Author's Note: Apologies - I really didn't mean for it to take 9.5 months between updates, but I just found myself really struggling to get into the right mindset to work on it at the end of the last year and so I ended up focusing on writing lighter, fluffy pieces for the last few months instead.
I've had this chapter written for a while now, but I've been hesitant to post it because it's pretty angsty and I wasn't sure July would be a good time for it. However, since today is both MrsKissyT and Bondo's birthdays, and this fic was originally written as part of the Lilly Lives Fic Collection for their birthdays last year, today seemed like the perfect time to post an update.
So, Happy Birthday, MKT and Bondo :).
It's just after five p.m. when Logan pulls up outside Wallace and Shae's house. After their talk over brunch earlier, he and Lilly took a drive along the coast, spending some time at a couple of the beaches along the way and staying as inconspicuous as they could as they waited for Veronica to let them know when she would need a ride. When it got to three p.m., and there was still no word from her and she hadn't answered any of his texts or calls, it became obvious she wasn't going to be coming at all.
After asking Lilly if she wanted to try to see her father—given that he's sick and all—she declined, stating it wasn't safe yet and that she needed to figure out the best way to go and see him without drawing attention. So, they headed back to Neptune and went to see some of their old haunts before returning to the Fennels'.
"Thanks for keeping me company today, Logan," Lilly tells him as she reaches for the car door handle.
"Of course, " Logan says warmly. "I had a good time."
"Promise me you'll think over what we talked about this morning," she adds then.
He forces a smile, his stomach twisting uncomfortably at the memory of their earlier conversation. "I will."
"I mean it," she warns. "I hate to see you hurting."
"Yeah." He gives a short nod.
She reaches over and places a hand on his forearm. "We'll get to the bottom of whatever's going on with Veronica, I promise. I hate to see her like this, too."
"I hope so."
She leans over and presses a quick kiss to his cheek. "See you soon, okay?"
She gets out of the car and Logan's eyes follow her as she walks up the driveway to the front door. His fingers brush over the spot where her lips met his skin. It's so surreal, Lilly being here, alive and in the flesh after all these years. He almost can't believe the last couple of days have actually happened.
Logan opens the door to the apartment to find Veronica sitting on one of the stools at the kitchen counter, laptop open in front of her as she fishes noodles out of a take-out carton. A curl of dread starting to form in his belly, he closes the door behind him with a click and allows himself the distraction of crouching down to greet Pony before facing Veronica.
"Where've you been?" Veronica asks flatly when he stands up.
"Where have I been?" Logan raises an incredulous eyebrow. "Where have you been? We waited for you."
"I had to work." She shrugs, as if it's no big deal. "I texted you."
"Yeah, but we figured you'd join us later. It was implied, after all." He slides off his jacket and drops it on the back of the couch. "And it is Sunday… you know, day of rest and all that. Oh, and what was that other thing? Oh, yeah, Lilly's miraculously back from the dead."
"Sorry, got caught up," she says gesturing to her laptop screen. "Something's not sitting right with me about this bombing."
Logan exhales as he takes a seat on the stool beside Veronica, studying her for a second as he tries to decide how to approach the difficult conversation they need to have.
Before he can speak, Veronica shoves the take-out carton in his direction. "You want some?"
He shakes his head, not even glancing at it. "No, thanks."
Truth be told, he couldn't eat now even if he wanted to. His stomach is too tied up in knots.
"Okay." She shrugs. "More for me."
"Veronica?" he manages eventually, "can we talk?"
"Uh oh, here it comes." She gives a small roll of her eyes as she puts the carton down. "Go on, then. Yell at me."
He frowns, pushing down the hurt he feels at her words. "Yell at you?"
"Or throw something. You know, for turning down your almost-proposal," she says. "We haven't hashed it out yet, right?"
"I'm not gonna yell at you, Veronica." He tries to keep his voice as calm and level as he can. "Or throw anything."
"Why not? Isn't that the Logan way?" She faux-gasps then, bringing a hand to her mouth. "No, wait, I forgot… therapy has made you all zen now."
"What do you want from me, Veronica?" Logan responds tightly, clamping down on the anger coursing through his veins. "In high school you were always on my back for being too reckless, for letting my anger get the better of me, and now that I'm doing everything I can to manage it and be a better person, you're pissed at me for it?"
"Logan, I—" she starts, but he cuts her off.
"I made a mistake the other night, okay? I never should have tried to ask," he says. "I don't know what I was thinking."
"Yeah, me either," she mutters as she slides off the stool and moves past him.
Logan sighs, swivelling in her direction. "But, Veronica, this isn't just about the other night. Something hasn't been right between us lately."
She stops, her back to him as she says, "I have no idea what you mean."
"I think you do," he counters. "You've been distant, and not just with me, but with Wallace and Shae too. And don't pretend to be clueless about it. It's been going on for months."
Veronica spins to face him, her eyes hard. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"Right." He stands up, placing one hand on his hip as he gestures agitatedly with the other. "So I've just been imagining how your cases always come first these days? And that you can barely stand to spend even a few hours with your best friend anymore? Or how dismissive you are of my feelings?"
Her mouth drops open, looking offended. "I am not dismissive of your feelings."
"Sure," he scoffs. "And I'm a rocket scientist."
"Why are you being like this?" she questions irritably.
"Like what? Finally standing up for myself instead of just letting you walk all over me?" he shoots back. "Veronica, something is wrong. You know it, and I know it. Hell, even Lilly knows it."
"Lilly?" Veronica exclaims, glaring at him. "You've been discussing our private life with Lilly?!"
"No, it's not like that," he denies quickly.
"What is it like then?" she demands to know. "Because it sounds to me like she's getting into your head, just like she used to."
"That's not it at all, Veronica." Logan frowns, shaking his head. "She's worried about you. We both are."
"We?" She huffs in disbelief. "See? This is just like her."
Logan stares at her for a long moment, before giving a long, heavy sigh.
"It's not what you're thinking. She cares about you, Veronica. About both of us. She wants us to be happy."
"We are happy."
"Are we?" He waits a beat. "Are you?"
She bristles. "Of course I am."
"I'm not so sure about that."
"I can't believe this!" Veronica bursts out, starting to pace. "She's manipulating you, Logan, can't you see that? She wants you back."
"No, she doesn't," Logan tells her firmly. "She's married, remember?"
Veronica lets out a snort of derision. "Like that ever stops anyone."
He stops, staring at her for a long moment as realisation dawns.
"Is that why you said no?" he asks, a little stung. "You think I'm gonna cheat on you?"
"No," she admits in a small voice.
"Then, why?" he asks, ignoring the immense relief he feels at her words for now. "You didn't even let me say anything before you were up and out the door."
She looks at him, her features softening slightly as she moves closer. Her hands come to rest on his chest and he has to hold in his slight flinch at the contact.
"What we have is good, right?" she says softly. "We're good together. We've been good together for five years. Why ruin that with marriage?"
"Who says it would be ruined?" he counters softly, trying to calm the frantic, panicked beating of his heart.
She sighs. "It's always ruined. Life isn't a fairytale. People don't just have a wedding and then live happily ever after."
"Veronica…" Logan shakes his head sadly.
"You love me, right?" She winds her arms around his neck, pressing herself against him. "And I love you. We don't need a marriage certificate to tell us that."
Logan doesn't get a chance to reply because her mouth on his and she's kissing him. For a moment, he wants to resist, but then her tongue slips inside his mouth, doing that thing that makes his toes curl, and he gives in, kissing her back. Her hands slide down to his stomach, her fingers unbuckling his belt and tugging on his zipper.
For a few seconds, he lets it happen, but then Lilly's words from earlier ring in his ears and he reaches down, curling his fingers around her wrist and pulling her hand away.
'You deserve someone who will put you first, who understands what you need',
She steps back, hurt shining in her eyes. "What?"
"I know what you're doing," he tells her. "And it's not happening."
She frowns. "What, making love to my boyfriend?"
"You're using sex—using me—to avoid talking about your feelings," he says. "You've always done it, and I've always let you get away with it. Not anymore."
She presses her lips together, looking hurt and a little vulnerable. "You don't want me?"
Logan gives a humourless scoff. "Believe me, not wanting you has never been the problem."
"So what is the problem?" she bursts out. "I want sex, you want sex. What's the issue?"
He sighs, taking a step back as well. "The problem is, I'm not your sex toy, Veronica. I'm not here to pleasure you whenever you want it."
"You've never complained before," she returns, almost petulantly. "In fact, you're usually more than enthusiastic."
"Yeah, well. Not tonight," he tells her firmly, making a decision that's been coming for a long time now. "In fact, I'm not doing any of this with you tonight."
Brushing past her, he stalks down the hallway to their bedroom and pulls a large backpack from their closet. Moving quickly and efficiently around the room, he pulls out various items of clothing and shoves them into the bag. Veronica appears in the doorway just as he's heading for the bathroom.
"What are you doing?" she asks, her voice tight, as he grabs his toothbrush and washbag from the bathroom and moves past her and back into the bedroom. "You're leaving?"
"I think we both need some space right now, don't you?" he says, zipping up the backpack and pulling it over his shoulder.
Moving back out to the living room, he grabs his jacket and his bike and wheels it to the door, Veronica following behind him.
"What the fuck, Logan?" she exclaims. "You can't just walk out!"
"No?" he retorts. "Watch me."
Logan pulls open the door and wheels the bike through it, looking back at her for only long enough to say, "Bye, Veronica."
He holds it together just long enough to carry the bike down the steps of their apartment and around the block, before he stops, leaning back against a nearby wall and letting out a long, shaky breath.
What the hell just happened?
What the hell just happened?
Veronica stares at the closed door in shock. Logan didn't just… leave her... did he? No…no, he can't have. He wouldn't.
After opening and closing her mouth a couple of times in disbelief, she finally manages a disbelieving, "What the fuck?"
She fumbles her way over to the kitchen and pulls out a bottle of wine and a large glass. Filling the glass almost to the brim, she lifts it to her lips and takes a large gulp. Then another, and another.
Topping up the glass, she moves over to the couch and sinks down onto the cushions.
"What the fuck…?" she repeats faintly.
As if sensing her shock and confusion, Pony gives a whine and pads over to her, jumping up onto the couch and snuggling her head in Veronica's lap.
"Hey, there, girl," Veronica murmurs, stroking the large dog's soft fur as she takes another gulp of wine. "Daddy's mad at me, huh?"
She feels numb all over, unable to comprehend what just happened. How did they get from talking about Lilly to Logan walking out on her?
Veronica barely sleeps at all that night, the wine making her head fuzzy, her mind swimming, the fight with Logan playing over and over in her head. Was it even a fight? She's not even sure what happened between them this evening.
She only just got him back three days ago, and now he's walked out on her. Is he coming back? Is it just for tonight, or is this it… is their relationship over now?
Lying on her side, she curls up into a ball, wrapping her arms around herself protectively. She wants to cry. This is something that should make her cry… right?
Except, there's nothing. Nothing except cold emptiness.
She should be feeling all kinds of emotions right now, but she just… isn't.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
The next morning, when her alarm goes off, Veronica slaps at it groggily, groaning as she turns over, her head pounding. She didn't fall sleep until almost four a.m. and it's seven now. Three hours of sleep is not good when you've drunk a bottle of wine and were already feeling like shit before that.
Veronica drags herself out of bed and into the shower, but the hot spray does nothing to soothe her head. She doesn't feel like eating. In fact, she feels sick, not only from the hangover, but also because her stomach is churning so badly she already knows she's not going to be able to keep food down this morning. Instead, she pours a strong coffee into her reusable cup and sips at it as she leaves the apartment and drives to the office.
She tries to concentrate on her work, she really does. Normally, a case like the bombing would be at the forefront of her mind, and she'd be clamouring for information, getting stuck right into it… but today, she just feels numb.
Unable to stop thinking about Logan… and about Lilly… she makes it barely two hours into the work day before she admits defeat. She's not going to get anything useful done right now. Keith is out working the rat case for Mr. Hu, so she scribbles a note saying she's not feeling well, and heads out to her car.
She drives around aimlessly for a while, unwilling to go back to the apartment, but not really knowing what else to do. Eventually, she finds herself on Wallace's new street and pulls up in front of his house.
Lilly is probably in there right now; the girl who used to be her best friend, who she could talk to about anything. Except she's not a girl anymore, and she's no longer her best friend either. Still, something draws her to Lilly Kane's presence, and before she can think better of it, she's getting out of the car, walking up the driveway, and ringing the doorbell.
It takes a minute or so, Veronica glancing at the discreet camera situated to her right, which she's sure Lilly is checking, but eventually the door opens, revealing her old friend, standing a little back from the doorway so she's not easily seen, a smile on her face and little Noah balanced on her hip.
"Hi, Lilly," Veronica says hesitantly. "You're, Uh, babysitting?"
"Yeah," Lilly says brightly, her smile widening as she looks down at Noah. "Wallace and Shae are at work, and I figured since I was here and can't exactly show my face around town, I might as well help out."
"Right." She nods. "Um, you mind if I come in?"
"Sure, of course." Lilly steps further back so Veronica can enter.
Veronica heads inside the house and makes her way into the living room, where she finds an array of toys spread out across the floor.
"We missed you yesterday," says Lilly, stepping around her and placing Noah down on the floor with his toys.
"Yeah, sorry about that." Veronica gives a shrug as she takes a seat on the couch. "Duty calls, and all that."
"Right." Lilly gives a nod, though she looks a little lost. "Logan was disappointed you didn't show."
Veronica feels a stab of pain in her chest at the mention of Logan. "Oh, he was?"
"Of course. So was I."
Veronica nods, before changing the subject, not wanting to dwell on the connotations of that statement.
"How are you settling in here?"
"Great, thanks." Lilly smiles, taking a seat beside her on the couch. "Wallace and Shae are so lovely, aren't they?"
"They are," Veronica murmurs.
"I really appreciate them letting me stay here," Lilly continues. "You're lucky; they seem like awesome friends."
"And Noah is just the best." The toddler looks over at the sound of his name and Lilly leans forward, reaching out to stroke the little boy's hair. "Yes, you are, cutie-pie."
Veronica watches with a strange fascination. "You're, uh… you're really good with him."
"Yeah, well…" Lilly shrugs. "I've had practice with my little boy."
Veronica freezes, her eyes widening. What?!
"You—uh, you have a kid?"
"Yeah." She nods, looking over at Veronica in puzzlement as she pulls out her phone and shows her a photo of an adorable, dark-haired toddler. "His name's Caden. Logan didn't tell you?"
"Logan knows?" She's even more shocked now.
"Yeah, since the other morning." Lilly frowns. "Do you guys, like, not talk to each other?"
"We talk," Veronica says, somewhat defensively.
"Do you?" Lilly's gaze is piercing and it makes Veronica uncomfortable.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
There's a pause, before Lilly frowns. "Is everything okay, Veronica? You don't look so great."
"I didn't sleep much last night," she says, only giving half the truth.
There's a long, slightly awkward pause before Veronica speaks up again, the words just spilling out as she admits, "Logan… um, Logan left last night."
"What?" Lilly's eyes widen. "Left, as in…?"
"As in, he packed a bag and walked out," says Veronica. "I don't know where he went."
"Oh my God, I'm sorry," says Lilly, looking sympathetic. "What happened?"
"I don't really know." Veronica shrugs helplessly. "He just left."
"Veronica, is something going on?" Lilly asks then. "You seem, I don't know… you seem different now."
"Of course I'm different. It's been seventeen years." Veronica's eyes narrow suspiciously when Lilly's words sink in and alarm bells start ringing. "Hang on, what is… is this some kind of intervention? Did Logan put you up to this?"
"What? No, Veronica, I just… I care about you, okay?" Lilly says, sounding sincere. "If something's wrong, I'd like to help. Or at least try."
"Nothing's wrong," she denies. "I'm just peachy."
Lilly just nods slowly, though her expression is a combination of sympathy and… is that pity?
"Veronica…" Lilly starts slowly, causing Veronica to tense in fear.
She can't do this.
Standing up quickly, she mutters, "I need something to drink. You want something to drink?"
Not waiting for an answer, Veronica walks over to Wallace and Shae's kitchen and pulls a glass from the cupboard, filling it with water and taking several large gulps.
"So," she says, putting the glass down and quickly changing the subject. "What's your plan while you're here, Lilly?"
Lilly frowns. "Veronica, don't ch—"
"I assume you'll want to see Jake," Veronica quickly cuts her off. "We should figure out how to do that without you being seen."
"I know," says Lilly. "And we will, but not right this minute. We need to talk, Veronica."
Veronica holds up a hand to stop her. "Lilly, don't. Please. I can't."
"Why not?" Lilly questions, standing up and walking over to the kitchen island, stopping in the other side, opposite Veronica. "Look, I know you, okay? I might have been gone seventeen years, but I was your best friend. I know who you are, inside. And yes, you've been through a lot of stuff… life-changing stuff… but no one really changes, not deep down. What happened to you, Veronica?"
Veronica sees the sincerity and raw emotion in her former best friend's eyes and she can't handle it. She looks away, before things start getting dragged to the surface.
"I can't… I can't talk about it," she manages in a slightly strangled voice.
"Why not?" Lilly asks softly. "You know you can talk to me, and to Logan, about anything, right?"
"No." She shakes her head firmly, pushing all her emotions, all her memories, far down inside her. "I can't."
"Even if it's destroying you?" Lilly's tone is gentle, cautious. "Even if it's destroying Logan?"
That makes something snap inside Veronica. "What the hell do you know about how Logan feels, huh?"
Lilly stares at her calmly for a moment, before stating simply, "He told me."
Veronica freezes, her heart stopping for a split-second. He what?
"He told you?" she bites out, anger rising in her chest now. "What did he tell you… exactly?"
"He told me that he thinks something happened to you during his last long deployment, but that when he got back you just clammed up and wouldn't talk about it," Lilly says. "He told me that sometimes the things you say hurt him."
She sighs, her gaze steady on Veronica, as she continues to speak.
"Look, the way you've been treating Logan? It's dragging him down," she says. "He didn't have to tell me that part, I can see it with my own eyes. He's tried so hard to straighten himself out, to become this awesome guy that any woman would be lucky to have… and you're just… you're treating him like garbage, Veronica."
Lilly's words sting. More than sting. They're like a punch in the gut. They hit something buried deep inside Veronica. Something she refuses to acknowledge.
Clamping down on her emotions, she grits her teeth, biting out the same words she threw at Logan last night, "You don't know what you're talking about."
But her former friend refuses to be rattled. "I think I might have some idea."
"You really don't," Veronica spits out. "So, I suggest you stay out of it."
She sweeps out of the kitchen and stalks towards the front door.
"Veronica, don't leave." Lilly follows her. "I just want to help you."
Hand on the doorknob, Veronica turns back to Lilly with a sneer. "I don't need your fucking help."
She wrenches open the door and stalks through it, Lilly's next words ringing in her ear as she marches towards her car: "Well, you need some kind of help."
Incensed with anger, Veronica pulls the car out onto the road, the tyres screeching as she accelerates quickly. Her breathing is harsh, her heart pounding.
Who the hell does Lilly think she is, barging into her life and making awful assumptions about her? Who the hell does Logan think he is, confiding the private parts of their relationship to Lilly?
How did everything in her life get so fucking messed up?
Veronica drives blindly, not thinking about where she's going, a frustrating lump forming in her throat and unwanted tears pricking at her eyes. She keeps driving until her vision is blurred with unshed tears and she has to pull off the road… coming to a stop in the parking lot of the Camelot Motel.
As she glances up at the second floor balcony, her eyes land on the wall just outside room 226…. where she kissed Logan for the first time. Where he took her in his arms and showed her just how good it could be.
Her breath hitches and she feels a sob begin to rise in her chest, but she quickly pushes it down. She will not cry. She can't.
With a cry of anger and frustration, she slams her hands down on the steering wheel, once, twice, three times. Her breaths are coming faster now, hitching in her chest, and she starts shaking.
It's just… it's too much.
Her whole world seems to be falling apart and all she can do is watch helplessly as it slips through her fingers.
It's too much.