Story: Another Round
Chapter Title: I Will Follow You Down And Out
Summary: Rogan. Future fic. There's a new arrangement between the two.
Final AN: Yep, this is it… ran out of lyrics. Thank you to everyone who has read, enjoyed, reviewed.
Rain pelted the roof above him softly. It was constant and steady here, taking its time and moving gently over the land, leaving as gradually as it came; unlike the glorious thunderstorms that overtook New England. Lightening storms would descend like a jealous lover, taking out its rage unexpectedly and ferociously, leaving behind only wreckage and those cowering in its wake.
The differences in his life weren't only evident in the rain; just amplified by them. He lay in his bed at night, twisting himself up in his sheets, pulling the pillows over his head, anything to bring about sleep sooner. For it was in his dreams that the most notable exception took place.
His memories of her had become distorted, as if he were basing his dreams on an artist's rendition of her. The edges of her body, practice telling him how smooth and solid, like porcelain silk, she was, now appeared jagged and shaded—smudged in attempt to recreate light refracting off of her pale complexion.
Buried in a sea of white linen, he transformed himself into a medium that set about to smooth away these ethereal imperfections. His hands canvassed her hips, her legs, her neck, seeking the relief of pressure, her skin against his, but finding only that her body blended into the atmosphere around them, as if he were trying to force contact with a cloud. Her weight never collided with his—he thrashed about in his sheets as he fought for friction, found no solace, and woke up in a cold sweat. With the rain not beating down hard enough on the roof to have been the culprit that awoke him.
He'd been in England two months—long enough to realize she wasn't coming, but not long enough to stop wishing she might still show up in more than his dreams. He cycled through the stages of loss; denial that all that they'd been through had been, in the end, for nothing; wondering if it were just that he were more able to let her go, or if she'd let him go long before he set foot on that plane. He went through rage, at himself for leaving, at her for letting him go. Bargaining came in the form of telling himself that if he dreamed of her one more time he'd catch the next flight home—but all it did was spur him into depression, which brought about more rage at the situation.
Acceptance eluded him.
The change of scenery—nay, the change of culture had been his only saving grace. It was harder to fall into habits—old or new, bad or good, in this time of relearning customs, both business and social. None of his co-workers here feared him; in fact they took a rather mentor-like role in his training, waiting for him to prove himself, but managing to not hope to see him fail at the same time. After work, it was customary to grab a pint at the local pub before retiring home to loved ones, and the fact that he had none to return to wasn't something into which anyone inquired or he brought up. Nothing here was as it had been in the place he'd considered home.
Not to say he'd been living a solitary existence. He'd made friends from nearly every country in this world up to this point, mostly from his formative years, all of whom looked to him for a good time when they passed through, and London was easier for most of them to find themselves than New York. Those that had swept in and out of his life had ranged from the best of friends that were at the ready to pick him up out of this sorry state that his social life had become (scolded on end by an Australian with an affinity for Irish beer and women) to husbands of ex-lovers with the adage to show the chaps a good time—just not to go crazy. Crazy always came with an inflection.
He knew all about crazy. There were so many kinds, but in all honesty the kind they'd once enjoyed with him and now feared could threaten the nice little lives they'd settled themselves into wasn't even possible anymore. He'd tried—the desire to give his mind over to feel only the sensations that external stimuli could provide his body with was great, but his mind was so strong, so focused, so lonely…. Regardless of the company he kept, he found himself alone in the middle of the night, seeing only her, dreading the relief that morning light would bring.
This morning he pushed the top sheet half down his chest quickly, allowing him the room to sit up. His other hand reached for the glass of water he kept by his bedside; in college to stave off hangovers, but proving now to replenish water lost in the midst of his nightly battles with his bedding. He closed his eyes, as she fell away and his daily schedule raced to the foreground of his mind. His molars ground into one another, dull sensations urging him to stop. His father had taken the redeye over the pond to check up on his overseas interests—namely making sure he wasn't sullying the good Huntzberger name. The white gloves would come out and even the most approving of his supervisors would be hard pressed to see how Logan was making a contribution by the time Mitchum's finesse with wordplay had been extorted. It would be up to him to prove the hard work and fulfillment he'd been reaping from his time here.
It was going to be a long day, much of which would be spent wishing he could see his father answer to someone that disapproved of him.
Just before leaving his flat, he slipped on a trench coat—a necessity of London weather. His own father's affinity for them no longer seemed eccentric to him—just another by-product of where life had taken him. He could begin to see the checkmarks he could already tick off as he followed in his father's footsteps—albeit at times at gunpoint it felt like.
Affinity for scotch.
Dark circles under the eyes.
He stopped in a flow of people on their way to the tube, creating a ripple that had to sidestep him. His own dark circles had developed from fitful nights filled with want of what he just couldn't hold onto. He'd always assumed that his father's dark circles had formed in worry for his company. But now… he doubted. There were years that went unexplained in his father's history—things his mother spoke nothing of, things his grandfather seemed too proud to discuss, things his father was unwilling to share. Years that had been spent doing something that this award-winning journalist and business man felt so passionate about. Research? Protesting? Lobbying? Acting? Something in his gut told him none of these fit the man he knew so little about, despite his own destiny of becoming him.
As the rain transitioned swiftly from a fine mist to a noticeable douse, he fell back in step with the hurried masses, letting the tide of people sweep him toward the desire to find out who exactly he was becoming.
He could hear his father speaking of projections and net loss as he stepped off the elevator. The man had a booming voice, at the ready to take command of a conversation whether the other person had planned it that way or not.
He was relaxed, his own coat having been hung up long enough to shirk its dampness and for his morning coffee to nearly be in need of a refill. His back was to his approaching son, but he stiffened as he realized the attention he'd garnered had shifted as his colleagues were now paying heed to Logan.
"Ah, Logan, what exactly are the numbers for the last three fiscal years in your department?" Mitchum turned, keeping the conversation going in lieu of a proper greeting—yet he couldn't be faulted for not acknowledging him.
"Good to see you, too, Dad, what's it been, three fiscal months?" Logan unwound his bag from across his torso to lean it on his desk while he went to work on the buttons on his coat.
Mitchum held up his hand and shook his head. "We'll continue this later," he addressed the other men. "How does brunch sound?" he squinted toward his son.
"I have work to do," he pursed his lips as he spoke slowly, mainly out of confusion.
"A shared meal with the boss? Last time I checked, it was allowed," Mitchum made his attempt at a joke.
"Does that mean you've been able to write off every single meal our family has ever shared? How convenient to have that kind of leniency in your life."
"Is that a no?"
"That depends. I'd like to speak to my father, not the CEO. Who's gonna be sitting across from me?"
Mitchum drew his hand over his face, but looked his son directly in the eyes. "Son," he began, "shall we get some coffee?"
Logan nodded and picked up his bag to sling it back over his broad torso. "After you."
He took his coffee black. He preferred it laced with sugar and milk, but the bitterness of the unsweetened remains as he ran his tongue over his lips in aftertaste put him back in time when it was her lips he was mapping out.
His father was watching the displeasure of his taste buds as the liquid washed over them as he spooned in three lumps of sugar to his own cup. "No good?"
"It's fine," he managed.
Mitchum nodded, mollified. "So, you say you wanted to talk?"
Logan took another sip that he had no intention of enjoying in the moment. "After you graduated from Yale," he took a deep breath before meeting his father's eyes. "You didn't go directly to work for Grandpa."
It wasn't a question, but Mitchum took it as one. "That's correct."
"What were you doing?"
"What is this about?"
Logan shrugged. "I need to know."
"I was taking some time off."
His eyes narrowed. "What does that mean? Were you in some treatment facility in Antarctica or something?"
Mitchum sighed. "I was exploring my options."
"Please, Dad, just give me the details."
"You really want to know?" his voice wasn't filled with a lack of willingness, rather a surprise at the desire to hear it.
"I need to know."
He nodded, taking another drink before continuing. "I was traveling. I put everything I thought I'd need into a backpack and got into my car. I didn't get on one interstate, and I saw every single last part of the United States—and to be honest a lot of Mexico and Canada."
"Grandpa was fine with you just getting in your car and going off like that?"
"I never said that," Mitchum brought his cup up to his lips, but did not drink.
"You didn't tell him?"
"No, I told him. We nearly brought the house to the foundation several times. He said he'd cut me off, write me out of the will for being an ungrateful, lazy, pathetic excuse for a son," he remembered.
"Sounds like you were taking notes," he chided. "So, you left anyway?"
"I left anyway. Right after he told me that I was making the biggest mistake of my life."
Logan nodded. Of all the things his father had ever said to him, that wasn't in the mix. "And was it?"
Mitchum considered this, as if he never had before. "No."
"So," he sat back, taking in the information. "You traveled alone?"
Now he filled his mouth to elongate his response time. "No."
"Mom went with you?" he assumed, though questioningly. His father had married his father shortly after reappearing on the radar created by his bylines.
"Can you imagine your mother sleeping in a car? Eating unheated beans out of a can?"
"Buddies, then?" he pressed, seeing how he and his best friends might have decided upon a similar journey—though he knew that two years would be too much time spent among friends, seeing their faces every moment of every day. There was just one person he could imagine not tiring of after constant immersion, day after day, week after week.
His father simply shook his head and waved the waiter away when he came to check on the table.
"Who was she?"
Mitchum smiled. "A classmate of mine, initially, at Yale. We were in an Ethics seminar together, and, as I tended to do, I was arguing some point counter her—to propagate the discussion, make things interesting, and she just … lost it on me. I think I'd made some comment about the country's welfare system being used as a crutch, and she flew off the handle with very well researched statistics about how many deserving, hardworking people would be left without aide if not for government programs, and I remember very distinctly, she ended her tirade with calling me a elitist pig with a silver spoon permanently lodged in an area that turned my professor's skin a nasty shade of mauve," he chuckled.
"Wow. And you were left alone in a car with this person and survived?"
"This was a year prior to that," he let on. "That first day, I watched as she gathered her books, her arms shaking with frustration and anger. I let her pass out of the class, but stepped up to her as she was catching her breath in the corridor. I asked her if I could use some of my bourgeois wealth to buy her a cup of coffee."
"You did not," he winced, almost able to feel the sting of her certain rejection.
"I did. And, she declined. I asked her out every week, for the next month after class. Finally she told me she was going to transfer to Harvard to bypass my misplaced desire to conquer everything in my line of vision."
Butt-faced miscreant, he could see the frustration on her face as the voice rang out in the depths of his mind.
"She accepted finally," he said with authority.
Mitchum smiled softly. "She did. She agreed to meet me at this dive on the other end of New Haven. I joked about her not wanting to be seen with me, but when I got there and sat down, I was more than taken back when she came up to me in a half apron and an order pad."
Logan never taken much interest in his father's stories, but now he sat enraptured. This was the first time he believed he saw his father without the shield of ego held between them.
"She thought she had made her point. I asked her if she was at least planning on taking her break with me. She had her hair up off her neck, which she never did in class, and I told her how it complimented her. She went on about not wanting pity, but all I could do was try to make her see that I liked the contrast of her in my life. And, after another month of my becoming a regular in her bar, in her section, she agreed to go on a real date with me."
His father's tenacity was a family trait older than the ages, destined to outlast the family fortune. "You were serious about her?"
He simply met his eyes.
"Did you… I mean, what happened?"
"I brought her home, after weeks of assuring her that it would go smoothly. Your grandfather was less than accommodating, though your grandmother, God rest her soul, tried to rein him in. He left the table when she got tired of his comments and asked how he slept at night knowing that his company was single-handedly destroying significant portions of rainforests every year so he could own a home that could house entire villages."
"I would pay money to have seen that," Logan laughed.
"She was an environmental studies major," he smiled. "She was into all of that long before law mandated recycling, she marched, she … she cared about things I had always taken for granted."
"We give a large sum to Greenpeace," Logan said out loud, realizing why for the first time. He'd always assumed it was just another way for his father to appear socially conscious, but now it was colored.
"We do other things as well," he said quietly. "Anyhow. She would join me for dinners with Mother, but never when Dad was around. When I went to graduate, Dad gave me my work orders, and she told me her plans to see the country. I told Dad that I was going and left."
"You spent two years living with her in a car," Logan frowned.
"Car, tent, some nights just under open stars in open meadows, some colder nights in shelters," he remembered.
"I asked her to marry me. She told me she didn't want to become a part of my family—she held the belief that I would go back, that I was on borrowed time. I didn't want to believe her, but now," he sighed. "Anyhow. I called home near the two year mark, to speak with my mother as I did from time to time. It had been a few months, and the maid answered. She told me that your grandmother was in the hospital, very sick, and that I should come."
"So you came back."
"We came back. She held my hand the entire trip back—I don't even remember stopping the whole way. We'd been in Florida, headed toward the Keys for the winter. She kissed me, told me to go in, she'd park the car. I found a letter in the glove box an hour later when I came to bring her up. She was gone."
"She just left?"
"She said I needed my family now, and a few other things, but basically that if I wasn't there at that time, I'd regret it. That eventually I'd resent her, that in time I'd see that certain things didn't matter, and some things that I thought I could suppress would never die."
"Dad," he began, but found he had no words to comfort or suffice.
"She was right, about some things. So very wrong about others. Mother died a week later. I went to work two weeks later. I met your mother a few months after. It was all very fast—we found out about your sister and married."
He blinked. He and Honor had always wondered, in a joking form, if their parents had only married because of a pink stick, but to see his father admit it….
"You didn't love Mom?"
Mitchum's eyes snapped up. "I do love your mother," he corrected.
"Not like this other woman."
"Love isn't always so cut and dry; there is something to be said for someone who is loyal and stays by your side in good times and bad--and you will learn that when people pull away from you, it's for a reason. If they want to go, they're going to leave, and you have to make peace and go on with your life," he said with a lilt of advice.
"I had said I needed to speak to you as well," he took a deep breath. "I had a visitor not too long ago, technically one of your employees, hired by you, came to me to be released from her contract, but didn't want to go through you."
His stomach bottomed out, like he was a passenger in a fast-moving car going over hills that hadn't been anticipated. He wanted to slow down, take control, feel like the connections that he himself, as well as his father, had made could unravel and land him in another life. When he looked up into his father's eyes, he felt only tighter constrictions.
"You let her out?"
"She was expendable," he said gently. "There are other writers, and it's unwise to force someone to stick to a contract when they've left mentally."
"She's not expendable," the words hurt coming out.
"Let her go," his father soothed. "The most we can hope for in this life is to honor the people that love us—if their desires are to be with us or not. Let her go," he repeated.
Logan nodded, willing the hot stinging of his eyes to limit themselves to discomfort.
"I am sorry. You have to know, all these years, I've done what I thought was best for you. I did in part what my father did for me, as I've seen that he had my best interests as well. It's hard to see that sometimes, I know," he sighed.
"It gets easier with time," it was more of a question than a statement. Pain seeped now through every last part of his body.
"It's okay to keep things close that shape you. Just allow new things to come in and continue to shape you. If I met her again now, I can't say that we'd recognize each other. So much has happened in my life, and I'm sure hers. But nothing can take away that time when we belonged to each other. No one can take that from you, either, if you truly belonged to each other."
He could barely nod. No time like the present to begin to keep it close. "Are you in town long?"
"Just today. Your mother has some function she's insisted I return home for tomorrow. It's either cancer or children. Maybe it's a combination of the two," he frowned.
"I do like it here. I was hoping that you'd agree that I should stay on a bit longer?"
"The job's yours as long as you want it, it always has been," he smiled as if they shared as secret. He knew it was so much more than that.
Chocolate brown spilled across milky beige, dark blue scattered across hardwood. She had made herself at home on his couch, her shoes lost on her small trek to comfort. Her appropriately long business skirt, pencil cut to fall past her knees, was now scrunched up to the point of indecency as she pulled her long legs up to inspect her nail polish on one foot. He hung in the door frame, ever content in his vigilance, enjoying the way in which he managed to keep her close.
He'd prepared himself for such an image, having read up on lucid dreams—wanting nothing more than to extract every last ounce out of what he had left, while he had it with her. He'd achieved the state of realizing he was dreaming, and maintaining the control while his brain played out its desires.
She was his greatest desire. He wondered if that would ever change.
"So, you came?" he asked, his words floating in the air over to her, causing her to turn her head and smile.
"I hoped you wouldn't mind," she smiled easily.
"You're always a welcome distraction."
He wasn't ready for the disappointment of touching her, fearing that would be what would push him out into the grips of reality, an inordinate amount of tossing and turning necessary to recapture her. He wondered if she was as exhausted as he was when he woke of a morning.
"I'm a distraction?"
"You used to be. Now I'd say you're more of a focal point."
Her eyes studied his body. "It's easier to focus when you're closer."
"Is our time so short?"
"We have as long as you choose," she sucked her breath in as she spoke, a near hiccup as she caught her bottom lip between her teeth. Her head lolled back against the cushion, her long, dark hair cascading up and over. Knowing the feeling of engulfment as his fingers might sink into those feather-soft curls had to be enough. He stepped closer now, but only to come around and view her from the front.
"Why do you come like this?" he asked, in near agony from want to touch her.
"Don't you think I tried to stay away?" she frowned, reaching out for him, only to have him recoil in trepidation. "Do you want me to go?"
"I'm just trying to do what's best," he closed his eyes. "You've told me a million times, in so many different ways that you can't be with me."
"And yet, somehow I'm always right here," she pointed out.
A barrage of memories flooded him—what she had been trying to say to him all along. Getting him in her life by trying to play by his rules, breaking her own. Pretending each time was their last, only to come back for more again and again, in the face of every single life change each endured. Paying her penance to be with him, any price paid, nothing too much for their intermittent clashing. Nights filled with cyclical agony and relief, passing all too quickly, yet etched in time forever. Her ability to find him without any direction whatsoever, using only her desire to track him. Showing up every night in his dreams. Allowing him to cut her free of what she felt were deserved shackles. His arms serving as her sole source of comfort and her greatest source of joy. How she'd never put him in a position to have to choose. She had been consistent in one message all this time, no matter how hard she'd fought it. She'd been trying to prove something to herself, and from the look in her eyes, she finally had.
"The funny thing about love," he swallowed hard at her words, sensing her nearness as she'd stood up and stepped closer to him. He could always feel the stirrings of her as she drew near—it would only make the loss of contact harder to bear. "You never know where it's going to lead you."
"I've always known where it was leading me."
It was an answered question. He was ready to touch her now, ready even for the bittersweet release of waking up, being alone—because the vivid intensity of this particular dream was ripping him to shreds. So much for taking control, saying goodbye. Letting go.
"Always," he murmured, his arms moving like weights had been attached to each hand, slowing his pace like electronic equipment were in charge of his movements. It was she who wasn't hesitant this time, her who initiated contact by a matter of milliseconds.
The rain was drowned out by the pounding of their hearts. She tasted of salt and coffee and lust. He groaned at the weight of her hips anchoring him down. She whispered his name as her nails dug into his taut flesh, unable to finish syllables as he found friction from within her.
And it felt so real, that he didn't care if he had dreamed it all.