The first morning Veronica wakes up at the beach house, there's a folded note on the bedside table: Gone to North Island for some paperwork. Stay as long as you want. Don't mind the Dick.
The crease is so straight and sharp it looks starched. The paper flops shut when she puts it down, and the corners meet exactly. Who are you now, Logan Echolls? Veronica wonders. Two issues of Popular Science are stacked on the nightstand, the corners perfectly aligned. The drawer holds a little bowl of loose change and a neatly coiled charger. The covers on his side of the bed are smooth and unruffled, his two pillows stacked on top of them. Shipshape, Veronica thinks. Funny how she'd never considered where that word came from.
The curiosity welling up inside her feels a lot like arousal, and she pads out to explore the rest of the house. She finds her first real temptation lurking on Logan's desk. It's a red spiral notebook, obviously long used and well-loved. The front cover is creased and spotted with water stains, its upper corner soft and frayed. Like everything else Logan owns, it's centered perfectly in its space, equidistant between the blotter and the edge of the desk. She trails her fingers lightly over the cover and then pulls them back. Do me a favor this time, Veronica. If you want to know something, just ask. They can talk about it at dinner tonight.
She forces her gaze upward to the framed degree on the wall. Mechanical engineering, magna cum laude. Like everything else about Logan, it makes sense and doesn't. She'd always known he was smart: he aced math tests without studying and wrote A papers the night before. While she slaved over SAT practice booklets, he sauntered in after a night of partying and collected his 1480. And he'd always liked physics. Even when he refused to do any other homework, he turned in perfect lab reports, right on time.
On paper, the equation makes sense: intelligence, test taking skills plus secret love of science adds up to engineer. Add in the adrenaline addiction and pilot makes sense too. Combine that with a raging white knight syndrome, and then you get the Navy. But even with all that, she can't trace the journey from maladjusted teenager with a drinking problem to decorated Naval aviator. And that, she supposes, is why she's here and not in New York. She always did love a good puzzle.
The hall closet is full of uniforms. The dress whites are in the back, draped with a clear plastic cover from the dry cleaners. She pulls them out and snaps a picture of the ribbons so she can research them later. Then she picks up one of the flight suits. It's heavy in her hands, and the olive green fabric is rough beneath her fingers. LOGAN ECHOLLS is stitched in gold thread across the chest. She tries to picture him wearing it, but all she can imagine are fragmented scenes from Top Gun. Time to get googling, girl, she thinks. Otherwise she's going to sound like a demented fangirl. She's reaching for the dress blues when she hears a floorboard creak behind her.
Dick is leaning casually against the wall with his wetsuit unzipped and a beer in his hand.
"H-how long have you been there?" she stammers. She's only wearing Logan's old t-shirt and a pair of his boxers, and she can feel her face turning red.
"No worries, V," Dick says. He drops his voice to a stage whisper. "Sometimes the uniform closet makes me feel a little hot and bothered too. Don't tell Logan."
"Nothing like an awkward confidence first thing in the morning," Veronica says.
"If by first thing in the morning, you mean twelve thirty. But after all you got up to last night, I'm sure you needed the beauty sleep. Damn, girl, I forgot how you could scream."
"And I'd forgotten how hard it is to be in the same room with you," Veronica says. She can feel her face burning, and she hates herself for it.
"Yeah, you're gonna have to work on that," Dick says. "I know we're pretty much mortal enemies, and I'm not gonna pretend I thought it was a good idea for Logan to call you. Or hook up with you. Or keep hooking up with you. But the thing is, I want us to be cool. You did get him off a murder charge, and as near as I can tell, you don't inject heroin into your eyeballs, so I figure you're an improvement over the last model."
"I don't know what to say, Dick. I think that's the longest thing I've ever heard you say that wasn't about boobs."
"Layers, Veronica," Dick says. "We cool?"
He holds out a hand, and Veronica shakes it uncertainly.
"It's okay, V. You don't have to say anything. If you could just, like, not accuse me of raping anyone, we're good. Oh, and don't let it weird you out that Logan and I are married. It's just a convenience thing, and I won't stand in your way."
Wallace, tragically, is unreachable by phone. Apparently you can't abandon your sixth period PE class just because your best friend is suffering a romantic crisis. Mac, on the other hand, gets paid the big bucks and takes personal calls at the office.
"Don't marry Wallace," she says matter-of-factly. "Marry me. It's much more progressive. And think how much fun it would be to tell my parents we're gay."
"You raise a valid point," Veronica says, easing the car into a parking space at The Chicken Hut. The day seems to deserve an orgy of crispy fried goodness of dubious origin. "Which do you think my father would prefer?" she asks. "You or Logan?"
"I'm insulted you'd even ask," Mac says, huffing slightly. "Clearly, you haven't seen my investment portfolio or my arrest record recently. I can be your sugar mama, and I'm so rarely charged with murder."
"Fair," Veronica concedes. "On the other hand, you're not a fighter pilot. Dad won't admit it, but Logan's career choice has a certain cache."
“No,” Mac says implacably, “You think fighter pilots have a certain cache. Because they do! But your dad’s more into stability and responsible decision making.”
A familiar surge of irritation shoots through Veronica. Logan isn’t irresponsible now, if he ever was. In hindsight, it seems like he spent a lot of his adolescence facing responsibilities far beyond a teenager’s life skills, and it’s really hard to blame him for not doing homework while everyone he ever loved was busy dying. But then, that’s not the point of today’s conversation.
“I was joking, Veronica,” Mac says. “I’m your friend, I support your life choices, etc. etc. Most importantly, I’m ninety-nine percent sure Dick was trolling you.”
“Maybe,” Veronica says, but she doesn’t feel very confident. "I think Dick's idea of a clever prank is mooning someone when they pull into the driveway. Actually, I know that's Dick's idea of a clever prank -- not that I ever want to speak of it again."
A mere twenty-four hours ago, Veronica had thought the sight of Dick's bare ass cheeks pressed against the living room window would haunt her for the rest of her life. Now she's tormented by a different sight: Dick lounging against the wall, beer dangling casually from his hand, telling her with apparent sincerity that his marriage shouldn't stand in the way of her relationship to Logan. Worst of all is the sudden discovery that she believes at least one good thing about Dick Casablancas: he's entirely incapable of faking sincerity.
"Just tell me one thing, Mac. What is the etiquette of doing a public records search for your new boyfriend's marriage certificate?" Veronica asks, pausing outside the door of The Chicken Hut. The clientele here are not exactly sophisticated, but what do you know, she'd still rather hide the mystery of Logan's gay-marriage-of-convenience from prying ears.
Mac sighs. "Veronica, if you want this to work -- and please tell me you wouldn't have broken up with Piz if you didn't want this to work -- you should probably accept that Google is not the best solution to relationship problems."
"Dammit, Mac. I knew you were going to say that."
"Yes, you did. In fact, that's probably why you called me," Mac says. "And now I have to go back to work. Do yourself a favor and stay off the internet for two whole hours until you see Logan again."
Veronica hangs up the phone and swings open the door to The Chicken Hut. Clearly, there's only one solution to this problem: get her fingers so greasy she won't be able to hold onto her smartphone.
When Logan finally does arrive, it's not the uniform she notices (even though it is the short sleeved tropical whites). It's the light in his eyes when he sees her from across the room.
"Howdy, sailor," she says, and she doesn't expect the flicker of irritation that flits across his face.
"Aviator," he says mildly, sliding into the chair across from her.
"Nothing turns me on more than a man who insists upon accurate factual information," she parries back.
It's disgustingly true, and the whole evening would be perfect if not for the nagging fear that Logan's secretly married to Dick Casablancas. It feels like another Madison Sinclair moment: proof that in spite of their attraction, they are completely different people capable of condemning and condoning entirely different sorts of behavior.
"What's the matter?" Logan asks.
Veronica blinks. Is she really so transparent?
"Nothing," she hedges. "What makes you think something's wrong?"
Logan raises an eyebrow. "You realize you haven't actually changed all that much, right? All afternoon, you've been radio silence and sarcastic texts. So what is it?"
Veronica looks at him carefully. Ten years ago, he would have been wary and tense; now he looks calm and open. Maybe even expectant. Clearly, Logan thinks they are going to have a rational adult conversation to resolve a problem. Which gives her two choices: step up to the plate or run and hide. She knows which one sounds more appealing, but then, she's not willing to let Logan believe he's the only one who's changed in the past ten years.
"Are you and Dick married?" she blurts out.
Logan laughs. A lot. Maybe he even snorts. Veronica would probably record it for blackmail if she weren't so horrified by her apparent gullibility.
"Does he really still think that?" Logan asks when he's regained some semblance of composure.
Veronica takes a deep breath and a long drink of wine, willing the redness in her cheeks to fade. "Well, he certainly seemed sincere when he told me he wouldn't stand in my way."
"Never let it be said that the Dick has no heart," Logan says, looking faintly pleased.
Veronica supposes he has been a good brother...thing to Logan, even if he has no other redeeming virtues. She will probably, at some point, have to force herself to appreciate that.
"Just to be clear, you are not and never were married to Dick Casablancas?" she asks.
Logan shakes his head. "Dick bought the beach house about two seconds before the real estate bubble burst. When he ended up underwater on the mortgage, we worked out a deal with the bank for me to take over some of the payments."
Veronica frowns. "And that's relevant how?"
"Dick thinks that if you own property with someone, you're automatically married to them."
"And you never thought to tell him otherwise?"
"Only about a hundred times," Logan says, still grinning faintly. "But he's so grateful I don't claim 'husbandly privileges' that he actually cleans things sometimes. It always seems like a worthwhile trade until he convinces the woman in my life that we're married."
"For the record," Veronica says, "I hate you both."
Logan leans back in his chair. Light glints off his aviator pin, and Veronica can't help but admire the way his biceps move under the bright white uniform sleeves.
"Hate me all you want," he says, smirking. "You're still going to home with me tonight."
"What are you grinning about?" she asks, poking him in the ribs.
Logan's smile widens. "You must really want me," he says.
Veronica props herself up on one elbow and cocks an eyebrow at him. "And how do you figure that?" she asks. She has a feeling that the answer involves a lot of screaming orgasms.
"One public records search and you could've found out if Dick and I were married," he says. "I can't even begin to imagine the self-restraint involved in waiting a whole afternoon to ask."
Logan gives her a crooked grin just this side of the smirk, but she knows from the way he tucks her hair behind her ear that he's serious. It would be easy to play it off with a quip -- always keep her heart safe, always keep a little piece of herself hidden. All the better to never be blindsided in case the person you love betrays you. But then, why fly halfway across the country and upend her life if she planned to keep repeating the same mistakes?
"I do," she says softly, trailing a finger down Logan's chest. "I really want you."