AN: Surprise! It's been a while, huh? I was thinking I was done with this universe, but I'm excited to present you this fast-forward set in the future version. This is planned as a two-parter, so bear with it. Eventual Rogan, but more focus on full circle. I hope it doesn't disappoint. Enjoy.
Special thanks for ReadAndLive, Huntzberger & merderluvr for the insights. And to my larger than life beta MT - you know you make it better.
For those who hadn't read AAB, I do recommend a read because (it makes me happy) it will explain a lot more than reading this as a stand alone.
The Journey to Planet Logan
2030, New York
Aiden Huntzberger's head shot up, off the knees hugged into his chest. The bark of his surname accompanied by a bat rattling against the metal bars. His eyes squinted at the policeman standing by the cage door.
"You made bail."
Aiden blinked at the man in uniform. The smell of his impending freedom makes him acutely aware of the horrible smell of urine lingering in the corner of the cell.
"Get up, kid," The officer ordered, "you're going home."
The blue door buzzed, and the brown-eyed teenager pushed through, entering the reception area of the police station. Aiden blinked at the bright fluorescent light that momentarily blinded him, his vision finally landing on the woman dressed in a white overcoat, who turned from the desk and sized him up from head to toe.
A little unexplained sigh escaped her light pink lipsticked mouth, forcing him to meet her blue-eyed gaze for the first time this evening. A twinge of shame colored his face.
"Got everything?" She questioned tightly.
The boy raised the brown manila envelope silently in response, biting his lips hesitantly. He kept one eye on the floor, the other discreetly on the impeccably dressed adult.
Her eyes gave him the once over again, noting the rumpled state of clothes, his awkward stance, then she turned back to the officer staffing the desk.
"Was he in the cell alone?"
"It was a slow night; he had the place to himself." The bored tone of the man in uniform replied. A shuffling of papers followed and a minute later, his backpack and other belongings appeared out of nowhere: "Anything else, ma'am?"
"No." She curtly thanked the officer, straightened her back, slipped her Birkin bag over her shoulder, and instructed the disheveled teen, "Grab your stuff. Let's go."
The boy hesitated to follow.
"Coming?" Her blue eyes urged impatiently. As if she was anxious to be over and done with the task of bailing him out.
Aiden reluctantly hauled his book bag over his shoulder, releasing a heavy sigh in the process, as if willing the uneasy feeling stirring in his gut to vanish. The spray cans inside rattled, some of them empty. A space shuttle-shaped key chain attached clicked against the zipper.
The tapping of her high heels made click clack sounds as she walked ahead. The coattails of the white overcoat fluttered around her ankles.
"Stay out of trouble, kid." The officer behind the desk offered some sympathetic advice, "Better tell your mom to have that foot checked out."
"Fine," Aiden muttered under his breath. "Thanks."
Aiden limped after the clacking of her white, four-inch heels. She didn't look back, leaving him no choice but to dutifully follow her slim silhouette down the steps of the front entrance, across the wet asphalt-paved parking lot, toward a white Audi convertible.
Damn it, his foot hurts.
The car beeped. She carelessly threw her expensive yellow purse onto the backseat before pulling the driver's door open and looking at him expectantly.
Aiden shoved his hands into the hoodie pockets underneath the well-worn leather jacket, unsure what to do now.
"You can sit in the front," She instructed before climbing into the driver's seat, her hands gripping and un-gripping the wheel at ten and two as she sat waiting for him to settle into the luxury car. "Buckle up."
The seat belt clicked loudly.
The car's dash illuminated in bright green. Tissues were stuffed between the two front seats, some stained by lipstick. A pack of gum. Some change. An air freshener in the shape of a feather hung from the rearview mirror.
Aiden quickly dropped his gaze, avoiding eye contact, despite the pair of piercing blue eyes looking at him in the reflection.
A tennis bracelet adorning her right wrist.
Manicured, pearly white nails.
Three rings on her left hand.
She breathed out heavily and shook her head before starting the engine: "Just wait till your dad hears about this."
That made him snap.
"You can't tell him!" he objected, his face filled with mixed emotions. "Sabrina said that if you happen to get in trouble and need bail, and don't want your parents to know -then, you call Chelsea."
Her name leaves a weird feeling on his tongue. He was saying it out loud for the first time.
"To call me?" she echoed as if trying to be obtuse.
"Because you have an "in" with the state attorney's office." Aiden tried to explain himself, "Right?"
For the first time that night, he looked directly into her bright blue eyes,
"Hmm." She responded dryly, not denying or confirming. "She said that, did she? Interesting."
"Why is that interesting?" Aiden asked cluelessly.
The blonde woman cocked her head to the left thoughtfully, glancing sideways at him as she drove out of the parking lot, "First, if I were you, I would not make it a habit of listening to girls who deem sheer tulle skirts fit for any social event other than a costume party."
Aiden considered the strange advice. Maybe this was a mistake. What on earth was he thinking of memorizing her number to begin with? There were plenty of other people he could have called to his rescue.
Amelia. Phoebe. His aunt Honor.
His uncle Josh was a lawyer. Or Colin, who was also a lawyer. He should have called Colin.
No. Aiden shook his head at his inner thoughts.
Colin would tell his dad. Each of these options led back to his dad and the disappointed look on his face. The one that used to make rare appearances but nowadays seem to spring onto his features quite often.
The one expression that Aiden can't bear.
"Second," Her voice jolts him out of his thoughts. "While it may be true for her, not everything that applies to Sabrina applies to you."
She could see the wheels in his brain turning, trying to make sense of her roundabout answer.
"Because she's a girl?" The boy asked pointedly, lining up his arguments.
"No," The blonde drew out slowly, shaking her head and casting occasional glances his way as she steered the wheel. "Because what I can do with Finn, I can't do with your dad."
"Why?" The boy inquired.
Chelsea shifted uneasily as she held back her answer, perhaps weighing her words. Maybe trying to devise an appropriate excuse, or find the least offensive response. Her silence and anxiousness made Aiden uncomfortable.
"Because I wasn't married to Finn." She stated simply, at last, her eyes remaining fixed on the road.
Aiden felt like his world tilted on its axis.
He hadn't expected that.
His eyes instantly shifted back to the multiple rings decorating her left hand at this mind-blowing revelation. The three of them sat stacked on her ring finger. He was sure she could hear the thoughts racing through his head, they were so loud.
"Now would be a good time to let me know your address," She said, after passing a few traffic lights while the boy processed the new information in stunned silence, "I'm dropping you home."
The boy's whole body tensed in the passenger seat. The blonde driver glanced his way in question.
"There's no one there." He huffed under his breath, shrinking into his leather-covered hoodie, his face looking out the window.
That wasn't exactly true. His cousin Amelia was there - 'babysitting him' - at his mother's insistence.
His dad was still in Seattle after spending a few days in Phoenix - apparently firing people, as Aiden learned while eavesdropping on his parents' conversation. His mom excitedly volunteered to take pictures for some stupid impersonator festival in Stars Hollow. A small godforsaken town that her parents sporadically lived in in between their world tour of glam-backpacking.
No way in hell was Aiden ever going to spend his winter break in that mind-blowingly boring town - again. Not while his friends were jet-setting with their parents to the Caribbean, the Maldives, or some luxury resort in Mexico. It was just too embarrassing.
He would rather stay home alone.
So Aiden stood his ground. But so did his mom.
An unconscious pout slipped onto his face as the memory of his dad's reluctant intervention resurfaced. That hollow, silent, disappointed look reflecting in his brown eyes as he squeezed Aiden's shoulder, indicating the conversation was over.
So, Aiden was allowed to stay home. But he got stuck with Amelia.
He couldn't believe his dad had taken her side.
Dodging his controlling, bossy, pig-headed cousin was easy; it's not like she particularly cared about his whereabouts. All Amelia was concerned with was scoring her promised HPG promotion and finagling a salary raise.
"I see, alright." Chelsea hummed, a hint of sympathy in her tone and continued driving before diverting the car into a Five Guys drive-in. "So, burger's okay?"
The boy's stomach grumbled in response at the mention of food. No doubt hungry and embarrassed at his body's betrayal.
She smiled laughingly at him, "Burger it is. My treat."
"Seattle, huh?" The question came in the form of smoke blowing out of his dad's self-proclaimed ex-wife's mouth, settling over the spread of takeout wrappers.
"Uh-huh." The boy gruffed his one-word answer, hungrily biting into his second burger.
Despite eating like he was famished, he was taking in every detail about this woman. A woman who, from when his grandfather died until tonight, was a specter haunting his thoughts.
But now, as it turns out, she was not who he expected her to be.
"So that's still a thing."
The boy shrugged and continued his chewing. Seattle was one of his father's regular work trip stops. Ben, his father's confidant and right-hand man, was there, running the day-to-day operations of a selection of companies his dad had invested in.
The Seattle office was a weird place. Like going down a rabbit hole. Starting with the odd sight of multiple painted pink golf clubs planted in a vase by the receptionist's desk, the fact that his dad goes into the office in jeans, down to the ever-changing hair color of Kate - the graphic design department head.
But his dad loves it there.
And Aiden does too. Because when he tags along in the summer, they go camping with Ben and Ben's girls. Amanda and Miella are a pair of sissies who constantly whine about the bug bites and being scared of bears and cougars, but the rest is super fun.
Although that hadn't happened this past summer because…
"How is Benjamin?" The blonde woman asked casually.
"You know Ben?" He spoke while chewing.
"Sure I do. We're the best of pals." Chelsea Rosen did a little eye roll as she lit another cigarette. Aiden noted she delivered sarcasm well. "You don't talk much, do you?"
"You're not supposed to smoke so much." The boy said between shoveling fries into his mouth and taking the largest bites of burger as humanly possible.
"You're not supposed to paint graffiti on school property either," Chelsea blows out the smoke in a perfect ring just to make a point. She pushes her fries towards him, which he doesn't waste time devouring. "And yet, here we are. I don't judge."
The boy's chewing slows, his features filled with worry as he contemplates the consequences of his actions finally. "They're going to suspend me from the swim team."
"You're on the swim team?" She parroted this tidbit of information with interest, noting his worried tone as if he hadn't considered the possibility until now. "Are you any good?"
"I like the water alright." He shrugged, in that teenage way of pretending that it meant nothing - although it means everything - and resumed his eating, "Okay, I guess."
Chelsea tapped another cigarette out of the pack and examined the teenage boy's features closely,
"So, who's the girl?"
"There's no girl." He denied it too quickly.
She smiled knowingly, lighting the tip of her cigarette. "There's always a girl."
"Well, there isn't." He insisted, busying himself with the now nearly cold fries.
"It's amazing, you know. You look so much like him. Your dad." Chelsea waved around her cigarette, inwardly counting their similarities, "The hair. The way you squint your eyes while thinking. The way you keep tabs on what's going on around you through the corner of your eyes."
Aiden frowned at the comparison. He may resemble him in looks, but Aiden Huntzberger was nothing like his dad.
When Logan Huntzberger entered a room - he owned it. He was charming, quick on his feet, with a silver tongue. Logan Hunzberger was the master of a quick smile and breezy small talk. The words never got stuck in his father's mouth when he talked to the opposite sex - like Aiden's did.
From a very young age, Aiden became aware of everyone's, especially women's, fascination with his dad. Women coming on to his dad - even in his son's presence - was commonplace. It made his mom upset sometimes, but Aiden Huntzberger knew his dad could smooth-talk himself out of ANY situation.
Even his mom being mad. Especially his mom being mad.
"You even lie the same way," She added.
Did he? What a weird thing to say.
"You were at the funeral." Aiden diverts the conversation back to her.
"I was." she concurred, sucking on the filter impassively as if baiting him to ask more.
"And you were married to my dad?" He finally mustered the courage to broach her earlier revelation.
"For 19 months and 21 days. Eons ago." Chelsea pressed the filter to her lips, revealing only so much, before breathing out. "My one and only husband."
"You are wearing three wedding rings." Aiden pointed out, drawing circles in a dollop of Ketchup with one long fry.
"Perceptive little fella, aren't you?" Chelsea Rosen stubs out the burning stick in an ashtray before taking a fresh one from the box and lighting it. She turns her hand to admire the rings, smiling at them as if she had forgotten their existence, "My therapist says you should wear your scars loud and proud. So I do."
The boy stared blankly at the woman who, just an hour earlier, revealed herself to be his father's ex-wife.
She was kind of eccentric. In a parallel universe, she could have been his mom.
"My mother's wedding ring. My engagement ring." Chelsea slid them off her finger one by one. The blonde woman pushed the golden band towards him to examine the engraving. "My wedding ring."
He didn't touch it. Aiden's silent processing indicated he wasn't that satisfied with the answers given. Chelsea was left with the impression that he wasn't buying it.
"I think it's time we called your dad," she decided, sharply closing the door on the topic.
"No! He can't know." Aiden most certainly didn't want his father to know. "He can't know that… Please don't tell him."
He wasn't above begging.
"Can't know what? That you got busted for graffiti spraying the school? I'm not going to be the one to tell him," She promised, as relief washed over the boy's face momentarily, "You are."
"No, I'm not." He said hotly, face crestfallen again. "That's what I called you for. Sabrina said that you take care of things."
A small, conflicted sigh escapes her lips. "I already told you I can't do that."
Aiden's brown eyes bore into her, huge with a silent plea. He looked just like a younger Logan desperately wanting her to play his savior.
"Look, kid, I can't promise he won't be mad. I kinda think it's a parental privilege." She paused for dramatic effect, "I, however, know your dad. I knew him quite well for a long time. Trust me; he won't care that you got arrested."
Aiden looked skeptical, a small huff escaping his lips. Teenage boys always thought of their dads as uncool.
"Your dad is many things, but a hypocrite is not one of them." Chelsea Rosen tapped her fingers on the hard surface of the kitchen counter, "I bet you a hundred dollars. The only thing he would care about is that you were too chicken to call him."
The boy cast his expressive brown orbs away, obviously struggling with being called a coward. Chelsea inwardly smiled. He was undoubtedly his father's boy, even if he fiercely denied the association.
Which was SUCH a Logan thing to do. And if there was ever a boy Chelsea Rosen knew how to play like the back of her hand - it was Logan Huntzberger.
"My phone's dead." The lie flowed smoothly off Aiden's tongue, defyingly.
The boy had moxie, and a stubborn streak, she couldn't trace back to his dad. Chelsea wouldn't call Logan stubborn. Persistent maybe, arrogant, overly confident to a fault, smooth-talking, and a little manipulative at times. Logan was the master of getting what he wanted - but not by digging his heels in.
Chelsea's free hand slides her bronze glam iPhone to the center of the table between them.
"Use mine," she challenged.
Aiden looked at the piece of technology with dread.
"I have him listed. Make the call." She instructed, rising from her chair with dubious intent, "Then take a shower. I'll get you a towel and some clothes."
"It was a dare." Aiden directed his feeble excuse to her back.
A secretive smile spread over her face when she turned back to him. She looked mysteriously amused.
"Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree after all." The boy's expression clearly conveyed his dismay with the comparison. She explains, "Your dad could never refuse a dare either. It got him into serious trouble. More than once."
Aiden bit his inner cheek, seventy percent curious - thirty percent hesitant. Once his hand curled around the electronic device, he realized all access to this woman and the secrets she held would vanish if he made the call.
"Make the call." Chelsea Rosen encouraged the reluctant boy and resumed her attempted exit.
"He's going to give me his silent disappointed face," Aiden confessed again to her back.
"Ah," She hummed in understanding, looking at him over her shoulder, "Yes, to be on the receiving end of that look is heartbreaking. I know."
Aiden could feel she truly understood his apprehension.
She pointed at the device, "Trust me; it's better to rip off the band-aid."
Upon her instruction, Aiden put his dirty clothes in the wash. His jeans were ripped at the knees from trying to jump over the fence. A bruise was forming, but it looked rather cool, like a war scar.
Now clean and wearing some black sweatpants and a USC t-shirt she'd left for him outside the bathroom door, Aiden sought out his late-night savior and the key to his father's secrets.
The interior design of Chelsea Rosen's house was… eclectic. And very yellow. Yellow-colored artifacts dominated the house decor.
A mix-and-match puzzle of stars entwined together decorated the staircase wall. A combination of matte and glossy wood, metal and plastic of different sizes and widths.
A pillar made of Architecture books was the centerpiece in the main room. Upon entering the room, the floor-to-ceiling column caught Aiden's attention. He spent some time reading the various titles, wondering whether this was just a decorative feature or a functional pillar.
One author's name, written in large letters, especially caught his attention. The title stuck out right in the middle of the column like a sore thumb.
Chelsea's voice startled him. She had shed her white coat and changed into loungewear: metallic blue yoga pants and an oversized white t-shirt underneath a fluffy-looking vest. Her blonde hair hung loose in a ponytail, making her blue eyes pop out of her face.
She was pretty. Nearly as pretty as his mom.
"Pretty neat, huh?" she commented with evident pride in her tone.
Aiden shrugged, unwilling to pay her the compliment she was fishing for. Instead, he pointed out: "That's my grandpa's book."
"Yes." His hostess answered tightly, lit another cigarette, and approached a hidden closet inside one of the large wooden stars in the wall that contained alcohol. "I suppose it's illegal to serve you a drink?"
This woman is just plain weird. The enigmatic way she talks. The cynical air she carries around her. The number of cigarettes she smokes in an hour. This could have been his alternate universe.
There is no way in hell his father ever married…. that. Besides, his dad hated yellow.
"Did you read it?"
"This narcissist fest?" She snorted while pouring a drink, "I'd never give the man that sort of pleasure."
"But you were at the funeral." Aiden points out matter-of-factly.
"I was." She confirmed but offered nothing more.
Aiden tried to put all of this woman's contradictions into place.
"I didn't go to pay my respects; I was there for your dad." She states from her seat on the couch, "Mitchum didn't like me much. The feeling was mutual, by the way. He wasn't a nice man."
Most people thought of Mitchum Hunztberger as a top-of-his-game, intelligent professional. He was a powerful, well-respected man. Had excellent taste in cigars and whiskey. That sentiment pervaded his funeral, along with broad acknowledgment of him being a blunt, rough-around-the-edges, no-bullshit kind of guy.
But Aiden begged to differ. They didn't know how funny he was when eating hot dogs. Or how bad he was at video games.
"Why didn't he like you?"
"Mitchum thought I was steering Logan away from his path." She answered simply and rolled her eyes.
"His path?" Aiden was slightly confused.
"The family business." Certainty dripped off her words as if it was a known fact. A camel can't see his hump. "With Mitchum, it was always his way or the highway. But what drove your dad out of the family business wasn't me, it was him. Just ask your dad when he gets here."
What was she talking about? His dad has been part of the family business for as long as he remembered - It was what Huntzbergers do.
Every piece of information revealed only raised new questions in his head. There was so much he didn't know about his dad. It seemed like he had a different, secret life. A life that included this woman – this woman who knew so much about his dad.
Aiden wanted her to keep talking also because… he hadn't made the call.
"Are you my dad's mistress?"
It was the only reasonable conclusion. No other explanation made sense. But Aiden was surprised by his ease at putting it bluntly. Maybe his grandfather inspired some courage in him.
Chelsea took a beat to register the question; an amused smile bloomed at the corner of her lips before she burst out laughing. Her laughter shook her whole body as if it was the funniest joke she'd ever heard.
"Oh, man." She wiped away a tear out of the corner of her eye.
"What's so funny?" Aiden asked defensively.
Her presence at the funeral has plagued his mind for months now. The sight of the very affectionate, tight, long hug and rather lengthy chat his dad shared with this woman in the privacy of the back garden of the Huntzbergers' mansion in Hartford refused to fade from his brain.
It looked incredibly intimate.
No one in attendance had dared to interrupt the pair of them. Not even his mom, who had feigned indifference. Aiden was acutely aware of every unsuccessfully concealed glance his mom threw the blonde's way after Ben discreetly pointed out her presence in the back of the church.
Aiden stood rooted to the spot until Ben tapped his shoulder and steered him away from witnessing any more. Ben skillfully deflected all questions by refusing to clue him in on anything other than her name.
He had to find out more. So when Sabrina started bragging about ways to outwit parents at the Christmas party.… Aiden just couldn't let it rest.
"The idea… oh boy. That's a good one." Chelsea Rosen breathed in, full of humor and amusement.
The boy had the decency to look embarrassed, maybe a little ashamed of the bold accusation he threw her way and her chastening reaction. Or was offended by her laughing at him. Yet he still radiated defiant vibes that he didn't believe her words.
"No, I'm not your dad's mistress." She clarified irrefutably, shaking her head; the hint of a smile subsided as she continued, "Is that why you looked me up?"
"No." He denied, although he could tell she didn't buy it.
"I see your dad once a year, every June. We hit a bunch of golf balls as far as possible into the country club's lake in memory of my dad. Then, he hands me an annual donation for the Aaron Rosen Foundation, and we go our separate ways."
"My dad hates golf," Aiden states, doubting the explanation.
"With a passion." She agreed.
The conversation came to a stop. She sipped her drink.
"We've met before, you know." He looked at her curiously as she drew back the cigarette, "You and I, in passing. You probably don't remember. You were very little."
"I don't," Aiden admitted, moving around the room, examining the knick knacks all around, his eyes stopping on two strategically placed photo frames.
He stared motionlessly at the image of two young adults in wedding attire next to a picture of a bald man guiding a little toddler to swing a golf club.
"I have no idea how old you are in that picture," Chelsea confirmed Aiden's suspicions. "That's the last picture I have of my dad. I think Logan snapped that photo just before he died."
"What was he like?"
"Who? My dad?" She paused momentarily, thinking, "Difficult. I really don't know. We had a very strained relationship."
Something in his eyes mirrored her sudden longing. At that moment, Chelsea Rosen realized she was not the objective he was after.
"Oh, you meant your dad." She took his silent confirmation as her cue. "Logan was… I don't know… Rebellious? Strong-minded, for sure. Spontaneous. Adventurous. Always down to party. Full of dreams and fire… He had that glint in his eyes."
Her face seemed to light up with the mere threads of youthful memories. Chelsea's eyes shone with something akin to the spark in his mom's eyes when she looked at his dad, after drawing back from her camera.
"Logan was just fun." She summed up nostalgically, "He was ready for anything."
He absorbed her words like a sponge. The last phrase tickles his ear with something familiar he can't place. As if he had heard that before.
"Logan is the most loyal, forever in your corner kind of guy." She paused and wetted her lips before adding intentionally, "Your dad doesn't cheat."
The boy averted his eyes sheepishly. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. Wanna see pictures?" she offered, watching the too-familiar golden flecks light up in the boy's eyes.
The phone picked up on the third ring. Chelsea Rosen barely managed to utter a proper greeting.
"What's wrong?" The sense of alarm in the man's voice coming through the phone loud and clear.
"Everything's fine, Husband." Chelsea reassured, ignoring the small huff he instantly gave in response and the automatic correction that followed. Her gaze traveled over the boy sleeping on her lemon yellow couch, "Listen, your son is at my place."
"My what?" Confusion dominated his tone, a touch of anger and anxiety laced through his next inquiry, "What is he doing at yours?"
"He got arrested, so I bailed him out." She said in one breath.
Even without seeing him, Chelsea knew Logan was running his hand through his hair in frustrated confusion. Years of close friendship and shared living quarters on and off left all his gestures burned into her mind.
"Look, he's fine. I promise. All twenty toes are in place." She tried to sound as reassuring as possible, sensing he might need it, "I think you should get the whole story firsthand."
A beat of phone static followed.
"I'll be there in six hours." The phone clicked off without further pleasantries.
Chelsea Rosen bit her lip at the dark screen. She knew better than to tell Logan Huntzberger how like his father he had become.
Panic finally subsided at the sight of his boy curled up on the yellow couch in the sitting room. Logan stood there for a long minute, drinking in the sight of his son. It reminded him of a nearly identical yellow couch that Rory spent hours napping on in his Seattle office while incubating this now grown up boy.
If Aiden only knew what a curveball he'd set in motion.
A gentle clearing of the throat snapped him out of his trance. His blonde ex-wife gestured her head towards the kitchen, suggesting they leave the boy to his slumber.
"Thanks," Logan caught a steaming cup of coffee, courtesy of his ex-wife. He quickly popped a white pill into his mouth before taking a sip of the proffered beverage.
"You're mixing that with caffeine?" She questioned.
Some of the gadgets in Chelsea's kitchen Logan can trace back decades, others are entirely foreign.
"That's weird coming from you." He comments, taking another mouthful of coffee before getting down to business, "Did they press charges?"
Chelsea waved her hands dismissively, telling him not to worry about it, "The state attorney's office took care of it."
"Look at you working side by side with the law enforcement system," Logan said in jest over the rim of the cup. He needed the rush of caffeine dearly.
"I'm a different person these days." She teased, followed by a shrug, "Can't say I didn't have to trade some special favors to pull this one. This was more of a personal request than what typically falls under the foundation's activities. The deputy state attorney is not too pleased with letting privileged kids off the hook easily."
"The deputy state attorney should have thought about that before he set up camp in a privileged kid's bed," Logan responded knowingly.
The fact that he and his ex had little to no communication didn't mean he didn't hear things from mutual friends. And vice versa.
"Touche," Chelsea commented dryly, making the man give a faint smirk of satisfaction.
Logan briefly shifted his eyes towards the general area where his son's sleeping form lay. "I just don't understand. Why did he…?"
"Call me?" Chelsea gave the condensed explanation. "Finn's kid is a blabbermouth."
"Right. Not surprising." Logan summed up.
"And he seems to be under the impression I'm your mistress."
"He what?" Logan choked on his coffee. "What makes you think…?"
"He straight out asked," she rolled her blue eyes at her one and only ex-husband.
"I'm sorry. He's going through some stuff... " Logan scratched the short hairs on the back of his head, trying to explain.
"I gave the brief, clean version."
"Yes." She answered hesitantly, "He was just curious. Not too much about us actually, more about you."
"Me?" Logan looked slightly confused at the distinction she made.
"He was asking quite a lot about what you were like back then…" Chelsea pursed her lips thoughtfully, "It got me thinking, you know?"
"Chelsea Rose." She stopped talking at the use of her old moniker, "C'mon, don't."
"I'm not talking about that. I know we don't work. There's too much water under the bridge - we're completely different now. It didn't work then; it wouldn't work now. It's not even a romantic notion anymore. We had what we had." She said in conclusion, "I just realized I didn't know much about my dad either. What kind of man was he? Before he was my dad? Before he was so invested in his politics? What was under all that tough-love façade?"
An inconsolable longing crept into Chelsea's voice. Logan's eyes shine with deep understanding - they both shared that curiosity about their fathers.
"I think he was a pretty cool guy." He offered.
Chelsea tried her best not to look at him like he ran over her favorite puppy.
"If it makes you feel better, the only thing I know for certain is that Mitchum hated peas." Logan shrugged off her dubious glare. She knew him too well; knew when he was flat-out lying to make her feel better. "And, I'm pretty convinced the protagonist in his novel was made out to be the best version of himself."
She chuckled at his makeshift poking fun. "Well, of course, his way or the highway."
"Old dog, old tricks." Logan stated in a nutshell.
"How are you with …" She asked, alluding to his recent loss.
"Fine." He said shortly, "I'm fine."
Chelsea looked at him suspiciously. When Logan said he was fine, it was never fine. It meant he wanted you to back off. She switched back to the original topic of conversation, "He said it was a dare."
"Ah," Logan nodded, appreciating the additional context. A Huntzberger weakness. A slight, proud smirk replaced his previously stern expression. "Well, you can never back down from a dare, right?"
She smirked back at him. "Where is the fun in that?"
Aiden rubbed his eyes at the bright morning light streaming from the sheer, white blinds on the windows. His father's deep voice conversing somewhere close by slowly penetrated his still sleep-addled brain. He carefully tried to assess his surroundings - a room he wasn't familiar with.
Yellow couch. Book pillar.
Aiden Huntzberger sat up in alarm. His dad was here!
He toppled off the yellow couch, limping as quietly as possible, carefully sneaking in the direction of the kitchen, hoping to remain unnoticed.
They looked comfortable, bantering back and forth about everything and nothing in a well-practiced manner. The easy smile on his dad's tired face. His tie absent and the top buttons on his dress shirt loose. His hair is a little messy. His funny socks peeked out unevenly where his pants legs rode up.
Aiden frowned a little. He usually only looks this relaxed when he emerges from his mom's dark room.
"Good morning." Chelsea was the first to notice him. Cheerfulness was evident in her voice, the same cheer Aiden saw creeping on her pretty features last night as she reminisced about her past with his dad.
"Hi." He responded frostily, having already realized she had sold him out.
Not missing the look of betrayal his son shot Chelsea, Logan didn't waste time on small talk, immediately noting the awkwardness in his stance.
"What's wrong with your foot?"
"Nothing," Aiden muttered defensively. He would rather die than to admit twisting it when he was trying to shake the cops off his tail. "How did you get…?"
"When important people call me, I pick up the phone," Logan stated. Knowing better than to expect the kid to step forward, he strode over, "Let's have a look."
The boy took a step back. "It's nothing."
"Doesn't look like 'nothing' to me." Logan stared down at his son, watching the tension rise in his body.
"Well it is."
Logan took a methodical breath before the impulse took over, and he scooped the boy into his arms. Squeezing the developing swimmer's body of his teenage boy just a little too tight, overcome with unspoken emotion.
"Sputnik 1?" Logan mumbled the question into his son's hair.
For a split second the boy relaxed, just before he let out a dissatisfied whine, awkwardly wiggling out of the tight embrace: "D-ad."
"Fine." Logan released the boy, who wasted no time putting some distance between them, "Go get your stuff; we're going home."
"I used to be 'daddy'," Logan mused aloud to his ex-wife, once the boy was out of hearing range. "Now I'm 'd-ad.'"
"Must be heartbreaking for you." Chelsea smiled teasingly, "He's a smart kid."
"He is." A soft smile lifted the edges of his lips, his inner contentment shining through. The boy had brought out a softer side of Logan. "Hey - I never asked. Did you do the burger thing?"
"Why," Chelsea responded with a pleased smile, "Yes, I did."
"Good," Logan affirmed, touched by the full-circle gesture.
"Is this going to get you in trouble?"
"Ah, it depends how I play it." Logan admits with a shrug, "something tells me I'm not the one who is going to be in major trouble. We better get going."
Chelsea nodded in understanding, watching her ex-husband pocket his belongings, ready to make his exit.
"Logan?" Chelsea spoke tentatively. The man turned to her at the sound of his name, "Are we good? I know you said no access. I didn't plan this.. "
"I know. We're good. Thank you for this." He reassured her, "See you in June."
The tension in the car was thick.
The sound system played some fast guitar songs he didn't recognize from his dad's playlist. It sounded old. Aiden glanced sideways at his dad, sitting in the driver's seat, going through the motions of steering the car.
Logan looked preoccupied, as if miles away.
When Aiden was little, Logan would let him be in charge of the playlist while he sat in the backseat. Aiden didn't even mind that songs were often interrupted by some business call, feeling an immense sense of control over his father's attention since he was allowed to press the red button.
Nowadays, Logan rarely hits the red button on his phone.
"Home is the other way." Aiden forces his voice to sound as indifferent as possible.
"I know." Logan's fingers tapped on the steering wheel, "We need to make a quick stop."
Aiden sighed. He burrowed more into his hoodie, putting a definite halt to whatever conversation his dad might want to strike up.
A quick stop was never a quick stop.
"Impressive." Logan's eyes scanned the blown-up, half-completed cartoon of a boy wearing goggles and a cape riding on the back of a space shuttle. "I didn't know you could do this."
"Mom taught me." Aiden rolled his eyes as if it wasn't a big deal.
Why his dad was making such a big fuss about this was beyond him. It was just graffiti.
"Why did you leave it unfinished?"
"The cops came."
Aiden's pithy comebacks were improving. His bad foot shuffled some pebbles and little plastic shreds around.
He kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It had yet to come.
"Ah, well, I do not expect cops to appreciate street art," Logan stepped away from the hood of the car they were leaning on, shedding his overcoat and rolling up his shirt sleeves, his suit jacket long discarded, "Let's get this baby finished."
Aiden's eyes widened at the unexpected turn of events. Sure it was the weekend, and the elite UES private school was deserted, but still, they were in broad daylight.
"It's daytime." He said matter-of-factly.
"So?" His father gave the most captivating smile. Suddenly, Aiden saw the young man from the pictures resurfacing. A twinkle of mischief in his brown eyes. "A Huntzberger never leaves a task unfinished. Get your backpack."
Logan's eyes sparkled with excitement at the opportunity to do something bad. Aiden stared at him as if he had grown a second head.
"What?" He was now openly goading his son, "You can only do it when it's dark out?"
"You have no idea what you're doing, do you?" Aiden tilted the can to demonstrate to his father, his heart beating rapidly as they lay on their stomachs, side by side, chests hanging off the roof. "You have to spray at an angle."
"Ya think that, do ya?" Logan shoved him playfully, aiming a puff of spray in the general direction of his son, who gave a surprised yelp.
"D-ad, watch it!"
Aiden felt a strange, satisfied rush course through his blood. He'd done it. A full-blown image of the iconic Star Boy shooting for the stars on a rocket was now decorating the swimming pool's back wall. A red cape flowing behind him, goggles on his head.
It was complete. His heart was giddy with accomplishment.
Let them eat that. He showed them alright. He nailed the dare.
"Ah-hm." The boy's attention snapped towards the parental figure. He looked equally satisfied. "So, what was the dare about?"
Logan's dress shirt was pretty much ruined, with paint stains all over. So were his shoes. The hair on his head, usually in place thanks to an impeccable haircut, was ruffled. Aiden hadn't seen his father this relaxed since… he couldn't remember. He looked strangely alive.
"Nothing." He shrugged instinctively.
The skeptical snort from his father indicated the man wasn't buying it.
"I got kicked out of Rivers for drowning Dean Eldon's Miata in the bottom of Lake Rutherford." Logan shared, taking a sip out of a water bottle. "It was a dare."
"You're making that up." Aiden fired back, "No one gets kicked out of Rivers."
Logan chuckled, "That's what we thought too."
Aiden looked sideways at his dad, wanting to hear more, but trying to play it cool.
"I don't have the best track record with cars. Or boats." Logan shook his head a little, chuckling at the memory that sprang to mind before licking his dry lips and telling a tale: "My grandfather had this car. A Porsche 916. There used to be only eleven cars of that model worldwide. I wanted to drive it so badly for years. Anyways, cutting the story short…"
Aiden wished he wouldn't.
"Colin and I took it out for a spin, and we skidded on ice and crashed the car into a ditch. Colin's dad bailed him out in an hour. Mitchum left me there for two days."
"Grandpa wouldn't do that!" Aiden refused to believe, and Logan didn't particularly want to ruin the warm, fuzzy image Aiden had of his late grandfather.
Aiden and Logan had vastly different experiences with the man. There would be other, less sensitive moments to disclose some basic truths about Mitchum.
"The second night," He continued, letting it rest, "Congressman Rosen - that's Chelsea's dad - came down and paid my bail."
Because everyone needs a friend when the end of the world comes knocking. Logan could still hear the man's voice thinking back on it.
"He didn't shout, didn't lecture, didn't try to educate me. Do you know what he did? He took me out for hamburgers."
How ironic. How similar, yet different. From the corner of his eye, Logan could tell Aiden's curiosity was piqued.
"The man with the golf club. From the picture." Aiden filled in some of his newfound information.
"Yes." Logan nodded. "We were really good friends."
Any other explanation would either be too complex or belittling.
"What happened after?"
Logan took a sip of water to hide his momentary loss of composure, "I was shipped off to boarding school faster than you can say 'Eisenhower.'"
"Are you sending me away to boarding school?" Aiden was quick to jump to conclusions.
"Do you want to be sent away?" Logan looked at him sideways.
"Then it's settled." Logan put unnecessary worries to rest, tapping his son's thigh, "Let's go home."
"Wait -" Aiden wasn't too eager to leave this bonding moment, "What about the boat?"
"That's a story for another day." Logan held his son's gaze. As if trying to read what was going on in the teenager's mind. Something was going on. And it wasn't 'nothing'.
Aiden's eyes cast down to the wet asphalt. "Doesn't matter. They're going to kick me off of the swim team anyway."
Logan kept a steady gaze on his son, not surprised to see Rory-esque insecurities bursting out of the boy. They were too alike for their own good.
"I don't know about that."
"Well, I'm not going back either way."
Nor was he surprised to see her self-sabotaging tendencies flaring up in his son or hear him taking a page right out of Rory Gilmore's book of I'm-throwing-in-the-towel isms.
"You are going back." Logan contradicted, "Huntzbergers don't quit. They get up, dust off, and double down."
"The guys are assholes. They told the coach I cheated because I beat them, and because I'm a freshman. But I swear I didn't," The boy stuck to his arguments. A little ego showing through when he revealed his achievement. "I just swam faster than them."
Logan swallowed his blooming pride as he listened to his son talk. Aiden has always loved the water.
"They called me Star Boy," he finally admitted.
And the worst thing, that Aiden was too proud to tell his dad, was that they did it in front of Ainsley. Who was the most beautiful girl Aiden had laid his eyes on, like, ever. He was just about to ask her to the winter formal and… then…
The little smirk faded as his son continued to pour his heart out, revealing the supposedly escalating insults. Logan was now slightly confused. "Huh?"
"It's embarrassing!" Aiden spits on the ground angrily, "It's for babies."
'The Journey to Planet Logan', Rory's comic series about the boy who climbed up the walls to reach the stars, was a big hit. It also gave her a sense of accomplishment that Logan was protective of.
"Aiden," Logan barely controlled the sigh in his tone. Despite Logan Huntzberger's ridiculous tendency to say 'how high' each time his son said 'jump,' he too realized sometimes he had to draw the line.
"What?" The boy spat defiantly , "It is! And I hate it! It's everywhere I go. People aren't stupid; they put two and two together. I'm the kid in the comics."
Logan took a deep breath. His son's feelings and frustrations were valid, as he knew all too well from first-hand experience. Rory's artwork was often far more revealing than he felt comfortable with himself. It turns out his son was now, having hit full-blown puberty, struggling with it too.
Aiden bravely held his angry tears back.
"We can't change the fact that people think you're the kid from the comics." Logan reminded him. A fact he used to bask in when he was little. "The comics are your mom's way of telling the world she loves you. That's kind of a cool thing."
Aiden's expression told Logan everything he needed to know about how uncool the teenager felt about the comics now.
"It's how much mom loves you." Aiden shot back almost accusingly. Then he looked away, hiding the brimming tears in his eyes, resentful of this unwanted vulnerability.
"Maybe that too." Logan took the intended insult in stride, letting his son's feelings air a bit.
"If you hate it so much," Logan gestured at the iconic image. "Why do this? Out of all the things you could have.. "
"In their faces," Aiden answered spitefully. Anger not at all resolved, but pride intact.
He had to do it, to prove to them, to Ainsley, to himself - that he wasn't a mama's boy. That he wasn't a wimp.
Logan's heart swelled impossibly large. Spoken like a true Huntzberger. The boy's response assured him that his son wasn't wholly denying or suffering from his familial connections.
"Well, good." Logan found himself repeating Mitchum Huntzberger's mantra, "Because Huntzbergers don't quit. They get up, dust off, smile through it, and double down."
Aiden blinked at his dad. His brain did not quite comprehend his father's reaction:
"You're not mad?"
"I'm mad you didn't call me to bail you out. That's what I'm mad about." Logan called him out, "Never do that again."
Aiden bit his lips, casting his eyes downward. Chelsea was right.
"C'mon, Star Boy." Logan couldn't resist the teasing, locking the boy in a hold by the crook of his elbow despite his son's apparent dismay, briefly kissing his slightly painted hair. "Let's go home."
Aiden allowed himself a split second to leech onto his dad's warmth before shaking out of his grip only seconds later, in a teenage protest that made Logan internally smile:
"D-ad - Stop!"
"Don't tell mom."
Once the car stopped outside the brick townhouse, the realization hit Aiden Huntzberger that while he'd been busy worrying about his dad's reaction, he might have miscalculated the actual battlegrounds.
"I'm not going to tell her," Logan promised. The relief washing over the boy's face was once again short-lived. "- You are."
The boy mumbled under his breath something before speaking up at his father's questioning glare; "She's going to be mad."
The boy dragged his feet into the house. He was already on her black list with the tantrum he threw about tagging along to Connecticut for the festival.
"She's not going to be mad." Logan denied offhandedly as his feet crossed the entrance hall, announcing their return, "Ace! We're home!"
"She's not?" Aiden looked at his father suspiciously.
His dad only called his mom 'Ace' when buttering her up was essential.
"No, she's not going to be mad," Logan responded calmly, dropping his car keys into their designated place. He casually emptied the rest of his pockets, "- She's going to be furious."
Aiden swallowed nervously.
"I'm hungry, aren't you?" Logan set out for the kitchen.
Aiden limped along after his father, moving like his pockets were full of stones. The foot still hurts at certain angles. It's going to slow down his swimming.
Jumping that fence was a stupid move.
A freshly showered Rory Gilmore was making coffee, lost in her own world. Aiden could tell she was past her fifth cup of the day, simply because the cup she was making included milk. She spent ninety percent of her time in the kitchen around the coffee maker. Which admittingly wasn't a lot because she spent hours working in her darkroom.
Logan strode over, his arm sneaking loosely around her waist from the back, before tentatively kissing her temple, "Hey."
"Oh my god!" Rory jumped in fright, hands shooting up to her chest, nearly losing her balance before her brain sensed the familiarity of the steadying touch. "Hey! Don't scare me like that!"
"And to think I imagined you'd be happy to see me." Logan smirked; his body instinctively - but in vain - tried to dodge her swatting hands, "Hi."
"Hi," Rory whispered back, her face lighting up at the sight of his smile. Getting comfortable within the circle of his arms, "You're early."
"That I am." His dad's face mirrored her dreamy expression.
Rory's hands smoothed over Logan's shoulders, her fingers toying with the hair at the back of his neck. His fingers brushed off her bangs affectionately, their heads starting to shift closer.
"Ew, gross," Aiden averted his eyes as a public display of affection unfolded. "Don't kiss."
His parents rarely pack it on with the PDA. And if they happened to, it was usually pretty tame compared to Sabrina's parents.
Rory stopped at once, her son's harsh reality check keeping her from getting carried away. Her nose twisted with a sniff, "Why do you smell like paint?"
"Don't ask questions; I won't tell lies." Logan's lips pecked hers lightly before stepping back. "How was the festival? Where's Cam?"
"Upstairs." Rory Gilmore was still suspicious, but more pressing issues were at stake. She turned to her son, "Where were you? I called Thomas' mom this morning - she said she hadn't seen you last night."
"Ah-" Aiden stuttered, shifting uncomfortably as the lie about his true whereabouts unraveled.
Aiden noticed his dad cupping his hand briefly on her elbow in a signal to go easy. Rory's fingers curled around the coffee mug.
"Well?" She questioned, prompting his delayed response; Aiden could feel her blue eyes scanning him just like another pair did twelve hours ago. "What happened to your clothes? Seriously, what's with the paint? And where did you get a USC t-shirt?"
"Thrift shop," Aiden mumbled a credible lie, but Rory looked unconvinced.
"What did the two of you do?"
Aiden bit his lip nervously, and her eyes instantly shifted to her baby partner in question.
"Ah, just this and that. Nothing too bad. You know, the usual – some trespassing, a touch of vandalism, a short visit to the detention center. Paid some bail money." Logan pecked her cheek playfully, glancing meaningfully at his kid, who had half the decency to study the floor, before shifting his attention to the fridge. "Is there something to eat? I'm famished."
"Stop messing around; what did you do?" She asked again, not buying his playfully put wordplay.
"Aiden will tell you," Logan said breezily, already grabbing items out of the fridge to make a sandwich.
Aiden's eyes bugged out at the deft way his father threw him under the bus.
"One of you better answer, and better answer now."
Aiden glanced at his dad under lowered lashes for help. But the man was calmly separating the lettuce and placing it neatly in layers, then laying out cheese slices, making it obvious he was not rushing to jump in.
"I made bail." The boy muttered, his eyes looking down at his shoes.
Better rip it off like a band-aid.
A heartbeat that felt like an hour passed before his mother's reaction registered. An array of emotions crossed her features as if she couldn't choose whether to be mad, worried, argumentative, stern, or empathetic.
"What on earth…? You got arrested?!" Her tone changed drastically. Aiden managed a guilty nod.
"Logan!" Rory Gilmore scolded. Her face ping-ponged between him and his father, looking for answers. "You bailed him out?"
"Nope." Logan popped the 'p' in emphasis.
"He just said he made bail. If not you, then who? Who paid the bail?" Her blue eyes burned hotly at her son, expecting him to dish out. "Who did you call? Colin?"
Surprisingly, his father finally came to his rescue and revealed his bail supplier. Aiden wasn't sure what caused his father's change of heart.
Rory snapped her head towards Logan faster than the speed of light. A high-pitched gasp escaped her mouth once the name fell from his father's lips. Aiden cringed, nearly hearing her neck bones cracking.
Her face was full of fury. Her jaw clenched, trying to contain her anger. Aiden watched cautiously as his parents silently stared each other down. He thanked his lucky stars her blazing fire was no longer aimed directly at him.
Thick tension permeated the air. Aiden felt like a volcano erupted in the kitchen as the deadly silence followed.
"Ace..." Logan half sighed, half warned.
"Don't 'Ace' me. You better —-" She hissed a warning at him. She suddenly got a grip and ordered: "Aiden, go to your room."
"Am I grounded?" he asked for clarification worriedly.
"Oh, you're grounded!" Aiden has never seen his mother so angry, "You're super-duper absolutely grounded. It's going to be school, home and repeat for the rest of your life. There will be no friends, no video games, no TV, no cell phone privileges… I'm changing the wi-fi password. Give me your phone."
"Yes! Now!" She ordered and opened her hand, waiting for him to place the soon-to-be confiscated device. "Give me the phone."
Aiden limped over dejectedly, placing his whole life in his mother's palm, grumbling: "That's cruel."
"That's life." She said in a no-nonsense tone.
"But dad —" He throws a helpless glance at his dad, who remained mum, allowing her to take the lead, "What about practice? Swim meets?"
Aiden's eyes hung on his father's, full of worry. That is, If he's even still on the swim team.
"We'll see." His mom ignored his voiced concerns, "And from now on - you will be staying in Stars Hollow whenever both dad and I are away."
Oh, that is way worse than taking away his phone. "Not Hicksville!"
Logan let out an unsuppressed chuckle under his breath at his son's mention of Stars Hollow. He often shared the same sentiment.
His grin flattened as Rory glared at him. "Not helping."
"But Mom —" The teenager cried in distress, "Dad!"
"Go to your room." She said in a final tone. "Your dad and I need to talk."
"Fine!" The teenager mode shifted, going on the offensive. "It's all your fault anyways! God! You're so uptight! No wonder he NEVER married you."
The teenager stomped up the stairs as angrily as his sprained foot allowed.
Rory's mouth opened and closed wordlessly, caught off guard by the unexpected twist of the dagger.
"Ace -" Logan spoke softly, noting the quiver of her lips. Rory inhaled, trying to shake off the ugliest insult her son threw her way, albeit unwittingly. "He doesn't mean that."
Rory Gilmore's blue eyes turned gray, holding back unshed tears.
"He sprayed graffiti on the school pool's wall." Logan shared the specifics of their son's criminal actions, sparing her the details of his involvement in the finishing touches, "They won't press charges."
Rory Gilmore took a deep breath through her nose. She picked up her coffee mug. And let the darkroom door slam shut in response.