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Metal Under Tension

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The thing to remember when you stroll onto a Navy base to welcome your man home from sea is that aircraft carriers dock excruciatingly slowly.

Like, tortoises would beat this thing handily in a race.

Which was probably normal and expected and, really, the only responsible way to bring a billion-dollar ship in to port. But god damn, Veronica wanted Logan back immediately, if not sooner, and watching the hulking ship glide ever-so-slowly along the dock might just drive her 'round the bend. Veronica tapped her fingernails against the metal barricades, perversely enjoying the annoying metallic ping.

She glanced at the sailors from the base, lined up in their crisp white uniforms, just watching. Couldn't they be doing something to move things along? She was learning that a lot of things involving the military required patience, and 180 days after their last kiss, Veronica had not an ounce of patience left. She was practically vibrating with frustration at how damn long the process was taking.

To distract herself, she turned to examine her fellow greeters. They were corralled into holding pens under crisp white tents, all very orderly and organized until the ship docked and they would be allowed closer. The crowd around her -- full of spouses and kids and proud parents, most dressed in bright colors, and almost all of them carrying handmade signs or flowers or both -- kept the cheering up pretty steadily.

The enthusiasm and excitement were bittersweet for Veronica -- Logan deserved this kind of welcome home, too, but he didn't have family, not really. Trina was still too self-absorbed to even consider meeting his ship unless there would be favorable press coverage. Veronica's dad was still a little... resentful was probably too strong, but he struggled with the sea change in her life. He'd always been more attached to the idea of a high-falutin' lawyering job than she had, and blaming Logan for luring her back to Neptune seemed to be her dad's way of coping.

Of course, it was hard to be too judgmental about the man who'd literally saved your life, so her dad mostly kept his conflicted thoughts about Logan to himself. Still, he hadn't offered to accompany Veronica to meet his ship, and she certainly hadn't asked.

So Veronica was the only one there for Logan, with no signs or flowers, trying to ignore how awkward she felt surrounded by the brightly colored masses. The pomp and circumstance surrounding the military was still pretty foreign to Veronica, though she'd spent an unhealthy amount of time attempting to memorize Navy ranks and insignia, with moderate success.

She understood Logan's wings, obviously -- pretty intuitive. The multicolored service ribbons were more of a challenge, but now she could rattle off his decorations and pinpoint where he'd served to earn them. What got her into trouble was trying not to think about exactly what “heroic actions while participating in aerial flight” meant. Because, to Veronica, that sounded a lot like Logan doing something that put him in danger.

It was an adjustment, living with this constant underlying worry about Logan. Not that she hadn't worried about him before, but these days, his job involved a reasonable expectation of mortal peril. And while Veronica craved information as a way of grappling with her feelings, the military jealously guarded way too much about the location, the mission, and the status of its personnel for her tastes. Knowing he was halfway around the world (with a 12 and a half hour time difference during the bulk of his deployment, Veronica had a real good idea where he'd been) flying planes into countries with a lot of heavily armed people who'd want him dead, just because of the flag on his uniform -- it was kind of awful some days.

But he was home now. Or would be as soon as they managed to park this damn ship. Dock it. Whatever. There was a lot of jargon.

She thought maybe the ship was slowing even further, which should mean he would be in her arms soon. Veronica squinted at the line of tiny, white-uniform-wearing figures along the side of the massive ship, looking from one to the next as if she could possibly pick out Logan from this distance -- and why hadn't she brought the camera, dammit?

It finally dawned on her that the ship was stationary, and she inhaled sharply. The only things moving now were the large metal gangplanks that created complicated, angled pathways from ship to shore. Probably there was an order and logic to which sailors used what gangplanks, but these were the kinds of Navy things she was still trying to learn.

An officer -- Veronica identified her as a Lieutenant Commander by her epaulets and then felt kind of proud of herself for it -- walked slowly along the line of spectators, "When you reach the open dock area, please stay back until you see your loved one. Watch your step."

Her loved one. She wasn't sure why the words hit her so hard -- it wasn't a new thought. She was his family, and he was hers, and Veronica was still kind of pissed at herself for denying that simple fact for so many years. This feeling that something vital was missing from her body -- she still couldn't understand how she'd managed to ignore it for nine years. She'd been hyper-aware of his absence for the past six months.

Sailors were only just now beginning to stream off of the ship, lines of white-clad figures shining brightly in the sun. The sight was more affecting than she expected.

A small girl with bouncy black ringlets offered Veronica a small American flag. "Thank you," Veronica said, smiling down at the girl.

"My mommy is coming home!" the girl announced, bouncing from foot to foot, her hand clasped in her father's.

“That's so great!” Veronica answered. “What does your mommy do?”

“Mommy is a pedal officer!” the girl answered, showing off a hand-drawn family picture, scribbled crayon on white posterboard.

“Petty officer,” the girl's father corrected gently. Veronica smiled at him, feeling a strange kinship. He grinned back, "Long deployment."

"Yeah," Veronica answered.

“Well, have a good day.” The man scooped up his daughter and moved toward the ship.

“You, too.” Veronica followed the twosome toward the open dock area, still feeling a bit out of place in the throngs of people.

Suddenly she was nervous. Like, ridiculously so.

She had dressed for Logan -- black boots, tight black jeans, a low-cut black t-shirt, and his favorite black leather jacket -- and now she felt like an unpatriotic misfit. From the looks her fellow ship-greeters were giving her, a not-insignificant portion of them agreed. She held the flag a little defensively.

What if she'd misjudged this reunion? What if he hadn't been kidding when he told her to keep the car running in the parking lot and he'd find her? What if she was supposed to be dressed like she was attending a garden party, and somehow her lack of Navy knowledge reflected badly on him?

She fidgeted a bit, waiting for the families ahead of her in the holding pens to get their asses in gear so she could get to Logan as quickly as possible.

And, goddammit, where was he? Four thousand sailors and officers in spiffy white uniforms, and hidden somewhere among all of them was Logan. She realized she was up on her tiptoes, craning her neck to see around the happy reunions all around her. Veronica took a breath, made herself exhale slowly.

She spotted him, finally, stepping off the gangplank and readjusting his bag -- even fifty yards away, she recognized the unexpected grace in the way he moved. He was scanning the crowd for her. He knew her well enough to know she wouldn't wait in the parking lot, no matter what he'd suggested.

Her impulse was to sprint to him, dive into him. “Do not run,” she reminded herself. They were grownups, and he was right -- what was six months' separation to them? She would just stand here, one hand on her hip in that stance she knew drove him crazy, and let him come to her.

Assuming he actually found her in this crowd. Veronica kept her eyes on him, willing him to look her way.

When Logan saw her, he grinned slowly and she had to remind herself to breathe past the sudden tightness in her chest. He adjusted his route, making a beeline for her, his gait quickening. Belatedly, she realized she was moving, too. Fifteen feet, ten, and then she basically launched herself at him. “Logan.” And they were kissing.

He'd dropped his bag on the pavement to wrap both arms tightly around her, lifting her off of her feet. He kissed her desperately, spun her around in that way he did when he was overwhelmed by their connection. “Missed you,” he muttered against her lips. His arms were so tight around her ribcage that she couldn't inhale properly, and she could not have cared less.

“Too long,” she answered, just barely restraining herself from wrapping her legs around his waist -- there were kids around, after all. “That was way too long.”

Logan eased her back to her feet, letting her slide slowly down his body. She clutched at his shoulders, and his eyes darkened at her reaction. He slid his gaze appreciatively down her frame. “Thank you for not dressing like a cupcake.”

“I look like a hoodlum in this crowd,” she answered, lifting her small flag and waving it. “Oh, except for this.”

He laughed, genuine and open. “You look like my hoodlum," he answered, kissing her again. It escalated quickly, her fingers caught in handfuls of his crisp white shirt, the small stick holding the flag pressing hard against his shoulder blade.

Logan pulled back, took a breath, and fixed her with a heated look. "We need to get out of here. Like, immediately."

Her breathing was unsteady, and she wasn't 100% sure they'd be able to make it to an enclosed space of any kind. But probably public sex acts would look bad on his service record. “Thank God," she answered, waiting impatiently while he picked up his bag and looped it over his shoulder.

He reached for her again, arm around her waist, hand low and possessive on her hip. She returned the favor, using the cover of his bag to help herself to a quick squeeze of his ass. Logan groaned. "Veronica."

She flashed him an innocent look. "Want me to stop?"

"God, no," he answered with a smirk. "I want you to walk fucking faster."

* * *

They reached the car, and Logan heaved his bag into the backseat, and tossed his cap in after it.

Veronica stayed close to him, leaning her hip against the car just behind the driver's door. She couldn't seem to move away from him now that he was here again. She wanted to drag him to some secluded beachhouse, far away from everyone they knew, so they could lock themselves inside for a week. Not for the sex (well, not just for the sex), but for an uninterrupted block of time to soak him in.

"No dings, huh?" Logan asked, stepping back to gaze adoringly at his car.

Veronica's hands were on her hips, suddenly, and she glared at him. "Really? You're gonna stand there and ogle the car?"

Logan's eyes lit up with amusement, and he invaded her personal space, boxing her in with a hand on either side of her body. "I'm more than happy to ogle you, too, but I'd rather do it in private." He kissed her forehead chastely. “Keys?”

“Why can't I drive?” Her hands were on his chest, clearly of their own accord, the little flag she was still somehow holding pressed against his sternum. She traced the gold wings with her free hand, let her fingers splay against his ribs. She felt his breathing change and smiled.

His palms landed on her waist, fingers slipping beneath her shirt to dance across her skin. “Because I know exactly where the hotel is, and we need to get there as fast as possible.” He drew light circles on her lower back.

“The hotel?” she asked, trying her hardest to ignore the way her body reacted to him. “What are you--?”

“Three miles that way,” Logan interrupted, tilted his head towards the San Diego skyline. He leaned down and breathed into her ear, “Nearest bed.”

She shivered against him, ignoring his smug eyebrows when he grinned down at her. “Plan approved, Flyboy -- now take me to bed or lose me forever.”

He rolled his eyes at her, but he was laughing despite his exasperation. “Gladly. Now get your ass in the car.”

She smirked at him. “Don't you need the keys?” Reluctantly, she let go of him and leaned back against the car, her palms flat against the expensive paint, exaggerating the lean until his hungry eyes were on her chest. “They're in my pocket.”

“Huh?” Logan snapped out of it quickly and accepted the challenge, dragging his fingers along her rib cage, down her abdomen, and then dipping under her waistband. Goddamn, the things he could do to her with his fingertips and a heated look. Veronica sucked in a breath, and he quirked a brow at her before easing his hands into her pants pockets.

Bad move, Veronica, she thought. He fished the keys out, taking his damn time and torturing her while he did. She grabbed his belt loops and yanked him against her, then leaned up, “Get your ass in the car.”

Logan made the most interesting noise -- halfway between a groan and a laugh -- and pulled himself away from her.

She made herself step away, rounding the car to the passenger side. She slid in, and before she could reach for the seat belt, Logan cupped her chin, tilted her head toward him, and kissed her sweetly. The emotion in the way he touched her -- Veronica wanted to say something, but didn't trust her voice.

They stared at each other for a few long moments, drinking each other in. She'd missed his face. She'd missed his laugh, his scent, his hands. God, she'd missed him. “Too bad your big old bag is in the way,” she sighed, indicating the back seat. She was mostly kidding.

“Okay,” he said, chuckling. “I like the flag.” She grinned and set the flag carefully into the cupholder between them. Logan tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and retreated to his side of the car. "Put your seat belt on.”

Once they made their way out of the overcrowded parking lot, Logan drove with a familiar, controlled aggression. She could feel the coiled tension in his body, even from two feet away. The top was down, just the way he liked it, and he couldn't quite keep his eyes on the road.

Veronica scooted closer, frustrated by the seat belt. His warm palm landed on her thigh, and she grabbed it, weaving his fingers through hers. She brought their hands up, kissed the base of his thumb.

Veronica's phone rang, and her father's name flashed on the entertainment system. Logan glanced at it the display and tossed her an amused smile. “Bluetooth pairing. Guess we're serious.”

She considered digging her phone out of her bag -- and why didn't she turn it off, anyway? -- but didn't want to let go of him. She certainly didn't expect Logan to answer the call, so she was unprepared when he said, “Mr. Mars. You're on speaker with Veronica.”

She stared at him, "Did you--?"

“Hello, Logan,” her dad responded, his voice amplified by the sound system. Veronica dropped Logan's hand and sat up straighter as her dad continued, “Welcome back. Good tour?”

“Made it home safely, so yeah,” Logan answered. “Good tour.”

Veronica shook herself out of her surprise. “Hi, Dad.”

“Hi, honey. Where are you guys?”

“San Diego,” she answered automatically. “Heading downtown for -- dinner.”

Beside her, Logan smirked in the most infuriating manner and muttered, "Eventually." She pushed his arm.

“Perfect timing.” her dad answered. He sounded cheerful, and Veronica was immediately suspicious. “I had a meeting with the SDPD, and I was hoping I could convince you two to have dinner with me. You know, as a welcome home kind of thing.”

Logan glanced over at her, looking trapped. “That sounds...” Veronica shook her head vehemently, mouthing NO, but Logan shrugged at her. “Great,” he finished lamely.

"Excellent," her dad answered. "If you're already on your way downtown, just head right on over to Chianti and I'll get us a table."

"Actually, dad," Veronica began. "We need to check i--"

"Sure, Mr. Mars," Logan interrupted. "That's on 5th, right?"

"Exactly. See you in a few minutes."

Veronica dropped her face into her hands. "Goddamnit."

* * *

Despite her strong suggestion that they just ignore her dad's insane, last-minute dinner plans and drive right to the hotel, Logan found parking a couple blocks from the restaurant. Veronica tried to keep her distance from him, to walk respectably along like a normal person. It only worked for a couple steps, and then she was tucked up against him again like a magnet. He kept her hand clasped tightly in his, nodding to the occasional passersby who acknowledged his uniform with a smile or a quick salute.

It was refreshing, seeing people react to him as Navy Officer Guy in public, instead of Son of Dead Movie Star, or, worse, Accused Murderer. He deserved this kind of respect -- and this anonymity, this freedom to just be Logan.

The restaurant was on the corner, lanterns glowing softly in the twilight. It looked lovely, and it was basically the last place Veronica wanted to be right now. She was pretty desperate to get Logan alone in a room somewhere, anywhere, and ravish him. A thought which needed to be suppressed now that her father had basically demanded a weird, formal dinner with them. She knew it had something to do with evaluating whether he was okay with her and Logan yet, or needed more time to get over Piz. (Or, more accurately, Piz plus all that Piz represented to her dad.)

And the cherry on top of this bad idea sundae was that Logan hadn't interacted with her dad since he was an angry teenager, so they had some sort of awkward reintroduction phase to get through right off the top.

Logan grinned at her, and lifted their joined hands so he could kiss her wrist. "Buck up, bobcat," he murmured as he held the restaurant door open for her. "You can rip my clothes off in an hour." She flushed, from arousal or embarrassment, or probably both. "In fact," he continued, "I encourage any and all clothes-ripping -- mine, yours. Whatever strikes your fancy."

Before she could reply, she spotted her father, standing alongside the bar, holding a beer and watching them approach. He was clearly studying them, and Veronica instinctively eased away from Logan. He kept hold of her hand, not letting her move too far away.

"Honey," her dad greeted her, pulling her into a hug. Logan reluctantly released her and kept a respectable distance.

"Hi, Dad," she said, then stepped back. She looked from Logan to her father, wracking her brain for something to say. She fought the ridiculously inappropriate urge to laugh.

"Welcome home, Logan," her dad said, and offered his hand.

Logan shook it, dipping his chin. "Thanks, Mr. Mars. Good to see you." He sounded younger, suddenly, and maybe a little nervous. His gaze shifted to Veronica for reassurance. "And your daughter,” he paused for second, then added, “as always."

Always. She wasn’t sure if he’d chosen the word deliberately until the edge of his mouth quirked upwards. Veronica knew she should say something to her dad, but the image of Logan leaving Dick's that morning six months ago was suddenly so strong she couldn’t seem to look away from him. She realized she'd drifted closer to him again, so close she could feel the heat of his arm near hers.

Her dad waited a moment, then cleared his throat. "Shall we?" He gestured at the tables beyond the bar.

"Sure." Veronica followed her father, Logan walking too close behind her. This was going to be so terrible. Her dad led them to a rounded booth in the corner, so when Veronica slid into the middle, her father and Logan ended up seated facing each other.

"Dad?" she asked, noticing a slight grimace when he sat down. "You okay?" She knew the concussion-related migraines were very few and far between these days, but if he did too much walking, his hip still bothered him.

"I'm fine, Veronica," he answered, shutting down the topic. She made a mental note to check in with his physical therapist. Her dad took a sip of his beer, then looked around for a server. "Drinks?" he asked them.

Veronica's nervousness bubbled up. "We drinkin' Santana champ 'cause it's so crisp." Logan and her dad gave her eerily similar looks of confusion, though Logan's was tinged with amusement. "No Lonely Island fans?" she asked weakly. "The boat engine make noise, motherf--"


"Sorry," she winced. "I could definitely use a drink. Whisky, maybe. Vodka?" Her voice was too high, and she told herself to get a damn grip. Just because the two most important people in her life were sitting at this table with her, all awkward and not talking, wasn’t the end of the world.


The server arrived, rattled off the required greetings and specials. Logan glanced at Veronica, lifted an eyebrow. "Tequila shooter?" She made a face, and he ordered her a glass of white wine, and a beer for himself. While her dad weighed whether to order another beer, Logan reached for her hand. "Good to know you'll like that nautical-themed pashmina afghan I brought back for you," he said, deadpan.

She beamed at him, couldn't resist leaning in to give him a quick, relatively chaste kiss.

"Veronica," her dad repeated, in his perfect disapproving-dad tone. Logan all but jumped away from her in reaction, folding his hands together in his lap.

"Dad," Veronica shot back stubbornly. "You wanted to have dinner with us, like, an hour after Logan got home from war, so you might have to deal with a little PDA."

Logan gave her a strange look. "From war?" he repeated.

"Uh, yeah."

"I've been to war zones before, Veronica," he answered, his tone flat. "This deployment was..." he shrugged, "standard stuff." He forced a smile. "Nothing scary."

Well, that certainly deserved some follow up. She watched him for a moment, reached for his hand because she needed his particular form of tactile reassurance. "Twelve-and-a-half hour time difference means Indian Standard Time. That's not too far from some hot spots." His fingers tightened around hers.

"Probably that's the Navy's business and not yours," her dad commented, and gave Veronica a warning look. "So what do you fly, Logan?"

"Growlers," Logan answered, brightening. He did like to talk technical details -- Veronica had been treated to this same conversation more than once before his deployment. "Variation on the F-18 Hornet. It's a two-seater fighter plane."

Logan continued, describing the non-classified stuff about his plane, and Veronica sat back, prepared to jump in at the first sign of trouble.

Her dad nodded slowly. "Flying planes off an aircraft carrier -- what's harder, takeoff or landing?"

Logan paused while the server delivered their drinks. "Thanks." He took a couple sips of his beer and smiled down at the glass. "Nice.” He took another drink before continuing. “Landing is always more dangerous, particularly on a carrier -- the ship is moving, and you need to put her down hard and catch the wire, or be ready to get back in the air. On takeoff, there's a catapult."

These were exactly the kinds of things that Veronica should know about the Navy, but the nonchalant way he explained things left her a little bit terrified. A catapult?

"So you like military life?" her dad probed.

Logan turned his beer glass in circles on the table. "There's a lot to like, yeah," he answered slowly. "And I probably owe my sanity to the Navy." Veronica wanted to step in, tell him he didn't need to explain himself to her father, but something in Logan’s expression stopped her. He looked so much like that lonely boy craving approval, suddenly, that her throat tightened. "You probably remember I had some..." Logan stopped, shrugged. "Anger issues."

"I recall," her dad answered, his tone not exactly welcoming. Veronica shot him a glare, but he ignored her, watching Logan carefully, even as he took a casual sip of his beer.

Logan nodded, smiling ruefully down at the table. "Yes. I owe you an apology for--"

"You don't owe him an apology," Veronica interrupted. “Dad--”

"I do, actually," Logan answered her. "It's fine. I am sorry that I lost my temper with you." She held his gaze, unsure how to respond. "So," he continued, turning back to her dad, "I apologize. And I want you to know that I'm not that angry kid anymore. The military doesn't leave a lot of room for self-indulgence or a bad temper."

"Logan," she said, but he was watching her father, the most heart-breaking expression of hope on his face.

Her father nodded slowly. "Apology accepted."

* * *

Dinner was actually quite good, and it ended with a little less drama and discomfort than it began. Unfortunately, once Veronica stopped focusing all her attention on stressing over her father and her boyfriend getting to a good place with each other, that impatient part of her that wanted nothing more than to drag Logan back to their hotel popped right back up and refused to be ignored.

Which was awkward, considering she was sitting next to her father.

Law school didn’t leave her with many interesting stories, so she spared them a lengthy digression on the rule against perpetuities to let them figure out how to talk to each other.

Veronica excused herself to the ladies’ room. She didn’t really want to leave them alone, but it seemed like they had some sort of truce going on. Logan had told a few innocuous Navy stories -- something about crossing the Raging Main with dispensation from King Neptune, because sailors were apparently crazy people -- and her dad had shared some amusing tidbits about recent cases.

On her way back to the rejoin them, she slowed, studying their body language for clues. Keith was leaning forward, his forearms on the table as he spoke, while Logan was sitting upright, chin tucked nearly to his chest. Logan shrugged awkwardly, met Keith’s gaze, and responded.

She burned with curiosity -- what were they talking about that made Logan so bashful? It -- Oh, God, she hoped her father wasn’t actually lecturing him about sex or anything equally horrifying.

Veronica eased closer, could just catch snippets of what Logan was saying. Something about -- cars? She closed the distance quickly.

“--really just wish I could have gotten him out of--” Logan stopped abruptly when he caught sight of her.

Her dad glanced at Veronica, and then back to Logan. “None of that was your fault, Logan, and you don’t ever have to apologize for what happened to Jerry.”

“Okay,” Logan said, but she knew he wouldn’t ever let himself off the hook. He took on so much responsibility for everyone around him, it was endearing and heartbreaking, all at the same time. Veronica felt like she'd intruded, and she wished now that she’d hung back until her father could take a turn trying to talk some sense into him.

Logan slid out of his seat to let her back into the booth. Her dad watched Logan silently. Veronica was about to say something -- anything -- to ease the tension when her father said, “Thank you for your note, Logan. I appreciated it.”

Veronica looked back and forth between the two of them, puzzled. “Note?” she echoed. “What note?”

Logan shook his head, clearly unwilling to elaborate.

Her dad sighed. “None of your business, Veronica,” he said, but his tone was resigned, because she was his daughter, and when had something like “none of your business” stopped her before? Particularly when Logan had apparently sent her father a note of some kind. She wasn’t egotistical enough to think the note was about her, but she sure as hell wanted to know something about it.

Logan was watching her, now, too. He smiled and shook his head, because he knew she'd find out regardless. “Just condolences,” he explained. “For Deputy Sacks.”

Just. He dismissed it like it was nothing. He’d written her dad to express his condolences -- without breathing a word of it to Veronica -- because this man he’d become was compassionate and brave and basically the best version of him that she’d been able to picture back when they were kids. Overwhelmed, Veronica reached for him, cupping his cheeks and giving him a soft kiss. His hand came up to brush against her neck briefly.

“Thank you,” she said.

Logan looked honestly baffled. “For what?”

She shrugged, because it was too corny to put into words. “Just because.”

This time, her father hadn’t interjected his disapproval, or told her to knock it off. It wasn’t a public declaration that he was in favor of her choices, but it was as close as he was likely to get. At least right now. So Veronica reached over and took her dad’s hand. “And thank you.”

He understood, and nodded gruffly. Then he leaned back a bit and said, “Okay, kids, I’ve kept you here long enough. Run along.”

Veronica laughed. “So it’s playtime, now?” she teased, unable to resist a good setup.

Her dad wrinkled his nose at the implication. “Veronica.”

She grinned at him. “You shouldn’t leave a fat pitch over the plate like that, then, Hoss.” When she glanced over at Logan, he still looked a little lost as he watched their interplay, but less ill at ease. She barely resisted the urge to kiss him again. “Let’s go, Lieutenant.”

Logan reached for his wallet. “Sure, let me just--”

“Don’t even think it,” her dad interrupted. “I got this.”

“But, Mr. Mars--”

“Nope,” her dad refused, giving Logan that amused, defiant smile Veronica had grown up with.

Logan clearly wasn’t sure how to react, or how much to resist, and looked to her. Veronica lifted her palms. “You won’t win,” she told him. “He’s more stubborn than me.”

That got a skeptical chuckle from Logan. “I highly doubt that. But,” he continued, turning his attention back to her dad, “thank you. I appreciate it, sir.”

Her dad gave Veronica an impressed look. “Well, Logan, I was going to suggest you call me Keith, but let’s hold on ‘sir’ for a while.” He grinned. “See how that goes.”

Veronica rolled her eyes at him. “You’re impossible.”

“Love you, too, kid,” he said, smirking.

She nudged Logan out of the booth, and slid out after him. She leaned down to give her dad a big hug. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I love you.”

* * *

The impatience that they'd (barely) managed to ignore during dinner was back with a vengeance as they exited the restaurant. Logan's hands were on her body as soon as they were out of her father's line of sight, sliding beneath her shirt to skim along her skin. Veronica was not complaining.

Though it was difficult to make it back to the car very quickly when they kept stopping to make out. Things escalated further each time. And then Logan backed her against the side of a brick building, and she groaned into his mouth, thinking about the last time she was pressed between his body and a hard, vertical surface. She still couldn't look directly at that pole in her father's living room without flushing.

He stepped back, breathing unsteadily, and reached for her hand. “Let's go.”

She snapped off a jaunty salute, which clearly crumbled his will to get them moving, because he was kissing her again before she could take a step.

Eventually, Veronica made herself release the fistfuls of uniform she'd grabbed, and flattened her palms on his chest. “Let's go,” she echoed back to him, giving him a little shove to get him moving. Goddamn, she wanted him. As soon as possible. “Quickly,” she added.

He cocked his head to the side. “Fancy a jog?”

She laughed, and it was too much, this combination of lust and humor. It was perfect, and it was them, and it was exactly what she needed. She pulled him along the sidewalk, twisting out of his grasp when he tried to tug her back to him. “No way,” she admonished. “I was promised sex.” Veronica flashed him her best disappointed look. “Clothes-ripping sex.”


“And,” she interrupted, walking backwards so she could make her point more directly, “I sat through an entire dinner with my father, and still? No clothes-ripping sex!”

Veronica spun back around, nearly bumping into two college-age guys eyeing her with open admiration.

Logan steered her around the guys without missing a beat. “Pardon us,” he said cheerfully, “we're on a pretty tight schedule.”

“Yeeeeeah,” one of the guys called after them.

Snickering, Veronica let Logan lead her across the small parking lot to his car. He escorted her to the passenger door, ostensibly to open it for her, but mostly so he could lift her onto the hood of the car and slip between her legs. She crossed her ankles behind his back, looped her arms around his neck, and laid back, pulling him along.

Logan laughed against her neck, nipping her skin while she ground her hips against him. It was like high school again, a feverish makeout session, fraught with the danger of someone seeing them.

“You know,” he breathed into her ear, “when I fantasized about sexing you up on top of my car -- and believe me, I fantasized about it -- it wasn't usually in a dingy parking lot in downtown San Diego.”

Veronica let her head drop onto the hood and made a face. “Sexing me up? Really?”

“Oh, yes,” he answered, lifting his head from where he had just begun feathering kisses along the low neckline of her shirt. “And I have high hopes of sexing you up in, say,” he checked his bare wrist, “ten minutes at the hotel.”

She arched her back, holding him in place with her legs. “You just don't want to scratch up the paint,” she joked, but her voice was low and unsteady.

Logan nodded. “So, we'll add a quick trip to the desert to tomorrow's plan,” he said, pausing to tease her earlobe with his tongue, “and I'll show you how much I don't give a shit about this paint job.”

“Ooooh, that's definitely what we're going to call it,” she smirked up at him, “a paint job.”

Logan dropped his forehead to her collarbone, shaking with laughter. It was so delightfully stupid, and she knew she would never speak that particular phrase again without smirking at him. She beamed up at the night sky, squeezing him closer with her arms and legs. She couldn’t get him close enough. He leaned his forearm against the hood and smiled down at her, and she could see her happiness reflected back in his eyes.

“So sex on top of the BMW in the middle of a desert,” Veronica propped herself up on one elbow, “that's your thing?” Because it might require the careful pre-application of sunscreen, but she could definitely be convinced.

“Sex with you on the car. Sex with you in the car.” Logan pushed himself upright and offered her a hand politely, as if he weren't detailing his sexual fantasies. “Sex with you in an elevator,” he continued. “Sex with you on a boat.”

She snickered as she sat up. “You can't stop me, motherfucker, 'cause I'm on a boat.”

He rolled his eyes, and kept right on talking. “I have a list. It was a long deployment.”

Veronica nodded, unable to keep the smile off of her face. “And you're very imaginative.” She slid off the car, hooked her index fingers in his belt loops. “A quality that I very much appreciate.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Definitely.” She dipped a hand into his pants pocket, enjoying the way he inhaled sharply. “Well, then,” Veronica said, twirling his car keys around her finger for a moment, before tossing them to him. “Let's go get started on that list.”