Chapter 9 - Five Nights at Freud's

Champagne Problem

noun, informal

a problem or dilemma that, when compared to issues of poverty, national disasters and war, are not all that big of a deal, but nonetheless provide individuals with issues that must be dealt with.

.x.

"So, how have you been?"

Logan looked at the screen of his laptop, smiling weakly at the image of his therapist. Doctor Martinez sat at her usual spot in her office, looking at him with the same warm smile as always - but that was where any sense of normalcy ended. Instead of the plush armchair that faced hers, Logan sat at his desk, in his own office, pretending that wasn't the stupidest, most terrible choice of location for a therapy session.

There was no denying that Mitchum's assistant had done a remarkable job at packing up all of the books and personal belongings before Logan's flight had even landed at the airport, but the hideously outdated furniture and the uninviting couch remained, their mere presence reminding him so much of his father that he could feel his judgement and disapproval all the way from the grave.

"I'm good," he said, almost out of reflex. "I mean, I don't know. There's just so much going on, I just... I guess I don't even know where to start."

"That's okay," she replied, and Logan marveled - not for the first time - at her ability to sound so sympathetic in just two little words. "Why don't you tell me how it's been to be back at Hartford, then?"

"Ugh, I don't know." He shuffled on his seat, trying (and failing) to conceal his frustration. "The weather sucks, so there's that," he joked, earning a small chuckle in reply. "As for everything else... Well, everything else just kind of sucks too."

"How so?" She sipped at her tea, and he found himself almost missing the abstract painting Doctor Martinez had on the wall behind her chair. He'd lost count of how many hours he'd spent staring at it, trying to unscramble shapes and colours and brush strokes when unscrambling his own thoughts and feelings turned out to be harder than what he'd signed up for.

Now, instead of a safe haven, his surroundings were just a bunch of vivid, tangible reminders of why he needed therapy, in the first place.

"It's just... It's like, everyone I know has a life, you know? They've got their jobs and kids and spouses, while I- I'm stuck here, doing my dad's job, in my dad's office, driving his car and staying at his house like I'm...- Like I'm some kid, you know, putting on Daddy's shoes for a Father's Day picture or whatever."

"That's a very interesting image you've got there," she said, her piercing green eyes staring straight into his soul as if they weren't thousands of miles apart.

If this was Hollywood, that was the moment when she'd come up with some deep insight about how he needed to restore his feeling of ownership over his life, and by the end of the session, he'd have a fool-proof roadmap of how to achieve that goal.

But they weren't in Hollywood - not even Hollywood-adjacent, as he liked to joke. And in the real world, her job was to help him reach that conclusion on his own.

So, instead of an Emmy-worthy monologue, all she said was, "Can you elaborate on that?"

Logan stared blankly at her, unsure of what to say. Those vague, open-ended questions were by far the most annoying part of therapy, especially when they involved issues as complicated as his father. How was he supposed to explain how many times, in the past two weeks, he'd found himself yearning for the unattainable high of Mitchum's approval? Not to mention the matter of whether he really wanted to dwell on the (slightly humiliating) experience of suddenly becoming the boss of people who were much older than him, and who had been around to witness every single one of his fuck-ups.

She seemed to notice just how much he was struggling, because, unlike many other times, she was the one who broke the silence, hitting him with a much easier, simpler question.

"It's Friday night for you already, isn't it?"

"Yeah?" He frowned, wondering how that could possibly be connected to the subject they'd just been talking about.

"I know you're sort of new in town and all, and that your friends and your sister are probably busy with - to use your words - their own lives during the week, but I'm sure you have plans for the night."

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Her assumption was far from unfair - at this point in his life, he was sure that not spending Friday night at home was just as 'quintessential Logan Huntzberger' as Porsches and good scotch.

The problem was, one of the few things he knew for sure was that he wasn't ready for the conversation they would have, the moment he told her that - instead of shots of tequila with Colin and Finn - his big plans for the night were having dinner at the house of none other than Emily Gilmore.

Yes, of those Gilmores.

He had to suppress a sigh of relief when, rather than waiting for a reply, she asked, "Do you feel like you need to ask for permission to go out tonight?"

He couldn't help laughing, the mere idea of asking to go out so foreign to him that he was barely able to bite back a sarcastic remark along the lines of, 'bold of you to assume they cared'. With a perpetually absent father and a mother with no real desire to do any mothering, his nannies and maids were the closest thing he'd ever had to parental figures - and it wasn't like they were expected to set boundaries and enforce rules.

"Yeah, no," he replied. "Then again, I don't think I've ever had to."

"Yeah, I didn't think so." She paused. Asking was for kids whose parents were actively involved in their upbringing, and after so many years of being his therapist, she had no doubt that the Huntzbergers were as uninvolved as they could be.

And even if they weren't - she knew Logan well enough to be sure he'd been the type of child who would have rebelled at the slightest attempt at discipline.

"The reason I'm asking," she added, "is that it's such a common complaint, you know, for people in similar situations. It's this really tricky dichotomy, you see, between being back under someone else's roof and being used to all the independence of having lived on your own before. And we've talked a lot before about how much you value this sense of autonomy, so it got me wondering how big of a part that plays in that image you brought up, of a child playing pretend."

"I'm not sure." Logan sighed. "I mean, I'm not happy about being in their house, but that's not...- That's just where I stay, you know, when I'm in Hartford. And my mom isn't even there, so, really. Even if I felt like I needed permission to go out; it's not like I have anyone to ask."

He hesitated, knowing full well that his current living situation was barely scratching the surface of her question. His family and their dynastic plans had - unsurprisingly - been a recurring topic in his sessions, and over the years they kept coming back to the realization that he probably wouldn't have minded spending his whole life being groomed to take over the family company, if it had been presented to him as a choice, instead of a fact set in stone.

What she really wanted to know was: did he feel like a fully grown adult, stepping up to the challenge that came as his birthright, or like a child, a teenager, a twenty-something, being pushed towards an unwanted, unavoidable fate?

Which left him with a question of his own: could he feel like both?

Because that sure as fuck was the case.

"We've talked about this before, right? That no one's putting a gun to my head, or whatever." He rolled his eyes, barely aware of the condescending edge of his tone. As much as he appreciated the amount of effort she'd put into making him see that the decision to move back to Hartford was all his to make, even acknowledging that as a fact brought along the uncomfortable realization that he was just as responsible for his current predicament as his parents and their expectations.

And if there was a thing that no amount of therapy had been able to change, it was that Logan Huntzberger did not like responsibility.

"Sure, I got into that plane knowing that I wouldn't be coming back by the end of the week, but..." He glanced at the keyboard in front of him, as if the words he was looking for were hidden there, scattered amongst white letters printed on black plastic. "It's one thing to talk about this hypothetical scenario where I'd leave everything behind and jump into the next big adventure, or something, but honestly? I'd rather be jumping off a cliff with an ill-conceived plan that my friends and I came up with while we were drunk."

She gave him an amused look, clearly accepting that statement as one of his overly detailed metaphors. Sure, she knew almost everything there was to know about him, but the one thing he'd always been careful to keep from her were the stunts of the Life and Death Brigade - not because he was afraid of her judgement, of course.

That's just what came with the territory of being in a secret society.

Even he wasn't sure how he'd been able to tell her about Rory without ever mentioning the whole 'jumping off a scaffolding' thing.

"It's hard, isn't it? Leaving life as you know it behind."

"Yeah." He paused, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion as if he could barely make sense of whatever thought had just crossed his mind, and she watched as he opened his mouth, as if to say something, before letting out a frustrated sigh and leaning back in his chair.

A moment of silence fell between them, the unmistakable tension of an imminent breakthrough filling up the air in both offices as if they were sharing the same space.

Then, he spoke up again, his words sounding more carefully measured than what would have been ideal.

"Although, leaving my life behind isn't exactly something I haven't done before, is it? At the very least, that's how I ended up in California."

"It is." She nodded, in an almost encouraging gesture. "So, what's different this time?"

"Everything." He shrugged. "It's not just, you know, 'life as I know it'. It's my life. My home, my company that I spent so much time building, my fucking car." He paused, thinking of the black Porsche Cayenne he'd once been so proud he'd been able to afford. "God, I really miss my car."

She smiled sympathetically at him, remembering that session, not that many years ago, when he announced he'd just bought his dream car. Even with all the multi-million acquisitions he'd brokered for HER Media and the condo in Santa Monica with a price tag she couldn't begin to imagine, that was (still) the purchase that had made him the most proud of himself.

The one that had finally led him to say the words, 'I've made it'.

"And I left all that for what?" He asked, making a wide gesture at his surroundings as if she could see more than a glimpse of the world outside his window. "A job surrounded by people who don't even have the decency to pretend they respect me? Where everyone seems to be constantly comparing me to my father, as if his name on my door wasn't a good enough reminder that I'm just some crappy replacement they're stuck with?" He scoffed. "At least in California I was someone."

She studied his face for a moment, letting his last statement linger in the air so he could have a chance to fully process his words. She was no stranger to the impossibly thin line he walked on, having grown up in a world where power was just as inextricably connected to responsibility as it was to worth.

It wasn't surprising, then, that he'd grown to see California as some sort of mythical oasis, where he'd been able to finally find the balance he'd chased for as long as he'd lived. It was there, in an industry where his last name didn't really matter, in a place where Stanford and Berkeley were the pinnacle of higher education, that he'd found the chance to explore his identity and his priorities, before realizing that he did, in fact, want the kind of power he'd been offered his whole life.

Only, he wanted it on his own terms.

So, he built a name for himself. As told by him, the story behind the start of HER Media sounded almost like an accident, a series of purchases with little to no meaning or rhyme, a business endeavour he'd never expected to succeed.

Doctor Martinez knew that wasn't true.

She'd heard all about the many nights he'd stayed up, researching and studying and putting together the business plan for his very first magazine, before he'd even attempted to buy it. She knew just how much he'd worked for it, how much he'd hoped and prayed that they'd finally make an actual profit, by the end of their second fiscal year.

And now, even that name seemed to be left thousands of miles away, relinquished for the sake of a job he'd spent most of his life running away from.

"I know you want me to say that you're stuck in a horrible situation. And don't get me wrong, it is a horrible situation. You have every right to feel all this frustration, and you also have the right to mourn your accomplishments." She paused, giving him a few seconds to brace for the part where he didn't like what she'd say. "That said, we're not here to linger on the things you can't change, are we?"

He looked away again, remembering the conversation they'd had on his very first session. After a rather painful overview of the reasons why he'd found himself in a therapist's office, she'd explained to him that her goal was to help him find out which things he could change - and how to cope with the ones he couldn't.

"No, we're not" he mumbled, his voice dripping with stubborn resignation.

"Good. Because I feel like I need to remind you that this is a relationship, Logan." She smiled gently at him, as if it would soften the blow of her next sentence. "You know better than anyone what it's like to hold your ex as the gold standard for everyone that comes after, and you also know how much of that fades away once you give yourself the chance to move on. You may feel like you're the rebound right now, but give it time. You didn't become 'someone' overnight in California; why should that happen in Connecticut?"

He just looked at her, not sure if he was even supposed to reply. Then, with a quick glance beyond the screen, she said, "Our time's up for today, but since we're talking about the things you can change... Didn't you own a house in Connecticut?"

He stared at her, his brain struggling to come up with a reply. She'd just casually, unceremoniously, voiced the question that he'd been pushing to the back of his mind all week.

Because the truth was, as much as he'd been trying to forget that, he did own a house in Hartford - a stunning mansion, complete with a backyard and a pool and more bedrooms than he could ever need.

The only problem was, Mitchum had given him that house as a gift.

An engagement gift.

And if he had to choose between the ghost of his father's disapproval and the ghost of all the hopes and dreams he'd once had for him and Chloe... He'd need more than just one glass of Macallan to figure that one out.


A/N: Bet y'all thought you'd seen the last of me, huh?

I'm really, really sorry for my sudden disappearance. Really, I've wanted to come back to it for a long long time, but life happened, depression happened, COVID happened. So, yeah, as an anonymous review said, before I knew it two weeks turned into two (three!) years. Again, I'm sorry.

This chapter is brought to you by my brand-new antidepressants, which have finally been able to help me through this massive writer's block. If you know you know, and all. And that's part of the reason why I wanted to write about a therapy session (also, everyone, say hi to my shrink! He promised me he'd be lurking). You know, mental health has always permeated part of the story, and even way back in 2018 I was hoping I'd be able to write a full chapter about it.

Also, after the dumpster fire that we refer to as "2020", I figured, so many of us probably relate to this awkward experience of having therapy through Skype. I'm a healthcare worker (such a pompous way to say I work at a hospital and never ever have any contact with patients), so there was so much of the quarantine experience that I've been able to avoid, but online therapy? Yeah, even I couldn't avoid that one.

Anyway, guys. If you're reading this, thank you so much for not giving up on me. I can't promise when I'll be back, but I promise I will.

In the meantime, be safe. Take care.

I'll see you soon.