Author's Note: It has been a bad year for me. I was hospitalized and had another surgery again in the summer, and on top of that last month, my apartment building and complex were on fire. It was downright scary and it was all over the news. Sorry for the late update, but I am glad that I can update now. I hope you enjoy this chapter! Thank you so much. Massive thanks to cainc3 for beta'ed the fic!
Logan and Veronica: Neptune, Balboa County 2016
The ride to the restaurant was short and quiet. Aside for some pleasantries and glances - there was nothing much and it was awkward. Both Logan and Veronica were glad that the ride didn't take long.
Logan took her to an Italian restaurant called Mario's; the place was very Italian, with its traditional music and décor. "Wow, I feel like we're in Napoli. This is awesome." Veronica commented.
"Right? They opened about two years ago, and they really have good food here." Logan pulled out a chair for her and she murmured thanks. "Lorrie loves it here 'cause of the desserts."
"Let me be the judge of that. I don't think the food could beat Luigi's or Mama Leone's."
"Shhh, not so loud. Everyone here is so sensitive about those restaurants. Don't mention those names. I don't want to get poisoned." Logan chuckled.
"Well, I am hungry. My dad and I were supposed to have dinner together, but he bailed. Stupid case."
"Hey! Watch the language, young lady." Logan sat and pointed his forefinger at her. She widened her eyes and opened her mouth in disbelief. He then laughed when he saw her expression. "As a fellow dad, I gotta side with yours. We dads have to stick together."
Veronica made a funny face, which made him chuckled. At least it wasn't awkward anymore. The waiter brought them some menus and a basket of breadsticks – Veronica immediately grabbed one. "Sorry, I am so hungry." She chewed fast, trying not to be nervous. "I've been thinking about dinner all afternoon."
"Then you will like the food here." Logan nodded to the waiter. "Give us some time, please."
When the waiter left them alone, Veronica looked around the restaurant and saw many couples having dinner. There was a couple who were holding hands on the table and they were staring at each other, lovingly. She cleared her throat and looked away. She glanced at Logan who didn't seem to notice his surroundings as he was reading the menu.
"So… what's good here?" Veronica asked.
"Well, my kid loves Scampi ala Toscana. Obviously, I don't know whether it's good or not because –"
"You're allergic to shellfish."
Logan looked up from the menu and blinked, "I can't believe you remember."
"Of course I remember. How could I forget? When you were thirteen, you almost died from eating some shrimps. Your face was red, you were holding your neck, you couldn't breathe, I was crying like a toddler, Duncan was panicking, and Lilly was running around screaming."
"Oh yeah, that." Logan grimaced.
"If dad wasn't there to save your butt, we wouldn't be here, having dinner." Veronica shook her head. "I thought I was gonna lose you. I mean, WE all thought that we were gonna lose you…" She cleared her throat. Logan smiled watching her looking worried.
"I remember you were crying so loud, right next to me, when they put me in the ambulance."
"I thought you were gonna die!"
Logan waved his hands, mimicking Veronica back then, "Don't die, Logan! Logan, why! Whyyyy…!" Veronica threw her napkin at him while he was laughing. "I almost went deaf because of your screaming."
"I was worried!"
"Well, thank you for worrying. I still remember that huge flower arrangement and Gameboy you got me." His eyes were soft when he looked at her. "Your mom and dad were so nice when they visited me. I will cherish that memory forever."
"You are so lame." Veronica's cheeks were red. Logan smiled wider when he saw her getting embarrassed and decided not to tease her about it. He thought she looked so cute, but he shook those thoughts away. He wasn't a love-struck teenage boy or in high school anymore. He had a daughter, for heaven's sake.
The rest of the night went well after they ordered their food. They were talking easily and reminiscing about their childhood – but they were avoiding topics such as their times together in high school and college. Veronica also ordered a glass of wine.
"I haven't had a drink for a while… I mean, with a kid at home…" Logan said when Veronica asked why he didn't order an alcoholic beverage. "Besides, I'm driving. I know we were supposed to have a drink tonight, but I would've had a club soda anyway."
"I understand." Veronica nodded while chewing. "By the way, this is fantastic." She points to her plate. She ordered a Pappardelle with beef and mushrooms, and she couldn't get enough of it. "I can eat a dozen of these."
Logan grinned watching her eat. "Yeah, I'm sure you could."
"Shut up." She twirled the pasta with a fork and then put a big bite into her mouth. She moaned with pleasure, which made him almost choke on his drink. "Oops, I am so sorry." Veronica covered her mouth while chewing. "I gotta stop doing that. Wallace almost bites my head off whenever I'm doing that. I can't help it, I'm on vacation and this is such good pasta."
"That's fine…" He muttered but grinned anyway. "Nothing can come between you and your food."
"You better believe it." She was talking while chewing, and Logan found himself smiling watching her. This was a blast from the past; she hadn't changed at all – at least regarding food. He remembered how much Veronica loves food and everyone used to make fun of her for eating like a boy, but she didn't care. And that was one of the reasons why he loved her…
Logan blinked at that thought.
He shouldn't be thinking about that. She was just a friend who was visiting her hometown for a vacation.
He cleared his throat, "So… how's your dad? He seems so busy."
Veronica nodded, annoyed. "Yes. So many cases and he has no one to help him. I mean, I went to his office and he doesn't even have a good filing system. I had to clean up his office while I was there." She sighed. "I need to hire an assistant or something for him, but he would refuse."
"Why would he refuse?"
"Because he's a stubborn goat, that's why." Veronica grimaced. "He's old school. He doesn't use computers or the internet." She looked at him. "Kinda like you, though."
"Anyway, it's obvious he's been avoiding me."
Logan frowned, "Why is he avoiding you?"
Veronica didn't answer. She didn't want to tell Logan that her dad was avoiding her because of Piz and getting into the fact that she was dating and living with Piz. Did he even remember Piz? Did he remember that he beat the hell out of Piz in college? It really wasn't his business anyway and she didn't want to ruin the night...
"Umm… I rather not talk about it."
"Oh, sorry." Logan apologized. He thought that there was something happening back in New York, and it might be a touchy subject. One thing he knew about Veronica, she always runs whenever something bad happens. Her sudden arrival in Neptune was possibly due to what happened to her. He hopes it wasn't something serious.
"No, it's okay," Veronica assured him. "I think… it's just… He does not like the idea of me coming back to Neptune when I have a great career in New York."
"Are…are you… coming back to Neptune?" Logan moved his food mindlessly with his fork. He didn't dare look at her.
"Of course not. I can't just leave my home." Veronica exhaled. "Dad is being irrational, I think. I'm just taking a break from work and stuff. And I missed him so much."
Logan nodded. Of course, he knew that Veronica would only stay in Neptune for a few days. He was a little disappointed but not really surprised about it. "Have you talked about this with your dad?"
Veronica almost rolled her eyes with the idea. "I've been here for two days and I've hardly seen him." She took a large bite of her pasta and said with a mouthful. "That or" munch "the mayor" munch "is keeping" munch "him busy."
"The mayor? Mayor Petra Landros?"
She nodded. "Saw her at the office. She has a case for him. I think he has a crush on her."
Logan grinned, "I think everyone has a crush on her."
"Remember back when you used to have a poster of her?"
"Yes." He laughed. "Lilly had a poster of her too."
"What? No, she didn't!"
"She did. But then she gave it to Donut." He shrugged, "She decided that she liked male models but female singers instead."
"Oh, wow." Veronica laughed.
"My daughter is also the same. She likes girls more than boys when it comes to music. Every morning, she does this thing where she wakes up early, turns on music as loud as it will go and dances around the living room." Both of them grinned. "This morning she woke me up with Beyonce."
"Nothing's wrong with Beyonce."
"Well, sure. But it was 6 AM." He grimaced while she chuckled.
Veronica smiled warmly at him. "Tell me about your daughter."
Logan's eyes lit up and he smiled widely at her. "She's a pain in the butt."
She laughed hearing Logan said that. "That's not nice."
"Awh, I'm just kidding. She's the best. I mean…" He exhaled. "I couldn't ask for a better daughter." He shrugged. "Lorrie likes to dance, that's for sure. She also likes to sing. You should hear her singing – she sings like an angel. I think she got it from Carrie." For a moment, he turned quiet. He seemed emotional talking about Lorrie and Carrie.
"Oh, Logan…" Veronica reached for his hand.
"Sorry about that." He cleared his throat and looked at their intertwined hands. He gave her hand a bit of squeeze. "It's just… it's been a tough week. With the anniversary of Carrie's death coming up and Lorrie has been really strong."
"Logan… I am really sorry about Carrie." Veronica said. "I… remember her from high school." She was still holding his hand on the table. "I can't imagine what you both have been through."
"Well, Lorrie is still a kid. She never knew Carrie, but she watches TV and listens to the radio. She can read, and she sees her mom's face being splattered across the tabloids."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Thanks. I mean, I try to make her life as normal as possible. I make sure she eats healthy, brush her teeth, goes to school, tuck her, and read a story before going to bed…" He paused. "I even let her watch cartoons on a school night!"
Veronica rubbed his hand slowly. "You're a good dad, Logan."
"Well… I can't do it without help. I mean, Jade helps me…"
She lets go Logan's hand, causing him to frown. "Jade?"
"Jade Navarro. Weevil's wife."
"WEEVIL HAS A WIFE?!" Veronica exclaimed.
Logan stuck a finger inside his ear and tried to shake it. "Wow. So deafening." Veronica covered her mouth with her hands and looked around, realizing how loud she was. Many patrons were looking at her before returning to their meals.
"Sorry!" She stage-whispered. "I didn't know he had a wife."
"He's married and has a kid." Logan still had his finger stuck in his ear. "So I guess I'm half deaf now."
Veronica hit Logan's arm hard which made him yelp in mock pain. "Hold on just a sec! Weevil is married!"
"His wife is an accountant and was doing my books before she was marrying him. She now helps me around the house now that she's married. We usually have dinner or lunch together."
"You and Weevil?!"
Logan grinned. "Do you want to see pictures of us?" He asked as he started to scoot over next to her, which made her blink rapidly when she realized that he was in a very close proximity. Their shoulders touched as he was showing some pictures from his phone. "Weevil – he goes by Eli now – usually refuse to eat with us. But occasionally he would come for BBQ, so…"
Logan showed pictures of him, his daughter and Weevil's family; One of Weevil with a beautiful woman next to him. There was one with Weevil holding a baby next to Logan holding Lorrie, and they were pouting together. There were many pictures of his daughter smiling and laughing.
And then there was a picture of Logan and Weevil standing together very close; Logan was making a goofy face and Weevil was looking stern while rolling his eyes. They were both wearing BBQ aprons.
Veronica covered her mouth while trying to suppress her laughter.
Logan could feel her shoulders shaking as he showed her the pictures. "Huh, huh? What do you think? We look good, right?"
Veronica laughed, "Oh my god! You both look so dorky."
"So how did this come about?" Veronica grabbed his phone to take a better look at the pictures. Logan put his arm behind her chair and used his other hand to swipe the pictures.
"After Carrie died, I had trouble raising Lorrie alone. I'd never raised a kid before, and Carrie's family was like 'whatever'. Dick helped me a lot –" Veronica pursed her lips hearing Dick's name, but he continued. "Imagine two guys, a baby, and a pizza place. You can pitch a sitcom for that." Logan showed her a picture of Dick and himself with Lorrie. Dick was holding a diaper bag and baby seat, while Logan was holding baby Lorrie.
There was a picture of Logan kissing baby Lorrie as she laughed, and it made Veronica's heart melt. "Oh, Logan. Look at you!"
"And then Jade came into our lives, and she's been a Godsend. She helped around my house while I tried to balance becoming a writer with being a single dad. This privileged white dude managed to get his life together. No more parties. I've got responsibilities..."
"Welcome to adulthood," Veronica commented. She looked at Logan next to him who was looking at the phone. She definitely looked at him in a different light.
"So I had a car problem, and Jade recommended me to go to this garage. I didn't know it belonged to Weevil. You can imagine the sparks between us when we met again after all these years."
"Exactly. But Jade was there to save the day. And for some reason, they fell in love. Like, ugh." Logan made a face. "I thought at least she'd be attracted to me or something, but no. She liked Weevil better."
"You had a crush on her?"
"Not really. But my ego was hurt." Veronica slapped his shoulder playfully. "I mean, have you seen me?" He pointed to his face. "I'm hotter than Weevil."
"I dunno… I mean, Weevil has magnificent eyelashes."
"Yeah, I can't compete with that."
They both chuckled. Veronica tucked a stray hair behind her ear while looking at Logan; he definitely looked great: he had a lean body and hardly any body fat whatsoever; his face was longer than she remembered, and the chubby cheeks were long gone. He was ripped especially wearing that tight Henley, and she didn't know how but he aged well.
Logan caught her staring at him, and it made her blush, so she immediately turned her attention to the phone again. "They got married, huh?"
"Dick and I were the only white dudes at the wedding," Logan said as he showed her picture from the wedding. Logan mostly just sitting down, holding Lorrie, while Dick was dancing wildly with some of Jade's bridesmaids.
Veronica snorted at seeing the pictures of Dick. He hadn't changed, apparently. She then saw a picture of Logan dancing with a toddler Lorrie – she was standing on his feet while Logan was holding her hands. "Logan… look at you and your daughter."
"I have a wedding video of us dancing back home…" Logan looked at her. "You can come over sometimes if you want to see it."
Veronica looked at him, pondering that thought. "Yeah… I'd like that."
"Lorrie seems to think that you're some sort of a cool Roman god or something." He looked at her with his liquid brown eyes. "You know, with the Mars name thing."
"My family name is awesome." Veronica smiled at him. "And I think your kid is cool too."
"Obviously. Have you seen her dad?" Logan waved at nobody in particular, like some sort of a king. "I heard her dad is – ouch! I heard her dad is a fantastic specimen." He rubbed his arm when Veronica hit him again. "You're so punchy."
"I still have my jet lag." She deadpanned, "Or I'm just happy to see you." Logan grinned.
Veronica was showing pictures from her camera to Logan. She was telling him how her day went; taking pictures of spring breakers and the scenery in Neptune. By the time she finished, it was time for dessert. When the waitress put a plate of Tiramisu in front of Veronica, she clapped her hands excitedly. "Look at that! So pretty!"
Logan, who was eating Panacotta, nodded. "Wait until you taste it."
Logan watched Veronica put a spoonful of cake into her mouth, close her eyes and moan. He shook his head, tried not to get emotional watching her. She always behaved like this when they were in college – she never realized whenever she ate food, she really enjoyed it. He loved watching her eat because of she usually really happy while she ate. She looked at him, smiling, and his heartbeat sped up.
This was only a meet up between friends.
They have different lives now. He had a child, and she had a wonderful career in a different city.
But looking at her right now reminded him of what they had together. Veronica was the love of his life back then, and then she was gone… They were so young, they didn't know any better. She wanted more in a relationship, probably a stable relationship, especially in this godforsaken town. She was also very judgmental with everything, bossy, and generally was angry. Not to mention reckless with her sleuthing. Accusing people left and right without any evidence, generally pissing people off, and after her father lost the sheriff election, she just… left.
He wasn't perfect either; with his temper and alcoholism, and general screwing up. He was reckless and had anger management issues. And what a temper he had; the last time he saw Veronica was when he beat the crap out of Gory Sorokin and Piz because of the sex tape. Her last look she'd given him was his last hope that someday they would be together in the future. But no, she left Neptune without saying goodbye, and Logan had to face the fact that his childhood past and the love of his life were gone.
He thought how much he couldn't escape his parents and how they were... it was in his genes... that was why he worked so hard to change for the better after Lorrie was born and Carrie died. He didn't want Lorrie to be raised in an environment like the Echolls household. He didn't know how life would be if Carrie had been alive, would she neglect her own daughter? But he knew she wouldn't do that – Carrie loved Lorrie, even when she didn't want her at first.
There was no use thinking of what might have been.
Lorrie was a gift.
It was his destiny to be a father to Lorrie. Maybe it was meant to be; losing Veronica and Carrie in the past. But right now, Veronica was back…
Their relationship was never easy. Both of them were stubborn and angry all the time. But this… right now… This easy-going night they were having… He'd settle for a friendship and having an old friend back first.
Veronica insisted that she pay for dinner because she was the one who asked, ignoring Logan's protest. "Besides, I'm rich now." She winked.
"Darn it. I gotta keep up with the rich people game." Logan snapped his fingers.
"Next time, you pay for dinner," Veronica said while paying for the bill.
Shocked, Logan didn't respond.
"How about dinner at my place instead?" Logan offered. Veronica paused as she put her credit card inside her wallet and blinked. "I mean before you go back to New York. I do make a mean lasagna." He hurriedly said.
Veronica realized after a decade without seeing each other, their interaction was pretty unusual, although they did have some laughs and maybe a flirty vibe during dinner. Was Logan asking her for a dinner, this time officially, or just another dinner between friends? After all, they were trying to reconnect again.
"You can cook?" Veronica raised an eyebrow. Her tone was teasing, as she was trying to defuse the awkward situation. "Is this your way of telling me that you don't want to take me to a fancy restaurant?"
"Of course I can cook! I have to feed my kid every day." Veronica gave him a look, and Logan just sighed. "Fine, sometimes I do order pizza."
"Don't a-ha, me. You have to know, I'm actually an awesome dad. I sometimes let her eat dessert before a meal."
They were walking out the restaurant and felt a breeze from the night wind. He put his hands in his jeans pockets and felt like a teenager again after taking his girlfriend on a date.
BUT THIS WAS NOT A DATE, Logan screamed inside his head.
"So… what do you say? If you don't believe in my cooking ability, I can order some food." He opened the car door for her. "Or… yeah, sure we can go to some fancy restaurant."
Veronica smiled and stood to face him. "Logan, I'm just yanking your chain. Of course, I would love to have dinner at your place."
She didn't wait for his response as she climbed inside his car. Logan closed the door and walked around to the driver's side, smiling. Veronica was smiling too, although discreetly. She pursed her lips to hide her smile and schooled her face into a neutral look when Logan climbed inside.
Both Logan and Veronica fell into a comfortable silence in the car. With the top of the car off, they enjoyed the wind while driving. They listened to the music from the radio and Veronica hummed the song while she rested her arm on the window, watching the world go by. The music from the radio was 'Chicago' by Sufjan Stevens, and Logan felt so nostalgic all of a sudden. He remembered that he and Veronica used to cruise around in his car, going to the beach, watching the sunset, or surfing. Well, he surfed and Veronica waited by the picnic blanket near the car.
It was the best time of their lives…
Logan glanced at Veronica next to him. She seemed to be daydreaming and looked beautiful after all these years. It made his heart ache…
When they arrived at her father's house, Logan turned off the car engine. For a minute, they didn't say anything. Veronica pursed her lips together, noticing how warm the temperature was. Finally, she said softly, "Thanks for dinner."
Logan chuckled, "I think I should be the one who says thanks." He looked at her. "Come on; let me walk you to the door like a gentleman."
Both knew it wasn't a date, but they were chuckling together, feeling like it was more than a night out. They walked together and climbed the steps before stopping at the front door. They stood there staring at each other for a moment until Veronica broke the silence, "I really had fun tonight." She patted her stomach. "Dinner was delicious." She looked up at him. "Good company."
"Likewise." Logan grinned. He looked down to the floor and put his hands inside his pockets. Holy crap, he was so nervous right now. What should he do now? Instead, he said quietly. "I had a good time as well, Veronica. It's nice to hang out with you again."
Suddenly Veronica remembered that they departed in a bad way a decade ago. It seemed like yesterday, but at the same time, it felt like ages ago...
"Logan, listen… about nine years ago… we really didn't…" Veronica exhaled. "I mean I am sorry that we didn't keep in touch for so long…"
"Bygones, Veronica." Logan smiled. "Look, I know I was an ass back then. I wouldn't have wanted to hang around myself either."
"I wasn't a rainbow either…"
"You were always a marshmallow, actually."
"I know I've said it before, but I am really sorry about Carrie."
"Thanks…" Logan looked at her. Suddenly he felt emotional. "We were in love, I was, but her crappy friends were always around, her self-loathing, and then Lorrie… It was too much for her. We weren't a couple after Lorrie was born, I was more of a sponsor… trying to keep her on track and taking care of our baby." He chuckled darkly. "Who knew that I could be a stabilizing influence?" He looked away, suddenly feeling very vulnerable in front of his ex-girlfriend, talking about another one of his dead ex-girlfriends. "This coming Sunday will be tough it being the anniversary."
"You're going to get through this…" Veronica said quietly.
"I'm not worried about me. Not anymore… I am worried about Lorrie. I don't want her to have my crappy life. It's tough enough to grow up without a mother. She's so young, Veronica…"
Veronica reached for his hand and held it firmly. "Logan. You're doing the best you can. And from what I saw, Lorrie is lucky to have you as a dad."
"You haven't seen everything."
"Well, I guess it's time for me to have dinner at your place. You're cooking, right?"
Logan smiled and looked down at their hands. He rubbed her hand with his thumb slowly. "Thanks, Veronica. I am really happy that you are here…"
"I'm your friend, Logan. At least I'd like to think that…"
"You are." Logan nodded. He croaked a little, "Thank you." Both of them didn't say anything again for a while until he said quietly. "So… dinner tomorrow, right?"
"Lorrie will be happy to hear you are coming over for dinner."
"I really can't wait."
Lost in thought, they stood to stare at each other. The nostalgia and the memories rushing back, like a projector showing the slides of their lives and it made them feel something they hadn't in a long time. It felt like they were under a spell, and neither of them wanted it to end.
But it had to; Logan cleared his throat and broke the spell, "So… I have to get going. Lorrie is waiting at home."
"Of course, Logan… Thank you again for the night."
"Say hi to your dad, okay?" He kissed Veronica on the forehead, which made her heart beat faster. Logan was the only person, besides her father, to kiss her on the forehead like that to show affection. It almost made her cry because of that, because they hadn't seen each other for nine years and now they were on her porch, and it seemed like no time had passed at all.
The kiss lingered a little bit, and then Logan stepped back.
Veronica's voice was quiet. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Logan nodded and headed to his car as she watched him, feeling bereft all of a sudden.