I knew you tried to change the ending
When packing away her last boxes to get ready to go to Stanford, Veronica was left with a number of things she didn’t know whether she should have been bringing with her or not.
She gazed down at the necklace still hanging from her neck, unclasped it and took it in the palm of her hand. She stared at it for several seconds before making her decision. She carefully slid off the small round pendant, keeping the bright star charm in place. She went to fetch the small bag in which the pendant belonged, dropped it inside, and left the bag on her nightstand with all the other things she’d be leaving at her father’s, beside a framed photograph she had turned upside down, unwilling to look at it anymore. She attached the chain back around her neck, taking one last look around her room, and stepped outside, taking the last two boxes that had still been on her floor with her.
This is the right decision. New beginnings. Northern California. College. I can do this.
It had been weeks since her last exchange with Logan, and months since she had actually heard his voice on the phone. She didn’t even remember their last vocal conversation. She remembered the last texts exchanged, though, they were burning into her skin, burning into her eyes, and she couldn’t have escaped them even if she wanted to. What had kickstarted the fatal conversation, she couldn’t recall, which was either ridiculous or kind of sad given how much it had ended up mattering.
V Mars, 11:21PM: It’s not my fault someone has horrible taste
L Echolls, 11:22PM: Funny, you didn’t seem to mind my taste last summer…
V Mars, 11:23PM: I thought we said no talk of anything of that nature? As per YOUR request, if I recall correctly
L Echolls, 11:24PM: I’m not sure what you mean
V Mars, 11:24PM: No innuendos
L Echolls, 11:25PM: If you saw an innuendo there, you’re actively looking for some
L Echolls, 11:25PM: What, you miss me? ;)
V Mars, 11:26PM: Logan, stop
L Echolls, 11:26PM: What’s wrong?
V Mars, 11:27PM: You’re the one who said we should be friends
V Mars, 11:27PM: And I’m really trying
V Mars, 11:27PM: But you keep doing that
L Echolls, 11:28PM: Veronica, it’s harmless
L Echolls, 11:28PM: I’m sorry if it didn’t come out as intended
V Mars, 11:29PM: You’re sorry you keep making allusions to us as more than friends?
L Echolls, 11:30PM: If it makes you uncomfortable, then yes, I’m sorry
L Echolls, 11:31PM: That wasn’t my intention
V Mars, 11:31PM: What was your intention?
L Echolls, 11:32PM: Stop
V Mars, 11:32PM: What?
L Echolls, 11:33PM: You’re pushing, Veronica. Just so I’ll say something stupid and prove you right
V Mars, 11:34PM: So you do think I’m right in the end?
L Echolls, 11:57PM: Find another punching bag, Veronica. I don’t have the energy to be the one you torture. You know exactly how I feel about you, it’s never been a secret to anyone, and you can keep pretending it’s all perfect in your perfect world, but it’s not. This will never be the simple, straightforward friendship you want it to be. Stop trying to make it that way and trying to make me feel guilty for caring about you. Please only reply when you’re willing to actually be an adult about this.
She hadn’t replied.
Veronica closed her eyes firmly, tightly. She wanted to erase the words, erase their meaning, erase their effect on her. She wanted to reply, go back in time and reply and apologize and take it all back. She wanted to rewind to last summer, when all her belongings were scattered around her grandmother Reynolds’ house, when all her feelings were scattered around the beach. Now her belongings were somewhere on their way to Palo Alto, and she couldn’t even make sense of what she was feeling. She wouldn’t be going back to Clatham Cove, this summer, opting instead to get a head start on her exploration of the Bay Area. By the time classes at Stanford started, a month later, she’d be practically a local. She would belong.
And so what if Lilly was down in L.A. for college, probably ridiculously close to wherever Logan was? So what if she wanted to run to both of them and tell them she was faking it all, that she had absolutely nothing under control? She was going to Stanford. It was the best choice in the long run, she knew it. She’d make something of herself. She’d see Lilly again at Christmas, or maybe even Thanksgiving. And if she ever saw Logan again, well… she’d be the perfect picture of someone who succeeded. An adult who acted like an adult and talked like an adult and reacted like an adult. Someone who didn’t give a damn about summer flings she’d had at 17 years old.
If she thought it hard enough, maybe she’d start believing it.
Logan stared at the ceiling of his brand-new dorm room at USC. A new start, he told himself. New people, new environment. His bedside table wouldn’t be the one where Veronica’s letter had been propped open for months, ready for her words to be read an umpteenth time. The fan he’d be staring at, like he was now, wouldn’t be the same. This fan will see a whole new set of problems. None of them related to summer romances.
He had finally decided, the previous day, to remove her number from his cellphone contacts and to erase all their messages. It was too much, too easy to go read again, too easy to spiral back in the same thought patterns. Too tempting to shoot another text, like I don’t care if you act immature or possessive or infuriating or impossible to understand! Just keep writing to me because I’m dying slowly without your presence in my life. But he couldn’t say those things. Even if he did, he wasn’t even sure Veronica would have replied to that, either, and it would just be embarrassing. He’d really set himself up with that text. The perfect text for her to decide pettily not to answer. Which was exactly what she’d done, and he couldn’t even say he was surprised. He should have seen it coming, should have anticipated it. But he had been annoyed at her, and hurt, and he had meant every word. So, there, the text had been sent. Every day since, he debated between whether he wished he had never sent it or if it was the best decision he could have made.
You see, Veronica? I told you. There was no possible outcome after that summer where we weren’t a mess. No outcome where you don’t break my heart, no outcome where we come out of this happy and unscathed. Cheers to being right. You love that, don’t you? Being right? Well, I was right this time. I was right, Veronica Mars, and your evasive maneuvers to make the goodbyes hurt less were all worth nothing at all.
Sometimes it just felt good to be mad at Veronica. It was less painful than admitting he was still against his better judgment head over heels in love with her, a year later, and that he hoped she’d come back and make it all better.
Chapter 2 – Six years later
I knew I’d curse you for the longest time
Chasing shadows in the grocery line
Logan sighed, swiveling in his office chair to take a look around his home office. Everything had been neatly packed up in boxes, the shelves glaringly empty and the walls impersonally void. All that was left was the echo of dozens of phone calls, of keyboard keys being hit with frustration and of deep sighs. Just like this one.
He picked up the last remaining frame, sitting on his almost bare desk. He took a last look at it, at the young woman his mother had once been, frozen in time as she smiled with a glee she’d lose too soon, and carefully packed it in his last box.
Logan had wanted to get out of L.A. for years. He’d always abhorred the attention, the paparazzi at their gate, the pompous air of superiority that seemed to be the default expression of every resident in his neighbourhood. But he didn’t know anything else, and the waves were great. Besides, his mother was there, and he couldn’t leave her alone with his father. He had to be close by. Just in case.
But now Lynn was gone, really gone, he’d told the doctors himself it really was her, and Logan had no reason to stay in the angel city anymore. So when one of the companies he occasionally worked with had offered him a full-time job, with the downside that it was on the East coast, he’d jumped on the occasion. He liked not being tied down to one production company in particular, but what the hell? He could produce his commercials like he wanted to, away from the Hollywood hawks who regularly came to him asking to produce some movie or other. An Echolls, he must have some flair! And he did. But he preferred staying out of the spotlight, laying low. He wouldn’t garner attention by producing one kickass perfume ad. But he’d be satisfied at the end.
And so what if he didn’t get to write his screenplay and get it out into a tangible entity? It had been going nowhere for years, and no amount of encouragement from his mother had ever managed to make him feel like it was any good. He couldn’t prune it to make it satisfying, he couldn’t blow the proper energy in his characters to make anyone care about them. He knew the characters were flat, uninteresting. They didn’t write themselves, they were dead in his brain. And now that Lynn wasn’t there to remind him to get some sleep in, that he had talent, and that she believed in him, the whole idea felt like a joke. It wouldn’t happen. That script would remain unfinished, and he could focus on other endeavours. It was fine.
He sighed again, feeling way more tired than a man should at 24, and picked up his box, walking out of the office and through the creepily empty house.
“Is that all, Mr. Echolls?” someone asked as he dropped the box atop a pile of others.
“Huh?” he asked, looking up. “Oh, yeah. That’s the last one.”
The moving man nodded and started instructing others about loading the trucks. Logan observed the scene absently, taking out his phone to double check his flight details. He still had another 5 hours before he had to be at the airport, and he had no idea what to do with all that time. It was like once the people that mattered were gone, time slowed down and stretched thin, painfully dawdling. His mother had been gone less than a year, but he felt like he had aged two decades since then. Yet his life had been a whirlwind since then. Job offer, selling the house, finding a place in Boston, and in the midst of it all, turning down interview requests while he planned his mother’s funeral and took care of her finances.
“We’ll see you in a few days in Boston, sir.”
Logan looked up, shaken from his thoughts, and forced a smile. “Thank you. See you then.”
The man offered a nod, which Logan returned, and soon all moving trucks had driven away and all that was left was Logan’s handful of suitcases on the front steps. Not even his car was there, he’d arranged for it to be transported cross country before him, so he would at least have that when he arrived. In the meantime, he could rely on other modes of transportation in L.A.
It was at the airport that he received the email from his soon-to-be-new boss at the Boston office. They wanted him on a new project right as he’d arrive. The leader of the project had a location in mind for an insurance company’s ad, and they wanted him to go scout with her, have someone of the production company to make sure those marketing execs didn’t pick some place with no charm. That, he could do. He’d have time to get settled in Boston, but barely. Then he’d be gone.
He dialed his new boss’ number and brought the phone to his ear.
“Ah, Echolls. You got my email, I presume?”
“I did,” he nodded. “It should be no problem. I’ll be in Boston by tomorrow.”
“Excellent. You’ll leave for the small town that lady has in mind on Friday night, then.”
Logan cringed at hearing the man use the words “that lady” about someone who was probably a very capable woman who would balk at that assessment of her professional opinion. Of course, maybe she also was incredibly difficult to work with and had properly earned that moniker. But given his experience, he doubted it.
“Oh, and I’m told it’s a charming small town. So, no hotels. She says there’s a house there she can stay in, and you can stay there too, or rent a house. That work?”
“Yeah,” Logan said, because, what the hell? He didn’t have time to rent a house in some random town. “Is she okay with that?”
“She suggested it. Didn’t know she had any generosity in her, that one.”
He guffawed, and Logan felt increasing dislike for his brand-new boss. Just great.
“Alright, well, I’ll see you Friday, then,” Logan replied, eager to finish the conversation. It was Wednesday afternoon, and he’d probably have to go over a lot of notes before he could cast proper judgment on the location “that lady” had apparently selected. He’d need all the time he had, and, frankly, he didn’t quite feel like sharing that time with the unpleasant man he’d just met.
“Bye, son, I’ll send you the rest of the information.”
Son? Logan shrugged it off. No, he definitely had a feeling there would be no love lost between them.
He clicked on the envelope icon on his desktop when his laptop chimed and opened the email containing the rest of the information about the project he had just been sent. He skimmed it quickly (an insurance ad, seemed easy and basic) until he got to the bottom of the attached document. He blinked, and read it again, but there was no mistaking it.
The project manager was listed as “Mars.”
And it was a woman, if his boss was to be trusted.
Logan shook his head and closed his laptop. There were probably tons of women named Mars in the country. And anyway, what were the odds that Veronica of all people would be working in marketing for an insurance company in Boston? None of the parts of that sentence fit with the Veronica he’d known. You don’t really know her anymore, though, do you? a part of his brain said, and he told that part to shut up. You didn’t even know her fully then, it was just one summer. Logan pressed his eyelids together. That annoying part of his brain had evidently decided not to shut up. That would be a long flight. Was it okay if he slept even if it was… he checked his watch… 3 in the afternoon? If he waited an hour or two, it would be early evening in Boston, and maybe it would be fine. Sleep would silence the voices in his head.
Logan should have known his own self better. Once an idea had taken root inside his head, it was impossible for him to let it go, however unwillingly that idea had ended up there. Boston was supposed to be new. Away from L.A., away from the people he’d known all his life, away from his father’s legacy and the haunting memories of his mother. And instead of that, he’d suddenly been sucked into the past. Seven years in the past. How was it that even seven years later, three little months still stuck out to him so starkly, still taunted him, still mocked him? He was a writer – in spirit, at the very least – so it should probably have struck him as romantic, whimsical, maybe. Poetic. But it didn’t, it just felt like a burden to carry the memories and especially the feelings associated with the memories. That summer, it wasn’t even a summer, it was just Veronica. The places he remembered were imprinted with Veronica, the sounds he remembered were her voice above all the rest, the flavours he remembered were her lips, the smells he remembered were hers, the salt air at the beach and the way she’d been worried it smelled like sex in the house. He smirked at that particular memory, then caught himself. The memories he could feel tingle his fingers were the coarse sand, the cold water, the dry grass, Veronica. Caressing the side of her face, grabbing her waist to bring her closer, intertwining their fingers together, running his fingers up her thigh, poking her ribs, snatching the fries from her because she was eating them all, bringing her knuckles to his lips, tucking hair behind her ear, Veronica.
God, that was going to be a long trip. If only he’d waited until he’d landed before opening that darn email. He wouldn’t be remembering a summer of stolen moments, of borrowed time, tainted by the following months of dwindling conversation and a fatal blow finally marking them as done. Logan and Veronica were over, long over, they were meant to be over before they even started being Logan and Veronica. Yet it had been 6 years since he’d heard from her, 7 since he’d seen her, and he could still see her face as sharply as anyone else’s, hear her voice ringing in his ears, feel the ghost of her hands on his face. He could still feel the sting of her rejection, feel the heat of the words she’d thrown at him at various moments, feel the thrilling rush of kissing her one last time, feel the desperation of when he realized she would never reply.
He could still remember the nights spent wondering if it would have all gone better if he’d said something different, the drafted texts he’d never sent, the agonizing need to smash something, to rip up her letter, to curse her name and forget everything about her. He’d cursed her, he’d raved, he’d thrown some things all over his room while convincingly maintaining that he hated her. But all he had done to her letter was put it back in its envelope, bury it deep in his drawers. And he hadn’t forgotten, hadn’t forgotten her or anything about her. He’d said he hated her so many times, wished it was true, tried to convince himself, but never believed it.
Veronica Mars was still in his system, an itch to be scratched, a problem to be resolved, a page to be turned. And every time he thought he’d turned it at last, the words on the page jumped out at him, still so evidently right before his eyes. Four stupid letters, m, a, r, s, initiating a goddamn frenzy in his mind when he should have been thinking about work. About moving. About his new start in a new city with new people and new problems.
The next day, the Thursday, Logan realized that even if he’d only be in his new apartment for a day or so before he’d be gone for a week in a small town in the middle of nowhere – where was that town? He’d have to ask – he still needed to start getting it ready for actual human inhabitation. With reluctance, he hopped into his car and drove to the nearest grocery store he’d spotted the previous evening on the taxi ride from the airport.
It was in the cereal aisle – cereal was safe, it would still be fine when he got back, and that would cover him for a few weeks – that something, or rather someone, caught his attention.
“Veronica?” he asked, not thinking before blurting the words out.
The woman in front of him, comparing the nutritional attributes of two brands of high fibre cereal, looked up. Logan’s face fell. The woman was indeed blonde and petite, but that was as far as the resemblance went.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
He wasn’t sure if he should have been relieved she wasn’t right there or worried that he was obviously going crazy and hallucinating. He imagined how well that would go down with his new therapist when he went to see her for the first time. Yes, I’m imagining a girl I dated for a month and a half when I was 17, I’m seeing her everywhere and can’t stop thinking about her. But I’m completely sane, thank you. Maybe he should start with something softer. Or at least, something his therapist would be prepared for. Recently deceased mother, abusive father, something like that. Good old classic Logan Echolls haunts to revisit before they got into the newer stuff. Gotta give the smash hits a few spins before moving on to the deep cuts, right?
He chucked random cereal boxes into his shopping cart and moved on the next aisle. A drink, maybe? That sounded like a good idea.
Sleep hadn’t done it, but a healthy little alcohol buzz might just dissipate all thoughts of an old flame he hadn’t seen in years. Please.
Veronica closed her laptop and looked out her window. She sighed. The weather forecast looked good for the next week, but they were also telling her all of Massachusetts would be receiving a downpour today, and it was as sunny as ever. She’d have to pack her umbrella, just in case, and hope that bad weather wouldn’t strike, or at least that it wouldn’t deter anyone to go with her idea when she brought back pictures and footage. Her boss had balked when she’d said the town she had in mind was in Maine – why couldn’t they find something closer to Boston? – but had agreed to let her scout the location for good filming spots, admitting that it was indeed her project. It was the first one she was helming, and she wanted it to be perfect. A bit of familiarity would be a nice start to her experience.
She had been working in marketing for Mass’ Insurance for almost four years now, practically straight out of college. Getting away from Neptune, and from California as a whole, had seemed like a no-brainer at the time, and she had fond memories of her semester at Harvard during junior year, as well as a lifelong fondness for New England, so Boston had seemed like her best option. It wasn’t huge like New York – that was too much for her, too impersonal and could never feel like home – but it wasn’t small, either, so that everyone could know who she was.
So far, Boston had been great. Sometimes she missed her dad, and Lilly, but she was convinced she had made the best decision by getting out of Neptune. Here, she could breathe.
She gathered her files, checked her watch quickly. She was still ten minutes early to her next meeting, but it was better to be early and show them she really could stomach the responsibility. She really wanted to show stupid old Bart Huggins from the production company producing her ad that she had it under control. She’d only run into him twice so far, but he already sent shivers down her spine, and not in a good way. The guy was a pig, who couldn’t even be bothered to learn her name, or at least hadn’t ever used it in front of her. She’d been dreading having to work with him during the whole project, but she had been told yesterday that he wouldn’t be the producer, he was merely an intermediary. The producer coming with her was a young one apparently, a trust fund kid with a “good eye,” whatever that meant. She could handle trust fund kids, they had them at a dime a dozen back in Neptune. The corporate world also had tons of stupid old Bart Huggins-type guys, but those she had more trouble not introducing to Mr. Sparky.
It just so happened that, of course, stupid old Bart Huggins was late to the meeting, waltzing in a good 15 minutes late, speaking on the phone. Veronica cleared her throat loudly when he kept on his conversation, talking over everyone. He pretended to not get her meaning, and looked at her as he kept talking.
“Oh, and I’m told it’s a charming small town. So, no hotels. She says there’s a house there she can stay in, and you can stay there too, or rent a house. That work?”
Right, that. She’d brought up Clatham Cove the previous meeting. It seemed to fit the bill perfectly, she was certain they’d get good shots there and could shoot the few variations of the ad without problem, with summer fading and taking away the few tourists the small town received with it. The only problem had been the lack of decent housing. She felt bad having to make whatever poor producer working with her – who in addition had to take all his orders from stupid old Bart Huggins – rent a house or a room in a B&B (she had only heard about that recently, there hadn’t been one when she was growing up). She knew she’d be staying at her grandmother Reynolds’ old house, that her father and her had kept over the years, and it felt polite to offer to get a room ready for her colleague, it wasn’t like she would be sleeping in all three bedrooms in the house.
Everyone had stopped to look at stupid old Bart Huggins having a conversation with the producer none of them had met, waiting to see what the outcome would be.
He mouthed at Veronica, he asks if it’s okay. She shrugged. There were several separate bedrooms in the house, and her bedroom door had a lock, just in case. She knew she’d be bolting it.
“She suggested it. Didn’t know she had any generosity in her, that one,” stupid old Bart Huggins said into the phone, then laughed. He obviously tried to play it off as friendly banter, but everyone in the room knew he and Veronica had never been friends. The discomfort was rising and Veronica saw Wallace, one of her few friends in the office, shuffle his papers awkwardly. She really hoped the phone call would get wrapped up soon.
“Bye, son, I’ll send you the rest of the information.”
Veronica breathed a sigh.
“Good, now that that’s taken care of… While I’m off for the week, Wallace will be in charge. Any questions go through him, and if need be, he’ll call me.”
Meaning, don’t call me. I’ll have plenty on my plate. She was aware her tone was sharper than it usually was, and sharper than it probably should have been, but stupid old Bart Huggins had pissed her off. The sooner she was rid of him, the better.
The conversation carried on, arrangements made for the upcoming week, and by the end of the meeting, signaling the end of her work day, she felt like they had made at least a bit of progress.
When Friday afternoon rolled around, everything had been taken care of. Veronica had all her material packed up and ready to go, along with the travel luggage that she’d laboriously taken to work with her through the bus and subway. As soon as her workday was over – given that the producer showed up on time to leave at 5:30 sharp like she’d instructed – she would be good to go.
Logan stopped his car in front of the building, looking around to make sure he was allowed to park there. Satisfied with his parking, he got out of the car and jogged up the steps to the lobby. He was just about to start randomly walking in the halls to see where he was needed when he saw a man he recognized as his boss – Huggins, he reminded himself – heading his way.
“Echolls!” he was greeted.
“Mr. Huggins, it’s great to finally meet you in person,” he answered diplomatically, extending his hand.
“Yes, yes, likewise, of course! You all ready to go for the getaway with our charming lady?” he asked with a laugh and Logan had to remind himself punching his boss was not good. There was just something utterly punchable about the guy, though…
He forced a chuckle, against his better judgment. “Yep, all good.”
When he had been told neither Mass’ Insurance nor his production company would be issuing them any mode of transportation, which was kind of odd, but it wasn’t his place to say, he had suggested they use his car. After all, his companion was housing them, the least he could do was offer his car to drive up. He just hoped there wasn’t too much material to carry because there was only so much his Beemer could hold.
“Come on, then, I’ll introduce you to Ms. Mars.”
Ah, so he did remember her name.
Veronica was typing at her keyboard, sending a last email before she set off, when a knock sounded on her door. She looked up to see stupid old Bart Huggins in the doorway.
“Mars,” he said as a means of greeting, “here’s your ride,” and she was just about to answer when said ride popped his head in the doorway as his boss stepped aside.
No, no, no. That wasn’t possible. She had to be imagining things. But by the look of utter shock reflected at her, she knew she wasn’t imagining it, and she wasn’t the only one who had not been expecting that.
How was she supposed to answer? Pretend she didn’t know him? Pretend it was just a slight but pleasant surprise to see someone from her past? Act like his face rang a bell but she couldn’t quite place him? Or she could go with cheeky, cocky, confident. That was good.
“Logan Echolls,” she finally said, and it sounded breathier than she’d intended, and much less confident. Damn it.
“Veronica Mars,” he slowly pronounced in response, adorning the syllables with a cheery twist, and stupid old Bart Huggins looked back and forth from the two of them.
“You know each other?”
“We used to,” Veronica replied, looking back down at her computer and packing her things quickly.
“A long time ago,” Logan added, more careful than she was to keep up conversation with his boss.
“Splendid! That will make your trip more productive, then.”
I seriously doubt that.
Logan gave a tight smile as a response, clearly agreeing more with Veronica than stupid old Bart Huggins.
“You ever been to…” he started asking Logan, before turning to Veronica, “what was it?”
“Clatham Cove, Maine,” Veronica supplied, decidedly not looking at either of them as she tried to keep her thoughts together.
What were the fucking odds. She was going back to fucking Clatham Cove with fucking Logan Echolls.
“I have, actually,” she heard Logan carefully reply, but he seemed far away. The blood was pounding in her ears.
No, no, no, no. God, going to Clatham Cove of all places with Logan of all people. This could not be real life.
“I imagine you’ll have tons of catching up to do on the ride there, I’ll leave you to it,” stupid old Bart Huggins concluded, tapping Logan on the shoulder and heading out, leaving the two of them alone.
Oh, god, the drive to town. An hour and a half trapped with Logan, with nowhere to escape. She’d been alone in a car with Logan several times over that one summer, but this was wildly different. She couldn’t do this. She could not do this. Couldn’t face him after… everything.
“We should probably start moving if we want to be there at a reasonable time for dinner,” Logan said, still leaning on the doorway, observing her.
“Yeah, of course,” Veronica replied, zipping her bag and looking up at him finally, walking to him and out the door.
Dinner. And oh, no, not just dinner. The house. Why had she offered to let the producer stay with her, again? That was a stupid idea when the producer was a stranger, and it was even stupider when he was decidedly not a stranger. Certainly not a stranger when it came to things that had happened in that house.
“Um, if we’re going back to Maine, I feel like I should warn you, about dinner, I’m – ”
“Allergic to shellfish, I know,” she cut him off.
He looked surprised, looking at her strangely, and she suddenly wished she hadn’t said it. Who the hell remembered that? Certainly not the loose, cool, totally nonplussed businesswoman Veronica was determined to project.
“Right. Well, I do have to share one sad piece of news.”
“What?” she asked, curious.
“I no longer drive a yellow car,” he said as he held the door for her on their way out, eyes gleaming with mischief.
She gasped exaggeratedly.
“Bummer,” she said with puppy dog eyes.
She probably shouldn’t have been smiling like she was. She probably shouldn’t have had laughter bubbling in her chest. She probably should still have been awkwardly trying to come up with safe topics of conversation, instead of falling back into a dynamic she didn’t understand why she was still familiar with.
And when he corrected with a smirk, “No, Beemer,” while popping the trunk for her, she probably shouldn’t have laughed.
But she did.
Aaaand the setting has been... well, set.
I apologize in advance for anything I might (or will) get wrong in the coming chapters - I know nothing of marketing, or the production of commercials, or location scouting. I did some research, but probably not enough to get this entirely right.
Thank you for all the nice comments on the first chapter! I'm super happy some people are interested in reading the continuation of my story.
When you are young they assume you know nothing
Logan stole a quick look at Veronica, sitting beside him in silence. Once they had hit the road, that she’d given him the initial directions, neither of them had quite known what to say. Catch up, maybe? But catch up on what? How have the last 7 years of your life since you ghosted me been? Or, no, maybe ask about that location they would be discovering together, that had definitely been in his plans for the ride. But it didn’t seem quite as appropriate now. He didn’t know what to say, what parts of Veronica he still knew from before. He didn’t know what parts of her he could still admit to remembering. To her, of course, but to himself, too. For example, when he spied her looking up from her papers from the corner of his eye, he knew that she’d bite her bottom lip and blink twice, before breathing in and speaking up. Back then, she’d done that to say things she didn’t know how to say, things she wished she didn’t have to say. Now, though, it seemed like it was for every time she spoke up. Every time she had to address him.
“How long have you been in Boston?” she asked.
He was surprised she was trying to start a conversation, and not even about work. They had been driving for nearly half an hour, and once neither of them had found something satisfactory with which to open the discussion, they’d fallen into silence. After a few minutes, it just felt awkward to try to talk. And Veronica was not one to start a conversation at all, anyway. Not unless it was to throw a quip or suggest some making out, which was… yeah, not going to happen. But then again, he reminded himself, if he’d changed in the years since he’d known her, so had she. So he’d bite and partake in the torture known to man as small talk.
“I got here Wednesday evening,” he replied.
She looked surprised.
“You moved here two days ago?”
“Yeah. Decided there was finally nothing holding me back in Los Angeles.”
“I… I heard about your mom. I’m sorry. She was really nice. Welcoming. I know that sounds lame,” she said with a grimace.
He looked over at her, quickly, and gave her an easy smile.
“She was,” he nodded. “And at least it’s honest. Most people who talk to me say she was so talented, such a kindred spirit… but they never really bothered with her at all once she had passed her peak in the industry.”
He shrugged, biting back the bitter laugh threatening to spill out. He’d talked to his therapist about this. Tone down the cynical and/or morbid humour, Logan. Stop using humour as a defense mechanism to keep people from getting close to you, Logan.
She gave a quick nod, looking back out at the road.
“What about you? Been in Boston long?” he asked.
“Four years. It’s nice. Winter’s brutal when you’re used to Southern California, though,” she warned.
“You’ll have to give me some pointers. I’ve always spent Christmas on the beach.”
“Yeah,” she replied with a small laugh. “You’ll manage. Hopefully.”
“At the very worst, I drop everything, put that trust fund to use, and retire to Florida.”
She laughed. “At 24?”
“My mother just died, I’m set.”
Okay, so maybe he still needed to work on that “toning back the morbid humour” thing.
“How, uh… How’s your dad?” he asked to change the subject. Hoping he wasn’t also dead, because that would just make it all even more awkward than it already was. And also because he didn’t wish death on people, usually. God, whatever. He just needed a topic of conversation, to keep her talking once she’d started. If she stopped, he didn’t know how he’d handle the silence again.
“Good. Still in Neptune, still a P.I., same as always. He’s doing fine. He’s actually dating my high school guidance counselor, which is…”
“Yuck?” Logan provided with a smirk.
“Precisely,” she said with smirk to match his. “It’s weird,” she continued, more seriously, “this is the woman who told me to try out marketing. And…” She stopped mid-sentence and took a deep breath. “It’s just strange. She’s great, but…”
“You hate her?” he guessed.
“Yeah,” she sighed, laughing.
“Hey, I get it. Okay, no, I don’t,” he corrected upon seeing the dubitative face she made, “but I empathise. There’s been plenty of people I wish hadn’t come into my parents’ life who did. Like that time my mom got a part in a movie written by one of my college professors. Worlds colliding, you know?”
“Exactly that. Some things should stay separate.”
She bit her lip again, and this time he knew exactly why. Them being there right then, together, at the wrong time and soon at the right place, definitely felt like worlds colliding, like a dangerous mix that shouldn’t have been attempted. Or maybe it should have been? He wasn’t sure yet.
“What did you study in college?” she asked instead, riding on his comment about a past professor.
“Journalism. Which, I know, has nothing to do with my job. But I minored in cinema. Which, I know, also has very little to do with what I do. Majoring in journalism just felt like a more professional and serious option than majoring in English.”
“I’m surprised you studied journalism, given… you know.”
His relationship with the press, he knew. Or rather, the utmost attention he used making sure he didn’t have one.
“I’m surprised you majored in marketing,” he replied.
He looked at her, raised an eyebrow.
“I know, it sounds bad when I say that,” she blushed. “But sometimes surprises are a good thing.”
He didn’t say anything, noting how she hadn’t said this surprise had been a good thing. Marketing. Or seeing him, actually. Veronica had tried her damnedest to make sure she didn’t even have any birthday surprises when he knew her, so he didn’t know how to interpret her comment. He didn’t know her anymore, he reminded himself. For all he knew, she’d grown into a fan of surprise parties and impromptu trips and rash life decisions. Back then, she did enjoy rash decisions, too, he’d gathered from her stories more than their time together, but they were regarding her cases, not her personal life.
“It’s the next exit,” she suddenly said, looking up again.
“Yeah, we have to get off the highway for a while, there’s a part of the road they’re redoing or something. I don’t know, Google told me.”
“You don’t come often anymore?”
“Not really. In college, I was busy in the summers, doing internships or setting off with friends. And since then, I haven’t really had time to come back often. The last time I was there for the full summer was –”
She stopped herself mid-sentence again, and it should have irritated him, but he understood. If it was ground she didn’t want to tread on, he’d respect that. He didn’t feel particularly eager to talk about it, either.
“What about you? Hey, don’t your parents own the biggest house in town?” she accused, the notion only occurring to her now.
“One, I didn’t know this would be the town when I got the call and accepted to stay in a cottage with you. What are the odds? Second, they sold it a couple years ago. So, no.”
She huffed. How convenient. He knew it really did sound convenient, but it was the truth. How could he possibly have guessed he was accepting to stay for a week in Veronica Mars’ house? He wasn’t sure if knowing would have made him turn her down or not. What he did know is that it at least would have made him panic and re-evaluate all of his life decisions and then anxiously await the moment when he’d see her. Honestly, he was surprised he was so chill about it now. It wasn’t like he could do anything about it, now that it was done. Although…
“I can find somewhere else to stay, if you want.”
There. The ball was in her court. He’d done the gentlemanly thing, and most importantly he’d taken all the blame for what was bound to be an awkward situation away from himself. Which was not gentlemanly and rather cowardly, but whatever.
“You couldn’t find anything short notice like this,” she replied.
Ah, so she, too, was hesitant about the whole affair. He should have been relieved that he wasn’t alone in his uneasy, queasy state, but instead he was… disappointed, maybe? He had no right to be, of course, and if anything because of his last contact with her, he should have had incredibly low expectations and have known that she wouldn’t be jumping for joy when seeing him, and yet… A part of him was still tied up in Veronica, in the need for her approval. His therapist would have a field day when he got back from that trip. It now seemed inevitable to tell her about Veronica, if he’d been hesitant when she had been only a figment of his imagination.
“I can sleep on the couch,” he offered again and a part of him was screaming to shut up because he didn’t want to sleep on the couch for a week. But he remembered that the bedrooms were all beside each other, the walls thin. It was all a bit fuzzy in his mind, it had been years after all, and the only bedroom he really remembered ever entering was Veronica’s, in which he knew he wouldn’t be staying.
“Don’t be stupid.”
He felt she wouldn’t let herself call any old coworker stupid like this, so offhandedly, and it made him weirdly giddy. He might not want to have an entire conversation about their past either, but he did like the acknowledgment that there was a past. It thrilled him, reminded him that it had all been real. And most of those memories and feelings elicited more pain than anything else nowadays, but there was a satisfaction in hearing her indirectly referencing that they’d once been more than whatever this was that trumped the pain. Or at least that made him forget it for half a second. Because when had Logan Echolls ever been careful about his wellbeing? Old habits die hard.
“We should be there in half an hour,” Veronica piped up.
She didn’t want the conversation to die out, either, and he seemed inclined to carry it on for her. With her. Or something. She hadn’t been able to think entirely straight since she’d seen him in her office. It was the end of the week fatigue, in great part, she told herself, and even she knew it sounded like a weak excuse.
“Do you want to stop by the grocery store before we get there?” Logan asked, shooting her a quick look before focusing on the road again.
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. It’ll be a bit late to start cooking, though. It’s probably better if we… if we eat out.”
The weight of her words occurred to her mid-sentence. Did it sound like she was asking him out on a date? No, right? They’d be sleeping in the same house and working together all week, it was normal to make plans to eat out together. Unless he wanted his own time? He might want his own time. She couldn’t just assume he’d follow her wherever. Or that any colleague who had come with her would, really. But they were in the same car, making arrangements to go grocery shopping together for the house they’d inhabit together, so… it wasn’t too presumptuous to assume they’d have dinner together, right? Right. Stop overthinking everything, Veronica.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” he replied, appearing unfazed. “Do you have anything in mind?”
“I was thinking just pizza off Main Street,” she said before she could think the words through. She had to stop talking like they were back to seventeen and contemplating their unhealthy meal choices together like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like they’d walk the streets with their fingers loosely curled around each other’s, and then have ice cream, always the same, just because they could. Like he’d carefully tuck away the loose hair the wind was blowing into her melting cone and kiss her temple when he was done. That didn’t happen anymore. That hadn’t happened in a long time, and it wouldn’t happen again, and she wasn’t a teenager on vacation with her boyfriend, she was a businesswoman working with her colleague. And if it was the same person and the lines were blurred because she didn’t know how to handle this Logan, it didn’t matter. Because it still wouldn’t be like that summer.
“Yeah, okay,” Logan replied, and if she closed her eyes, she could imagine it really was the boy she was dating, quickly agreeing to whatever she said if it meant he could hold her hand and kiss her cheek.
It felt weirdly domestic to shop with Logan. She’d done it before, but she’d had a list to follow, usually. This time they were making it up as they were going, having to agree on the go on what to buy, what to eat, what made sense for just one week. Veronica hadn’t realized how intimate it could feel until she was there, with Logan, asking him if he preferred carrots or tomatoes.
And it was all harder when they reached the checkout counter, and the elderly cashier recognized Veronica, against all odds.
“Is that… You’re Madeline’s granddaughter!” she exclaimed. “Virginia? No, Veronica! Veronica!”
Veronica smiled awkwardly, giving one quick nod. The cashier didn’t seem to mind that she hadn’t verbally replied.
“It’s been so long! How have you been?” she asked rhetorically. “The last time I saw you… it was that summer when you were always with that boyfriend of yours!”
And of course that was the moment Logan chose to join her at the cash register, from his earlier detour by the cookie aisle. (She hadn’t dared. Apparently, she shouldn’t have cared.) The cashier’s eyes went wide.
“Is that…? Yes, it’s you, isn’t it?” she asked Logan, and Veronica wanted to die right there.
“The, uh, boyfriend?” Logan asked, visibly trying to hide how flustered he was. “That was indeed me.”
“It’s so nice to see you again, Veronica. Were you here the whole summer?”
“Oh, no, we just got here. We’re here for work, actually,” she replied, and her interlocutor nodded.
Please let this be the end of the conversation.
“That’ll be $42.93.”
Logan didn’t need directions to the cottage, and it made Veronica feel funny. Good funny, probably. She had no idea how in the world he remembered, but maybe it was muscle memory. Just a reflex. When he pulled up in her driveway, she suddenly felt awkward, nervous to show him the house.
They had the groceries to unload, as well as their luggage and her equipment, and she figured they could probably get it all inside before they headed back out for the coveted pizza. Keep moving, keep having something to do, because she didn’t know what she’d say when they no longer had to be strictly business and following clear and obvious goals for when one arrived in a new town for the week.
She dropped her bag on the ground to open the door, then picked it back up to lead the way, looking behind her to see if he was still following. He was, and he had a strange look on his face. It probably felt weird for him, too, to be there at all, she realized. The last time he’d been inside the house… oh. It quite possibly had been the first time they’d had sex. Don’t think about that, Veronica, definitely stay away from that. She took a deep breath, telling herself she was just touch starved, and elected to ignore any and all sensations she could have felt blossoming in her.
“You can just drop this all inside and we can sort it out when we get back,” she said.
“Right,” Logan weakly replied, putting down the grocery bags on the counter and looking away from her lips. A very bad place to be looking at. Probably not worse than literally anywhere in the house, though. The memories, still woozy before, were sharpening as he glanced around the room. It was all too familiar. Shit, if he was getting so troubled by the freaking living room and kitchen areas, what would it be when he went upstairs? Later. He could take care of that thought later.
“You didn’t have to pay for the pizza and the groceries.”
“Veronica, we’re staying at your house. It’s the least I can do.”
“You paid for gas, too.”
He sighed. Somehow that side of Veronica had escaped him over the years. Now that he remembered, though, he wondered how he’d managed to forget that. It had been seven years, of course he didn’t remember all of his one-time girlfriend’s character traits. It was normal. Then why did he feel bad about it? It wasn’t like she’d know. Or care, even if she did know.
“It’s not a big deal.”
She opened her mouth, but he cut her off. “Is this really the hill you want to die on?”
She closed her mouth, not replying. There, that had worked. It did send another thrill down his spine to have her try to have that conversation at all, though. It was like they were falling right back into their old rhythms. He didn’t know why, but it felt comforting, familiar, like… home? No, not that. Home didn’t make sense. Youth, maybe. Escaping. A time when he could afford to put everything on pause and stop caring about the outside, about everything besides her. She could be all he thought about, the one person he talked to and saw, she could be all that mattered and she had been, for one brief instant in time.
He glanced at her sideways again. He hoped she hadn’t noticed how often he did it, during their drive there, during their grocery run, and now. Memorizing the small changes in her face, in her demeanour, in her pronunciation of certain words. Simply because it was rude to still be imagining a grown, professional woman as an 18 years old girl, of course. He had to update his mental image. But it was hard, because the expressions he saw on her face, that he filed into his bank of memories, weren’t the ones he’d had previously, ready to be replaced. He wasn’t updating the way her eyes crinkled when she laughed, the softness of her gaze when she looked at him, or the mischievous glint he’d always seen in her eyes, he was instead adding completely different expressions. Caution. Uneasiness. Unease, simply, too. The awkward wringing of her hands when she didn’t know what to say. He wanted to reach out and smooth the wrinkles in her forehead when she lightly frowned like she was frowning now, like she had probably done more in the past few hours than in their entire summer together.
He pulled into her driveway again, wordlessly. A part of him itched to go open her car door for her, but he knew the Veronica of early days hadn’t allowed him to do that, she only had once they’d been so comfortable together that their togetherness was a no-brainer, so he assumed this Veronica wouldn’t be a fan of that, either. She’d find it patronizing.
So he got out of his side of the car, steeling himself for what was to come. He had to get over his nerves of the proximity to that bedroom because otherwise, there was no way he’d be getting any sleep that week. Well, last time he’d been there, he hadn’t gotten much sleep either, but – nope, Logan, don’t go there. For the love of god, don’t go there.
Hopping out of the car, Veronica felt a twinge of sadness that Logan hadn’t opened her door for her. It wasn’t that she expected people to do that for her, but Logan did. Back then. She opened the front door and held it open for Logan, trying to shake away her thoughts. It wasn’t fair to hold anyone to standards of who they had been as a teen.
“I’ll, um, I’ll show you your room,” she said, determined to get it over with. Once that was done, she’d stop picturing him in her room, right? She’d stop picturing herself picking his shirt off from the floor and slipping her naked body in it, stop picturing the way he smiled up at her from her pillows. Picturing him in her father’s room, in her father’s bed, would be much better. Or just not picturing him at all. If she could manage that, it would be great.
Logan nodded, grabbing his bag from where he’d left it earlier that day and following her up the stairs. She hadn’t been in there before at all, so none of the rooms were really ready. She hoped there wasn’t too much to do, because if she lingered in his room… God, she really needed to stop thinking. Just block out all existing thoughts because she obviously couldn’t be trusted to stick to good, normal thoughts.
Veronica gestured to the room that would be Logan’s, right beside her own. She prayed she didn’t talk in her sleep, because she was about 99% sure that whatever she’d be thinking about would somehow circle back to him, his presence, his arms that she had noticed had gotten buffer, his chest whose firm hug she knew, or just how confused he made her, and the wall was thin. Thin enough for words to filter through if someone was paying attention. Which he might not be, but she couldn’t be too careful.
“There it is,” she said nervously. “I’ll go get you some sheets,” she added quickly, eager to get out of there. “You can put your clothes in the closet or… or whatever,” she mumbled.
Oh my god, Veronica. Shut. Up.
She picked a set of clean, folded sheets from the hallway closet and brought them back to Logan. She handed them to him, but then asked, just because maybe as host it was just polite to…
“Do you want me to make the bed or…” she trailed off.
“No,” he said sharply. “No, it’s fine. Thanks,” he added quickly.
Ah, so he’s nervous too. Good to know. Why was it good to know? She didn’t want to think about what it might mean that she cared that he was as nervous as her. The list of things she was thinking about that she should have been staying away from was starting to be dangerously large, and it was exhausting to keep track.
She took another breath. One last trial and she could go.
“The bathroom’s there,” she said pointing behind herself into the hallway. “If you want to… take a shower or something.”
You’re almost there, Veronica.
“I… I usually shower in the morning. So, uh… Yeah. Just… to coordinate. Um. Good night!”
It was just past 9PM, but she really felt she deserved to turn in early. She wasn’t one to drink on the job, but maybe just one drink… she deserved that, too. She wasn’t really on the job, and, hey, it was a Friday night, wasn’t it? Time for celebration or at least a good fake-out of one.
“Good night,” he replied weakly as she backed out of the room with an awkward salute.
As soon as Veronica was out of sight, Logan let out a breath. It had been a trial to have her talking about showers and beds and to not smirk or pass a comment in return. Or have images come to him that were definitely inappropriate to have about a colleague. Thankfully, the images hadn’t gotten very detailed, but… yeah. Better get in the shower and not have to face her for a small while. That way, he’d be sure he wouldn’t run into her straight from her shower in the morning, because that would be… too much.
He suddenly longed for his previous uncomfortable feelings around Veronica. When he’d been thinking about how she’d broken his heart, how he was weirdly still entirely attuned to her, at least there had been no visual cues he couldn’t control that could sell him out. Whereas now… he’d have to take care of it in the shower. It was mortifying but hopefully that would make him safe for the next few days. That, and keeping his thoughts in check. No more thoughts of Veronica in the shower. Or in her bed. Or in his bed. Or –
Logan sighed again and gathered a few toiletries and his pajamas. He didn’t usually sleep in full pajamas, but it had felt like the considerate thing to do in someone else’s home. And now it was a nice barrier between him and… whatever. His needs? God, that felt primal and animal. It wasn’t like anything would happen, anyway. Not with Veronica. Unless maybe she wasn’t as guarded, now, when it came to those things. Maybe, maybe… Maybe stop thinking about that, Logan! Nothing would happen, period. It didn’t matter what Veronica had done with who in the past, in the present, what and who she was planning on doing in the future. It certainly didn’t matter that something flared up in him at the thought of her with someone else. Or that something else flared up in a completely different way at the thought of her with someone who was not someone else.
He crossed the hall and ducked into the bathroom, hurriedly getting inside the shower. Cold water to make all the thoughts go? Warm water for his comfort? He went with warm water because he really didn’t have the courage to brave freezing water after the taxing day he’d had.
He showered quickly, eager to put the whole day behind him. The next one might not be easier, but at least it would have less surprises and he’d have time to prepare for being right in front of Veronica Mars again. He’d need it.
He reached his arm out of the shower for the towel rack. His hand swiped in the air. No. Please no. He closed his eyes, tightly, then popped his head out of the curtain. Surprisingly, closing his eyes and hoping that it would change the situation did not have the desired effect. The towel rack was still decidedly empty, a small growing puddle underneath it as his outstretched hand still hovered lamely. Who’d have thought?
He had three options he could think of. One, spend the whole night there and never get out of the shower again or face anyone. Tempting, but impractical. Two, wait there standing in the shower until he was dry and could just step into his clothes. It could take a long time, but it certainly was better than option three, which was to call for Veronica and ask for a towel. He sighed, deciding to wait it out. But the shower floor was still watery, and therefore slippery, and taking a step back in was apparently not a good idea, because he saw his leg fly up, and the wall turn on its side, before he collapsed with a loud thud and a pulsing ache in the elbow he’d tried to deploy to stop his fall.
“Logan?” he heard her voice resonate from the other side of the door. She sounded out of breath, just a little bit, like she had rushed when she heard him fall. If only he’d fallen silently.
“I’m okay,” he croaked out.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “You don’t sound okay,” she added hesitantly. “And you’ve been in there a while…”
He tried to sit up, painfully. He didn’t think he had anything broken. He’d be fine.
“Yeah, I’m sure. But would you… uh, could you maybe leave a towel by the door?” he asked, mortified.
“Oh, crap. I’m so sorry I forgot. Yeah, I’ll – I’ll bring some towels.”
He heard her steps retreat and then come back. The door creaked open and she walked in, setting down two towels beside the sink. He thought of his clothes – all his clothes – discarded haphazardly around the room and cringed.
She thought of the most definitely naked Logan just one shower curtain away and panicked.
When he heard Veronica close the door, he heaved a sigh of relief. Except now the… anatomical problem that had led him there was back. And it was not easy to get the thoughts out of his mind now, now that she’d been so close. It was going to be a long week.
The smell of smoke would hang around this long
‘Cause I knew everything when I was young
Veronica woke up the next morning to the smell of breakfast wafting through the house. She was satisfied to find that she had slept well, didn’t remember any dreams she might have had, and was fairly certain she hadn’t said anything Logan might have heard during the night.
She glanced at the clock, debating whether she would head straight downstairs for breakfast or stop by the shower first. She had definitely planned on being fully dressed and ready for the day when she faced Logan, but the smell was too enticing. She gave up on her initial plan, put on a bra at the very least, and carefully walked out of her room and down the stairs.
She saw Logan before he saw her, standing at the kitchen counter with his back to her (she forced herself not to focus on how well fitted his shirt was on his muscled shoulders), sipping his coffee absently while reading some papers she couldn’t identify.
“Good morning,” she said to announce her presence, and he whipped around.
She took in his surprise at her appearance with a barely concealed smirk, and walked over to the coffee pot. Logan opened the cupboard just above him and handed her a mug, that she took wordlessly with a small smile.
“I made breakfast, I hope it’s okay. I didn’t want to wake you, I know – ” he stopped mid-sentence, and she spied a blush on his cheeks.
He knew she liked to sleep in. It had been true then, it was still true now.
“Yeah, no problem. Make yourself at home.”
She also knew he often woke up earlier than she ever did, and that apparently hadn’t changed. Logan pointed wordlessly at the pan of bacon still on the stovetop, although the heat had been turned off, and looked back to his papers. She leaned towards him, just a tiny bit, she told herself, to look over. She was curious, so sue her.
When Veronica leaned towards him offhandedly, it took a lot of self control not to lean back in, pull her in, kiss her forehead and wrap his arms around her. Whoa, there, Echolls. Hold your horses. He angled his papers a bit more towards her, and she blushed, having apparently thought that her action had been subtle. But he was hyperaware when she was around, tingling whenever she moved, whenever she breathed closer to him than she had been before. It was a connection he’d thought had been due to their constant presence around each other that summer, but he was starting to think it wasn’t just that. There was something almost surreal about it, subtle and comfortable, a million imperceptible threads tying them together, so that when she tugged if only a millimetre on one of them, he felt it ripple through him, too.
He wanted to tease her, to hide the papers even if he had nothing to hide – they were just printouts of some of the instructions he’d been given – and make her work for it. He would have done it, if he’d been seventeen. If he’d been sharing a quiet breakfast in a lazy morning with his love, but he wasn’t. This Veronica wasn’t his bobcat, his darling, his partner. This Veronica was his boss, kind of, for the week. When he maneuvered around her to place his empty coffee mug in the sink, he didn’t trail his finger along the small line of skin between her pants and her shirt as she was reaching up for a plate in the cupboard, didn’t breathe a trail of kisses along her neck. He did place a careful fleeting hand on the small of her back so she wouldn’t back into him, though, because there was only so much self restraint he could muster.
The rush of energy he felt at the banal touch was proof enough that he had to be careful, because if he tried anything more, there was no way he’d make it through that week without kissing her senseless. It would be so easy to just grab her waist, spin her around, so her back would be to the counter, then tangle his hands in her hair and –
After giving his mug a quick rinse, he dried his hands absently on his pants, and walked out of the kitchen, going to fetch his things for the day. It would clearly be a second before they’d be ready to leave – Veronica hadn’t showered and Logan should stop thinking about that immediately – but he had to keep himself busy.
Logan had walked out several minutes ago, and Veronica could still picture the way his hands had wiped on his thighs, once, twice, the other side, and she wondered how the heck it was that he could make the simplest things sexy. It would have been a blessing if they were there, in her kitchen, as a couple. But they weren’t, so it most definitely was a curse. Damn him and his long hands and muscled thighs and tight fitting dress shirt and the stupid flexing of his forearms when he took a sip of his coffee. It really was not fair that he was that handsome, it would have been unfair whoever he’d been paired with for the workweek, but it was especially unfair to her, who had once been between those arms for hours on end. Ugh. She just couldn’t win.
She finished her plate and her mug, placing them both in the sink, and headed back to her room to get her clothes. She left Logan’s papers on the counter, assuming he’d be back for them and determined not to pop into his room to hand them to him. That would be dangerous for her sanity.
Veronica walked down the stairs, her hair still glistening, wearing a simple blouse and slacks. She grabbed her photography equipment from where she’d left it in the living room the previous evening and turned to Logan sitting on the couch, his right leg crossed over his left and his papers resting on his lap.
“Are you ready?”
“I’m not sure what for, but sure,” he smirked, standing up.
“Right. Well, we won’t start shooting any pictures or videos until Monday, because of the company’s union rules. So, mostly, pick a few good locations, take notes, test lighting. We should talk with some people if we want to see any kind of private property in our shots, but I don’t think we’ll get there today.”
Logan nodded. “Sounds good.”
“We should take a break, you’re tired.”
“Veronica, come on, I know you and when you’re tired.”
Shit. That wasn’t supposed to slip out. And it probably wasn’t even true anymore. She looked at him wide-eyed.
“Okay,” she said quietly. “So what do you suggest for the break?” she asked afterwards, regaining her composure and taking a cheeky air.
“Why, sit there awkwardly and stare out at the ocean, of course,” he deadpanned.
She laughed, a quick, short laugh, and he looked over at her with a smile, just in time to catch the flash of uncontrolled delight on her face. God, he’d missed that expression. He hadn’t seen it in seven years before, but now that he’d seen it again, he wanted it back. Just one second of it wasn’t enough.
“Want some ice cream?” she asked conspiratorially, before standing up and walking away backwards without waiting for an answer as she raised her eyebrows as if to challenge him to say no. He stared after her long after she had turned around and ducked into the ice cream shop.
He averted his eyes when she came back, so she wouldn’t know he’d been staring after her. As if he had something else to think about, something else that interested him at all. As if seeing her take charge, be in her element, operate in her no-nonsense fashion, hadn’t awoken feelings he had thought long gone, relegated to the thoughtless intensity of teenage sensations. As if he wasn’t terrified of what it meant.
She handed a cup to him, biting her lip as she settled next to him. He glanced at hers before his own, noting her caramel before identifying his Rocky Road.
He looked up at her, and she was watching him.
“I know you,” she shrugged and he wondered if it was inappropriate to ditch everything and kiss her right there, kiss the upward curl of her lips, get lost in her shining eyes.
Yes, it was. Unfortunately.
“If they’d closed down that shop, I probably would have marched right out of here and told my boss your location wasn’t suitable.”
“And you would have been right. That would have been absolutely horrid of them to do. How can any fake happiness possibly transfer onto the screen in a town with no ice cream parlour?”
“Precisely,” he agreed with an amazed lull.
“Glad we checked that out before we did any of the serious work, then. It would all have been for nothing,” Veronica said dramatically.
“Maybe not nothing.”
“Yeah,” she replied, meeting his eye. “It would have been good practice for later.”
“Exactly. A trial run, before the real thing could take off. See if it worked.”
She gave him a curious glance, seeming lost in thought, and nodded.
Was the trial run successful, Veronica?
That evening, Logan brought out his laptop to the dining room table. He couldn’t put his finger on why, but something in him was buzzing, something was telling him to sit his ass down and write. Write anything, write to get the words out. He had this feeling of plenitude, of overflowing with creative energy, and he had to let the words write themselves, let them all out, let them lead his fingertips on the keyboard, and he’d rail them in later. He ignored the document he usually opened, fearing it was the wrong one, that it would stop all his energy before he could get it out, like it often did, and opened a new one. A fresh page. It was glaring at him, the cursor blinking, the entire page blank and empty and staring back at him. It was usually daunting to start from scratch, but for once it energized him even more.
He started writing, not thinking further than what his fingers commandeered him to do, fleshing out new characters, abandoning the tired accountant and heartbroken housewife of his usual writing nights. His characters were sixteen, no, seventeen, and they had not a care in the world. They ran along the shore and blew dandelions and slipped out of their clothes to feel each other’s affections, they had no goal and no pretensions, but they were brimming with life, more than any of his serious characters had ever been. They had only each other, the certainty that nothing was certain. They had no career, no complicated problems to work through, they were ignorant and naïve, they were new and fresh and dumb, but Logan realized as the hours passed and he never stopped writing that these two characters swimming in innocence knew more than he did. They knew things he’d forgotten, that he’d let go, that he’d dismissed when growing up because he’d classified them as just things kids believed. They knew the value of the wind in their hair, they knew everything would burn around them, they knew they knew nothing and because of that, they had all the knowledge in the world. They kissed at sunset and rolled in the grass, they held on to passion and trusted blindly, they didn’t let anyone besides the two of them dictate anything in their lives. They were free, and they were wise. They knew their days were numbered and that knowledge would burden them, they knew the curves of each other’s bodies and the flutters of their chests, they knew they were living and feeling something real, something raw, something worth remembering.
His characters knew things he’d known, the things that mattered, the two of them had been tainted by a cruel world but chose each other instead of it, they moved on because they could drown into each other instead of getting dragged by their extraneous problems, they held on to each other because they knew it was the best thing to do, even if it didn’t make sense and everything around them was screaming that they should let go. Let go. It wasn’t meant to last, so let go.
Let go, Logan. She’s just a girl you met one summer. Except she wasn’t. He’d known then, she wasn’t. She wasn’t just anything. She was maddening and endearing, she was a presence and an essence he wanted to drape himself in, she was, she was, she was. She was everything. She was the anger and the soothing hand on his arm, she was the tears and the warming hug, she was the laughter and the indifference. She’d been his entire world for one short moment in time, and he’d let the moment go because it was just that, a moment. He hadn’t wanted to, he would have held on, but everything was telling him to move on and let go. So he had. But now that she was back, now that she was there, she was intoxicating, she confirmed all that he used to know, all that he’d been told was false. She confirmed he wouldn’t find something better, something just as good but easier. That whatever he was confident he’d found back then, he really had found. It hadn’t just been an infatuation. It had been real.
When he finally looked up from his frenzied typing, several hours after he’d started, he saw that Veronica was still sitting on the couch, curled up in a blanket, reading. He glanced at the time, noting it was past midnight, then looked back at her. She looked up from her book to meet his gaze.
“You stopped typing,” she remarked. “It seemed intense.”
“Uh, yeah, it just… I don’t know, I had things to say, I guess.”
“What were you writing?” she asked, then backtracked. “You don’t have to tell me if it’s personal, I –”
“No, no, it’s fine. I did just spend the past four hours typing practically nonstop in your dining room, so…”
He looked down at his screen, seeing line after line of careless chatter about those two teenagers lost in their time together.
“I’m writing a screenplay,” he eventually said, which wasn’t false. What had been pouring out of him wasn’t properly formatted, but it could become a screenplay. And he was technically writing a screenplay. A work he’d abandoned, left unfinished in its boring dryness, still counted as something he was writing, right?
“What’s it about?” she asked, seeming unsurprised that he wasn’t writing an email or a report or even a journalistic article. Why didn’t she seem surprised?
He decided to go for what he had been writing, just then, without telling her too much. “I’m still hashing it out. But it’s about… it’s about two people who know more than they know they know.”
It didn’t make much sense, explained this way, but she nodded like she understood what he meant. Maybe she did. Maybe it wasn’t such an insane idea he’d had. Or maybe it was just because her experience was so closely related to his, and to the story. He didn’t even know where the story was going, if it could be called a story at all, but when she tucked her hair behind her ear, he itched to write it in. The way her black painted fingernails grazed her cheek on their way to her ear, how her fingertips lingered along her neck when she brought her hand back down. The way her tucked lock of hair caught the light. The way he wished he’d been close enough to tuck it himself.
“Sorry, if the typing bothered you, by the way,” he added. “It was… frantic.”
“I’ve seen you more frantic,” she immediately said, and he smirked as she bit her lip, her words obviously going faster than her thoughts. He would let her speak without thinking anytime she wanted. That was how he’d know more.
Because now he was hungry for more. He wanted to know what she thought, how she felt, what it meant to her. If she’d forgotten and moved on, if she’d looked at pictures of that summer in the past years, if she still had the pendant he had given her on her eighteenth birthday. If seeing him again was a good or bad surprise. If she’d ignore him again when the week would be over. If she’d ever wanted to reply to his text. If she had any regrets about how things had ended between them. If there was still a chance it wasn’t entirely over. If she’d let him kiss her if he asked at the end of their forced cohabitation. If she also felt the leftovers of a sizzling chemistry reawakening. If she was seeing someone. If she’d let herself go back to something of her past, instead of soldiering on. If she was happy. If he could make her happier. A hundred million questions, all burning on the tip of his tongue, swallowed.
“We should probably go to bed, it’s getting late,” he said, breaking the silence.
Wait, no. That wasn’t quite right.
“I mean, I’ll turn in. You can do whatever you want,” he corrected.
He stood, closing his laptop and taking it with him, and Veronica closed her book, standing up too.
“You’re right. I didn’t want to stop you in your writing and it felt rude to go to bed without saying goodnight, but… it is late.”
They were both standing awkwardly at the foot of the stairs, unsure of their next move. What he really wanted to do was tenderly kiss her forehead before heading to his room, feel her warmth, but he didn’t. He stayed at arm’s length and took a tentative step up the stairs.
“Good night, Veronica.”
“Good night, Logan.”
He turned around to walk up, but he had time to glimpse her expression before he looked away. She looked disappointed, somehow. He gave her one last look and a small wave when he reached the door of his room, and she smiled back, walking into hers and closing the door.
Veronica hadn’t locked her bedroom door the previous night, and she didn’t this time either. It was hard to say why exactly, but it felt wrong to lock Logan out, even if the temptation of him so near had a higher chance by the minute of dragging her out of her room and into the comfort of his arms. Not even to sleep with him. At least it wasn’t entirely her intention. Just sleeping next to him was enticing enough. It should have made her lock the door, keep herself in check inside, but she had the irrational fear that maybe he’d need her. Maybe he’d come knocking at her door, back bloodied, and he’d need her. It didn’t make sense because he wasn’t a boy anymore, his father wasn’t there, and there was no way he could get himself in that situation. But she still had ghosts of it, of him. Even when he wasn’t sleeping in the next room, his face that night had haunted her for years. She was scared he’d get hurt again, and she’d be far and not talking to him and helpless. And he wouldn’t want her help.
There was still something in her tugging her towards him, towards his embrace, between his arms, against his chest, to inhale the smell of him and relearn every angle and curve of his body. Something that had been disappointed when he hadn’t touched her to say good night, not touched her since this morning in the kitchen. Their fingers hadn’t even brushed when handling any of the material today, or when they’d had ice cream. Not that she was paying especially close attention, but still.
He was being a gentleman, mostly, if one forgot his occasional smirks (and she didn’t want to forget the smirks, because they made her feel so alive), and that was a good thing. And if she wanted to touch him, she could do it herself. She was a big girl.
If she wanted to touch Logan, she could very well have her say in it. And if she wanted to completely ignore how insane it was to spend so much time thinking about meaningless touches with a man she’d dated for a few weeks seven years ago, she could do that, too. There you go, stupid grown up world. Veronica had finally scored a point against adulthood and all the ways it had been kicking her ass. She wasn’t sure that really was a point, if it made sense to keep a tally of points scored against adulthood, or if she was still sane, but hey. She didn’t have to care. She could just wrap herself in her blanket one extra time, imagining Logan’s arms around her instead and close her eyes. She could just imagine him rocking her to sleep and ignore all the warning bells chiming around her.
Thank you for the support on this story! It's been kind of a hectic time but writing and posting this story is a definite highlight of my day every time. This chapter is one of my favourites, hopefully it'll be enjoyable to read!
But I knew you, playing hide and seek
And giving me your weekends
Veronica woke up with a start, tangled in her bedsheets, trying to get out of them, of their tight embrace. Too tight. What the hell had she been thinking when she rolled herself in them, that way? It was terrifying to be trapped like that.
She glanced at her alarm clock – it was a miracle it was still working, it had been there since she was twelve – and decided to put off going downstairs a few more minutes. They’d agreed to only start working in the afternoon, leaving time for whatever activities either of them wanted to do on their own. Sunday mornings, Veronica called her dad, late in the morning to make up the time difference of course, and she usually enjoyed brunch, as well. She didn’t know what Logan would be up to (probably working out, he must have had that scheduled at one point during his day to look like that) but she convinced herself she didn’t care. That he wouldn’t even be there when she’d get to the bottom of the stairs, and that she certainly wasn’t going to invite him along with her to brunch. Because the morning was work-free and he was very much work related.
She crossed the hall to the bathroom, deciding she couldn’t face Logan in a state of undress two consecutive days, regardless of what he was up to and whether he was actually in the house at all. She was just getting out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself, when she heard the front door. Was he arriving or leaving? She didn’t care either way, of course. It was pure curiosity.
Then she heard his footsteps up the stairs and her heart accelerated and she realized that curiosity really was a bitch because it had no right to make her heart hammer like that. She quickly got dressed and headed out of the bathroom, and of fucking course she would run to him in the hallway. Still dripping with sweat, flushed from the run from which he was obviously returning. Sweat had no right looking so damn attractive on someone, it had no right making his light shirt stick to his skin like that, accentuating all the sharp edges of his chest and abs and – God.
“Good morning,” he said simply, raising an eyebrow. What was he raising an eyebrow for?
“Good morning,” she replied oh so intelligently. “You’ve been running?” she asked, continuing along her sharp witted and not-at-all-stating-the-obvious streak.
He ran a hand through his hair, and Veronica bit the inside of her lip at the way his bicep flexed. She could run her lips, no, her tongue, along that bicep –
“Yeah. It’s getting a bit chilly already. Not sure I’ll be able to keep that up year-long in Boston.”
“Not when you’re used to running on the beach,” she agreed. “But I know plenty of people who do.”
He raised an eyebrow again, so she corrected: “I know of plenty of people who do. They just… wear more clothes to run,” she finished, waving her hand in his general direction.
He nodded. “Guess I’ll have to disappoint the ladies and start covering up, then.”
Disappoint? Perhaps, yes, but it would also keep a lot of her thoughts in check.
“Well, I’ll… uh, I’ll go clean up. Not a fan of sweat sticking to me all day.”
I could lick it off.
He pointed to the bathroom door and asked, just to make extra sure. “You’re done in there?”
She nodded. “Yeah. All yours. The bathroom,” she added a second too late. He smirked and she decided she probably should have just left it at that, not added any clarification.
“Good to know,” he said, and then he slipped inside and she was left standing in the hallway.
What had just happened? And, more importantly, would he be coming in like this every morning or was he going to let her think straight? Life’s great mysteries.
It occurred to her then, that, whatever, it wasn’t like it could get more awkward and if he smirked at her again, she wouldn’t have to see it, so she leaned against the bathroom door and called out, over the sound of the shower, “Do you want to go to brunch later?” It wasn’t a date or anything. Just coworkers who were already sharing a house spending even more time outside of work together in one of the places they used to regularly hang out when they were dating as teenagers. Totally normal.
The water stopped and his voice answered, “Sure.”
She didn’t know if she was happy or furious with herself.
When Veronica had asked him to brunch, Logan had answered too quickly, he was sure. If he’d wracked his brain for more than half a second, he could have come up with a plausible excuse not to join her. But instead, his leftover teenage eagerness had taken over and blurted out an acceptance. He was pretty sure he had managed to sound chill, though. Offhanded. There could almost be a shrug there along with his answer, if she’d been there to see it, not momentary panic mixed with strange excitement. He’d eaten every meal with Veronica since Friday, it wasn’t a big deal to share another one this morning.
Except it was. Because this morning was their off time. They weren’t working like they’d been the previous day for lunch (or for ice cream, which had also most definitely been but a polite break between coworkers), or under an obligation to at least try to eat at the same time out of polite interest in the person they were each cohabiting with, like their half-breakfast and dinners had been. Brunch was something else. Brunch was… he didn’t know what brunch represented because he didn’t care about brunch in general, and his previous encounters with the weirdly in-between meal were either with Veronica herself, because she loved brunch and they’d spent all their days together for weeks so he was bound to have had brunch with her a few times, or the overly lavish affair his mother liked to wheel out sometimes when brunch fever took her, periodically. Her idea of brunch had been different from Veronica’s, probably, from the little he remembered of each version of the meal, but he still wanted to reach out to her and ask. Take her advice, or just have her listen to him stress out. Have her hand on his forearm as she nodded along and sipped on the mimosa she’d have had brought to her when the word “brunch” would have left his mouth. But his mother wasn’t here, so he would just have to make do without her. He felt a pang of sadness at being so far away from her. He wanted to walk over to her urn, maybe, and stare at her. Or press play on her last outgoing voicemail message, that he’d saved after she’d died and that he knew by heart by now. Pop in one of her old crappy movies from when she was just starting out in the industry, before she met Aaron and became a star, or maybe it had happened the other way around, he wasn’t sure. But it was a bad idea to focus on his mother now, to let himself give in to that, because he could never know how long that kind of spiral would last. So he just let it go, looked at himself in the mirror and steeled himself for a new day.
The brunch place looked exactly like Logan remembered it. Or rather, seeing it elicited a “oh, right, that’s how it was” from some hidden depths inside of him. He parked the car across the street and looked over at Veronica, who was already getting out of the car. If they were seventeen, he would’ve made a quip, she would have rolled her eyes, and either gotten out of the car then, or kissed him lightly before opening the door without looking away from him. But they weren’t, he reminded himself for the millionth time that weekend, so of course she had gotten out without a word. Who lingered inside of a car for a random comment on their destination? Apparently, only teenaged idiots in love.
He got out of the car, crossed the street with her, and he had to fight to keep his hand from straying to the small of her back through it all because it felt so familiar and so domestic at the same time. He followed her inside, and he noticed instantly how the place was filled with couples. That was practically the only way anyone came to brunch, it seemed, and it was so glaringly obvious he wondered why he had never noticed when he’d come with her all those years ago. Maybe actually being a couple made it easier to be entirely oblivious at how well they fell into a cliché. But being a former couple made it so easy to notice. And judging by the way Veronica squirmed against the hostess stand while waiting for someone to greet them, she noticed, too.
“Would it be easier to pretend we’re a couple so we blend in more or should we go for the estranged siblings bonding over something their long departed mother used to bring them to when they were kids?” was what he would have asked, leaning in towards her, if he was insane.
So, naturally, those exact words came tumbling out of his mouth.
Instead of freezing, which is what he instantly expected, or looking like him like he had grown an extra head, which was what any normal person would do, she snorted and shot him a backwards glance, a hint of amusement in her eyes. A warmth pooled in his chest and he smiled inwardly, satisfied in himself. He might be insane, but it made Veronica snort. And that snort, he knew it. And he didn’t need to update that face in his bank of memories because it had not changed in the slightest. Her eyes still told him he was an idiot, but that he’d surprised her. That she liked that he surprised her.
The hostess came with a bright smile – too bright, Jesus Christ, how did her face not feel numb after five minutes of this? – and asked them, “For two people?”
“Two people,” Veronica nodded.
They did, and got seated in a little corner table by the window. Logan picked up his menu and snorted in derision.
“This place even has a couples’ menu,” he said, discouraged. “This is ridiculous.”
“What do you mean, a couples’ menu?” she asked, opening her own menu and peering at it.
He pointed into her menu. “They have a whole section of plates ‘to share’. And the heading is sickeningly pink. And there’s even hearts,” he shuddered.
“Is this new? In seven years, you’ve become a hardened cynical?” she teased. “Because I once knew a Logan Echolls who would have lapped it up.”
She didn’t look like she regretted having alluding to the past, for once, so he decided to continue down that path if she was game.
“I have not become a hardened cynical,” he said with a shake of his head. “I just have a distaste for the tackiness of the usual illusion of romance.”
“And what is the real thing, then? If not the illusion we’re being shamelessly fed?”
She leaned forward, menu forgotten, and looked straight at him. She was going there? Then he was going there, too.
“There has to be an element of impromptu to it. Planned, but not too much.”
“So, no elaborately planned days?”
She was baiting him, he knew it full well, but he took the bait anyway.
“Elaborately planned days count when one knows the other party will most likely do something to upturn said day.”
“And what if the other party doesn’t? Is the romance gone?”
He traced the rim of his glass of water carefully.
“It’s not. But that’s the surprise, isn’t it?”
She hummed her approval, leaning back into her chair. He continued anyway, because he didn’t want the conversation to end. And he knew he was pushing it, but he didn’t care. These were off-work hours. She was his colleague, but she wasn’t his colleague right now.
“But not all romantic moments have to be planned at all. Sometimes complete and total surprise can create romance, too.”
He got an inkling that she didn’t feel like his colleague right now, either.
“Kisses under the moonlight. Tickle fights in a field. Leaving.”
“Yeah, to preserve a memory.”
She nodded slowly, recognizing her own insistence of years previously. Let it all be just a one-summer thing, let it die there to keep the memory golden and intact. Fat lot of good that had done them.
The waitress approached the table then. “Are we ready to order?” she asked.
Veronica looked straight at Logan when she answered. “We’ll have the waffle and eggs plate. To share,” she added, looking up at the waitress and letting her finger underline the item in the menu, in the middle of the page Logan had pointed out to her.
“Will that be all?”
“Yes, thank you,” Logan answered.
When he looked back at Veronica, she was grinning at him.
“Now what was that for?” he asked her.
“It’s not romantic, just tacky.”
“Which is the best possible choice.”
“... Right,” he answered, drawing out the vowel.
She raised an eyebrow and took a sip of water, daring him to say something. As if he ever could when she made that face. She knew it, and he was suddenly really, really glad she did. Except that now he’d be sharing a plate with Veronica Mars again, and that certainly was familiar. At least there would be no fries from which to swat her hands away.
“And what if I don’t like eggs or waffles?”
She gave a derisive eye roll. As if.
He would have reached out and kissed that easy smile if she wasn’t on the other side of the small table. Thank god for wonky little restaurant tables.
“So will you admit I ordered well?”
“The quality of the order was never the question,” Logan replied while sliding into the driver’s seat. “Simply the rudeness of not asking your esteemed colleague for his opinion.”
“We’re off work hours,” she noted.
He looked up from where he was turning the key into the ignition. “That we are,” he solemnly replied. “The rudeness of not asking the guy you bullied into coming to brunch with you his opinion, then.”
“There was no bullying involved.”
“There is always bullying involved, at least implicitly, when you’re also involved.”
“You know, I’m pretty sure that’s a rude thing to say to someone who is technically kind of your boss for the week, even during off-work hours.”
“We should do this more often.”
“Whatcha doin’ this evening?” she asked, raising her eyebrows mysteriously.
“I don’t know, will my technically kind of boss for the week give me the evening off?”
“If you behave today.”
“I’ll try. Let’s say I do behave and get the evening off, where does that land me?”
“Are you scared?”
“Simply weighing the options to see if it’s worth behaving or if I might as well act like a hooligan.”
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
“Not even a hint?” he insisted, mocking. Knowing he’d never get away with not saying anything.
“You’d be there. And so would I.”
“Well, then, that’s all the information I need,” he replied sarcastically.
Yeah, it was.
“Hey, dad. How are you?”
Veronica was standing near the staircase, running her fingers along the railing.
“Ah, same old. How’s Clatham Cove?”
“Ah, same old,” she echoed. “Even more than you’d think. You remember I told you they were sending a producer with me?” she asked, glancing towards the living room where Logan was back on his laptop, busy with his own things.
“You’ll never guess who that producer is.”
“Well then, why don’t you tell me, honey?” Keith replied. “Unless you think I actually can guess? I’m up for the challenge.”
Veronica rolled her eyes and turned back away from Logan.
“It’s Logan. Logan Echolls.”
“Logan? From that summer, Logan?”
“Have you spoken to him since then?”
“Kind of didn’t have a choice, as we’re working together.”
“You know what I mean.”
She sighed. “No, I hadn’t. We lost contact years ago.”
“So how is it?”
She picked at some leftover dust on the railing.
“It’s fine. We’re working.”
“He isn’t uncomfortable in the house?”
“The house in which you grilled him a couple of times? Surprisingly, it seems fine. He probably forgot most of what happened last time he was around here. It’s been a long time.”
She sighed. “You know me, Veronica Mars, she can’t forget anything. Everything is stuck in her memory forever. Can’t forgive, can’t forget.”
“Are you okay, Veronica?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“He isn’t sleeping in your room, is he?”
“God, Dad! Of course not.”
“Just making sure. It’s your call, you know. I’m just saying, he’d be more comfortable somewhere he knows.”
“Dad!” she whined. “Let’s not have this conversation.”
“Did you think I didn’t know?”
“Know what?” she asked, even though she didn’t want to hear her father say it.
“What you two were up to when I was gone. You know, I am a P.I., sweetie.”
“Ha-ha,” she intoned emotionlessly.
“And how is the work going? Think it’ll work, they’ll agree with your proposition?”
“I hope so. It’s looking good so far, but we haven’t been here long.”
“And how’s Piz?”
“Weren’t you seeing him? How does he feel about you being gone for a week?”
She rolled her eyes again and sat down on the stairs.
“It’s nothing important. We’re just meeting up from time to time. I can leave for a week, he doesn’t care.”
“Doesn’t he? I remember the flowers he bought you for your birthday. Those aren’t the flowers of someone who doesn’t care. You know, you can tell a lot about how much a person cares judging by their birthday presents.”
Veronica’s hand ghosted over her lower neck, her fingers leaving a lingering cold feeling on her skin.
“I know, Dad. You’ve told me a million times.”
“Well, remember to at least call Piz, okay? He’s a good guy.”
“Yeah. Piz is a good guy,” she agreed. He was. He had been, recently, since she’d been back to the East coast and found that he was also living in Boston, having left Maine behind.
“I’ll leave you to your day, honey. Say hi to Logan for me.”
She snorted. “No, I won’t. Bye, dad.”
She hung up the phone and stared at it in her lap for a few seconds before standing up and walking to the living room.
“Piz, huh?” Logan asked. He couldn’t help himself.
“You heard that?” she asked, taken aback.
“Not all of it. Just… the name stood out, and I wondered where I’d heard it. And then it occurred to me. He’s that guy whose grandmother wanted to pair you up. Or something like that.”
The time she’d pretended they were dating, at the mall, to get that mop-haired guy to back off. It was all strangely vivid. He couldn’t have remembered the guy’s name if it hadn’t been handed to him like that, but once he’d placed the name, he knew he was right. It was him. There couldn’t be that many people around here with that name.
“Uh, yeah, actually. But he’s… he’s not that kid anymore,” she replied with what sounded like a nervous laugh. “He’s in Boston, too. Turns out a haircut does get you pretty far. I’ve seen him a couple times.”
He nodded, like he didn’t quite believe her. He did believe her, though, mostly. But he had trouble believing the pathetic loner he’d encountered had turned into someone interesting, someone Veronica would find interesting. He knew people changed, and he certainly wasn’t the person he was back then, but there was changing and changing. Dynamics between people didn’t change that much. Sure, people could go from hating each other to loving each other, but that was because the passion between the two emotions was closely related. But the uncomfortable indifference regarding someone who clearly wanted more than the polite chitchat exchanged, that couldn’t be turned around so easily. He’d seen it countless times. And that was exactly like what he’d seen between Veronica and Piz, back then. It surprised him he remembered so well the interaction, because it had been so insignificant, but then again, he’d memorized the way Veronica interacted with everyone back then, to see if maybe he had a chance. He did. He wasn’t sure he still had one, now, but he still found himself observing her body language when she was talking to others, how many times she’d tuck her hair behind her ear, if she looked at them directly or spoke to them while looking elsewhere to convey nonchalance. Trying to reconcile old Veronica’s tells with this version.
“What time do you want to head out?” he asked her. He didn’t especially want to keep talking (or thinking) about Piz. Or any other man Veronica might have in her life. He hadn’t asked himself the question, assumed for whatever reason that she was single, and realizing she might be involved with other people right now was not pleasant. So he ignored it.
“In ten minutes?”
Logan prided himself in the fact that it was hard to ruffle him, hard to get to him, and hard to get him to do anything against his will. In fact, he hardly ever followed what other people told him to do, let others be in charge, or relinquished control of a situation. Even if it wasn’t always obvious to outside onlookers, he always had an upper hand, an underlying advantage to get him through a situation and turn it around. As a teenager, it had mostly been that he was popular, a jackass, the son of celebrities, and someone he knew girls fawned over. He had a small authority over everyone, the kind of superiority only granted by public agreement that someone was better in some way or other. It was utter bullshit, of course, Logan was a fucking train wreck during his entire adolescence – still was – but it got him places. It got him control. He didn’t like the control so much because of the power it gave him, the ability to shift the direction of a deal or the outcome of a discussion, but rather because it helped him avoid all subjects he had to avoid. It made it easier for him to steer away from talking about Christmas presents from his parents when everyone got back to school in January, it made it easier for him to ignore inquiries about whether Aaron would be picking him up from school at any time so they could all ogle the movie star, it made it easier for him to escape if it all became too much or too hard to avoid. Controlling situations was rarely a means of attack to Logan like it usually was for others, but rather a means of defense and self-preservation. How ironic that his father’s status had largely granted him that privilege when the only reason he really needed it was to circle around the subject of his father. Life was just fucked up.
But even the biggest control freaks, even though that wasn’t a term Logan would have used to describe himself, had some weaknesses. Some situations where they couldn’t have control, and that mostly meant panic or clamming up. It usually happened when faced with even bigger of a control freak. And that was exactly what was happening to Logan again, he realized. Veronica was by and large the one person who could get him to barely even put up a fight to be led into anything and everything. He just followed her because of her larger than life presence, slightly threatening glares when he didn’t follow her lead, and because he didn’t think any bad could come out of it. So instead of the panic that should have come with the loss of control, Logan just felt resolve, the knowledge that he couldn’t change much about it and didn’t care to. He didn’t mind, it felt natural to go along with what she said, where she said to go, just like he had when he’d first met her and forced himself along her path. He no longer had the illusion that she couldn’t do anything to hurt him (because, ouch) but he still trusted her (and the strength of her glares), so he kept following her lead, following her steps. And if his seventeen-year-old self had abandoned himself to her mostly by choice and partly because he was irremediably in love with her, his twenty-four-year-old self abandoned himself to her mostly by contractual obligation and partly by choice. But in the end, it was the same kind of result, except this time around he didn’t get to kiss her to shut her up, which was a definite downgrade. He was pretty sure that would earn him not only one of her famed glares, but also the end of that contractual obligation. So, no kissing. Just following her around in a good old-fashioned way. He could do that.
“I was thinking we could – what?” Veronica stopped herself mid-sentence when she looked at him.
“What?” she insisted, the start of a laugh dripping from her lips.
“Logan Echolls, why are you looking at me that way?” she said, actually laughing this time.
“Nothing,” he repeated.
“I won’t stop until you tell me,” Veronica replied, crossing her arms and fully turning to look at him, and her stance almost made him forget that she was tiny. Almost.
But that was the thing, wasn’t it? He couldn’t forget. He couldn’t forget any of it. And that was why he was looking at her that way. He was constantly assaulted by memories, memories of before. Before it all went to shit, before they did their last bit of growing up, before they accepted the universal truths adults were believing and that they’d been fighting to keep at bay. And they were wrong to have accepted them, to have gone their separate ways, to have let the memories get so contaminated with sadness and longing, and he saw it now. But he didn’t know how she’d react to that. Veronica never did like being faced with the truth if the truth was harsh. She reveled in rubbing the truth in people’s faces, she prided herself in finding out the truth at all cost, but when it came to hard to swallow pills and concepts, she wouldn’t let herself even open her mouth for the pill if she hadn’t found it herself.
Also, it was inappropriate to tell your sort of boss you thought you both made a mistake when you broke up seven years ago, that you had it all figured out much better then than now even if you were both flaming hot messes.
So he made something up. Not too close to the truth, but not too far, either, because he wanted to see her squirm, wanted to see how she reacted to the past. It was all he could think about, almost, to constantly dunk her into the past and into the memories the way he’d been drowning in them since he’d seen her in her office.
“I was just imagining that you could have been here with literally anyone else. I’m trying to picture Huggins with you. He would not be as good a partner here as me. I’m convinced he wouldn’t have said yes to ice cream. And he’d think it’s rude you ordered without asking. Twice.”
“Who says you’re my partner?”
“My contract. Right up there with my assignment to your ad. It called me your location scouting partner.”
“Fine. I will admit you’re a better partner than stupid old Bart Huggins would have been.”
“Stupid old Bart Huggins?” he laughed.
“If you tell him I call him that, I’ll have to kill you.”
“Wouldn’t expect any less from you, b –”
He stopped himself before it was too late. The name hadn’t had time to leave his lips. She wouldn’t know what he’d been about to say, right? If anything, she probably hadn’t even been able to hear the letter he’d uttered. But where the hell had that come from? He was certain he hadn’t uttered that word since he’d last seen her, which was years ago. Wild animals rarely came up in his everyday discussions, surprisingly. And he didn’t call anyone else that, it was all hers. That sure was one strange reflex to fall back to, but then again, it was for situations just like these that the nickname had been so darn appropriate.
Veronica hadn’t thought about stupid old Bart Huggins since her eyes had landed on Logan, the moment he was supposed to introduce the two of them. Obviously, no introduction necessary. She definitely wouldn’t have offered him ice cream, or asked him to brunch, or assumed anything about his food preferences. Logan must have known this was just for him, right? That she wouldn’t be acting so comfortable and friendly and stick around him all the time if it was anyone else, right? Right? Did he really think this was just her hostess act, her nice girl manners? Did he think she’d changed that much since she’d been that girl who had blown him off when he just wanted to make a friend?
She thought about that for all of ten seconds, until he started slipping. Metaphorically, of course, but the careful detachment, the reminders that they were here as colleagues (like she needed them, like she didn’t spend half her time obsessing over how weird it was that that was what they were, now), had slipped for a second when one small sound had slipped out.
Only a letter. Less than a syllable. Barely even a sound. But she heard the word.
She heard his SoCal drawl when he said the word like it was something to boast about. She heard the six letters, the two syllables, the dozens of times he’d used them. She heard the youthful carelessness and the affectionate teasing. She heard it all, even when he stopped. Even when he pretended he hadn’t said it. She saw the slight embarrassment in him, the shift in the way he held himself. He probably didn’t even notice, but she did.
“I don’t think I even would have dared do that with him,” she said carefully, watching him.
Good, huh? Interesting. Almost as interesting as the fact that he was obviously lying when he told her what he was thinking about, that he’d made that up on the go. Almost as interesting as how naturally he’d let that little “b” slip out.
When I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed
You put me on and said I was your favourite
Monday brought their right to start taking tangible information to transmit to Mass’ Insurance. (Veronica rolled her eyes at that, asking what was the point of the company even sending her for the weekend if she wasn’t allowed to turn in real work because of her union? Logan pointed out that the union was the one helping her, and she glared at him and asked if he shouldn’t be siding with the company instead given that he was rich and Logan preferred not to answer that or point out the prejudice in that statement because it would just spiral into an argument he did not think was important enough and did not feel like having. So, he’d avoided that topic since it had been brought up on Saturday.) Veronica was all business – which was normal, Logan couldn’t just expect the familiarity of asking him to brunch every day of the week – and getting her equipment ready. Logan just kind of stood there for a few minutes, watching her milling about while taking occasional sips from his now-cold coffee to look – and feel – busy, too.
“And here I thought I’d be spending the week working with my ex-slash-boss. Never knew I’d be working with a bee.”
She looked up sharply from the bag she was struggling to close, narrowing her eyes at him.
“I’m not your ex.”
Okay, that was not the part he’d expected her to focus on. The narrowed eyes, though, he’d seen coming.
“You’re not really my boss, either,” he shrugged. “But are we still dating? Because then I must admit I have been unfaithful.”
“No, just… forget it.”
“What?” he insisted.
She didn’t answer and he rolled his eyes, sighing exasperatedly.
“Let me guess: you have better things to do today.”
“As a matter of fact, I do. And so do you. Now will you start making yourself useful or should I just grab your keys and take your car?”
“Hey, you are not driving my car.”
“Fine,” she said, and stared him down.
He took his sweet time – yes, she was his superior, but he also was a jackass and once a jackass, always a jackass, plus pushing her buttons was just too much fun – finishing his last (disgusting) gulp of coffee, setting his mug down in the kitchen, and gathering his belongings, before he showed her the keys in his hand with a saccharine smile as he headed outside the cottage. She replied with a sarcastic pout and walked out after him, locking the door behind them.
“So you’ve decided to turn up the asshole for today,” she piped up once they were seated.
“Didn’t I mention?” he replied with a grin, unbothered by her annoyance. “That kicks in when I get to work. You, alas, had never had the pleasure of seeing it before.”
“So your work persona trumps your with-me persona.”
He looked at her curiously, quickly. Where was she going with this? It was very entertaining to him, but he wondered where she found that rashness to keep it going. He knew he brought up not-so-subtly their past together to gauge her reaction, but why she did, he had no idea. Especially since she had Piz. As soon as thoughts of Piz crossed his mind, he pushed them away.
“Well, do you prefer my ‘with-you’ persona, as you call it?”
“So you do have a with-me persona?”
“Can you start a single sentence that doesn’t start with ‘so’ before launching into your own interpretation of something I did or said?”
“You didn’t answer,” he stage-whispered, keeping his eyes on the road. “You know, about your favourite facet of mine.”
“I prefer when you’re not being an ass. That kind of applies to everyone.”
“See, that’s a lie. You prefer when some people behave like crap, because it confirms your initial assessment of them and makes you feel better about hating them and/or spying on them.”
“I don’t spy on people.”
He raised an eyebrow, so she completed: “Anymore.”
“There it is. You keep avoiding the best questions, though.”
“You keep slipping up in your questions, so I need to correct them all.”
“Do you like who I am when I’m with you?”
“And I want you to stop.”
He did, against his will. He knew she could hold a grudge – oh my did he know – and they had a workday ahead of them, which he didn’t particularly want to spend at odds with his one companion. Also, as fun as the banter was, he was not six years old.
After a few minutes of silence, he broke it.
“You want to do the beach today?”
“Yeah, let’s start easy. There shouldn’t be many people, if at all, especially not at that time of the year. And I know the lighting well enough.”
And just like that, the mood had been turned around and the previous conversation, forgotten. Or at least seemingly. He could still see remnants of stiffness in her shoulders, and he knew he wouldn’t be forgetting any of it soon. That was both a blessing and a curse: he remembered every detail of his time with Veronica.
“Can you take two more steps backwards and turn to me?” Veronica called over the wind.
“That’s great, don’t move.”
“Should I pretend I’m ecstatic about my insurance company?”
“That would of course be best,” she nodded, adjusting the lens of her camera and getting ready.
She took a few pictures, changing the zoom, and looked at them.
“We’ll have to do them again,” she sighed when he reached her, leaning down to pick up the shoes he’d taken off to walk in the sand.
He uncuffed his pants. “Why is that?”
She showed him the pictures. “You look like you’re happy about your new dentist, not your insurance company. How can you possibly be so off in your interpretation?”
He snorted. “Maybe I’m happy because my dentist is now covered by my insurance?”
“Ohh, building a character, adding nuance. I like that. But it’s not clear enough. Get back there, take two.”
“Are you serious?”
“Dead. Come on, Echolls, take them back off,” she said, pointing to his shoes.
He grinned, waggling his eyebrows, and got back down to take off his shoes, his socks, and roll up his pants. He could have just gone there without the ceremony, but he liked those shoes, and leaving them on the side with Veronica – who was rolling her eyes with a good-natured smile at his antics – instead of getting sand all over them eased his mind. Oh, the things that brought him joy in adulthood.
“Are you going to let me have a role beyond modeling?” he asked once he’d gone back to the corner she’d chosen, as instructed from her little hand motions while she adjusted her tripod.
“I’m playing it safe. You don’t get abs like that from intellectual activities,” she called, gesturing her index finger in his general direction. “For all I know, you’re as sharp as a doorknob.”
“You didn’t even see my abs properly.”
“Is that an invitation?”
“I wouldn’t dare. But…”
Veronica bit her tongue. If his arms had toned up like that in seven years, she could very well imagine how his abs looked now with his new workout regimen. And she had imagined – a lot – in the past few days. Of course, she couldn’t exactly say that.
“Just guesswork,” she said to wrap up the discussion of Logan’s muscle mass, “Now, come on, look over here.”
“Are all the shots in your commercial going to be people staring straight at the camera?”
“Yes,” she said to shut him up.
He snorted but stayed put as she shuffled around to get a few different angles.
“I’m just saying, as it is my job, by the way, that you should check if the frame you chose looks good with people who are not 6 feet tall as well. Or if it looks unbalanced and short blondes such as yourself will look off.”
“You want to take a picture?” she asked, doubtful.
“Lord, no. Don’t you have an automatic timer on this thing? You used to have automatic timers.”
“You’re just trying to get into a picture with me.”
“I am merely doing my job as your partner.” He paused. “And what if I was? What would you say?”
“I would have to disregard it and follow my professional conscience.”
“And that would be…?”
“Taking the picture with you anyway, because my partner raised an interesting point, all the while ignoring your pining away beside me.”
“That partner sounds like a smart guy. He probably has horrible abs.”
“Most likely,” Veronica nodded, setting the timer. “Come on,” she said, pushing Logan back to the beach and away from her camera. “You’re doing this on purpose,” she flatly added when he pushed back at her pressed shoulder into his chest.
“I don’t have horrible abs,” he mumbled in faux petulance.
She laughed, a big, head-thrown-back laugh, and she didn’t see the tender smile he aimed down at her when she did.
The camera clicked and Veronica whipped around. “Great, you’ve waited too long. I’ll have to set it again.”
“So set it again. It’s not like you have limited film and I just ruined your picture.”
She narrowed her eyes at him and he walked away backwards, raising his hands in surrender, a smirk playing on his lips.
“Now you stay over there!” she warned when she jogged to join him before the timer ran out, again.
“Are we supposed to just both stand here and look at the camera awkwardly, a foot apart?” Logan whispered.
“Yes,” she whispered back, even if it was ridiculous to whisper.
“Cool. Just making sure.”
“I’m pretty sure we have enough pictures with this,” Veronica declared, thumbing through the shots on her camera screen.
“Let me see.”
She handed him her camera and sat back on the small fence delimiting the beach, looking out at the ocean as he examined the pictures.
A few minutes later, he sat down next to her, giving her her camera back.
“It’s almost 1:30, we should have lunch. We can do the videos and check out the parking arrangements for the crew this afternoon and then move on to another location tomorrow,” he suggested.
She nodded. “What do you want to eat?”
“You’re the local.”
“You know some places, too.”
“I don’t recall ever choosing where we ate,” he teased with an upward tug of his lips.
“Pushover,” she replied, matching his expression.
“No, really, I don’t mind.”
She raised an eyebrow, hopping down from the fence and mouthing “pushover” again for good measure, and he rolled his eyes.
When she looked through the pictures and videos more closely on her laptop that night, it occurred to Veronica that there was a chunk of what she had captured she didn’t want to turn in to her team. They felt too much like an intimate, or at the very least private, moment. Like when she was seventeen and trying out all of her camera’s features using her one living cooperative model, freezing his youthful innocence and what he kept hidden behind the barriers he only lowered around her. She hadn’t looked at the pictures she’d taken that summer in years, but she knew when she got to the picture her timer had taken of her laughing that she looked like she did back then, too. She saved a good portion of the day’s session into her work files, but lingered on a few others that felt too raw. Too real, too personal, for some reason. She couldn’t submit that look Logan gave her to anyone else’s scrutiny, no matter how good the lighting was or how well it would sell what she wanted to. Had Logan been brought back to the pictures she’d taken of him on the same beach years previously, too? Was this softness in his gaze due to the memories assailing him, like they’d assailed her? Or was she just imagining it? She transferred the accidental picture and a selection of others to her personal files, all the way to a folder tucked deep in her old photos. Logan. The pictures weren’t even just of him, but of the entire summer, the cliff and the waves and even shots of the town, but they were mostly him, his profile, his smile, his hands around her, his kiss on her cheek. And apparently, her 18 year old self had decided he was a good enough summary of the summer to grant him the title of the folder. She dropped the new pictures in the same folder, watched as one by one they were copied from her SD card to her laptop, saw the stark superposition of the two versions of him on the same beach in different lives.
She snapped her laptop shut and rubbed her eyes, sighing. What was she doing? What was she getting herself into? It would be so much easier to pretend like nothing happened at all, that she wasn’t here with someone who had twisted her life around when she needed it most. The rush she felt at every instant when Logan was around – he could come in right now and she could react to that in any possible way, she could throw another quip, he could say yet another thing that would make her yearn to curl up in his arms again – was electrifying, it made her feel impossibly alive. It was the most excitement she’d felt since she’d started her job, and nothing was even happening. It was just his presence, his flirting – Logan was always flirting – and the way he always kept her on her toes as she constantly wondered what his next not-so-subtle reference to their past sprung onto her would be.
She sheepishly opened her laptop again and scrolled through the folder – no one could see her, and even if they could, they couldn’t really judge her, but she felt a little embarrassed to go back to the pictures of Logan. She was just interested in seeing how her photography skills and style had changed over the years, she told herself. She found her older pictures freer, more whimsical. Of course, it made sense, since her new set of photos had been taken with practicality in mind, not artistry. The early pictures were captivating to her, she wanted to trail her fingers down Logan’s jaw with the way it was captured against the sunlight in one picture, and realized she probably had done just that after taking the photo. She clicked to close the window. It was not doing her any good to dwell on the past, especially not a past that was so close, she could feel the burgeoning want to resuscitate it every second. A past that was probably in the shower now, a past she wanted to join there, a past she could not have such thoughts about. A past she kept transposing on her present, an immutable present, no matter what she wanted to think. This Logan, this person with her, it shouldn’t be the kid she remembered, if she kept mixing the two people up, she would get hurt. It could only bring her pain, she knew, she knew, she knew and yet the more time she spent with him (which was inevitable), the more the two instances got mixed together. That smart producer was also teasing her about her bossy tendencies. The man eating Rocky Road ice cream next to her was planning ahead the filming they had to get done. The colleague she was hosting in her family’s cottage was the idiot she wanted to defiantly walk up to and kiss, daring him to say it wasn’t right.
It was just all so fucking hard.
Logan passed the towel across his hair, drying it haphazardly. Four evenings in Clatham Cove, and he had yet to experience one during which he didn’t feel a small rush of adrenaline at the thought that Veronica could maybe… drop in. Drop her clothes, too. Peek into the shower, peek into his heart, join his crazy thoughts of hey, maybe this could work, join him in the freaking shower. Four evenings, and he still couldn’t shake the ever-present feel of her all around him. This was her shower. It had been many people’s shower. It had been her father’s shower – that thought calmed him right up – and her grandmother’s shower and probably some random person’s shower, too. But when he was seventeen his thought patterns were too self-centered to think of it as the family’s place, it had just been her place and so her shower. And now she was the one using it besides him.
So, really, who could blame him for associating being in this shower with Veronica? Her nakedness in his thoughts probably could be blamed, a little bit, but the general thoughts were completely reasonable.
He threw on a t-shirt he had relegated to pajama duty years previously, slipped on pajama pants, and headed out of the bathroom, decidedly thinking of everything but Veronica in the shower. With him.
Something else, Logan. Anything else. Panda bears facing extinction. Elections coming up. Chocolate bars. His boss. No, that was too close to Veronica. Basil leaves. Quinoa. Hey, maybe he was a bit hungry if he kept thinking of food. And of Veronica. Well, he wouldn’t mind eating – no, Logan. Stop. Food. Actual food.
He walked down the stairs – spaghetti, licorice, jasmine rice, saffron, raspberries – and headed straight for the kitchen – pears, peas, pop tarts, crackers – before hesitating. They’d done the groceries together, but it still felt rude to take something from Veronica’s kitchen without asking. Where was Veronica? No, no, no, lasagna, potatoes, grilled cheese, banana – wait. It was okay to think about Veronica to ask that. God, his thoughts were a mess.
Veronica. Right. That closet-sized room she had called her father’s office, maybe? That would make sense. She could be working. He headed there, peeking in the door to see her there indeed, back facing him, on her laptop, her camera plugged into it.
Chips, peanuts, meringue, caramel. Veronica often tasted of caramel. Logan would have slapped himself if he wasn’t scared of looking crazy. Of being crazy.
Salad, pepper, corn, peppercorn, pizza. He was just about to gently call her name to signify his presence when the image on her laptop caught his eye. She tilted her head to the side as she switched the picture, and his breath hitched. It was him. Not him, today, which he would have expected since that was half of what they’d shot that day. No, it was him, years ago. Shot by her, probably. He recognized the field at the entrance of the town, and he knew he hadn’t let anyone else photograph him, that summer. Or anytime he wasn’t in public. Why was she looking at pictures of him?
He momentarily forgot to keep his thoughts occupied by something else – he was starting to run out of food ideas to enumerate, anyway – and stayed there, silently behind her, looking at her screen. He probably should have been feeling bad about spying on her like this, about witnessing a moment she obviously thought no one would be witnessing, but at the same time it wasn’t like he’d caught her changing or something. Not that he’d have minded that. Oh, crap. Focus on right now, Logan. He didn’t feel bad about watching her, because she was watching him, in a way. The version of him he didn’t really show, didn’t really offer to anyone. Scrutinizing his features, his mannerism, the way he held himself. The way he looked at her and his entire life story was reflected in his eyes. He had given it all to her, back then, and it was strange now to pretend like he hadn’t. Especially with the evidence right in front of his eyes. And hers. Was it why she minimized the window on her screen and pressed her palms to her eyes? Too much emotion, too many memories, too much to handle? He knew he was a lot. He also knew she was one of the few people who knew (or had known) just how much of a lot he was. An entire mess, daddy issues, mommy issues, sister issues, paparazzi issues, ex-girlfriend issues, scars, scars, scars. Both physical – that she’d seen and taken care of – and psychological – that she’d felt and tried to ease – and they still followed him now.
He backed away slowly, deciding not to intervene now, or she’d wonder how long he had been there (“too long” was the answer, or perhaps “long enough” but that was so melodramatic and movielike) and feel embarrassed. Or at the very least, she’d close up, stiffen, and probably go straight to her bed to avoid him. Her bed – no. Don’t even go there, Echolls. Off limits. He went back to the living room and decided to read a book. That would take his mind off things.
After a few minutes, he snapped his book shut, and he saw his foot rhythmically twitching. He was fidgety too often, it annoyed even himself. What was Veronica doing? He’d assumed she’d be back in the main area soon, once she’d stopped looking at pictures. Or at the very least, she’d have to stop by before taking the stairs to go to her room. Which Logan was not thinking about at all.
He opened his book again, but the words barely made sense. Thankfully, he heard her footsteps approaching and lifted his head to watch her arrive. Fuck, why did she have to look so goddamn sexy in every single thing she wore? An oversized shirt was fitting loosely across her frame and well below her waist, and a legging clung to her legs. He had a feeling the legging was only there for his benefit, that the shirt was quite enough for her when it came to her nightwear, and he didn’t know if it made him happy – because, leggings, whew – or disappointed – because, less skin.
“Hey,” he said, because he didn’t know what to say. 10/10, Echolls. So suave.
“Hey.” She sat down on the couch beside him – at a respectable distance, of course, but she did choose the couch and not the armchair – and looked down at his book, twisting her head to glimpse at the cover. “Whatcha reading?”
“A book of my mom’s. I’m making my way through her collection. I’d never heard of some of these authors.”
“Hey, do you want a snack? I’m kind of hungry, wanna eat with me?” he asked, turning his whole body towards her, like he used to when they were dating, sitting on the couch innocently as if they didn’t both know they’d be making out in under ten seconds. Which was not the case now, but still, old habits and all that.
“Sure,” she agreed, standing up to walk to the kitchen.
He placed his bookmark carefully into the book – he was more of a dog-ear kind of person himself, but his mother hadn’t been, and he didn’t want to dog-ear her books – and put it down, following her. He felt like a little puppy following his master, and he found he didn’t much care.
Of course, the way her leggings hugged her ass and the way he could very clearly see that when her shirt rode upwards as she rose to grab cookies from the top shelf of the pantry did not help his new patented clean train of thought. Food, think of food. Peaches. No. Cherries. Also no. God, Logan, just give up.
Cookies. That was good. He grabbed the box she was extending towards him and fished one out. Cookies were safe. Unless they were in the forms of crumbs at the corner of Veronica’s mouth, damn it.
Pretend you didn’t see it pretend you didn’t see it pretend you didn’t see it.
“You’ve got something on your…”
Great, now no part of my body listens to my mind.
He reached out to her and brushed away crumbs with his thumb just as he tongue was darting out to lick them. Tongue met digit and Veronica’s eyes widened slightly. Logan hastily took his hand back and stuffed both of his hands in his pockets. He obviously couldn’t be trusted with either of them.
“I think I’ll, uh…”
“Yeah,” Veronica quickly replied. “Me too.”
They both walked out of the kitchen in semi awkwardness and headed up the stairs. Except while they’d both firmly intended to go to their room and stay there until morning, they both also realized they had teeth to brush. And they were both upstairs, both one single task away from being ready for the night. Just great.
Back into the bathroom it was, then, a dangerous, dangerous place to be, especially with her. They brushed their teeth side by side in silence, awkwardness squeezed out of every second spent there.
Logan spit into the sink and rinsed his toothbrush.
“Well… goodnight!” he said, wiping his hands on his thighs and shuffling past Veronica to get to the door. She put her hand in front of her mouth to hide the foaming, and mumbled, “g’night,” to the best of her abilities. He smiled quickly and left the room, going hurriedly for his bedroom and shutting the door.
How many more days of this torture, again?
I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss
Knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs
“Where to, today?” Logan asked, walking down the stairs and stretching, hiding a yawn.
Veronica looked up from her cereal bowl and wished again that he didn’t look so damn good. Who looked that good in the morning? Relaxed and shirt inching up with his stretch, showing off the V of his lower abs his low pajama pants didn’t mask. It was like he was trying to make her lose all normal thoughts. Either take off your shirt and take me right now, or cover this up, damn it.
Veronica quickly collected her thoughts to answer his question. She picked up a folder from the stack beside her and waved it towards him.
“I’m told you’d like to see the inside of the lighthouse,” she said innocently. If he could come downstairs straight out of his bed and showing off his stomach, she could remind him of their past. Fair was fair. If it made him uncomfortable, well, then, try getting turned on every time your coworker arrives, buddy. It was probably petty of her, not fair to him, and a blatant ignorance of the fact that he hadn’t gotten that body just to annoy her – although there was a part of her that believed Logan would go to that kind of lengths just to annoy someone – but again, it was just easier to stay in the shallow end and not consider what it could mean that she was so intent on making him feel uncomfortable like she was. Or that she was uncomfortable at all. She had plenty of other exes – okay, three – and none of them made her this flustered. It made sense, though. She hadn’t seen Logan in a long time, and their closure had been a mess. That certainly could explain how, nearly four entire days after first seeing him again, she still had crazy thoughts about what-ifs and hated thinking of him as her ex. It just wasn’t a word that worked on Logan.
“What’s this?” he asked, taking the folder from her and opening it, leaning against the kitchen counter.
It just wasn’t fair that leaning of all things made him look more attractive.
“I got a permit to shoot in the lighthouse, since it’s private property. They said I could probably get another for the actual shoot pretty easily, hardly no one is ever there,” Veronica answered in between spoonfuls of cereal.
Logan took the key from the folder and held it up. “The thing of dreams,” he said with a smirk, and she gave a small chuckle. “I would’ve killed for this.”
“You wouldn’t have.”
“I absolutely would have.”
“You didn’t even try to get inside another time once my plan struck out.”
“Well that’s because I got otherwise preoccupied that summer. Now, though…”
“What were you doing that was so interesting to detract you from that lifelong goal?” Veronica asked, exaggerating the end of her question.
He raised his eyebrows. “You.”
Guess I should have seen that one coming. But him doing her – god, she hated that formulation, it felt so barbaric – was not something they’d explored yet on this trip, or at least not in such overt manners, so hey. What about she pushed him a little bit more, see how much he’d be willing to say. That sure sounded like a good idea that could not backfire at all.
“A delightful activity,” she replied, bobbing her head.
His eyebrows shot up even more. You didn’t think I’d stay on that track, Logan? Think again. Your turn. Her smile was angelic, which he must have known meant she was feeling devilish.
“That it was,” he replied, almost a whisper as he tried to gauge her mood. He quickly recovered it into a smirk and leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands and looking right into her eyes. “But I’m told those things work better if both parties enjoyed it. Did you think the activity was worth throwing away my lighthouse dreams?”
She tapped a finger on her lips, frowning as if she was pondering. Hell yes, and I’d be willing to do it again right now and forget that lighthouse this time, too.
“It was not bad,” she said, shaking her head lightly, shrugging it off.
“Yeah?” he replied with a smirk, like he knew exactly what she’d been thinking.
Well then do something about it, Echolls.
She shrugged again and broke eye contact, looking down at her papers. “We should start getting ready.”
“Right,” Logan sighed, pulling himself back upright. He poured himself some coffee. “I’ll finish this off and go get dressed.”
“Or you could just stay like that.”
“Could I?” he asked, amused.
If you don’t flash your chest at me again, yes.
“It’s your call whether you want to be professional or not. I won’t tell,” she whispered conspiratorially.
“Eh, I think it’s better if I put on a shirt.”
Oh, no, not the tight shirt that fits better than any shirt has any business fitting.
Just a few more days. Then the entire production time of the ad, but at least there would be other people as buffers.
Logan had indeed wanted to get into the lighthouse for a while (or at least he had when he was seventeen), but had indeed been distracted by other endeavours – namely, indeed, Veronica. So really, he’d told her the truth. He just had omitted the fact that right now, if he could do, well, Veronica, instead of the lighthouse, he’d choose her in a heartbeat. Or even just be with her, outside of work, no need to implicate sex in any way. Maybe implicate sex just a little bit because wearing tight leggings fitting her ass and loose shirts through which he could see she wasn’t wearing a bra was just playing with him at this point. Coming downstairs wearing his pajamas had been his own payback, just to see how uncomfortable he could make her by appearing in the most relaxed and informal state he could. Unprofessional? Yes. Childish and petty? Also yes. Enjoyable? Hell yes. Plus, he hadn’t taken his shirt off, so really it was perfectly reasonable of him.
He parked his car beside the beach, near the lighthouse. It was a gorgeous day once again, the lingering summer warmth paired with a bright sun reflected on the waves. The waves just didn’t look like they did back in L.A., and they certainly weren’t the same temperature. Yet he itched to go dip his toes, maybe even go for a swim. But Veronica could never be convinced of that.
He shielded his eyes from the sun as he got out of the car, and glanced at Veronica, who was already out of the car, leaning against the door to steady her camera as she took a snapshot of the horizon.
“That doesn’t seem like a practical angle to shoot,” Logan remarked once she’d taken it.
She looked at him like she’d forgotten he was there, or forgotten what he was talking about.
“Oh! Um, this was just… for fun,” she explained with a shy shrug and closed the car door.
“It’s a beautiful place,” he agreed. “I’m sure you’ve taken tons of great pictures here over the years.”
Would she take the bait? He desperately wanted her to bring up the pictures he’d seen a glimpse of the previous night.
“Yeah. I’ve probably taken pictures of everything that’s photographable in this town.” She turned to him, slowing her pace as they grew closer to the lighthouse and he started digging in his pockets for the key. “Including you.”
Bingo. She could have been talking about the previous day, but they both knew she wasn’t.
“I’m honored you think I’m photographable.”
She snorted. “Like you don’t know.”
“That you think I’m photographable?”
“That you are photogenic. You’ve probably been told hundreds of times.”
“Not as many times as you’d think.”
“You poor thing.”
“It’s true! I avoided pictures, as you know,” he added, turning to her, “And that severely reduced the number of people who told me I was photogenic. You would think it’d come up in conversation more often,” he continued, faking thoughtfulness.
“You would,” she agreed, a smile growing on her lips.
“So, are you ready?” he asked with a dramatic tone, hands poised over the keyhole.
“I’ve seen the inside already. This is your adventure.”
“Only fleetingly. You were busy fake looking for your necklace. Which I’ve noticed you don’t wear anymore,” he noted and if it was too personal, screw it, because he was curious.
Her hand came up to her neck, as if replacing the chain that used to stay there permanently.
“I lost it a few years ago.”
The entire thing, or just the chain? Was one pendant lost with it? Two? Did she still have the pendant he’d given her, or was it lost, or was it locked away along with all memories of him, never to be touched again as she’d drawn a line across him, relegating him to the past when she hadn’t answered his text?
“Bummer,” was all he said.
Logan opened the door with a flourish.
“Voilà! After you.”
He held the door open as Veronica stepped in and followed her.
“Oh, and by the way,” she said, turning to him, almost a second thought, “I have been to the lighthouse more than once. When I was a kid, they did visits. I came several times.”
“You did?” Logan asked, under his breath, and she narrowed her eyes at him.
“I don’t think we can get anything from anywhere else other than the very top, but feel free to explore,” Veronica threw over her shoulder, setting off up the long staircase.
“Nah, that’s the most interesting part.”
Veronica huffed in defeat and sat down, her back to the wall. There was nothing to be found on the landing she’d selected to rest, except the sweet promise of a place to elongate her legs and sit for a few minutes.
“I’m not as in shape as I should be,” she panted, opening her water bottle to take a gulp. “Thank god I brought water. Want some?” she asked, holding it out towards Logan.
He shook his head and sat down next to her.
“Oh, wait,” Veronica continued, wiping the neck of the bottle with her sleeve before offering it again.
He gave a small laugh. “Still no thanks, but I appreciate the gesture. Although I kind of think we’re past this.”
“We were?” he suggested.
She hummed in approval.
“I don’t think it’s a question of being out of shape,” Logan offered after a few seconds of silence. “I’m pretty exhausted, too.”
“And you’re the poster child for being in shape?”
He raised an eyebrow and pointed at himself. “Obviously.”
She snorted, but silently agreed. He’d rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt, and somehow that enhanced his biceps even more than it did his exposed forearms. She looked away, down to her papers.
“Did you ever take pictures of the inside of the lighthouse?” Logan asked.
Veronica looked at him, closing the folder she’d just opened.
“No, but like I said, it really wouldn’t be an ideal location, here in the stairs.”
“No, I know, I meant ‘for fun’. It’s pretty nice,” he said flatly, motioning towards the dusty steps seeming to go on forever beneath them.
She hadn’t really noticed, too focused on her goal, but he was right. There was a certain charm to the old enclosed space, something practically poetic.
She got to her knees, shuffled closer to the edge, and saw his arm shoot out in reflex from the corner of her eyes. It probably would have done nothing to catch her if she’d fallen, but the intention was sweet. She took out her camera from her bag and adjusted it to find the right angle.
“The lighting’s not great,” she murmured, “but I think if I just…”
She leaned down over the railing a slight bit more, and this time Logan’s arm really did connect with her as she lost her balance for a fraction of a second. Arm against her stomach, hand on her hip, he pulled her back a few centimetres.
“Jesus, Veronica. It was just a suggestion, you don’t need to break your neck just to take one picture.”
She looked at him sheepishly, but his eyes were laughing.
“I’m committed to my art,” she replied, sounding more assured than she was.
“Of course,” he said softly, tucking away a strand of hair from her face.
She wondered if he was going to kiss her, and he seemed to consider it for a second, too, but then whatever she’d seen in his eye was gone, and he took his arm back. Her stomach felt suddenly cold.
“Do you think we can start again, or do you plan on nearly killing yourself once or twice more?” he asked, standing up.
“I was going for three.”
His fingers twitched, like he was going to hold out his hand to help her up, but he didn’t. She stood up on her own, gathered her things, and turned to him.
Logan wouldn’t have admitted it for the world, but reaching the top of the stairs was a relief, he was about to pass out. He had regretted turning down Veronica’s water about five steps later, but hadn’t dared bring it up. By now, he needed to sit down, breathe, and maybe gulp down a gallon of water or two. Or three, if only to distract himself from the fact that he’d just touched Veronica more than he had the entire trip and felt his whole body catch fire, electrified. And by “just touched” he of course meant “touched half an hour ago and obsessed over it relentlessly since”.
“Like the view?” Veronica asked.
It took him half a second to realize she meant the view out the lighthouse – the thing they’d climbed about a billion steps to reach. Great job, Logan.
He pushed himself from the wall against which he’d been leaning to catch his breath and walked to the panoramic window overlooking the bay. It really was gorgeous. From up here, he could see the waves licking the cliff, crashing against the rock and retreating, and if he shifted his eyes a few degrees to the right, the water was lazily wetting the sand instead, caressing the humid shore and leaving algae like souvenirs. Reminders of its passage, that would soon become annoying and gross to anyone walking there, but that would then be swallowed back into the depths of the water after one of its returns.
“It’s beautiful,” he said simply.
“I wonder what it’s like at night.”
Logan whipped around to look at her.
She shook her head. “Don’t get your hopes up, flyboy. I didn’t bring any food up here, and I’m not walking back up, at least not today.”
“What, you don’t fancy staying in here for hours doing nothing, with absolutely no sustenance, only to observe this view at another time of night?”
“Seriously though, do you need some evening or night shots?”
“No, I was told it all had to be filmed during daylight. That’s the mood they wanted to capture.”
Logan nodded, looking back out the windows. “Aren’t you the one in charge, though?” he asked.
“Yes and no. The marketing team put me in charge, but the insurance people still had their say in the early meetings. Happy people in daylight, that’s all there is to marketing for insurance companies,” she finished, and he thought she sounded a bit bitter.
“Not challenging enough for you?”
“It’s not that, it’s just… it’s repetitive, you know? I can spend the week here, scouting and setting it all up for the perfect location, but in the end no one who sees my commercial on TV will remember what company it is because they all go for the same look. I can try to breathe something witty or unique into it, but in the end, it will be boring and indistinguishable anyway.”
“Then why do you do it?”
“Because it’s my job…?”
“Why is it your job?” he insisted. “I’m sure you can find another place that will let you make more interesting commercials you’ll actually enjoy doing.”
She looked doubtful. “I don’t know. If I’m not stuck doing the same smiling idiots for insurance companies, I’ll be doing the same sultry models with sticks up their asses showing off their giraffe necks for a perfume company. Or the same quirky dancing kid for a running shoes company. This job’s nice. I like the people I work with. Most of them,” she added after a small pause.
“You like some people?”
She glared at him. “Yes. Take Wallace. He’s the one in charge this week at the office while I’m here. He’s great.”
“Great great or great great?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means, nice colleague to talk to during coffee breaks, or nice colleague to talk to from between his sheets?”
She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t think of Wallace that way. He’s cool in a brother kind of way. We don’t just meet for coffee breaks. Drinks after work, sometimes even during the weekends.”
“Are you trying to tell me you actually made friends?”
“Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Are you sure you want me to answer that?”
She huffed, gripping the railing and looking out. He followed suit, watching the seagulls circling over the beach.
“What?” Logan asked, turning to Veronica.
“Yes, I want you to answer that.”
“I’m serious! What is it about me that makes it so hard to believe I can have some people like me?”
“It’s the other way around,” Logan said carefully. “You don’t seem to take a liking into people easily.”
“You told me that already. A long time ago.”
“It’s still true. At least, I don’t think it’s changed, much. But I don’t know you. Maybe I’m wrong.”
He knew everything about another Veronica, a Veronica from another timeline, another life, another era. He knew her secrets and her fears, her tells and her quirks. He knew her hopes and her dreams, the sensitive spot on her neck and how it drove her crazy when he grazed his fingertips along her hips. He knew her eyelids always fluttered when she lost herself in a kiss and how she’d stroke his neck to communicate that she didn’t want him to go quite yet, just another five minutes… He knew the way her shoulders shook when she was trying not to laugh, the way she bit her lip when she was trying not to say something, the way she always inhaled shakily before straddling him, as if steeling herself. He knew her shiver when he took her cheek in his hand and her moan when his teeth skimmed along her jaw. He knew it all, knew it intimately, automatically, it was part of him as much as any of his limbs, the instinct she was. But that was the old Veronica, teenage Veronica, Veronica before she went into marketing of all things, Veronica before she ignored him and left him in silence for years. Veronica before she moved to Boston, before he moved to Boston, before he started spending his every instant dreaming of having her again because the new version was just as tempting as the one he first knew. More guarded, more serious, but in essence, she was the same to him. Except he didn’t know how all these things he knew still held up against the test of time because she had grown without him. Maybe she didn’t like men touching her hair to wipe it away from her eyes, maybe she didn’t leave butterfly kisses along the jaw of her object of affection, maybe she didn’t dig her fingernails into his back when he whispered husky words in her ear. Maybe she didn’t care for kisses trailed along her ribcage or for palms caressing her thighs slowly or for taking off a man’s shirt herself. Maybe Veronica wasn’t his Veronica, and maybe he had no right knowing all these old things about her.
“You know me,” she whispered, nearly an entire minute later.
He gazed at her from the corner of his eyes. Do I? Because if I do, that look means you want someone to take your hand and lace their fingers with yours. You want them to bring the linked hands together and brush their lips against your knuckles. You want to bury your face in their neck, breathe them in, and pretend you can live there forever.
He wanted to try, wanted to take her hand and do all the things he knew would have comforted her from whatever was clouding her mind like that, making her forehead crinkle. But the same things kept holding him back. Although… it hardly counted as anything if it was at the top of a lighthouse, with no one to see them, no one to hear them, the two of them trapped in an otherworldly experience, a remote private space... Did it? He wanted to convince himself, wanted to give in and hold her, follow his gut feeling instead of everything rational and sensical and smart, but in the end he’d spent too much time, too many years, steeling himself from outbursts of emotion. He’d learned to control himself, to control his impulses, to think with his head as much as he could. Therapy had done wonders, but sometimes a part of him wished he was still a teenager, still guided by his emotions, because even if it made him face consequences he could have easily avoided, it also made him taste risk, taste life.
Veronica stole another look at Logan. He looked deep in thought, she didn’t even know if he still saw the breathtaking scenery in front of him anymore. But it also made her certain he wasn’t looking her way, wouldn’t know if she kept looking at him, studying him. Not for the first time that day, she wished she could photograph him instead of their surroundings. Capture his profile again, compare it with the old one. Run her fingers through his hair, force her back against his steady chest, rest her forehead against the crook of his neck. Take a picture of his hands, of the lower half of his face as he licked away drips of ice cream from the cone he was holding. That wasn’t right now, of course, but she could picture it happening, could picture herself making it happen, could picture how she would frame the shot. He really was her best model, and her favourite, too. Since that summer, she’d continued photography, a tiny bit, less and less as the people around her lost interest. Her father encouraged her, but she’d taken all the pictures there were to be taken of him, of his place, of his tiny garden. Lilly didn’t mind if Veronica clicked away but she wouldn’t pose for a million pictures either. And anyway, she was far away, as was her dad, and the handful of men Veronica had dated had been disinterested in her skills. She hadn’t wanted to photograph any of them, take hold of their mood or of the way their veins webbed against their skin. She felt like she had everything she’d ever need from them right then, every facet and every complexity. She’d never felt that with Logan. She still wanted to snap pictures of him at every angle, because there were so many of them and she wanted to know all about every one. She was still fascinated by his every movement, like it was celestial and unearthly, wanted to immortalize them all, be able to look back for years to come on everything she’d seen, bask in the feel of him around her, frozen in a photograph. She would never be done photographing his personality, she would never be done discovering new parts of him, and a thrill ran down her spine at the idea.
But he wasn’t hers. His presence wasn’t even permanent, wasn’t even a certainty in her future. He was only there now, only because he had to, because she had to. So she risked it.
“Don’t move,” she whispered.
He startled for a second, but quickly caught himself. She took out her camera again and brought it up to her face. She heard the click more than she felt it, and brought the camera back down to take a few steps back before snapping another shot. She circled wordlessly, silently trapping him in this lighthouse for eternity from all angles. After several minutes, she stopped next to him and leaned against the railing, too.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Can I move now?”
“Well, it depends. What will you do if I say yes?”
“It will be terribly cliché if I say ‘kiss you’, right?”
She laughed, surprised. “Yes.”
“Good thing I don’t care.”
He turned his head her way, and his eyes were clouded over, she could barely imagine what was going through his mind.
But he hadn’t been kidding, and even Veronica knew. She breathed in, shakily. What was the protocol, now? Say screw it, because she wanted to kiss him, too, and it was too great an opportunity to pass up? Or pretend to agree with him, laugh it off, shrug it off, pretend it never happened?
She bit her lip, to keep the part of her lips from betraying her.
“I’ll take a video from here, pan out and see how it looks,” she declared to change the subject.
“Yeah, that’s good. Great.”
Logan walked away from the window and out of her way. Veronica didn’t know if she’d made the right decision or if she should have grabbed the front of his shirt and pressed her lips to his, finally.
She just took her video, took another one, and some more pictures, before they headed back downstairs.
“I really don’t feel like cooking,” Veronica intoned. “Wanna eat out?”
That sounds like a dangerous idea, Logan thought. Although the presence of other people may stop him from saying more stupid things like verbalizing the fact that he wanted to kiss her.
“Sure. Or, I can just cook, you know.”
“You can cook?”
“I live alone. Of course I can cook.”
He was slightly offended she thought he’d gotten through life thus far without being able to cook a meal. Sure, he wasn’t a master chef, but he could pull together a meal. Although, admittedly, often his meals were concentrated health smoothies Veronica would probably hate, but he had other tools in his arsenal.
“What do you want to do, then? Cook, or eat out?” she asked.
“What do we have?” Logan asked, standing up to join her at the fridge.
“Not much.” She shook a carton of milk to gauge its content. “Milk.”
“That’s gonna make a delicious meal. Let’s just go eat somewhere, and we can swing by the grocery store afterwards.”
He was fully aware how domestic it sounded, like they were living together (which, technically, they kind of were) and discussing everything like it was natural for them to spend every second together, from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to bed and unfortunately not the time in between. Not for the first time, he wondered how awkward it would have been for her to be there with a stranger. And also not for the first time, he wondered if she would have liked it better if it hadn’t been him coming along with her.
Logan put his menu down and looked at Veronica still poring over hers. He rested his chin on his hand and let himself look at her. She’d relaxed a little bit since Friday. He didn’t know if that was a good sign – she was comfortable around him! – or a bad one – it had seemed so easy for her to brush off his stupid comment about kissing her, like it wasn’t serious at all, which actually was maybe a good thing.
“What?” She looked up at him, noticing his look.
“Nothing. Just looking at you.”
Because you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and I want to memorize everything for when we won’t be here anymore?
He shrugged. “There’s nothing else to look at.”
“You can just say I’m uber-hot, you know?”
“Yes, that’s exactly why, you’ve caught me.”
She laughed. “What are you having?” she asked him, nodding towards his discarded menu.
“What are you having?” he repeated.
“Are you copying me?” she asked.
“Yes, because we’re in middle school.”
“Oh, good, thanks for clarifying.”
“Now, Logan Echolls.”
“I have a serious question.”
“Go on,” he said carefully.
“After this, look at the dessert menu or grab some ice cream?”
He let out a relieved chuckle. He would have said it wasn’t really a serious question, but knowing Veronica, it was a very serious question. So he treated it as such.
“Well, I’m always up for ice cream.”
She nodded solemnly. “Good choice.”
He shook his head, and he hoped she couldn’t see just how in love with her he was right then, because he simply couldn’t let his guard stay up in moments like these, it was too much to hold it all in, and she’d probably go running if she saw. She would probably be right to.
Half the time, Logan was torn between longing for every day to be like this, close to her, in her orbit, talking to her without needing an excuse, and hoping it all ended soon because everything was overwhelming when Veronica was near him. It was driving him crazy.
“Do you always get caramel all the time, or is that purely reserved for Clatham Cove?” Logan asked Veronica as they were both sitting on the hood of his car, calmly eating their ice creams.
She thought for a second. “I get caramel most of the time. But some grocery stores don’t have any good caramel, so I have to settle with hot fudge or chocolate chip cookie dough.”
Logan nodded, humming, like it was a supremely important information he was committing to memory.
“What about you?” she asked.
“It varies from time to time.”
Actually, for about 2 years, he’d avoided eating any Rocky Road ice cream because it reminded him of Veronica. He’d avoided caramel too, although he’d never been particularly fond of the flavour in the first place.
“How long have you had this car?”
“That one? Three years or so.”
“How long did you keep the yellow monstrosity?”
He grinned. “Still haven’t let go of that, huh? I thought you’d taken a liking to it towards the end.”
The end of the summer, the end of their relationship, the end… He didn’t have to specify the end of what, they both knew and neither wanted to say it.
“An awful car is an awful car,” she maintained, although he was certain he’d seen a blush creeping on her cheeks. She remembered exactly why she’d taken a liking to that car.
“I had it for four years, I think. Maybe five?”
“God. I really don’t envy the population of Los Angeles who had to tolerate that for five years.”
“Especially since they didn’t get a tour of the backseat,” he quipped before finishing off his cone and making his way to the driver’s door.
He missed the way Veronica’s jaw dropped, too quickly for her to hide it properly. She shook her head and got in the car, ready to avoid any and all talks – and thoughts – of backseats.
A lot of you have been commenting about them needing to talk it out at some point - I promise a talk is coming very soon. For now, I hope the banter in this chapter was enough.
This chapter is longer than most - it touches upon the subjects of death and grief, so be warned.
You drew stars around my scars
But now I’m bleeding
Wednesday was not a good day. Or, maybe it was, maybe it would eventually become a good day, but Logan woke up that morning with the firm belief that it wouldn’t be. Wednesday marked six months since his mother’s death, and he’d be working all day, with Veronica who made him feel all kinds of confused and hurt and it was his own damn fault, not hers, but he still would rather not have been dealing with his stupidity and feelings and longing. He would rather have been spending the day reminiscing about his mother with people who had known her, people who cared and understood and could laugh in between sobs with him about the disaster she’d been. But there was no one. The people he should have been sharing his grief with weren’t there. There should have been people around him who loved her, who missed her, who knew her, truly knew her, mattered to her and mattered to her son. But there was no one who mattered. She’d been the last one.
Logan hadn’t really spoken to Trina in years. He’d never been especially close to her, and with their shared parent no longer forcing them to spend time together, they had lost touch. She’d sent flowers for Lynn’s funeral, though. Tasteful, if extravagant. What was left of them was still on the grave, back in Los Angeles, Logan hadn’t wanted to touch them. Hadn’t wanted to remove anything from that grave that came from people who had actually known his mother, actually loved her. She hadn’t been Trina’s mother, hadn’t even been really close with her stepdaughter, but Trina was the next best she had, after Logan. Logan gave a humorless chuckle to the empty room. When Trina was one of the people who loved you most, that was just sad.
And then there was Aaron. In prison for the better part of the past five years, and not even for what he’d made his wife and son go through. That was the best part. He’d been charged with statutory rape and after a long, long trial, had been found guilty. The last time Logan had seen him was when the verdict had been spoken and he’d felt only relief. Relief that Aaron would finally pay, for something at least, if not for what he’d done to Logan. Relief that his mother was free from him. Relief that the girl’s family would know that monster couldn’t touch her again. Relief that he couldn’t do it to anyone else.
Aaron had tried to reach out when Lynn had died, but Logan hadn’t opened the letters or picked up the calls. His father was the last person he wanted by his side while he grieved his mother. He’d driven her mad, made her miserable more often than not, and led her to her downfall. Logan was convinced that if it hadn’t been for his father, his mother would have been a much happier, healthier person, wouldn’t have been lost years before she truly left their world.
So Logan had grieved alone. He’d planned the funeral, turned down the interview requests, kept the paparazzi from her home, emptied it, talked to her lawyers, taken care of her finances and his inheritance. He’d almost drunk himself to a haze before deciding she would absolutely hate seeing him like that, like her. And once everything had been taken care of, he’d hightailed out of there, away from her home and the place that had ruined her, away from his father’s adoring fans and admirative collaborators, away from everyone who had known him but not really.
All these people, they’d known his family in the way that they’d grown up together and crossed paths at parent-teacher conferences and lived along the same street. But they hadn’t known what was going on behind closed doors, how everything about the Echollses was fake. The smiles, the hand holding, the angelic air, the doting father, the responsible mother, the ignorant and innocent son. It had all been fake, fabricated, but sometimes he almost preferred that ridiculous and impossible façade to what happened when they stopped parading. He’d spent his whole adolescence saying he preferred real life over dreamt up Hollywood plastic versions of events. The edgy teenager, the poet, the arrogant boy who sneered at his parents’ line of work. And he did hate a lot of the falsified happiness and crafted backstories and idealized summaries. But sometimes, he craved that stupid simplistic family they pretended to be. What if he really was the ecstatic, promising son of two Hollywood legends? What if his father really was the kind family man he projected? What if sister really was caring and following into her parents’ footsteps with elegance? What if his mother really was the loving wife and accomplished actress and attentive mother she’d always been painted as? Wouldn’t his life had been happier, then? It would have been superficial and exhausting, probably. But his father wouldn’t be in jail, his mother wouldn’t be in her grave, he wouldn’t be alone in remembering her, his back wouldn’t be covered in scars that didn’t manage to fade properly. He would be able to eat pears and wear belts and switch through the channels without the fear that something would send him back to the years at his father’s mercy. As a teenager, he’d always told himself that the thrill was good, the thrill was better than boredom. That uncertainty, daring to talk back, see just how far he could push every limit. Now, he wasn’t as sure. Thrill led him into a spiral, thrill led him to spending a summer outside with a girl he’d just met and get his heart broken. Then again, normalcy and rationality led him downstairs to the same girl, led him to face a day he didn’t want to face, so maybe it wasn’t so great, either.
So he went downstairs anyway, after getting dressed quickly. Whatever he decided to do, his mother would still be dead, and he’d still have responsibilities to face.
“Are you okay?” was the first thing Veronica asked him when he arrived downstairs, where she was nursing a cup of coffee, leaning against the dining room table.
“Good morning to you too.”
She rolled her eyes. “Good morning.” Then, after a small pause leaving a delicate smile time to etch itself on his face, she repeated: “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You’re usually awake before me. And you look sad.”
“Sad I didn’t manage to beat you to the coffee pot.”
She pursed her lips, she clearly didn’t believe him at all, but let it go.
“We don’t have all that much to do anymore, sending us here the whole week was overkill,” she said instead, changing the subject for him. “I really think the beach will be the best bet, the company always goes crazy for clichés like that, but maybe we can try to get some material in the field? You know, the one after the highway exit.”
She didn’t have to be any more precise about what field she was talking about. He would have dismissed the idea, because was there anything more boring than a field? But memories of rolling around the grass, of laughter and of her body leisurely abandoned over his during long lazy days in the sun were about as close as it came to pure, unbridled happiness, so he hoped that maybe if Veronica was shooting something in that place, she’d invigorate it with the simple beatitude he’d felt there. She could work her magic on cynical watchers like she’d worked her magic on him.
He nodded. “That sounds good.”
“I don’t think there’ll be much to do there. We can call it off early today.”
“We don’t have to, we can move on to something else,” Logan protested.
“Logan. Just… trust me on this, okay? It’ll be enough for today.”
He had the distinct impression she had decided to cut their day short because of her earlier observations on his wellbeing, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Annoyed would have been good. Grateful, too, on the other end of that spectrum. But of course, his feelings for Veronica Mars always had to hijack the scale, and he felt a strange mix of nostalgia and anger, in between a rush of tenderness.
When they got to the field, it was almost insulting how sunny it was. How bright and peaceful and beautiful and sickeningly perfect it all looked. Like it was straight out of a picture book, out of his too-golden memories, out of a tourist agency’s pamphlet, if they even made pamphlets for small towns like this. Like it hadn’t changed at all in the seven years since he’d last been there, the last time anyone had been there, when it had been Veronica and him, him kissing her collarbone and her giggling, her nose ghosting along his cheek. It was almost as if Logan could feel her, as if he could hear the two of them. As if he could smell her perfume and feel the whispered confessions they’d shared. The place had no personality except hers. Everything about this place, every good and bad thing, every thing worth remembering, was all her. It was intoxicating, like he was going to choke on how thick with memories the air was.
He realized he hadn’t said a word since parking the car when she looked over at him, having finished setting up her camera on its tripod. She didn’t say anything, but her slightly worried air said it all for her. He cleared his throat and walked up to her to get the same view she had.
“Maybe a bit more to the left,” he said, gesturing in the direction he’d given her. “It’ll look more natural, less like we cut it off right before the sign for the highway.”
She nodded and made the adjustments. It took everything in him not to take the fingers delicately angling the lens in his. Just take her fingers, and hold on. Twirl her around and hold her happy gaze with a brush of lips against knuckles. Remind her. Remind her of everything, because he needed to be that boy again. They could pretend, and they could film it, all the equipment was right there, and then he could play it again and again, forever, continue pretending it was simple again, that she was his, that his mother was alive and waiting up and would ask how his day had been, her eyes sparkling at him, when he came home at night, high on nothing but Veronica. Then he could page through his favourite books and bookmark the quotes he liked, the quotes that reminded him of her, for his outgoing voicemail, for later, when they’d have to call each other to talk. Except he’d be stuck in that summer on a loop forever, so he’d never need to leave her. And, sure, his dad would be there, but he’d have his Veronica again, and he’d have his mother. She’d be there and she’d be the bad and hypocritical protector she was, and she’d tease him about his girlfriend and he’d brush her off because that was just what teenaged boys did. But then he’d go back and hug her, because he hadn’t done it enough in her lifetime, and if he was diving back into the past with the sadness of the present, he may as well fix some things along the way, too.
“What are you thinking about?” Veronica asked softly.
She nodded. “Do you mind going over there? To check the light on you.” She sounded apologetic, even if it was a repeated routine at that point and it wasn’t like he should have been given the choice anyway.
“Is this okay?” he asked after setting off and stopping fifteen feet from her.
She gave him a thumbs up and took some pictures.
Half an hour later, they’d captured every angle Veronica wanted, and they were ready for the appointment she’d made with the owner of the deserted property.
“I didn’t know anyone owned this,” Logan remarked.
“Apparently, someone does. But they’re not really doing anything about it.”
“Should we steel ourselves for a hard bargain?”
“I doubt it. The man’s half senile.”
“Good to know these are the people we’re associating ourselves with.”
She glared at him. “Well, welcome to the non-glamorous part of the job us peasants have to subject ourselves to. Half senile isn’t that bad. There are worse types to negotiate with out there.”
It turned out that it was indeed fairly easy to deal with the owner, who had practically forgotten he even owned the field on the outskirts of town. Veronica suggested for them to just go back home – she didn’t catch herself, and Logan shivered at the thought that within just a few days, they’d managed to make it natural to refer to their shared space as “home” – and for once, Logan didn’t object. Professionally, it was maybe not the best idea to take an afternoon off in the middle of the week, but as a human, he welcomed her granting of the wish he’d made that morning.
“Do you need to be alone?” Veronica asked when they walked into the house together. He must have looked surprised by her request, because she clarified. “You don’t look like you should be alone. But if you need to be alone, I get it.”
“Do I look that bad?”
She frowned, cocking her head and shrugging apologetically. Translation: yes. The question was, what was he going to do about it? Did she even know why she was asking the question, why he was that way today?
“It’s nothing,” he said. She didn’t need that burden on her.
“Bullshit,” she immediately replied, surprising him. He shouldn’t have been surprised. Veronica Mars knew everything. “Logan,” she continued, softer, “you can deal with it alone, trust me, I get that. But don’t push away the people who care about you.”
A laugh bubbled in his throat, bitter and disbelieving. “I’m the one pushing others away now?”
“Right.” He didn’t have the energy to go further down that path, he knew it would lead to an argument and he didn’t want to argue with Veronica, not now. Neither of them said anything for a few moments and she just kept looking at him. “You care about me?” he finally asked.
“You’re such an idiot. Of course I care about you.” She took a tentative step towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You were my first love, Logan.”
And you’re the love of my life, he thought, but didn’t say it out loud. She started rubbing circles on his back, more delicately than people usually did, and he knew why. She was careful with his scars. Years ago, she’d kissed them, she’d run her fingers on them, smoothed them out. She’d healed them, replaced the memories, like she’d say. And she was back to try to heal them once again. Veronica knew, or had known, about all his scars, not just the ones on his body, but the ones on his soul. And she hadn’t run away, she’d just held him tighter. But she hadn’t looked at him differently, either. He was still her friend, and eventually her lover, not a broken doll. He’d appreciated it more than she’d known.
So because she was maybe the only person he could think of who might at least understand where he was coming from, if not what he was feeling, he turned to look at her.
“I miss her,” he choked out.
“I know,” she whispered, keeping up her movements and resting her head against his shoulder. “I saw the date this morning. I assumed that was why you weren’t coming downstairs.”
He nodded, almost imperceptibly. “I didn’t know you knew the date – the date she…”
It had been on the news, when Lynn Echolls had died of an accidental overdose. A quick mention in most publications and news channels, nothing extensive because she’d more or less faded in the last years of her life, but Veronica hadn’t needed to look for it, the news had come to her on their own.
“Yeah. I remembered. I remembered because I’d been thinking of you that day. It was almost your birthday.”
It took her a few seconds of silence between them for her to realize what she’d just admitted to. She just grimaced slightly, looking up at him.
“I remember your birthday too,” he offered and she shook with silent laughter.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Logan replied, and he only realized he did after the word had already left his lips. He wanted to talk about his mom, with someone who would know what he meant, who wouldn’t think he was being too harsh on everyone involved. With someone who would sit next to him and offer him her warmth.
She slipped her hand down his arm and took his hand in hers, then guided him to the couch. They’d still been standing in the middle of the doorway leading to the living room, and he let himself be led by her. He probably would have followed her outside, around the entire town, if she just touched him delicately like that, wordlessly taking care of him.
They sat down and she embraced him loosely, letting him shake her off easily if he wanted to. Offering her presence, her warmth, her tenderness, letting him set the pace. He didn’t want her to ever go.
“They called me in the morning. She was gone, just like that. One night I was telling her on the phone that yes, I’d pick up her dry cleaning on my way over to see her later that week. Then the next morning, she was gone. And two days later, the dry cleaner called because she hadn’t picked up her clothes.” He laughed and she squeezed his shoulder. “Can you believe it? Some people still cared about dry cleaning. I was managing calls from a million different outlets who wanted a ‘statement’ and the fucking dry cleaning wanted to know if someone was going to pick up her clothes.”
He stopped talking, and Veronica didn’t say a word. She just kept looking at him, kept rubbing his back superficially.
“I never picked it up. I don’t know what happened. I hope they donated it. They probably threw it out.”
She ran her hand down his arm and tangled their fingers together. They weren’t holding hands, just letting their fingers fall all over each other in a mess. It felt like before, it felt natural, like there had been no pause in their period of intimacy. Back then, it didn’t matter if they weren’t properly holding hands, all that mattered was that they were touching, they were in contact, skin on skin and warmth on warmth. It gave him another bit of courage to have that back, that disorderly affection that didn’t need a reason or a name, just radiated caring.
“As far as moms go, she was pretty average. Probably below average. She let my dad treat her like shit. She let him treat me like shit. She pretended she didn’t see any of it. And she’d just drink.”
Veronica nodded, because she knew. She had only met the caring, open Lynn, but she’d known about that other side of her before ever meeting her. She’d seen the side effects of it, of her, of the catastrophe Logan’s parental unit was.
“But she was my mom,” Logan murmured, so that the tears threatening to spill wouldn’t fall. “And I know she loved me.”
“She did. She loved you so much, Logan.”
“Yeah. And I love her.”
She squeezed his fingers and ran her thumb along his palm, back and forth. Soothing.
“She liked you a lot,” Logan said.
She smiled sadly and he met her eye for the first time since they’d sat down.
“I liked her too. She was always nice to me.”
“She kept asking me about you for years, you know? Asked if I heard from you. Even when I was dating someone else.”
Veronica breathed out a laugh. “What did you tell her?”
“I said not yet.”
“Making you wait 7 years. To hear from me.”
He nodded and smiled at her sadly. “I kind of guessed at one point that I wouldn’t. Didn’t tell my mom, though. She probably guessed, too, but she kept asking.”
“She knew we’d find our way back to one another at one point.”
“Can’t say that’s how I expected it to go.”
“Me neither,” Veronica replied. “But I’m glad it was you.”
He wasn’t sure what she meant, if she was talking about now or about back then, but either way he was satisfied. He also was glad it was her with him today. She was the only one he could see himself saying all those things to.
“Is there anything you want to do? For her, today, I mean.”
“I don’t know,” he said truthfully.
“Let me know, okay? I’m here. I’ll go to my dad’s office to transfer the pictures to my computer. But you can come in any time. Please.”
There was something desperate in her voice, so he nodded. “Okay.”
She gave his hand one last squeeze and stood up. “Anytime. For anything. Even for nothing,” she reiterated.
Logan felt a smile tug at his lips at her insistence. “Okay.” She started walking away, but he called out to her, “Why?”
“Why?” she repeated, turning back to look at him. He nodded. “Because I wasn’t there for you before. And I want to be there for you now.”
That was false, Logan thought. She’d been there for him more than almost anyone else, even just in those three little months they’d had together. She’d patched him up, showed him his scars didn’t make him any less of anything. She’d been there when he’d shown up at her doorstep in the middle of the night, bleeding. She’d stayed the night with him them. But he knew expecting or asking that now would be overstepping several boundaries. So he let her go to her dad’s office, knowing he could seek her out later. Knowing he probably would, because he could feel the loss of her form against him starkly already.
Veronica sat down in her father’s swiveling chair, wondering if she should have just stayed with Logan, kept holding him, kept him safe in between her arms. She knew he would have let her, he didn’t have the strength of will to do much right then. She’d had to take a breath though, take a break, take a step back and regain control, but if he needed her, he would come and she would give it all to him. Everything he needed, everything he wanted. The step back was for him, too. Because if she’d stayed there much longer, she would have had to tell him she still had feelings for him, she would have done something stupid like kiss him to cheer him up because that used to work. And he didn’t need that now, didn’t need that conversation, didn’t need Veronica throwing herself at him. She had to leave him be, leave him alone, even if being back with him, in his warmth, his fingers against hers, reawakened something she’d been craving in secret for a long time.
She shook her head, as if to clear the thoughts swirling there. Focus on the work, that was what she needed to do. But all she could think of when she booted her computer was Logan’s curled up form, all she could see when she plugged in her camera was the vacancy in his eyes, all she could hear when she transferred the pictures was the way his voice had broken when he’d talked about his mother.
Once she was done selecting the pictures, she picked up her phone and called Wallace back in Boston.
“Hey, Wallace. How’s it going over there without me?”
“As good as it can, all things considered.”
“Great, okay. Ugh, I’m glad you’re the one in charge, it certainly eased my mind. Probably too much, since I forgot to call earlier.”
“Eh, I wouldn’t have had much to say anyway.”
“That’s good. Did you receive the pictures I shared with you yesterday? I uploaded them in the cloud but the internet isn’t the fastest around here.”
“Yeah, all good. I do have one question about that, though, V.”
“I was told from a source I’m not so sure is reliable that you know the guy they sent with you?”
“Bart Huggins told you that?”
“Yeah. And now, look, I’m now switching from colleague to friend here.”
“Based on those pictures… wait, so, you do know him, right?”
“Yes, I do,” Veronica confirmed, suspicious.
“Right, so based on those pictures, either that guy is, like, a great actor we’d want to hire for the commercial, or he’s in love with the camera.”
“In love with the camera?”
“How can you be both the smartest person I know and a complete idiot?”
“In love with the person holding the camera, V. With you.”
Veronica laughed. “Logan? No. Not in years.”
“So he was in love with you at some point, to your knowledge?”
“Um, yeah. It was… it was a long time ago, Wallace. We were kids.”
“And you were in love with him?”
“You’re nosy today.”
“Just curious! You of all people should understand that. So?”
“Yes, I was in love with him.” She closed her eyes, pressed her fingers to her eyelids. “It was a long time ago.”
“You keep saying that, but that’s not the face of someone whose love has been over for a long time.”
“It’s just the familiarity, it’s – he’s not in love with me, Wallace.”
“Are you sure?”
She hesitated a second. “Yes.”
“Uh-huh,” Wallace said from the other side. “I want to be a bridesmaid.”
Veronica laughed. “Given as a wedding won’t happen, I name you maid of honour. There you are, maid of honour Wallace Fennel. You’ll have to wear a dress of my choosing.”
“Yellow’s my colour. I’m thinking tulle.”
“Sure. But not too light, or you’ll eclipse my white dress.”
“I’ll make sure all eyes are on you.”
“I think you’ve turned me into a middle school girl, Veronica Mars.”
She snorted. “You did that all on your own. You brought up the gossip about my love life.”
“To be fair, it did have something to do with work.”
“Ugh, tell me about it. I’ve been trying to keep the two separate since Friday.”
“I thought it was a long time ago,” Wallace teased and Veronica groaned.
“It is. It’s just, I don’t know.”
“You still love him.”
“Geez, you don’t need to take out the big guns yet. I maybe still have feelings for him. That’s it.”
“Sure. You should tell him.”
“Are you crazy? That’s a horrible idea. We work together.”
“So what? He’s in love with you.”
“I’m just saying, those pictures weren’t telling the same story you are.”
“On that note… I’ll talk to you Friday, Wallace. Or tomorrow, if you need something.”
“Yeah, okay, V. But keep what I said in mind, okay?”
“Since when are you a matchmaker?”
“I’m branching out.”
“I will keep you up to date on the nothing that will happen,” Veronica assured.
“That’s all I ask. Take care.”
She hung up, and Wallace’s words kept ringing in her ears. She pulled up the pictures she’d shared with him, the ones she’d deemed good enough, professionally. She’d discarded the ones that felt too personal, she knew she had, so what had Wallace possibly seen in those pictures? Logan looked normal. Logan didn’t look like he was in love with her. If she’d shown Wallace some of the other ones, maybe, sure, someone could potentially infer that from the looks he gave her, but it was all just nostalgia. People didn’t just forget their first love. There had to be a remainder of fondness for her in him, and it transpired in a few of the pictures. So she’d saved those for herself. The other ones didn’t have anything about them that could possibly make her friend think there was more to it than leftover affection. It was just how Wallace was, she rationalized. Never mind that Wallace wasn’t particularly a romantic. But he did try to set her up on dates once or twice so of course he’d think there was something going on with Logan. He was desperate to find her someone. He probably saw people in love everywhere when there weren’t any.
Veronica sighed and decided to go check on Logan. She’d been in there almost an hour, she hoped he’d moved from his spot on the couch, but she couldn’t be sure.
Logan stood up hesitantly, feeling a bit pathetic. He’d stayed, staring at nothing, for half an hour already, and his thoughts had already started to get too dark for his therapist’s taste, he knew. He wasn’t looking forward to unpacking the past week with her when he got back to Boston, that was for sure. It would be a miracle if she didn’t widen his eyes at him and recommend him a colleague instead.
He wiped his hands on his pants, feeling suddenly lost in the too-big house, even if it wasn’t especially large. He almost wished Veronica’s dad would walk in and give him that careful but welcoming look, then interrogate him, ask about his intentions with Veronica or launch into some other uncomfortable topic. Logan kept finding himself wishing for that summer, the bad moments as much as the good ones, almost like whatever passed for pain then was just a by-product of bliss.
But he could try to cling to the good parts of that summer, too, and that was Veronica. It wouldn’t be like back then again, but he could still seek her out, seek her warmth and her embrace as long as she was still willing to give it. Today at least he had a good excuse. She’d offered it to him, without him even needing to ask. He wouldn’t have asked.
He put a foot in front of the other and headed in the direction of the office. She could hear her voice wafting through the air. She was probably on the phone. He assumed it was about business, since that was why she’d come here in the first place, so he didn’t feel self conscious continuing towards her voice, thinking he probably knew all the information she was relaying.
He was a few steps away from the door when he heard her laugh. It sent tingles throughout his whole body. It was a laugh of derision, he knew because he’d been on the receiving end of those on numerous occasions. What she said next froze him place, though.
“Logan? No. Not in years.”
What? Who was she talking to?
He heard her voice again after a small pause. “Um, yeah. It was… it was a long time ago, Wallace. We were kids.”
He took a step back. And another. He didn’t want to know. He really didn’t want to know what she was saying about him, about how he was in the past. Because he was there, he was right there, outside her door, again, backing away, again. It occurred to him it wasn’t the first time this week he was leaving that room before even setting foot in it, hoping Veronica wouldn’t know he’d been there. But the previous time, it was because he felt like he was intruding on something personal, something he didn’t think he should have been witnessing. This time, it was to spare himself. He couldn’t bear hearing her say any more of how he was in the past, how they’d been kids, how it was just a summer thing. That was sure to follow, that it hadn’t meant anything, that it was long gone, that she didn’t think about it anymore.
How could she possibly have put it all behind her so swiftly? How was it that she was laughing at the whole thing derisively? Meanwhile, the memory of her had plagued Logan relentlessly for years. She’d been the one against whom he’d always compared every girl he’d encountered, every girl he’d dated, every girl he’d pretended could maybe be the one in the end. Because he always knew it was too late, he’d had his one and let her go. He’d had her at seventeen, and it had been perfect, it had been golden, and he’d let her go. It was a mistake, it was such a fucking mistake, he wanted to go back seven years in the past and just follow her wherever, everywhere. Not let her get away because if he did – when he did – she’d forget him. He had become a thing of her past, and it shouldn’t hurt that much to know that a girl he’d been with one summer as a teen had moved on, but it did. He knew she’d moved on, he’d known it for years, somewhere deep inside of him in sharp contrast with his underlying hope that she’d come back to him one day. Because she had to, right? He loved her, even after she’d hurt him, so she had to come back. That was how it worked. His father didn’t believe in those things, but his mother did, ironically. He’d spent his life trying to emulate his mother instead of his father, only the good parts, and as the years went on, he’d become more and more inclined to believe in her romantic notions. Veronica was the pinnacle of the romantic notions. The one that got away, the one big love, the story of immense luck to have even had their paths cross. So she had to feel the same way, she had to come back to him one day. That was how it worked, in the movies and the novels and the songs and the words his mother would whisper in his ear.
But his mother had been wrong. Her idealized vision of life, fogged over by alcohol and other illicit substances, had never really applied to her son, he’d grown to realize. Everything bad, especially the very bad things, happening to him were swept under the rug, had no place in that beautiful movie life of theirs his mother pretended to believe in. Or maybe towards the end she really had started believing in it. It was easier than facing the realities she’d spent over two decades glossing over. Naturally, her repeated hope that he’d heard from Veronica, matched by his own that he would, one day, had also been shot dead in the water. Oh, he’d heard from her. But against her better judgment, against her will.
But there was still something nagging at him. She’d been thinking of him, the day his mother died. She’d said so. That didn’t align with the rest of what she’d been projecting all week, what he’d gathered from her phone conversation, what he’d been mulling over since he’d sat back down in his place on the couch.
It was another stretch of time – five minutes? two hours? – before he made a single movement, after he heard her steps entering the room. He raised his head to look at her and it felt like a superhuman effort. Especially to see the tenderness there in her look. It could have been pity, it should have been pity, but he didn’t see a trace if it in the eyes she laid on him. He hated it, hated her, hated that she was so damn perfect and caring. Hated that she wasn’t screaming at him for a stupid reason, hated that she wasn’t kissing him to take back words she didn’t want to have said. Because this Veronica measured her words, measured them so much he could practically see the scale she laid them on.
“Hey,” she said, and in an instant his anger melted away.
She sat down next to him. “How are you doing?”
He shrugged and she leaned back against him, her cheek to his shoulder. He dropped his head on top of hers, because, what the hell?
From the corner of his eyes, he saw that she was biting her lip. His hand twitched, a reflex to untuck it, but he didn’t give in. But she saw the twitch, and she must have understood what it meant, because she let go of her bottom lip herself.
“I’m sorry I didn’t send flowers, or reach out, or anything,” she eventually said.
Ah. So that was the hesitation. She didn’t know if bringing up his mother again was a good idea. Honestly, he didn’t know either.
“We had been out of contact for years,” he replied.
“Still. She wasn’t just anyone. You weren’t – aren’t – just anyone.”
“Don’t beat yourself up, Veronica. It’s okay. I didn’t expect you to do anything.”
“But that’s the thing, isn’t it?” she asked, quietly. “I let you down years ago so now your expectations of me were so low.”
“I wouldn’t have reached out, either, I don’t think.”
“But it’s my fault.”
He didn’t reply, because, yeah, it was. Mostly.
“I’m sorry, this isn’t about me,” she mumbled.
“It should be.”
She appeared surprised, angled her head upwards slightly to look up at him between her eyelashes. Her skin was so close to his mouth, he ached to kiss it, to calm her, to let her know he wasn’t angry, not anymore, not in that moment.
“You want to talk about… about that?” she asked.
Yes. Every second of every day, to make some sense of it, to have her perspective, to understand.
So he wouldn’t rehash the pain, so he wouldn’t rehash the longing and the hurt of the ridiculously intense emotions he felt back then. Had it been his age making them so ardent or was it her?
“Okay,” she said, and settled against him again, and she was crazy if she thought he was ever letting her go from that embrace.
“She said the girls I dated after you were pale copies.”
The start of a laugh caught in her throat. “Were they?”
“Most of them.”
Why was he still talking? He’d heard her say not too long ago that they’d been kids when it had happened. That it was a long time ago. Logan? No, not in years. He had to stop putting his heart on the line, letting her know how long he’d carried her with him. That he still carried her everywhere.
“She sure had a lot of opinions about your love life.”
Logan laughed, truly laughed, for what felt like the first time in years. It had probably only been a few hours.
“She did. She… it was one of the subjects she truly felt she was an expert about. Sometimes she was, I guess.”
“If she liked me, I’m pinning her as an expert.”
Without thinking, he brought up his arm around her and squeezed her to him, needed the proximity. She responded silently, slipping her arm around his waist in response, their sides flush together, both looking ahead and hands on each other’s hip. Her other hand rested on his above her hip, holding him there, just in case he doubted if it was okay.
“I’m really sorry.”
“At least now she’s safe. From my dad, I mean. And the drugs.”
“I thought your father was in prison,” she said carefully. His father was obviously not a subject she thought she’d have to broach this week.
“He is. But he… he still sends letters sometimes. With my mom, it was always more about that. The words. How he could manipulate her, psychologically wreck her. I told her to stop opening them, but I’m pretty sure she did it anyway. She was addicted to him, I think she was hanging on to the hope that there was still some of that man she’d fallen in love with somewhere in there. Pretty sure she didn’t find him. At least where she is, he can’t reach her.”
“Do you open his letters?”
“He doesn’t send me any, not really. I opened the ones he sent my mom, the ones I could see. It’s so twisted. He’d say all these horrible things and try to belittle her and gaslight her the whole time and then he’d sign with ‘love, Aaron’ or some other formulaic bullshit about how he was hers or whatever.”
“I’m sorry,” she repeated.
“Me too. I’m sorry it took so long for him to get locked up because, shit, he deserves it.”
“I would’ve done it myself if I hadn’t been scared I’d get sent to jail, too.”
The strength of her words shocked Logan, but not as much as the matter-of-fact way with which she delivered them.
“You wouldn’t have killed him,” he said with a shake of his head.
“I don’t know if I would have gone through with it. But for years, I was certain that if I ever ran into him, I’d kill him. I’d pick him apart limb by limb. For what he did to you.”
“Yeah. It drove me crazy sometimes. Even after… after we weren’t talking anymore. I’d see him on TV and get this urge to drive to LA and just… push him off his balcony or something.”
“I would’ve given you an alibi.”
“I appreciate it.”
“I didn’t know you had such strong feelings about my dad.”
“That night you showed up at the doorstep, Logan…” Her voice caught in her throat. “I can still see it. I could see it in my dreams for years, and I wanted to make him pay. I wanted him to be scared, as scared as I’d been when I saw you then. I was so scared I’d lose you. And I loved you, so much, it drove me insane to think it was maybe continuing, and he was still wearing that smug grin, and I was far away and I couldn’t patch you up and I wanted to, even if I suck at it.”
“You don’t suck at it,” he said softly, but his heart was hammering in his chest because holy shit. Even if it was in the past tense, it was the first time Veronica had used those words to tell him she loved him. She’d said it, kind of, their last night together before she’d gone home, and she’d alluded to it earlier. But this? Never. And even if it was in the past, even if it hurt that he loved her and she had loved him, it was still something. A breakthrough.
She laughed lightly. “Well, at least I didn’t make it worse.”
“You didn’t make it worse,” he confirmed, brushing his fingers against hers on her hip. “You made it better than any nurse or doctor ever did.”
He knew she remembered her kisses along his scars, her fingers along his back. For a second he wondered if she’d do it again.
“What do you want to eat for dinner?”
“Yeah. Since your mom’s dead and all that. You get to pick dinner.”
He laughed, loud and surprised and free. I love you I love you I love you. It was threatening to burst out of his lips any instant, if he wasn’t careful. She was smirking up at him, satisfied with herself, and he could have kissed her. He would have. He wanted to. He wanted to scoop her right up and nip kisses along her neck until she was squirmy and giggly, to lay his large hands on the soft skin of her stomach and just feel her let go in his arms, like she trusted him completely.
“I think we picked up the ingredients for lasagna yesterday. If you’re up for that,” he breathed out, not as clear and nonchalant as he wanted it to be.
“Yeah, for sure. I’d better get started, then,” Veronica said, and gave a squeeze to the hand still resting on her hip before she extracted herself from him and stood up.
Was it strange to follow her to the kitchen, shadow her in all her movements to keep her reassuring, warm, beatifying presence near him?
Yes. Yes, it was.
But it was also strange to take the afternoon off with your ex to comfort him about his mother’s death and holding him tenderly on the couch, so hey.
When he stood up behind her, she smiled a surprised smile, a knowing smile. She touched the tip of his fingers with hers and bobbed her eyebrows cheekily before making her way to the kitchen, pulling out ingredients from the fridge.
Logan didn’t know how to cook lasagna. It had seemed an unnecessary recipe to learn, since he always cooked for one person only. But lasagna was an institution in Veronica’s family. He watched her, half amazed, as they prepared it, mostly in silence, as she delegated the mundane tasks to him, her hands lingering on his when she passed him the cheese to grate.
God, I’m pathetic. Noticing the way she touches my hand while giving me the cheese? Who am I, a touch starved Jane Austen character?
Once the lasagna was into the oven, Logan just stayed there, watching Veronica set the timer and when she was finished, she turned to him and gave him a smile before folding herself into his arms, neither of them saying a word as he draped his arms around her and rested his chin on the top of her head. It was excruciating how close they were and how much it meant to him to have her there, all the while knowing how little it meant in the grand scheme of things. It was just for today, just because she wanted to comfort him about his mom. He was torn between deciding he didn’t care because it got her there, didn’t it? and caring way, way too much that this was fleeting. That the thoughts in her head right now were probably not I love you so much and I don’t know how to tell you without losing the little of you I’ve managed to get back. But they were his and he closed his eyes to take it all in.
Veronica felt like she was doing something dangerous. So close to Logan, quite literally all around him while he was all around her, was a place she didn’t think she’d find again. She thought she’d shredded her map years ago, thought she’d slipped her key back under the door when she hadn’t replied to his text. But the door was open, she was back there, she’d found her way and he hadn’t tried to stop her. Was it self-indulgent to use the excuse of comforting him for his mother’s departure to get some of that proximity, some of that contact she’d craved all week? That was an answer she didn’t bother giving herself. The real question was whether she could walk away after having given in so completely today. It wasn’t like she could just saunter over to him in the morning, kiss his cheek and cheerily wish him a good morning while reaching around him for bacon. Or hold his hand when they made their way to the cliffs, steadying them both. No, that was all just today. She wished she could tilt her head up, so he’d lean down the few remaining inches and delicately make their lips connect. When he ran a hand through her hair to push it back from her face, cradling the back of her head, she almost did. It would have been so easy. But she didn’t want to take advantage of his vulnerable state, didn’t want him to think it was out of pity.
If she kissed Logan, which she wouldn’t, because they weren’t seventeen anymore, she wanted it to be an admission of her feelings, a spectacle, a meaningful moment. She wanted it to remain a dream, something that existed only in her mind, because if it happened and it went wrong, it would tarnish that hopeful image forever. That image of Logan kissing her back, of Logan actually in love with her like Wallace was crazy enough to believe. Plus, it was a horrible idea to kiss – try to kiss? – her coworker, would be one even if they weren’t going to be stuck in the same house a few more days, then in the same car back to Boston.
So, no kissing Logan. Not even a little bit. Just sticking to the hug, she could do that. Of course, she’d told herself that about the hand on his arm, then about taking his hand, then about her head on his shoulder, and about every other small step they took. She said she could take it, could restrict herself, hold herself back, but the more she thought about it, the less she trusted herself.
She pulled away from him reluctantly.
“Some wine with the lasagna?” she asked. They’d bought one bottle, she wasn’t even sure why, during their first grocery run. A memento of their alcoholic mothers, perhaps.
He sounded so detached, like he would have had the same answer regardless of whether she’d suggested wine, going to a strip club, or swimming all the way to Europe. Her heart constricted and she instinctively reached up to her tiptoes to place a quick kiss to his cheek.
So much for no longer being in his arms managing to calm her impulses to always push it further.
His eyes clouded over with something she couldn’t describe, but for a flash she thought he would take her cue and kiss her. Kiss her mouth, kiss her cheek, kiss her forehead, kiss her temple, kiss her jaw, kiss her neck, kiss her hand. Kiss her anywhere, he could take his pick. But he did nothing.
“I’ll go get it,” Veronica said quickly, hurrying out of the room and to the basement where she’d stored the bottle on Friday.
That night, after a relatively silent dinner, Logan pulled out his laptop and got back to writing, and again he didn’t know what he was going to write, he just knew that when he was so deeply into his emotions, it was a good moment to pour them all on his keyboard, see if the keys they hit produced something worth anything. It was his best outlet for his anger, sadness, and everything in between.
It had been strange to spend all this time with Veronica in silence, because of how much more passed between them when they weren’t talking. All of her comfort, everything she was transmitting to him clumsily flew between them. Usually, they were always throwing words, volleying back and forth to keep themselves entertained. Logan knew it was at least partly so his lips wouldn’t do something else instead. Something that would get him pushed away and probably fired, too. The silence held more truth, more rawness and realness than a lot of their words did. They couldn’t hide what the silence communicated using their signature bravado and deflection. The silence let him take apart and analyse her expressions, her eyes and the movements of her hands.
Veronica did the same thing she’d done the previous time he’d settled to write, she sat down in the couch, on the edge closest to him, curled up with a book. But she shot him frequent glances, blushing when he’d meet her gaze, but not lowering it.
When he stopped typing, deciding he was done for the night, Veronica closed her book as he closed his laptop, one swift motion, almost coordinated, and made her way to him, still without a word. He stood and took her hand, too scared that talking would make one of them realize how surreal it all was, how little sense any of it made. How maybe it made more sense than anything else they’d done that week.
They walked up the stairs, she kissed his cheek and he felt his skin burn there until he gave in to sleep, even if she turned away quickly after her lips had made contact with his skin, even if her “good night” was hurried and breathy and she wasn’t looking straight at him when she said it.
I am blown away by the continuous support for this story - thank you, thank you, thank you!
I knew you, hand under my sweatshirt
Baby, kiss it better
There was something terrifying about wondering if the previous day had been an illusion, a dream, wishful thinking, or solid reality. Veronica decided it had probably been reality when Logan handed her coffee wordlessly in the morning, a hesitant and bashful smile thrown her way. She let herself lay her fingers on his as she took the mug from him, eschewing her recent habit of carefully not touching his skin when their hands came close to contact. His smile became frank, and she couldn’t help but grin back, having no idea what she was doing.
“Good morning,” she finally said after taking her first sip. “Did you sleep well?”
He laughed. “I did. Thank you. Did you?”
It was obvious he was mocking her at this point, laughing at her banality, but she answered anyway. “Very well.”
“It’s the wine.”
“I can handle my alcohol, thank you very much.”
“I can! Look how completely un-hangover-ed I am right now.”
“I can see that. As exemplified by your inside-out shirt.”
“Shit,” she cursed, looking down to see that, indeed, the seams shouldn’t have been that visible.
Logan snickered as he brought his cup to his lips.
“Turn around,” Veronica said, placing her mug down on the counter.
He did, not before raising an eyebrow, and she pulled her shirt off and turned it right side out. When she squeezed her head back through the hole, she noticed that Logan was facing her again.
“Sorry!” He raised his hands in front of him. “I didn’t think it would take you three hours to pull a shirt on and off. And it’s nothing I haven’t already seen.”
She blushed, a part of her delighted that he was right – that part was also very much in favour of him rediscovering what had changed since he’d last had a look – and another, affronted by his cheeky smirk. There was also a tiny part of her that was turned on by his cocky reply, a reply Logan would definitely had uttered when they were dating.
“I’m convinced you’ve never seen this bra. It’s fairly new.”
He swallowed visibly and now she was the one smirking at him. Two could play at this game.
“Didn’t get a good enough look,” he shrugged.
Veronica bit her tongue. Any further comment on that would probably make the entire workday awkward. Or make it disappear completely, if she played her cards right. They could stay right here all day, and she could give him a good enough look.
Damn, I’d managed to push away those kinds of thoughts for a day or two. That’s officially out the window, counter back to zero.
Logan didn’t say anything more either, but he did keep looking at her with those smouldering eyes of his, that made her feel like she was the only person on the planet. And also like she was burning. Just catching on fire, repeatedly. He really needed to stop doing that, because it was a serious underestimate of her ability to smash her mug to the ground and throw everything out the window while she made love to him, right there on that counter behind him. All day.
Ooookay, Veronica. Refocus. Stop looking at his eyes. She lowered her gaze, using the mug she had thankfully not smashed on the floor as an excuse. Not that low. Oh, god, not that low. She turned away after finishing her coffee with a large gulp, scorching her throat.
“I left the camera in the office,” she said, motioning behind her. “I’ll go get it.”
“Okay,” he nodded with amusement. Like he saw right through her.
Hey, Logan, if you’re gonna do something about it, I’m still up for that idea of throwing the entire day away. It’s not like what I do matters the slightest anyway. So get a move on if you’re gonna make a move.
When she was back with her camera and the rest of the equipment she’d stashed in the office, Logan had also finished his coffee and started putting the papers in his briefcase. It still made her laugh inside that Logan had a briefcase. It was so normal, so businesslike.
“What?” he asked when he noticed her.
“It’s never nothing with you.”
“It’s your briefcase.”
“What’s wrong with my briefcase?”
“There’s nothing wrong with your briefcase. Just, you, having a briefcase. I don’t know.”
“Well, I am a working member of society nowadays. You know, like you.”
“Yeah. Two necessary cogs in the smooth running of society,” she said with a hint of bitterness.
He frowned. “At least we’re doing something with ourselves. And we pay taxes, so, there you go. Useful. Unless you don’t pay your taxes?”
She laughed. “I pay my taxes. Unfortunately.”
“See, there you go. The government is grateful for your job.”
“It’s certainly nice that someone is.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she cut off. “Let’s just get going.”
“So, where to today? And for the remaining three days after that?”
Veronica grimaced. “We’re paid to be here, so I guess we should stay, but I don’t really see much more to do. I’ll go talk to the owner of the B&B about housing in case we need the whole crew to stay overnight, since Boston isn’t that close.”
“And then, I don’t know, let’s see if inspiration strikes. Same for tomorrow. We can head back Saturday morning. Or tomorrow night, if you prefer,” she said, turning her to look at him in the driver’s seat.
“Saturday morning is good. I’ll save up some energy during the night for the drive back.”
“I’d offer to drive, but I’m sure I’m not allowed to drive your baby.”
“I don’t call it my baby, but no, you’re not allowed to drive.”
“I’ll have you know I’m a great driver.”
“I know. Unless you’ve somehow lost skill between the ages of 18 and 25.”
“So then, what is it?”
He shrugged. “My mom gave me this car.”
She would have made a quip about rich kids and their rich parents and the ridiculous lavish gifts exchanged, but now was not the right time.
“It’s the next right after Main Street.”
“Do you think in this state, they should just rename all Main Streets, Maine Street, you know, with an ‘e’ at the end?” Logan asked, shooting a look to his blind spot on the right.
“Rename probably dozens of streets across the state just for a pun?”
“Yeah, they should.”
He beamed at her.
“I’m thinking we put together a list of all the useful stores downtown, just to convince everyone that they can survive in a tiny town.”
“What, like, CVS, the grocery store…?” Logan clarified in askance.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“That seems overkill. Isn’t that kind of a basic assumption?”
“Yes, but will they assume that Clatham Cove has… an all-night tiny grocery store ersatz two streets from the actual grocery store?” Veronica asked, pointing to said grocery store ersatz with exaggerated enthusiasm.
“When you sell it that way, it’s hard to resist. I totally see that marketing is your job.”
“Yeah, well,” she snorted, “at least I can pretend my job is useful.”
Logan turned to look at her. It wasn’t the first time she sounded bitter, even tired, of her job. When he looked at her jotting down things into the Notes app of her phone, her shoulders hunched, she looked more hollow than she should have, resolute, like she’d accepted a defeat.
“You are useful. You’re much more efficient at this than virtually anyone else. I’ve been on a lot of sets. You’re good, believe me.”
“Yeah, I’m useful to this useless project.” He opened his mouth, but she cut him off. “Don’t try, Logan. We both know there’s no point. This isn’t changing the world, or even helping anyone. It’s fine, I know it.”
He wanted to keep arguing, to try to cheer her up, to make her see more value in herself, but she clearly wasn’t in the mood for it and would probably end up sending him packing instead if he tried. He’d dealt with a prickly Veronica enough times in the past to know when to stay put and shut up.
So, he just pointed out a few details to her and wrote the short descriptions with her, from inside his car before he started the engine. Then Veronica took some pictures of town, “just for the sake of it” according to the words she delivered with a noncommittal, lifeless shrug, and didn’t answer when Logan suggested she could also just take some pictures for herself instead because it wasn’t like they had anything better to do.
Her mood didn’t really change throughout any of the day, and while Logan really wanted to chalk it all up to a bad day, when she didn’t react to his thumb along her knuckles at dinner when he asked her if everything was okay and she simply answered she was fine, just tired, he knew it wasn’t fine. Knowing Veronica, she’d probably either brush him off frustratedly or get mad at him, but he’d gotten to a point where he thought either of these interactions could probably be good for her. It would at least inject some life into her figure, some energy, some emotion. She just seemed lifeless and empty, and it absolutely terrified Logan. Veronica was supposed to be passionate, stubborn, expressive. Cheeky, flirty sometimes too, and she definitely, definitely, would have had a reaction to his offering to do the dishes, besides a thin smile and tense nod of thanks.
Veronica knew Logan was concerned – he was so bad at hiding it, but truthfully she didn’t know if he was trying at all – but she didn’t have the strength to force a cheery smile or assure him that she was fine with any more conviction.
Throughout the day, she’d felt the weight of years of pent up resentment at herself for her career choice, all dropped onto her. It had felt like a good idea at the time. Marketing was ever-evolving, it took smarts, and it was safe. Safer than being a part-time P.I., and anyway her father had really, really wanted her to stray away from his own career. So, to please him, she’d followed Ms. James’ recommendation, been accepted in marketing, and hightailed away to Stanford. She’d known as soon as classes started that she’d end up bored out of her mind there, but she had sucked it up, telling herself her instinct was probably wrong. And she had to at least give it a fair try. Oh, she’d given it a fair try, all right. She had somehow been conned into completing her degree, and even working for several years in marketing. Those years in the field had taught her something beyond the initial impression of utter boredom her classes had instilled in her: she was useless, unhelpful, unoriginal, and couldn’t see any of that changing anytime soon. But her father was so happy she had found a safe, stable job on the East coast, far from Neptune and private investigating, and so proud she’d been put in charge of her own project. And now he was dating the woman who had told her to try marketing in the first place, and she couldn’t imagine herself going up and telling him she didn’t want to be doing that anymore. She couldn’t bear to disappoint her dad.
When Logan sat down next to her on the couch, she couldn’t say she was surprised. But she was surprised by the proximity. They were almost touching, he was as close as the previous day, when she’d been comforting him about his mother. Perhaps he thought it was the time to return the favour. Veronica groaned inside. She was so not feeling up for that.
“So,” Logan simply said, not looking at her.
Veronica chuckled in spite of herself, and caught the crooked grin her laugh elicited from the corner of her eyes. She turned to him.
“So?” she enquired.
“I’m going to return a question you so perfectly put yesterday when you asked me. Are you okay?”
She snorted. “I’m pretty sure I’d get turned down if I tried to put a trademark on that one.”
She hated how it made her feel when he said her name like that. He was not at all the colleague she’d picked up at work nearly a week previously. He wasn’t even a long-lost ex-boyfriend concerned for her wellbeing. He was Logan, the puka-shell-wearing boy with messy hair and maddening smirks who knew her more than she knew herself, who adored her. There was just something in his tone, in the way he said her name in that Californian drawl of his, that sparked a tingle in her chest, that awakened something she knew to have been dormant for so long. It was terrifying to be facing someone who could push hidden buttons, who could see right through her bullshit, who had known all her secrets when she was a teen, and who somehow still knew everything there was to know about her now.
“Yeah?” she asked, to delay the inevitable.
“Are you okay?”
She licked her lips and took a breath, ready to say that she was, to feed him another lie, because it was so much easier, ready to just squeeze the hand he’d inevitably offer her and lay her head silently on his shoulder, superficially. But her breath turned out shakier than she’d intended, much shakier than she expected it to be, and she felt her freshly licked lips quiver, and no no no no no she couldn’t cry now.
She exhaled even more shakily than she’d inhaled, hoping to steady her breathing, slowly, before talking, but then Logan rubbed a warm, strong, reassuring hand in circles along her back and she couldn’t control any of it anymore.
She felt fat tears form in her eyes and roll slowly down her cheeks and heard Logan’s “hey, hey,” as he pulled her to his chest, and she didn’t even try to stop him as he rested his chin on the top of her head and she failed to take a normal breath again and more frustrated tears joined the previous ones, following the trajectory from her eyes to her chin, then hesitantly jumping off on Logan’s shirt.
“I’m ruining your shirt,” she sniffled after several minutes.
“I really don’t give a shit.”
It didn’t escape her that she still hadn’t answered his question, although she was pretty sure bursting into tears and not saying anything for five minutes checked the “not okay” box unequivocally. Logan just kept holding her, rubbing her back gently and occasionally pulling wet strands of hair away from her cheeks.
“I’m just… so useless,” she finally gasped out and he kept up the same movements, didn’t reply anything. He wanted to let her keep going, but she wasn’t sure she could.
“Does anyone actually give a shit about the stuff I make? I don’t even give a shit,” she explained, wiping at her tears as she steadied herself to get the words out. “Anyone could make that stupid ad, everyone has done that stupid ad. And I could ‘break the mold’ or some other feel-good crap but it won’t make a difference because no one watches an insurance commercial and goes ‘wow I’m so inspired’ and goes straight to changing their insurance policy. Even if I got freaking ponies and rainbows and the promise of a company that includes a best friend and free donuts with the coverage. And don’t,” she added, pointing a finger at Logan, “make a joke about how maybe that strategy would sway some people because we all know that strategy isn’t going to happen anyway. And I don’t want to make it happen. Like, I genuinely don’t care if people want that insurance. I don’t give a fuck about insurance and that stupid company. I don’t even understand how insurance policies work. And so, surprise!, I don’t have my shit together. I literally have nothing together. It’s all a lie, it’s all a façade and if I ever let it slip I’ll just disappoint everyone.”
She sighed, feeling like getting all of that out was only the tip of the iceberg, and that she’d already dropped plenty on Logan who had just asked if she was okay, not her entire life story and a foray into her feelings journal. But it felt good to finally verbalize it, admit it to someone, because it made her admit it to herself.
“Some of us have bills to pay. And did you miss the part about disappointing everyone? This’ll kill my dad.”
“I’m sure it takes a lot more to kill Keith Mars. He wants you to be happy, Veronica, not slave yourself away doing something you hate just because that’s what you thought a successful future would be like when you were 18. You’re 25 and you’re already tired of your job. You’ve still got decades to go, you can’t stay in there, it’ll kill you.”
She stayed silent, mulling over his words. He wasn’t entirely wrong. But she still couldn’t see herself facing her dad with that kind of information, especially not with freaking Rebecca James in his life. Her hating her job would be so much easier to break to him if he hadn’t been ecstatic about her finding a stable, normal job in Boston, if he wasn’t sharing his life with the woman who had suggested the career to her in the first place.
“And you won’t be disappointing everyone,” Logan continued. “Even if we don’t count your dad, who I still think will be happy if he knows you’re happy, you’re not going to disappoint people for figuring yourself out. I’m not disappointed in you,” he said, quieter, his hand tracing up her arm to rest on her shoulder.
“Maybe you should be. The person running the project you’re producing doesn’t believe in it at all.”
“I’d say that’s more of an investment fail than a situation in which I can be disappointed in the most determined, fearless, amazing woman I know.”
“I’m not that woman.”
“Sure, you are.”
“But what if I’m not? What if you, and my dad, and everyone, think that I’m this, like, really great person, but I’m just a total mess and have nothing figured out?”
“Well, first of all, one doesn’t negate the other. You can be a really great person and a total mess.”
That earned him a small laugh through tears and he pulled away to look at her better.
“Okay, that was the first thing. What else do you have for that?” Veronica asked, pulling on her sleeves.
“I’ve been saying that I knew you, but I know you. And, Veronica, you’re just… beyond anything. You not being happy in your job doesn’t change the fact that you’re a kick-ass businesswoman. You can totally recycle that, I promise. And your photography skills still blow me away. And you’re funny, and vivacious, and you challenge me to be a good person, to keep up with you. And all of that… that’s still you, you still have it if you step away from this job, this commercial, this entire career path even. And, look at it this way. If you have to find a silver lining to this shitty job you hate, at least it made you run into moi,” he finished with a smirk to lighten everything he’d just said.
She hiccupped a laugh and reached for his hand. He opened it for her and stroked her palm when she grasped it.
“I feel like I’ve lost it.”
“Lost what?” Logan asked softly.
She looked up to him, and she knew her eyes were wide, probably red because of how she’d cried, her cheeks puffy and wet. And she knew he could probably see straight into her through her eyes, she was too spent to try to guard herself, and it was Logan. She could trust him. He wouldn’t use the information against her. Actually, that’s more my style. Or it was, at least, she thought.
“The excitement. The thrill. The emotions. Waking up and being excited about my day, or chasing something with hunger for what’s next, the desire to keep pushing until I reach my goal. Feeling any kind of emotion about the outcome of what I’m working on. It’s like all I have left is dread that it’ll stay that way forever. And regret, I guess.”
More regrets than she’d let him know. She was already baring herself at him, and while she felt like he’d be there for her, felt like he understood, like she was safe in that space, there were things she couldn’t say, because it would just complicate things. Like that the first time she’d felt that excitement in what felt like a million years was with him. In her doorway, at the lighthouse, at the beach, at brunch, making her want to laugh and pause to enjoy the time she was spending there. Being with him was making her crave that fun, that passion, that thrill he seemed to have reignited. She wanted to grab his hand and run to the beach, roll around the sand even if they’d get some everywhere, splash around the freezing water and bring him with her, all the time. If she was seventeen, that was what she would have been doing, kissing him playfully and seriously, hanging on to his neck, his arms, whatever she could, just for the joy of being there with him, doing absolutely nothing. That side of her had been relegated to memories years previously, it wasn’t serious, it wasn’t productive, it wasn’t useful, but now that nothing she did ever seemed to truly matter, she wanted, no, she needed to find that again and Logan was the only way she could think of where she could possibly achieve that.
Logan made her feel alive, made her want to be alive.
But Logan had a life, Logan probably had no intention of doing anything more than his duty as her colleague and ex-boyfriend, that he’d already well exceeded, so she didn’t drag him in a standing position and away from there, didn’t even say any of it.
“You can still find it again,” he told her.
“Sure. You don’t have to go on these long treks around the world to feel that shiver of excitement. You just have to find something that makes you want to pursue it. If it’s not marketing, then it’s not marketing. Want to know one thing I remember managed to get me out of bed every morning and giddily await the start of the day?”
“What was it?”
“You. Unless you were also in the bed when I woke up, then I didn’t want to get out of bed. But you get the idea.”
She smiled despite herself. “I guess that wasn’t too bad a motivator.”
“It really wasn’t.”
He’d opened that door now. Hadn’t that been what she had been waiting for? The small confirmation that he also came to her as a source of thrill? But she was terrified that if she jumped in, she wouldn’t be able to jump back out. If she let herself have this, have, well, Logan, she wouldn’t be able to detach herself from everything anymore. She’d be consumed by the reality that she knew him and his stupid habits and how much she loved when he touched her lips with the tip of his finger, and how she wanted to dart out her tongue then and lick it, because he just awakened that stupid playful side in her, he made her want to be a kid again, to just forget that anything else was happening, that there were people besides them, a time besides this, a reality other than the solidity of each other’s bodies and the fleeting nature of their souls coming together. He made her want to loop her arms around his neck and kiss his lips and close her eyes and make love and forget, to just be happy and content and completely in sync with each other, because that was what they did, that was how they were together. They understood each other, knew the curves their breaths created before the breaths had even been taken, his fingers knew their way down the side of her stomach, hers knew their way along his arms. They knew what to say, and most importantly what not to say, and in that moment Veronica craved the contact, craved to have that back, that certainty and knowing and fusion with someone else. And that someone else had only ever been, could only ever be, Logan. She wanted it so much that it frightened her. Nothing safe, nothing with a good outcome, could possibly put her so on edge, on edge of every single emotion at once. She just had to look at their track record to confirm it. As soon as they’d been out of the dreamy haze of their togetherness away from everything, it had become a total disaster and she still carried the scars from that mistake years later.
She was tired of safe, tired of certain, tired of logic. But Logan was too opposite to that. Not as a person, but in the way he made her insides flare up, made her brain short-circuit and the dead butterflies in her stomach take another victory lap long after their first success.
“I’m sorry,” Veronica said after long moments of silence between the two of them. Logan wasn’t sure how she’d respond to him all but admitting she was the one worthwhile thrill of his life, but an apology was not what he had expected.
“Veronica, you’ve apologised like eight times in the past two days, and never for something you actually had to apologise for.”
“But I am. I am sorry I’m dumping all this on you now. Right after… you know, your mom.”
“Yeah, I’d much rather know you’ve dumped some of that onto me than to know you’ve kept all those feelings inside of you,” he replied, not letting her feel guilty about something he was sure had been good for her.
“Nuh-uh. No apologising. You shouldn’t be holding all of that in at any time, but especially not after I’ve basically poured my grief for my mother all over you yesterday. That’s way too much for one person to hold.”
“That’s too much for two people to hold,” she rationalized.
“Yeah, probably, but I’ll be pouring away some of my stuff to my therapist next week, so I’ve got room for yours.”
“I guess we’re both messes, huh?” he declared.
“You hide it well,” Veronica replied.
“So do you. If it wasn’t… you, I wouldn’t have noticed.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can read you. At least, I used to.”
“Apparently you still can.”
“Yeah,” he murmured.
Veronica looked down at her hands, at her elbows propped up on her knees, and took a shaky breath.
“You’ll be okay.”
She looked back up at Logan, her eyes misty. “Yeah.” But she didn’t look like she believed it, and after a second of holding his gaze, she looked back down.
He reached out, placing his finger under her chin, lifting it gently back up. Her eyes were wide and so alive, a million emotions visibly battling to get the upper hand. He kept his finger where it was, wordlessly guiding her to him, and she let him. She closed her eyes in a flutter when her face was only a few millimetres away from his, and when he stopped leading her chin towards him, her hands rose up, holding his head with a mix of desperation and delicacy.
And her lips searched for his the way his did, the velvety softness of them pressing into him with breathtaking assurance. She’d been elusive and hesitant all week, careful, but now she was everything but. Her hands wouldn’t let him go, her mouth took no bullshit, she was there on a mission and she would complete it. It had been years. It had been so many years, not a single one of the hundreds of weeks separating them as long as the one leading up to this. This wasn’t just years coming, it was days coming, and somehow that was even bigger. It was like it was all finally clicking together, like they’d spent the week stumbling and patting the walls and they’d at long last found the light switch, and now the electricity was sizzling in the walls, in the air, and the light would not turn off again. Logan didn’t want it to turn off again.
He pushed back, hungrily keeping Veronica’s lips there, soft and smooth and delicious and there just for him. She whimpered and he tightened his grip on her, clutching her to him as she clumsily climbed over his legs to get settled closer to him, never breaking the kiss in the movement.
“Shh…” she whispered, her forehead pressed against his and her eyes hooded, tracing a finger along his lips.
He kissed her again, quickly, then pulled back from her lips again.
“Logan…” she moaned, missing the contact, her eyes opening halfway.
“What?” she whispered.
“You’re not just kissing me to kiss someone. You’re kissing me,” he practically growled, delirious.
“Who else could I possibly want to be kissing right now?”
“I don’t know,” he murmured, and kissed her again.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, closing every possible escape for him. Keeping away all that was not him, his lips, his body against hers. Logan was overwhelmed with feelings, with sensations, with her. It was too much, it was too much of what he’d wanted, all at once. He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that it was her, it was them. It was her kiss, her arms, her hands, her lips, and he wanted it all. He knew it was her, he wasn’t dreaming, because even in his dreams he hadn’t dared imagine she’d come back to him with such abandon and earnest. He hadn’t imagined it would feel this good, he’d forgotten how Veronica was perfect, perfectly fitted to him, her energy matching his with startling flawlessness. He hadn’t imagined she would keep him between her palms, that she would wrap her legs around him like she used to. He’d hoped she would, but he hadn’t let himself expect too much. But now it was staggering, and his hands roaming up her spine knew no restraint. They’d gotten a taste of her, it had driven them crazy, and now they didn’t want to ever have to go without again.
Veronica seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because her hands had slid down to his chest, hands working at the first button of his shirt. Logan’s heart was pounding, surely she could feel it with her hands right there. She broke the kiss to look at what she was doing, but that was already too far for him. He reached over and ran his lips against the line of her jaw. She shivered, and he closed his eyes, pressing a feverish kiss against her skin.
“Logan,” she panted, and he waited for her to finish her thought, but that seemed to be the extent of it.
“Yes?” he hummed into her neck.
“Please,” she whispered, her fingers shaking slightly as she continued to unbutton his shirt.
Like he wasn’t going to say yes. Like he hadn’t been craving every sample of her she’d be willing to give. He turned his head to face her, and kissed her again. He inched his hands under her shirt, against the warm skin of her stomach, accepting her request with his every movement.
She slid his shirt down his arms, and he had to tear his hands from her to shrug the shirt off. Instantly, he was back there, pushing her shirt up, throwing it away from them. His breath was shaky as he held her gaze, not kissing anymore, just staring into each other’s eyes, asking everything. His hands glided up and down her chest, thumbs caressing every patch of skin he could find. And there were so many, each of which he wanted to touch, to kiss, to feel.
“Here?” he asked, with his eyes more than with his lips, and he was surprised to hear the word resonate around them.
She shook her head almost imperceptibly. “Upstairs. Like the first time,” she breathed, and he closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers, noses gently touching.
He dropped a kiss on her cheek and stood up, her legs still around him, and it felt like old times. Except it was new, even if her exhale when he lifted her was the same, even if her fingers skating along his back were the same. Even if it would be the same place, at her request, because the old Veronica would scoff at the sentimentality of it. The old Logan would let her.
He didn’t know how he managed to make it to her room, and he stumbled in the open door, dropping her on the bed. She tugged him down, kissed him, and moaned when he broke the kiss to fulfill the promise he’d made to himself earlier, pressing his lips against her hip, and up and across her stomach. He breathed her in, every part of her, and she shivered again when his fingers ghosted against the clasp of her bra, making it fall and tossing it to the side. She pulled him back up to her, kissing him passionately. No one else had ever kissed him like that, like he was their lifeline, like he was all that mattered. He brushed away a strand of hair from her face and dropped his hand to trace the length of her torso before popping the button of her jeans and sliding them down her legs, slowly, his fingers relearning every curve of her thighs. Letting her stop him every second before it went too far, should she want to drop her hands from where they were splayed against his bare back and interrupt his movement.
She didn’t, repeating his name like a prayer through the night as they lost themselves into one another.
I knew you
Leaving like a father
Running like water
Veronica woke up to the warm rays of sun on her skin. She didn’t remember that anything was different until her eyes landed on the form beside her as she stretched. Logan. He was still fast asleep, on his back, mouth slightly open, breathing deeply, the sun caressing his chest that the tangled covers had left exposed. She resisted the urge to run her fingers down his defined muscles and instead sat up quietly. They’d fallen asleep late, she could let him sleep in a little. Plus, they didn’t have much planned for today, so it wasn’t the end of the world if the morning wasn’t productive.
Holy shit, what am I doing? Veronica suddenly realized. She took another look at Logan’s sleeping form, peaceful in the middle of her bed, tiny marks on his skin indicating that the sun hadn’t been the only thing kissing him lately. Her Logan, in her bed.
But no, no, no. This wasn’t her Logan. This was her colleague. They were here working together. They had work to do. They were paid to be there. Oh my god, I just slept with my colleague. Panic started seeping into her brain, and she got up from the bed, eyes wide. That had to be forbidden. Right? And it was just improper. Unprofessional.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. She grabbed the clothes she could find around the room and threw hers in a hamper. She didn’t know what to do with his. She bit her lip and gathered them all, folded them carefully and walked over to his room to drop them on the dresser. There. It was completely surreal to be folding his boxers and putting them there, like that, but she couldn’t think straight. After slipping into clean clothes and taking a hasty shower, then having a quick look to check on Logan, to make sure he was still sleeping, she scouted the house for the rest of their discarded clothes. She collected them all and brought them back upstairs.
Once she was done, she sat at the dining room table and took a few deep breaths. What was she going to do about this? She’d just slept with Logan. Which was great. A long time coming, and god, he was so good at that. All of it, she knew, oh yes, she knew, because they’d revisited all the classics, and he was even better than she remembered. The additional years of experience had probably helped him hone his craft, but damn. He was, no contest, the best partner she’d ever had. He was so caring, asked her every so often if she liked it, made sure she was still willing to continue, all the while making her absolutely lose her mind as his fingers and lips and everything about him worked at her. Veronica closed her legs tighter at the memory.
That is so not the point, Veronica, focus, her mind screamed. Right, so she’d slept with Logan. On its own, 10/10, would recommend to a friend, would do again, no questions asked. But then, there was that pesky little detail that she hadn’t just slept with Logan… she’d slept with a coworker. A colleague. The producer of her commercial. It didn’t matter that she didn’t want to keep going on with that stupid ad, because she was going to anyway, and it didn’t matter that this particular coworker was the first boy she’d willingly been with, all those years ago, or that she was half convinced she was falling in love with him all over again, because he was still her coworker and it was utterly inappropriate to engage in any kind of romantic – or sexual – relationship with him. Especially since they were going to be working together again for some time, living in the same cottage for another day, and have to share a ride back to Boston the next day.
Veronica groaned, resting her head in her arms on the table. Why hadn’t she been thinking the previous day? She’d asked herself enough questions to feel sure about asking Logan to make love to her again, but she clearly hadn’t thought it through. She’d gone through a list in her head quickly the previous night: if she was attracted to Logan (yes), if she wanted to sleep with him (heck yes), if she trusted him (more than anyone else), if he was sending similar signals back to her (the kiss and mention of waking up in bed with her said yes unmistakably). But she hadn’t asked herself if it was a good idea (overall, probably not, since she was more vulnerable because of her intense display of emotions and, did she have to say it again?, they worked together), what would happen next (nothing? everything?) or what it meant to either of them, if they were on the same page. Clearly, they’d been on the same page about a number of things, physically, but something was telling her it was far from enough.
So what was she going to do about it now?
She took a deep breath and stood up, walking over to make some coffee. Coffee would help. Coffee always helped. Coffee had to offer a solution. Right? Coffee would help her figure out a way to keep doing that with Logan, be with him in some manner, while still separating their relationship from their job and be two completely separate entities in the two milieus. Easy freaking peasy.
Two cups of coffee later, she still had zero solution, but way too much energy buzzing in her fingertips. She wished Logan would wake up so they could talk about it. She wished he would stay asleep there forever so she wouldn’t have to deal with any of it. She wished he would wake up for them to have another round of last night’s adventures. She wished he would stay asleep so she could devise a plan that somehow made sense. She wished he would wake up to hold him close and bask in their closeness. She wished he would stay asleep so she didn’t have to hurt him.
Logan stretched and yawned, his eyes crinkling at the light. He looked around for a second, confused. The window wasn’t usually on his right. Then it dawned on him. He was in Veronica’s room. More specifically, in Veronica’s bed. Except the side of the bed she’d occupied was empty and she was nowhere to be found. He frowned. He remembered a cuddly Veronica, who would have woken him up by kissing his collarbone or caressing her hands along his chest. She must have had something to do if she’d decided to let him sleep like that.
He pushed the covers away and looked around for something to throw on, but he found nothing. Veronica had tidied up, which was strange. If only his shirt had been missing, it would have been a fair assumption to think that she was now wearing it around the house, but he was positive the shirt had been off him before they’d arrived into the room, and it wasn’t likely Veronica had taken off with his pants and underwear.
He walked out of her room and slipped inside his own temporary room to see all his clothes from the previous day neatly folded on the dresser, including the shirt. He frowned again. How un-Veronica. Then again, maybe that was a new thing. A good habit to chuck guys out of her apartment faster if all their clothes were gathered. She’d still been a novice, had only been with him, the last time they’d been together, it wasn’t far fetched to imagine she’d developed new routines, new habits. This was fine.
He left the clothes there, he could deal with them later, and selected clean ones from his suitcase. He hadn’t bothered to put them all in the closet or dresser, just the nice shirts so they wouldn’t wrinkle. Then he headed to the shower because he’d been otherwise preoccupied the previous night, during his scheduled shower time. He smirked at the very vivid memory of Veronica clinging to him. God, he’d missed her.
He quickly wrapped up what he was doing, the little thrill of going to join Veronica, wherever she was, taking over every other concern of seeming cool and collected. This was Veronica. She’d seen him geek out over Harry Potter and Little Women, there was no longer any illusion that he was cool.
Logan made his way down the stairs and to the kitchen, and he knew something was wrong the instant his “Good morning!” was met by a quick, nervous head motion from Veronica to look up to him, a strained “hey” and a shaky smile.
His heart sank. Or was that a shatter? The only thing he knew was that his heart had been full, and a second later it was no longer in its place, twisted or ripped or torn away instead.
He motioned towards the coffee machine. “Did you make coffee?”
“Yeah, it’s – it’s ready, if you want some.”
He nodded and poured himself a cup, silently taking a few sips, looking down at his feet so he wouldn’t look at her. Shit. She regretted it. She already regretted it, and it hadn’t been a day. He’d been so sure for a moment that she wanted the same things he did, that she wanted him. That she had also been longing for him the way he’d been longing for her, that they were on the same page. But no, no, no, he’d made all those assumptions, and he thought he’d asked her through the night if it was okay, if it was good, but not enough, apparently, not enough. It hadn’t even occurred to him before now that maybe she just… didn’t want the things he did.
“Veronica, I’m sor – ” he started.
“Don’t apologize,” she interrupted. She looked up to him, and he thought she looked on the verge of tears. “Please. Don’t apologize.”
He nodded, swallowing hard, forcing his gaze away again. Then what was this, her reaction, if he wasn’t to apologize? He wanted to ask her, he wanted to know, wanted to scream at her, but she was almost crying. She was almost crying and he didn’t have the energy to be mad at her, to be mad at anyone, not when all he felt was a sinking emptiness, a numb cry of pain lodged deep in his throat. And he loved her, fuck, he loved her. So if she wanted to sweep it all under the rug, if all she needed was that one night to take her mind off everything, then he’d give it to her. He just had to make sure it didn’t destroy him, keep himself in check. Forget it even happened, maybe. That would work.
What was that phrase he’d heard her say on the phone? Logan? No, not in years. Sounded about right. She never had any intention of pursuing this any further. He had been at the right place at the right time, that was all. Or maybe at the wrong place at the incredibly wrong time? In any case, it all revolved on his timing. And he had to forget it now, before he could let it eat him from inside. But how was he supposed to face her all day now, and all of tomorrow, if he could barely look at her without a knot in his throat keeping him from breathing properly?
When Logan left the kitchen, it was all Veronica could not to start crying. The situation was all kinds of wrong. She should have been gathering him in her arms and kissing his face, this was supposed to be the start of something, not to break them both further than they’d been broken before. She wanted to run after him, grab his hand, apologize and laugh it off, wow, I had a moment of lucidity that it’s a bad idea to date you but I don’t care so kiss me please. But she didn’t, she held on to the long empty mug in her hands and once again contemplated throwing it on the floor to watch it shatter. To have evidence that physical things could shatter and break and get destroyed in jagged shards waiting there to skewer whoever tried to mess with them all over again, that it didn’t just happen to people and feelings. She dropped it into the sink, disappointed when all it did was tip over and thud dully against the metal.
It was disappointing, like everything was disappointing. The only thing she could think of that hadn’t disappointed her recently was Logan, but because of everything else, all the shit around them, she’d disappointed herself with the way she was treating him. Because life was just that great. The one thing she wanted was Logan, but because of all her responsibilities and the shit she didn’t want, she couldn’t have him, and she’d left him like… like that. She’d seen the moment he understood, the moment it had registered on his face that he knew they wouldn’t be rekindling anything following their night together, and she felt like a coward for not telling him straight-up, but she knew if she tried, she’d flake. She could never go through with it, not when she wanted nothing more than him.
Neither of them spoke much as they got ready, until they were both in the car, barely even looking at each other either. The entire day was tense, awkward, like everything was still too recent and too raw to successfully pretend nothing had happened even if they were desperately trying to convince themselves. Logan was polite, professional, if a little shorter and more abrupt in his answers than he’d been in the beginning of the week, before he’d loosened up. Veronica thought she acted natural, appeared composed and talked like she was completely unbothered, but she knew she was probably not as successful in the execution as she wanted.
They spent the day as efficiently as Veronica could manage, revisiting some already photographed locations to get different light, different times of day. She wouldn’t admit it, not even if she was asked, but mostly what she did was try to occupy time, keep both of them busy. And Logan would have asked, Logan should have asked, about her motives, teased her about the incessant repetition, made a quip about how useful the day was to the overall project. But he didn’t, he just drove and agreed and occasionally commented. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d broken him somehow, but she wasn’t sure if it had been the night before or that morning. She just knew that it was wrong, it was all wrong.
They made it back to Veronica’s grandmother’s cottage in the late afternoon, so that she would have time to call Wallace before he went home for the weekend.
“I’ll just, uh, go make a call,” she told Logan when they got inside, motioning vaguely inside. He gave a nod, and part of her wanted to shake him, to make him scream at her that, no, she couldn’t make a call, she had to fix this before.
She picked up the phone in her dad’s office and dialed Wallace’s number.
“Hey… I’m not catching you at a bad time, am I?” she asked.
“When has that ever bothered you?”
She grimaced. “Touché.”
“So what happened?”
“You mean, professionally?”
“I did, but not anymore. What happened, unprofessionally?” Wallace asked with gleeful emphasis.
Veronica groaned. “I now regret this slipup.”
“But you did slip up, so now you have to share. Please, V, that's the most interesting thing that's happened to me all day.”
“Are you saying my commercial isn't interesting?”
Veronica snorted. Wallace knew it wasn't going to offend her, on the contrary.
“Uh, so something happened. As you've guessed,” she stalled.
“Was it the avoidance of the subject that tipped me off?”
“Oh, har-har, you're so funny, Fennel.”
“What happened?” Wallace insisted.
“Umm, you know Logan?”
“The guy with you on location who's in love with you? Yes. Very much yes.”
“He isn't in love with me. But, uh. Um, I kissed him. He kissed me. Whatever, some kissing happened.”
“And that's not all,” Veronica muttered.
“Of course you are. Uh, we... Wait, you need more background.”
“You are killing me, Mars.”
“I just don't want you to think... Okay, so I told you we kind of used to be a thing, right?”
“I might have understated it. He was my first love. Only love, really. We met here.”
“In whatsit beach town in Maine?”
“Yeah. The summer I turned 18.”
“Talk about a coincidence. Or a bad romance novel.”
“So... the something besides kissing? What happened? Are you together again?”
“God, no. Are you insane? We work together. But, um. Last night, we... well, you know.”
Wallace made a strangled noise. “I was told nothing would happen. Like, two days ago. That's... quite a jump.”
“Yeah. Which is exactly the problem.”
“Well, I can't be sleeping with a colleague!”
“Okay, so marry him, and then you're not banging a colleague, it's an office love story,” Wallace replied matter-of-factly.
“It's not funny.”
“So, what, you blew him off?”
“You could say that.”
Wallace sighed. "What did you do, Veronica?”
“I panicked!” she justified, before sheepishly continuing. “I pretended – am pretending – nothing happened at all.” There was no answer on the other side. “Wallace?”
“Yeah, yeah, I'm there. So, in your... scenario, you both went on and silently agreed it was a mistake?”
“Not exactly? I don't know. I really don't know.”
“You're supposed to be on my side in these things,” she protested.
“I am. On the side of what is ultimately good for you. That... was awful.”
Veronica huffed. “Look, anyway, it's done, so...”
“Then fix it.”
“How the hell am I supposed to fix it? The way to 'fix it' would be to go back in time and make sure none of it happened so we stay on this side of professional.”
“Is that what you want?”
“Does it matter?”
Veronica closed her eyes. “I guess it should. But it's too late, I fucked up. I fucked up for both viable outcomes. We can’t be regular colleagues anymore because it’s always going to hang over our heads that we slept together on location of all places, so on the job, and we can’t be in a relationship because what the fuck did I just do to him?”
“It's not too late. You're making this more complicated than it is. Plus, you’d slept together before already. Your relationship as colleagues was fucked in any case. And you’re not paid at night so you weren’t really on the job,” he tried to rationalize. “Okay, so even if, and that's a big if, that guy – Logan, was it? – is not in love with you, you've got some history you should do something about, regardless of what outcomes are still ‘viable’.”
“I don't know, Veronica, I don't know him. Or your relationship.”
“Yeah. Okay. I'll, uh. I'll try. Maybe. Tomorrow.”
“Yeah, we're driving back tomorrow.”
“Okay. Well, think it through, okay? Don't make another shitty decision.”
“Wow, thanks for the pep talk.”
“Hey, I'm not Lilly. This is way beyond my paygrade. You should be grateful.”
“I am. Thanks, Wallace, you're the best.”
“I know. Take care, V.”
Tomorrow. By tomorrow, she’d somehow make a decision that would somehow solve at least one part of this. Somehow.
It was way too early to go to sleep, barely time for dinner, but she wished she could. She was so tired, so eager to shut off. Turn off her brain, turn off time, turn off reality, turn off her feelings and indecision.
When she made her way to the main area quietly, she walked up behind Logan, saw him pressing the backspace key of his laptop continuously. She watched, fascinated, as line after line after line, for pages on end, were swept away as he didn’t lift his finger. He was just as transfixed by his own action as she was. It felt like days as she observed the words she couldn’t read from this distance disappear one by one, swiftly, naturally, evenly. Logan’s finger stayed pressed on the fatidic key for several seconds after all that was left was a cursor blinking on a completely blank page. She had no idea what he’d just deleted, but it looked like at least twenty pages of text. Hours of work. She silently continued her way to the staircase, behind him. She saw his neck stiffen when he heard her, but he didn’t make a move to acknowledge her and she kept moving, walking quickly up the stairs.
It was way too early to go to sleep, barely time for dinner, but Logan wouldn’t ask. She could shut herself off for the night.
Logan clicked the red x button in the corner of his screen. A window popped up, “Want to save your changes to ‘whatever this is.docx’? If you click ‘Don’t Save’, a recent copy of this file will be temporarily available. Learn more.” He clicked “Don’t Save” and shut his laptop. It had felt cathartic to erase everything, like he could erase letter by letter the reality of his time with Veronica when he’d been a kid, but he knew it had been some of his best work in years. Some of his most authentic. It would always be there for him to revisit, one day, maybe. When he didn’t feel like she was still out to get him, some perverse revenge for having made him so happy once upon a time. Give and take. Everything comes at a price. Sometimes seven years later. Sometimes the very next morning.
I questioned this chapter when I outlined the story, when I wrote the chapter, and have been obsessing over it for the past few days leading up to posting it... Yes, I hate myself too. I'm sorry and now I will go hide in a corner. Please don't hate me.
Sorry if all my replies to comments are weird, I legitimately do not know how to interact with human beings properly. But thank you for the comments, because I appreciate them more than you can imagine.
This story is almost over - only the epilogue is left after this chapter - and I am so thankful to everyone who's stuck around for both of the stories in this little AU.
I knew you’d come back to me
You’d come back to me
And you’d come back to me
And you’d come back
“I’ll be ready to leave in ten minutes, if that’s okay with you,” Logan said, walking into the kitchen.
There was something wrong with his shirt, and she only figured out what it was once she’d said “perfect!” too cheerfully, he’d raised an eyebrow but offered no question, and left to pack up the last of his things. He had buttoned it all the way to the top. Logan never buttoned his shirt all the way to the top. At the very most, he left the last two buttons open. Either it was a weird-ass reflex that had somehow kicked in for road trips or some other strange reason, or he was trying to… show less skin? Be less hot? Whatever it was, it didn’t work, because all Veronica could think about as she picked up the rag beside the sink and threw it with her laundry to take home was how he looked without all the buttons done. With none of them done. Which was inconvenient, really, because (a) fantasizing about someone’s chest while stuck in a car with them for hours was awkward as hell on its own and (b) she had herself created the gap – the goddamn canyon, more accurately – between her and that chest when she’d given Logan the cold shoulder the previous day, so.
Of course, there was more wrong with Logan than his shirt. But that was the same as the previous day. Clipped tone. Too casual gait. She couldn’t remember how he walked before but she knew it wasn’t like this, damnit.
She threw her laundry bag on top of her suitcase and the filming equipment she’d brought, then tried to pick up the clumsy pile. Needless to say, determination was not enough for her to properly hoist the whole thing up in the air and casually saunter off to Logan’s car in the driveway. Gravity’s a bitch.
Logan came back inside from having taken his own stuff to the car and wordlessly picked up all the filming equipment from Veronica’s precarious tower. She let out a breath and pushed herself up from her frankly a bit embarrassing crouched position. Okay, so she was most likely going to trip and fall on her face before she even reached the front door, it wasn’t even worth talking about the front steps and opening the trunk to the BMW, but what about it?
Miraculously, she did make it past the front door and as she placed a shaky foot down the first step – quite gracefully given the circumstances, thank you very much – she noticed Logan look up at her and curse under his breath before rushing over.
“You have absolutely no self preservation instincts,” he declared, taking everything besides the suitcase, that he helped her lower beside her.
There was only affection in his tone, weirdly enough, and that put Veronica on edge. Of course I have self preservation instincts, why the heck do you think I always push you away? Instead of saying that, though, she asked him, with a steady and casual and offhand voice, of course, “Care to make a stop at the beach before we make our way to Massachusetts?”
He looked surprised, but all he said was, “Sure.” She wished he’d question her, maybe even flat out refuse. Then she could either pick a fight (likely) or not have to deal with talking about feelings and how she’d screwed up again (somewhat likely but then Wallace would call her a coward and she’d have to agree with him). She didn’t know why she thought doing that on the beach would be better than the car or the house or literally anywhere else, but it just was. Everywhere else felt suffocating, and if the beach was cluttered with memories of them, at least it was physically as close to freedom of movement as she could probably come.
Logan kept stealing glances at Veronica, he couldn’t help himself. Once it had been to make sure she was safe. Then because he couldn’t not look at her, so stupidly in love that he was. Then it was to memorize the new her, out of curiosity. Concern, anger, sadness, regret, love, he was looking at her now for all of it. He knew she didn’t want to go to the beach to sunbathe or dip her toes in the freezing water. But why was she even leading them there? That, he had no idea.
He turned off the ignition and took another look at her. She was staring straight ahead, lost in her thoughts. He wasn’t even sure she’d noticed they’d reached her requested stop. Instead of nudging her, he spoke softly. “We’re here.” He kind of wanted to stop speaking softly because he was miserable and he was pissed and just, he was feeling too much to pretend to be calm and ready for a freaking road trip back to Boston and, god, would he have to drop her off at her home?
Veronica nodded and got out of the car, so he followed her lead silently. Part of him – the mean, vengeful, petty part – wanted to stay seated, see what she would do then. But that would mean he wouldn’t hear what she had to say, if anything, so he took one last look at the car to lock it and shoved the keys in his pocket, keeping his shoes on. He’d have sand in his socks the whole drive home, probably. He realized he didn’t care, not really.
He walked, a few steps behind her, for several minutes. Time stretched out, and they were behind on schedule already, but he didn’t say anything. It was obvious she was gathering the courage to say something, so he let her gather it. He hated that it was obvious, he hated that he knew her habits, what each inflexion of her voice and every change in each muscle of her face meant. He hated that she had him on such a short leash, that she’d destroyed him, pretty much entirely, just yesterday, and already he was following her along her stupid trek up and down the beach. He hated how much he had to focus to feel all that hatred, how fake it was.
Finally, she turned around to look at him. “I just wanted to explain, about yesterday and, you know… all that.”
“Okay.” Meaning: then explain, get to the point.
She took a step forward, and Logan imagined that it was the point in their choreography where he was supposed to take a step back, but he didn’t. She looked grateful for it, so he almost took a step back out of pure spite.
“I just – Logan.”
If that was how eloquent she was going to be, they’d be there a long time. She looked down, took a steadying breath, and finally another step. She was right in front of him now, and alarms started ringing in his ears. Nope, nope, nope. He couldn’t do that again. When she reached up with one hand, the alarms were blaring, deafeningly loud in his ears, so loud he was surprised he hadn’t collapsed from the pain their sheer force should have caused. The lights were flashing in his mind, bright, red, DANGER. His vision was slightly fuzzy, the feeling was so intense, the panic so great.
“No.” He shook his head and took a step back, trying to calm his head, his heartrate, anything in him that could calm down, before she could touch him. Veronica was trying to… kiss him, or something, he didn’t know, but he’d sidestepped it now. That one step surely had to solve it all. It had to, because the alarming lights had dimmed and his head wasn’t throbbing so much anymore.
She looked crestfallen, like she didn’t expect he would try to be an active participant in the conversation. “No?”
“You don’t get to do this, Veronica. You don’t get to break my heart a second time, then act like it didn’t happen and come back to use me when it’s convenient for you.” He gave a humourless laugh and shook his head again. “You know that I…” He laughed again, and she frowned, eyes clouding with sadness. “I thought it was it, you know? When you asked me to take you to your room, ‘like the first time’.” He repeated her words with animosity. “I thought you felt the same way I did, that this time we could do it. It was fucking crazy but who fucking cared. And then… I wake up, in your bed, and you’re gone. Like none of it happened. I probably should’ve seen it coming, huh?”
He'd completely taken over her conversation, but fuck that, he had things to say, too, and for once he could take control in the spiralling mess of their relationship. He could drive it to the ground himself.
“Can I just –”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
He started walking back, shaking his head, like if he did it enough times, the memories would vanish, like it would undo all the hurt, would make all of it not true, shaking up the reality until it fell back into its rightful place. Like a snow globe, shaking it, messing it up to have it all fall together beautifully like no storm had ever happened.
But he didn’t seriously think any person, any thing could ever erase a hurricane like Veronica. He’d tried.
She bit her lip, and even if it was behind him, he could see her in his mind’s eye. He’d seen her do it too many times, and he was so tired of her biting her lip and holding back the things she wanted to say. Stop biting your fucking lip and talk to me. Scream at me. I don’t care, just stop being this person I don’t know. The person he knew didn’t just hold back her feelings, not to him, not when there was nothing to lose, not when she truly cared. She hid them away, she kept them locked up, she didn’t put them into words. But they flamed in her eyes, daring anyone to point them out, they undulated in her screamed accusations, they shot out of her piercing stares and seeped out of her languid touches.
He whirled around another time, spraying sand in his wake. Yeah, he was mad. He was annoyed. At her, at him, he didn’t even know for sure anymore. But he was so sick of whatever this was. Of her being dead inside, of her coming out of that state for just a moment and then bottling it all back up when she decided he wasn’t worth that. That she was better off half awake than alive and beside him. It said way too much about how she saw him. Logan’s words started stumbling out of him before he had the time to think them through, as his hands gestured at Veronica, full of accusation and hurt and the visceral reaction only she could elicit.
“This would’ve been great if it had been a nice little agreement – you, me, one night, no strings attached, relive the past. Except that’s not what it was and we both know it. You didn’t even have the intention for it to be that.”
Would it have been “great”, really? Probably not, Logan thought. It probably would have broken his heart, probably would have torn him apart, but at least he wouldn’t have had the hope, would have known in advance. He would have had a warning, the knowledge that after that, it was done. And, what the hell, it was Veronica, so he would have agreed to it, agreed to anything for just a tiny bit more of her.
“Great? It would have been great?”
“What do you want me to say, Veronica? Yeah, it would have been better than whatever it is you’re trying to pull.”
“So you just… sleep with someone and assume it’s going to be a recurring thing?”
He sighed exasperatedly.
“Wow. No, you know what, I’m not having this conversation,” Logan replied, shaking his head. “I feel like I’ve had it before, the 17 years old version of it, and you clearly learned approximately nothing from it and have about zero regrets about any of it, so that’s it. I’m out. Get in the car, let’s go back to Boston and then it’ll all be over as quickly as possible.”
“I’m not getting in a car with you this angry,” she said, crossing her arms in a defensive stance.
“And what are you gonna do about it, then, Veronica?” he spat. “Can’t sleep your way out of this one.”
She looked like he’d slapped her as she took a step back.
“I’ll take a cab,” she said, lips pursed, and he could tell she was holding back tears. That was probably not how she’d pictured the conversation going. Yeah, well, it wasn’t how he’d pictured spending the night with her would have gone, either. There were a lot of unmet expectations flying around.
“No, wait, Veronica!” he called out, following her as she accelerated. He heard her repress a sob, or maybe he’d imagined it? He didn’t think so. “Veronica!” he called again when she’d reached the top of the incline, her bare feet on the concrete of the sidewalk. He hadn’t even noticed her taking off her shoes in the first place. Were they in his car?
She whipped around, angrily wiping at the tears on her cheeks as her eyes shot daggers. “What, Logan? I think you’ve expressed your view of me clearly enough. Like you said, let’s get it all over as quickly as possible.”
“Don’t take a cab.”
“Gee, thanks, that’s all it took, that totally changes my mind.”
“Please, Veronica. Don’t go. Not again.”
Her gaze softened slightly. “Logan…”
“Look, yes, I’m still hurt, and yeah, I’m still pissed at you. And I have resentment for you. Like, a ton of it. But I – that’s not all I have. I don’t want you to ride all the way back to Boston with a stranger. I don’t want that stranger to be a random cab driver, and I don’t want it to be me. Please don’t make me a stranger again.”
“You were never a stranger. You can never be a stranger,” she choked out.
“Well, then, ride back down to Boston with me.”
She nodded. “Okay,” and started walking back down to the beach even if Logan’s car was up there where she’d been going.
“Okay. So that’s taken care of. Let’s move on to the rest, shall we? We’ve got the whole trip to discuss it.”
“Do we have to?”
To his surprise, she continued over to him until she reached him, and then rested her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. He smoothed her hair back, resting his cheek at the top of her head and gently enclosing her in his arms. It was completely bizarre – bonkers, really – how they could go from awkward to screaming at each other to held in a tight embrace in a matter of minutes. And both the screaming and the hugging felt natural, familiar, somehow right even in their complete opposition.
“I’m sorry,” Veronica said.
There were so many things. So many things he wanted to hear her acknowledge.
“Everything.” When he didn’t say anything, she understood she had to elaborate, this time. He wasn’t going to take over. “For being a coward and running.”
Which time? Logan almost asked.
“For not texting you back,” she continued and Logan laughed. “What?”
“It’s just… when you say it that way, it doesn’t sound like as big a deal as it was.”
“It was a big deal, wasn’t it?” Veronica nodded sadly.
“Yeah,” Logan agreed. “It was.”
It had more or less incapacitated his feelings for three-odd years. He still foolishly held that flimsy hope that she’d pop back up with a silly story, like that her phone had broken and she’d only just gotten one back. Three years later. College was a weird time, okay. And he’d loved her so blindly that, what the hell? It could happen.
“I’m sorry. And I’m sorry for… this whole mess.”
“What part?” he asked, because, yes, he was going to make her spell it out. Syllable after painful syllable.
She sighed. “Not straightening everything out earlier this week. Ignoring you in the morning, yesterday. Not telling you what I thought about what we did. Pretending it didn’t happen. Making all the decisions for us.”
“You’re not sorry about what did happen, then?”
“No. I know you are, but –”
“What? No, I’m not.”
“But yesterday, in the kitchen, you tried to –”
“Yeah, because I thought I’d misunderstood the signals. I thought I hadn’t asked enough if it was okay, that you…” He trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut. He thought he’d re-traumatized her all over again, taken advantage of her, shred the sexual confidence she’d built up in the years since she’d asked him to be her first time after her rape. “I thought you regretted it.”
She finally angled her head upward on his chest to look up to his serious face and lifted a finger to his cheek. “You were perfect. The perfect gentleman. Just… perfect.”
“Then why’d you do that?”
“Because – Logan, we work together.”
“Who cares? It’s not like we met through work and are using whatever it is between us to either of our advantages. Everything was already there before we even started working together. Is work really the only thing keeping us apart? Because that can be fixed so easily, Veronica –”
“Okay.” He stroked her hair again, absently, looking beyond her, over her.
“Logan, look at me.”
He looked down at her quickly, fleetingly, had just the time to see her bite her lip worriedly before he looked away again.
“Stop,” he croaked.
Stop giving me hope every time. Stop nipping it in the bud every time, right after I make myself too vulnerable. Stop talking. Stop fitting so perfectly in my arms. Stop coming back to me.
She pulled away, took a few steps back, and that caught his attention. He watched as she took her phone out of her pocket, keeping her gaze on him. She typed in something and put her phone back in her jeans, still looking at him.
A few seconds later, he felt his phone vibrate. Hesitantly, confused, he took it out slowly, holding Veronica’s eyes. He broke eye contact to look down at the words.
Unknown number, 7:56AM: I’m ready to be an adult about it
He looked back up, and Veronica was still staring at him nervously. She took a deep breath, and recited from memory. “Find another punching bag, Veronica. I don’t have the energy to be the one you torture. You know exactly how I feel about you, it’s never been a secret to anyone, and you can keep pretending it’s all perfect in your perfect world, but it’s not. This will never be the simple, straightforward friendship you want it to be. Stop trying to make it that way and trying to make me feel guilty for caring about you. Please only reply when you’re willing to actually be an adult about this.”
Logan’s mouth dropped open. “You memorized that?”
She nodded, fighting off the blush creeping on her cheeks. “I kept reading it and wondering what I could answer. And then it was so late, it was too late. But I kept reading it. So, yeah, at one point, I committed it to memory.”
“So what you’re saying is…”
“Is you’re right. It’s not simple. But I love you. And I think we should be together, and I’m willing to try.”
“You… hold on, what?”
“I love you, you idiot. I fell in love with you when I was 17 and I fell in love with you again.” She shrugged shyly. “Thought you should know.”
“That – that is very nice to know.”
“Come here,” Logan said and she rushed back into his open arms. He immediately closed them around her again. He kissed the top of her head tenderly. “How long is too long before I say it back?” he teased, and she breathed out a short laugh. “I love you too, Veronica Mars. You perfect pain in the ass.”
He tilted her head up and she smiled at him. He returned her smile before dropping his lips to hers. It was short and sweet.
“Come on, I think we have some road to cover,” he finally said, looking in her eyes.
“Or we have a house to ourselves for the weekend. I mean, I’m not expected in Boston until work on Monday morning.”
“I like that plan. So, we head back tomorrow afternoon?”
“If that works for you.”
“That works for me,” he murmured against her lips, and kissed her again. “You’ll wake me up when you leave the bed, this time?”
“If it’s not to pee in the middle of the night, sure,” she teased, mirth flickering in her eyes.
“Then that sounds like a great plan that your father will hate.”
“My father likes you. Liked you.”
“He likes Piz better.”
She scrunched up her face, like Piz was the furthest thing in her mind. Maybe it was. “He likes Piz. He doesn’t think to compare the two of you. And anyway, it’s incomparable.”
“Do you like Piz?”
She shrugged. “Kind of. I mean, he’s a nice, proper, likable guy. But I don’t like like him. Didn’t I just tell you I’m in love with you?”
“Yeah, but a guy wonders.”
“I’m sorry I keep making you wonder.”
“Could be worse. You know, you could have been… living with him or something. Now I don’t have to be a homewrecker.”
She scoffed. “Please. You wouldn’t care.”
“You wound me. I very much am against homewreckers. And being one.”
“… But I don’t think such a thing would stop me from going after you if you wanted to be with me, too.”
“There you go.”
“You know, you’re awfully cocky for someone who’s been in a relationship for all of five minutes.”
“I like to think of it as someone who’s picked up a relationship that was already 3 months old. There was just a break in the middle.”
“A seven-year break.”
He kissed her softly. “So nothing. I like that.” They stayed silent a few minutes, then he spoke up again. “Is that why you said you weren’t my ex the other day?”
“I don’t like our breakup. It wasn’t a real breakup. It was just… we were still in love when we went our separate ways. And me not replying wasn’t a breakup, either. I can’t explain it. But it wasn’t something we’d cut clearly, let go behind us.”
“I think I get it.”
“I like the girl I was when I was with you better than the girl I was for my years after you,” she confessed after another pause.
“Oh, goody, I like that girl a lot too.”
“I know. And I promise I’ll be there with you to help make some sense out of it. I promise I’ll keep you in check and I won’t let you become that broken person again.”
“Not broken, more like…”
A suggestive grin grew slowly across his face. “Well, it’s a good thing I know exactly how to fill you up –”
“What? You have got to get used to that. That’s one of my primary default modes.”
“I know,” Veronica replied, smiling at him tiredly and kissing his jaw tenderly. “And I look forward to exploring all your default modes again.”
Epilogue – Four years later
Once in twenty lifetimes
Sometimes Veronica couldn’t quite believe what her life had become in such a short period of time, how she had managed to be so lucky. It maybe hadn’t exactly been as quick as it seemed it her head, but it had felt like a whirlwind.
When Logan and her had come back from their weeklong work trip – emerged from it, Wallace said, and he always said it with a smirk that made Veronica blush and Logan match the smirk, which then earned him a smack on the arm because hey – everything had flown past. Logan hadn’t stayed at his carefully chosen new Boston apartment very long, moving in with her as soon as his initial lease had been over.
After her ad had been finished, once she’d made sure it had gone out to the world swiftly – with a pat on the back from her superiors they didn’t know made her feel happy for entirely different reasons than them – she’d quit. For the few months between her decision that it wasn’t worth wasting her time anymore and the actual point where she quit, she’d put a portfolio together. She jumped right into a job at a local magazine after that, and it wasn’t exactly thrilling, but she was taking pictures and paying the bills. Most importantly, she wasn’t thrown on a surprise trip with an ex-boyfriend to scout locations for an ad she hated being in charge of, so there was that silver lining.
And, of course, there was the silver lining of the new/old boyfriend in her life, cheering her on, and who’d been right beside her when she’d broken the news to her father, there to visit her for Christmas. Granted, he’d spent most of the discussion staring at the bottom of his glass, but still. She knew that if her father had been difficult about it, he’d have jumped in to defend her, and that knowledge was enough. But her father had been great about the news, relieved that she had a job lined up to start right after she left Mass’ Insurance, and happy that she’d found what made her happy. With the years of hindsight, she wondered why she’d been so nervous about it – of course her father would always want what was best for her. And if that meant she had to hide from him that she’d taken on the side a few small cases for acquaintances (nothing major, just finding a long-lost girlfriend, and one or two stakeouts to help her colleague discover if her husband was cheating (he was)), that was fine by her. It also helped that she didn’t spring Logan on him at the exact same time. No, that had been his Thanksgiving surprise, that same year.
“Veronica! Hey, could you come help me with this?” she heard a voice from upstairs. She pushed herself off the couch and walked up the stairs slowly, clutching the railing.
She toyed with the necklace hanging from her neck as she went, flicking the small pendant resting on her skin. When she had gotten back together with Logan, she’d gone through all the boxes she hadn’t bothered opening when she’d moved out of her father’s place to find the round pendant Logan had given her for her 18th birthday, that she’d taken off the next summer, in a last ditch attempt to forget the boy who’d gifted it to her. Clearly, that had been very successful. But her petty decision had actually been a good one after all, as she’d lost the necklace that had been a permanent fixture around her neck a few years later, but not the discarded pendant. Over a decade after having discovered it, she still smiled inwardly at the knowledge that his words were engraved in the tiny circle resting on her skin, as true now as they’d been when they were kids. A promise, I love you. Just in case she forgot or doubted. She never really did these days, especially not with how much he told and showed her, in murmurs against her temple late at night or in delicate kisses on her knuckles when he read the news on his tablet during breakfast.
“What’s up?” she asked Logan when she got to the bedroom they’d just painted sunshine yellow the previous day. He was sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by all kinds of screws, bolts and tools, and a few weird-looking wooden boards stuck together at odd angles.
He handed her the instruction manual. “Does that thing,” he asked her, holding up a long, thin tube the length of his hand, “go there,” he pointed to the right extremity of the tumble of wood he had in front of him, “or there?” He pointed to the middle of the contraption.
“Uh, what about neither? That doesn’t look like a dresser, buddy.”
“Well, not yet.”
“Logan. There is no reason there would be a diagonal wooden plank in the dresser. This is clearly wrong. Just gimme that, I’ll put it together and you can start on the heater. It’s fine for now, but in a couple of months we’ll need to use it.”
The heater had been broken for at least fifteen years and never fixed, so if they wanted to make the house live-in all year long, they needed a new one.
“No, it’s okay, don’t exert yourself, I’ll just start over.”
“Logan, I’m pregnant, not dying. I can put together a dresser.”
“36 weeks pregnant!”
She rolled her eyes. “So? I can do it. You haven’t let me do anything to get the house ready."
“I’m just looking out for you,” he protested. “And the kid. Wouldn’t want him to be an adrenaline junkie and/or in danger of… I don’t know, something,” he finished lamely, mumbling.
She smiled at him. “Essentially, you’re scared I’ll somehow fall on my stomach and kill us both?”
“More or less?”
“Take this apart and give me the manual.”
“Fine, but if you hurt my wife or son, I’ll kill you,” Logan agreed, winking and standing up to kiss Veronica’s cheek.
“Yeah, yeah, less empty threats, more taking apart this monstrosity you for some reason managed to convince yourself was how the basis of our baby’s dresser should look like.”
“The instructions aren’t clear. You’ll see, they say it takes 45 minutes but it’s a lie. I’ve been at it for half an hour and… well, you see what it looks like.”
She gave him a pitying pat on the back when he passed her on his way to the door after disassembling the mess he’d put together, and painfully lowered herself on the ground (she could have used Logan’s help, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to ask for it) before getting to work. It took her 38 minutes. She calculated, because Veronica Mars never turned down a challenge. And IKEA estimates were clearly a challenge meant to provoke her.
“A heavily pregnant woman in the sweltering June heat can put it together in less time than indicated,” she boasted to Logan when she found him downstairs, fixing one of the kitchen drawers. “You just suck, darling.” Getting up after putting it together had been harder than building it, actually.
He turned to look at her and a grin crept on his face. “You timed yourself, didn’t you? Tried to prove their estimate wrong.”
She shrugged, biting into a carrot stick she picked up from the platter Logan had set on the counter.
“That was for supper,” he remarked. It was barely 2 in the afternoon.
Veronica ignored him, picked up the entire platter and plucked a jar of strawberry jam from the fridge before dipping another carrot stick inside. Gross, Logan shuddered.
“I’m pregnant,” she shot over her shoulder. At least it was better than the pickle/ranch dressing/chocolate cake combo she insisted on repeatedly back in April. That was disgusting even to watch. Even to imagine.
“You can’t use that excuse for everything.”
“You can’t use that excuse for everything,” she replied. “You should see how magnificent the dresser I put together looks. While pregnant. Against your initial will.”
He walked over to her and kissed her forehead before settling on the pouffe across from the couch on which she was sprawled, munching on a stolen cucumber. She wasn’t so fond of those these days, so he didn’t fear too much for his life by eating that fraction of her self-designated snack.
“This’ll be all ready for living in soon, huh?” Veronica marveled, looking around them.
“Yeah. It’s coming together,” Logan confirmed, the thought of raising his child in there bringing a smile to his face.
Veronica had wanted to make the Clatham Cove house, her late grandmother’s cottage, her permanent home for a while now, but it was never practical, never the right moment. But, finally, it was. The small town had started becoming slightly bigger recently, more connected to neighbouring villages, and a school was now accessible, mostly thanks to the growing demand. The inhabitants were no longer either retired or on vacation, there had been a steady rise in families moving in, but the village had essentially kept its small-town charm. It was still far from big cities, far from most people’s jobs if they didn’t own a shop on Main Street, and that had delayed the move. But once Veronica had been able to leave her job at the magazine after two successful expositions of her photographs and Logan had arranged for most of his work to be remote – everyone’s work could be remote now, it seemed – they’d started making plans to move into the house that had seen so many milestones for them. They’d had to hurry it along a little bit, wanted to make sure everything was ready and baby-proofed before their son was born, but it was worth it now, to see how good everything looked. Most of the furniture had already been there, but they’d had to change a few elements. Mostly, they’d repainted a few rooms and gotten the baby’s room ready. He’d be sleeping in theirs at first, of course, but Veronica wanted everything to be ready before they had a baby to take care of.
“You know, you’re already spoiling your son,” Logan had remarked the previous day, when they were painting the baby room.
“I’m sorry, what? I’m spoiling him? You bought him twenty different stuffed animals before we even knew his sex,” she’d replied, scoffing as she wiped her paint-covered finger on the overalls Logan insisted looked adorable on her pregnant figure and she thought made her look like a whale.
“He’s the size of a papaya right now, if my memory serves,” Logan had explained, and she knew his memory did serve because he’d read every goddamn parenting book he could get his hands on, as well as all the magazines in her OB-GYN’s waiting room, “and you gave him the master bedroom. The biggest bedroom in the house, by far.”
“I gave him my grandmother’s room,” she’d countered, “because I want to keep my room as mine. And my dad will be our most frequent visitor, probably, so it’s natural his usual bedroom should be the guest room. I’m not spoiling the baby. The high-tech baby monitor you had us set up, though…”
“Hey, it’s all about safety,” he’d protested.
She wouldn’t tell him, but she liked the system he’d picked out. It had a camera, which was ridiculous and overkill, but also, she liked being able to see in her son’s room from her cellphone, anytime, anywhere, so. She imagined when there actually was a baby to watch (in another way than looking down at her own belly), she’d be even more grateful for it.
“Did the editor call?” Veronica asked, popping another jam-covered carrot in her mouth. “She said this weekend, didn’t she?”
“Not yet. There’s still time.”
Veronica hummed in approval. Parker Lee, Logan’s editor, was truly wonderful at what she did, and Veronica liked her, even if she was a bit of a gossip and Veronica had caught her looking appreciatively at Logan’s biceps more than once.
“It’s no big deal, though,” Logan continued, stealing another cucumber from the platter, “Everything is practically already done by now. It’s the twelfth draft and the eleventh was almost sent to the printing press already, so it really looks like it may be done.”
Logan had reduced his workload in the past few years, never taking more than one producing gig at a time, to make time, real time, to write. He’d given up on the doomed screenplay of years past, telling himself he could refashion it into something else later, if he ever got that sudden inspiration to mold it into something interesting, and had focused on the piece he’d started right here in Clatham Cove on his work trip with Veronica. It had, slowly, steadily, become somewhat of a novel, and was about to be published. The certainty of that, along with the success of Veronica’s expositions, had given them the final push to finally move out to Maine. His writing, like her photography, didn’t need a fancy office in a big city. Boston had been good for them both, but Veronica’s heart was always in that little coastal town in Maine. And Logan’s heart was with Veronica, she’d snagged it right there on that beach a few minutes away from their new permanent home, a decade earlier.
“It won’t still smell like paint when he gets here, right?” Veronica asked, sniffing the air suspiciously.
Logan wasn’t sure if she meant Wallace, who was coming on Thursday for a long weekend to visit the town he’d heard so much about, or their son, who still had four weeks before he was supposed to show up. In any case, he was pretty sure the answer was no. Besides, he could barely even smell it now. “Your pregnancy smell is acting up, bobcat. But yeah, the teeny tiny smell will be gone by then.”
She glared at him but her gaze instantly softened. “He’s kicking,” she said fondly, laying her hand on her stomach. “You’d think it gets old.”
It evidently didn’t get old for Logan, who was already on his knees in front of the couch, one hand beside hers and the other in her hair, thumb caressing her temple.
“Hey, little man. It’s Daddy. Can you kick again for Daddy?” he whispered to her stomach, hitching her shirt up, as if that really was the one thing keeping his son from answering him, lips brushing his wife’s skin.
Veronica rolled her eyes. “Stop calling him little man. You’ll get too used to it and he’ll hate you when you still use it and he’s ten. Or twelve. Or twenty.”
“Oh, because you calling him sweetie is going to be any teenager’s dream.”
“Hey, everyone’s mom calls them embarrassing baby names. Those with moms who give a shit, anyway.”
“Well, our kid’ll be special. He’ll also have a dad who calls him embarrassing baby names. Besides, he’ll throw a tantrum when he’s four or five and make me stop using it then anyway. I’ll have to graduate to ‘buddy’.”
“Did you feel that?” Veronica suddenly exclaimed.
Logan’s widened eyes stared back up at her in amazement. “Are we sure he’s only the size of a papaya? That was strong.”
“Looks like he takes after Mommy.”
He stroked her stomach tenderly and kissed her hairline, her nose, her chin, and finally her lips, feather light. “I hope so.”
She cupped his cheek and looked into his eyes. “I’m excited to see what traits he inherited from you, too.”
“Hopefully the charming good looks.”
Veronica laughed and kissed him. “And the humility. Oh, please, let the baby be as humble as his father.”
Logan kissed her again. “Hey, thanks.”
“Thanks for what?”
“Everything. You know, being with me, making me a father, I – I don’t know how to say any of it without sounding creepy. But thanks for being my family, I guess.”
“There’s no one else I’d rather one-up in furniture building,” she said seriously and he groaned. “Thanks for not giving up on me.”
Thanks for not giving up on us, all three of us.
“I would never.”
She took his face in both her hands and kissed him softly. “I know.”
It feels very strange to be posting the very last chapter of this universe, but here we are... Hopefully it's good enough closure. Thank you for reading these two stories, and especially to everyone who left kudos and/or comments!