A/N What to say, what to say? Well, it's been a minute. Last time I updated this story I was pregnant with my son, and he's almost 2-1/2 so… yeah.
The world is crazy right now and fanfiction certainly isn't going to fix that, but I do hope this will provide a momentary escape for anyone who feels like they need it.
Writing this chapter has been difficult, but ultimately pretty cathartic. Big thanks to all my fanfic sprinting buddies on Discord, especially CCS (aka the fabulous cheshirecatstrut) & LoVeObsessed2 who joined me almost every day for sprints. Also want to give a big shoutout to MarshmellowBobcat, who led the campaign to resurrect this fic.
Reviews feed my soul and help me stay creative, so please take a moment to share your thoughts. I sincerely hope you enjoy the chapter.
Chapter 18: Burning & Dodging
Veronica and Logan are stretched out on her bed, one of his legs captured between hers, their lips pressed together. Photography notes are scattered on the floor below them, their assignment abandoned quickly and now long forgotten.
The window is ajar, a mild afternoon breeze tousling their hair and sweeping across their skin. A purple finch chirps cheerfully just outside, competing with Fiona Apple's soulful crooning on the stereo.
"I could kiss you for hours," Logan murmurs. "Just kiss you. Nothing more."
Veronica smiles at that, but tilts her head back so she can look him in the eyes. "Your lips seem to agree, but other parts of your body are protesting quite firmly."
Logan chuckles. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." He waves one hand across her eyes. "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
"You're mixing genres." She presses her palm to his forehead. "You feeling okay?"
"Are you kidding? I feel fantastic."
They start kissing again, savoring and unhurried. They have the house to themselves for at least another hour, and they're determined to take advantage of every second.
Part of Veronica can't believe they're back here, wrapped up together in her bed like the past few weeks never happened. Yet another part of her feels like it's where they've always belonged.
She knows they need to talk- like, seriously need to talk. But it feels so nice to just be… Her fingers bunched in Logan's soft cotton tee, his tangled in her hair. Her mattress sinking low under their combined weight, springs creaking in protest every time they shift positions.
Her thoughts drift, as they kiss, and she finds herself turning Logan's most recent words over in her mind. His declaration that he's happy to keep things Disney-approved is rather at odds with the physical evidence to the contrary. It's certainly at odds with their past encounters together, and it's very much at odds with his reputation.
Veronica tries to shut down this line of thinking, but it's too late. Lilly likes to overshare, when it comes to boys, and she's gotten quite an earful from her friend over the past couple of years. Late-night confessions, uttered to shock Veronica at sleepovers, start to run through her head…
"Logan does this one thing with his tongue… We were parked at the mall, it's a good thing I was wearing a skirt… He kept me up all night, I'm exhausted…"
And it isn't just Lilly. She remembers other tales, from other girls. The looks, the giggles. Shelly showing off her hickey in gym class, bragging that he'd left it somewhere no one else could see. The devious look on her face, as she'd slowly lowered her top to show off the purplish mark on the top of her breast.
Barring that image from her mind, she pulls away from Logan and leans backward again so she can see his face."You know," she says, "we can do more than just kiss. It's not like we haven't before."
Logan nods. "I know. I just thought, you know. After what I told you about Beaver, you might feel… kind of weird about it."
Veronica frowns, shimmying up into a sitting position. It isn't the reply she'd been expecting, and she's taken aback. Logan sits up too, looking at her cautiously but not speaking.
The truth is, she does feel weird about it. The idea that someone she barely knows touched her, like that. When she's only ever allowed Logan to touch her there before. It makes her feel gross, and queasy, and violated.
But she doesn't want Logan treating her any differently. That would kind of… I don't know, make me feel like Beaver won, somehow. And he doesn't get to win. He doesn't get to take this away from me.
Veronica shrugs, unsure how to articulate all of her emotions in a way Logan will understand. "It's… whatever." She tugs at the hem of her shirt, untwisting it so it lies flat, and decides to change the subject. "So, um, maybe we should lay down some ground rules."
He nods. "Yeah. Good idea."
They're both silent, and then they both laugh.
"We're really bad at this part," Veronica notes.
"Well," she begins. "We already know rule number one. We tell no one. Except for Mac, I guess. Since she already knows."
Logan doesn't respond right away. He picks up the bear named for him, toying with its ears before turning to face Veronica. "Should we… maybe talk about it not being secret?"
Veronica's gaze drops down to the bear in his hands, remembering the night he'd won it for her. They hadn't really even been anything yet, but she'd already felt guilty. She recalls how Lilly had held that bear just yesterday, sitting exactly where Logan sits now, and imagines the expression on her friend's face if she were to come clean.
"Believe me, I've thought about it," she begins slowly. "A lot. But I don't…" She looks up, meeting his eyes. "I don't think I'm ready to deal with the fallout. Not yet."
Logan nods. "Okay. I understand."
"But it's also…" She shifts her body so she's facing him more fully. "We don't know even know what we are yet. And I want us to have a chance to figure that out, without everyone around us watching us and judging us."
"And butting in with their opinions…"
"Exactly. So… are you good with that?"
"I'm good with any scheme that means I get to hang out in your bed for an hour." Logan flashes her a devilish grin, but then his expression grows serious again. "But," he continues, "that means rule number two is that we're in this together. If people do somehow find out, we deal with it together."
Veronica feels like it's her turn, and she knows what she wants to say. She clears her throat, feeling a bit shy about her rule. "So, then, number three… We, um, try to spend as much time as we can together. Without alerting suspicion, obviously."
"Absolutely," Logan agrees. He grabs the tips of Logan Bear's ears, twirling him around a few times before he stops and turns back towards Veronica. "Okay. I've got one."
His brown eyes lock with hers, almost fierce in their intensity. "There's no one else, for either one of us. If anyone tries, we let them know that we're not interested. Period."
Veronica smiles, relieved that his stance on monogamy mirrors her own. Logan's expression softens, and he bops her on the nose with the bear's paw. She pulls Logan Bear out of his hands and tosses him onto the end of the bed, leaning towards the real Logan for a kiss. He wraps his arms around her and draws her close.
"Does this mean we're going steady?" she teases.
"It means," he replies, as he peppers her face with kisses, "that if another guy tries to put his hands on my girl, he's going to get a really good look at my fists."
She knows that statement shouldn't thrill her, but it does. "So you're, like, my boyfriend?"
"I'm exactly your boyfriend," he affirms. Logan raises his free hand to caress the side of her face, his lips curving into a smile. "Just because no one else knows, doesn't make it any less real for us."
Veronica gives him one last kiss and pulls away, needing a minute to process everything. I'm… dating Logan. Like, actually dating Logan.
She thinks about those precious three days they'd had together, before everything had gone to hell. How things had become so intense— and so intimate— so quickly. And she knows there's one more conversation they need to have.
"Look," she states. "I know you said, last night, that the whole not-having-sex thing doesn't bother you…"
Logan captures her hands between his, squeezing them both lightly. "And I meant it. I'm more than happy just kissing you."
She makes a face at him, and he sighs. "I'm serious," he insists. "Would I love more than that? Of course. But it's not going to break me. Being with you means a lot more to me than just that."
"Maybe for now," she replies. "But what about-"
"No," he interrupts. "That's not going to change, ever. So just… set the boundaries. Okay? Because you drive me absolutely crazy, and I'll go as far as you let me."
Veronica nods. It's an appealing thought, being in control. And she trusts Logan to stick to his word. "So, where can we go? On, like, dates?"
"I mean this doesn't suck," he replies, waving one arm to indicate her bedroom.
"Yeah, this works when our parents aren't home. But… don't you want to go places, too?"
Logan is quiet for half a moment while he thinks. "How about the movies?" he suggests. "If we go off hours, when no one we know is around?"
"Yeah, that's an idea," she agrees. "Or we could go see stuff that's been out a long time."
"Right. And we don't always have to stay in Neptune."
"True. We could take a bus out of town."
Logan wrinkles his nose. "A town car," he corrects. "Or at the very least, a cab."
"Fine," she sighs. "A cab."
"Plus, there's lots of places we can go outside."
"Like beaches none of our friends ever go to? Azul or Crescent?"
She nods slowly, smiling at the notion of a private beach date with Logan. "We could bike ride through the park, go for a hike..."
Logan grins. "This is sounding more and more like a Viagra commercial."
"Pretty sure you don't need any of that."
"Um, no," he replies. "I need the opposite of that, when you're around."
"Argaiv?" she jokes.
"Mm-hmm." He laughs, and it strikes her how light the sound is. Logan looks happy, in a way she hasn't seen since… That day in the mountains.
He leans in for another kiss, and within seconds they're lying back down on the bed. Veronica's about to tell Logan it's okay to venture into other territory when he pulls away and glances down at his watch. He sits up abruptly when he sees the time, much to her dismay.
"You said your dad would be home a little after two, right? Because it's one fifty."
"Yeah." Logan swings his legs onto the floor and leans down, tugging his sneakers back on. "And I'm pretty sure he's not my biggest fan as it is, so… I better make like a tree and get out of here."
"'It's leave, you idiot'," Veronica quotes fondly. She sits up and stretches, her gaze landing on the two cameras sitting atop her desk. "What about our assignment? We still need to get photos of you in natural lighting. Plus, there's the written part."
"What written part?"
She rolls her eyes. "Never mind, I'll take care of that. But we don't have much time to take those photos and process them." She thinks for a moment. "How about we meet early tomorrow morning, in the library? I told Mr. Garvey we'd take pictures there in the first place, so it's kind of perfect."
Logan smirks. "Only if you shoot me from me good side."
She wants to tell him they're all good sides, but his ego is swollen enough. "Deal."
He gathers his belongings while she picks up their fallen notes, and then she walks him to the front door. It's hard to say goodbye, and the process takes several minutes. Knowing they're going to see each other again in roughly sixteen hours helps take the sting out of their parting, as does their extremely thorough farewell kiss.
Logan gives her one last peck on the lips before he leaves, tapping her nose with his index finger. "See you later, Bobcat."
Less than ten minutes after Logan leaves, Lilly drops by unannounced. Veronica's heart thumps hard at the sight of her, certain that she's caught, and she's rendered momentarily speechless.
Luckily, Lilly is too distracted to notice. She smiles at Veronica, wide and smug, dangling car keys between two recently-manicured fingers. "I borrowed the Jag. Wanna go for a ride?"
Veronica eyes the shiny red sports car parked on the curb, caught somewhere between relief and alarm. The car is a brand new acquisition of Celeste Kane's, and she doubts very much that it arrived on her curb with that woman's permission.
"That depends," Veronica replies. "Are we likely to see prison time? Because I have a Spanish test to study for."
Lilly sighs dramatically, dropping the keys into her purse. "I couldn't talk Duncan into it either. I seriously need to find some less responsible friends. Where's Logan when you need him?"
Veronica forces a laugh.
Lilly places one hand on her hip, staring at her expectantly. "Sooooo… are you gonna invite me in or what? I look like a homeless person."
Veronica realizes there's a large black garbage bag sitting on the porch, beside Lilly. She knows what's in the bag and she suppresses a grimace, covering it with a joke. "Yeah, that Jaguar really screams destitution."
She gestures for Lilly to come inside, and her friend steps into their small foyer. Deciding to play dumb, she nods to the bag. "What is all this, anyway?"
"Well," Lilly begins. "My closet needs space and your wardrobe still needs help so… win-win."
It's not the first time Lilly has shown up at her doorstep with a garbage bag full of clothes. And Veronica usually doesn't mind, when she does. But the idea of taking her hand-me-downs on this particular afternoon feels a little too on the nose.
"I thought you said you liked the way I've been dressing?" she deflects.
"I do. Mostly. I'm just not sure you should go full butch on us, or those rumors about you and I are really going to start to swirl."
Veronica can't manage a smile, and Lilly rolls her eyes. "Jesus, you're sensitive lately. I just think that a few feminine pieces mixed in with the butch would be hot. If you disagree, Carrie could definitely use a little-"
"No, it's fine," she interrupts. "Thank you."
And she means it. Lilly really is just trying to help. And I know these are going to be some seriously swanky hand-me-downs.
"You're welcome," Lilly replies, placated. "C'mon, let's go play dress-up."
She heads up the stairs. Veronica trails after her, stomach flip-flopping as they get nearer to her bedroom. Luckily, Logan doesn't wear cologne. But will she recognize the scent of his shampoo, on my pillow? Did he remember to take his camera? Is there anything else we forgot?
When they enter Veronica's room, she smooths one hand across her still-rumpled comforter, just before Lilly unceremoniously dumps the contents of the garbage bag onto her bed.
Once assured that her friend doesn't notice anything amiss, Veronica starts to relax. They spend the next hour putting outfits together. Veronica hates to admit it, but Lilly's right. Adding a splash of color here, a hint of satin there, elevates her wardrobe to another level.
And the nagging voice inside of her, the one that's been with her since that first night she and Logan kissed, begins to quiet. It isn't that she feels any less guilty. No, that's all still in there. She knows she's a terrible person for lying; for betraying Lilly's trust.
Yet, suddenly, she's able to tuck those emotions into their own little section in her mind; like one of those cubbies from kindergarten. Her friendship with Lilly goes into a different one, and her relationship with Logan into yet another.
So when Logan texts her, a few minutes later, and she finds a way to text him back without Lilly noticing… she doesn't feel remorse. Instead she feels a rush of exhilaration, for actually getting away with it.
Monday morning arrives, and so their experiment begins. Logan meets Veronica outside the library entrance, sneaking a quick kiss once they're certain no one is around. She leads him through the doors and up the steps, towards the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the courtyard. The lighting is ideal at this time of day, and Veronica takes full advantage.
But her subject is looking particularly handsome, which proves to be quite a distraction. The crossbars on the windows create long, angular shadows against Logan's skin, the sunlight of early morning illuminating the right side of his face in an almost ethereal glow. His irises are burnished copper, his pupils contracted and entirely focused on her.
When she realizes Logan is wearing the plain black t-shirt he'd loaned her, the day they'd gone swimming in his pool, it becomes even more difficult to concentrate. Her skin flushes as memories of that day flood her mind. She finds herself rushing through the assignment, in hopes that they'll have ample time to spare before other students begin to arrive.
"Okay," she announces, setting her camera down and placing the lens cap on. "I think we're good."
Logan smiles and stands up, raising his hands above him in a lazy, feline stretch. His shirt rides up, exposing his abdomen, and Veronica can't help staring.
"It's nice and quiet here," he notes, dropping his hands back down to his sides.
"Kind of a central theme with libraries."
"No, I just mean… it's a good spot to meet. If the need ever arises."
Veronica clears her throat, nodding towards the study cubicles in the back. "No one ever goes back there," she says. "Especially during off hours."
Logan raises one brow, approaching her slowly. "Like now?"
"Like now," she confirms. "But hang on. I have a better idea."
The darkroom is empty when they arrive, and it's extremely tempting to take full advantage of that fact. But they have work to do, first.
"Work?" Logan repeats. "What work?"
Veronica holds up her camera. "Developing this film. If we do it now, the negatives will be dry by the time we get to class later. And then," she adds, her tone all innocence, "we'll have an excuse to come back in here later, to develop some prints."
Logan grins. "I love watching that diabolical mind at work."
"Okay, pay attention this time. Because you really do need to learn this part."
Veronica explains the process to Logan. Once she's certain he's got it, she walks over to the light switch and turns it off. She guides him through each step, impressed by how quickly he picks it up. When he's got the film spooled onto the reel and safely in the developing tank, she finds his arm in the dark and gives it a squeeze.
"Nice job," she says. "We can turn the lights back on now."
"But should we…?"
Logan tugs playfully at her arm and she doesn't resist, stepping into his waiting embrace. He lifts her up and spins her around, depositing her atop the wooden table. Something clatters to the ground and he lets go of her, presumably to investigate.
Veronica feels like a child, suddenly, her legs dangling a foot from the ground and no one there to catch her if she falls. "Logan?"
"Sorry; I'm here," he replies. "The tank rolled under the table."
There's a hollow clunk as he sets it down on the table beside her. It's quiet for several seconds, and she almost calls out to him again. But then she feels the heat of him as he moves nearer, the scent of his body momentarily masking the chemical odors of the room.
Veronica stretches her arms and legs out towards him, needing the reassurance of his body against hers in the darkness. Logan complies, coming to stand within the vee of her legs, and she curls her limbs around his torso like a koala. His arms envelop her so she's snug against his chest, listening to the rhythmic thumping of his heart.
"You smell like the ocean," she whispers, exhaling a warm sigh into his shirt.
He presses a kiss against her forehead, then another to her temple. "Went surfing before I got here."
"You must've been up early."
Veronica lifts her head and looks up, although she can't see his face. "Were you worried?" she asks. "That we're making a mistake?"
"Nope," he corrects. "I just couldn't wait to see you."
She smiles, reaching out for his cheek but finding his ear. She traces the pad of her thumb down its outer curve to his earlobe, splaying her fingers to sift through the downy hair on the back of his neck.
Logan leans into her touch with a sigh, neck muscles cording beneath her fingertips. He runs his knuckle down her cheekbone, unfurling his fingers to cup her chin. Then he dips his head down for a long, lingering kiss.
Veronica matches his pace, at first. Their lips meet in the barest caress, tongues glancing and gliding in a playful sort of dance. Then desire begins to dominate, and she grows bolder under the cover of darkness. Her legs tighten around his waist and she grips the back of his neck, urging him ever closer. As their kiss deepens she grasps Logan's hand, guiding it to her body in a silent plea for more.
And he gives her more, rounding both his hands along the curves of her body in this gentle, leisurely way that uses just the right amount of pressure not to tickle. Touching her over her clothes, somehow wordlessly understanding that this is enough. That this is perfect, really. Because a few days ago, another boy touched her in a way that very much wasn't perfect, and this is all she can bear.
She feels overcome with gratitude, suddenly, that she doesn't need to explainany of that. That he just gets it, innately, like he gets so many other things about her. In a way that no one else has ever really gotten me before. One of the many reasons why I love him…
Veronica attempts to communicate that sentiment without words, trying to show him how much he means to her. Kissing his lips, his jawline, the side of his neck. Threading her fingers through his hair, dragging her nails across his scalp and down the back of his shirt, inching the material upward to stroke the warm flesh of his lower back.
She hooks her fingers into the collar of his shirt, sliding the opening towards his shoulder so she can access that sensitive spot on his neck. The spot where she'd left a mark by accident once; where she wishes she could leave one on purpose, now. She flicks her tongue against him, tasting his sea-salt skin, nipping lightly with her teeth and then soothing with a kiss.
And Logan moans, a reaction which never fails to thrill her, squeezing her hips so tightly that he momentarily lifts her up from the table. She laughs and kisses him, sucking on his bottom lip while her nails graze his clavicle. Her other hand slides down the curve of his hip bone, her fingertips dipping just below the waistline of his jeans.
"Veronica," he says, breathing labored. "I…"
But he doesn't continue, so she stops what she's doing and leans backward, wondering if she's done something wrong. "You what?" she asks cautiously.
He drops his hands from her waist and steps away, and the room seems suddenly cold. He laughs, a nervous sort of chuckle, and she wishes she could see his face.
"I need to make sure I get to homeroom on time," he finally replies. "I'm skating on kind of thin ice around here."
"Oh," she replies.
Veronica hops down off the table and makes her way across the room, familiar enough with the space that she manages the task easily. She flips the light switch on and glances at the clock, then Logan. He's still standing next to the table, an odd expression on his face.
"We should have just enough time to develop the negatives," she tells him, businesslike to cover her insecurities. "But if you're worried about getting in trouble I don't mind doing it myself."
"No, I want to help."
Veronica smiles, still wondering over their rather abrupt separation but opting not to say anything. She turns her focus towards the task at hand, pointing out the chemicals they need while Logan pulls them off the shelf.
Twenty minutes later, Logan hangs up their negatives to dry and turns to face her. He juts his chin towards the exit of the darkroom. "You ready to do this?"
She nods and they head out into the hallway, pausing beside the door. "Should we walk to homeroom together, or…?"
"Yeah. I mean, that's a normal thing we'd do, right?"
"Right," she agrees. "Let's go."
"Hang on," he replies. "You want to meet back here at lunch?"
Veronica reaches for the clipboard that's tacked to the wall, right beside the entrance. She flips through the attached pages quickly, then turns to face Logan. "Can't," she replies. "The darkroom is booked during all three lunch periods. Looks like we're not the only procrastinators."
Logan comes to stand beside her. "When's it free?"
She leafs through the pages again, but there's hardly any open spots left. She grabs the tethered pen and jots down their initials. "I'm signing us up for fifteen minutes in here later, during Photo."
"Fifteen minutes during eighth period? Yeah, that's not gonna cut it." People are milling around, now, heading towards homeroom, so Logan bends down to whisper in her ear. "If I don't get my fix, I'll never make it through in one piece."
Veronica knows what he means. School days are long, and being around Logan all day without touching is going to be pure torture.
"Let me think about it," she replies. "I'll figure something out."
He grins. "I have full confidence in your abilities."
She chuckles. "C'mon, we better get to homeroom."
They head up the stairs and down the hall. Veronica tries to maintain an appropriate amount of personal space between her and Logan, while they walk, but it's a struggle. They keep drifting together, arms and elbows bumping.
She's being extra mindful of their environment, eyes scanning the hallways for anyone they might know. An explanatory dialogue about why she and Logan are together runs through her mind like a recording, while they walk. They turn right, and she spots a large red banner strung across the hallway, announcing the upcoming Valentine's Day dance.
Her eyes linger on it for a moment too long, and when she glances up at Logan he's watching her. "Too bad, huh?" he says softly.
And Veronica knows what he's not saying: Too bad we can't go together. She shrugs, feigning indifference.
"Did you know St. Valentine was stoned and beaten with clubs?" she asks. "And when that didn't kill him, they beheaded him?"
"Hmm," Logan replies. "And here I thought he was a chubby cherub who doled out chocolate hearts?"
"It's a stupid, manufactured holiday that doesn't really mean anything anyway."
"Guess I should return that diamond tennis bracelet then, huh?" he jokes.
Veronica appreciates his attempt to keep it light, but she's more bothered by the upcoming holiday than she'd anticipated. Her thoughts remain on the dance as they continue down the hall. "So are we just skipping it, or…?"
"I don't know," he replies. "We could see if anyone wants to go in a group?"
"Who, like Lilly and Duncan?" she returns dryly.
Logan grimaces. "Yeah, I see the flaw in that logic." He looks down at her. "Hey, we'll just do our own thing okay?"
They pause outside Veronica's homeroom, and she turns to face him. "Look," she says, dropping her voice low. "We've been dating less than twenty-four hours. I don't have any, like, expectations."
"Well tough shit," he replies softly. "Because if you think I'm not going to hang out with my girlfriend on Valentine's Day, you're crazy."
"Fine," she says, secretly pleased. "But where can we go?"
Madison, of all people, supplies them with their answer at lunch. Someone has taped red and gold posters for the dance on top of every table. Upon seeing the one affixed to their usual table, Susan addresses the group with a question. "So are we going to this thing, or what?"
Lilly crinkles up her nose. "Nah, I'm not feeling V Day this year. Let's do something else."
"My parents are out of town this weekend," Madison speaks up. "If you guys are up for a party."
There are nods of agreement throughout their group, and she starts hashing out the details with some of the other girls. Veronica glances across the table at Logan, who subtly nods his consent, and then she turns to face Lilly.
But Lilly's eyes are on Logan, her smile coy. "It'll be hard to top last year, right?"
He smiles back, lifting one eyebrow. "Well, minus my utter humiliation at dinner," he returns. "Which I thought we just agreed never to mention again?"
"Um, no. I distinctly remember telling you that you'd never live it down, actually."
They laugh and Veronica looks down, ripping open a ketchup packet and squirting it onto her plate. She pretends to be very interested in her French fries, trying to drown out their conversation.
Despite their recent kiss, Logan has assured her that he and Lilly are done for good. As for Lilly, Veronica is well aware that flirting is her default setting. I know I should be happy they're back to getting along... But it was a hell of a lot easier when they wanted to kill each other.
She waits for the penitent pang, that typically follows all feelings of jealousy regarding Lilly and Logan. Yet this time, it doesn't materialize. It's becoming more and more apparent to her that this thing she has with Logan isn't really by choice. It's a riptide we're caught in together; if we fight against it, we drown.
Our only choice is to relax into it, and let it take us where it will. She wishes that didn't involve lying. But it's the only way to see what we truly are, while we spare Lilly and Duncan unnecessary grief. For now.
The rest of the lunch period passes uneventfully. When there's twenty minutes left, Veronica gathers up her belongings and picks up her tray. "I've got to hit the library," she tells Lilly. Her eyes shift to Logan, who's watching her. "You've got Ms. James today, right?"
He doesn't, of course, but he plays it off well. Logan rolls his eyes, balling up the wrapper from his burger and tossing it onto Veronica's tray. "Let the torture begin," he replies. "Hang on, I'll come with you."
They say their goodbyes and head back into the school. Veronica walks right past the library, continuing down the hall and then veering left. When they reach the computer lab she looks both ways before dragging Logan inside, where they kiss for a solid ten minutes without speaking.
When they finally break it off, Veronica smiles up at him. "Hi."
"Hi." Logan glances around. "How'd you pull this off?"
"Mac let it slip that this room's free this period."
"Mm-hmm," she agrees. "But we can't do this again for a while."
"I know." Logan sighs, sweeping a stray hair behind her ear. "This is... harder than I thought it would be."
"Yeah," she agrees. Veronica closes her eyes and leans into his chest, feeling his arms wrap around her. She's craved this all day; the physical proof of their connection to each other. It's like Logan said earlier. We need to get our fix.
"We'd better get out of here before the bell rings," he speaks up.
Veronica knows he's right. She pries herself from his arms and leans up for one more kiss. "I'll go first," she says. "See you in Photo."
"Wait a minute," Logan says. "You want us to do more work?" He points to their just-developed photo indignantly. "I thought we'd have a few minutes alone…"
Veronica side-steps his advances, shooting him a withering look. "Hey, you took off for a week and now we're way behind," she points out. "We haven't done any of the labs Mr. Garvey has assigned, and you still barely even know the basics. If you screw up on tomorrow's test, it affects my grade too."
Logan sighs. "Okay, fine. I get it."
She tilts her head, softening slightly. "How about a kiss, every time you get something right?"
"Incentives," Logan says, his lips twitching into a smile. "Smart." He smacks his palm against the top of the table. "Let the learning begin."
Veronica places their still-wet photo in front of him, pointing to the bottom right corner. "Okay," she begins. "You see how this part of the photo is a little too dark?"
"Yeah. I can barely make out what it is."
"That's because it's overexposed. So there's a method we can use, to make sure that specific part of the photo doesn't get so dark. It's called dodging."
"Dodging. Got it."
"Go switch the light back to red?" she requests.
Logan does as asked, and the darkroom is bathed in scarlet. He meets Veronica at the enlarger, where their negative is still clipped into place, and she gestures for him to take a seat. He complies, looking up at her while he awaits her instructions.
"So, everyone has different methods for doing this," she goes on. "But the cheap and easy way is to just put your fingers over that part of the image for a couple of seconds while you're exposing it."
He nods. "So…less light will travel from the negative to the photo paper, and it won't get so dark?"
"Exactly," she says proudly, placing a soft kiss upon his lips.
Logan picks up the print, which is from their early morning photo shoot at the library. He points out a section on the upper left, where the side of his face looks washed out. "When the whites are too white, can you do the opposite?"
Veronica grins, tilting her head down to grant him another kiss. "See? I knew there was a good student in there somewhere."
"Yeah, yeah, I know all about it. 'Logan doesn't work up to his full potential.'"
"Ah, but when he does…"
She gives him an unearned kiss, then another, and before she knows it Logan is pulling her into his lap and her legs are straddling his thighs.
"So when you want… something to be darker," she tells him breathlessly, between kisses. "You cover up the rest of the frame…"
"And leave the lighter part…," he continues, sliding her button-down overshirt off and tossing it onto the floor, "…to get more exposed?" Logan's fingertips skim up her arm to the spaghetti strap of her tank top. He eases the strap down, his lips on her bare shoulder.
"That's correct, Mr. Echolls," she replies, guiding his head lower. "Gold star."
"Thank you, Miss Mars." He smiles against her skin, inching the material of her shirt down slowly; making sure it's what she wants. "And…what's that technique called?"
Veronica exhales a long sigh, half pleasure and half impatience; his pace is maddening. "Burning."
It's the only answer he seems able to manage. Now assured that his actions are sanctioned, he pushes her shirt down further. His mouth finds her nipple and his tongue circles it slowly, before flicking and curling over the sensitive peak. She gasps, fist closing on a handful of his hair while her thighs tighten around him.
"Hey!" a voice calls from the hallway. "You guys almost done in there? You're five minutes into our darkroom time."
Logan groans, his head falling forward into Veronica's chest. She kisses his forehead and climbs off his lap, tugging her tank top back into place and picking up her discarded shirt.
"You guys can come in," she replies, pulling her shirt on quickly. "We're done."
He flashes her a look and shifts uncomfortably in his chair, but it's too late. Travis and Kelly are already entering the room. Veronica suppresses a giggle and unclips their negative from the enlarger, sliding it back into the archival sheet. After half a minute Logan stands up, and they gather up the rest of their stuff and head back into the hallway.
They stop outside the exit. Logan shakes his head at her, but his satisfied smirk tells her he's far from disappointed in their impromptu photography lesson. "Please tell me we're meeting after school."
"I have to work," Veronica replies. "But I've got about an hour to kill before my shift starts."
Logan lifts one brow, his smirk morphing into a suggestive smile. "So let's murder it together."
She nods, trying not to look too eager. "Meet me in the library after Photo lets out. Same place from this morning."
"I'll be looking forward to another study session…"
She realizes that she's just standing there, grinning up at him, and quickly eases her face into a neutral expression. They head down the hall to their photography classroom, taking their usual seats in the back row.
With the darkroom largely out of commission and their libidos unwaning, finding other private nooks within the school quickly becomes top priority.
On Tuesday they meet backstage, sandwiched between rows of costumes— until they're nearly caught by a couple of industrious members of Drama Club who arrive to practice early. On Wednesday, they make out beneath the bleachers in the gym— until a janitor shuts the lights off on them and they almost get locked inside.
Veronica discovers that she has a knack for sneaking around. By Thursday she's memorized which classrooms are free during lunch, she's discovered they can get into the supply closet with a credit card and she's procured a spare key to the mechanical room in the basement.
She's also realized that she gets a little thrill every time they do something risky and get away with it. It makes her feel daring, in more ways than one. And it makes her want to challenge herself, to see just how much she can get away with.
But there are definite drawbacks to having a secret relationship, and lunch on Thursday throws that into sharp relief. There's an article about Logan in Teen People, and it raises his popularity to an almost obnoxious degree. At lunch she watches them circle, guys and girls alike, and she's powerless to stop them.
Sean gives Logan the last taco, and Madison makes a special trip to get him another Sunkist when he finishes his first. Shelly sits beside him in an obscenely low top, at one point whispering something in his ear that makes Logan raise one brow and whisper back. Susan and Carrie are all smiles, listening intently to everything he says, and Dick and Luke laugh extra hard at his jokes.
Veronica spends her lunch talking to Lilly, Duncan and Casey, the only three people so secure in their own social statuses that they don't need to kiss Logan's ass. Then she dons a pair of dark sunglasses so no one can witness her multiple eyerolls, or the annoyed looks she can't help shooting at the other girls.
Too far away to say anything to him discreetly, she sends Logan a text. "You forgot your crown and scepter."
After several minutes he checks his phone, replying, "Don't need em. It's good to be the king."
Logan meets her eyes for a millisecond before turning his attention back to Carrie. He nods to her copy of Teen People. "Would you like me to sign it, for posterity?"
"Only if you address it to 'My dearest darling Carrie'," she returns.
He grins and snatches the magazine from her hands, and Veronica's eyes narrow. She knows about Lilly, of course, and that image of Shelly's hickey is burned into her brain forever… But did he hook up with Carrie, too?
Her eyes scan their crowd, studying each female face at their table, and her imagination starts to run wild. What about Madison? Meg? Susan? Carmen? Angie?
Logan finally gets up to leave, this time for a real session with Ms. James. Veronica is supposed to make an excuse to go with him, so they can sneak in a few quick kisses in Mr. Whitten's vacant classroom. But she doesn't budge from her seat.
She sees his confused look, his brows dipping low for a moment as her expected announcement to join him doesn't come. Yet he recovers quickly, blowing a kiss to the table and gracing them with a pageant wave before taking his leave.
Mr. Garvey gives an actual lecture in Photography, that afternoon, so there's very little opportunity to talk. After the bell rings, they make whispered plans to meet for their standing after-school date.
Less than twenty minutes later, she and Logan are in the equipment shed kissing. But she's distracted, and he notices.
"You okay?" he asks for the second time.
"Fine," Veronica replies. "Just tired."
She glances around the shed, which she's heard rumors about yet never been inside before. It's mostly filled with outdoor sporting equipment: hurdles, mesh bags of footballs and soccer balls, baseball bats. But there are also some rolled up wrestling mats, seemingly long-forgotten and rather comfortable, which they're currently sitting on. It had been Logan's suggestion, to meet here.
"So, how'd you know this place was unlocked?"
He shrugs. "People come here, sometimes."
Don't ask. Just… don't ask.
"Have you?" she asks.
Logan gives her a rather sheepish smile. "No comment?"
He gets up off the mat and stands up, turning back to looks at her with his hands on his hips. "Tell me what's going on with you today," he requests. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, you're just-" She stops, trying to decide how honest to be. "Look. You're way more experienced than I am. And I… have questions about that."
To her surprise, Logan grins. "I think I've still got that textbook from our Health class in junior high? Or I'd be happy to demonstrate anything personally."
"Yeah, I bet," she says dryly. "But that's not what I meant."
He sighs. "I know what you meant. Just go ahead and ask."
Veronica frowns. She's not sure why it bothers her, so much, that he's been with other girls. But it does. And I need to know who they are.
"You said nothing happened between you and Madison, or you and Shelly," she says. "But there have been rumors floating around for months…"
Logan rolls his eyes. "I wasn't lying to you about Madison, Veronica. I've never even kissed her."
He looks down. "We hooked up once," he mutters. "The last time Lilly and I broke up."
"And by hooked up you mean…?"
"C'mon. You know what it means."
"Fine. So two."
"Two what?" he replies.
"Two people you've had sex with," she clarifies. "I… thought it was way higher than that."
Logan bites his lip, glancing up to meet her eyes. "Uh, it's three, actually."
"Who's the third?"
"No one you know."
Veronica wants to push. To learn who mystery girl number three was. Clearly assuming the conversation is over, Logan begins walking forward to rejoin her on the mat. She forces a smile, trying to prove how unbothered she is so she can get back to the far more pleasant task of kissing her boyfriend.
But her next question escapes her lips before she can stop it. "What about other stuff?"
Logan stops in his tracks and throws up his arms. "What, you want me to tell you everyone I've ever fooled around with? You seriously want to hear that?"
"So there were a lot?"
"No, that's not-" His jaw tightens and he paces to the door and back, coming to stop a couple of feet in front of Veronica. "Look," he begins, his voice calmer. "Whatever happened in the past has nothing to do with us. Why do you even care?"
"Because the next time one of my friends hits on you, I want to know how worried to be!"
Logan gives her another one of those unexpected smiles, and she wants to scream. She scrambles to her feet and snatches her backpack off the bag of footballs, heading towards the door. But Logan is too quick for her. He captures her around the waist from behind, placing a kiss on the side of her neck.
"I like how jealous you get," he whispers.
"I'm not jealous." She pulls herself out of his grasp and spins around to face him. "I need information. I need to know what I'm up against."
Logan is shaking his head. "Veronica, trust me. You have nothing to worry about."
"Then why are you still flirting with them?" she demands.
His brow furrows. "So people won't suspect that I'm sneaking around with you," he snaps. "I thought that was obvious."
"Well, it wasn't."
Logan sighs. "Listen," he begins, his tone softer. "If you really want the play-by-play from my past, I'll give it to you." He reaches out and finds her hand, squeezing it once. "Or you can just trust that you're the only girl I care about now, and leave it at that."
Veronica stares at him, her pulse slowing down and her head clearing. He's right. So what if he kissed Carrie or had sex with Shelly? There's not a chance in hell they had the emotional connection that we have.
"Okay," she replies.
Logan steps forward, his arms encircling her waist in a tight embrace. "Was that our first fight?" he asks, his voice muffled in her hair.
"I guess it was, technically." She exhales into his chest, letting the tension leave her body. "Is this the part where we kiss and make up?"
"Mm-hmm," he replies, his lips already on her neck. "And I tell you…"
"Tell me what?"
Logan lifts his head to look at her. After a moment, he smiles. "I… tell you how beautiful you are. And how all the other girls are horrible trolls who put me under their evil spells. Until Princess Veronica rode in on her unicorn and saved me."
Veronica grins and pulls him in for a kiss.
On Friday they score a full hour in the darkroom before school, although the bulk of it is spent developing the final photos to use for their portrait project. It's difficult to stay on task, especially with Logan taking every opportunity he can to touch her.
"Concentrate," she scolds, when he nearly places their last photo in the fixer without washing off the stop bath first.
Logan rolls his eyes and walks it over to the sink, turning the water on and letting it run over their photo. When he's done he drops it into the fixer, before heading back to where she's standing.
He picks her up and sets her on the table, ignoring her plea to rinse off their photo and hang it up to dry. "Tell me," he says. "How the hell am I supposed to concentrate on school when you're wearing this…?"
Logan's eyes linger on the neckline of her red tank top, slightly padded to give nature a little extra boost, and he places a soft kiss on the exposed swell of her breast. His fingers glide up her white knee socks to her bare thigh, halting at the hem of her red and black plaid mini skirt.
It's an unspoken boundary, and since Beaver she hasn't wanted him to venture further. But he's spent the week unwittingly obliterating her apprehension, and today she's ready for more.
"If you like what's on the outside," she replies, "just wait until you see what's hidden beneath."
Logan's eyebrows shoot up and his mouth drops open slightly, making no move to breech the border. So Veronica circles his wrist with her hand, tugging gently and then letting go. And he finally accepts her invitation, his fingers trailing up the inside of her thigh until his thumb skims against the silk of her panties.
"You like?" she asks with a teasing grin. "I picked them out just for you."
His eyes meet hers, pupils dilated in the dusky crimson lighting. "Like is not the word I'd use."
"Call it my Valentine's Day gift to you."
"Best present ever."
Logan bends his head down for a long, deep kiss, his thumb stroking the silk at an achingly slow tempo. His free hand moves to her knee, easing her legs open further, and Veronica exhales a shaky staccato as his fingers begin to dance.
The bell rings, and they both groan.
"Let's stay," Logan whispers.
"You're on probation," she reminds him.
"Seriously could care less, right now."
His fingers twitch impatiently, sending shivers down her spine, and she nearly gives in. But he can't get in any more trouble. Especially not on my account. So, with great effort, Veronica pushes lightly on his chest.
Logan sighs and drops his arms down to his sides, stepping back so she can jump down. Veronica rescues their print from the fixer and gives it a quick rinse in the sink before clipping it up to dry, then grabs her backpack off the table. But before they walk out the door, she arches her head up for one, last kiss.
"Later," she promises.
He smiles. "I'm counting on it."
Valentine's Day is a big deal at Neptune high, and it seems specifically designed to put Veronica and Logan's willpower to the test.
The cheerleading squad has set up a table in front of the gymnasium, selling chocolate heart-shaped lollipops. For the bargain price of three dollars (or two for five) you can attach a note for your Valentine, and one of the cheerleaders will pom-pom her way into their classroom to deliver it.
During English, Veronica is just about to enact an elaborate scheme to score her and Logan a few stolen moments when Madison enters their classroom, all smiles. She recites some inane cheer and dons her widest smile for Logan, depositing five valentines on his desk.
With a much less jovial smile, Madison tosses an additional two onto Veronica's desk, before doling out more to various other people in their class. Torn between reading her own and trying to peek at Logan's, Veronica unrolls the note wrapped around the stick of the lollipop and reads it.
"I want to taste your skin."
Blushing, she looks over at Logan. He hasn't opened any of his valentines yet, his entire focus on her reaction. He's wearing an extremely satisfied smile, and indicating that he wants her to open the next one. Veronica unrolls it quickly.
"I'm going to touch you until you moan."
Veronica feels that little flutter in her belly at his words, memories of their morning still quite vivid in her mind. She raises an eyebrow at his small pile, and he shrugs. After a quick glance around at their classmates, most of whom are still occupied with reading their own valentines, he leans across the aisle.
"They're not from you, so I don't give a shit what they say," he says softly.
"How do you know they're not from me?"
"Because obvious romance isn't your thing," Logan replies. His gaze drops to her legs, continuing up her body to her face. "And you already gave me a gift far more suited to my tastes."
She grins, but before she can reply Mr. Whitten tells the class to settle down and take out their copies of The Great Gatsby.
The valentine scene replays at the beginning of every class, Veronica receiving anywhere from two to four lollipops each time. There are a few she's positive aren't from Logan, including one that just says "Ur outfit is smokin hot" which she's pretty sure is from Corny.
During Algebra, she gets one that just says "I miss you" and it's extremely difficult not to shoot Logan a sweet smile in acknowledgment. And she does in fact send one back to Logan, because it's the perfect delivery system for a message. "Library after school," it reads. "We have unfinished business." His enthusiastic grin tells her he knows exactly who it's from.
They don't get an opportunity to sneak off even once, during the day. Between their interrupted morning makeout and the longing looks they can't help exchanging throughout the day, Veronica grows increasingly impatient for some time alone. Logan's messages are foreplay, since they can't touch for real. And the way he's looking at her mouth during Photo is only making her crave him more…
Mr. Garvey chooses that moment to stop beside their desks, and she struggles to compose herself before looking up at the teacher.
"Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls," he says, reading off his clipboard. "Do you two have the photos ready for your portrait project?"
"We do." She hands him the folder, feeling rather proud of what they were able to accomplish. "And the essay."
"Excellent. And which lab are you and Logan up to now?"
"Burning and dodging," she replies.
Logan's lips quirk.
"You're a little behind," he notes, glancing at Logan pointedly. "Make sure and take some extra time in the dark room, next week, so you can catch up."
"Will do," Veronica replies, trying not to look too eager at the prospect.
Mr. Garvey holds up the folder. "I look forward to seeing your work."
He walks towards the next pair of students, and Veronica turns to Logan. "What's so funny?"
"Well that's us, isn't it?" he replies. "Burning… dodging…"
She grins, bending across the aisle to whisper in his ear. "Do you burn for me, Echolls?"
But Logan doesn't return her smile, his dark brown gaze locked on hers as he responds. "Every fucking minute."
And he needs to stop looking at her like that, because there are a lot of people around and there is no misinterpreting that look. Veronica manages to tear her eyes away from him, but her whole body feels flushed. A quick glance at her watch says they still have ten more minutes before their meeting in the library. Ten long, agonizing minutes…
The library is always empty on Friday afternoons, which is the exact reason Veronica chose it. Logan is already waiting in their usual spot when she arrives. Without a word he picks her up and kisses her, and she wraps her legs around his waist. He spins her around, setting her on the cubicle desk, his lips still glued to hers.
"Can I… touch you?"
He listens to her plea, his hands everywhere, like it's been months since they've been alone instead of mere hours. And usually their kisses are enough, touching through clothing is enough, but this time it just… isn't. She wants him to get closer, she wants his hands directly on her skin. She wants more.
"Logan, I need…"
Veronica trails off, even though she knows what she needs. She needs him to touch her the way she touches herself when she's alone at night, thinking about him. But she doesn't know how to articulate that. It seems embarrassing, and selfish, and completely inappropriate given their current locale.
It doesn't matter. Logan already knows what she needs— he always knows— and this time he doesn't hesitate. His hand slides assuredly up her leg, curving around her thigh, his fingertips skimming along the edge of her panties for a few excruciating seconds before easing the material to the side.
Veronica gasps and throws her head backwards, as he begins to explore, very much aware that she must look like she's posing for the cover of one of her mom's trashy romance novels. Logan's free hand cups the back of her neck, guiding her lips towards his, and then she's kissing him like he's oxygen because she can't seem to breathe.
Her heart is racing. This is crazy— they're in the library at school, they could get caught any second— but it feels so exhilarating she just can't seem to care. Because, if she's being totally honest, the adrenaline is a surprisingly fun addition to this pleasure cocktail.
She feels air on her skin and realizes Logan has pushed the top of her shirt down. Despite feeling incredibly exposed, anticipation courses through her. She watches as his long fingers follow the slope of her breast to her nipple, his thumb and forefinger closing over the pink tip in a light pinch. She moans— she can't help it— and he flashes her a quick, rather cocky grin.
He lowers his head down, and she feels his tongue flicking lightly across her nipple, his lips suckling at her skin. She rocks her hips against his fingers, greedy for his touch, and he quickens his pace. And then he pinches her sensitive skin and bites her nipple simultaneously, sending her over the edge. She grips his hips so tightly she might leave bruises, burying her face into the top of his head to muffle the gasping and panting she can't seem to suppress.
Logan pulls her shirt back into place and stands up straight, wrapping his arms around her while she comes down. His fingers trail languidly down her back, sending shivers like aftershocks up her spine. He kisses her forehead, then lifts her chin so they're at eye level. "You are so fucking hot," he whispers.
She feels pleasure of a different sort course through her at his words. Logan is the first person—
no, the only person— who has ever made her feel desirable. It makes her want to show him just how deep her own desire for him runs in return. "So are you," she replies. "And now it's my turn."
Logan's brows lift, clearly not expecting that response. "Veronica, you don't have to-" He halts abruptly, pulling her off the desk. Her skirt falls back down to cover her thighs just as Casey comes into view.
Casey stops short when he sees them, eyes shifting from Logan to Veronica. She glances at Logan, and she knows instantly that they're caught. His hair is disheveled and there's lip gloss on his cheek; she can only imagine how she looks right now.
"Oh," Casey utters. "Uh, sorry about that."
He turns around and walks away. Veronica stares at him for a full ten seconds, silently panicking, before she jumps into action. "Stay here," she instructs Logan. "I'll be right back."
Veronica heads down their row to the end, turning right. She pivots her head from side to side as she checks the stacks, surreptitiously adjusting her clothing and trying to smooth down her hair while she walks.
She finds Casey in the English lit section, pretending to read Emma. Abandoning all pretense, she strides up to him and waves a forefinger just below his chin.
"Tell no one," she demands. "Got it?"
Casey doesn't reply immediately. He shakes his head from side to side, looking a bit shell-shocked. "You and Logan… wow. I didn't see that one coming at all."
"Yeah, us either." She drops her hand to her hip, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Look. For whatever reason, you don't want anyone to know about you and Mac. So I've kept your secret. You owe me one."
Casey hesitates, then nods. "Yeah," he agrees. "Okay. Just… you know Lilly is going to lose her shit, right?"
Veronica feels that familiar pang in her gut at his words, but she doesn't let her own trepidation show. "You let me worry about Lilly. Okay?"
"All right. But I hope you guys know what you're doing."
She doesn't respond, and he takes off. Veronica closes her eyes and leans against one of the bookshelves, trying to ignore the dread pooling in her stomach. No, Casey. We unequivocally do not know what we're doing. We never have, and I'm not sure we ever will.
Being all wrapped up in Logan this week has been a welcome, and much needed, distraction. Between him, school and the diner, Veronica has barely been home. A nice benefit, when you can't even stand to be in the same room with your own mother.
But it's been days since Logan and I have talked about our relationship. Or anything serious, for that matter. Things like… telling him that I'm in love with him. And that I'm scared to death that he's going to break my heart.
He's just about to go looking for Veronica when she appears, looking more than a little spooked.
"We're all good," Veronica insists. Her brows lift and she drops her voice into a low rasp, spreading her arms wide. "I made him an offer he couldn't refuse."
Logan chuckles. "Thanks, Vito."
She walks back over to the cubicle and he pulls her close, winding his fingers through her short locks absently. Veronica seems confident their secret is safe, but Logan's not sure how much he trusts Casey to keep his mouth shut. He's good friends with both Duncan and Lilly; and this is some pretty juicy gossip, even by Neptune standards.
Logan pulls away, stepping back so he can see her face. "Not that I have any regrets, whatsoever," he begins, "but we probably shouldn't have done that."
"I know." Veronica says. She looks up at him through her lashes, a rather sly smile on her face. "It was… kind of fun, though, wasn't it?"
"I mean, except for the almost getting caught part," she amends. "I'll work on finding us some new spots for next week." She glances at her watch and sighs. "I don't want to go to work."
"So quit," he says. "I'll pay you to hang out with me instead."
"Like an escort?"
"More like… a consort."
Veronica laughs lightly and reaches for her backpack, unzipping the front pocket and producing two chocolate lollipops. She hands him one and hops back up onto the desk, unwrapping the plastic and popping it into her mouth. "Thank you for my valentines."
"Mine was better," he returns with a mischievous grin.
The Veronica of a month ago would have blushed and looked away. But this one smiles right back, meeting his eyes directly. "I'd argue that I benefitted from that exchange more than you."
Logan arches one brow. "Then you don't know me as well as I thought you did."
She laughs, and he's pretty sure she doesn't believe him— even though he's being completely sincere. The female body is beautiful, but complicated, and he typically approaches it like a fun little challenge. Almost like trying to reach the center of a maze.
In the past, he's enjoyed the exploration. Making his way down various paths, twisting and turning to avoid pitfalls. Discovering which route works best; unlocking the prize at the end. Logan's always been rather proud of his abilities.
Yet with Veronica, his desire to satisfy is on another level. Her comfort is key; her pleasure paramount. Every time he manages to elicit a gasp or sigh or moan, he feels elated. His only focus, his only goal, is to make her feel sublime.
Because I love her. And maybe, one of these days, I'll actually manage to say it aloud.
He's come very close, this week. Twice. Yet the equipment shed isn't quite the locale he'd had in mind, for that particular declaration. And although the darkroom is oddly romantic, it had been pitch black at the time. I need to see her face; to gauge her reaction. To see if she loves me back.
But it's too soon, anyway, he reminds himself. Remember what Ms. James said?
Logan toys with the lollipop Veronica just gave him, unfurling the rolled-up slip of paper from the stick to see which valentine it is. After reading it, he frowns.
Seeing his reaction, she reaches over and pulls it out of his hands. "I miss you," she reads aloud. Veronica glances up at him. "What's wrong? It's not from you?"
Logan shakes his head, and understanding creeps into her eyes.
"Duncan," they say in unison.
Veronica frowns. "I told him I was into someone else. But I guess he's still-"
"You did?" he interrupts. "When?"
"Last weekend. At Casey's."
Logan remembers Duncan's plea last week, to find out who the "other man" in Veronica's life was, and he looks down. It's me, he thinks, allowing the guilt he usually suppresses to wash over him. I'm the one who stole your girl.
"I know I shouldn't have said anything," Veronica continues, misunderstanding his silence. "But he's… having a hard time with the breakup, and I felt bad. I wanted to be as truthful as I could, so he'd… understand."
He looks up, managing a tight smile. "No way he'd understand the real truth though, right? That his best friend is a piece of shit who's been sneaking around behind his back for weeks."
"Nah, it's okay." He leans down to give her a kiss, forcing all negative thoughts from his mind. Veronica is worth the risk…
Logan doesn't want to leave her— he never wants to leave her— but he manages to pry himself out of her arms after a few minutes, exhaling heavily.
"Well, speak of the devil, I promised to meet up with Duncan after he got out of practice. But we're still going to Madison's tonight, right?"
Veronica groans. "Do we have to?"
"It's a good excuse to spend some time together," he replies. "I'll get my dad's driver to pick everyone up."
"Okay," she agrees. "I can be ready by nine."
Logan smiles. "Good. I'll come get you first, so we can have some time alone." He drops his voice to a whisper. "And I'll finally get to fool around with you in the back of the limo."
"Is that something you've thought about before?"
"Only about a thousand times."
"Me too," she admits. She leans forward, whispering in his ear. "And it'll give me a chance to return the favor."
Logan swallows hard, but tries to play it cool. Veronica may have it in her head that he's some kind of lothario, yet she still manages to unravel him with a single phrase. He kisses her one last time and heads to the locker room to meet Duncan.
Duncan's running late and Logan's starting to get annoyed. He's about to bail on him and go surprise Veronica at the diner when his friend comes walking out of the locker room, freshly showered.
"Sorry, man," he says. "Coach made us run laps after practice."
"No worries." Logan glances at his watch. "But we better get out of here if you want to hit Cape Crescent. We still need to swing by my house for my board."
"I got you covered," Duncan replies. "Dad let me take the SUV today, so I loaded up both my boards. Let me just stop at my locker real quick. I forgot my Algebra book."
Logan shrugs his backpack off his shoulder and unzips it, rooting around for his textbook. He finds it quickly, holding it out for his friend. "Here, borrow mine."
Duncan tilts his head, not accepting it. "What about our test on Monday? Don't you want to study?"
"Nah, I got it."
Duncan reaches for the book and Logan lets go, thinking his friend has it. Instead it drops, and everything he's tucked into the front cover spills out onto the hallway floor… including the photo of Veronica that he stole from the darkroom last week.
He bends down to retrieve it, but it's too late. Duncan has already seen it. His friend picks it up with both hands, studying the image intently as he stands back up. Attempting to play it off, Logan collects his textbook and the rest of the papers, stuffing everything back beneath the cover.
"Hey, hand me that?" Logan requests lightly. "I need it for Photo."
But he doesn't appear to have heard him. Trancelike, Duncan's index finger moves across the image of Veronica's mouth, and Logan frowns.
"Dude." Logan wraps his hand around Duncan's bicep and squeezes, with a bit more force than necessary. "Dude."
Duncan doesn't react, his gaze still fixed on the photograph.
Logan shakes his friend's arm, then waves his hand in front of his face. "Duncan? Hey, we better hit the road."
Duncan looks up at him, finally, his expression going from vacant to focused before his eyes. He stares at Logan for several seconds, and then he holds up the photo. "You took this?"
Logan shrugs, carefully nonchalant. "Yeah, for class. We're doing portraits."
"Doesn't look like a studio."
"It's not. We went to Laguna Pier."
"Her hair is still long," Duncan notes. "When's this from?"
This is starting to feel like an interrogation. Logan shifts his weight, attempting to hide his growing concern with impatience. "I don't know, man. Like a month ago?"
Duncan is silent for half a moment, his eyes straying back to the photo. "She looks happy."
"We were on a rollercoaster," Logan replies with a laugh. "You know how much she loves that kind of shit."
"Yeah," he says softly. Duncan runs his finger along the photo again, this time touching her hair.
Logan looks down, struggling to remain composed. His apprehension is morphing into anger; he can feel it roiling beneath his skin. And what I really want to do is rip that picture out of his hand and tell him to stay the fuck away from my girl.
He takes a deep breath and expels it silently, and then he looks up and smiles. "C'mon, man. We're losing daylight. Let's go hit the waves."
Duncan nods. "Right."
Logan reaches over and pulls the photo from his hands without asking, simultaneously holding out his Algebra book. Duncan accepts the book and stuffs it into his backpack, while Logan slides the photo between the pages of The Great Gatsby so it won't get bent.
They head down the hall towards the front entrance, the only sound their sneakered feet squeaking against the floor. Logan can feel his friend looking at him as they walk, but he keeps his head facing forward. He's trying to think of something innocuous to say when Duncan speaks up.
"Veronica still tutoring you?"
"She must be doing a good job."
Logan shoots him a quizzical look. "What makes you say that?"
"Just, you know," Duncan replies. "If you're that confident about Algebra that you don't even need to study..."
Logan laughs, elbowing his friend in the side. "C'mon, you know I'm a genius."
Duncan laughs too, then, and Logan finally begins to relax. They push open the front doors and step into the parking lot, heading towards the Mercedes SUV Duncan shares with Lilly.
"You bringing anyone to Madison's thing tonight?" Duncan asks.
"On Valentine's Day?" Logan scoffs. "That's just asking for trouble. How about you?"
"Nah." Duncan glances over at him. "Hey, did you see how many of those lollipop things she got today?"
Duncan unlocks the doors remotely as they approach the car, and Logan opens the passenger side door. "No, I didn't notice," he replies. "Was it a lot or something?"
"Dude, she got like thirty of them."
He gets in the car and looks over at Duncan, who's climbing into the driver's seat. It was stupid of him to be so obvious today, but he hadn't been able to help himself. He'd adored watching Veronica's face each time she'd opened one of his valentines.
Totally worth it. But now I need to throw Duncan off the scent. Because he's clearly still suspicious.
Hating himself more than a little, he plants a big grin on his face and bobs his eyebrows. "Guess all our friends liked that hot little schoolgirl outfit she was rocking today."
Duncan scowls but doesn't say anything, and Logan knows he hit a nerve. If he's being honest, that sentiment hits a nerve with him, too.
Veronica is the most important person in his world. But to all the other guys at Neptune High she's merely a pretty, single girl whose wardrobe just got a lot sexier. He's seen the looks and heard the comments all week, and it makes him rage that anyone would dare talk about the girl he loves that way. Especially right in front of me.
And he realizes that he's a hypocrite, for expecting her to blindly trust him to be faithful, when none of their other friends even know they're both off limits. Because as much as he trusts her, what if someone better than him comes along? Someone who won't cause her social life to implode if they dared to kiss in public?
He glances over at Duncan, who seems to be considering his last words. Confident that he's successfully navigated suspicions about Veronica away from himself, Logan starts talking about their spring break plans. And Duncan doesn't mention her again for the remainder of their trip.
Worries about Duncan wane significantly the moment Veronica is back in his arms. And when she makes good on her promise in the limo, just moments later, he's too damn happy to think about anything else.
They're very careful at the party not to spend too much time together, but they find several clever ways to be alone. Logan is extremely obliging when she "misplaces" her purse, helping her look for ten minutes before they "discover" it. And coincidentally, they always seem to need the bathroom at the exact same time.
But as much fun as it is to scheme, their stolen moments simply aren't enough to satisfy either one of them. They can't help sneaking off into Madison's garage a couple of times, for a proper kissing session.
"It was a mistake, coming here tonight," Veronica says between kisses, during their second trip. "We should have made other plans."
"Oh, I don't know," Logan replies. "Parts of the night have been very entertaining…"
Veronica stops kissing him and pulls away. "What we did, in the limo. I mean, what I did. I've never, um… Was it… okay?"
Logan grins, leaning down to bite her earlobe. "It was the best," he whispers. And he realizes as he's saying it that's it true. Maybe not technically true, as far as the mechanics of it all. But the overall experience had been superb.
Veronica's hands on him like that – finally, after a thousand fantasies— skin to skin, face to face. Hesitant at first and then with more assurance. The way she'd studied his expressions, watching his reaction to see what he liked. Because he isn't just a piece of meat to her, or a rung on her climb up the social ladder. He isn't just Aaron Echolls's son.
She'd wanted him to feel good, because he means something to her. He'd seen it in her eyes. So her skill level didn't mean shit to him. It was that look of hers that had done him in. And, okay yeah, her outfit and those pigtails didn't hurt. He'd lasted all of thirty seconds before Veronica was reaching across him for a tissue, an adorably satisfied smile on her lips.
Unfortunately, he hadn't had time to return the favor before the limo had rolled to a stop in front of the Kane house. Because the memory of her at the library, unraveling at his touch… Damn if that wasn't the hottest thing he's ever seen in his life. And I can't wait for the chance to do it again.
Logan reaches for her now, content with kissing. Veronica probably isn't aware of this fact, but she is a world class kisser— and has been from the start. One of the reasons I couldn't seem to let her go. He's just about to pull her closer when he hears the metallic creak of the door opening.
Veronica reacts instantly, stepping back but leaning her torso forward and placing her finger near his eye. Logan glances to his right, where the fluorescent lights of the garage illuminate Duncan, standing in the doorway.
"Hold still," Veronica is saying, her tone mildly annoyed. "I've almost got it."
"C'mon," he replies, playing along. "It hurts."
He feels her fingers brush against his eyelid and then she's pulling her hand away, holding up an empty fingertip. "Got it. You want to make a wish?"
Logan shakes his head and rubs at his eye roughly to make it water, trying very hard not to look at Duncan. Veronica pretends to blow the imaginary eyelash away, then looks casually to her left.
"Oh, hey Duncan," she greets him. "What's going on?"
"Uh, Madison just sent me to look for more cups…"
Veronica rolls her eyes. "God, she's so drunk. She sent us in here, like, two minutes ago." She laughs easily. "And they're not even in here, so…"
Logan risks a glance at Duncan. His blue eyes are flickering from him to Veronica, brow furrowed. And Logan knows, despite the excellent job Veronica is doing to put him off the scent, that his friend is suspicious again. Between seeing that photo earlier and this…
"Veronica…" Logan says, and part of him feels relieved. The part of him that wants to kiss his girlfriend in public on Valentine's Day, and let everyone know how stupid happy he is to be with her. Yeah, even Duncan. Even if it hurts his feelings for a little while.
She meets his eyes, telegraphing pure panic, and his visions of coming clean fade. Veronica's not ready for that. We aren't ready for that. We haven't even had a full week, to figure out what we are to each other. We need more time.
His chin lifts, his eyes shifting to the refrigerator beside them. "Found the cups."
Her shoulders fall in relief, and he reaches on top of the fridge for the full pack of blue Solo cups. Logan tosses them to Duncan, who catches them and wordlessly retreats back into the house. He leaves the door open, and they have no other choice but to follow him inside.
Logan and Veronica separate as soon as they reenter the kitchen, which is frustrating but necessary. He's refilling his cup at the keg, trying to figure out what to say to Duncan, when he feels his phone buzz in his pocket. He tosses the tap down and pulls it out to take a look.
"Flirt with Madison."
He sighs, setting his beer on the kitchen counter so he can text her back.
Veronica's reply comes instantly.
"Yes." And then, "I'm fine with it."
Logan doesn't respond. Veronica can insist all she wants, but after their argument in the equipment shed he knows unequivocally that flirting with Madison would be a disaster.
He slides his phone into his back pocket and picks up his cup. It's slow-going as he presses his way through the crowd, obligated to stop frequently as other partygoers intercept him. After a quick Jell-O shot with John and a meandering conversation with a very stoned Dick, he finally locates Veronica in the foyer, talking to Carrie.
Logan moves closer until she notices him. When their eyes meet, he shakes his head. Still in conversation with Carrie, she shoots him a pointed look and nods, pretending it's at something the other girl has just said.
She can be so damn stubborn. He thinks for a minute, and then he reaches for his phone. "You do it."
Veronica glances down at the phone in her hand and then smiles at Carrie, making some excuse and retreating into the slightly less crowded living room. Logan follows her from a distance, watching as she flips her phone open and reads her text. She takes the empty seat on the end of the couch and replies.
"You know I hate her, right? Besides, I prefer brunettes."
He answers her instantly. "Not Madison. Flirt with another guy."
He hesitates. The thought of her flirting with anyone else is, frankly, nauseating. He considers and discards a few options, and then the obvious choice comes to him. "Casey."
Logan returns his phone to his back pocket and makes his way closer, pausing at the entrance to the living room. He leans against the wall and takes a sip of his beer, glancing around the room once before he resumes watching her.
He can see her considering, and coming to the same conclusion. Casey is perfect. He already knows about them, so he'll know it's just an act.
Veronica holds up her index finger, low by her lap so only he notices, and he gets the message. She wants him to wait. He sees her get up and cross the room, talking quietly to Mac. When she's done speaking, Mac frowns. But then she nods, once, and Veronica gives her a hug.
She turns around but doesn't look at him. She rubs at her chin, then very slowly raises her thumb against her cheek. Their plan is a go.
A half hour later, Veronica is sitting on Casey's lap on the couch, laughing at something he's just said. And Logan is watching them from the dining room, worried their plan is working a little too well. Gossip is already flying, and Duncan is glaring at the couple from across the room.
Also— and he knows it's insane, because this is just for show— he kind of wants to punch Casey Gant in the mouth right now.
Logan eases the scowl from his face when he sees Duncan approaching. He claps his friend on the back in greeting, but Duncan doesn't even attempt a smile. His eyes are still glued to Veronica and Casey.
"Did you know about this?" he demands.
"What, that?" Logan rolls his eyes. "I doubt that's anything serious. She probably had a couple wine coolers and started feeling frisky."
Duncan shakes his head. "Veronica doesn't act like that."
Logan begs to differ, but he waits for his friend to go on.
"She told me the reason we broke up is because there's another guy." Duncan nods his head towards Casey. "You think it's him?"
Logan's shoulders drop as he exhales. Our plan worked; Duncan doesn't suspect me anymore. But I'm not going to sic him on Casey. Especially after he just did us a favor.
"Doubtful," he replies. "I think he's got something going on with Angie Dahl."
And he may not be too far off the mark, because Angie is in fact shooting daggers at Veronica. Duncan watches both girls for a minute, his brow furrowed. "So if it's not Casey, who is it?"
Logan takes a long sip of his beer before replying. "Look, man, maybe you're focused on the wrong thing. Does it really matter who it is? The point is she's moved on, so you need to move on too." He lifts his chin towards a group of girls standing to their left, casting admiring looks their way. "Meet the fish in the barrel, ready for target practice."
Duncan shakes his head. "That's the thing, man. I don't want any of them. I only want her."
Logan stares at him, caught between a dozen emotions. Up until now, he's considered Duncan's short-lived romance with Veronica little more than a crush. He's brushed off Duncan's reaction to their breakup as nothing more than a bruised ego, assuming his friend's eye would soon turn to the next available candidate.
Because it's easier than admitting how much he actually cares about her. And what kind of person that makes me, for going after her anyway.
"Hey, Duncan-" he begins. Logan stops short and glances down, then looks up and meets his friend's eye directly. "I'm really sorry."
Duncan manages a smile. "Dick and Luke have been giving me a hard time, you know? Saying I'm whipped, or whatever." He pats Logan on the shoulder twice. "But I knew you'd get it, after everything you went through with my sister."
Logan shrugs, still uncomfortable. "Well breakups are tough, you know?"
Duncan nods, finishing his beer and setting it on the table. "Looks like Bodie's taking off. I think I'll catch a ride home. You good here?"
"Uh, yeah. I think I'll stick around."
Duncan gives him a one-armed hug and heads towards the door, following Bodie outside. Logan takes a moment to finish his beer before glancing back into the living room.
Veronica is no longer on Casey's lap, but she's still squeezed in close to him on the couch. His attention is currently on Mac, who's sitting on his left, and Veronica's attention is on Logan. When their eyes meet, she reaches for her phone.
"What's up with Duncan?" she texts.
Logan sighs. There's only one way to answer that question. "You."
She frowns and slips her phone into her purse, then leans over to say something to Mac and Casey. They nod and hand her their cups. Comprehending her intention, Logan makes his way back into the kitchen, towards the keg.
He's just finished refilling his cup when Veronica arrives, holding out three empty cups to him. "We're thirsty," she announces. "And you've got the most experience. With kegs, I mean."
Her eyes are twinkling, and Logan's suddenly feeling much less morose. "Well," he replies. "It's all about getting the right amount of head." He winks and take a sip of his beer.
"Play your cards right…"
Logan nearly chokes on his beer, coughing loudly. When he recovers, he shakes his head at her and sets his drink down on the counter. He takes one of the empty cups from her and begins filling it up. "You…"
"Me," Veronica agrees. She glances around the room, which is relatively crowded, and then drops her voice. "You want to get out of here?"
"More than anything in the world."
Lilly opts to stay at the party, so it's just four of them in the limo on the way home. As Mac and Casey pile in on one side and Logan and Veronica take the seat across from them, it occurs to him that both of them know their secret. So when the doors shut and the overhead light dims, he takes Veronica's hand in his.
She smiles up at him, as the limo begins to cruise down Madison's street, and he knows she feels it too. A little thrill, at getting the chance to be a real couple in front of other people. Logan glances over at Mac and Casey to see their reactions… but they're too busy sucking face to notice.
Logan turns back to Veronica, both eyebrows raised. "Um…?"
"Yeah, they're sort of doing the secret dating thing too," she confirms.
"And you didn't feel the need to tell me?"
Veronica shrugs. "Hey, once it's in the vault, it stays in the vault."
"Now I know why Casey didn't rat us out."
Casey pulls away from Mac and turns to Logan. "Dude, Casey just did you a serious solid. You owe me one."
Logan rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure it was a real chore, having Veronica sit on your lap. In fact, I think you might owe me one."
Veronica elbows him in the side. "Thank you, Casey," she says sincerely. "It was very cool of you to play along." She turns to Mac. "And thank you for being so understanding."
Mac laughs. "It was kind of entertaining, watching everyone lose their minds." She gives Veronica a pointed look. "If they only knew the real truth, their heads may actually explode."
"That'll be a fun day," Logan replies, exchanging a glance with Veronica.
"I'll bring the popcorn," Mac offers.
"Of course you will." He nods at Mac and Casey. "So what's the story with you guys?"
Logan's expecting a witty retort. But Mac looks down and Casey frowns, glancing over at her for a few seconds before he replies.
"We're just… private," he says, turning back to Logan. He lifts one brow. "And on that note, you two could stand to learn a few things from us."
"Oh, whatever," Logan scoffs. "Like you two have never hooked up in the library?"
Casey grins and Mac turns a little pink, and Logan looks back over at Veronica. She's smiling, and he gets it. This is so normal. When their relationship, to this point, has been anything but.
They continue to trade playful jabs back and forth for a bit, until the limo pulls up in front of Mac's house. To their surprise, Casey gets out too, insisting he'll find his way home somehow. They say their goodbyes and the limo continues on to Veronica's house, which is only a few blocks away.
Logan bends down to kiss her on the lips. "Well that was unexpected."
"Kind of nice to know we're not alone, isn't it?"
He nods. He wants to add that it's also nice to just be a couple, out in the open, but he's not sure if she's ready to have that conversation yet. And after the way Duncan acted, today, I'm not sure I'm ready, either.
Logan's never truly considered the possibility that he could lose Duncan from his life permanently. Back when all this had started with Veronica, and it was just a couple of kisses, he'd figured if the truth came out it wouldn't have been that big a deal. Duncan would've been pissed at him for a little while, and then he would've gotten over it.
But that was before the two of them dated. Before Veronica and I started to do more than kiss. Before I fell in love with her…
He's been so worried about Lilly's reaction that he hasn't spent all that much time considering Duncan. Sure, his friend may have accepted it, back when it first started. But now? Now that I'm lying straight to his face? Actively trying to deceive him? No.
"Hey," Veronica says softly, placing her hand on his forearm. "What's wrong?"
"Just… thinking about what Mac said. About people's heads exploding if they knew the truth."
"People like Duncan?"
Logan can't help smiling. "I don't know how you do that, but it's kind of creepy."
She takes his hand, threading her fingers through his. "Just remember rule number two, okay? We're in this together."
He nods and kisses her, slow and sweet. The limo comes to a stop in front of her house, but it's several minutes before they acknowledge it. "C'mon," Logan finally says. "I'll be a gentleman and walk you to your door."
Logan instructs the driver to wait and they climb out of the limo, meandering up the path to her porch. They stop at the bottom of the steps and turn to face one another.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Veronica says. "I hope you had a good one."
"Best ever," he replies.
It's the truth, but it shouldn't be. Because last year he'd lost his virginity to Lilly on Valentine's Day, which was a pretty momentous occasion. But as special as that was, somehow this long, crazy day he's spent with Veronica has been better.
They're joined, now, in a way he'd never imagined was possible for him. Bound together like the threads of a tapestry, so interwoven their individual strands aren't discernible anymore. Through terrible truths and perilous lies, their connection feels… unbreakable.
He wants to tell her, yet again, how much he loves her. But he keeps hearing Ms. James's words in his mind. About needing Veronica too much; putting too much pressure on her, too soon. About the dangers of his self-destructive tendencies— especially his recklessness. And she's not wrong.
So he bites his tongue and smiles, weaving his fingers through her blonde locks. "Happy Valentine's Day."
Their kiss starts out soft and drowsy, as so many of their kisses do. Yet things quickly grow more passionate, tongues touching and hands roaming, breath coming in rapid pants. The world melts away until it's just them, clinging to each other in some void where no one else exists…
Someone clears their throat, very deliberately, and reason returns. Other people do, in fact, exist. They aren't floating in some mystical sphere. They're standing on the planet Earth, on the continent of North America, in the state of California, in the town of Neptune, in Veronica's front yard.
And her dad is standing in the driveway holding Backup by his leash, watching them.
A/N Thanks for reading! Please review :)