Veronica looked around the doctor's office, scanning the room for any changes since she had been there. One good way she learned to protect herself was to always remember details—furniture, appliance, even picture frames that were added to the office since her last visit upon confirming her pregnancy could translate to someone spying on her. To her relief, the doctor's office was the same boring pastel that it had been when she was there last. She glanced at the man sitting beside her, drowned in the newspaper that he had been reading most likely for the comics rather than for international affairs, if the soft chuckles coming for him were any indication.
The newspaper lowered and an eyebrow cocked at her. "Yes ma'am."
She gave him a tight smile. "You know you don't have to stay."
Logan shrugged. "Our valedictorian once told me that the hero is the one that stays. She was a very wise, if irritating, girl. I don't to be the hero very often."
"Hmmm. That sounds familiar. But I can see you're uncomfortable with the whole thing."
Logan's eyes fell on her jittery leg. "Are you sure you're not staring at your own nervous reflection? I'm as cool as can be." He patted her leg. "Relax, Veronica. I'm sure the doctor is a kind lady who won't steal the baby from your uterus this early in your pregnancy. Now on the eighth month, we'll probably need a weapon or two."
The lighthearted banter drew a smile from her. She nodded, telling him she had gotten his point to lighten up. When she opened her mouth, he shook her head.
"No need to tell me. I already know I'm a godsend."
"Veronica Mars." The two looked up at the sound of her name being called by the nurse receptionist. "The doctor will see you now."
They looked at each other and stood up at the same time. Logan gestured to the seat in a silent question of whether she would prefer him to stay behind. Veronica looked at the couple exiting the doctor's office. Apparently, parents do this together. Before she could decide, the nurse said, "It's alright, sir. You can come in with your wife."
Veronica sighed and took Logan's hand as the two of them entered the doctor's office. He leaned down and whispered into her ear, "I notice the lack of correction there."
"I'm not going to inform the room that I am having an illegitimate child," she answered in a stage whisper. "Now shush!"
Logan was relegated to sit in silence as the doctor, who introduced herself as Dr Stevens, asked Veronica general questions about any discomforts she felt. Logan filed away the information as she gave it—nausea, fluctuating appetite, flatulence, dizzy spells. The doctor led Veronica to an examination table where Veronica was asked to place her feet in stirrups.
"You know I saw something like this once," Logan commented.
"Are you sure you weren't ion/i something like this?" Veronica parried.
"Oh why must you hurt me, dear wife?"
Veronica chuckled while the doctor applied the cold gel on her still flat abdomen.
"Okay Veronica, this will feel really cold. We just want to listen in and see what kind of music your baby's playing in there."
As if on cue, the banter stopped. Even their breaths became quieter than still air. And then there it was. A small, steady, fast pumping. It was the baby's heartbeat, and Veronica counted the seconds before Logan would comment on how the baby's probably run a marathon in there, or how the kid was so nervous because it was going to be Veronica's, or some half-assed joke on how the baby scored E, so fast was the heartbeat. Instead, there was no comment.
Veronica hiked herself up to a sitting position to look at Logan. The doctor followed her line of vision and squeezed her hand.
Logan sat on the chair, his hands clasped together under his chin, his eyes closed, seeming to concentrate on the sound. He listened for what seemed like endless minutes. When he was satisfied, he opened his eyes and met hers. Veronica was swept away at the intense gaze he gave her.
Veronica started to scoot to the edge of the table. As the bed wobbled, Logan snapped out of his trance. He stood up and helped her off the bed. As he helped her down, he wonderingly brushed her palm against the yet unnoticeable swell of her abdomen. She smiled and mumbled her thanks and drew the curtains between them so she could put her underwear back on. "Logan," she said from behind the curtain, "I'll see you outside. I'm just going to talk to the doc."
"Okay." He glanced at the doctor, then back down at Veronica, his eyes tender. "I'll be right outside if you need me."
"Logan," she whispered, "it's okay." Veronica squeezed his hand.
"First child right?" Dr Stevens piped in. The tenderness fled form his gaze as his attention turned to the doctor. "Mr…" She looked at the chart in her hand. "Echolls, I completely understand that you want to be there every step of the way. I assure you that Veronica is in caring and well-trained hands."
"She's in expensive hands, so I trust that those are well-trained hands."
Veronica rolled her eyes. "He's trying to rile you," she told the doctor.
Dr Stevens let out a short laugh. "I'm familiar with this type I assure you."
"Go on, Logan," Veronica urged. "I'll be out in ten minutes."
Logan nodded and exited the room to collect himself. Once the door closed behind him, Veronica smiled at the doctor and sat down in front of her desk. "I make no apologies for him. Someone else should be exposed to his being so anal about this."
"Most first time dads are like that. So Veronica, what are your questions?"
"Well I already have a list of the vitamins I need." Veronica inserted her hand in her pocket and frowned.
"Or rather Mr Echolls found some way to get it from your pocket and is probably purchasing them from the Pharmacy. But that would mean leaving you here."
Veronica shook her head. "He's probably got it, but he's lurking outside. When he's sure I'm home, he'll go off and buy them." She sighed. "As you can see, I'm good with the vitamins. Logan's not the type who will let me forget to take them. I'm also pretty sure we'll never miss our check ups because if I don't set them up, he will. I have one last question."
Dr Stevens laid her hand on top of Veronica's. "You want to know when you're going to show."
Veronica opened her mouth, then closed it. She swallowed. "How…"
"I may have an MD, a PHD and done my fellowships and residency in the best hospitals in the country, Ms Mars, but I pass by newsstands too. I read the tabloids. This is probably something that you need time for."
"Well, seeing as you're familiar with my complicated situation, I'd need to know when I'm going to start showing. I need to put off having the public know for as long as I can."
"Veronica, I hope you're not suggesting in any way that we withhold some of the nutrition that will allow your baby to grow normally," Dr Stevens said slowly.
"Nothing like that!" Veronica exclaimed. "I don't have a deathwish. I just want to have a timeline of when I absolutely have to tell Connor."
"It depends on the type of intimacy you have, Veronica. I'm sure Mr Larkin's already noticed some changes in your body when you're in bed together. How did you explain the breasts?"
How did you explain to the doctor that you've not had any from your supposed fiancé? "I told him they're tender and swelling because I had my period." The doctor nodded. Damn, Veronica, you are a good liar, she thought to herself. Undercover investigation sure honed her acting chops.
"In a month's time I doubt you can explain it all away with something so simple unless Connor Larkin's all brawn and no brain."
"He's definitely not that."
"Veronica," Dr Stevens advised, "if you've fallen out of love it's time to cut it before he gets so invested in you that it's going to hurt even more."
Veronica nodded and stood up, shaking the doctor's hand. "Thank you, Dr Stevens. I trust in your discretion."
"Patient-doctor confidentiality is part of who we are," Dr Stevens assured her. Veronica opened the door. "The way I see it is you have a fantastic thing going. Logan Echolls may not be in the same league as Connor Larkin, but he seems to really care about you and your baby."
Veronica saw Logan slouched on one of the waiting room chairs. When he saw her, he straightened up and held up a brown bag. He grinned. "I had one of nurses get all of the vitamins the doctor prescribed. We're good to go."
Veronica grinned back. Logan certainly wasn't in the same league as Connor. These days he seemed to be somewhere close to ideal. She only wished she could count on his stability, and not be tossing and turning that today was going to be the day he would find his life would be so much better with the bottle. "Great," she responded, her emotion making her throat raspy.
He stood up and placed his hand at the small of her back. "We can grab something to eat then I'll drop you off at home."
"Can you drop me off at the wedding coordinator's instead?"
Logan stopped and looked down at her. "You're going to the wine tasting? Didn't you just talk to your doctor? It's already got alcoholic genes, thanks to me."
"Logan, my mother was an alcoholic, remember? I'm not about to go repeating the same mistakes."
"Mine was too, and I did," he replied.
"Logan—" she started. Her breath caught at the look in his eyes. "I promise." Veronica laid her palm on his chest. She held out her pinky finger.
i"Double extra promise," she said sweetly with a saccharine smile. "I'll be so careful. I'll be back before you even know it."
"Veronica, I don't want you to leave the house. I thought we've been over this. You told me you'd stop."
"It's a routine surveillance. I'll drive by, take my money shot, then leave."
"At least wait for me, okay? I'll go with you," he told her.
"Too late. Oh they're here," she whispered into the phone.
"You're already there?" he demanded. "Veronica, turn around now."
"Logan, I'm going to be fine. Be a good boy and have some wanton delivered. We'll have a nice dinner later while watching the Daily Show."
"Wait. I need both hands. I'll be right back." She placed the phone on the passenger seat and grabbed her camera.
On the other end of the line, Logan heard a series of clicking as Veronica took the pictures she had come for. And then there was silence.
Four terrible gunshots that still resounded in his brain during the warmest nights.
"Logan," she whispered into the phone. "Say I told you so."
"What?" he breathed out.
"Say I told you so so we can get it over with," she whispered. "And then get help."/i
Logan stopped the car in front of the wedding coordinator. Veronica smiled, satisfied. She was about to open the door when he grabbed her arm. She turned to him.
"Do you remember the last time you promised me you'd be careful?"
"I don't want this to end up like that."
iLogan sat on her bedside, gripping her hand so tightly he was afraid that he was stemming the flow of blood. Her face was pale and he was so afraid that she looked too much the way his mom did in the nightmares he had of retrieving Lynn's body from the river.
She turned her head towards him and smiled. "Did they get it out?"
Logan nodded. "Are you afraid of death?"
"Everybody dies, Logan. But I'm fine. I'm gonna be fine."
"I'm so afraid of you."
"For. Wrong preposition."
"Of, Ronnie. I'm afraid of you. I'm afraid of all the things you want to do. I'm afraid that you never listen to me when you think there's something juicy out there and you can't help yourself from wanting to find out. I'm afraid of you and the fact that you're going to do something that's going to take you away from me and I can't do anything about it. I'm afraid of you, Ronnie."
The words weighed heavily in her heart. Between the two of them, he had always been the one who could express himself without restraints. With false lightness, she reminded him, "You haven't said I told you so yet."
"I'm tired, Veronica." Logan laid his head down on the bed.
"Come up here," she requested.
Dutifully, Logan climbed beside her on the bed and wrapped his arm around her waist. He laid his head on her chest and listened to the steady beat of her heart. Veronica ran her fingers through his hair. She placed a kiss on the top of his head and whispered, "Sorry."
His embrace around her tightened./i
Veronica strode into the shop and saw Connor sitting on one of the couches, being attended to by about three of the agents. When he saw her, he waved her over. Veronica sat down beside Connor and placed her bag between them. She looked up at the agents. "Can we look at these albums in private?"
The manager showed them to one of the more private areas and laid out four theme albums between them. He gestured over to the phone. "Just dial 0 or our receptionist and she'll get us if you need to speak with one of us."
The door closed and Veronica took another folder from her bag. She opened the folder to a printed out list of numbers and addresses. She pointed to the fourth entry. "This is a list of calls that Leila received on the week before she was killed. This particular number kept on popping up, but it doesn't seem to be any of the number of lines registered to the Larkin family and staff members. Did Leila say anything to you about a stalker?"
"No. Of course I was the last person Leila would confide in about that."
Veronica nodded. "Well I'm tracing the owner and I will get back to that lead as soon as I can."
"Good. At least we have something. For the life of me I still can't figure out why my blackmailer would kill my cousin."
"I know. We'll find the connection." She looked up at the concerned face of her client. "Connor, I know you're worried. And I know this investigation is going too slow. I've come to the conclusion that maybe I'm not giving you my undivided attention. I don't want to shortchange you."
Connor laid back in his chair. "Would this have something to do with Logan Echolls' suddenly reappearing in your life, out of nowhere?"
He held up his hands. "I know. Your private life is yours. I wasn't even going to comment on the fact that my fiancé was dropped off by an ex-boyfriend to her own wedding coordinator's office. You, on the other hand, seem to want to discuss it."
She shook her head. "Connor, my father has a fantastic firm that can handle this case with more resources than I can."
He shook his head. "You and Leila have gotten close over the years. I want you to handle it because I know you won't rest until her murderers have been found."
"Don't you think that means I have blinders on? Being close to Leila I mean."
"You solved the Lilly Kane murder." Connor took her hand. "I want you in this case, Veronica. Leila wants you on this case."
She smiled her discomfort and looked up at the brief knock. The door opened to reveal the coordinator. When the coordinator saw them holding hands, she flushed with pleasure. "I'm so sorry to interrupt."
"It's fine." Veronica pulled her hand out from under Connor's.
"Mr Larkin, the wine's ready."
Connor offered his hand to help her up. Veronica shook her head. "Go ahead. You can choose the wine. I'll just go look at the sample clothes they have out front."
With a look of puzzlement, Connor left with the coordinator. Once he had made his selection, he turned and saw Veronica through the class walls, running her fingers through the silk and satin used for the display christening clothes. Her hand involuntarily touching her stomach.
The coordinator saw the direction of Connor's gaze. "Oh! Mr Larkin, I had no idea. No wonder she didn't want to choose wine with you. Are you two expecting? We should make some changes to the wedding gown design."
Connor flashed a photo worthy smile at the coordinator. "You know I have no idea either. I think my fiancé has a very pleasant surprise for me."
"Well, I'm so happy for you!"