Title: When I Was A Child (1/4)
Author: Sarah :)
Pairing/Characters: Logan/Veronica, Dick
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Through 2x01, Normal is the Watchword, just to be safe, but nothing specific. This is futurefic!
Word Count: 5086
Summary: Nothing stays the same forever. Logan and Veronica's daughter finds out just how true this is.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Duh.
Thanks: First of all, big thanks to truemyth for somehow helping me set up a WIP, even though I've never, ever even considered writing one, and for all of the hand-holding. It's much appreciated, Grace :). To truemyth and kantayra, for pretty much the best series of AIM chats EVER on brainstorming ideas for poor little innocent Mandy. They were instrumental in developing properly dirty story lines, as I can't even PRETEND to keep up with them :). Also, thank you herowlness and truemyth for betaing this! And listening to me go on and on and on about it ad nauseam. You guys WIN!
Final notes: Written for the loveathons epic challenge. Companion piece to Trial by Furry, so it might help if you read that first :). Part of the Babes In Toyland series.

I spoke as a child.
I Cor. xiii. 11.

"I can't do it, Logan." Veronica draped her coat across the couch. "I'm not going to leave her here with him. That's just...cruel."

"He'll be fine, Veronica."

"I meant to Mandy."

"Veronica," Logan pleaded, exasperated with his wife. "We haven't had a night out together in months. It's our anniversary." He ran his hand down her bare arm, eliciting a shiver from her. "I want tonight to be special," he pleaded, his voice husky.

"I know, Logan." She smiled at him, moving to smooth down the front of his suit, her hands wandering over the planes of his chest. "But even if we stay here with Mandy watching movies and eating pizza, it'd be just as nice. I just want to be with you."

Logan tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear and sighed. "And believe me, there's nothing I'd rather do. It's just - we don't have much time alone together. Without any interr– "

"MOMMY!" A blonde ball of energy hurtled herself at Veronica. "Don't leave! I don't wanna have a babysitter." Mandy's lower lip trembled. "I miss Grandpa."

"Sweetie," Veronica placated her daughter while attempting to pry her hands from the hem of her dress. "Grandpa wanted to be here, but his flight was delayed. He promised to come and see you as soon as he gets back tomorrow." Lifting Mandy up, she turned to Logan. "What about tomorrow night? Dad'll be back, and Mandy can stay the night with him like we planned."

The girl's eyes lit up. "Will he bring presents? I want presents!" Logan and Veronica shared a smile over her head, shaking their heads.

"I'm sure he won't forget his favorite granddaughter. But remember, you – "

"...shouldn't s'pect to get a present every time." A mischievous grin crossed Mandy's face. "But I do. Because I," she pointed to herself, "am his favoritest."

Veronica laughed. "I'm sure that the lesson was in there somewhere. It's settled, then. We'll just postpone until tomorrow."

"But Veronica," Logan pouted. "Our anniversary is today."

She rolled her eyes. "It's a technicality, Logan. Tomorrow's just as good. Besides, if he's coming over to babysit, we're not spending the night anywhere other than right here." She sighed wistfully. "You'll have to cancel the reservations. The new Italian place will still be there tomorrow." Veronica twined her fingers around his, staring at their clasped hands rather than his face. "And I can't imagine that the honeymoon suite at the Sunset Regent will be booked. We'll just wait."

Mandy smiled brightly. "I wanna eat 'talian food! It's the yummiest! Mommy, you and Daddy could share pasghetti! The doggies did that in Lady and the Tramp, and it was silly."

"See?" Veronica winked at him. "If we postpone for a day, not only do you get all the spaghetti you can eat, but we can traumatize all the restaurant patrons with our Disney impression."

Logan's eyes darkened. "You're saying if we go out tomorrow, your Dad is definitely taking her for the night?"


"And if we go out tonight, we're definitely coming back here?"


"What about Wallace?"

"He already has his hands full with the twins."


"In Seattle for the week."

"Is there anyone from work you can ask to come over?"

"I work with you, Logan."

"What about Cliff? Amanda's still talking about how much fun she had when he watched her...and I'm getting sick of playing court because 'it's not the way Uncle Cliff plays it.'"

Veronica laughed. "He wouldn't say why, but I think she scared him off. He told me that he had to wash his hair."

"Why don't we know more people?"

"Because you're strange and off-putting?"

Logan snorted and shook his head. "Fine. We'll celebrate properly tomorrow. But I'm still taking you out to dinner now." He wrapped his arms around Veronica's waist and pulled her closer, effectively trapping their daughter between them. "You deserve something for putting up with me all of these years."

Mandy clapped. "More presents! You should get Mommy a po – "

"No." Logan scowled. "You're not going to make me feel guilty about that one again, honey. Besides, we got you a pony. Or...close enough. Why don't you go get her?"

The girl nodded excitedly and wriggled out of Veronica's arms, running as fast as she could to retrieve something from her bedroom.

"Wow. Seven years." Veronica rested her head on his shoulder. "Has it really been that long?"

"Longer," he breathed, leaning down to kiss her. "If you add in all the time we dated. After you subtract the break-ups."

"Mmm. Right." She turned around in his arms as her head lolled back. Her hands began inching towards his belt, ignoring Logan's sharp intake of breath. "And here we are, with successful careers, and a beautiful little girl, and..."

"And we're happy." Logan's fingers ghosted down the side of her face as he began placing small kisses along the length of her exposed collarbone. "I never thought that I could have this. I don't deserve to be this lucky, Veronica. I mean, I'm running with it, but…every single morning when I wake up with you, I think that there's no way that I can be any happier. Then every single day, you and Mandy go and prove me wrong."

Her light laughter belaying the emotion in her eyes, Veronica cupped his face in her hands and shook her head. "I love you, Logan. And I know I'm not the easiest person in the world to get along with. But you do, every day, and I never thought..." She shook her head in disbelief. "After we broke up the first time, I was convinced we were a train wreck waiting to happen. Now...God, you don't know how glad I am that I was wrong."

Logan quirked an eyebrow, amusement twinkling in his eyes. "I'm going to remember this the next time we fight."

Veronica snorted and punched him lightly on the arm. "It won't help, because I'll be right."

He sighed. "Somehow, I believe that." The two of them shared a tender kiss, which was quickly interrupted by the sound of pounding footsteps and an impatient cough.

"Look!" Mandy held up her prize proudly, displaying the white stuffed unicorn for her parents to see.

"She's beautiful, honey. Are you two going to have fun tonight?"

Mandy nodded enthusiastically. "But not as much fun as you. Why can't I go?" Tears pooled in her brown eyes. "Don't you love me any more? I'll be really, really good. And quiet! I just wanna eat a meatball like the doggies did."

"Amanda," Logan and Veronica started at the same time. "You know we love you more than anything," Veronica continued, placing a hand on top of her daughter's head. "Sometimes, though, Mommies and Daddies need to...talk about things. Just the two of them."

"Oh." Mandy's lip trembled. "Like you do at night really loud when I'm 'posed to be sleeping? 'Cause it's grown-up stuff I'm not 'posed to hear?"

Veronica blanched. "Something like that. I know," she replied brightly, changing the subject. "Why don't you go and put your jammies on? You can wear them early tonight."

"Really?" Amanda squealed excitedly. "Yay!" As she ran off, Veronica turned to Logan, who barely suppressed a grin.

"Not. A. Word."

Holding his hands up to proclaim his innocence, Logan leaned in and placed a kiss on her forehead. Grasping Veronica's shoulders, Logan nudged her backwards until he had her pinned against the wall. With a wicked smile, he dropped to his knees, and Veronica's hands clutched his hair tightly. Logan had her panties halfway down her legs when someone knocked on the door.



Mandy, now wearing pajamas and dragging her stuffed unicorn behind her, bounded into the room. "All done, Mommy!"

Dick smiled at the sight of the little girl's pajamas, which were pink with tiny unicorns dotting the fabric, all the way down to the feet. "Sexy PJ's, mini-Ronnie."

She grinned. "They're my favorite. And – "

"Dick! She's five years old!" Veronica advanced towards him, held back by only Logan's arm around her waist.

Logan frowned at his friend. "Seriously, Dick. Are you sure you're cut out for this? Because we can postpone..."

"No, no," Dick waved him off. "It's fine. You two go out and party the night away. Mandy and I will make our own fun."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Veronica muttered under her breath.

Logan, from his position behind Veronica, tightened his embrace and rested his chin on the top of her head.

"Maybe you were right," he whispered in Veronica's ear. She bent her head back to look up at him, rolling her eyes.

"Told you I would be."

Faces falling, they turned towards the living room...to find Dick and Mandy engaged in a heated game of Connect Four. Their daughter's laughter carried throughout the room and into the front hallway.

"Should we tell him to go home?" Logan's brow creased. "Because..."

"No," Veronica answered firmly. "If we keep doing this, we'll never go anywhere. Dick?"

He turned away from the game. "Yeah?"

"You have both of our cell phone numbers. If you can't reach us on those, the number for the restaurant is on the fridge."

"I know."

"Make sure you call us if you need anything."

"And," Logan broke in, "Amanda's getting over a cold. If she starts coughing, give her some – "

"Cough medicine. Got it, dude."

"Make sure it's – "

"The purple kind, because she hates the cherry stuff."

Logan frowned. "Right. And it's – "

"In the medicine cabinet, top shelf. Near the Band-Aids. I've got it under control, guys. Get out of here, okay?"

Veronica finally smiled, her worry dissipating.

"If she gets hungry, she can have a snack before bedtime. And... thanks again, Dick."

"No prob, Ron."

"Be good."

"I will!" Mandy scrambled off of the floor and bounced up and down in front of Veronica.

"I was talking to Dick, sweetie."

Logan snickered as Veronica leaned down to kiss Mandy good-bye. Logan followed suit.

"Bye, guys." Logan waved as he opened the door for Veronica.

"Logan? Veronica?" Dick called after them. "Happy anniversary."


"Can we play now, Mr. Casablancas?"

"Mandy." Dick looked at her sternly. "What did I tell you about calling me that?"

"It makes you feel old?" She looked at Dick, confused.

"Right. So just call me Dick, okay?"

"'Kay, Mr. Dick!"

"Just Dick, Mandy."

"Dick!" Mandy paused for a moment, a question on her tongue, before she shrugged it off and giggled. "Let's go play!" She picked her unicorn up off of the floor. "Come on!"

Dick shook his head at the girl's enthusiasm and took a sip from his can of soda. "And I thought Tina had a one-track mind." His eyes passed over the girl. "Hey. That's a sweet unicorn you've got there."

"She's Horny," Mandy informed him seriously.

Dick spit out his soda.

"Ewww!" She shrieked and scrambled off of the couch. "You hafta clean that up, or I'm telling!"

"No, I will." Dick grabbed a few napkins and wiped up the scattered droplets. "But...what did you just say? About your unicorn? Because it sounded like you just said she was – "

"Horny!" Mandy crowed gleefully, clutching the animal tightly to her chest. "And she's the bestest unicorn ever. Everyone else wants to be Horny when we play, but I don't let them. I'm always Horny. Being Horny is the most fun ever!" She jumped up and down in place a few times. "One time, Mommy said that to Daddy, and they started kissing lots, but then they stopped, and I went in and told her that she has to ask if she wants to be Horny, 'cause Horny is mine. She spit soda out just like you!"

"Right. Sooo..." Unadulterated amusement was plastered on Dick's face. "You named your unicorn Horny. Gotcha. And your parents let you?"

Mandy frowned. "They wanted me to name her something boring, but I said she had to be Horny. 'Cause she has a horn! That's why she's a unicorn and not a pony! I learned that from Mommy."

"Makes sense to me." Dick finished wiping up the table and turned back to the five-year old. "Want to play a game or something? I'll even let you win."

She shook her head. "I don't wanna play a game."

"Okay. What do you want to play?"

Mandy exited the room and returned a few moments later with a plastic case. "Toys!" As she set the bin down, Dick began rifling through its contents.

"Dude. Ninja Turtles. An excellent choice, if I do say so myself. What do you say we get that snack, and then we'll get our turtle on?"

"Yay!" Mandy clapped happily. "You're just as fun as Uncle Cliff, Dick."

Dick smiled and ushered the girl into the kitchen. "Let's see what you have to eat around this place."


Barely able to juggle the bottles, Amanda pulled away from the fridge triumphantly. "I have my snack!"

Dick relieved her of the items and set them down on the counter. "Whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Sundaes. Good call." He opened the freezer and began to peruse its contents. "What kind of ice cream do you want?"

"Ice cream?" She frowned. "I don't want any ice cream. I want this." She pointed to the toppings on the counter."

"Yeah, but Mandy, come on. You totally need ice cream to make it count as dessert."




"Yuh – this is stupid." Dick scowled, looking down at her. "I'm like, your superior or whatever. You have to listen to me, because I'm always right, and you're not."

Mandy shook her head disapprovingly. "Whipped cream and chocolate are too dessert."

"Who taught you that?" Dick asked, pulling a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer.

"Mommy and Daddy! And they know everything. Duh."

"They eat whipped cream? Without ice cream? I know your parents, and, yeah, your mom's a little freaky, but..."

Mandy nodded vigorously. "On Mommy's birthday, Daddy said she could have whatever she wanted in the whole wide world for dessert. I played with my dollies and got tucked in and was 'posed to be in bed, but Horny needed a drink, so I went to find Daddy, 'cause he always gets her water and sings her a goodnight song." Dick snorted, but she continued. "In the kitchen, I saw Mommy get the whipped cream and chocolate from the 'frigerator, and she told Daddy that that was her most favoritest dessert ever, and she had a big ap'tite. And then they went upstairs, but they forgot a bowl, so I went up to tell them not to spill, 'cause I get in trouble when I eat in bed. The door was closed and Mommy was yelling and it was really loud and I think they were jumping on the bed, 'cause it was all squeaky."

Dick chuckled, but stopped when Mandy stuck her tongue out at him. "And?"

"I was gonna make them stop, because Daddy always tells me I could get hurt if I jump on my bed, but it was Mommy's birthday, so I think that's why Daddy let her. And then I heard Daddy say that his dessert tasted good, and Mommy said she wanted some, cause it was her birthday present, which wasn't true, 'cause I drew her a picture of a purple el'phant with a flower behind its ear, and it was pretty, and she put it on the 'frigerator, and then Daddy started yelling lots, but I was sleepy, so I took Horny back to bed, even though she was thirsty." She tilted her head to the side. "I was right, and they made a mess, 'cause in the morning, Daddy said that Mommy should frame the covers, and I saw, and there was chocolate all over, and I asked him if it was yummy, and he said it was the bestest dessert ever. Then he kissed Mommy and it was icky." The little girl exhaled deeply after telling her story, looking up at Dick with wide eyes. "If Mommy and Daddy eat it without ice cream, I want it without ice cream."

Dick let out a low whistle. "Whoa. That's kinky shit."

"You said a bad word!" Mandy's jaw dropped. "I'm telling! Swearing is bad!"

"Shit. I forgot you're like, five."

"You did it again!" She started to sniffle, tears gathering in her eyes. "You're bad! Go away! I want Mommy and Daddy!"

"No, no." Dick pleaded, trying to calm her. "Don't cry. I didn't mean to say it. It just kind of...slips out sometimes. I don't have the ol' ball and chain around any more to tell me not to."

"What's a ball and chain?" Mandy looked at Dick warily.

He snorted. "My wife. When I had one."

"Tina's mommy?"

"Susan. Yeah, that'd be her."

"Why's she a ball and chain? I like balls. Mommy does too, cause she said so to Daddy once, and he coughed and said they had to go do work. Then they worked for the rest of the day! Baseballs are my favorite, and Grandpa and I play together lots, and it's fun."

Dick sighed. "Wait'll you learn some more about life, kiddo. She dragged me down. I got married, and all of a sudden, I couldn't do anything I wanted to do anymore. It was all 'No, Dick, your Superbowl party will wake the baby,' and 'You can't go out because I have a meeting, and the laundry needs to be done' and all that. Like, being married totally cramped my sweet bachelor style. You follow?"

Mandy nodded and patted Dick's hand comfortingly. "Does it make you sad when Tina's with her Mommy, and you can't see her?"

Dick thought for a long moment, staring intently at the five-year old. "Yeah," he said finally. "It does. I mean, I may not be the best father in the world, but she's my daughter, and I love her, you know? Every other weekend is a long time to wait. You've got a good thing going on, kid. Your parents are two of the best."

She smiled. "I know. I love them this much," she proclaimed, extending her arms as far apart as she could. "I would love them more, but my arms are short. Daddy said that that's Mommy's fault, 'cause she's little, and if I'm short I can blame her. Then Mommy said that Daddy should shut up, because she would cut him off if he made any more short jokes. I think she was kidding, though, 'cause cutting people is bad, and Mommy's not bad. I would be sad if she cut Daddy off!" A horrified expression crossed her face.

"Yeah, well, I'm pretty sure your dad would be even more sad. Trust me on this one."

She shrugged. "Okay! Except I don't know if I should trust you, 'cause you still said bad words, and Mommy and Daddy will be mad. I'm not 'posed to hear them, even though I heard them on a movie once, and sometimes at night, Mommy and Daddy say them really loud when I'm 'posed to be in bed. Why do they do that?"

Dick sighed. "You'd better ask them about that. And what'll it take to get you to not tell them? Money?"

"Money?" Mandy scrunched her face up her face in disgust. "Ewww. Money doesn't taste good. And Mommy and Daddy yell at me when I eat it."

Dick shot her an approving glance. "You're pretty bad ass, kid. So if you don't want money, what do you want?"

Totally disregarding his word choice, Mandy's eyes lit up. "Candy!" She shrieked, clapping her hands together. "Lots and lots of candy!"

"Candy. I can do candy." Dick nodded. "Sweet choice. I don't have any candy here with me, though. You take a rain check?"

"I like it when it rains, but I'm not 'lowed to splash in puddles, 'cause then my feet get wet, and Daddy says I can get sick."

He snorted. "Dude. Logan's such a pussy."

"Mommy has one of those!" Mandy cried excitedly. "I heard Daddy talk about it. But I think it must have run away, 'cause we don't have a kitty." She frowned. "I like kitties. Do you like kitties, Dick?"

Dick ran a hand down over his face. "You don't even know what you're setting me up for, kid. But I'll bring you some candy next time I come over. Deal?"

"But I want it now!"

"I don't have any now!"

"Duh!" She pointed to the cupboards over the sink. "The candy's in there. Mommy and Daddy put it there so I can't get it." Her face fell. "That's mean, 'cause I like candy lots."

"See, now we're in business. This? I can do." Dick clapped a hand on her shoulder before stepping across the kitchen. True to Mandy's word, he pulled out a large bowl filled with candy. "What are you in the mood for?"

"EVERYTHING!" Mandy jumped up and intercepted the bowl, running into the living room with her catch. When Dick walked in moments later, there were candy wrappers strewn all around, and her face was smeared with chocolate.

"Your parents are going to kill me, aren't they?"

Knocking back three Pixie Sticks at once, Mandy zipped around the room a few times. Dick could only stare in dismay as the sugar seemed to take effect before his very eyes.

"Candycandycandycandycandy!" She giggled. "You're my favoritest babysitter, Dick!"

"Yeah. Like, what, that lawyer guy is my biggest competition?"

Bouncing up and down, and almost literally off of the walls, Mandy stopped herself in front of Dick. "Toys!"

Glancing at his watch, Dick sighed. "You should be in bed now, but I'm pretty sure that's not happening. So..." Mandy held her breath, her hands resting over her mouth in nervous anticipation. "...you can stay up."

"Yay!" The little girl cheered. "This is the bestest day ever!"

"But first you have to brush your teeth."

She pouted. "Why? That's stupid. Toothpaste tastes yucky."

"Because your parents are already going to grill me for getting you all sugared up and hyper. I'm not going to let them blame me for giving you cavities, too. Upstairs." He ushered the pouting figure towards the stairs, shaking his head in amusement.


Setting up the last of the toys, Dick turned to Mandy. "Ready?"

She nodded excitedly. "This is going to be the funnest game ever, Dick!"

Selecting a Ninja Turtle from the lineup of toys, Dick thrust the little plastic fist forward and motioned for Mandy to do the same. The two bumped the fists of their turtles very seriously. Dick grunted his approval. "Turtle power!"

"Turtle power!" Mandy echoed, smiling happily.


Two hours later, the living room looked like a hurricane had swept through it. Dolls and action figures littered every available surface. Mandy, much more subdued than she was earlier, lightly pelted Dick with a Barbie doll.

"I win!"

"You can't win, Mandy," he replied, glaring. "Ridding the world of evil is its own reward. And, really – "

The sound of a door slamming cut him off mid-sentence.

"Jesus Christ, Veronica," Logan gasped as the two tumbled into the living room. He was carrying her awkwardly, her legs wrapped around his waist, and one of her hands was down the front of his slacks.

"Mmm, Mr. Echolls, how exactly did you learn how to do that?" Veronica breathed, as his tongue worked his way down her neck to the spot that drove her wild, and she groaned in ecstasy.

"Lots and lots of practice. God, I'm horny."

A small voice brought them back to their surroundings.

"No, Daddy, you can't be Horny. She's mine, and you have to ask if you want to play with my unicorn!" Mandy shifted in her spot on the floor, staring wide-eyed at her parents.

Veronica withdrew her hand immediately, and Logan pulled the bottom of her dress back down the best he could with his hands full of his wife.

"Mandy?" he asked, his voice choked. "What are you still doing up?" Looking over to Dick, he glared. "You should have been in bed hours ago, sweetie."

"Dick said we could play!" Mandy held up her doll as an example. "Daddy, you should go to bed if you're tired."

Logan looked bewildered. Veronica hid her head in his chest. "What?"

"Mommy always takes my clothes off and helps me put my jammies on when I'm sleepy. Isn't that what she's doing?" Mandy looked at Logan's unbuttoned dress shirt, and her eyes traveled to where his tie rested on the floor. "That's 'posed to go in the laundry basket, Daddy. Duh."

Groaning, Veronica closed her eyes and removed her legs from Logan's waist. He set her down gently, and the two of them stared at each other heatedly. Sensing their desperation, Dick jumped up.

"Hey, yeah. You two must be exhausted. Mandy and I were just cleaning up down here...it took longer than we thought. I'll tuck her in. You guys go on and...get ready for...bed. And sleeping. Which is what you'll totally do in bed." He winked at the pair.

Veronica and Logan took in the multitude of toys around the room, and the shining smile on their daughter's face. Shaking her head, unable to rouse any anger, Veronica spoke. "Is that okay, honey? Daddy and I will come in to see you in a little while, all right?"

"'Kay!" Mandy answered, gathering an armful of toys and dumping it into her toy bin.

Looking upwards in relief, Logan picked up Veronica and threw her over his shoulder, shooting off a quick "night," to Dick and Mandy. Veronica squealed, and Logan moved to the stairs, taking them two at a time until the jarring sound of their bedroom door being closed broke the silence.

Dick laughed loudly.

"Is the house on fire?" Mandy asked, her voice trembling.

"What? No. Of course it isn't. Why would you even ask that?" Dick looked at the little girl. "Thinking of playing pyro tonight? Have you been watching X-Men lately?"

Tears gathered in Mandy's worried brown eyes. "Daddy was carrying Mommy over his shoulder. Last time he did that and I asked what he was doing, he said it was a...a..." She screwed up her face in thought. "A fireman's carry. And that he had to put out a really big fire. And then Mommy laughed and they went up stairs and made funny noises. But Daddy stopped the fire, 'cause we were all okay. Is he gonna stop it now?" She looked up at Dick imploringly. "I don't want Mommy and Daddy to get hurt!" Her hands balled up as she wiped away tears.

"Hey, come on." In a surprising show of tenderness, Dick scooped the five year old into his arms and brushed her hair out of her face. "Don't cry. I'm pretty sure your dad was speaking metaphorically, or whatever. The only fire that's getting hosed tonight is in your mom's –"

"YES, Logan! Harder!" Veronica's wails wafted down the stairs. Dick perked up. "See? Nothing to worry about. Logan's got everything under control." He paused for a moment, nodding approvingly at the muted noises he could hear coming from upstairs, letting out a low whistle. "So you're saying that your parents are always like this? Damn."

"Like what?" Mandy burrowed her head into Dick's shoulder and yawned, her sugar high finally exhausted, too tired to notice that she could probably weasel more candy out of him.

"Humping like bunnies? Doing the horizontal mambo? Getting jiggy with it?"

"I like bunnies," Mandy murmured sleepily, clutching her toy unicorn tightly.

Dick sighed. Any exposition on Logan and Veronica's sex life would have to wait until their daughter was more alert. Damn it.

"Bunnies are pretty cool. What do you say we get you into bed? I'll tuck you in, and your mom and dad said they'd be in to kiss you goodnight once they're...dressed...for bed."

" 'Kay."

Planting a light kiss on her forehead, Dick started towards the stairs, careful not to jostle the almost-sleeping child.


The following weeks passed by in a blur, and before anyone realized, it was time for another momentous event in the Echolls' household.

Mandy's sixth birthday party.

Logan and Mandy sat in the living room, a pile of pink invitations resting on the (new) coffee table in front of them.

"Daddy, write faster! I wanna help!" Mandy stood on the couch and peered over his shoulder, examining his work. "Your hearts look all funny," she scolded.

He sighed and lifted the invitation, turning it slightly. "See, if you look at it that way, the heart is straight."

"Daddy! They have to be perfect. I'm gonna be six." She proudly held up six fingers directly in front of his face.

Logan squinted at her. "I have an idea. Why don't you draw the hearts?"

Mandy shook her head and held up a sheet of stickers. "I hafta put the stickers on! And draw the smiley faces!" She waved a completed invitation in his face, and he couldn't help but smile at the childish pencil scrawls that adorned the envelope. "And lick them!" She stuck out her tongue to illustrate her point. "'Sides," she continued. "My hearts look funny, too."

"Hmm. Maybe it's genetic," Logan pondered. "I guess you take after me, kid."

"Mommy!" Mandy squealed. "Where's Mommy? She makes hearts the prettiest."

Logan pulled his daughter into his lap as she began dancing across the couch. "She had to take an important phone call, but she should be done by now. Veronica?" His shout rang through the house. "You've been summoned for invitation duty. I think I'm being replaced."

He frowned when there was no response. Settling Mandy in on the couch, Logan stood up just as Veronica entered the living room. She looked absolutely shaken. Tears welled in her eyes, and Logan watched as she raised a trembling hand to her forehead. He was at her side in an instant, wrapping his arms around her waist, clutching her as if his life depended on it.

"Veronica? What is it? What's wrong?" He couldn't keep the fear out of his voice as looked down at his still-as-of-yet unresponsive wife. Taking a deep breath, she glanced up at him with watery eyes.

"Logan. We have to talk. Now."