Title: Gaining Ground 1/2
Warnings: Some language and sexual situations
Word Count: 4088
Spoilers: All three seasons.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of Veronica Mars or it's characters, nor do I make any money from this.
Summary: Veronica changed her mind but Logan held her to her word - he was out of her life forever. Fortunately, fate stepped in. Now it's up to them to gain the ground they've lost or never really had to begin with. College futurefic.
Author's Note: This is for the very lovely and always entertaining, afrocurl over on LJ, who, much to my delight, graciously bought my fic services in the Sweet Charity Fandom Auction Her only request was humor. I hope she knows what she was getting into ; )
Of course I have to thank my friend, Sabrina, who seriously is the best and fastest beta in the world!! Also, she helped me through my insanity, which she totally deserves a hundred Logan's for. Her and afrocurl can share them ; )
Veronica stared at her schedule, willing the class in Wesleyan Hall, room 414, to magically disappear. Advanced Social and Behavioral Dynamics was not a class she was looking forward to, especially not for the start of her senior year. The professor was notoriously harsh and Wesleyan Hall didn't have an air conditioner. It was going to suck.
She walked in the classroom, the shellac from the freshly finished wooden floors permeating the air, the heat making the scent that much more unbearable. There were only a couple other students in the room so she picked a nice looking desk situated by the fourth story window. At least she'd have a nice view for the semester.
After pulling the required text out of her trusty messenger bag, Veronica raised her head to watch the other students filter in the room, her mouth dropping open at the sight of the last person she'd ever think she would share a class with. He spotted her immediately and his amusement was clearly written in his familiar smirk. A couple of long strides found him sliding into the desk next to hers with such an easy grace that made it so hard not to watch him. She caught a couple of the other girls in the room doing the same thing.
"Ver-on-ica Mars," he drawled out. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Are you sure you're not lost? I think 'Sociology of the Sorority Girl' is one floor down. Although, I warn you, I don't think they let you feel up the girls in the class until week two."
He grinned despite himself. "Too bad. I guess that means you're stuck with me in here then."
"Seriously, Logan, what are you doing in here?"
Logan shrugged, doodling on his now-open notebook. "I officially declared my major as Sociology. I need it to graduate."
It had been three years since she'd shown up at his door, new revelations and realizations freshly pondered, shaggy-haired boyfriend properly broken up with. But ultimately it was Logan who decided that going down the road of heartache and pain their couplings always led to, wasn't something he was able to do again.
She had been affronted, and more than just a little bit hurt. Veronica couldn't believe he was turning her down when she seemed so willing to really put it all on the line. He told her that he would always love her and she would always be an important part of his life, but he needed to find a life without her, too.
Veronica's trip down memory lane was short-lived. She didn't have the chance to respond to Logan before the professor entered the classroom. He went right to the business at hand by passing out syllabi and impressing upon them what would be required for the semester.
"Before you leave today, you will be choosing labs out of this jar. Each lab will have two participants and is worth thirty percent of your final grade. You are to spend a required fifteen hours for the semester participating in your lab and it is your responsibility to set up those times with the program facilitator. When I call your name, please come up and choose a paper from the jar."
The professor began to call their names aloud by alphabetical order and one by one the students went to choose their fate for the semester. Veronica had no idea what to expect but she hoped it would be something she'd be interested in – like studying criminals.
Logan went before her and came back to his seat with a scowl on his face.
"Let me guess? No girls gone wild?" she taunted.
He leaned over and showed her the paper. Early Childhood – Kilby Elementary School Pre-Kindergarten was printed on it, some contact information for the school underneath it. Veronica couldn't help but laugh, trying hard to keep it quiet, not wanting to attract the attention of the other students.
She heard her name and went to the front, just as Logan did only moments before. She was a little nervous; the last thing she wanted was some kind of kid or teenager assignment. When she pulled the paper and looked at it, pure horror filled her.
Early Childhood – Kilby Elementary School Pre-Kindergarten
Things were about to get very interesting.
The professor droned on about class details for another twenty minutes before dismissing them early. Logan walked with Veronica down the stairs and out into the courtyard in front of the building. Somehow by a silent, mutual agreement they ended up sitting side-by-side on one of the benches.
"This is the worst thing that could happen- ever!"
"I don't know, Veronica. I can think of some pretty bad things," he told her pointedly.
"Okay. You're right. Maybe not ever, but you have to admit it's pretty bad."
"For who? Them, or us?" Logan asked, amused.
"Both. And I still can't believe you ended up as my partner. You brought me all this bad luck," she accused, pointing a finger into his chest.
"Hey! You never know. This could be a life changing experience for you. You may decide that you love kids and want oodles of your own."
Veronica snorted. "Highly doubtful."
"Come on. Just look at it this way. We now get the opportunity to warp the minds of a new generation of Neptunians. It'll be like karmic justice."
"Yeah. You're right. Maybe it won't be all bad."
Veronica was amazed at how easily they seemed to slide into a somewhat easy conversation. After three years of trying to avoid him, and doing a pretty good job of it, she had to wonder why she did it in the first place. She'd missed him and unfortunately, until now, looking at his lop-sided grin and handsome face, she didn't realize how much.
Mrs. Kitchens was the quintessential kindergarten teacher, or in this case pre-kindergarten. She was pretty and fairly young, shoulder-length chestnut hair, ivory skin and slightly rosy cheeks. Veronica thought back to all those times she watched Mary Poppins with her mother and a twinge of sadness that she hadn't felt in a long time settled somewhere inside her.
The teacher gave Veronica and Logan a general introduction to the class, most of whom were four-year olds preparing for kindergarten the next year. Once the teacher's aide, Miss Bryant, divided the children up into groups, Mrs. Kitchens took them to the play area to get better acquainted with the children they would be working with.
"Stephen, this is Mr. Logan and Miss Veronica," she told the young boy seated closest to them.
Stephen's eyes gave Logan a once-over before landing on Veronica and smiling shyly. His innocent blue eyes were barely visible under his floppy blond hair. "Hi, Miss Veronica."
Veronica smiled sweetly back at the boy. "Hello, Stephen. It's very nice to meet you."
"Hi, little buddy," Logan said, giving him a small wave, which Stephen ignored, looking down at the ground instead. "Aren't you going to tell me 'hi?'"
"My mommy says I shouldn't talk to strangers."
"Well, Veronica is a stranger and you talked to her," Logan responded.
Stephen looked up from the multi-colored carpet, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. "Yeah, but she's pretty."
Logan couldn't help but laugh. "And so it begins."
Mrs. Kitchens continued around the small circle of children – five of them to be exact. They were the ones with whom Logan and Veronica would work during their required hours in the classroom.
The hour passed by quickly and before Veronica knew it, it was time to go. She made her way to the door before realizing that Logan had been pulled off to one corner by Mrs. Kitchens. She laughed inwardly, thinking that it didn't take long for him to get called out by the teacher, even in pre-K. But then she noticed the intent expression on his face and wondered what they were talking about.
She waited for another minute, trying to make it look like she wasn't waiting on Logan. They were tentative friends at best, and she didn't know if waiting for him after class was more along the girlfriend line. Ultimately, she had an appointment to get to and decided she'd have to wait and find out what their talk was about later.
Veronica stood in front of the large wooden door, badly in need of new paint, her hand hovering mid air. Logan had missed his hour at the school and her curiosity was getting the better of her. At first she had a nagging feeling that maybe he just didn't want to be around her, that he'd changed his time so they wouldn't have to work together, but after asking Mrs. Kitchens, she'd found out he just didn't show up.
She finally worked up her courage and knocked on the door. She had no reason to be nervous except for the memory of the last time she'd knocked on Logan's door. He was still in the Penthouse of the Neptune Grand then, but the pain and rejection she'd felt that day returned with lightning speed and utter clarity.
"That didn't take long," he told her, opening the door wider, signaling for her to enter.
"For you to come over and lecture me on how irresponsible I am," Logan told her, slightly bitter.
"That's not…" she started before sighing deeply. "I just came to see if everything was okay. Promise."
Logan walked into his living room, colored in washes of blue, yellow and white. It was a nautical theme and as she followed behind him Veronica thought it suited him well. She watched as he dropped down into a large upholstered chair, deflated. She fidgeted with her bag and not for the first time, found herself incredibly hesitant in front of the boy who'd been everything to her once upon a time.
"Have a seat, Veronica. You're making me nervous, too."
He'd always been so good at reading her, knowing all her ins and outs. Most of the time she found it unnerving, but there were occasions when it warmed her from the inside out to know that someone knew her like that.
It was quiet for a couple of moments before Veronica decided she couldn't stand it any longer. "So, you going to tell me why you missed your lab hours?"
He reached over and grabbed the beer off the coffee table in front of him, taking a long pull before answering her.
"I'm not going back. I'm dropping the class."
"What?!" Veronica said, incredulous. "But why?! You told me you had to have that class to graduate and it's only offered in the fall semester." She didn't know if it was the thought of not seeing Logan on a regular basis or her concern for his future that had her so agitated. She had a feeling it was the former.
"I'll just have to extend my graduation another semester," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "I love college anyway."
Veronica studied him closely and searched her mind for anything that had happened the last time they were at Kilby Elementary. That had been the last time she'd seen him and even then she didn't have the chance to say goodbye. The sudden memory of a seemingly awkward conversation with Mrs. Kitchens came to her mind. As she examined it in her mind's eye, recalling the set of his jaw and his stiffly carried shoulders, it became a little bit clearer.
"Does this have something to do with your conversation with Mrs. Kitchens last Friday?" she asked gently.
Logan dragged his unoccupied hand from his hairline to his chin, pulling down his features, sighing into open fingers. He pulled them up to pinch his nose, before answering her.
"She pulled me aside to tell me that she was glad I was going to be working in the class, that Stephen needed a little extra one-on-one attention from a positive male figure. She told me that his dad was in jail for killing his Stephen's grandmother and she thought that maybe I could help him a little bit. She didn't come right out and say 'cause your father's a murdering bastard, too,' but it was close enough."
Veronica thought carefully about what she needed to say next, what she thought Logan needed to hear. "Logan, I think it's great that she thinks you can help Stephen. I mean what better way to exorcise the past than to shape someone else's future for the better?"
Logan chuckled mirthlessly. "God, Veronica. How many of those psych classes did you take anyway? You make some hardened criminal's day just a bit brighter with the story of how you were locked in a freezer and set on fire by a movie star?"
Veronica stood, clutching her bag even tighter, tears shining in her eyes. "There's no need to be cruel, Logan. Thanks for reminding me why we aren't friends." She turned, indignant, and walked briskly towards the door. She wasn't going to go down that road with him just because she'd found some peace with her past and he so obviously hadn't.
She was only two steps away from the door when a quiet voice called out. "I'm sorry, okay. I didn't mean any of it. You know I didn't. It's just – I'm not any good around kids. I'll end up screwing him up."
"How can you be sure without taking this chance? It might do you both some good," Veronica implored, turning back and walking the couple of steps into the living room.
He was silent for a moment, looking out over her head. "You know, I wasn't much older than Stephen when my dad – when he first started 'teaching me a lesson,'" he affected with air quotes.
Veronica's heart broke. She could see the little boy inside Logan, battling with the reminders of an awful past and the man in him warring over doing what was right. She dropped her messenger bag on the floor and walked swiftly to where he was seated, dropping to her knees in front of him. She reached up and took the beer from him, gently placing it on the table, and took both of his hands in her smaller ones.
"Please look at me, Logan. I know saying that I wasn't the best girlfriend is a huge understatement and god knows I haven't been such a great friend to you, but I'm going to try. I want things to be different between us. I'm going to try my damndest to be the friend I always should have been.
"Shhh. Hear me out. I'm only going to say this once and then that will be the end of it, okay?"
He shook his head wordlessly and she continued. "You're not like your father, Logan. Actually, you're nothing like him."
"What, you mean, no violent tendencies?" he asked sarcastically.
"You would never raise a hand to those you love, or when you didn't think you were protecting someone. You're loyal and you love with your whole heart. You could never say those things about your father."
His bowed his head, picking at a thread on the overstuffed chair, hopefully absorbing everything she was telling him.
"Besides, you're not nearly as pretty," she told him, grinning, parting the cloud of the suffocating past around them.
He looked up at her, eyes swirling with emotion, before breaking into a huge grin. "That's it…. You're getting it!" He reached over and grabbed the nearest pillow and swung it at her, playfully.
"Oh, that's it. You've had it now, Echolls!"
"Bring it on, Mars."
"Mr. Logan," Stephen whined, "I wanted the light green crayon but Becky took the light green."
"Well, then, you'll just have to wait until she gets finished with it."
"But I want it noooooooooowww! I can't finish my picture without light green! I need light green! Mr. Logan, make Becky give me back the light green!"
Veronica watched as Logan slouched down in the small red chair, rubbing his temples, clearly exasperated. It was the second day of their assignment for her, but only the first for him. She knew he was already on the verge of running headfirst into a brick wall. She walked over from a nearby table, feeling the need to rescue him.
"Here Stephen," Veronica said, holding out a medium green crayon to the young boy, "I think your grass would look very pretty with this color."
"It will?" Stephen smiled up at her, his missing tooth apparent. Veronica shook her head yes, returning the young boy's smile. "Thanks, Miss Veronica. You're really nice. Mr. Logan is mean."
Veronica had to suppress a laugh. Poor Logan. After their talk at his house, he'd been so gung ho about his assignment, ready to help in anyway he could. Forty-five minutes into a classroom of whining, needy four-year olds could make the strongest of resolves waver. She knew he'd make it, though.
She sat down beside Stephen, and the now-placated toddler went back to happily coloring his picture. Logan reached over and pulled her chair closer to him, close enough that she could feel his breath and she suddenly felt very warm.
"Already using your womanly wiles on the kiddos. Very naughty, Miss Veronica," he told her, his lips to her ear so that only she knew what he was saying. "Will you be naughty Veronica for me later tonight?"
Veronica couldn't help the blush that worked its way through her. She didn't want to be affected by his words, by his incredibly close proximity, but it couldn't be helped. The past two weeks, as hers and Logan's friendship had been gaining stronger ground, those feelings that she'd long since shelved were beginning to resurface.
She knew that some days she found it difficult to be around him, not being able to crush her lips to his, to feel his hands on her naked skin. But being friends was worth any hardships she would incur. They'd tried it the other way, and Veronica found that she didn't like surviving without him in her life – being friends was better than nothing at all.
Logan wasn't willing to try again, at least not romantically, that much she knew. She'd hurt him too badly, didn't trust him enough, for him to ever go down that road with her again. But the previous Friday they'd both agreed that they needed each other in their lives and so they made a new promise to each other.
And so it had been -Veronica and Logan coming full circle - friends once more. Only this time, they had so much more riding on that friendship and neither one was willing to do anything to jeopardize it.
"Nu-uh. I am not watching that again, Logan," she told him adamantly, spotting the Old School movie case in his hand.
It had become a new tradition with them, spending their Fridays after the kindergarten class time with each other. Veronica found herself looking forward to it each week- "Come on, Veronica. You know how much I love this movie." - even when Logan was a bigger whiner than the kids.
"Then get your girlfriend to watch it with you. It's supposed to be her job to indulge your annoying fixations, anyway."
"She's not my girlfriend," Logan deadpanned.
"That's not what she's telling everyone," Veronica sing-songed.
"Well, I can't help that. She knows where she stands. More importantly, I know where she stands and that is not as my girlfriend."
Veronica rolled her eyes. "For being such a man-whore, you really can be clueless about women sometimes."
"And you're the expert?"
"I am a woman."
"At least you were the last time I checked," Logan countered, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Veronica playfully bumped his shoulder with her own. "Can't you go one conversation without making some kind of sexual innuendo?"
Logan pretended to think for a moment before replying. "Nope. Not possible"
"I really have no idea why Jessica would want to claim you anyway."
"Cause I'm hot, and rich, and great in –"
"Stop. You do not need to sell yourself to me."
"Why? Cause you're already fully aware of every aspect of my marketability?"
"No. Because your large ego constantly reminds me. I swear I don't know how that head of yours gets through the door." She looked up to find his eyes sparkling mischievously. "Don't even go there."
"It's hard not to when you make it so easy."
Veronica rolled her eyes before taking her own movie out of her bag and popping it into the DVD player.
"What's that? And I thought it was my turn to pick the movie," Logan asked with a long face.
"It's a surprise. And it was, until you suggested a repeat, thus forfeiting your turn."
"That's lame. Who made that rule?"
"You did, three weeks ago when I wanted to watch The Notebook again," Veronica informed him.
"I'm pleading insanity now, so it shouldn't count. Chick flick overload made me do it."
"Too bad," she told him unsympathetically before situating herself onto the couch beside him.
"The Neverending Story?! Are you trying to emasculate me?!"
"That's not possible."
Logan smirked. "Well, I'm glad you finally admit that I'm too much man."
"No, it's that you're already too much woman," she quipped.
Logan harrumphed, clearly settling into his pouting mode. Veronica smiled to herself and wondered if he knew how alike he and Stephen really were.
"I'm going to marry a prince," Sophia stated haughtily.
"And how do you know that?" Veronica asked.
"Cause I'm a princess and princesses always marry princes. Daddy says so and Daddy's always right," the curly, red-haired little girl replied.
"What if you fall in love with someone who's not a prince?"
"Uncle Bobbie says 'love is for saps,' and Daddy says that's right and Daddy is always-"
"Right. I know," Veronica interrupted.
"Yes, Sophia. What is it?"
"Are you a blind sap?"
"No," she laughed lightly. "Why would you ask that?"
"Sometimes I hear Mrs. Kitchens talking to Miss Bryant and they don't know I listen to 'em. Miss Bryant told Mrs. Kitchens that you loved Mr. Logan and Mr. Logan loved you and that you were blind – or Mr. Logan was 'tupid - I think. Can't 'member. So that's when I asked Daddy if you loved Mr. Logan and he said he didn't know 'cause he didn't know you and that's when Uncle Bobbie said 'love's for saps,'" she paused for a moment and looked up at Veronica. "So… are you? Are you a blind sap? I don't know what that means, dough, but I wanna know so I can tell Stephen."
Veronica sat still, momentarily stunned. She tried to process everything the toddler had said but it wasn't making sense. Why would the teachers be talking about her and Logan and why was it any of their business and did they really think that Logan loved her?
"Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me." Sophia demanded hopping up and down in her seat.
"Well, well. What's got you all excited, Sophia? Miss Veronica must be playing some fun games over here. Miss Veronica is good at playing games. She can play them for hours and hours," Logan said as he approached, his eyes full of suggestion and honing in on Veronica.
Veronica was brought back to reality, feeling the heat of Logan's gaze upon her. He was flirting again, and dammit, the boy just didn't know when to quit.
The little girl's bright green eyes turned on Veronica in awe, the earlier question all but forgotten. "Hours and hours? That sounds like a reeeeeeeeeeeeaaallly long time. Is that more than a minute? Cause my Mommy says 'in a minute,' all the time and it's a reaaaaaaaaaalllly long time so that'd be the longest time if it was more than that. Can we play games for that long? Pleeeeeeeeeeeaaasse!"
"It is our last day, so I'm sure Mr. Logan wouldn't mind staying extra long and playing with us, would you, Mr. Logan?"
He shot her an evil glare but sat down at the table anyway. He could act like he was put-out all he wanted, but Veronica knew he secretly loved it. Logan would make an awesome dad and someday she'd tell him so. But for now, she laid back, enjoying their last day with the kids and reveled in hers and Logan's strengthening friendship.
To Be Continued…
This can be read as a stand alone, but you guys know me… I can't leave my LoVe unresolved. So there will be a second part up next week.
Also, reviews would be the cherry on top!! Thanks for reading!!