A/N Written for Trope-a-Palooza 2020. Gifted to the fabulous jmazzy, for organizing such a fun event for the fandom. You're the best!
(Cross-posted from AO3.)
"So, wait. Who's this guy again?"
"Paul," Veronica explains, for the fifth time. She leans in close to Logan's bathroom mirror, coating her lips in Smashbox's Posey Pink. "I work with him at the paper."
"Paul," Logan repeats. "Right. And who's he marrying?"
"Linus. Paul and Linus."
"Or Linus and Paul?"
"Don't confuse me. I'm trying to memorize it. Are there any Peanuts named Paul?"
"No. And there are no Beatles named Linus."
"Well, shit." He leans against the frame of the open doorway and crosses his arms over his chest. "I'm doomed."
"Look, Paul says it's a really casual beach thing. You'll probably barely talk to them."
"How casual are we talking? Like… shorts?"
"Don't sound so horrified."
"Oh, come on. Shorts? At a wedding?"
"Logan, I'm wearing a sundress and sandals. How dressy did you think this was going to be?"
"Well, when you said Malibu, I just assumed…"
She recaps the lipstick and slips it into her purse, turning around to face him.
"You know," she begins, "there are some people who actually think getting married is more about forming an everlasting bond with the person you love, and less about the amount of material that happens to be encasing the legs of those in attendance at said ceremony."
Logan raises his brow. "And are you the former or the latter?"
Veronica shrugs, suddenly uncomfortable. "Come on, you need to get dressed."
He sighs, heavy and overburdened. "But now I don't know what to wear."
"Are you kidding me? You have an entire closet- a huge closet- full of clothes. Just pick something so we can get out of here."
He makes no move towards his bedroom. "See, I'm all confused now, is the problem."
Veronica doesn't bother hiding her aggravation. "Why?"
"Well, when you asked me to be your last-minute date to a wedding, I thought it was because I'm the only guy you know who actually owns a suit."
She leans her back against the vanity, waiting for him to continue. When he doesn't, she prompts, "And?"
"And now… you don't seem to want me to wear a suit. Thus my confusion."
"Look, I don't want you to get any wrong ideas, here. This isn't-" She throws up her hands. "You know what? This was a mistake. I'll just go alone."
Veronica has almost reached the door when Logan steps in front of her, holding up his hands. "Hey, there's no reason to be all dramatic about it. I'll still come."
"You're telling me to be less dramatic?"
"I'm not sure what you're implying. I'm the very picture of serenity."
"Hmm. Memories of yore seem to suggest otherwise."
"What, people can't change?" He juts out his chin. "You've changed, right? From catching criminals to writing about them?"
"I have," she agrees, looking pointedly at their all-too-familiar surroundings. "Have you?"
Logan shrugs. "Hey, I own the hotel now. May as well live here rent free, right? It makes good fiscal sense."
"You just don't like picking your towels up off the floor."
"Or making my bed. Or cooking. See? It's the perfect situation for me."
"Mm-hmm. And how does Penelope feel? Poor girl can't even have a proper booty call without the entire staff knowing."
"We broke up," Logan replies. "Which I know you already knew, but I appreciate the smooth conversational segue."
"How would I already know that?" she asks, all innocence. "I'm not in the information-gathering game anymore."
"Sure you aren't."
They exit the bathroom together, and she follows him into his bedroom. When he sees her standing behind him, he raises an eyebrow and nods towards the bed.
"Hoping for a quickie before we go?"
"All set, thanks," she says, sliding open his closet door. "But I am going to pick out your outfit, since you seem incapable of doing it yourself."
"Good," he replies, collapsing onto the bed. "Then I can blame you for being wildly underdressed at a gay man's wedding."
Veronica ignores him, producing a pair of slim-fit, khaki pants and a linen button-down in powder blue. "Here." She tosses the clothing onto the bed beside him. "Instant backyard wedding attire. And I even managed to avoid the dreaded shorts."
Logan sits up, glancing from the chosen outfit back to Veronica. His gaze drops down to her dress, a plum maxi with a deep V neckline and flowy skirt. "Shouldn't we, like, match or whatever?"
"Dude, this isn't prom. I don't have a corsage and you don't have a cummerbund."
He picks up the button-down and makes a face. "Don't you know how quickly linen wrinkles?"
Veronica rolls her eyes. "Did you remember to pack an overnight bag?"
"Good. I'll be out in the living room."
"No need for modesty," he teases, pulling his t-shirt off in one quick motion and bobbing his eyebrows. "It's nothing you haven't seen be-"
She closes the door on his sentence, but she can still hear him chuckling from inside.
An hour later, they're heading north on the 405 towards Malibu. Logan navigates his Audi R8 into the left lane to pass a Subaru, then swerves back into the right. "Ugh, this traffic is brutal," he laments. "Did they have to plan this thing for rush hour?"
"I think the idea is to time it around the sunset."
He grins, glancing over at her. "Awww. How romantic."
She shrugs and looks out the window, toying with the ring on her middle finger. When she looks back over at Logan, he's still smiling. "What?"
"I forgot how uncomfortable romance makes you. It's weirdly endearing."
Veronica sighs. She's just going to have to tell him; she owes him the truth. "That's not why I'm uncomfortable."
"Hey, you're the one who dressed me. I can't help it if I make beach-wedding-casual look sexy."
"Piz is going to be there," she blurts out.
"Piz," she repeats slowly. "He's going to be there."
Logan is silent for a moment. "I wasn't aware he'd stayed in the area." He glances over at her. "Or that you'd stayed in touch."
She bites her lip. "He moved back here a few months after I did."
"What, like… on purpose?"
"I-I'm not sure. I mean, I thought it was coincidence at first. But now…"
"Start from the beginning," he instructs.
Veronica glances over at Logan, surprised by how well he's taking this. "Okay," she agrees. "Piz and I broke up the summer before sophomore year. Right before I transferred to NYU."
"And here I thought you crazy kids would make it."
"We decided to stay friends, but… you know. I lived three thousand miles away."
"Couldn't get any further away than that, huh?"
"So, we were basically just, like, Facebook friends."
"Aw, sort of like us. I'm sensing a pattern."
Veronica continues to ignore his remarks, pressing on with her story.
"But just before I left New York, I ran into him at a bar. He acted like it was random; said he was visiting a friend who lived a few blocks away. I found out later that his friend lived all the way in Brooklyn, and that one of my friends had tagged a photo of me at the bar earlier that night."
"So… not so random after all."
"Probably not," she agrees. "I didn't know that at the time, though. And then we got to talking, and drinking, and…"
This time his expected quip doesn't come, and she finds herself desperately wishing it would. Friendly snarkiness- and the occasional coffee date- has been the glue holding their tenuous friendship together since her return to Neptune, six months ago. Without it, they'd need to discuss their actual feelings for one another.
After a moment of rather uncomfortable silence, Logan finally asks, "And?"
Veronica looks down at her hands. "C'mon. Don't make me spell it out."
He sighs. "Fine. You can spare me the gory details. What happened after you did your little walk of shame the next day?"
She shrugs. "We said we'd keep in touch. But I figured we'd just go back to liking each other's cat memes on social media."
"So, the less literal type of touch."
"Right. Then I moved back to Neptune, started working at The Register and…basically forgot all about it. Until a few weeks ago, when I found out that he also moved back to Neptune."
"Because he supposedly got a job offer that just happens to be in the exact same building where I work."
"And now he's going to the same wedding you're going to?"
"Yeah. According to Paul, they met in the elevator one day and hit it off. It turned into a whole bar-trivia-and-open-mic-night bromance."
Logan makes a rapid lane change, effortlessly bypassing a Porsche 911, then glances over at her. "So. He's either a Joe Goldberg level stalker, or he's still not over you. And really bad at being stealthy about it."
"What did he say, when you confronted him?"
"I… haven't yet," she admits. "I've kind of been ducking his calls. And timing my trips in and out of the building very carefully."
"Ah, avoidance. The old Veronica Mars standby."
She looks up at Logan, trying to gauge how upset he is. He appears to be taking it in stride, but his ability to hide his emotions is second to none. Well, except maybe me.
"Listen, I'm sorry I'm just telling you all this now," she says. "I was afraid if you knew the whole situation, you'd bail on me."
"You thought I'd miss out on the chance to attend a beach-casual wedding, with strangers, just because my ex-girlfriend's stalker ex-boyfriend- who I once punched in the face- was going to be there too?" He scoffs. "You've clearly misremembered my sense of fun."
Veronica smiles at that. She's teased Logan about remaining static, these past five years. Staying in Neptune, still living at the Grand, surfing with Dick on weekends. Yet he really has changed. He's calmer; more comfortable in his own skin. Despite creating and running one of the most successful media conglomerates in the nation, he seems… kind of zen.
"If it was anyone but Paul, I'd have just skipped it entirely," she continues. "But he's, like, my closest work friend-"
"Only work friend?"
"Fine. Yes. He's my only work friend."
Logan grins, his eyes still on the road. "Still not a joiner, eh?"
"Says the perpetual bachelor who lives in a hotel."
A nasally female voice on the GPS informs them that they need to exit, interrupting their conversation. Logan eventually shuts the sound off, insisting he knows the way.
The sun continues to descend as they drive, heading west briefly before merging onto the PCH, and Veronica glances at the clock. They're cutting it a bit close; but that just means she won't need to make awkward small talk when they arrive. They'll go straight from the ceremony into drinks, which works out just fine for her. After that, however…
"You know the solution to your little dilemma, don't you?" Logan speaks up. "I mean… it's obvious."
Veronica hides a smile. She's not sure how he can still do that, after all these years. Anticipate her thoughts, anticipate her actions. It should annoy her, but instead she finds it indescribably comforting.
"Go ahead," he urges. "Just ask."
Logan sighs. "Look, there's only two ways this plays out. Either you tell Piz we're just friends and he's up your ass all night. Or…"
"Or we pretend that we're dating."
"You got it, Cupcake."
It's tempting. It's very, very tempting. But Veronica shakes her head. "No."
"No. I'm not going to risk-" She stops abruptly. "We've just established that I'm not exactly Miss Popularity. Wallace, Mac, Paul, and you. That's all I've got."
"What about Evan?"
"Evan? We broke up, like, a month ago. Couldn't deal with the long-distance thing." She glances over at him, one brow raised. "Which I know you already knew, but I appreciate the smooth conversational segue."
Veronica looks out the window so he can't see her satisfied smile. It's the first time he's asked her about Evan in months, and that just might mean something. Suddenly her eyes focus on the large green highway sign up ahead, and she gasps. "That's our exit!"
Logan maneuvers his fine piece of German machinery across two lanes in just seconds, and they veer off the exit ramp onto the local road.
The next ten minutes are spent navigating the congested streets of Malibu. She's all but pushed their conversation out of her mind until they arrive at their destination, and they're being waved forward by a uniformed valet attendant.
Logan narrows his eyes at the sight of the younger man, and Veronica can tell he's trying to determine if he trusts this kid with his beloved car.
"It's fine," she says impatiently. "He's a professional."
"Veronica. With all due respect to your current mode of transportation, this is a limited-edition Decennium. There are only fifty of these in the entire country."
Veronica twirls a chunk of hair, tilting her head at him. "So does that, like, make it special or something?"
Logan sighs, pulling up to the valet and putting the car in park. "You're lucky you're so cute."
The young man walks around to the passenger side to open up Veronica's door, casting an appreciative glance at her rather clever neckline as he offers his hand. She makes a face, ignoring his outstretched hand and climbing out of the car on her own.
Logan grudgingly hands over his keys, and they make their way down a long driveway towards the sound of the ocean. Veronica eyes the sprawling, modern beachfront house with interest, wondering who it belongs to. Paul has seniority over her at the paper, but he can't be making this kind of money.
They reach the edge of the bluff and stop walking, gazing down at the scene below. The Pacific Ocean glows blue beneath them, waves curling and breaking onto the sand. Several dozen guests are milling around on the beach, while others are already seated on rows of white folding chairs that face the ocean.
The chairs are separated into two sections, forming an aisle in the middle, which leads to a simple driftwood arch laced with ivory gauze and white roses. A string quartet is setting up just to its left.
Further down the beach is a makeshift stage and dance floor, flanked on both sides by small, round tables and chairs. Veronica spots four separate bars, discernible by white umbrellas, and a variety of food trucks parked directly on the beach. Large, white-topped yurts form a semi-circle around the entire setup.
She glances over at Logan, wondering if he's as surprised as she is by the scale of the event. Yet he appears completely at ease, both hands in his pockets as he takes in the view. The golden rays of the drooping sun turn his brown hair auburn, glinting off his bronzed skin, while the ocean breeze lightly ruffles his hair. He may as well be there for a photo shoot.
Veronica swallows. It's a constant struggle, trying not to be attracted to him. But if he really wanted me, he would have let me know by now. So… friends it is.
She forces a smile. "C'mon. We'd better get down there."
They descend the wooden steps towards the beach. At the bottom, they're greeted by another uniformed attendant. He hands them each a glass of champagne, then picks up a clipboard. "Names?"
"Veronica Mars, and-"
"Guest," Logan offers.
"Ah, yes. You're assigned to number seven. We'll have someone bring your bags down from your vehicle."
"I'm sorry," Veronica says. "Number seven what?"
The attendant points to a nearby structure. "The yurts are all labeled, to make things easier for the guests."
She stares at him. "The…what?"
He gives her a patient smile, pointing once again. "They're the large tents set up all around, with the white canvas-"
"No, I know what a yurt is. I just…"
"There's no need to be alarmed," he assures her. "The yurts are furnished with our most luxurious amenity package. You'll be very comfortable."
"I'm sure they're lovely, but we can't-" Veronica stops and glances at Logan, who's making no attempt to hide his amusement. "I mean, we'll just book a room somewhere instead. Please tell them to leave our bags in the car."
The attendant looks from Veronica to Logan, visibly ruffled. "I apologize, miss, but we've been instructed not to return anyone's keys until the morning. Our hosts are concerned about their guests' safety, and don't want anyone to drink and drive."
Veronica sighs. Realizing there's no arguing with this man, she takes a breath. "Okay. Number seven it is. Got it."
As soon as they're out of hearing distance, she turns to Logan. "I didn't know; I swear."
"I can tell by your abject look of terror."
"When Paul told me he'd handled our accommodations, I assumed he meant a hotel." They pass by one of the yurts and Veronica halts abruptly and doubles back. She lifts one side of the flap, while Logan comes around to lift the other, and they both peek inside.
The décor is Moroccan in style; simple, yet elegant. Two red and gold poufs, a full-length mirror, a wooden wardrobe and matching dresser. All surrounding a single queen-sized bed decked out with golden throw pillows.
Veronica sighs, glancing over at Logan. "I'll just explain that we're not, like, dates dates. See if there's an extra yurt. Or, I'll figure out a way to get your keys back. Pretend there's an emergency, something like that."
Logan shrugs. "No need to go through all of that. It's a big bed. We'll figure it out."
"But doesn't it bother you that we're stuck here?"
He lets the canvas fabric fall from his fingers, turning to face her with an ironic smile. "Stranded on a beach with an open bar and a hot blonde? I think I'll cope."
"What about Piz? Aren't you worried?"
Logan snorts. "About Piz? No."
"Relax, Veronica. Okay? Let's just have fun."
She exhales and nods, trying to suppress the thrill that shivers beneath her skin at his words. Easy, tiger, she reprimands herself silently. He means friends fun. Not the kind of fun you're thinking about.
They continue walking towards the seating area. Veronica takes a long sip of her champagne, and then another. As they maze their way around yurts and other wedding guests, she begins to loosen up. It's hard not to, between the gorgeous locale and the whole music-festival vibe of the event.
In fact, she's forgotten all about the dreaded encounter with her ex … until she rounds the corner and spots him, standing by himself and glancing around hopefully.
Veronica stops short, ducking quickly behind a yurt, and Logan follows her. "What's up?"
"Piz," she replies, jutting her chin forward. "I'm just… not ready to deal with that yet."
He watches as she tilts her head back, downing the rest of her champagne. And then he holds his hand out, capturing the stem of her empty glass between two fingers.
"You need a refill," he notes. "Wait here, I'll be right back."
Veronica nods and exhales, watching him walk away. Logan will inevitably provide a shield from Piz, for a time. But she knows she can't avoid him all night, and she's not looking forward to the ensuing drama.
Just as she's considering escape, a tall figure steps around the corner and into view, smiling widely when he spots her. "Veronica, you made it!"
She smiles, moving forward to give him a hug. "Hey, Paul."
He pulls back and glances at his watch. "You certainly took your sweet time."
"Yeah, sorry about that. My date had some last-minute wardrobe issues." Veronica looks around. "Where's Linus? I'm dying to meet him."
"The groom can't see the groom before the wedding," Paul chides. "Where's your sense of tradition?"
She laughs, gesturing to their surroundings. "Um, where's yours?"
Paul slings his arm across her shoulders, ignoring her question. "So, listen," he begins. "I've been enlisted to have a talk with you. By our mutual friend."
"Piz seriously asked you to talk to me on your wedding night?"
"Yeah." He drops his voice to a whisper. "I don't like him as much as I thought I did."
"What possessed you to invite him to your wedding?"
"Hmm. I think it was Moscow Mule Mondays at Rosie's?" He rolls his eyes. "Oh whatever, you know I lack impulse control. Dr. Harry and I are working on it. In the meantime…"
Paul stops talking as Logan comes into view, walking towards them with a full champagne flute in each hand. "Um, who is that Navy Seal looking specimen of a man?"
"That would be my date. Logan."
"That's Logan? As in the guy who once took on the Russian mafia for you?"
"The very same."
Paul laughs. "Oh, girl. Let Piz down easy, will you?" He drops his arm and starts walking backwards, waving once at Logan before turning back towards Veronica. "And you're welcome for the yurt."
"Hey, speaking of-"
"No time! I need to find my best man. Go take your seats, we'll catch up later." He spares a smile for Logan before disappearing around the corner.
Logan reaches her a few seconds later, handing her one of the glasses. "Paul?"
"Paul," she confirms, taking the offered drink. "I'll introduce you later."
Veronica holds up her glass and Logan clinks it, and they both take a sip.
He gestures towards the beach. "We'd better go sit down. I think they're about to start."
She nods once and they walk forward through the warm sand. Veronica scans their surroundings, but Piz is nowhere in sight. Yet another uniformed attendant greets them at the end of the aisle, collecting their now-empty champagne flutes and handing them each a popper full of dried flower petals.
Logan takes Veronica's hand in his, leading her towards two free seats in the back. Just as they're about to take their seats, he whispers in her ear. "Incoming."
He tilts his chin towards the aisle. Piz is heading in their direction, eyes flitting from her to Logan, brow furrowed in consternation.
Veronica instinctually looks back at Logan for support. Without hesitation, he bends down and places a gentle, lingering kiss upon her lips.
She blinks, staring up at him in surprise. Can it be this easy? Are we just… doing this again, without discussing the pros and cons of reuniting ad nauseum?
"You're welcome," Logan says softly.
And then she understands. Without bothering to consult her, he's decided to play the role of fake boyfriend after all. She's equal parts furious and grateful, as well as grudgingly impressed the same person can elicit such conflicting emotions simultaneously.
Struggling not to react, she spares a glance at Piz. He's stopped short about fifteen feet away, looking utterly at a loss as to what to do next. The cellist starts playing, which seems to snap him out of his fog. He retreats back to his seat, across the aisle and several rows in front of them.
Veronica sits down, forcing her attention on the ivory-suited man who can only be Linus. He's walking slowly towards Paul, who's waiting for him at the altar and grinning from ear to ear.
The ceremony is brief, but very sweet. The grooms have timed it perfectly, the setting sun casting scarlet shimmers across the ocean as they repeat their vows. Logan turns to Veronica with a smile as the couple is pronounced equal partners in marriage, and she can swear his eyes are a bit glassy.
They stand up, releasing their dried petals at the happy pair as they pass. The sky is a stunning rainbow of colors. Magenta and violet clouds brighten to coral closer to the sun, as it slides beneath the horizon. Veronica is just thinking it's getting dark when thousands of fairy lights turn on at once, illuminating the beach.
Logan places his hand on her lower back, guiding her down the aisle with the rest of the guests, and the simple action reminds her just how complicated her night has become.
She scans the area for Piz, but he's nowhere in sight. Logan tilts his chin at the nearby bar. "Glass of pinot?"
"How about the whole bottle?"
He laughs and begins to walk away, but she grabs his arm. "Hey, Logan…"
Logan turns around slowly. "Look, it's already done," he replies, anticipating her. "If we play it this way, you might actually get to enjoy yourself tonight."
"And I appreciate the gesture; I really do." Veronica takes a deep breath, coming to a decision. "But you've only had one glass of champagne, right? I think… maybe we should just go."
"Why? Are you serious?" She throws up her hands. "How about the fact that you just kissed me, for starters?"
Veronica shuts her eyes, taking a deep breath before she continues. "Logan, when I moved back here and ran into you again, and said I wanted to be friends? That wasn't just a platitude. I meant it. Like really and truly meant it."
"And we are." He takes both her hands in his. "We're adults, and we can handle this. I promise that our friendship will remain intact."
"I just don't want to… complicate things, between us."
"So, we'll keep it simple. Hands and lips, right? Just for show."
"What about the whole sleeping situation?"
Logan sighs, letting go of her hands. "If it's seriously a problem for you, lend me a blanket and I'll crash on the beach. It's not like it would be the first time."
"C'mon, you know I'm not going to let you sleep outside."
"Good." He grins. "Because that bed looked comfortable. And plus side? It'll make your boy's head explode."
"He's not my boy," she mutters.
Logan looks at her carefully, his smile fading. "Veronica…"
Several seconds pass, yet he doesn't continue. He looks down, toying with one of the buttons on his shirt. When he looks back up, his expression is somber. "My life is pretty predictable these days, you know? This is… different. It kind of reminds me of, you know, the way things used to be."
He doesn't elaborate, but she thinks she knows what he means. No rules, no responsibilities. Not being sure what comes next, but- better than that- not really caring. Being like Lilly.
And she doesn't want to leave. Not really. But she's terrified of what staying here will mean. Pretending to be a couple all night, sleeping in the same bed. What it will feel like to wake up in the morning and see him lying next to me, knowing it isn't real.
"I promise not to cross any lines, tonight," he goes on. "Just… let me help you out with this, okay? You'd do the same for me."
She nods, because she would. "Okay."
They head to the nearest bar. Veronica gets wine and Logan gets whiskey, and they walk over to one of the small tables and take a seat. She spots Piz on the opposite side of the dance floor, staring at them, and quickly looks away.
She focuses her attention on Logan, who's also watching her. "What?"
He lifts one shoulder. "I can't admire my pretend girlfriend?"
"Sure; as long as it's pretend admiration."
Logan laughs, and Veronica nods at a passing guest. "Oh, hey, look at that. Shorts."
"To each their own."
"I have to admit, I am a bit… perplexed."
She gestures to their surroundings. "All this."
"What about it? It's casual, like you said." Logan points to the food trucks, and to a nearby guest wearing flip flops.
"Yes, but it's… deceptively casual," she argues. "Do you know how much all this must have cost? The band, the decked-out yurts?"
"I don't know how much anything costs. I have people for that sort of thing."
Veronica rolls her eyes.
"I like this whole vibe, though, you know?" he continues. "I think I'd be into a beach wedding."
"Want me to create a Pinterest page for you?"
"Sure. Can we add that dress you're wearing?" He raises one brow. "Because without being indelicate, I'll just say that it's working for you."
The way he's looking at her right now isn't just for show, because Piz is too far away to see. And it's satisfying, to discover that his attraction for her still remains. Yet they're walking a very fine line, tonight, between friendship and flirtation. Add in a splash of alcohol and a sprinkle of fake dating… that line could disappear entirely.
Veronica decides she'll go easy on the wine, in case temptation becomes too strong. She's just finishing up her glass when the band begins playing, and Paul and Linus enjoy their first dance as a married couple.
One of the musicians entreats the other couples to join them on the floor and Logan bobs his brows at Veronica. Giving in, she stands up and takes his outstretched hand, allowing him to lead her onto the dance floor.
It's hard not to get caught up in the moment, with the soft music and twinkling lights; the indigo sky above, the lulling sound of waves crashing behind them. She closes her eyes and relaxes into Logan's chest, which is quite a bit firmer these days. His arms envelop her as they sway to the music, and she inhales the soothing scent of him.
When she'd first moved home, she'd had this crazy notion that he'd hear about her return and come knocking on her door that very night. She'd even had a whole speech planned, about how they couldn't live in the past. About how she was with Evan, now, but she hoped they could be friends.
After two agonizing weeks had gone by without the expected visit, she'd decided it was time to do a little recon. She was about to enlist Mac in her efforts when she'd spotted Logan at a coffee shop, sipping on a latte with a voluptuous brunette.
He'd caught sight of Veronica before she'd had the chance to sneak out. She'd pretended to be in a hurry, exchanging a quick hug and a promise to call him. Yet Logan had called her first, later that night, inviting her to join him for lunch the next day.
Within weeks they'd settled into an easy, comfortable friendship, reminiscent of the days before Lilly's death. She was still (sort of) trying to make it work with Evan. But he was so far away, merely a faded memory most days. While Logan was very much a vivid part of her present.
She'd watched him go through girlfriends like Kleenex. Beverly, Connie, Delilah, Penelope. He didn't talk about them much, so she didn't ask.
Veronica told herself she was fine with him dating other women- why wouldn't she be? Then she'd seen him out at a restaurant with Penelope and spent the next hour in her car, sobbing. And she'd realized the truth. She'd broken up with Evan the next day.
The song ends, and she snaps back to the present. Logan's fingers are laced through hers, and he's guiding her back to their table.
"I need another drink," he says. "You want anything?"
"No, I'm good."
Veronica takes a seat, still thinking about Logan while she awaits his return. It stings, a bit, that he's never shown any indication that he wants to rekindle their romance. She supposes he's just… moved on from that chapter of his life, and he's not willing to reopen any old wounds.
Logan reappears with another whiskey, and a glass of wine for her even though she'd declined. Veronica accepts it gratefully anyway. She's about to ask him if he's hungry when the happy grooms arrive at their table.
They offer their congratulations. Paul introduces her to Linus, and she introduces both of them to Logan. Linus, who's incredibly fit, immediately remarks on Logan's physique. The next thing she knows, they're discussing personal trainers like they've known each other for years.
Paul steps closer to Veronica, and she gives him another hug. "It was a beautiful ceremony. I'm so happy for you."
"Thank you." He smiles, squeezing her hand. "And I'm really glad you made it. Even with all that Piz biz. You know I never would have invited him if I knew you two had history, right?"
"Don't worry about that," Veronica says, waving her hand. "It's totally fine."
He grins, casting a significant look from her to Logan. "Yes, I can see that."
"So, I've got to ask. What's up with the yurts?"
Paul laughs. "Well, I come from humble West Virginian beginnings, as you know. And we used to camp almost every weekend. Linus has a more, shall we say, refined background." He leans in close, dropping his voice to a whisper. "This is his family's beach house. They're loaded."
"I sort of guessed that part."
"So long as you don't think I'm marrying him for his money. Because I'm really marrying him for his abs."
Paul glances at Logan. "I see you're a fan as well."
"Yurts?" she prompts.
"I wanted to do a whole rustic thing up in the mountains, but he wanted elegance." He spreads his arms. "This is our compromise. Our version of shabby chic. Casual dress, yet breathtaking views. Camping, with amenities."
"And the food trucks?"
Paul grins. "They're all run by James Beard award winners. That blue truck on the end is doing freshly shucked oysters that are to die for. The woman running the red truck has filet mignon and truffle risotto."
"His idea." Paul looks at his new husband fondly. "Isn't he something?"
Veronica smiles. She's never seen her friend look so happy. "He's a keeper, for sure."
Linus and Logan finish their conversation, and Paul nods to Linus. "Come on, hubby. We need to finish making the rounds."
They wave goodbye and walk off, and Veronica and Logan sit down. They share a few moments of companionable silence, each sipping their drinks, and then Logan speaks up.
"I notice my mere presence seems to be keeping your stalker at bay."
"Yes, but for how long?" Veronica glances around, spotting Piz in line at one of the bars across the dance floor. He's still watching them, but trying to be less obvious about it now.
"He's probably just waiting to get you alone."
"I know." She sighs. "I going to go over there. Get it over with."
"Let's do it together."
Relieved, she nods. They stand up and cross the dance floor, coming to stand in line right behind Piz.
"Hey, Piz," Logan greets him, still holding Veronica's hand. "It's been awhile. How's it hanging?"
"Oh, uh, you know. Heh. Can't complain."
"Excellent," Logan replies. "Buy you a drink?"
"Uh, I think they're free so…"
Logan turns to Veronica. "Damn, has that bartender been scamming me all night?"
"Oh." Piz laughs. "I get it, you're kidding." He rubs at his hair, stiff with product. "Hey, Veronica. Do you think I can, like, talk to you for a second?"
"We have to dance," she blurts out. "I mean, this is Logan's favorite song."
"Got it. I, uh, didn't know you were a Britney fan."
"Are you kidding?" Logan replies with a grin. "She ruined me for other girls." He smiles fondly at Veronica. "Still into blondes, all these years later."
Veronica tugs him towards the dance floor. "C'mon, the song's almost over." She nods at Piz. "Talk later, 'kay?"
Next thing she knows, they're dancing to Britney… and then Christina, and then Beyoncé. Neither one of them are great dancers, but they're having a blast anyway. Flushed and giddy after three songs, Veronica indicates that she needs some water. They each grab a bottle, and then decide to hit the food trucks.
After an absolutely outstanding lobster taco, she urges Logan back onto the dance floor. Just as they find a free spot amidst the other dancers, the up-tempo tune merges into a slow song. As they move back and forth to the music, she realizes she hasn't had this much fun in years. If it wasn't for Piz, looming in the background, tonight would be… close to perfect.
Veronica sees her ex walk towards the food trucks, occasionally glancing backwards at where they're dancing. She sighs and looks up at Logan.
He must have seen Piz scoping them again, too, because he bows his head down and kisses her. Yet this time he deepens the kiss, his tongue grazing against hers, and she finds herself pulling him closer.
Lost in the moment, she's not sure how much time passes. They separate and Veronica looks down, needing a moment to compose herself. She hasn't been kissed like that since…
The last time Logan kissed me.
Veronica exhales a slow sigh, feeling a bit shaky. You're playing with matches. You know what comes next.
She lifts her head and looks up at Logan. "We can't keep this up all night. I'm going to have to talk to him eventually."
"What's the rush? We're not going anywhere."
He's right. It's still early, and there's plenty of time to deal with Piz later. She rests her cheek on Logan's chest and closes her eyes. Relaxing into the evening; allowing herself to pretend.
Logan still makes her feel exactly the same way he used to. Cozy and warm and safe. It's like putting on a beloved sweatshirt, after losing track of it for a few months. Or hearing a favorite tune on the radio after a really bad day. Familiarity, in an unfamiliar world.
But it isn't real.
When the song is over Logan wants to keep dancing, but Veronica shakes her head. That defining line, between them, is getting blurred again. She needs physical distance from him, if she's going to attempt to redraw it.
"I need a break," she tells him. "And maybe more wine."
After a trip back to the bar, Logan suggests a stroll down the beach. They walk in the opposite direction of the band, until the rush of waves overtakes the sound of music. Then they stop and look out at the surf, sipping silently on their drinks.
"This is nice," Logan says. He turns to face Veronica. "I know I'm the last minute stand-in for Wallace, but thanks for inviting me."
She looks up at him with a smile. "Well, thanks for saying yes. Otherwise I would've been the weirdo who brought her dad."
Logan makes a face. "Yeah, right, like there aren't a million guys who would've jumped at the chance."
"Um, haven't we already established the fact that I'm a misanthrope who only has four friends?"
He shrugs. "Hey, that's double what I've got. You and Dick; that's about it."
"You know I work for the newspaper, right? You think I don't see all the stories about you? Clubbing in L.A., yachting in the Med? Surrounded by beautiful, adoring people?"
Logan sighs. "You really think any of those people give a shit about me? You think I can actually trust any of them?"
"So… why do you keep them around?"
"I don't know." He kicks at a piece of driftwood, sending it into the surf. "I guess they're a good distraction."
Logan doesn't reply, and she turns to face him more fully. After a beat, he leans down and kisses her. But this time, he doesn't stop. His lips meet hers again and again. And she can't help but respond, going up on her tiptoes, wrapping both arms around him. His hand slides across the back of her neck, fingers curling, pressing her towards him.
And it's like she's seventeen again, standing in front of his old X-Terra, all logic and reason evaporating. Compelled to get closer and closer, to kiss until none of those nagging doubts mean a damn thing, anymore.
They break apart, and reality rushes in. Veronica leans backward, so she can see Logan more fully; so she can decipher the expression on his face, when she asks her question.
"Is he behind me?"
Logan pulls away from her and stands up straight, his eyes still on hers. "No," he says. "I don't know where he is."
Her heart flutters, her own gaze locked on his. It takes her a few seconds to find her voice. "Then… what was that?"
"That was me kissing you because I wanted to kiss you," he replies. "Not for show; for real."
"Hold on. Before you go into a whole diatribe about how we're just friends, and you don't want to ruin that, and we're only supposed to be pretending… Just tell me one thing. Did you want to kiss me too, tonight? For real?"
Veronica nods, then manages, "Yes."
Logan smiles, wide and slow- sort of like he's just heard his favorite song on the radio. "Okay then. Good."
"But what does this-"
"Nope, we're not doing that," he interrupts, taking her hand in his. "Not tonight."
She stares at him, her brain waging an internal war between her need to discuss this new development- to analyze what it may mean for their future in minute detail- and her desire to simply enjoy this beautiful night with Logan.
Veronica looks down at their fingers, still entwined, and she nods. "Okay."
"Okay. Let's head back to the reception."
They walk back down the beach, hand in hand, until they reach the dance floor. Veronica glances around, locating Piz at a nearby table, and turns to Logan.
"I'm going to talk to him. I don't want this hanging over my head anymore."
He nods. "All right. I'm right here if you need me."
Piz is sitting at a table alone when she approaches, nursing some sort of dark beer in a pint glass. She takes a seat opposite him, and he looks up in surprise. His eyes are red-rimmed and his face is pink. Great. He's wasted.
"Hi," she greets him, committed to her course of action.
"Hi." He glances around. "Where's your bodyguard?"
"He's not my bodyguard. And he's over there."
Piz shakes his head. "He must spend, what, two or three hours a day at the gym?" He laughs. "I guess I should step up my game."
Veronica doesn't reply. He takes a sip of his beer, probably some obscure microbrew, and goes on. "So if he's not your bodyguard, then what is he? I mean, is it just a friends with benefits type thing, or…?"
"Piz, we need to talk about what's been going on. I know you weren't at Finnegan's that night by chance."
"No, I knew you were there," he admits. "I was only in New York for a few days, and I saw you were there, and… I thought it would be nice to catch up."
"So you lied."
Veronica sighs. "Did you move to Neptune for me?"
"Partly." Piz takes another sip of his drink. "I mean, the job is real. But it wasn't the best offer on the table."
"Because, after I saw you and we, you know… It was such a special night. I just thought, maybe, there was still something between us."
"Putting aside the fact that you were there under false pretenses, it really wasn't that special of a night. We were both wasted. You could barely even-"
Veronica stops short, as Piz's cheeks color. His performance issues had always been a bit of a sore spot, for him. Unfortunately for her, things hadn't improved with time.
"So what about you becoming friends with Paul?" she asks.
"What about it?" He blinks. "Hey, wait a minute. I didn't- I mean, that wasn't, like, on purpose or anything. I didn't even know you two worked together until after I met him."
"Piz, if you expect me to believe that you're here completely by coincidence-"
"I'm not. Okay? After I found out you guys were friends, I… waited until Paul got wasted, one night when we were out together, and then brought up the wedding. You know what a nice guy he is. I basically knew he'd invite me."
Veronica glares at him. Yet before she can deliver the choice words on her mind, he continues.
"I know it was a shitty thing to do, all right? But I knew you'd be here, and I really thought I had a shot with you." Piz huffs out a bitter laugh, nodding towards Logan. "I should have known better, with him around."
"Look," she begins, trying to keep her calm. "For you to come all the way across country, just for the possibility of a relationship with me. Without even talking to me first. It's just…"
"Stupid. And weird. And kind of stalkery. I know." Piz tears his gaze away from Logan, refocusing his bleary eyes on her. "I just… thought we had something, you know? I never really found anyone who I connected with, like I did with you."
Veronica glances over at Logan, who's still watching them closely, and then turns back to Piz. "Well, I have."
He sighs, his shoulders dropping in defeat. "I see that."
She tilts her head, studying him for half a moment. Wondering what the hell she ever saw in him, yes. But wishing him no ill will. "I think, maybe, you should reconsider some of those other job offers."
Piz nods. "Yeah. I think I will." He tips his head back, draining the rest of his beer, and then he stands up. "Well, I better make my way over to yurt number eighteen. Have a nice night."
He sways a little on his feet, and then he gives her a wobbly smile and walks away.
Veronica sighs, watching him for a few seconds before standing up and heading back over to Logan.
"All good?" he asks.
She nods. "I don't think we'll see him again."
Logan turns his head, watching Piz stumble away in the opposite direction. He pivots to face Veronica, his expression serious.
"I knew he was into you, back when we were still dating," he says. "I knew, but I didn't consider him a real threat. Do you know how much I've regretted that?"
"I didn't break up with you because I wanted to get together with Piz. You know that, right?"
"I know. You broke up with me because I was a mess."
"No. I broke up with you because I was a mess."
Logan smiles. "Hang on a minute. Are you actually taking responsibility for something?" He looks at his watch. "What time is it? We need to commemorate this moment."
"Very funny. What time is it, anyway?"
"Man, really? I can't believe how awake I still am."
"Yeah, me too." He raises one brow. "It's been an interesting night."
"Interesting? Is that all it rates?" Veronica tilts her head, looking up at him with a smile. "How are you being so… chill about everything?
"Because I knew this was going to happen."
"You knew we'd get shanghaied at a wedding in Malibu with my ex?"
"No." Logan smiles, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "But I knew you'd come back to Neptune, eventually. I knew we'd reconnect." He looks her in the eye, and then bends down to kiss her. "I knew our story wasn't over."
"Epic," she mutters.
"What was that?"
"Something you said to me, once. Back in high school. Drunk."
They kiss again, longer, more passionately. Utterly unaware of the other people around them.
"Veronica, you and I… we're inevitable. We always were."
"Damn that was a good line."
He grins. "Wasn't it?"
"So… what happens now?"
"We dance. And then we drink a little more. Then we go for a quick dip in the ocean, because that's been on my bucket list since we were, like, fourteen years old."
"Then we go find yurt number seven, and I spend all night showing you just how much I've missed you."
"Would it be too cliché of me to say 'I love you' at my friend's wedding?"
"Yes. But we've already established that you don't do romance well, so have at it."
"Well, forget it now."
"Veronica, do you know how long I've waited to hear you say-"
"I love you."
Logan smiles. "Your comedic timing is still superb."
"Why, thank you."
"I love you, too," he says softly. "Never stopped."
He kisses her. It's gentle and fleeting, the barest joining of lips, and it only leaves her wanting more.
"How about we postpone the dance, the drink and the skinny dip and go see what the finest in luxury camping has to offer?"
"You mean, see if seven is still my lucky number?"
"Oh, god. I forgot about the terrible puns."
"Get used to it, Sweetcheeks. You're mine forever."
Joyous exhilaration tingles through her body at the prospect, and she feels like she's floating. Veronica leans up to kiss him. "I better be."
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