A/N If you haven't read Collecting Kisses, you'll probably want to check that out first. This story begins the day after the party.
Thank you to both TXQuill and KatiePotatie for providing invaluable critique!
Chapter 1: One Little Kiss
Logan runs his fingertips back and forth across his keyboard as he stares at the blank white computer screen. It creates an interesting sound; something like falling rain against the metal roof of a car. He likes the way it makes the pads of his fingers feel, as they dip into the slightly concave button of each key and catch the edge of the next button. It's a habit that irritates everyone else to no end, but he doesn't really care about that. Besides, he's alone.
He watches the black vertical line at the top of the screen flash again and again, and then glances down at the notebook in his lap. He unfolds the paper that's stapled to the front of the first page, reading it again in the hopes that it'll spark something in his imagination.
English, Mr. Whitten. As part of the accelerated program, you will be required to keep a journal in addition to your other course work for this semester. Take fifteen minutes a day to work on your journal. You can write about whatever topic you'd like. Be creative! (That's the whole point.) When you can't think of anything, just write about your day.
Logan lets out a bitter laugh and tosses his notebook onto the floor. You wanna hear about my day, Whitten? Fine. Here goes… He begins typing, his fingers striking each letter forcefully and with purpose.
When I woke up this morning, I did what I've done every morning for the last three weeks. I stood shirtless in front of the mirror, checking to see if there were any visible bruises, cuts or burns on my body. See, my dad likes to beat the shit out of me. And lately, he doesn't seem to care too much which part of my body his fist, or belt, or cigarette lands on. I do, though. I have a social life, and it always seems to involve swimming pools, or hot tubs, or going to the beach. It gets a little exhausting trying to make up excuses.
He used to be more careful. The prying eyes of the paparazzi, you know how it is. But as the media started caring less about him, he started caring less about me. I guess he thinks people aren't looking as closely, now, so it's not as big a deal.
His new thing is a belt to the back. Yeah, he loves that one. Maybe because I cried, the first couple of times. He hasn't gotten a reaction like that to any performance of his in awhile. Not since his Oscar-winning role in "Yukon", probably. I don't cry, anymore. But I guess it's too late now.
I haven't been able to go surfing in two weeks.
He was supposed to be gone for four months, on location in Hawaii for some re-make of a re-make. I was supposed to get my life back. But instead, he gets kicked off the set. And I get to deal with this bullshit until his agent finds something else for him to do.
The official story from my dad's people is that there were "creative differences". The studio's official story is that they "decided to go in another direction". But everyone knows the real story. The old man is becoming an old man. And people don't want to see an old man with his shirt off. Maybe that's why he's been favoring the belt, lately. If he doesn't get to take his shirt off, neither do I.
Bruises are easy. I tell people I got worked over by a wave, make up some story where I end up looking like a badass. Burns are a little more annoying. I mean, it's not like I cook. But it's nothing a long-sleeved shirt can't fix. Bloody gashes across the back? A little more difficult to explain away.
It was a bigger problem when I had a girlfriend. But she dumped my ass last week. She was pissed that I didn't want to go to some stupid beach party. You wanna know why I really didn't go? Because I snuck out of the house to see her, the night before that party, and my dad caught me. Twenty or so belt lashes later, I was lying on my stomach, popping Percocet's and chasing them with Jack to try and kill the pain. But did I tell her the real reason? Of course not. I have my fucking dignity.
So like I said, she dumped me. It's been less than a week, and she's already hooking up with some other dude. Fucking typical. Word is, Casey Gant's pool house saw some action last night. It's alright though. While she was in there trying to get me jealous, I was busy making out with her best friend about a hundred feet away.
Logan stops his angry rant abruptly. He takes a deep breath and re-reads the last line he's written three times. Then he highlights the entire thing and hits the Backspace button. He goes back to staring at the blank screen in front of him, his thoughts picking up where they'd left off before he'd begun his tirade.
Veronica. Jesus Christ. What was I thinking?
He leans back in his desk chair and closes his eyes, thinking back to the moment they'd shared the previous night. It's all so clear in his mind. The way her breath had hitched as he moved closer to her. Her nervous confession that she'd never been kissed. How she'd trembled beneath him as their lips touched. Veronica had been the picture of innocence.
But when I kissed her… she kissed me back.
Logan runs his fingers through his hair, unconsciously recreating the sensation of her fingers on his scalp. The plastic arm of his chair becomes her cool, bare thigh; and he remembers with perfect recall how she'd wrapped those thighs so tightly around his waist. He can still feel the fine strands of her hair, catching the stubble he's so diligently grown on his lower jaw, sheltering them both in a blonde halo.
Veronica had matched him kiss for kiss, pulling him closer instead of pushing him away. She'd trusted him to lead the way, and she'd followed more willingly than he'd ever imagined she would. And afterward, she'd held him in her arms so tenderly that he'd been overcome with emotion… But he's still struggling to define what, exactly, that emotion was.
It was only supposed to be one little kiss. What the hell happened?
He sighs in frustration and stands up, giving up on his assignment for the time being. He's been trying to shove these thoughts aside all day, but they clearly aren't going away. She's all he can think about.
Logan flops down onto his bed, stomach side down because his back is still a mess. One of the nastier gashes re-opened yesterday, during an impromptu game of football with Duncan. It's scabbed back over again, but it hurts every time his shirt scrapes against it. So much for surfing with Dick and Beav later. He pushes the thought away, grabs an extra pillow and hugs it to him. And then he closes his eyes and gives in, allowing his thoughts to drift back to the party…
He doesn't want to be here. He'd come with the vague hope that Lilly would be in a better mood, and they'd be able to work things out. As pissed off as he is at her, for breaking up with him over something so fucking stupid, he misses her. But she's still being a bitch. Blatantly ignoring him, while she flirts with every other guy in sight.
Logan hates when she does this. He knows it's all for him, to get a reaction out of him. And he usually plays his part admirably- because he can't help but react, when he sees another guy with his hands all over his girl. Sure, it's all a big game, but at least he knows the rules. She flirts, he gets mad, she keeps flirting, he gets drunk, he starts flirting, she gets mad, and… then we end up tearing each other's clothes off in some upstairs bedroom.
But tonight, he just feels tired. He feels like he doesn't have any fight left in him. Maybe it's because he's not drinking. He wishes he were. His back is killing him, and alcohol usually helps him forget about the pain. But he doesn't want to provide the old man with any fodder, when he gets home. No. If he lays a hand on me tonight, he's going to have to think of a creative excuse all on his own. He can't use the pretext that he's trying to put me on the right path. Teach me right from wrong.
Out of sheer boredom, he lets himself get roped into playing a game of Spin the Bottle. He regrets it as soon as he takes a seat on the hardwood floor. But it's too late to punk out now.
Logan refuses to show an ounce of emotion as Lilly makes a big production out of kissing Luke. He thinks how exhausting it is, this game they're playing. He isn't sure how things got like this between them- how treating each other like shit became status quo. All he knows is that he never wanted this, and he misses how it used to be. We're supposed to love each other. So why are we always battling to see which one of us can make the other one hurt more?
And as for Spin the Bottle, what's the point? Aren't we a little too old for this crap? He knows that most of the people in that circle have moved well beyond kissing. Shelly's no virgin, I know that for a fact. Casey? No way. Madison? Not if the rumors about Cancun are true. Veronica?
When his eyes land on her, he smiles to himself. He'd bet every nickel he has that Veronica is still a virgin, and something about that gives him comfort. She's not like the rest of them.
He watches her for several moments. She's not laughing and cheering people on, like everyone else. Instead, she's twirling a chunk of hair around and around her finger, then unwinding it and starting over again. She barely seems to be paying attention to the game. But suddenly her head snaps up, and all of her focus is on Duncan. Logan realizes the bottle is now pointing to his best friend. He sees Madison leave her place in the circle and begin to move towards Duncan.
Logan glances back at Veronica, whose expression is wavering somewhere between disgust and disappointment. He knows why. She likes Duncan, and Duncan likes her back. He and Lilly joke about it all of the time, wondering if one of them will make a move before they turn 30. Lilly is getting impatient. She seems to think that they're perfect for one another; Logan's not so sure.
Most people see Veronica as an extension of Lilly, not as a unique person. He's heard people say it countless times: "You know Veronica Mars, Lilly's friend?" They all think of her as a shy little wallflower, and Veronica never does much to dispel that image. She keeps quiet at school, not making any waves or getting into trouble. She gets good grades. She's well-liked, but she blends into the crowd. Logan himself used to think of her as "Lilly's friend". But then I got to know her.
Few people know what Veronica is really like, but Logan counts himself among them. She's a different person around Lilly, Duncan and him than she is at school. She's clever, opinionated, and has a great sense of humor. Not only does she join in on whatever mischief they cook up to amuse themselves, she often comes up with the ideas herself. But when she thinks the plan is dangerous, or may get them into trouble, she has no trouble walking away. She's one of the few people who he's seen go up against Lilly in an argument, and actually win. Duncan has had a crush on her for months.
Veronica turns away from Duncan and Madison, and her eyes meet Logan's. He can see her agitation for the briefest moment, before she slips on a mask of disinterest and looks down. Logan knows, then, that she is just as uncomfortable as he is. He glances back at Duncan, who's grinning at Shelly in obvious excitement. His friend claims to really like Veronica, but you'd never know it looking at him now. Logan is sure that the several tequila shots he watched Duncan consume earlier are playing a part; but it annoys him just the same. Those Kanes sure are a fickle bunch.
Logan looks back at Veronica, who is staring at her watch. He can see how genuinely upset she is, now, and he's a bit surprised. It is just a game, after all. Unless… Has she never kissed anyone, before? He almost brushes the thought away. It seems so absurd to him. But the idea takes hold, and he's considering it before he can stop himself. He's known Veronica for almost three years, and he's never once seen her kiss anyone. He's certain nothing has happened between her and Duncan yet. He would have told me…
He snaps out of his reverie to find everyone staring at him in silence. He soon realizes why. Shelly's spin of the bottle has landed on him. As Shelly approaches him, she keeps glancing over at Lilly. She's probably wondering if Lilly knows about our little hookup, a couple of months ago. It had happened in a drunken haze, the last time Lilly had broken up with him, and he barely remembers it himself.
Normally, Logan would've jumped on this golden opportunity to retaliate. Shelly is the perfect candidate to make Lilly jealous. She's pretty, popular, and Lilly hates her. But he's distracted- still thinking about Veronica- and he barely returns Shelly's kiss. He remains distracted as he kicks the bottle on his own turn. Only the sudden eruption of cheering and clapping makes him look up, and then he sees where the bottle is pointing.
He stares at Veronica from across the circle. She's looking down, but he can see that her cheeks are flushed pink. She fidgets with her necklace and glances around at the others in the circle, but she avoids Logan's eyes. He can hear Casey whistling and Dick making suggestive remarks, but he never looks away. Veronica crosses her arms over her chest, looking as nervous as he's ever seen her. No, not nervous. Downright scared. And Logan is struck with a sudden realization…
He really, really wants to kiss her.
The intensity of the urge surprises him, but he's not sure why. It's not like he's never thought about it before. She's a pretty girl, and they spend a lot of time together. But she's Lilly's best friend. He's trained himself to think of her platonically, over the years. Especially since Duncan's admission that he'd developed a crush on her. Aside from that, Logan respects Veronica too much to treat her like she's just some girl.
He tells Lilly that he thinks of Veronica as a sister. And he tries to believe it himself, because that makes his role easier to play. He can tease and joke around with her, feel protective of her, spend time alone with her, all without raising any eyebrows. He feels genuine affection for her, and admiration. And when he has the occasional misguided thought or fantasy, he tries not to dwell on it for long.
All of this flashes through Logan's mind as he stares at her. He has no idea what she thinks about him- if she's ever looked at him as anything other than Lilly's boyfriend. But when she finally lifts her head, and her gaze locks with his, he sees a confusing array of emotions in her eyes. There is so much going on beneath the surface with Veronica, and something about that has always intrigued him.
The others in the circle start to chant impatiently, wanting to see the show, and Logan realizes how much time has passed. He keeps his eyes trained on Veronica as he begins to move towards her. She seems determined to go through with this, and he's impressed. But then her gaze flickers to Lilly, and she falters.
Logan knows, then, that it's not going to happen. He watches as she makes her escape. The others groan at the lost opportunity for entertainment. They all seem to buy that she's really sick. He knows better.
The game breaks up after that, and Logan stands up. He looks over at Lilly, finally. She's standing next to Lewis Connelly, the new kid from Seattle. Logan watches her touch Lewis's arm as she laughs at something that he's said, and he turns away. He feels tired again, yet strangely restless.
Logan sits down on the couch and stares out the window. He can see Veronica standing alone on Casey's deck, and he finds himself wondering what it was that made her run off. Did she think Lilly would get upset? It was just a game; even Lilly knows that. Was it because she didn't want to kiss anyone so publicly? I guess that would make sense, if it's her first kiss. Or was it… that she didn't want to kiss me, specifically?
That thought bothers him more than it should. And as he watches Veronica descend the deck stairs, he realizes why he's feeling so unsettled. Why he's been giving all of this so much thought. It's not mere curiosity, it's… disappointment. He feels cheated. I've never been someone's first kiss before. But I guess it's better that she didn't do it during some stupid party game. Veronica deserves something more… meaningful than that. I wish my own first kiss had meant a damn.
Maybe it's not too late.
Impulsively, Logan stands up off the couch and begins walking toward the deck. If something needs to be done right, you do it yourself. Isn't that what people say?
He pulls open the sliding door, refusing to dwell on why this matters so much. He convinces himself that he's just being chivalrous. Helping out a friend. As he walks across the deck, he sees Lilly on the path below him. She's pulling Lewis in the direction of Casey's pool house, but she's looking directly at Logan. Her eyes are shining with mischief, daring him to intercept them. He ignores her and walks in the other direction.
This isn't about Lilly, of that he's certain. This isn't part of their sick little game. It's just something that he feels compelled to do. He knows he's being reckless, but he doesn't let himself worry about that, right now. The idea of kissing Veronica has taken hold of his imagination, and there's no room left for rational thought. I just want one thing in my life to actually mean something, for once…
The sound of a ringing phone brings Logan back to the present. He sits up quickly and digs his phone out of his pocket, feeling a strange mixture of anticipation and relief. But it's only Duncan. He tosses the phone aside with an acute sense of disappointment. Because I was hoping it would be Lilly… right?
Logan can't answer his own question with any kind of certainty, and he sighs and stands up. He walks over to his computer and sits down again, but his thoughts are still far too scattered to concentrate on his assignment. His phone chimes that he has a voice mail, and he finds himself wondering exactly how pissed off at him Duncan would be, if he knew. Yeah, he likes her. But it's not like they're dating. Besides, he kissed Madison and Shelly right in front of her. There's no way he can get mad at me for this.
As for Lilly… well, that's a little more complicated.
But why? It was just a kiss, right? What's the big deal? Lilly and I are broken up. And I know she did a hell of a lot more with Lewis, last night. She'd have no right at all to me mad at me. Logan closes his eyes and exhales. But she would be. And she'd be furious with Veronica.
He stands up again and walks over to the sliding glass doors of his balcony, but doesn't step outside. Instead, he watches the fluttering leaves of one of the palm trees in his backyard. None of this matters. Veronica won't say anything to either one of them. Logan doesn't know why he's so certain of that fact, but he is. Last night, when he'd lifted his head from her lap, she'd given him the sweetest smile. And he'd felt… What?
This is what he's been circling back to all day. No matter how many times he tries to convince himself that it was just a kiss, something inside of him knows that's a lie. Because last night, for the first time in a very long time, he'd felt…peace. Security. Comfort. The kind of comfort he used to feel with Lilly; the kind that he's been desperately wanting to feel with her again. But it's been painfully absent, replaced by fighting and mind games… and an ever-increasing suspicion that it will never return.
So maybe I kissed Veronica because I wanted things to be simple, again. Pure. And for a few minutes there, things had been simple. It had all…made sense. But I guess I didn't expect her to react like that. Hell, I didn't think she'd go for it in the first place. And I definitely didn't think I'd feel anything.
But I did.
Logan takes a deep breath, somewhat relieved that he's finally just admitted it to himself. Whatever his intentions, things hadn't happened quite the way he'd planned. Sure, the kiss may have started out innocently enough. Yet somewhere between his lips meeting hers, and her arms tightening around him and pulling him closer, things had moved from platonic to passionate.
And the way they'd held each other, afterward… the way she'd stroked his hair back, so gently and so tenderly, her arm resting lightly across his shoulders. The way neither one of them had spoken a word. It had all been so intimate. Far too intimate for two people who are just supposed to be friends.
But what does she think about all of this? Is she feeling as fucking confused as I am? Or is she not thinking about it at all? No, I know she felt something too. I know I'm not imagining that. He walks back over to his bed and sits down, staring at his phone. Should I call her? What do I even say? Logan picks up his phone and stares at it without dialing, remembering how the night had ended…
They walk back up the path together in silence, pausing at the foot of the stairs and turning to face one another. Before either has a chance to speak, they hear footsteps coming from the deck above them. Dick appears at the railing.
"Dude!" he calls down gleefully. He gestures to Veronica with a grin. "And dudette. Devin came through with the keg. Get your asses up here!"
They glance at each other. Logan shrugs and gestures for Veronica to go first, and then follows her up the steps. But as soon as they get to the top, Logan is pulled in one direction and she's pulled in another. And the next time he sees her, she's getting into a car with Meg and some girl he doesn't recognize. Without saying goodbye.
He sets the phone back down decisively. I'll see her at school tomorrow. Maybe I can catch up with her before classes start; see what she thinks about all of this. Logan stands up again and walks back over to the computer, sitting down in his chair and sliding closer to the computer. But he doesn't make any move to start his assignment. Despite his decision to deal with it in the morning, he's still feeling very unsettled.
He'll need to talk to Veronica alone, and Neptune High isn't exactly the easiest place to be discreet. Especially when the girl you're trying to get alone just so happens to be the best friend of your ex-girlfriend. And she also happens to be the girl who your own best friend has had a crush on for months. No, the situation is far from settled. And part of him knows that things are about to get really, really complicated.
Logan stares at the blank computer screen, watching the black vertical line blinking over and over and over… and then he starts typing.
A/N This story has been kicking around in my head since last June, and I've had this first chapter written for months. I've been hesitant to post it because I'm not sure how quickly I'll be able to update, but I felt like I just needed to rip off the band-aid.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are always cherished. Thanks for reading. :)