Chapter 3

Logan is halfway back to his hotel when he makes a hard right into a diner parking lot and turns around. He's going way too fast and his tires squeal in protest. A pair of old ladies walking out of the diner wag their fingers at him angrily. He ignores them and pulls back out onto the road.

What the fuck am I doing? Seriously, what the fuck am I doing?

He can't answer his own question, but he can't seem to turn his car around either. He has no idea what's compelling him to go back to her, aside from the fact that he can't get the vision of Veronica's haunted eyes out of his mind.

And although it's fitting, he can't accept that the last words he'll ever say to her are "Goodbye, Veronica". In a perfect world, his last words to her will be "Goodnight, Veronica", and he'll be holding her in his arms as he passes from this mortal plane.

And no, this isn't a perfect world, he's well aware of that. This is a world where fathers kill, mothers abandon, friends rape and children get hit. But they'd faced it together, once upon a time, found something quiet and beautiful within the chaos.

Logan has tried, many times, to recreate with others that idyllic peace that he'd felt with her; but it's never been quite right. Even the relationships that have come the closest have been nothing more than a pale mockery of what he and Veronica had once shared. But I can't think about that right now…

He has no idea what he'll say when he arrives at her door, but he feels an inexplicable need to get there as soon as possible. He speeds recklessly down the highway, trying not to think about what happened the last time he drove like this.

Logan still tells everyone that it was an accident, and sometimes he even convinces himself. But he knows what he secretly hoped would happen when he got in the car that day. He's ashamed, now, that he had so little will to live. And he's grateful every day that he didn't kill someone else in the process.

In his defense, that was the day he'd finally given up. The day he'd left Neptune after waiting for her for thirty-seven days.

When he'd arrived at the airport, he'd been so scared of losing his nerve that he'd bought a ticket for the first flight back east. It hadn't mattered that it landed in Philadelphia instead of New York. He'd just needed to get the hell out of there, as far away from that sunny void as he could.

When he landed, he'd picked up the keys to a rental car, deciding to drive the rest of the way. Just so he'd be doing something, anything, to distract him from thoughts of her. But he'd found himself circling back to the airport, walking back inside, looking up at the departure boards for the next flight back to California.

He'd wound up at an airport bar, drinking shot after shot of whiskey, losing count somewhere around twelve. And then he'd stumbled back to his car in a desperate attempt to avoid temptation.

Because she was out there, somewhere, and she needed him. Of that he'd been certain. Keith Mars had died of a heart attack, forty-one days earlier, leaving everyone in utter shock. Veronica's text message to him had been exactly three words. Please come home.

Logan still has it saved on his phone. He looks at it every time he needs assurance that she did need him, once. And sometimes, he looks at it to remind himself that he tried.

I tried. It sounds so dismissive: Oh well, I tried. It doesn't speak to the reality of what he'd done to try and get back to her.

He considers the lengths he's willing to travel for her as he pulls back into the parking lot of the Seafarer Apartments. His devotion to her is unhealthy, he's known this for years. He's pretty sure everyone knows this, and he's pretty sure everyone pities him for it.

Logan wonders sometimes if it's really love for her that's made him chase after her for all of these years, or if it's just love for the idea of her. But then he conjures her devious little smile, her fiery temper, the smell and taste of her skin… and he knows the answer to that question.

He thinks about Elizabeth, as he crosses the lawn towards Veronica's apartment for the second time that day. She's the type of girl he'd always secretly pictured himself being with. Blonde and thin, yes- he knows he has a type. But also gentle, nurturing, sensitive.

She buys him thoughtful gifts on holidays and looks at him with concern when they go out to parties where people are drinking. She never protests when he throws a protective arm around her, as they walk down city streets at night. She never fights him for the remote.

Life with her has been easy, painless. A little boring, sure. But haven't I had enough drama to last me for a lifetime?

Logan is back at Unit 8A, and he doesn't bother knocking gently on the door. He pounds on it with his fist. His knuckles are scabbed from punching his car last night, and one cracks open and starts to bleed. He ignores it and keeps pounding on the door.

"Veronica, I'm not leaving like this. Okay? We're not leaving things like this." He pauses for a beat, glancing around to make sure he isn't attracting any unwanted attention. "Veronica? You have to talk to me." He thumps his fist against the door. "Just…fucking… talk to me."

There's no response. He sighs heavily and tries the doorknob. To his surprise, it turns beneath his hand. Logan hesitates for just a second, and then opens the door all the way. He walks into her apartment, once again letting his eyes adjust to the darkness.

She's lying down on the couch now on her back, her left arm hanging listlessly away from her body and her head turned slightly to the right. She shakes her head faintly as he walks into the room and mutters something barely coherent. It sounds like "No, Logan", but it could just as easily be "Go, Logan". Veronica twists her body so that her back is to him.

He wonders how many more drinks she's had since he left. By the looks of it, quite a few. Part of him is relieved that she's in no state to kick him out right now. Maybe what I say now will actually sink in, like hypnotic suggestion. She's a captive audience, and for once in her damn life, she's going to listen to what he has to say.

Logan speaks quickly, pacing back and forth. "Veronica, I tried to get to your father's funeral. I tried in every possible way. There was a fucking blizzard, okay? Three feet of fucking snow. Flights were grounded everywhere. Laguardia, JFK, Newark…"

"I tried to get a private flight," he goes on. "I offered people obscene amounts of money. I tried to get someone to take me to another airport. But it didn't matter, because everywhere on the east coast was fucked. Do you understand that?"

He glances at her. But she's being childish, not reacting, and he shakes his head in anger. "You can ignore me all you want. God knows you ignored all my calls. I mean Jesus, I can't control the weather, okay? I even tried to rent a car and drive out here, but the streets were a total mess, I couldn't get-"

Logan stops his pacing abruptly and looks at her. Veronica is the queen of concealing her emotions, but he's rapidly becoming aware of the fact that she hasn't even twitched. His heart starts to pound and he swallows hard, staring at her for any sign of movement. But she's very, very still.

Suddenly, he's eight years old again, looking at a different woman on a different couch. There is yelling, and two men in uniforms are rushing towards her.

"It was an accident, baby. Just an accident."

And now he's rushing towards Veronica, crashing into the coffee table and knocking over an ashtray. His eyes take in the transparent orange pill bottle on the floor, as he leans down and places both hands on her chest to see if she's breathing. She is, but it's slow and shallow, and god is she fucking pale.

He pulls her up into a seated position and shakes her violently. "No, no, no, no, no, oh god Veronica, fuck baby what are you doing, what did you do?" He wraps his arms around her tightly, sobbing and screaming. "What did you do?"

She stirs, then, muttering something with her eyes still closed. But he can't understand what she's trying to say, and he doesn't have the time to decipher it. Logan tries to push through the panic, tries to force some rational thought into his brain. He reaches into his pocket with a shaking hand and barely manages to punch in three numbers.

"911, what's your emergency?"

Logan chokes out the address and a jumbled explanation of why they need to get there as soon as fucking possible. And then he feels the adrenaline start to course through him, demanding that he do something, immediately.

He can hear the woman on the phone telling him to stay on the line, but he tosses the phone to the floor and lifts Veronica up off the couch. She's so light that his muscles barely strain as he carries her out of the living room, searching for the bathroom. He finds it and sets her down in the shower, because isn't that what people always do in the fucking movies? He turns the water on full force and cradles her in his arms.

The spray is cold and hard as it hits them both. For a terrifying moment he can only watch uselessly as the water soaks through her clothing, dripping down her hair, down her face. Logan rocks her back and forth in his arms, repeating the same phrase over and over. "Please don't do this to me, please don't do this to me…"

But then she coughs, once, and it gives him the courage to hope. She's still alive, and semi-conscious. He turns her around and brushes her wet hair from her face.

"Veronica? Stay with me. You have to make yourself sick." She opens her eyes but doesn't seem to really see him. Desperate, Logan puts his own finger down her throat, and she gags and convulses beneath him. He turns her quickly so she's facedown and does it again. This time, it works.

He has no idea if this is the right thing to do. And he knows he's an idiot for throwing his phone on the ground, instead of listening to the person who could have told him the right thing to do.

But after Veronica stops vomiting up orange liquid and little white pills, she seems slightly more coherent. Her eyes are unfocused and they keep opening and closing, yet she's mumbling something to him. Logan leans down to hear what she's saying.

"You…left," she whispers. "You left me."

He pulls her back into his arms, protecting her face from the water still raining down on them. "No," he corrects her, holding her body tightly to his and burying his head into her neck. "I never left. Not really."

xxXxx

Logan stares at the same piece of cracked linoleum tile on the floor for fifteen minutes, fifteen hours- he has no idea how long, time is meaningless. He's spent way too much time in hospitals over the years, and he hates every single thing about them.

He hates how irreverently the nurses laugh with each other, while the people around them are sick and dying; he hates how glossy the fucking floors are, how fluorescent the fucking lights are. And most of all, he hates the smell.

Things are quiet now, after a cyclone of motion and activity. Paramedics, police, an ambulance ride. Logan got reprimanded for not staying on the line with the dispatcher. He also took shit for putting her in the shower. They tell him it's not the right thing to do, after all, as Veronica could have gone into shock.

One of the nurses actually rolled her eyes at Logan as he stepped out of the ambulance, soaking wet. She looked at the paramedics with a knowing smile. "They do it every single time."

She's the same nurse who is forcing him to stay in the E.R. waiting room while Veronica is treated. Logan had protested vehemently, of course. He'd even told her that Veronica was his fiancée, in hopes that she'd let him stay with her; but the nurse was insistent.

He'd paced for a bit, then finally sat down and started staring at the floor. Right now, he's thinking about how he was yelling at her while she was dying on her couch. He's thinking that if she doesn't make it, he'll never forgive himself for that. Not ever.

Logan stands up, needing to move again. He walks towards the reception area, where that same bitch nurse from earlier is chatting with a paramedic. "Excuse me?" he says quietly.

"Yes?"

"I'd like to go see her now."

"I'm sorry, sir," she says dismissively. "That's not possible. Please have a seat in the waiting room." She turns away from him, going back to her conversation.

Logan pulls his wallet from his back pocket and takes out his license. He looks down at her name tag. "Excuse me?" he says again. "Anne?"

She turns in her chair and sighs heavily. "Sir-"

He holds his license up so she can see it through the plate glass window. "Do you recognize this name?" Logan can tell by her expression that she does, and he continues. "I will donate a goddamned wing to this hospital. Okay? But if you don't let me in there within the next five seconds, I'm going to break every single fucking thing in this room."

She buzzes him in without another word.

Veronica is asleep when he opens up the curtain and peeks his head in. He steps inside and closes the curtain silently behind him. Logan walks over to her bed and stares at her for a very long time, watching her chest rise and fall gently.

He doesn't want to wake her, but he feels an overwhelming urge to touch her, to make sure she's really okay. He pulls her blanket up, covering her more completely, and then takes her hand in his. It's warm, now.

Still holding onto her hand, he takes a seat and lays his head gently on her stomach. He sits that way with her for minutes, hours, again he has no idea. He knows he should call Wallace and Mac, let them know what happened. But he can't seem to move.

The sound of soft footsteps and someone clearing their throat finally brings him back to the present. He lifts his head up and turns around. There's an older woman with curly black hair in the room with them now. She's looking at Logan with a kind smile.

"Hi," she says quietly. "My name is Marilyn. I'm the social worker who's been assigned to this case. Do you mind if I speak with you for a moment?"

Logan stands up. They step outside of the room and walk into the hallway.

"Are you the fiancée?" she asks.

"Uh, no," he admits. "I just said that so they'd let me in."

"So, you're her boyfriend?"

"No. We're…" He pauses, pretty sure the word for what they are to each other hasn't been invented yet. "We're friends."

She smiles again and nods, and then proceeds to ask him a bunch of questions. She wants to know what happened, why he was there, if Veronica's ever done anything like this before. He answers the best he can, and then he asks her the question on his mind. "What happens next?"

Marilyn looks down at her notes, briefly, and then back up at him. Her eyes are very serious. "I'd like to speak with Veronica, before I answer that question. But from what you've said, she sounds like a very troubled young woman. If this was indeed a suicide attempt, it's hospital procedure to admit her into the psychiatric ward for evaluation for a period of 72 hours."

He exhales deeply, knowing how much she'll absolutely hate that. Marilyn surprises him by catching his hand in hers. "Try not to look at this as punishment. This could be exactly what she needs."

Logan looks at her for a moment, then nods. "Yeah. Maybe."

They re-enter the room; when she sees that Veronica is still sleeping, she tells Logan that she'll come back in a little while. He walks over to the bed and stares down at her again.

The top layers of her hair have dried into light blonde streaks, but the rest is still draped over her shoulders in dark, wet strands. Logan's own short hair has long since dried, but he realizes for the first time how damp and heavy his jeans are.

He watches her, again, for a long while. Her black lashes twitch and her mouth opens and closes silently as she sleeps. He doesn't want to leave her, but there's something that he has to do.

Logan walks out of the room and down the hall, wishing there was a dark little corner that he could use for his purposes. But it's all bright, white and sterile. So he sits down in a plastic orange chair and makes a phone call.

She answers after one ring, this time, her voice a mixture of anger and relief. "It's about time. I was about to call the cops."

"There are no cops here; just a sheriff's department," he informs her mechanically.

"It's bad, isn't it?" she asks.

"Yeah," Logan breathes. "It's bad." He plays with the plastic end of his shoelace and clears his throat. "I'm in the hospital with her now. And…I'm not leaving."

"Oh, god, is she okay?" Elizabeth asks, sounding genuinely concerned. She continues, not waiting for his response. "Well obviously, you should stay and make sure she's okay. Get her settled in a good rehab. Do you want me to start calling around?"

Logan stares out the window. He can see the Neptune Grand from here, and he wonders briefly why he didn't book a room there for his stay. Maybe because it's too much like home, and I wasn't planning on being here for long.

He looks at the roof of the Grand, thinking about Cassidy, thinking about Veronica… thinking about how utterly broken she was that night, when she'd thought that her dad had been killed.

"Elizabeth," he says gently. "I mean… I'm not leaving. Not ever. I'm so sorry."

xxXxx

Logan is still shaken from his conversation with Elizabeth when he walks back into Veronica's room. He wishes that she would have yelled instead of cried; that would have been so much easier. Yet she just kept repeating the same words. "But I don't understand… I just don't understand."

And, of course, he'd had no explanation that would have made the slightest bit of sense to her. So he'd just kept telling her, over and over, how sorry he was.

He glances at the hospital bed and is surprised to find Veronica awake. She isn't moving, but her eyes follow him as he walks towards her and takes a seat. He scoots his chair in closer to her and takes her hand without asking. She doesn't pull away, but she's watching him warily. He speaks first.

"How do you feel?"

She offers him a weak smile. "I've been better," she replies, her voice raspy. She glances up at the ceiling for a moment and then looks back over at him. "I didn't know you were still here."

Logan sighs. "Veronica, do you remember what you said to me before?"

"No."

"You told me that I left," he reminds her.

Her eyes darken. "You did leave." She tries to pull her hand away then, but her attempt is feeble and Logan easily holds on.

"No," he tells her forcefully.

Veronica stops resisting, but turns her head away from him. He can barely hear what she's saying. "You weren't supposed to save me, this time. You should have stayed away… I wish you would have just let me… go away."

"Is that what you wish, Veronica?" he asks, raising his voice. "You'd rather be dead?"

She doesn't answer right away, but he waits. "Sometimes," she finally admits, in a whisper. "I'm so tired of being alone."

Logan shakes his head angrily. "You're not fucking alone, okay? What about Mac, Wallace… me?"

Veronica glances at him with an expression that he would swear is hopeful, for a moment. And then she looks away from him again. Logan stands up, so frustrated that he wants to put his fist through the wall.

But he hears sobbing, then, and his attention is riveted back to her. She's shaking her head as tears run down her face. "Not you," she says. "You're engaged."

Logan almost wants to laugh, as inappropriate as that would fucking be. He sits back down in the chair and grabs her hand again, hard. "No, I'm not," he tells her. "Not anymore."

She stares at him in disbelief. "No. You can't do that, Logan. I won't let you do that."

"Well it's a little too late, okay?" he says, trying to keep his voice light. Logan turns her face gently so that she's facing him fully. "I already told her that I'm not leaving your side."

He squeezes her hand, needing reassurance that this is what she wants, too. But she starts crying in earnest, then, bringing up every single fear of his that she still doesn't want anything to do with him. Even now.

Veronica shakes her head rapidly as the tears fall down her cheeks. "No. I'm too screwed up. You're doing so well…" She wipes her hand across her face roughly, her body shuddering with her sobs. "I'll ruin that. I'll ruin you."

"No," he says calmly. "You won't." He brushes his fingers across her cheek softly, then runs his thumb along her jaw line. "Just let me take care of you, for once. Okay?"

She looks up at him, her blue eyes glassy and red-rimmed, and he's never seen her look so vulnerable. She places her hand on his forearm and squeezes it lightly. "Okay," she whispers.

Relief washes over him. Impulsively, he climbs into the hospital bed with her, careful not to disturb her I.V. line. He lies on his side and wraps his arm around her. She buries her face in his chest and he pulls her even closer.

They lay like that for a long time. The nurse comes in at one point, and opens her mouth to protest, but Logan shuts her up with a venomous look. She leaves again without a word.

Veronica lifts her head up and looks into his eyes. "I missed you so much."

He sighs and shakes his head at her. "Well, why didn't you ever call me?"

She smiles at him then, and it's the first time in two days that he recognizes that old spark in her eyes. "Because I'm not supposed to need anyone. Remember?"

He kisses her forehead and smooths her hair back. "So are you saying that you…needed me?" he teases. Logan kisses her cheek, then the tip of her nose. "Admit it, Mars, and maybe I'll forgive you."

She looks at him for a few seconds, then tentatively reaches out her hand and runs her fingers down his cheek. "Yes," she whispers. "I needed you. I've always needed you." Veronica pulls his head down to hers and kisses him lightly on the lips.

"Well then I forgive you," he says quietly, his lips brushing against hers as he speaks. "And I swear I'll never leave you again. If you still want me."

"I still want you," she breathes. She pulls back slightly and looks into his eyes, as tears start to stream down her face again. "I love you, Logan. So much that I…" Veronica doesn't finish her sentence, just pulls him closer to her and squeezes him tightly.

Logan rubs his hand across her back in gentle circles, smiling into her shoulder. He's astounded that he can somehow feel so happy and complete, considering where they are right now, the horrific events of the day. But he finally feels it again, that beautiful calm that he's spent so many years chasing.

"Just let me love you," he whispers. "That's all I've ever really wanted."

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