Veronica knocked tentatively on the door. She listened closely for Duncan's voice, but Logan turned the knob and opened the door himself.
"He's not exactly going to be able to jump up from the bed to admit you," he reasoned.
Veronica shrugged. Her eyes fell to Betty, who was grinning at her from Logan's arm. "You know Uncle Duncan?" Betty's grin did not fade. "I guess you do, or you're eerily responseless, which will make you your father's daughter."
"Blame me again," Logan muttered lightly.
"She's looking more like you every day," Veronica said before entering Duncan's hospital room. She looked in on Duncan and announced, "Hey Duncan. We're here."
The man on the bed slowly turned his head. His gaze fell at once on Veronica, because even if he had already seen her, he still could not believe that she was real. He had been mourning her loss for too long. "Hey baby," he greeted, falling back into the endearment he had been using for her since she became his girlfriend during their sophomore year. Once the pet name left his lips, Veronica glanced quickly at the man beside her, and Duncan was forced to notice the presence of Logan Echolls. With that acknowledgment, Duncan also had to see the child he had, since discovering its paternity, mostly ignored. "Logan."
"Hey Duncan," Logan said with a tight smile. "How are you doing?"
Duncan did not look at Logan as he answered. Instead, his focus was on Betty, who now was staring intently at him. "Bedridden for some time," Duncan answered honest. "Sore. But otherwise fine."
Veronica noticed how Duncan looked at her daughter. She turned to Logan and reached for Betty, who immediately went to her. "We came by to talk to you," she said.
i"I came by to talk," Logan declared as he closed the door behind him and walked over to Duncan's bed. He reached for the remote control to turn off the television that Duncan had been blindly watching.
Duncan tried to snatch the remote control again. When Logan refused to hand it over, Duncan growled, "Get out of here."
"When will you get over this?" Logan demanded. He did not want to be standing right where he was at that moment. He could so easily spend the night watching Veronica sleep. He had too many nights to make up for, but this had to be done. Veronica was so intent on speaking with Duncan that he was not willing to have her speak with a Duncan who would shut her out.
"Who the hell are you to act so high and mighty?" Duncan cried. "What you did to me—"
"How many times have I apologized, Duncan?" Logan said, his voice dropping. "I can only do it so many times."
"It's not that easy."
"I know it's not." Logan rubbed his face with his hand in frustration. "If it happened to me, I'd probably have killed you," he admitted. "Duncan, I understand what you're feeling, but I will not stand idly by while you act this way around my family."
"I've not touched your kid. And I will not seek Veronica out," Duncan spat out his promise.
Logan shook his head. "Veronica wants to take Betty here tomorrow so she can talk to you, show you her daughter, fix everything."
"So the cynical girl switches back to an ideal world mode when it suits her."
"She deserves it," was Logan's answer.i
"Are you sure this is okay, Duncan?" Veronica asked tentatively.
"Of course," Duncan affirmed, and Logan released a breath of relief. "Logan's my brother, you know."
"Wallace can so carry that better than you can!" Veronica exclaimed.
Duncan smiled, because the sight of Veronica carrying a miniature version of herself was simply too adorable for him to continue to stonewall. "Well Logan's family is my family. Not to mention the fact that Betty was almost mine."
Veronica stepped closer to Duncan, near enough that Betty was able to hook her feet on the sides of Duncan's hospital bed. "I'll always be your family, Duncan," Veronica offered, "Logan or not." She glanced at Logan quickly, then turned back to her former fiancé. "I haven't talked to Logan about this yet, but I wanted to know if you would be willing to be Betty's godfather."
"So if you and Logan die," Duncan clarified, smirking at a displeased Logan for the first time, "I get Betty."
Veronica nodded. "You don't have to worry about expenses though. I'll personally make sure that Betty has enough to pay her own way whatever happens."
Logan was about to protest at what Veronica was saying, when Duncan chuckled. "I'm not exactly the type of person who needs to worry about college money for my best friends' kid." Veronica beamed.
iLogan sighed. When it came to Duncan, butting heads was not the answer unless you wanted to keep on attack mode. Duncan never attacked first. "Look, Duncan, Veronica and I made a huge mistake that I doubt either of us will regret," he said, remembering the sight of his daughter sucking on her own thumb.
"Hard to regret when you got something so beautiful out of it," Duncan retorted.
"Oh you know Betty?" Logan prompted.
Duncan glared at him. "What are you trying to do?"
"It's just that you haven't exactly paid any attention to her since you found out her paternity," Logan told him. "And I just know if Veronica sees how you treat her daughter, she's going to be shattered. You mean too much to her. Do you even know what Betty looks like?"
"Betty looks like she could've been mine with the number of features she got from you," Duncan pointed out./i
His answer seemed to satisfy Veronica. Her smile said everything she wanted to express. Holding Betty up, she said, "Well Betty's just going to stay up here with Uncle Duncan, who's also her godfather." Veronica placed Betty on the bed to sit beside Duncan. Betty turned back to her mother and reached up her arms in a motion to asking to be carried.
When Logan looked at Veronica, he noticed the strain pulling at her cheeks. Placing Betty on the bed was half for Duncan and also half to relieve the weight from her arm. Logan stepped closer to the bed and patted Betty on the back, unwilling to take Betty from where Veronica had placed her. If she wanted Duncan to be godfather, he would not say no.
"Are you okay?" Logan heard Duncan ask quietly.
Veronica nodded. "It's nothing. You're the one that got shot."
"And you're the one who fell from the second floor."
She grinned. "I don't know if we can actually compare, and I can't believe we've sank to the level when we have to compare injuries."
Comforted by her father's presence, Betty began playing with Duncan's stomach, drumming with tiny fists. Duncan's eyes met Logan's. Finally, Duncan nodded in acknowledgment. "I think you've got a rockstar."
Logan laughed. "Soon she'd be headbanging." And when Betty started to, Logan lifted her up, afraid that she would unknowingly injure Duncan further. "Are you sure you weren't seeing Leo while you were pregnant with Betty?" he jokingly asked Veronica. "Because I was not fond of heavy metal the way Betty seems to be." Logan held Betty up by her armpits, then held her up to face him. "Tchaikovsy," he told her. "Beethoven and Mozart. Princess, there are a lot of classics for you out there."
Duncan started laughing, because Logan sure shuddered at the type of music he was telling his daughter about now. Veronica's hand closed over his, and squeezed. He looked at Veronica. "I want to say thank you, Duncan. You saved my life."
i"I wish we can just move on," Logan said sadly. "If we can't, I hope we can settle the score without involving Veronica and Betty."
Duncan was tired of the anger and the feeling of betrayal. All he knew was that he wanted to end it all, but he was not willing to let Veronica out of his life, even if her staying in it meant hurting every day. He cautioned, "I'll never fully trust you again."
To that, Logan replied calmly, "You never did."
"So that's it?" Duncan prompted. "We used to be friends. Now we won't be able to turn our backs on each other."
"I don't know how you feel about me," Logan told his friend. "Personally, I trust you. You took a bullet to save Veronica. I'll owe you for life."
"So did you."
Logan nodded slowly. "Which means there's something inside both of us inherently the same. I gotta trust in that."/i
She turned around and told Logan, "Can you take Betty outside? I need to talk to Duncan alone."
Logan's first reaction was reluctance, but after a few seconds, he merely nodded and took the baby with him. When the door closed behind him, Veronica opened her mouth. Then, she stopped, and started again.
"You don't need to, Veronica," Duncan said, guessing what she was going to do.
"Hey. I owe you an apology," she began.
"Logan already gave it," he said, willing her to take it.
"Logan's not me," Veronica said. She sat up on the side of his bed and took her hand in his. "If I don't get to say it, I won't ever be happy living with Logan and Betty. I don't want to have everything knowing that I got it at your expense, Duncan."
"It's okay," Duncan mumbled. He reached for the offending tear that hung from her lashes.
"You were wonderful. There was nothing about you that made me want out," she explained. "And I don't want to be unfair to you by leaving that question in your mind." She lifted his hand and kissed his knuckles. "And believe it or not, Duncan, I'm going to love you forever."
He nodded, then chucked her at the chin. "Thank you," he said. "I'll love you forever too." Despite the words, he knew that they were speaking of different things.
She smiled and remembered the great number of dreams she had as a young girl that all grew out of the fantasy of marrying Duncan and being Mrs Kane. She laid down beside him, with his arm as her pillow, as she thought of everything that she wanted and would be leaving behind once she stepped out the door with Logan Echolls. Duncan drew her close and kissed the top of her head, breathing in the scent that he would forever associate with dreams he would later flush down the toilet when she left with his best friend and he heaved dryly all the regret that came from not being able to be her husband, the way they planned the night before their high school graduation.
"It was my mom," he said.
She found it odd for Duncan to mention his mother, when he stopped talking to her after Veronica told him about her encounter with Celeste on graduation day. "What is, Duncan?"
"The pictures came from my mom. I found out one year after you vanished."
iHe closed his eyes and felt the wind blowing through his hair like fingers massaging his head. Over time he had been told that the hurt would heal and he would begin to feel again. Twelve months to the day she left him, Duncan was still an empty shell that he found no willingness to fill.
Cold hands settled on his shoulders, then moved to his back to rub in circular patterns that were meant to comfort but only numbed him even more. "Forget it, Duncan," Celeste urged from behind him. "You deserve a full life. Don't tie yourself down to the memory of a woman who didn't even love you enough to be faithful."
The words took a long time to pierce through the haze of his brain. Slowly, Duncan turned his head and saw his mother smiling down at him. "What did you say?"
"She was never going to be good enough for you," Celeste explained. "I should probably be thankful for whatever happened, because it got you out of a relationship that you shouldn't be trapped in. She cheated on you with Logan Echolls."
"How do you know that?" Duncan demanded.
"Oh sweetie, it's nothing to be ashamed of. You were the victim."
"I repeat, mom, how do you know that?"
Celeste smiled softly and placed a cold kiss on Duncan's eyebrow. "You saw the pictures, honey. You don't have to lie."/i
Veronica swallowed deeply and blinked away the tears. Celeste Kane had done her damage and it was all in the past. She wouldn't be able to hurt her now. "Duncan," she said, "your mom was never going to approve of us, but she was the least of our problems."
"I know what our real problem was," Duncan offered.
Duncan nodded, and although she couldn't see it, she felt his movement. "You were always more in love with someone else."
Veronica's lips curved into a smile, because he sounded so matter-of-fact now about it that she knew Duncan Kane was going to be alright. She sat up and he helped her so that she would not need to put any weight on her injured arm. "We'll see you on Betty's birthday," she said.
Duncan nodded. "She is my goddaughter, after all."
Veronica kissed Duncan on the cheek and again whispered, "Thanks, Duncan." She walked over to the door and pulled it open to see Logan sitting on the bench outside, with Betty on his knees as he jarred her up and down yelling, "Heee yaaaah! Heee yaaah!" Betty laughed the entire time, enjoying the cowboy girl game.
Logan looked up when Veronica closed the door to Duncan's room. "Hey sugarpuss," he greeted. "Ready to plan your wedding?"
Veronica took a deep breath, then knelt in front of Logan and Betty. He looked at her in confusion, but did not tell her to stand up. She cupped his face with one free hand and kissed him on the lips. "Yes," she said simply.
Logan grinned. He turned to Betty and assessed her. "Think she can be a flower girl?" he asked Veronica.
"Yes," Veronica answered.
"Your dad has to walk you down the aisle. We'll be very traditional, okay?"
"Is this forever, Ronnie?"
Veronica stood up and then sat next to him on the bench, then laid her head on his shoulder. Mimicking her mother, Betty laid her head on Logan's other shoulder as well. "Yes!" Betty exclaimed.
Veronica laughed along with Logan, then said, "Definitely."