Day 5 – The heart I know I’m breaking is my own, to leave the warmest bed I’ve ever known
Veronica didn’t know what time it had been when they’d finally fallen asleep, and part of her was glad not to know how little sleep she’d gotten. The alarm clock was still on the ground, with the sheet they’d never bothered picking up. Logan had a ridiculously complicated system of sheets and covers on his bed, and what hadn’t been thrown in all directions was plenty to keep them warm, along with their combined bodily heat. She fumbled for her phone to try to see what time it was, but couldn’t find it on the table on her side of the bed.
Instead of getting up, she closed her eyes and tried to gather her will to get up and leave. She found it wasn’t very strong, not when she could hear and feel Logan breathing behind her, not when all she could think about was him.
It had been a knowledge that had made her sad whenever she allowed herself to think about it in the past – which wasn't often – but that had been almost a relief when she'd arrived here in California and decided to go for it: That the boy she'd fallen in love with, the boy she was still in love with after all those years, might not be anymore. That he could have been gone, that he probably was. Logan Echolls was a different man, a different person. But now she saw, that yes, he was different, but he was still the same where it mattered. The boy she'd been in love with, the boy she was in love with – he was alive. He wasn't an illusion or an idealization or a foggy memory. He was real, and she was in his arms, and she had to leave him completely in a few hours because that was how it worked, what they'd decided on.
She steeled herself for the cold of the morning air and swung her legs over the side of the bed, stopping again to gather some more courage. She felt Logan stirring behind her and buried her face in her hands, elbows on her knees.
“Veronica,” a voice said softly behind her.
“No.” A strangled word.
“I didn’t even say anything,” Logan protested.
But she shook her head, because he had. He had said everything. She couldn’t stand the way he said her name, the way he looked in the bed, how she knew he was naked under the covers, couldn’t stand how much everything about Logan and this weekend meant to her, how her heart sped up at the “what if…?” his every word elicited. She couldn’t stand the idea that he still loved her, too, that if she wasn’t such a selfish, selfish idiot, she never would have found out how strong their feelings still were. She couldn’t stand the idea that she had to go back to New York and law school and real life instead of Logan’s bed, Logan’s arms, tucked under Logan’s chin. That it would have hurt a lot less if she hadn’t had to go and remind herself how much she wanted everything with Logan.
“I can’t, okay?” she told him, abrupt, taking a deep breath, her head still in her hands.
She felt his warm hand on her shoulder and tensed. Then he started rubbing circles and she relaxed again. She hated that he had that effect on her, and at the same time a traitorous part of her loved the knowledge that somewhere in the world there was always someone who remembered how to calm her, how to please her, how to relax her and how to make love to her, even after years.
“Just a few more minutes,” he murmured against her shoulder blade after placing a fleeting kiss on her skin.
Veronica blinked to urge the tears that were threatening to fall, back into her eyes. They couldn’t stretch time anymore, it had been stretched too much. It was over.
“You know that if I stay a few more minutes, it’ll be a few more hours, and I’ll miss my flight,” she replied flatly.
“I love you.”
She couldn’t hold back her tears any longer and let out a sob. “Don’t do this to me. That wasn’t the deal.”
“It’s always been the deal. I’ve always been in love with you.”
“Don’t do this. Don’t say that.” She stayed stubbornly facing away from him.
“Say what? The truth?”
“Things that will make it harder to leave,” she replied, tossing the covers from her legs and getting out of bed.
“Veronica,” Logan called after her, but she ignored him, going straight for the bathroom to wash up.
She couldn’t keep listening to Logan and his words and his devotion and whatever else he had to say. It was already painful enough to see it in his eyes when he looked at her, to hear it in his tone when he said her name, to feel it in his touch when he caressed her body.
He scrambled off the bed, but she didn’t spare him a glance. She couldn’t, or else she’d break.
When he got to the bathroom, she saw him from the mirror she was facing, washing her face, freshly dressed. He had put on some boxers and she would have taken the time to tease him about it if it had been yesterday, if it had been college. But it wasn’t. Instead he was standing in the doorway of his apartment’s bathroom, silently trying to convince her of something she wasn’t sure existed.
“Do you want to leave?” he asked softly, and she wanted to slap him for that. For that stupid, stupid question, for putting this decision on her, like it was her fault.
“It doesn’t matter what I feel, or what I want. I’m leaving,” she replied, hard and flat, leaving no room for argumentation. He opened his mouth, but she cut him off. “I have to be in New York. You have to be here and then you’ll have to be God knows where on an aircraft carrier. We both have lives, and these lives are separate. It doesn’t matter what either of us wants.”
“Do you love me?”
That question. It felt like he was 18 again, when he looked at her like that, asking that question.
“I hate that you’re doing this to me.” She looked down at the sink, avoiding his gaze studiously.
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“Yes!” she screamed out, whipping around to face him. “Yes, Logan, I love you! Does that make anything better? No, it doesn’t! It makes everything worse, but if you want it,” she continued sardonically, “there you go: I love you. I love you, I’ve loved you since I was 17, I never stopped loving you when we didn’t speak to each other for years, and the first time I ever said the words was while screaming at you. Are you happy?”
She laughed humourlessly, the sound dark and hollow, then grabbed her toiletries from the counter and pushed past him to the bedroom, where she started picking up her scattered belongings.
Veronica stuffed everything she found of hers in her bag or her purse, not even careful like she usually was, wiping away tears as she did so. Screw Logan. Screw love. Screw law school. Screw the Navy. Screw her friends for having their life together and loving people with whom they could be in a relationship. Screw everything.
When she’d finished packing everything, she stood in the middle of Logan’s living room, a bit lost, her anger deflated, only leaving place for defeat. Logan walked in, now fully clothed, and she raised her still red-rimmed eyes to him. She didn’t know what to say.
He decided for her, walking over to where she was and kissing her forehead heartbreakingly tenderly, before taking a step back and looking down at her. “Need a ride to your hotel?”
Veronica nodded, and Logan nodded back, then grabbed her carry-on and followed her outside of his apartment.
The ride was silent. Not awkward, exactly, but there was a lingering sadness between them, like they didn’t have the energy to blow up and be angry at each other.
When they reached the hotel and Logan put the car on park, Veronica got out of the vehicle and made her way to his side, then opened his door and pulled him out. Logan stumbled, surprised, but didn’t ask the questions on the tip of his tongue when he saw the determination in her eyes.
“Not ashamed,” she asserted, before kissing him full on the mouth, both arms around his neck.
He gripped her waist, reducing the space between them as they both tried to break some Olympic record for apnea because they knew that when they surfaced from this kiss, there wouldn’t be any more.
“I’m sorry,” Veronica sighed when she pulled back, grabbed her bag and purse, and walked to the hotel lobby. Sorry for leaving, or maybe for coming in the first place, sorry for never saying she loved him until it was just a curse, sorry for fighting with him during their short time together.
She didn’t look back until she was in her room and she collapsed on the bed she hadn’t used, not even once. It felt all wrong, all stiff and cold and too white. All empty. She remembered the silly note she’d left under one of Logan’s pillows sometime during the night, when he’d been getting a glass of water and she was still giggly from her elation at being with him, and wondered how long it would be until he found it. If it’d go in the laundry and he’d never see it. Which option she preferred.
It took her almost half an hour to drag herself across the room to reorganize all her clothes properly and fold everything neatly, the clothes she’d worn to Logan’s and what she’d kept there for the engagement/bachelorette/whatever.
When she exited her (former?) room, Veronica pasted on a happy mask. For all intents and purposes, she’d just spent a great weekend reconnecting with old friends, saying hi to her dad, and partying (kind of), and she would play that part.
“Hi, I was in room 428, I’m here for checkout.” She slid her room key on the counter towards the perky employee.
The woman took the key and nodded. “I hope you had a nice stay with us.”
“I did, thank you.”
When the employee didn’t do anything else, Veronica took out her credit card. “Uh… shouldn’t I pay?”
“Oh! Your husband took care of it already.”
“He was here maybe 20 minutes ago, said you’d be down for checkout soon, and he took care of the tab.”
“Of course he did. He probably forgot to tell me.” She smiled. “Thanks. Have a nice day.”
Veronica settled into one of the large armchairs of the lobby, her suitcase beside her, waiting for Mac. She still had a small while before her friend was due to drive her to the airport. She glanced back at the check-in counter and smiled inwardly. Logan must have snooped into her things to find her room number on her keycard. The thought made her oddly proud of him. And if he’d had to pretend to be her husband to pay her tab, well… who was she to judge the ruses and false identities others created to have their way?
She took out her phone, but her fingers hovered over the keyboard before she typed in anything. Were they still on texting terms? Were they back to before, no contact at all? Which was easier, cutting ties completely, or staying in his life and learning all about who he was dating when he inevitably found someone with whom to build his life?
She pushed the decision to later when she saw Mac walk towards her and she offered her friend a large smile.
On the drive to the airport, Mac kept giving Veronica sideways glances.
“Is everything okay?” the brunette finally asked.
Veronica nodded with a forced smile. “Yeah. I, uh, I saw Logan.”
Mac didn’t push any further, and Veronica imagined she was probably assuming the wrong things about how seeing Logan had gone, but she didn’t clarify it any further.
Veronica checked in her suitcase, hugged Mac one last time and promised to be back for the wedding and to give news often in the meantime.
Waiting for the plane was strangely anticlimactic, like it should have been a whirlwind or a bigger deal, but it was so simple, sitting at the gate between other passengers dressed in all kinds of comfortable clothes.
A part of her kept wishing for a big movie moment, some dramatic sign to stay in San Diego, to go to Neptune. A sudden storm, maybe, a delayed flight, a mix-up that made her name not appear on a list, a Navy officer just walking by, someone who looked oddly like Logan at first glance, teenagers obviously falling in love while oblivious to the rest of the world, the person in front of her in the Starbucks line having the same order as Logan. Anything. She expected it, she clung to the possibility that something else would make the choice for her, but it never happened.
By the time she decided she should have found her own reason to stay instead of waiting for a sign, cleared something up, went back for one last kiss, one last embrace, one last day, she was already thousands of feet over Missouri.
Veronica had always reveled in the dichotomy of wanting everything to go according to plan, to follow her pre-established rules in life, all the while letting fate and circumstances make her few good romantic decisions for her: kissing Logan at the Camelot had just sort of happened, getting together afterwards as well, then the night on the roof at the end of senior year had brought them back together without having to give it too much thought, and now it was a chance encounter in a San Diego hotel.
When it came to choosing Logan, she never let herself do it. She just expected the world to do it for them. And maybe that was the problem.
Shit, she thought as it occurred to her just how much she’d decided to throw away just because it was hard. She could have had Logan. Not fully, not physically, because he’d be far, and sometimes he’d be deployed, but fuck, she could have Logan. She could have the late-night phone calls and the knowledge that he loved her, the slightly drunken declarations of eternal devotion and the pictures of them she could put back up on her walls. She could have someone who played with her hair when they were watching TV (did he still do that?) and someone who knew everything she was feeling before she did, before she had to vocalize it. More than that, the selfish and mean part of her despised the idea of watching him fall in love with someone else, moving on with someone who actually deserved him, and, sure, that probably didn’t say much about her general quality as a human being, but it had to mean something, right?
She suddenly started breathing hard, needing to do something about it, tell someone, scream, go back, anything. This was the moment of the movie where she told the driver to stop the car, the moment to pull the emergency brake of the train or press furiously on the button to make the bus stop, then sprint back to where he was – where Logan was – not matter the distance or the weather or her clothes or the people staring. But she was hours from New York, hours from San Diego, over fucking Missouri, stuck in a plane in which frantically asking for any kind of change in schedule would probably put her on a no-fly list.
As quickly as she’d snapped her seatbelt off and sprung to her feet, Veronica sat back down, under the curious (and slightly judgmental) eye of the old lady in the window seat.
The rest of the airplane ride was as unsettlingly uneventful and boring as her wait at the airport had been. It didn’t make sense that just this morning, she’d woken up to a fight with Logan and a mutual, strained, declaration of love, and now she was idly walking through JFK, wondering if she should grab something to eat now or wait until she got home.
She didn’t check her phone until she took it out in the cab towards her apartment, to communicate clearly that she wanted to avoid any small talk. She shot her father a quick text – “made it back to NY in one piece” – and reassured Mac she was fine – “no one tried to mug me yet and no one drooled on me during the flight” – before opening the message she really wanted to read.
LE: Have a safe flight
No punctuation, no emotion, no nothing. It felt so impersonal, and yet she knew how personal it must have been to Logan to actually type out something impersonal – it didn’t come naturally to him.
VM: Probably not as safe as if you had been the one driving (piloting? flying?), but the guy seemed competent enough
She hesitated for a moment, then continued on to her second message.
VM: Thank you for my hotel tab
Logan replied almost instantly.
LE: I’m not sure I would have done so well with the commercial plane, but I appreciate the confidence. And you’re welcome. It’s the least I could do, after stealing you away from your weekend with Mac and Wallace
VM: You know it was a conscious choice on my part? You don’t have to pay for my choices
It was coming out all wrong, Veronica decided with a frown. Logan shouldn’t have to pay, literally, for her choice not to use her hotel room, and he shouldn’t have had to repeatedly pay the price for her bad choices to go with the easy, comfortable choice either: Duncan, Piz, this. But she didn’t want to be accusing him, either.
She was almost home by then, and as soon as she was out of the cab, she pressed the call button on her phone. She was tired of texting. The line rang as she climbed up the stairs, phone sandwiched against her shoulder, suitcase heaved up every step.
“Is everything okay?” were Logan’s opening words, concern in his voice.
Veronica was slightly taken aback. She hadn’t thought it could worry him that she would call. “Yeah, I… yeah. I just – texting didn’t seem to convey the tone properly.”
She twisted her key in the lock and let herself inside her apartment, switching the phone to her other ear.
“What I mean is…” Veronica sighed. Maybe she hadn’t thought this through. Maybe what she wanted to say didn’t really have words to express it. Maybe she should have just let it be. The adrenaline she’d felt during her perfect movie moment on the plane was all depleted. All she had left was herself, her vulnerability, and her own words, without the euphoric rush of realization to make the decisions for her. She couldn’t just fling herself at him and let that do the talking. “What I mean is you shouldn’t feel guilty or responsible or – or whatever, about this weekend. It’s not… you didn’t steal me away, or coerce me into anything. If it hadn’t been this weekend in the hotel lobby, it would have been another time.”
“Veronica, what are you saying?” Logan asked hesitantly.
“I’m saying I can’t stay away from you. I just can’t. And I realized in Missouri…”
“Over Missouri. That I didn’t want to stay away from you, either. That falling back with you this weekend, it wasn’t… it wasn’t a twist of fate, or luck, or this one chance at a fling. It was a choice. And we made the choice, and I kept telling myself it wasn’t, it was just a coincidence that we were back… I mean, kind of back… and that if I left, that was just finishing up the coincidence. The full circle.” Veronica sat down on her couch and took a deep breath. “But I was just choosing to cancel my choice, to take the easy way out. And I’m tired of taking the easy way out. I want to choose you. I want to keep choosing you, every day, after every fight, every time I see you and every time I leave.”
She held her breath, waiting to hear what Logan had to say. If he was there with her in person, she’d know already, just from his body language, but, damn it, he wasn’t.
“And do you?” he asked, his voice still careful.
“Do I what?”
“Yes,” she gasped, the emotion at the truth of it rushing to her. “I just… fuck, I just wish you were here.”
Logan let out a warm exhale. “Well, I imagine this is the part where I say I’m actually in New York too, but that’s physically impossible, and I just got back home from work.”
“I love you,” Veronica whispered in a bout of bravery.
She wished she could see Logan’s face then, but if she closed her eyes, she imagined he was looking at her the way he had this morning, before she started screaming. Like she was his world and they were the only two people on the planet.
“I love you too. So much, Veronica.”
She squeezed her eyes tighter. “I should have delayed my flight a few days. I don’t even start my internship until next week.”
“I’ll fly out as soon as I can and as often as I can.”
“Are we… are we doing this?”
“Only if you’re ready to be all-in.”
“I am,” Veronica replied quickly. She’d spent the past few hours rehashing everything they’d been through, everything she’d decided to throw away not only this morning, but all those years ago when she’d told Logan he was out of her life forever. It was overwhelming, once she’d opened the can of worms, how much she didn’t want to go on her stupid date on Friday, didn’t want to go back to her Logan-less life. “I’m tired of running away.”
“So this is it? Dating? Sleeping together? Writing you long sappy emails at the end of every day?”
She laughed, brushing away hair from her face and looking up at her ceiling.
“You’ll get tired of me, on the other side of the country or the other side of the world,” she replied, biting the tip of her thumb bashfully, to play off her lack of confidence, even if he couldn’t see her.
“Never. Veronica, we didn’t speak for 5 years, until four days ago. And yet, I still love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone. I don’t think there’s anything that could tire me of you.”
“That’s because you didn’t have me there to annoy you. Remember in college? I drove you crazy.”
“Yeah, and I still wanted you back. I still left you an embarrassingly long voicemail where I dramatically detailed my everlasting devotion to you.”
“I didn’t listen to it all the way through.”
“I figured. If it’s me you’re worried about… don’t be. I can’t fall out of love with you. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work, and I don’t want it to work.”
“Okay,” Veronica nodded even if he couldn’t see her. “Me neither,” she added. “You have no idea how hard I tried to push you out of my mind. And it worked, to an extent, but… my heart never let you go.” After a beat, she backtracked. “Okay, never tell anyone I ever said something that cheesy, I’ll lose all my street cred.”
Logan’s warm laugh reverberated in her ears. “It’ll be our little secret,” he stage-whispered.
Veronica made a face. “That sounds kind of creepy.”
“Well, it is me. What did you expect?”
She laughed again, feeling so light. “Nothing else.”
“Listen, V, I got to go meet some guys, but I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“Or later tonight if you have the time,” Veronica shrugged cheekily.
“I don’t want to wake you in the middle of the night.”
“Oh, now that it’s not for sex, it’s a different story, huh?”
“When exactly did we say it was a no for phone sex? I don’t remember that conversation.”
“Right. Well, call me when you want. I’m still on California time anyway. For phone sex or just to talk.”
“You really are the perfect girlfriend.” He gave sarcasm to his tone, but she knew it was fake.
“Girlfriend?” she asked, full of faux innocence. “Now, I know we didn’t discuss those words. I was thinking I at least qualify for your ‘other half’.”
“Just for that, I promise I’ll call you my other half in public the next time we’re together in person.”
“Noooo, I take that back. I take it back!” she insisted over his laugh.
“I’ll talk to you soon, girlfriend.”
“You better… Boyfriend.”
Veronica was still smiling in the dark when her roommate stumbled home after a long night of bar hopping.
Said roommate cocked her head and looked at Veronica curiously. “Girl, what the hell? You look in love or some shit. I know you didn’t fall in love at your friend’s engagement thing.”
“I didn’t fall in love. Just… remembered I was love.”
Roxanne stared at Veronica, slack-jawed, for a full 10 seconds. “I’m not drunk enough to wrap my head around lovesick Veronica,” she muttered finally.
“Get used to it!” Veronica called after her roommate’s retreating figure down the hall.
Her phone buzzed with an incoming notification, dragging her attention back to it.
LE: It’s kind of strange that no one in my new life remembers the times where I pined away for you because they were surprised as hell all night at my, and I quote, “stupid smile”
VM: Where’s Dick Casablancas when you need him?
VM: My roommate came home drunk and still apparently not enough to deal with me like this, so I’d say that’s 2 sided
LE: Well, she signed up for a hardened cynic, not my *~other half~*
VM: I hate you
VM: Also, that attempt at emphasis? Pathetic
LE: Sure, Mars. Keep telling yourself that
VM: Just because I love you doesn’t mean I can’t hate you.
Suddenly her phone rang, so she picked up, startled.
“Say it again.”
“That you love me.”
Veronica smiled softly, seeing in her mind’s eye her oldest friend superposed with the accomplished military man he’d become. Both versions had uncertainty written in their eyes, even with the assurance of the words they spoke. So she spoke gently, to ease his mind. “I love you, Logan.”
In the background, she heard Roxanne curse.