Title: Catalysts for Change

Author: chichuri

Pairing/Character: Veronica, Logan/Veronica, Logan

Word Count: 3200

Rating: R for mild language

Summary: Veronica and Logan chat about his English essay

Spoilers: through 3.4

Disclaimer: Characters not mine, of course.

Catalysts for Change

Veronica hummed under her breath as she strode from the elevator, happily anticipating a homemade dinner and quality time with her boyfriend. She steadied the heavy bag of groceries against her hip with one hand while she fumbled in her pocket for the keycard. Once it was freed, she unlocked the door and pushed her way into the suite. Logan sat where she had left him, lounging on the couch working on his English assignment. He glanced up at her entrance and gave her a small smile, then returned his attention to the notebook precariously balanced on his lap. She shifted the bag of groceries off her hip and into her arms, pausing to admire his lean form. The dark colors of his clothes and hair and the tan of his skin contrasted against the white leather of the couch on which he casually sprawled, while the soft glow of lamps placed more for mood than light brushed his skin with gold. She shook her head in admiration as she continued on to the kitchenette.

"Still working?" Veronica asked as she put the makings of lasagna away until later that evening. His glower demonstrated a lack of appreciation for her patently rhetorical question; she withheld a giggle at the expression, which made him look sulky and ten years younger. When the food was appropriately stored, she wandered behind the couch and dropped a kiss on his head. "Essay giving you problems?"

"And again, how did you wriggle your way out of that monstrosity unfondly known as Writing Hell?" Logan asked grumpily, doodling on the edges of his notebook. He leaned into her hand as she rumpled his hair affectionately.

"Little thing called an AP English exam. Score high enough and all that pain of Freshman Composition goes away forever, magically translated into credits on your transcript." She rested her arms against the back of the couch as she looked over his shoulder, staring at the suspiciously blank page. "Isn't there supposed to be something, I dunno, written on there? Or did you get out the invisible ink to hide your chicken-scratch writing?"

"Do you really want me to write about what I did this summer?" Logan bent his head back, looking up at his girlfriend with a lascivious smirk and twirling his mechanical pencil. "I mean, sharing the intimate details of our time together could get a bit on the X-rated--"

"Isn't October a little late for reminiscing about summer fun?" Veronica cut him off hastily, torn between kissing him and swatting him. Swatting him would have won out, but she thought she detected a serious undertone to the deflection of snark. "And isn't that a bit . . . high school?"

"Eh, that was actually the first assignment for the class. An 'icebreaker'." Logan's contemptuous air quotes showed exactly how he felt about the idea. At Veronica's curious and slightly worried look, he shrugged. "Don't worry, I'm not sharing you with anyone, especially not an overly analytical English teacher. No, she wants us to write about an event that changed our life."

"Ah." Veronica moved from behind Logan and perched on the arm of the couch. She studied him for a moment before tilting her head to the side. "So . . . whatcha gonna write about?"

"I was considering a treatise on how the new Star Wars movies fucked up the integrity of the original trilogy, or possibly a diatribe against the propensity for network TV to think that reality shows are high art," he said flippantly. The constant tapping of the pencil against his leg and the slight tension coiled in the seemingly relaxed slouch betrayed his underlying nerves.

Now she was certain that something was bothering him. She watched him until, feeling her steady gaze, he turned to her. He held her eyes for a moment then dropped his head. At her continued stare, he shrugged. "I . . . haven't decided."

"It's not like you have a shortage of subjects to choose from," she said softly.

"If I didn't think anything I shared would end up in Vanity Fair or on Tinseltown Diaries, maybe. "

"Way to trust the integrity of the Hearst teaching staff."

"Yeah, during our weekly meeting she already cornered me about not opening up in my writing, with heavy implications towards writing more about significant events within my life and allusions to said significant events." Voice bitter and brown eyes shadowed, he glanced up at her then looked away. "I think the integrity has already fled in favor of salivating over dirty little secrets."

Bitch, she thought, resolving to obtain all known information on this person by any means necessary "Want me to make her regret she ever knew you?"

"Hmm." She was glad to see his slight smirk as he considered her offer. "No, might affect my grade in a negative fashion. Wait until after grades have been posted."

"Damn. And I was so looking forward to a new project to distract me from midterms." Veronica slid off the arm of the couch, squeezing beside Logan and curling into him. "What would you write about? I mean, if the English teacher tabloid whore wasn't prying?"

With a sigh he turned his head into her hair and nuzzled her, tossing the pencil and notebook to the floor. "I'm not sure," he admitted, his voice muffled. "I was trying to decide what events qualified as most life-changing, and in what ways, when you let yourself in." He ran one hand idly up and down her back. She tried not to purr as she shifted to give him a better angle. After a moment he added with a bitter laugh, "A shocking number involve people being sent to an early grave."

"You've seen an awful lot of deaths," she said, silently scrolling through the roster of deaths in the past three years. He'd lost at least one person important to him each year, two on that deadly June night. She still wasn't sure which weighed heaviest in his heart and which were a guilty relief.

"We've seen awful lot of them." His hand stilled and he wrapped his arm around her. "One way or another, you've been there with me through it all. The only one, in fact."

"You still have Dick."

"Dick has been less 'with me' and more 'drinking buddy'. The emotional bonds of our friendship have never run exceptionally deep."

"And ours have?"

"Four years of friendship before everything imploded? Ring any bells?" Logan gave her a light squeeze. "I still remember the first time I met you, wearing that little soccer uniform. You were hot."

"I was twelve!" she sputtered, pulling away and glaring up at him. "We've been over this!"

"And as a fellow twelve year old, my assessment was perfectly legitimate." He reached out and ran his fingers through her hair, playing with the ends.

"I think I'm more disturbed about your eighteen year old self looking back and thinking pervy thoughts about my twelve year old self." She crossed her arms and gave him a stern look.

He smirked back, unrepentant, tucking her hair behind her ears and tapping her on the nose. "Oh, my eighteen year old self thinks you were cute, but scrawny."

"Gee, thanks." They shared a grin, and Veronica relaxed back against him, soothed by the rhythm of his heartbeat and the rise and fall of his chest. He surrounded her with his arms, resting his chin on top of her head.

His voice rumbled against her ear when he again spoke. "Seriously, my friendships with you and Duncan and Lilly were the best things that ever happened to me. Way deeper than any other relationships I've ever had."

"Friendship with Lilly?" She twisted her head up to look at him, amused. "Somewhere she's screeching, wondering where she went wrong."

He rolled his eyes. "Fine. Passionate and destructive love affair with Lilly. Better?"

"Ooh, she'd really like the destructive part."

"Yeah, that's our Lilly," he said affectionately. "Always getting off on the destruction."

"She would have loved the turmoil after her death." Mood unexpectedly tumbling from playful to morose, she wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. The chaos that Lilly's murder had initiated and the subsequent seething resentment that had been unleashed played through her head. Lilly was the first of the deaths, and catalyst for most of the upheavals that had reshaped both their lives.

As if sensing the direction of her thoughts, Logan's grip tightened and his fingers rubbed comforting circles into the tops of her hands. "She'd have loved the pageantry," he corrected. "She'd have been pissed at the way our friendship . . . disintegrated." His voice caught on the last word. "Fuck, she would have ripped me a new one if she'd seen the way we all treated you." He buried his face in her hair and took a deep, shuddering breath.

They had never confronted the subject of their mutual loathing in the era immediately post Lilly. She wondered if either of them would ever be able to let the wounds heal, or if the issues would always be festering somewhere underneath, ready to taint the most innocuous of conversations. She let him cradle her in mutual comfort, trying to forget the devastating role this boy had played in the year following the murder. When she could forget, she could almost forgive.

She desperately hoped that someday she would figure out how to let it go.

Trying to deflect the mood suddenly twisted dark by past animosities, she cast about for some way to make light of the subject. "Hey, you may have been a complete jackass, but at least you weren't perving on me then."

Logan let out a snort. "Babe, trust me, there was never a time I didn't think you were hot."

Not as deflecting as she was hoping, but now she was curious. "Even when you hated me?"

"God." His laughter held an edge of irony. "You have no idea."

Veronica turned in his arms, staring at him in mild disbelief. "Now I know I'm disturbed."

Logan sagged back against the couch, eyes half closed. "You had that short and ragged haircut, those punk-rock clothes, and more attitude than any other girl in the school--fuck, the state." He breathed out something between a sigh and a laugh, raking his hand through his hair. "I may not have liked you at the time, but you can be damn sure I appreciated the sheer fucking sexiness that emerged when you sent your old persona up in flames."

She straddled his lap, her arms on either side of him and braced against the slick leather of the back of the sofa. He wouldn't meet her eyes, keeping his gaze fixed on her left shoulder. She tried to work her way through the competing welter of emotions to figure out how she felt about this new information. Tried to put the boy who had relentlessly tormented her into the same timeframe as one that--well, if she had become any judge of his reactions, one that had been strongly attracted to her. She chose and discarded a dozen responses, trying to catch the one that adequately expressed her emotions and unable to pin down a single one.

"That must have pissed you off," she finally blurted out, wondering if the conflict between lust and hatred had helped fuel his enmity. The guilt in his startled glance seemed to confirm her suspicions.

"Yeah," he murmured. He warily studied her as he continued, almost defiant. "I was turned on practically every time I tried to dodge the verbal daggers you'd fling at me or watched you verbally flay some other idiot who got in your way. Kinda fucked with my relentless insistence on hating you when my brain kept trying to picture you naked."

And now, with that image burned in her brain, she'd have to revise her memory of every single encounter they'd shared before their reconciliation. Even the reconciliation itself took on an entirely new light, as did the heated desperation of their clandestine romance. She thought she should hate him for this, hate him for thinking those thoughts about her and still putting her through hell every day for a year. Hate him for thinking that playing knight errant in Camelot rescues granted him the right to passionate kisses that undoubtedly fulfilled whatever twisted fantasies he had dreamed up about her. Hate him for drawing her back in when every logical impulse screamed she should run as far and as fast as she could, before he managed to break her again.

Unaccountably, she snickered. She could only imagine Logan, who was so passionately intense about anything he strongly believed, fighting tooth and nail against the conflicting emotions he felt towards her. Even worse, by his own admission the very things he had done to soothe one impulse--hating her--had only served to trigger the other. The end result must have been a self-perpetuating spiral of contradictory signals. She dissolved into giggles as she pictured the futility of his dilemma.

Logan seemed almost as surprised to have a small giggling blonde collapsed against his chest as she was to be giggling. "Not quite the reaction I expected," he said uncertainly. He was tentative as he reached forward and brushed his fingers against her face, as if unsure if his touch would be welcome.

She grinned at him, leaning until her nose almost touched his. "Would you rather I slapped you?" she murmured before closing the distance to his lips. His hands moved to cradle her face as she let herself fall into sensation.

When their lips parted, he rested his forehead against hers and traced idle patterns on her skin with his fingers. "Nope. This was much better. I was afraid you'd be pissed, though, or at least uncomfortable."

"I am." At her matter of fact admission he dropped his hands and started to draw back, but she laced her fingers though his hair and held his head against hers. "I am, but the fact that you got off on our confrontations when you hated me? The least of our issues. And really, kinda funny. Sick, twisted, and definitely perverted, but funny."

"I remember it being uncomfortably awkward, and downright annoying at the time," he said wryly.

"Yes," she nodded, slipping her hands from his head and looping them around his neck. "And that's funny."

"You would think so. And I did deserve it." He ran a light finger down her cheekbone as he paused a moment, eyes intent and serious. "I never really hated you."

"You have a fucked up way of expressing love," she commented dryly, remembering the verbal tirades and malicious pranks.

"Uh, yeah. My role models were, shall we say, less than stellar. And I was pissed at you. But hate you?" He sighed. "I wanted to, but could never quite manage."

"'Cause you were perving on me?"

Logan raised an eyebrow at her overly perky tone. "Yeah, that didn't help."

"Way to derail the original question, by the way."

"What?" He followed her eyes as she looked pointedly down at the notebook he had dropped haphazardly on the floor. "Oh, event that changed my life, right."

"So?"

"Let's see. What events do we have here? We lose Lilly; our friendship imploded. My mother takes a dive off the Coronado Bridge; you're there to help me pick up the--fortunately metaphorical--pieces. You find out my father killed Lilly; he tries to kill you. Felix gets knifed on the bridge and I get blamed, you hold my hand through the experience until they drop the charges the first time. Then, promptly dump me when I react . . . less than maturely to the aftereffects. Bus gets dropped off a cliff; I find out my long time friend is a mass murderer when I find him threatening to shoot you, after which he saves a jury the trouble of debating his sins by hitting terminal velocity on top of some poor shmuck's Ford Explorer. My father gets off after his one Oscar-worthy performance; he's justly executed for his troubles. And you decide to forgive my sorry ass and let me back into your life again."

"Ok, it's been a bad three years." It sounded especially bad, hearing the highlights laid out in his blunt, unemotional recitation. "Not really narrowing things down."

"Common thread, Veronica." He sounded amused, and the glint in his eye was mischievous.

She went over the list in her head. "Not sure . . ."

"You were there through all of it," he interrupted, cupping her shoulders and pulling her close. "One way or another, your being there helped me work my way through the crap. I'd say meeting you was the most important thing ever."

Veronica blinked. Then blinked again. Her fingers involuntarily tightened against the back of his neck. "You do know there's no need to flatter the girlfriend," she said, her throat oddly tight. "I am going to feed you and sleep with you tonight, no matter what you say."

"Hey, if I want to call meeting you an event that changed my life, I'm allowed." He sounded a bit choked up as well, and the adoration in his eyes was almost painful to see. "It's my life, I should know what impacted it."

He said more with his body language than most people could ever put into words. At this moment, the burning intensity of his brown eyes and the carefully fierce way he held her shouted that she was the most precious thing in his world and that there was nothing he wouldn't do to protect her. It slipped though her defenses and forced her to believe. She couldn't deny it, not when his every movement spoke the truth.

"Okay." She gave a small nod, afraid that doing or saying anything else would reveal more than she was ready to admit.

"Okay?" he asked, surprised. "You're not going to fight it more than that?"

"You're right," she shrugged. "It's your event. Define it as you will."

"Right."

"So, what are you gonna write the essay about?"

"Some subject that has nothing to do with anything personal." They looked at each other and grinned.

Logan reluctantly pushed Veronica off his lap, shooing her away. "Now go, cook something while I write. You promised me evidence of your culinary skills, woman."

"Hey, keep it up and me and my lasagna are vacating the premises." She started to walk towards the kitchenette then whirled back around, suddenly needing to free the words that had stuck in her throat. "I love you, y'know."

Shocked, Logan sat straight up, eyes wide in amazement. He swallowed and stared at her, eyes shining. "I know," he said when he found his voice.

It wasn't as hard as she thought it would be, saying the words. Rather than weighing her down, they loosened something inside her and gave her hope that maybe, someday, the past would stay where it belonged. She hummed cheerfully as she prepared dinner and looked forward to quality time with the man she loved.