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Lessons on Appropriate Timing

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“You have a secret.”

Logan looked up from his book and gave Veronica a quizzical look. “Excuse me?” She was standing in the entrance to their living room, barefoot, wearing thin shorts and a loose red tank top, hair pulled into a messy ponytail. It still blew his mind, some days, how strongly he was attracted to her, regardless of the situation. Though, considering the low cut of her tank top and the way she had her arms crossed, perhaps his current fixation was understandable.

Veronica noticed the way his gaze slid to her breasts and shook her head. “You,” she repeated, watching him with narrowed eyes, “have a secret.”

Well, clearly the reading portion of his day was over -- or at least on indefinite hold. Logan shifted on the couch, considering his options. Confess all, and while he knew Veronica would prefer this, he wasn’t much of a fan of the tactic. Provide some tantalizing bit of information that he would have eventually told her anyway, in the hopes that she would accept it as this alleged secret. Or -- and this was always his favorite -- stonewall.

She was delightful when she was all riled up.

Placing his thumb in his book to mark his place, Logan turned his full attention to her. “I have many private thoughts,” he answered, his tone light.

“I’m not asking you about your sexual fantasies, Logan,” she said, drifting closer, that familiar spark of irritation mixed with attraction making an appearance as she stared him down.

Goddamn, she was fun. “You know you’re my only sexual fantasy,” he said, batting his eyes twice to punctuate his words.

Veronica snorted and edged around the oversized ottoman, dropping onto the far end of the couch. “Such a pretty mouth,” she said, pulling her bare legs up underneath her.

“And so talented,” he shot back, letting his eyes linger on her thighs to emphasize his point, making sure she noticed.

“The ego on this one,” Veronica said, addressing the brown and white pit bull curled up on the couch between them, “huh, Iceman?”

“Please stop calling her that.” Her name was Isobel -- imposed by the shelter, not Logan and Veronica -- but Veronica could never resist a good Top Gun reference when she was needling him. Izzie ignored them both.

“Nope.” Veronica grinned at him. “So: spill.”

“Nope,” he echoed, wondering how far she wanted to push this today. They had no actual plans for the afternoon, and both of them enjoyed a good grappling session. Metaphorically, but then again, also literally.

Well, in for a penny. He glanced around for his bookmark, swiped it off the ottoman and neatly marked his place. He folded his hands on the book cover and made a production of turning his attention to her. “Did you have a specific question?”

“Yes,” Veronica answered, amused and exasperated. Which was one of his favorite looks on her, actually. She loved nothing more than cracking open a puzzle, and since he loved the incredible way her mind worked -- well, this lazy Saturday afternoon just got a little more interesting. “What is your secret?” she asked again.

“To looking this handsome?” Logan smirked. He lifted an eyebrow suggestively and tossed his book onto the ottoman, pulling one leg onto the couch to face her fully. Izzie grumbled and shifted, but Logan barely noticed.

“My God, you are impossible.” Veronica glared at him, absently petting Izzie while she contemplated her next move. “What are you keeping from me?”

“So many things.” Logan shifted closer to the dog, ostensibly so he could also pet her. Izzie made a happy dog noise and twisted, offering them her belly. Logan obliged, scratching her ribs, his gaze still trained on Veronica. She was legitimately curious, but not frustrated. And from the timbre of her voice, she was enjoying this repartee as much as he.

“Probably I don’t care about most of your sad little secrets, though,” Veronica answered, her tone breezy, and he promptly started laughing. Veronica Mars, not caring about someone’s secrets?

“Oh, if only that were true,” he shot back, unable to wipe the smile off of his face. A familiar flush appeared on her chest, just above the edge of her tank top, and Logan knew precisely where this conversation was headed. He shifted closer to her, bumping his hip against Izzie’s paws, leaning back and lacing his fingers together behind his head, the very picture of nonchalance.

“You just need to tell me about whatever’s going on in the next couple days,” she demanded, inching ever closer to Izzie, and more to the point, closer to Logan. Izzie, now crowded by the both of them, sat up suddenly, giving them her best baleful look. “Good girl,” Veronica soothed, but Izzie was having none of it. She jumped down, heading for the dog bed in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, where she flopped down with a little whine of protest.

Logan tried to keep the smirk off of his face, he really did, but their clashes were the best kind of foreplay. “I do?” he asked. “Because I think the way surprises work is actually that one person tells the other person at an appropriate time.”

Veronica weighed his words for a long moment, head tilted to the side, and then she was moving and he was laughing in anticipation. “I think this is an appropriate time,” she answered, straddling him and settling onto his lap.

Logan’s hands settled low on her hips, keeping her right where he wanted her. “See, I would have to disagree.”

With a challenging expression, Veronica shifted against him, rocking her hips forward and squeezing her thighs against his. “Really?,” she chirped, grinning down at him as she felt his body respond. “Are you willing to be persuaded?”

Logan groaned and pressed up against her. “Always willing,” he murmured, tilting forward to trail his tongue along her collarbone. She leaned into him, breathing more quickly.

With an unsteady sigh, Veronica brushed her lips against his ear, her hands curling around fistfuls of his shirt. “Such an easy mark,” she murmured, then bit his earlobe lightly.

Laughing, Logan let his fingers trail down the outside of her bare thighs, then drift toward the sensitive skin of her inner thighs until she gasped. “Who’s persuading whom, Veronica?”

It took her a moment to react, and then she tugged at his belt. “I think we can come to a place of mutual satisfaction.”

He shook his head in amusement. “Oh, you do--”

He broke off as she slid his belt free and tugged on the hem of his shirt. “Off,” she ordered.

“You know,” he rasped, letting go of her long enough so she could pull his shirt off, “I don’t really give a shit about the surprise at the moment.” He quirked an eyebrow at her and eased his fingers under her tank top to push the fabric up.

“My plan at work.” Veronica agreed, whipping her shirt over her head and tossing it somewhere behind her.

“I’m still not telling you,” he pointed out, his hands on her shoulder blades to bring her closer..

“We’ll see about that,” she said, dipping her fingertips inside the waistband of his jeans before popping the button free.

“Plus, it’s not a surprise for you.” Logan paused to pull the cups of her bra aside, eager to pay some attention to her breasts. “It’s for your dad.”

“Okay,” Veronica said, leaning away from him and removing her hands from some really pleasurable places. “Can you please not mention my dad when I have my hand in your pants?”

“See?” he said, lifting her from his lap to deposit her on the ottoman, dropping to his knees in front of her. “Little lessons on appropriate timing, all over the place,” he said, finally letting himself kiss her. She met his mouth hungrily, her fingers clutching at his shoulders, his ribs, pulling him as close as possible. He knelt up between her thighs, his hands trailing down her back, around the curves of her ass.

She broke the kiss, panting, and pushed him back a bit. “Now lose the pants.”

& & &

Two days later, Veronica woke to the sound of the front door closing. She frowned and opened her eyes, noting Logan’s absence immediately. Izzie, on the other hand, was snuggled against Veronica’s knees, snoozing happily.

Veronica rolled out of bed with a little groan, and headed for the shower. Inside the bathroom on the vanity sat a small blue paper bag, with Logan’s scrawled “wear me” written across it. Puzzled, Veronica peered into the bag, and pulled out a -- Padres t-shirt?

“Okay,” she said, narrowing her eyes at the unexpected gift. He’d bought her clothing before, but almost entirely of the sexy undergarment variety, chosen primarily for him to enjoy while peeling it off of her.

What did it say about the state of their relationship that he was buying her baseball t-shirts?

Her dad would appreciate the sentiment, though -- and then it clicked. It was Opening Day for the Padres. Logan’s secret -- his surprise -- was about Opening Day. Suspicious now, Veronica walked slowly through their bedroom, searching for additional clues. Finding nothing, she moved into the living room, and then spotted her travel mug sitting ostentatiously in the center of the kitchen counter.

Logan had left an envelope on the kitchen counter with a note, weighted down by Veronica’s travel mug (which he’d conscientiously filled with coffee) and a box of cracker jacks. Smiling now, she grabbed the note, which read:

Wallace will pick you and your dad up at MI around noon. I’ve got a work conflict, but will meet you at the park as soon as possible.

Veronica snorted. Work conflict, like he was talking about a sales pitch and not flying fighter jets. She had yet to figure out why he was so uncharacteristically not egotistical about being a pilot. It was pretty charming.

Inside the envelope were three Padres tickets, and Veronica hadn’t been to the park in years, but section 101, row 12 sounded pretty promising. It was pretty adorable, the way he kept trying to win her dad’s approval, when he’d already had it for a year. Her boyfriend could be kind of dense sometimes.

Veronica tucked the tickets back into their envelope and headed back to the bathroom. On the way, she grabbed her phone, texting him: Taking me out to the ballgame, huh?

He answered just as she turned the water on in the shower: Well, taking your dad, but figured you’d want to tag along. ;)

She smirked at her phone. So my dad’s your date, and Wallace is mine? She tossed the phone on the counter and stepped into the shower.

After she dried her hair, she dressed quickly -- ankle boots, jeans, and her snug new Padres t-shirt. Veronica tugged at the cotton a bit, scrutinizing the fit in the mirror -- maybe her dad wouldn’t appreciate the t-shirt, considering the depth of the v-neck and the way it clung stubbornly to her curves.

Typical Logan.

After a quick walk for Izzie, Veronica scooped up the tickets, the Cracker Jacks, and her coffee mug and headed out the door. She arrived at the office after her dad, but before Mac. Grinning in anticipation of her dad’s reaction, she dropped her bag and bounced into the inner office.

Her dad looked up. “Hey, honey.” He noticed her shirt and grinned. “Opening Day!”

“Indeed.” Veronica nodded. “So, dad, whatcha doing this afternoon?”

His expression brightened. “Mac emailed that my 3 o’clock was postponed -- should we play hooky and head to Bootlegger?”

“Sure,” Veronica said, tossing the Cracker Jacks onto his desk, “we could go watch at the bar.”

“Thanks, kid.” He picked up the Cracker Jacks and tore it open. “I’ll give you the prize -- unless it’s a tattoo. You know how I’ve always wanted a pinup girl on my arm.”

Veronica snickered. “So if you want to watch the game with a beer, we could actually,” she paused, gave him a careless shrug, “go to the game, I guess.”

Her dad narrowed his eyes, his handful of Cracker Jacks stopped partway to his mouth. “What do you mean?”

Veronica pulled the tickets from her back pocket with a flourish, smacking them onto his desk. “Opening Day!”

He stared down at the tickets for a long moment before lifting them reverently from the desk. He scanned them, stopping abruptly. “Section 101?” he read, turning an amusingly wide-eyed look to Veronica. “We’re sitting behind the plate?”

Shrugging, Veronica answered, “I guess?” She would have been happy to see a game with her dad regardless, but the giddy expression on his face was kind of amazing. They hadn’t had the easiest year, with his initial disapproval of her life choices complicated by the emotional and physical rigors of his long recovery. It was so nice to be able to share something with him that was just… happy.

He skirted the desk and grabbed her hand, attempting to do a little dance. Laughing, Veronica stepped closer and gave him a quick hug. “So you don’t want to just hang out at a bar and--”

“Opening Day!” her dad interrupted. “I haven’t been to an Opening Day since my dad took me. I think I was eleven,” he mused. And then her father figured it out. “Logan did this?”

Veronica indicated her t-shirt with both thumbs. “Also this.”

Her dad rolled his eyes, but said, “He’s a good egg.”

“Occasionally,” she allowed with a grin. “He’s your date, and Wallace is mine. Actually, I’m going to go call Wallace. See if I can get any details out of him.”

Wallace was surprisingly -- and frustratingly -- impervious to Veronica’s questions, offering only that Logan mentioned the game a couple weeks earlier.

Mac, who’d arrived while Veronica was talking to her dad, was no help, either, though she did confirm that she had also assisted Logan by keeping their schedules for the day relatively clear.

“Wait, Logan called you and said, ‘Hey, I’m taking Veronica, her dad, and Wallace out for some fun times -- do me favor and make sure they can make it?’”

“Oh, he invited me, too,” Mac explained, “but I’d -- seriously? -- rather go hiking. In the woods. Where there are spiders.”

Spiders?” Veronica repeated, shaking her head sadly. “Harsh, Mac. That’s harsh.”

“Oh, wait!” Mac held up a hand, looking behind her wall of monitors until she dug out a white plastic shopping bag. “For your dad,” Mac explained. “I figured he wouldn’t want to go to the game in a shirt and tie.”

Veronica accepted the bag, and was tempted to say something cloying and mushy about friends and thoughtfulness, but Mac rolled her eyes and made shooing motions. “Go.”

“Thanks, Mac-attack.”

After her dad donned his new threads, he and Veronica met Wallace at the curb. Wallace was grinning already, a fan as he was of pretty much any sports-like activity, even what he had once described to her as three hours of boredom with some occasional running around sprinkled in there. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

They made it to the park quickly, and even with the hassle of parking and security on their way in, they were through the turnstiles a half hour before first pitch. The large walkways beneath the stadium were frenetic energy, motion and noise and color. And aroma. Veronica veered toward a vendor. “Oooh, I want a pretzel!”

“Nah,” Wallace said, hooking his arm through hers. “We can get food later. It’s Opening Day!”

Veronica frowned, puzzled. “And?” Wasn’t half the appeal of ballparks eating overpriced food that was just terrible for you?

“There are ceremonies, Veronica!” her dad answered, rubbing his hands together in glee like a demented cartoon villain. “The pageantry, the tradition. Tony Gwynn might be here. Steve Garvey!” He inhaled deeply. “Nothing better than a baseball park on Opening Day.”

“Okay,” she said, humoring him. “Let’s find our seats.”

Veronica followed her father up the ramp and out into the stands, grinning at his reaction. Her dad was practically bouncing on his toes with excitement as he waited for the usher to point them in the right direction.

Back when he was Sheriff, they used to make it to a couple games a season, up in the nosebleeds, but just being in the park was enough. After her mom left and their disposable income shrank to zero, they’d stopped. Neither of them had been to a Padres game in years, and Veronica took in the sparkling green field, the crisp dirt of the diamond, savoring the rush of memories they stirred up.

Though back then, they’d never sat anywhere near this close to the field. Behind her, Wallace “Let’s go, Mars,” he said. “We need to be in our seats for the ceremonial stuff.”

Veronica flashed him a strange look. “We do?”

“Yes,” Wallace answered, ushering her down the aisle to their -- holy shit -- outrageous seats.

Veronica turned wide eyes to her father, who was taking in their vantage point, clearly awestruck. A dozen rows back, and just a bit to the left of home plate. “Holy shit!” Veronica said, because that was basically all she could come up with to really capture her reaction. Logan had certainly pulled out all the stops.

Her dad blinked once, clearly unable to tear his gaze away from the field. “We’ll be able to see pitch movement, location,” he muttered. It was a fond old argument -- Veronica preferred the excitement of high-scoring games (because, really, baseball had quite a bit of down time), while her father loved the white-knuckle tension of an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel.

Wallace leaned past Veronica to tell her dad, “I should’ve brought my radar gun!”

“You have a radar gun?” Veronica asked, raising her voice to be heard over the announcers, who were beginning the opening ceremonies.

“Neptune High has a radar gun,” Wallace answered with an unconcerned shrug. “Could’ve borrowed it.”

Veronica glanced at her dad, who was still in some sort of daze, and then turned her attention to the field. The PA announcer began the introductions, and the members of the visiting Dodgers ran out to the third-base line, one-by-one, to tepid applause and a smattering of boos.

Wallace seemed a little hyper to Veronica, his knee bouncing up and down beside her. She leaned into his personal space. “What is wrong with you, jumpy?”

He grinned, and she knew immediately there was something else, something he wasn’t telling her. “Nothing’s wrong,” Wallace answered, but she recognized the evasion for what it was.

“Okay, what’d he have you do?” Veronica glanced around, as the announcer began introducing the hometown Padres. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, exactly, but Wallace’s shit-eating grin was not helping her feel less suspicious. “Talk, Fennell.”

Her dad jumped to his feet to clap and Veronica looked up, startled. But they’d just finished announcing the Padres, so she and Wallace stood, too, cheering for the players. Veronica mostly watched her dad, getting far more enjoyment from his glee than the droning introductions.

“Okay, Mr. Mars?” Wallace said, leaning in to ensure he had their full attention, “you’re both going to want to listen to this next part.”

Veronica stared at her friend, utterly confused. “Listen to--”

“Ssshhhh,” Wallace interrupted, gesturing toward the speakers above them.

“--welcome the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band to perform the National Anthem; members of the Junior ROTC program in the San Diego schools to present the colors, and Naval Airmen of the VAQ-142 Bobcats stationed at San Diego Naval Air Station for the flyover.”

Veronica’s mouth dropped open, and she looked automatically to her dad, who was just as pole-axed. She heard the telltale click of a shutter and whirled to face Wallace, who was laughing and snapping pictures of their shock.

SHUT UP!” Veronica yelled, belatedly realizing the crowd had quieted in expectation of the Anthem. She clapped a hand over her mouth, still looking back and forth between Wallace’s amusement and her father’s stunned disbelief.

“Yup!” Wallace confirmed. “Logan’s doing the flyover. Diamond formation. He said he’d be on our left.”

Shaking, she reached for her phone, fumbled with it as the Anthem began. “Oh, my God,” she murmured, flipping the camera to video mode.

“Give me that,” Wallace demanded, grabbing the phone from her, exasperated. “You just watch your man fly.” Pointing the phone at her, he pressed record. “Say hi.”

“Okay, okay, you got me, Logan -- I’m officially surprised,” she said with a grin she couldn’t seem to control.

As the Anthem reached its crescendo, Veronica spotted the planes low on the horizon, headed straight for them. She elbowed her dad, pointing. He grabbed her hand, and they watched the jets grow closer, flying low, their engines impossibly loud. Pride and excitement welled up, and she grinned up at Logan’s plane as it roared overhead and disappeared behind the stadium.

She threw her arms around her dad, unable to articulate all of these feelings. Her dad wrapped her in one of his best hugs, and she closed her eyes when she heard her dad address the camera, “Good job, son. I’m proud of you.”

& & &

By the time Logan got back to the ready room to change out of his flight suit, he had texts from Veronica and Keith, and an MMS from Wallace. Curious, he tapped Wallace’s name, and then watched in delight as the picture loaded -- Veronica, one hand over her mouth in shock, eyes wide and sparkling as she stared at her father, who was standing beside her looking absolutely dumbfounded. It hadn’t occurred to him to ask Wallace to document their reaction -- he definitely owed Wallace for this.

Veronica’s text said to get his hot ass to the ballpark so she could thank him properly. Logan grinned and slammed his locker shut. “Yes, ma’am.” He walked quickly toward the door, thumbing down to Keith’s text, which simply said, Thank you, son.

Logan swallowed hard, feeling that dizzying -- what was it, happiness? a sense of belonging? of being valued? -- that dizzying feeling that threw him off kilter when Veronica’s father treated him so kindly. He’d watched Veronica and Keith with envy years ago, and even since Veronica had been back in his life, if he was honest. He’d just never expected to be invited into their … family.

Maybe that was presumptuous -- Keith and Veronica would always be their own family unit, and Logan had long ago made his peace with his solo existence, Trina’s occasional visits notwithstanding.

Logan reached his car, thankful that the base was so close to the city -- and the ballpark. He should make it by the fourth or fifth inning, depending how inept the pitching was. He started the car, then paused to text Wallace: Thanks for the pic.

The bridge traffic was pretty reasonable, and Logan was parking in a sketchy lot a few blocks from the ballpark twenty minutes after leaving the base. He walked briskly toward the Petco Park, fidgeting absently with his shirt. In all the planning, he hadn’t managed to get himself any sort of Padres gear.

Inside the park, Logan headed up the ramp to the seating bowl, feeling oddly nervous. He knew from the texts that they’d been thrilled by the surprise, but now that he was here, he felt bashful.

Logan shook it off and headed down the aisle to their seats, spotting Keith’s dome first, then Veronica’s blond hair. Grinning now, he made his excuses to the people at the end of the row and pushed past.

Veronica spotted him first, and was on her feet immediately. “Logan!”

Grinning, Wallace half-stood to scoot over a seat and let Logan past. “Nice flying.”

“Thanks.” Before Logan could sit, Veronica threw her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. He brought his arms around her automatically, remembering at the last moment to keep his hands in G-rated places since her father was sitting just behind her.

Logan couldn’t quite convince himself to back off, though, kissing her enthusiastically and thoroughly, at least until a cranky voice yelled, “Hey, lovebirds, down in front.”

Laughing, he straightened up, intending to apologize. Before he could speak, Veronica turned to the rows behind them, “Hey, you know the cool fighter planes from the opening ceremony? He flew one of them, okay? Back off.”

An older man two rows back gave a sheepish wave. “Thanks for your service. Sorry.”

Logan nodded his acknowledgment and turned to Keith, who stayed seated but offered his hand. “Logan.”

“Keith,” Logan answered, pulling Veronica down beside him, before reaching across her to shake Keith’s hand. “Happy Opening Day.”

“This was a great surprise,” Keith said. “I want to thank you for this.” Veronica leaned back so they could talk more easily, slinging an arm around each of their shoulders.

Logan shrugged. “It was selfish of me, really.” He gestured at the sky. “I just wanted an audience.”

Wallace elbowed him. “So how do you guys time it so you hit right at the end of the song?”

Veronica moved, threading her fingers through his and leaning into him, armrest be damned. “It takes about thirty seconds to reach center,” Logan pointed to the centerfield fence, “from where we were holding. They transmit the audio feed once the Anthem starts, and LT makes the call.”

Wallace grinned. “That’s cool, man.”

“It really kind of is,” Logan agreed. “That was definitely a highlight.”

Veronica was practically climbing into his seat, she was tucked so tightly against his side. Logan leaned his head down to her. “You okay?”

She glanced at her dad, then said, “I need Italian ice. Let’s go.”

Amused, Logan agreed, standing back up and apologizing again on their way out of the row. He paused to let Veronica scoot ahead of him up the aisle, and then down the ramp into the concession area. She took his hand and pulled him behind her as she snaked through the crowds, apparently searching for an Italian ice stand.

Abruptly, Veronica moved to an empty stretch of wall, turned, and pushed him back against the concrete. Up on her tiptoes, she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him, hard, her face pressed against his neck.

“Hey,” Logan said, squeezing her tightly. “What’s this?” Because she seemed distressed, or maybe overwhelmed, and he couldn’t quite figure out what would have caused it.

She pulled back slightly, her eyes sparkling as she looked up at him with an unreadable expression. He felt slightly panicked, waiting for her to speak, wanting to understand how he could fix it.

“Thank you,” she said. “Logan, that was -- incredible.” She beamed up at him, leaned up to kiss him briefly. “My dad is so happy, and I got to see you flying.”

He grinned, suffused with pride. “You did.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, wondering if her strange reaction, if the overwhelmed look meant she was proud of him. The possibility knocked him off-center, but he tried his best to recover. “Told you my plane was pretty badass.”

She rolled her eyes, but couldn’t seem to stop smiling. “That was not what I was expecting.” She laughed, leaned up to kiss him again. “I mean, I knew it was crazy, but at one point I panicked, thinking you might have brought me and my dad here to--” She broke off, shaking her head, a bemused smile on her face.

Logan watched her, puzzled. “To what?”

She groaned and pressed her forehead against his chest. “It’s dumb. You would never propose on a scoreboard, but I just, for a second…” she shrugged.

But Logan was stuck on -- “Propose?” he repeated, his mouth dry. “You thought I was going to--”

“No,” she interrupted, looking a bit worried now. “I didn’t. I just -- I knew there was something else, something other than the tickets. Wallace is way too readable, by the way,” she added. “You need a better partner in crime.”

He watched her carefully, not quite able to let her flit away from the subject. “I would never propose in a stadium.” Logan tried his best to ignore the chaotic crowd so they could have this weird, inappropriately timed conversation without screwing everything between them up.

“I know!” she assured him, her hands moving from his arm to his chest and back again. “You wouldn’t. And also, you know me too well,” she added, giving him a look that suggested he understood exactly what she was talking about.

Which, unfortunately, he didn’t. “What do you mean?”

“Please, Logan,” she scoffed, “can you picture me waving around some diamond ring, or expecting you to write a message in rose petals to propose?” She stopped, seemed a little flustered now. “Not you, I mean. Just -- you know…” She ground to a halt, looking slightly panicked now. “You know how I feel about marriage.”

“I…” he paused, swallowed, “know how you used to feel, yes.” Non-committal statement. Because he had no actual plans to propose to her, but he would marry the hell out of her if she’d let him -- which he’d always assumed she would not. She’d been pretty clear about that when he used to accompany her on stakeouts of straying spouses.

“Um, I think,” she began, her voice tight and a little strange, “marriage is a lovely idea, one that can end really, really badly.” Her gaze shifted away, and she smoothed his shirt carefully with one hand, and suddenly they were surrounded by landmines, and that happened fast. But they were adults, now, and able to talk about things -- sort of -- even in the midst of half-drunk, jersey-wearing baseball fans.

“I agree,” Logan said carefully.

It took a moment, but she looked up and asked, “You do?”

“Sure.” He kept his hold on her relatively loose, half-expecting her to bolt at any moment. “But it can also be a symbol of how hard two people are working at staying together.”

Veronica considered that, studying him for a long moment before reacting. “That’s true,” she allowed, slipping her arms beneath his arms to wrap around his rib cage. He wondered if she was holding on for dear life the same way he was.

“It can also make some of the…” he paused, looking for the right phrasing, because she was already spooked and probably now wasn’t the time to mention death benefits, “logistical stuff easier.”

And then Veronica was grinning up at him, some of the strange tension easing. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not a romantic, Logan Echolls.” She batted her eyelashes playfully. “Tell me more about logistics, Lieutenant.”

He laughed, pulling her closer, dropping a kiss onto the tip of her nose. “You know what I mean. There are benefits.” He took a breath, waited for her full attention, because what’s one more step when you’re in the middle of a minefield? “There’s no one else I’d rather share logistical benefits with than you.”

Logan couldn’t breathe, waiting for her to react, to say something.

She looked a little scared, but maybe a little hopeful too. “You’re--” She stopped, cleared her throat. “You’re the only person I would ever want to share logistical benefits with, Logan.”

He inhaled sharply. “Really? So you--” he stopped, unable to believe the turn their conversation had taken. He shrugged. “You agree?” He left off the to marry me part, because if those words were too much for him, he couldn’t imagine how quickly she would take off after hearing them.

“I… think I do, yes,” Veronica answered slowly, that strange, unreadable expression back on her face. And then she tilted her head, gave him a very familiar grin, and said, “Did we just get engaged?”

Logan honestly wasn’t sure until she asked the question. “I think so,” he answered.

“At a baseball game?” She started to giggle, and clapped a hand over her mouth. He would probably be offended, if he weren’t laughing just as helplessly. She leaned into him, her shoulders shaking. “This is insane,” she managed.

He lifted her, twirled her around, kissing her in some kind of stunned bliss. “Would you expect anything less from us?”

When he put her back on the ground, she reached up and cupped his cheek, pulling him down for a soft kiss. “I love you,” she murmured. “With or without logistical benefits.”

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Logan answered, stepping back with a grin. “No backing out of it now.”

She reached for his hand. “Fine,” she mock-sighed. “If I must stay with you forever, I guess we can at least get a tax break.”

“Let’s go,” he said, lacing their fingers together. “I think this calls for celebratory Italian ice.”

Veronica laughed. “Seriously, Logan -- you’re such a romantic.”