses up at her own words. “Not that I’m suggesting – I was just thinking about Wallace and Shae – um I’m not –”
“Relax, Vee, I know what you meant.” He’s laughing at her again. “We’ll find something to entertain us. Maybe you’ll need to invite over a bunch of hookers for a case again.”
“The things I do for people, man.”
I'm a shot through the dark
I'm a black sinkhole
If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone
The song ends, but he keeps holding her against him. “Are you falling asleep on me?”
“No,” comes her muffled reply from against his chest.
“We can go to bed. I know you’re tired.”
“No,” she says again.
“I’ll video call you as soon as I land.”
“What if it’s like 4 AM here when that happens?”
Veronica huffs. “You’re right. I will.”
“Come on,” he starts, untangling himself from around her and nudging her toward their bedroom. “Let’s get some sleep so you can give me a ride to the airport.”
It’s day 65. A little over nine weeks. A little over two months. But it feels like even longer since he was only home for three days in between. So it’s more like day 113. A little over 16 weeks. Closer to four months.
She doesn’t sleep anymore. At least she feels like she doesn’t. Logan’s usually up by 5:00 AM when he’s home, minus those nights they keep each other up talking. And even in his long absences it’s a habit she’s starting to find she can’t break. Even when she stays up late her internal alarm clock wakes her up well before her actual alarm.
The nightmares she’s had of late have been zero help with the situation. How many ways can her subconscious invent for him to die and for her to find out? She thinks about how much she worries about him while he’s away and wonders if this is how he felt when she constantly went after rapists and mob bosses when they were younger. She gets it now, she does. She wants to apologize for all of it.
But that’s not all that’s keeping her up at night nor is it all she has to apologize for.
She hasn’t spoken to him or received any type of communication from him in nearly two weeks. Which is one of the reasons for the nightmares she assumes, but in reality, she knows the silence is on her. The last time they’d Skyped, they’d gotten into a fight. She doesn’t even remember what started it, just that she’s the one who escalated it past his tipping point.
Her insecurities from old skeletons in their closet. Her old trust issues. Plain old pure jealousy.
Veronica glances at the clock and groans when she sees its already nearly 2:30 AM. She knows that she lashed out because she misses him. Knows that she’s jealous not because she actually thinks that he’s cheating on her with this new female coworker of his (those weren’t even her words just his interpretation of her frustration that sent things spiraling), but because Lindsay gets to spend all of her time with him. And all she gets are the grainy video calls, e-mails that never portray enough, fading scents of his cologne from their sheets and his shirts, and the gut-wrenching flashbacks to learning that he’d slept with Madison which have somehow pulled themselves back from the recesses of her mind. She knows the fight is to blame for that last part, the similarities between that fight in college and their most recent one, tangling together in unwanted images in her head.
She pushes herself out of bed, in search for her laptop. She just needs to talk to him, to see him, to have him look at her with something else besides hurt and anger in his eyes.
Why does she do this? Why does she always do this? How does she always find a way to push him away or make him push her away when things are good between them? Self-sabotage or something like that. That’s what his therapist would call it, right?
Maybe some of her insecurities are right. Maybe he deserves better than her.
Veronica chews on her bottom lip, pulling at the neckline of Logan’s old ratty Navy T-shirt that always hangs off her shoulders in odd ways, while she waits for her Skype application to load. She stole the shirt from him over a year ago, but it still makes her feel closer to him when she wears it.
She doesn’t even know why she’s trying this right now, it has to be around lunch time where he is. He’s not going to answer, she’s not going to sleep, and her dad is going to spend all day tomorrow asking her why she can’t seem to focus on one single case.
When the video call rings and rings and rings without answer, she nearly ends the call herself. But then it stops, and the little loading circle fills her screen instead. She holds her breath waiting, the call taking longer than usual to connect.
“Logan,” she breathes his name on an exhale the moment his face comes into focus.
“Veronica, what are you doing up? Isn’t it close to 3 AM there?”
“You ever overthink something so much, that you can’t remember what’s real and what’s all in your head?” She can feel tears starting to prick at her eyes. “Look I… I’m sorry.”
“I do trust you, Logan. I know that you would never hurt me, I know that.”
“Vee, listen –”
“You deserve better, okay? Better than all of the crap we’ve gotten caught up in. You deserve someone who –”
“No,” he’s the one to cut her off this time. “Don’t do that. What I deserve is you. What I want is you.”
“How can you?” she asks quietly, allowing her self-doubt to come to a head.
Logan reaches up to touch his screen likes he’s trying to touch her. “This is on me. We hung up angry and I haven’t had the time to…You’re the most important person in my life, Veronica. We can fight and we can yell, but that’s not going to change what I’ve told you. I’m in this.”
She reaches up to touch her screen in return, wishing so badly that she could just melt into him right now. To feel his arms around her waist and the brush of his lips at her hairline. To hear his heartbeat strong and steady against her ear to chase away the nightmares.
“I just,” she starts, scrubbing a hand through her hair. “I’m a mess, Logan. I gave you crap for years about your jealousy and now look at me. Pot meet kettle.”
“For what it’s worth, you were right about Lindsay. She has been trying to hit on me. Even after I told her about you.”
“Maybe you should start wearing a fake wedding band.”
He smirks, his hand dropping away from the screen. “I uh, I know our video quality is less than subpar even, but you look exhausted. Are you still not sleeping?”
She shakes her head. “My internal clock has adjusted to waking up with you at the ass crack of dawn, but I can’t even manage to stay asleep long enough lately to even make it to 5 AM.”
Just like that his hand is back on the screen, his thumb brushing back and forth across the display. Her chest tightens with his desire to hold her. Four months. Two months. Too damn long.
“What’s on your mind?” he asks.
“Oh you know, not a lot. Just umm thinking about our fight and having a lot of self-doubt, and thinking about you with her which somehow led me back to thoughts of you and Madison which was really fun for me, and then um lots of nightmares about you being dead and that’s why I haven’t heard from you, and clearly I’m coping so well with long distance.”
His other hand comes up to the other side of his screen. “I hope you know that when I get back I’m going to be touching you at all times. Not even sexually, just constantly on you.”
“I won’t object.”
“I think we need to make some new ground rules for these Skype calls. If we fight, we finish it. No more hanging up angry with each other.”
“Yeah,” she nods. “Yeah okay.”
They sit in silence for a moment, both of them dropping their hands away from the screen.
“So are we gonna finish this one or…” she trails off.
Logan lets out a sigh, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck. “I don’t know what else there is to say.”
“You were fuming last time, Logan. And now everything is just…fine?”
“Well two weeks ago I really thought you were seeing something that wasn’t there with Lindsay, but I guess I should know by now that your first instincts are rarely wrong. I promise the radio silence since then wasn’t intentional, I just haven’t had the time. It didn’t occur to me what that silence might come across as to you.”
She shrugs. “Like I said, I’m a mess.”
“I think we’re both a mess. I mean we got back together after what, eight or nine years apart, when the last time we were together we were 19 and still trying to figure out how to be adults. We got back together not long after my girlfriend was murdered and you broke up with Piz for the second time, and then I left for six months. I feel like I haven’t been home enough for us to try and really build this thing, you know? It’s like we’re still –”
“Trying to figure out how to be adults?”
He laughs a little at that. “Yeah pretty much.”
“I just – I need you to know that I trust you. That I wasn’t accusing you of anything –”
“I know, Vee. My anger got the better of me last time. It’s still something I’m working on.”
She nods, fighting back a yawn as she starts to feel the earliness of the hour weighing on her. “Were you serious about asking for a longer leave this time? Because I think you’re right, we need to work on us in person or else we’re never going to get past who we were in high school and college.”
“Are you suggesting it’s time for us to grow up?” he asks with a smirk.
“You said it first.”
His smirk turns into a laugh. “Yes, I’ll make sure you’re stuck with me for a while.”
Veronica leans back against her headboard, dragging her laptop with her into her lap. She’s actually starting to feel tired now that he’s relieved some of her worries.
“So, what do you want to do with all of this alone time we’re gonna have?” she asks.
“Well first, I’d like to erase any mental image you have of me being with someone else. Can’t have that of all things be something keeping you from sleep at night.”
She raises an eyebrow at him. “And how exactly do you plan to do that?”
He glances around behind him. “I’m going to need the people back there to leave in order for me to describe that.”
She feels that statement settle in to her. God, she misses sex.
“You can’t just leave it at that,” she tells him. “Now the thought of that is going to keep me up at night.”
“See? It’s an improvement. Now you’re the one on top of me.”
“Logan,” she whines. “If you end this call with that, you’ll be breaking our newly established ground rule.”
There’s that damn smirk again. So clear even on the poor internet connection.
“You get feisty when you’re horny, you know that?”
“I’m always feisty,” she huffs, which earns her an amused look from Logan. “Not like that. You know what I meant.”
“No, no I’m pretty sure you were right the first time.”
She rolls her eyes, almost overexaggerating the gesture to ensure that he can see it.
“I don’t blame you. I’m pretty good at what I do,” Logan continues.
“Oh really? What gives you that idea?”
He shrugs. “That’s what Lindsay tells me.”
Veronica narrows her eyes at him. “When you get back and the first thing I do is slap you, you know why.”
He laughs. “Still too soon to make jokes?”
“A little bit yeah.”
He’s still grinning at her. “The real reason I know I’m good at what I do? How wet you get when I do it.”
She opens her mouth to protest, but quickly closes it because she knows she can’t. He’s right. That arrogant ass. Two can play at this game. And she has no witnesses on her end.
“Kind of like how easily I can make your cock jump while barely touching you?” she asks innocently.
The way he clears his throat in response tells her that she doesn’t even have to be on the same continent as him for that to be true.
“You sure you want to get into this right now, babe?” she continues to taunt him. “Your arousal is lot more visible than mine. And you’re not alone.”
He looks behind him again just as the last person leaves. “Now I am.”
Oh god, now she’s in for it. She crosses her arms over her chest, silently daring him to bring it on.
“When I get back,” he starts, leaning in closer to the computer screen. “I’m not making time for any small talk or pleasantries. The moment I walk through that door I’m going to be on you. And then…well…I haven’t decided. I’m either going to edge you in every way I know how until you’re positively begging for release or I’m going to make you come in every way I know how until you’re positively begging me to stop.”
She visibly swallows before biting down on her lower lip. Turns out he too can easily turn her on while being half way around the world.
“And getting me to beg is supposed to accomplish what, exactly?”
“When you close your eyes, the only woman I want you to see on top of me is yourself. I know how damn possessive we can both be, so allow me to remind you.”
She feels her hips involuntarily pitch forward into the mattress the more she thinks about his words. She half debates putting on a show for him right then and there, but knows their privacy is not necessarily guaranteed. He called her from a public space where he’s stationed. Not his smartest move.
Oh, but she can tell him. He has headphones in. And she warned him about starting something like this. He better not have to stand up any time soon.
“You know what I have to do when we hang up now, don’t you?” she asks. “I’m not waiting four more weeks for that kind of release.”
He groans, trying to pass it off as clearing his throat again. “Which scenario?”
“Doesn’t matter,” she hums, lazily tracing a shape against her thigh for emphasis. “All I need to do is think about you.”
She hears the sounds of extra voices filtering into the background and knows he’s not alone anymore. Logan seems to be squirming uncomfortably in his seat. She knows what she did to him.
“You gonna be okay there, bud?” Veronica asks.
He nods crossing his arms on the table. “What’s one more month, right?”
“Four more weeks. 31 more days.”
He sighs, watching her as she continues to absentmindedly skim her fingers over her thigh. She feels the neckline of the Navy t-shirt slip further down her shoulder again and she lets it, keeping her eyes locked on his through the screen, a smirk forming on her lips.
“You really are something else, Veronica Mars. So much better than all of the Madison’s and Lindsay’s in the world.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
He smiles. “Since I sadly cannot give you a similar show before I get back to work, allow me to leave you with this.”
He unbuttons the top button on his uniform and wiggles his eyebrows at her. She holds a hand up to her chest and pretends to gasp.
“Much too sexy. Put that away.”
Logan laughs, buttoning it back up again. “Get some sleep, Veronica.”
“I can’t. It’ll be 5 AM in an hour. That hour isn’t worth it.”
“See, I hear the benefit of working for yourself and having your own business is making up your own hours. No one expects you to be up at that hour.”
She shakes her head. “You’ve ruined me, Echolls. My need to be awake this early is on you.”
“Your dad did always say I was a bad influence.”
“The worst,” she nods.
“Maybe in 31 more days.”
“This isn’t you hanging up mad, is it?” he asks sounding more playful than serious. “Because –”
“Not mad, Logan. Just wishing time would move faster for once.”
She spots it the instant she opens the front door. The stray luggage abandoned near the couch in the living room. The shoes kicked off not far from that. Logan’s home.
“Logan?” she calls for him, dropping her bag next to his as she bends to unzip her boots and leave them behind too. “I was promised constant contact and zero small talk and I’m expecting you to deliver.”
She heads back to the bedroom, hearing the sound of the water running in the shower. How horror movie would it be for her to just barge in on him? He’s a military man now after all, he can handle his 5’1” girlfriend sneaking up on him, right?
Veronica nudges open the bathroom door, feeling the whoosh of steam settle over her. Logan must feel the change in temperature too with the door open because his head peaks out from behind the shower curtain. She leans against the doorframe, crossing her arms over her chest. She has no doubt that the grin on her face matches the one on his.
“You weren’t supposed to be home this early,” he tells her.
“Slow day,” she shrugs.
“Give me five more minutes to finish washing the airplane off of me and I’ll be right with you,” he pauses, “unless you want to join me?”
She pushes herself off of the door frame and walks over to him, cupping his face in her hands. “Just don’t bother getting dressed.”
She leaves him with a chaste kiss before closing the bathroom door on him. She figures she might as well level the playing field and starts undressing while she waits for him. She’s just about to unhook her bra, when she feels Logan press into her back, his body still wet from the shower. His arms wrap around her torso and he buries his head in the crook of her neck, already peppering kisses onto her skin. She breathes him in, melting into the familiarity and comfort of his embrace.
“I’ve missed you,” he hums against her shoulder.
She spins in his grip, her hands splaying out over the muscles of his back. “Me too.”
She knows what they had agreed would happen the moment he walked through the door. And she still intends for that to happen mere moments from now. But right now, she just needs him to hold her. And judging by how tightly he’s holding her against him, he needs this moment to just stand here and breathe too.
Too long, it’s been too damn long.
“How was your flight?” she asks.
“Long,” he replies, releasing one of his arms from around her to rub at his neck. “And a little bumpy. We hit some turbulence over the Pacific.”
“But you made it home all in one piece.”
“I did. And I’ll be here for at least 60 days this time.”
She looks up at him, her face lighting up. “Really? I get you all to myself for two whole months?”
He smiles at her. “At least.”
That spurs her on and she reaches up to kiss him, for real this time. She opens her mouth to him as her hands fist into his hair while guiding them backwards toward the bed. She feels the towel that had been draped around his waist graze her legs as it falls off of him when he pulls her down onto the bed with him. She’s straddling him, kissing him like she’s worried he’ll disappear on her if she stops. Like this is all just another dream and not actually him finally being home.
“Hey,” Logan breathes, sensing her urgency and resting his forehead against hers. “I seem to recall telling you I was going to drive.”
“Then do it,” she says, rolling her hips into his.
He shoots her one of his shit-eating grins, reaching behind her to unclasp her bra and toss it aside. Logan coaxes her to lift her hips up so he can drag her underwear off her as well. She settles back against him and he can already feel how wet she is for him.
He lazily drags a finger through her folds and feels her shiver at his touch.
“I feel like me trying to edge you is pointless at this point,” he tells her, continuing to drag his index finger back and forth over her. “You’re gonna come for me, just like this.”
Veronica nods, her hips rocking in time with his finger as her eyes slip closed.
“I might have to save my plans from our Skype call for another night this week.”
He presses his thumb against her clit and she whimpers, still trying to gain some sort of friction with the motion of her hips. Logan smirks and flips them so she’s lying on her back. He kisses his way down her body, spending extra time nipping at her hips and thighs until she’s grunting and trying to push his head where she wants it. He laughs, taking the hint, and letting his tongue trace over where his fingers had been moments ago.
And there’s that little growl of hers, telling him that she’s nearly there. A couple more flicks of his tongue and the added pressure of his thumb and she shatters, a breathy little moan escaping her lips as her hips rock up off the mattress.
Logan kisses his way back up her body as she comes down from her orgasm, this time paying special attention to the sensitive spot behind her ear that always drives her wild. She doesn’t let him linger for long, her right leg drawing up to hook around his hip.
“Don’t make me beg,” she says, skimming her hands down his back. “Not tonight.”
So he reaches down to position himself and slide into her. He does it slowly, unable to resist the urge to keep teasing her. Veronica whines in protest, trying to twist her hips in a way that would allow her to take more of him in at once. He keeps his slow rhythm up for a bit, up until he knows he’s reached the limit of her patience. Then he picks up the pace, her whines instantly switching to more of those breathy little moans. He twines his fingers through hers, pinning her arms over her head as he starts thrusting even harder and faster. He brings one hand down to her clit and rubs at it until she’s moaning his name and rolling her hips in time to his movements. He watches her shatter, her whole body shaking, her breath hitching in her throat. The sight undoes him, and he goes over the edge with her too.
Logan falls forward into her, pressing his forehead against hers. Her arms snake around his back, her hands resting on his shoulders. She wants to keep him there for just a moment longer. Just until they both catch their breath.
“Welcome home,” Veronica says with a content sigh.
He kisses her and then rolls off to her side.
“So, 60 days worth of that, huh?” she asks.
“Think you can you handle it?” he asks with a smirk.
“I can, can you?”
Logan laughs, shaking his head. “You know, I started thinking about this memory that came out of nowhere while we were flying over the ocean on my flight. Do you remember when I tried to teach you how to surf?”
She groans, covering her face with her hands. “No, I blocked that entire experience out. As should you.”
“Oh but it brings me such joy to think about.”
“Find a different happy place.”
He props himself up on one of his elbows so he’s looking down at her. “It was cute. You trying to bond with me over my favorite hobby.”
“I seem to recall it being more because I was tired of being passed over for plans because you and Dick already had surfing plans. I mean you could have had all of this,” she starts gesturing down at her body. “But you kept ditching me for the ocean.”
“It was prime surfing season,” Logan protests.
“I get that now. Teenage Veronica just wanted her boyfriend to spend more time with her.”
“I could try and teach you again.”
“God no,” she laughs. “I got enough water up my nose to last me a lifetime the last and only time we tried this.”
“You just need to work on your balance. Tighter core strength will help with that.”
“Okay, Mister Abs of Steel, if this is you trying to get me to join you in your crazy ass military workout routine, it’s not going to work.”
He laughs again. “No, no, not me trying to get you to do anything, just stating a fact.”
“Surfing is your thing, Logan. I have long since accepted the fact that it doesn’t have to be ours.”
“Do we even have a thing?”
“We’re pretty damn great at sex if I do say so myself.”
“Besides that…but I agree.”
“Do we need a thing? Is that part of some unspoken couple law?” she asks.
“You think I know anything about unspoken couple law?” he asks with a smirk.
She shakes her head. “No wonder we’re so bad at relationships.”
“Hey,” Logan starts, settling back down next to her and draping an arm over her torso. “We’re doing it this time. Hell, we even threw in long distance and we’re still making it work.”
“It does feel different this time,” she agrees. “It feels…better.”
“See? We’re doing something right for once, look at us.”
They fall into a comfortable silence and she thinks about how rare a moment like this used to be. She often wonders how they got to this point. There were moments in their past sure where they would sit in silence and just hold each other, but each of those moments had been out of comfort, post one traumatic event or another. But now simply having him next to her, listening to his breathing start to even out as he starts to drift off, knowing she’ll have him here for at least two months – she’s content not saying anything. No one’s trying to hurt them or frame them for murder. There’s no crazy family drama overshadowing everything.
They’re just here. Happy. In love. And maybe, just maybe, finally figuring out how to be in a normal relationship.
She’s almost asleep. Almost on the verge of losing herself in a dream, when she hears the whining at the bedroom door. Veronica groans and tries to muffle the sound with her pillow.
“It’s your turn,” she grumbles, smacking Logan on the arm.
“No way, I let her out last time.”
“No, that was me.”
“It was not,” he protests, trying to roll away from her. “Besides, she’s your dog.”
Veronica huffs. “It was your idea to get her! You’re the one who’s convinced I’m lonely when you’re not home.”
“You are lonely.”
“I have other friends.”
The whining turns into barking.
“Will you go let her out before she pees on our floor?” she pleads.
Logan grumbles, but pushes back the covers to go let Pony outside. Again. Veronica fluffs her pillow, trying to get it back to that just right comfortable spot after using it for earmuffs. She doesn’t remember Backup being this difficult but wishes she had been reminded about how difficult dog training could be before she let Logan talk her into this.
But just look at that face! How can you say no to that?
And he was right, she couldn’t. Pony was simply too hard to pass up on. But that was before she knew the dog would want to go outside every hour just to sniff around.
“Is this what having a baby is like?” he yawns, collapsing back onto the bed when he returns a few minutes later.
That wakes her up immediately and she sits straight up in bed, turning to look at him. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Is this us with a baby?” he rephrases, already sounding like he’s half asleep.
“Woah there I’m going to need you to back up.”
He yawns again, rolling his head on his pillow to look up at her. “It’s a joke, Veronica.”
“Yeah about a very serious topic we haven’t talked about. It took us this long to finally agree about getting a dog together and now you’re over here bringing tiny humans into this?”
“Is 1:30 in the morning really the right time to have this conversation?”
“So, you agree? It’s a conversation we need to have?”
Logan sits up with her, hearing the panic in her voice. “I’m in no way ready for kids. Hell, I’m barely home long enough to see you some months. If this is something we ever decide to do, I’m not going to make you do it alone.”
“But it’s something that you want to do? Have kids?” she pauses, looking down at her lap and then back at him. “With me?”
He rubs at the back of his neck. “I don’t know. I had shitty parents. It hasn’t exactly inspired me to become one myself. But…”
Logan shrugs, shaking his head. “I don’t – I don’t know, I just don’t know.”
“Don’t know about me or about kids in general?”
His expression softens, the tension that had crept into his shoulders at the mention of the topic slowly deflating. “I don’t know if I want to have kids, but if I do someday, I’d want it to be with you.”
She seems to release a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and leans into his side. “Yeah, that’s where I’m at too.”
He wraps an arm around her. “A kid that’s half you and half me? I don’t think we’re equipped to handle that kind of trouble.”
She smirks. “That’s actually terrifying. The kind of trouble we were in high school alone…”
“It’d be cute though,” he adds. “With our genes.”
Her smirk doesn’t fade as she rolls her eyes. Pony chooses this moment to nudge open their bedroom door and jump on the bed with them. She circles the foot of the bed a few times before decidedly plopping down across both their laps.
“We’ve got our hands full enough with this one,” Veronica says, rubbing behind the dog’s ears. “I see a dog training class in your future, yes I do.”
“You and your attachment to large breeds,” Logan mumbles, trying to move his leg out from under Pony, while reaching over to pet her head.
“Hey, need I remind you that you’re the one who found her? And besides she’s supposed to be a good guard dog. Once we get her trained that is.” She sighs. “I liked having that with Backup.”
“You out chasing after dangerous mob bosses again? Off getting yourself in sketchy situations?”
She narrows her eyes at him, knowing his overprotective nature is threatening to spill out. “Not lately. Just a lot of run-of-the-mill cheating spouses. It’s been pretty boring.”
Logan leans over to kiss her shoulder, managing to dislodge his leg out from under Pony and lie back down. “Boring can be good.”
“If I wanted boring, I would have accepted that job with that law firm back in New York,” she mutters, keeping her eyes downcast on Pony.
“You could still work at a law firm. Just pass the California Bar –”
“Is that a real objection?” he smirks.
“Are you questioning my courtroom knowledge?”
“I mean, you’re not actually a practicing attorney, Vee. You never made it that far.”
She narrows her eyes at him again. “I chose not to take it that far. I passed the New York Bar. I had a job offer.”
“And you blew it off to save my ass.”
She looks down at him, still rubbing Pony behind the ears. “Guess I thought you were worth it.”
“Let me know if I can return the favor. Relocate us to New York so you can practice law.”
“I don’t want to practice law,” she says, shaking her head. “Not anymore.”
“You don’t want to be stuck photographing cheating assholes forever, either,” Logan points out. “So, what do you want, Veronica?”
“To be a stay at home dog mom?”
“Hmm no, that doesn’t sound like you. What else you got?”
She sighs again. After managing to get Pony off the bed and content curled up on the floor, she lies back down next to him and stares up at the ceiling.
“That’s another one I don’t know how to answer.”
Her looks over at her but her gaze is still trained upwards. “So, what is out there in this great big world that Veronica Mars wants?”
She finally looks back over at him. “You. And a dog.”
He starts laughing and she shakes her head, expelling another long sigh.
“I don’t know, Logan. During undergrad I had this vision of what I wanted my life and career to be. I interned with the FBI and I got into Columbia Law School. I was going to be this kickass defense attorney.”
“And what happened to that? Besides me.”
She shrugs, her hands fidgeting with the sheets. “I guess I realized that your client isn’t always going to be innocent. I don’t always want to be forced to be stuck on one side of the argument. I want to be able to speak for the truth, whatever that is. And getting back into the PI game for your case, made me realize I’d missed the dirty work of the investigation. The investigation aspect as a lawyer is not nearly as fun.”
“You just need someone else in Neptune to get murdered.”
She reaches over and smacks his arm. “I didn’t say that.”
“No, but I’m afraid until Neptune spits out its next toxic mystery, you’re gonna be stuck with the cheating assholes.”
“You sure you’re not trying to relocate us out of here?”
“No, just trying to look out for you is all.”
She curls into his side, welcoming his arms as they wrap around her.
“I’m good here, Logan, I promise. Especially with you home for an extended stay and a new dog to keep me company when you’re not.”
“Ha, so you do admit you want the company,” he teases.
“What, you want me to say it? You were right, Logan.”
“Can I get that recorded?”
She huffs, burrowing into his side more.
“You’ll tell me if any of that changes though, right?” he asks. “If you’re not happy here in Neptune or with your job. Or if you want to practice law and need to take the bar again or move back to New York to do it. If you decide that you want kids or you don’t. If you’re not happy with me…”
She brings up one of her hands to stroke his face along his jawline. “I will let you know if any of that changes, yes. But I don’t think you have to worry, especially not about that last part.”
“Our history together would say otherwise.”
“Hey, what have we said? Things are different this time. We’re gonna make it.”
“I know,” he says, kissing the top of her head. “No more trial runs, this is the real deal.”
“You better believe it,” she laughs.
“Want to make a bet on how many more times our dog is going to demand to be let outside tonight?”
“Can my guess just be that she’s finally tired and wants to sleep? If I believe in that hard in enough it will come true, right?”
Logan laughs. “I’ll play devil’s advocate and say she’s not done yet. Loser has to scoop the poop for the next week.”
“You’re a real romantic, Echolls. Have I ever told you that?”
He shrugs, kissing the top of her head again. “I do what I can.”
He stands in the doorway to their bedroom watching her, Pony curled up in the hallway behind him. She has a case file spread out all over their bed: papers and photos and colorful Post-It notes strewn about everywhere. She is nothing if not meticulous, has been for as long as he’s known her.
She was finally handed a case she’d been silently asking for, something other than a common lovers quarrel, but it’s become a bit more than she bargained for. It’s something she brings home, clearly, which is something he hasn’t seen her do in a while. But she won’t stop, hasn’t stopped, since that young girl came to her asking for answers about who murdered her father.
He’s afraid that it’s more than she can handle. But when he gently suggested that maybe she should let Keith help, she fervently refused to even tell him about the case. His health has been declining a bit lately and Logan can see the sheer panic in her eyes anytime she catches herself thinking about it. So, she keeps her father in the dark about this case. Partly for her concerns about his health and the potential danger associated with investigating a murder, and partly because of her empathy for the victim and his daughter. She’s trying to keep the dead dad away from her very much alive one.
Logan watches her now, chewing on the end of a pen as she reads over her scribbled notes on a notepad. He thinks about her telling him last week that she didn’t know what she wanted career-wise. She doesn’t want to be a lawyer, but she doesn’t want to photograph relationships falling apart for the rest of her life either. What she wants is this: the intense way she loses herself in a case that has real meaning. He almost thinks about suggesting she become a detective or work for the FBI, but with the way she investigates things without the need for warrants or protocols, all of her cases would get thrown out in court for her not following the procedures.
“This suits you,” Logan muses aloud, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest.
“Mass chaos?” she asks, without looking up from her notepad.
“No, just – the intensity which you dive into these things with. It’s saved my ass on more than one occasion.”
She glances up at him briefly and then diverts her gaze back down to the bed, searching for something. “Funny, I seem to recall you broke up with me once because you didn’t like how invested I became in my cases.”
“19-year-old Logan was an ass.”
She plucks a photo out from under a manila photo and studies it, muttering something under her breath before tossing it aside.
“No, he was just worried I was in over my head and didn’t want to watch me self-destruct.”
“Sounds like an ass to me.”
Veronica pulls her phone out to look for something she has saved on there, kicking out one leg which had previously been tucked under her and sending a flurry of papers to the floor in the process. Logan pushes himself off from the door frame and moves to pick them up. He drops them back on the bed and clears himself off a spot to sit on the edge. She barely registers his proximity, mumbling to herself again as she flips through another file.
“You think maybe you should call it quits for the night?” he asks gently, almost wincing as he suggests it. “It’s after midnight. You can pick it right back up in the morning with fresh eyes.”
“I’m on to something,” she replies, now scribbling something onto the notepad. “I can move out to the living room if you want to sleep.”
He watches her for a couple more minutes in silence as she moves back and forth between flipping and scribbling. He can barely make out her handwriting on the notepad which tells him that she’s over tired and doubts even she will be able to decipher it in the morning. Logan rests a hand on her outstretched ankle and she finally looks up at him seemingly startled that he’s not standing by the door anymore.
“You need to sleep, Veronica.”
She shakes her head. “Not yet. I’m close, I’ve almost got it.”
“What does that say?” he asks, pointing to the top line written on the notepad.
She looks down at it. “It says…” she squints and holds it up to her face and then away cocking her head at it. “Shit.”
“You don’t even know what you’re writing at this point. Take a break. Get some sleep. And come back to it in the morning.”
“Hannah’s counting on me. If I don’t –”
“If you don’t figure it out tonight, her dad will still be dead tomorrow. Nothing is going to change that.”
She looks over at him with sad eyes before dropping the notepad and leaning back against the headboard.
“I know you’re thinking about this case in a ‘if it were my dad’ manner, but I really don’t think that’s helping you any,” he tells her.
“I can’t not think about it that way,” she says with a heavy sigh. “Her mom left them too, it’s hard not to relate.”
“Your dad is fine,” he says gently.
“For now,” she adds, rubbing at her temples. “He’s fine for now. But when he’s not – when I lose him –”
“You’ll have me,” Logan says, clearing space on the bed to move closer to her. “You’re not going to be alone. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that not everybody leaves. A lot of people do, but the important ones stay.”
She leans forward, taking both of his hands in hers. “I’m sorry for all of the times that I left you.”
He squeezes her hands in return. “And I’m sorry for the all the times I left you.”
Veronica expels another sigh, leaning back again.
“Tell me about the case,” he suggests. “What do you have, where are you getting stuck?”
“Logan, I –”
“You work best when you have someone to bounce ideas off of. If you won’t let that person be your dad this time, let it be me. I used to help you with cases. Hell, I hired strippers for you once.”
She smirks, reaching around him to grab the case file she’d compiled. “Hannah’s 18. She goes to UCSD and came home for the weekend and found her dad with a gunshot wound to his head. It was ruled a suicide, but she’s convinced that it wasn’t. It’s Dean O’Dell’s case all over again. That’s probably another reason why I’m so determined to solve this. O’Dell didn’t kill himself and I don’t think Victor here did either.”
She flips open the case file, revealing the photos from the medical examiner’s office. He has no idea how she managed to get a hold of those, but he’s found it’s better not to ask sometimes.
“Look where the bullet entered,” she says, pointing at the photo. “If you hold a gun to your head, where do you put it?” She makes a finger gun and holds it to her temple. “The bullet wound is way too far back on his head.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
“Maybe not by itself. But Hannah told me he had recently had surgery on his right shoulder. He was still in physical therapy for recovery from it. It would have been too painful to lift his arm up and reach back that far, especially to do something like shoot himself in the head, there’s no reason for it.”
Logan studies the photo again. “All right, I buy it. So, if Victor didn’t shoot himself, who did?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ve had a couple of leads, but they’ve all been dead ends.”
“Do you think the daughter had anything to do with it?”
“What? No, no of course not.”
“Take a step back, Veronica. She’s not you. Victor isn’t Keith. Does she have an alibi?”
“She was in San Diego.”
“Are you taking her word for that or did you check? Just because she goes to school there and found the body a couple days after the murder, doesn’t mean she didn’t make two separate trips.”
“If she was the one who killed him, she’d want to it be ruled a suicide. She’s not going to pay a private investigator to uncover her own crime she already got away with.”
Logan shrugs, watching the gears shift in her head. Sometimes pushing her in the completely wrong direction forces her into the right one.
“What is it?” he asks her. “What’d you just think of?”
“I think she has a brother she doesn’t know about. A half-brother, different mothers.”
“Okay, not the turn I saw this taking.”
She shakes her head, rummaging through her stack of surveillance photos. “This guy. He shows up in more than one photo at more than one location.”
“What makes you think he’s her long-lost half-brother?”
“Jealousy. She was already going to get the entirety of their father’s inheritance, but this way she can’t collect the insurance money on top of that. And the guy’s mad Victor chose to raise one child and abandon him. But Victor might not have even known about him either. It’s a stretch I know, but…this guy, he looks like them, like Hannah and Victor. He has to be related somehow. And him being something like a cousin, it just – it doesn’t make as much sense.”
“Does your fancy background check software list all the women a guy has slept with?”
“No, but I can see if any of his old friends I’ve been talking to know anything about his past relationships. If I can track down his old girlfriends –”
“You could find the son’s mother,” Logan finishes.
Veronica nods, studying the surveillance photos again. He places a hand over the stack in her grip and gently pushes them back down to the bed.
“You’re not going to get anywhere else tonight,” he tells her. “You can’t call up these old friends of his at this hour asking for a list of exes. Time for bed.”
She smirks at him. “Are you parenting me?”
He shrugs. “Someone’s gotta do it.”
She shakes her head at him, staring at the mess of papers cluttering their bed. “Cases like this make me miss the boring ones.”
“And yet the boring ones make you miss cases like this.”
“A vicious cycle.”
He helps her collect everything into one pile which she places on the dresser on her way into the bathroom. He goes to let Pony out again. They’ve learned if they let her out right before they’re ready for bed, she’ll be content until morning.
Logan returns to their bedroom, sitting on his side of the bed while he waits for Veronica to finish her nightly routine. She doesn’t go straight for her side after turning off the bathroom light, but instead goes right to him, straddling his lap and lacing her arms behind his neck. He slides his arms around her lower back in response, his thumbs rubbing at her skin under her shirt.
“I just want you to know that I’m not leaving this time,” she tells him.
“No, I just – I know we’ve talked about this before and at great length at that, but hearing you say tonight that you learned not everybody leaves when at one point I was part of the reason making you think everyone always does –”
“Now you’re part of the reason I believe the important ones stay. You came back to me.”
She leans forward and kisses him.
“You and my dad are the two most important people in my life. I’ll always keep showing up for you.”
He leans forward to kiss her again.
“I’ll return the favor.”
He wore her down. Or maybe life did. The nagging worry that of one of the two most important people in her life could leave her because she couldn’t give him what he wanted, even though he’d told her repeatedly that he wouldn’t do that. The thought that flashed through her mind when she thought she was going to die that she would never know what it was like to be married to him. The feeling that filled her up when she decided she was finally going to tell him yes.
She never wanted to lose that feeling.
And for nearly 24 hours she felt it blossoming in her chest at every small touch or sideways glance. He’d look at her with the dopiest grin on his face and it was all she could do to keep herself from bursting out into joyous laughter.
For nearly 24 hours she was the happiest she had ever been.
Until she wasn’t.
Going on for nearly 24 hours now, she was the most afraid she had ever been in her entire life. And that was really saying something because she’s been through some serious shit. But this wasn’t about her life. This was about his.
The nightmares should have prepared her for this. How many times had she dreamt about getting that dreaded phone call and waking up in the middle of the night in a panic attack? How many times had she pleaded with him to be careful? Told him that he’s not allowed to die in a foreign country where she doesn’t even get the courtesy of knowing where he had been stationed?
She didn’t think she had to warn him about Neptune. All this god forsaken town ever did was take people from the both of them. Lily. Lianne. Lynn. But what was she supposed to do when this town was trying to take him from her?
And she blames herself. Over and over until she hates herself so much tears of frustration stain her cheeks. This is her fault. No matter how many times everyone tries to tell her that it isn’t. She should have known.
She should have known.
But the self-berating doesn’t just stop at her not being able to figure out the clue in time or at not being smart enough to realize it sooner. She’s kicking herself for not staying away from the P.I. business after all of the damage it caused after her freshman year at Hearst. She should be using her law degree. It would have kept him safe, likely even kept both of them far, far away from here.
She lets her head fall forward into her hands propped up on her knees, letting out a shuddering breath. She hasn’t left the hospital in nearly 24 hours, doesn’t really feel like she’s slept at all during that time either. When the nurse had tried to kick her out of his room after visiting hours ended, the poor woman had ended up on the receiving end of some choice words from a very exhausted and upset Veronica.
Needless to say, she had let her stay.
She shifts her weight back in the chair staring up at the blinking of his heart rate monitor. She has to keep reminding herself that he’s still alive. The universe hasn’t managed to permanently separate them yet.
At that thought, she hiccups around a fresh round of sobs, once again covering her face with her hands. The cool metal of her wedding band presses into her skin, threatening to make her lose it even more. She can’t do this. She can’t do life without him when she had just vowed to spend the rest of it side by side.
“Logan, I need you to wake up.”
Veronica scrubs her hands through her hair, glancing over at the clock on the wall. 1:45 AM. It almost makes her laugh which almost makes her cry. They spent over a year keeping each other up with random conversations. Midnight became the time when they couldn’t turn their minds off, when he wanted to reminisce about high school or accidentally start a way too serious actual adult conversation which suddenly became more important than sleep.
And now she’s awake and he’s lying here unconscious because she couldn’t stop a bomb that was meant for her. It isn’t right. None of this is right.
“Listen, you really need to wake up,” she pleads aloud again. “Who am I supposed to talk to if there’s no you? Who’s going to keep me up until two in the morning talking about random shit that sometimes matters and sometimes means nothing at all? Who’s going to take turns with me in letting Pony outside in the middle of the night? Who’s going to –”
She shifts her weight again, leaning forward onto his bed this time. She takes one of his hands in both of hers, holding on to him to try and keep herself sane.
“I’m your wife.”
It’s the first time she’s said it out loud. It feels weird rolling off her tongue. She’s somebody’s wife. She’s his wife. And before she even had enough time to process it, he was taken away from her.
“We did the thing, Logan,” she says, softer this time. “We got married. You have me. I’m yours. Now wake the hell up and prove to me this whole thing wasn’t just some huge cosmic sign that we shouldn’t have gone through with it. Because I’ve actually become kind of attached to the idea of you being my husband. And I’m too young to be a widow.”
She rubs small circles with her thumb over his hand, being mindful of the large cut near his index finger.
“I have plans for us, you know. They start with us getting the hell out of Neptune. I’ll drag my dad out kicking and screaming if I have to. But I need both of you a safe distance away from this place. I’d suggest going as far away as the East Coast, but you need to be able to surf. I liked New York, but I’m not sure you’d get much out of their beaches on Long Island. We could try LA.? That son of Aaron and Lynn Echolls thing has blown over by now, right? No? San Diego maybe?”
She sets his hand back down on the bed to twist at the bands of the rings on her left ring finger. She’s not used to wearing jewelry there. She’d barely had the engagement ring on for long by itself before the wedding band joined it. Zero to two just like that.
“You know what else we haven’t talked about? Your job. You know I would never keep you from doing something that you love. But do you think you could find something you love a little closer to Southern California? You know the months apart have been hard on us. And we’ve made it through like champs if I do say so myself. I mean past us would have called it quits again a long time ago. But current us? We got married.”
The simple phrase steals her breath again. All she wanted was a nice simple weekend getaway with him, with her husband, where they could do nothing but get lost in each other and this new happy marriage bubble they were floating in until it popped.
“We’re married, Logan. That 17-year-old boy who smashed in the headlights on my car and told me I looked hot in my soccer uniform when we were 12, somehow managed to make me fall in love with him and marry him. Our story can’t end here. Where’s the epic part of dying right when you make it to the good part?”
She looks back up at the heart rate monitor as though it could give her some sort of sign that he can hear her. It continues to reflect his same steady heart rhythm. She leans forward on his bed, pillowing her head with her arms.
He’s not dead. He’s not dead. He’s not dead.
She finds herself chanting the phrase over and over again to the rhythm of his heart rate monitor. She doesn’t even realize she’s soothed herself to sleep until she feels the gentle pressure of fingertips against her scalp. Someone’s playing with her hair. She doesn’t think much of it at first, still sleep deprived and half asleep hunched over the hospital bed.
Her eyes fly open and she lifts her head to look in his direction, wincing at the pain that shoots through her neck from her hunched over sleeping position. He smiles back at her, a strand of her hair still looped around one of his fingers.
“Logan,” she breathes his name, a fresh set of tears blurring her vision as she stares at him.
She wants nothing more than to launch herself into his arms, but she doesn’t know the extent of his injuries or how much pain he’s in. She settles for squeezing his hand as the tears continue to well up in her eyes.
“You’re okay,” she tells him. “You’re okay.”
“Well this doesn’t look like our romantic weekend getaway,” he says softly, clearing his throat. “Can I get some water?”
“We’ve been married for less than two days and you’re already making me wait on you?” she jokes, feeling herself fill back up with that same joy from a few a days ago at just the sound of his voice. “I’ll go find a nurse.”
“You can’t just get some from the sink?”
He’s fully teasing her and she knows it, so she plays along.
“And bring it to you in what?” she asks, gesturing around his room at the lack of cups. “You want me to drink some and feed it to you like a baby bird?”
Logan bursts out laughing, immediately wincing and grabbing his side in pain. Right. Cracked ribs. She remembers the doctor telling her that now.
“Hey careful,” she tells him, placing her hands on his arms. “You were hurt pretty badly.”
“What happened?” he asks. “The last thing I remember is going outside to move the car.”
She bites her lower lip, feeling the guilt overwhelm her again. She knows he won’t blame her for this. But that won’t stop her inner critic.
“Epner planted a bomb in my car. We were wrong about the last limerick. It was meant for me. I’m the hero. Except I’m so far from being one of those because I couldn’t even save you.”
He takes her hands in his and squeezes them tight. “I’m okay, Veronica. I’m gonna be fine.”
“Oh really? You know that for a fact? When did you go to medical school?”
He squeezes her hands again. “Need I remind you that you’ve saved my ass on more than one occasion? Don’t sell yourself short, Vee. You’re a hero if I’ve ever met one.”
“Logan, I almost got you killed. I –”
“I’m alive,” he cuts her off. “And you didn’t almost kill me, Epner did.”
“He was trying to kill me,” she argues, another round of tears forming in her eyes. “If it wasn’t for me –”
“Don’t do that. What do you tell me when I try to blame myself about shit that happened to us in high school? About what happened with Cassidy? Don’t let yourself get caught up in the what ifs. Once you go down that road they won’t stop and all it will do is continue to haunt you.”
She wants to curl into his arms and fit against him in the perfect way that she does. She needs him to hold her. She needs to hold him.
“I was so afraid I was going to lose you,” she tells him softly. “I can’t lose you.”
“Good thing you don’t have to,” he tells her. “Because I’m not going anywhere.”
By the time the doctor and nurses finish checking him out, and he finally gets his water too, the vice grip of anxiety in her chest had loosened. He had lots of healing to do, but he was going to be fine. She hadn’t lost him.
“I guess my plan to inherit the entirety of the Echolls family fortune will have to wait a couple more years,” Veronica says, letting out a dramatic sigh as she sits on the edge of his hospital bed.
“Why wait?” Logan asks her, lifting his left hand to wave his wedding band around. “We’re married now. What’s mine is yours.”
She fakes a gasp and holds a hand up to her chest. “You mean to tell me that I’m rich now?”
“I would start chanting ‘one of us’ in support of you officially being an 09’er now, but we don’t live in that zip code.”
“I’m not sure if we live anywhere at the moment. Our place is a bit of a mess right now thanks to that bomb.”
“Good thing we’re rich.”
She shakes her head, unable to stop from grinning at him. “I truly don’t know how you still manage to have a fortune after living in the Penthouse at the Grand for years. And after paying for college.”
“Well I could have squandered it all away by now sure, but somewhere along the way I did manage to become a responsible adult who thought hey maybe I’ll need this for something someday.”
“Logan Echolls, a responsible adult? Never thought I’d see the day.”
“Logan Mars,” he corrects her, causing her to roll her eyes.
“Are you seriously taking my name?”
He shrugs. “Haven’t decided yet.”
“Well, Mr. Mars,” she pauses, shuddering a bit. “Nope, nope, can’t do that. That’s my dad.”
Logan bursts out laughing again, preemptively holding on to his side with the cracked ribs. “Might have to hyphenate.”
She shakes her head again before continuing on. “Can the first big adult purchase we make with this money be to relocate us out of Neptune?”
“Not feeling the love here anymore?”
“It’s almost brought more damage than good.”
“It brought me you,” he says, batting his eyelashes at her.
“Okay, you big sap. Besides that.”
“So where do you want to go?” he asks her.
Veronica shrugs. “Where will your job let you go?”
He returns her shrug. “Might be time for a career change.”
Her eyes widen at that. “Logan –”
“You’ve been very patient and supportive of this over the years, but I think it’s time. The Navy has other jobs. I’m ready to just settle down with you somewhere, really start our lives together.”
She scoots closer to him on the bed, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.
“Here, pull out your phone,” he tells her. She does and he Googles a map of the United States. “Just for shits and giggles here, close your eyes and point somewhere on the map. See where it takes us.”
She gives him a sideways glance, but does it anyway.
“The Pacific Ocean,” he whistles. “You want us to live on a house boat?”
Veronica laughs. “No, no, let me try again.”
“Canada,” he tells her this time. “You trying to run from the law or something?”
“That’s us. Your regular Bonnie and Clyde.”
He laughs, taking her phone from her. “All right, all right let me try.”
“Washington,” she tells him. “Seattle?”
He shakes his head. “Too much rain for this California boy. Let me try one more time.”
He opens his eyes to look at her. “I hear they have good barbeque?”
She covers his hand on her phone with her own. “Maybe we should just stay in the state of California, but find a different city.”
“Fine,” he concedes. “Just keep it coastal so I don’t have to drive far to surf.”
“Oh yeah? What are your lists of demands?”
She taps her index finger to her chin, pretending like she really has to think about it. “Can we afford to buy a castle?”
Logan snorts. “Are there actual castles in California?”
“Probably not. Can we build one? With a mote?”
“I’ll start calling around to contractors.”
He shakes his head, tugging on her to get her to move closer to him. She does, scooting close enough so that she can rest her head on his shoulder.
“I’m glad you came back to me,” he tells her. “Those years we spent apart weren’t nearly as fun.”
“Shout out to our high school classmates for once again fucking shit up and forcing my hand into returning.” She gives a fake little salute toward the window. “And shout out to you for once again unintentionally getting stuck in the center of it.”
“I swear I don’t love the drama; it loves me.”
“It loves the both of us,” she corrects him, lifting her head up to kiss him.
“At least I have the comfort of knowing that whatever our next adventure together is, I’ll have you with me to get me out of whatever trouble I get myself into.”
She smirks at him, toying with the collar of his hospital gown. “Don’t underestimate me, babe. I may just be the one to get you into it.”
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this story and coming along on this journey with me. I've loved every minute of it and I can't wait to share what I've been working on next.