4. Cold Bargain
The second Logan grew aware that he was alone in bed, he woke up enough to lift his head in order to look for his Ace's whereabouts, assuming she had gone to the bathroom. He had become so accustomed to sharing his bed with her that her absence in their bed actually woke him up regularly. Whenever she would get up while he was still sleeping, her time away from bed would disturb him enough to wake him, and then, he would look for her. That had become his natural reaction for a while now, ever since she had moved in with him. He had been so used to her by his side in bed that he could not sleep restfully whenever he was away from home. He would never admit this out loud to anyone except his Ace − though not even to her for the time being − but deep down he enjoyed this development. More than anything else it was this that made him feel like he belonged to her, that they had made a real home together. So unlike the Huntzberger home he knew. He wasn't bitter about his more or less loveless childhood, had never missed having a warm, welcoming home to grow up in, but now that he learned what it felt like, how right it felt, he sucked it up greedily like a desert shuddering under the pleasure of a rare rain shower.
It would seem that he needed her even in the most basic human function as sleeping. Was he pathetic in this sense? Of course not! So what if he had become so used to having his Ace with him? There was nothing wrong with that. Hell, he loved her and was very certain that she was it for him. He had realized that this was exactly how it was supposed to actually feel like. He for sure didn't regret it, no matter how scary such a realization was.
The door to the bathroom was open and only darkness came from within. No sign of Rory. Puzzled, he turned his head towards the window but her silhouette didn't obstruct the view out to the ocean either.
Now wide awake, he sat up, taking a good look around. No Ace. Very strange. He had been certain she had fallen asleep before him after an exhausting day spent all over the Vineyard. After having gone back to the house to freshen up and change, he then took her to some of his favorite places they had not been to in their previous visits here; and, just like earlier when they were at the bluff, they enjoyed the view at those places also. They had a romantic dinner at a small restaurant owned by two old, sweet ladies he had known for years now. Once they got home, they had a quick drink with his parents. Then in their room, after saying goodnight to his parents, he had finally proved to her that he could indeed keep them quiet, though she had put up one hell of a challenge. So they really had been both tired when they finally allowed themselves to rest at last. About three hours later, here he was, alone in their bed.
Well, not for much longer, he hoped. If Rory was brooding somewhere over what had been bothering her this whole time, it was time they had a talk about it. If she had gone to get some food, okay, he could have a midnight snack, especially if she was the dessert. And if she had gotten up to study, he'd remind her of life's priorities. At least on a Valentine weekend.
He put on his boxers and a T-shirt; no way would he risk running into his parents naked! He left the room in order to search for his missing girlfriend. Muffled voices he could hear from the living room quickly clued him in and he moseyed towards them.
Still out of sight, he heard Rory's enraged but subdued voice, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
The statement stopped him cold and made him frown.
"This is two nights in a row that you made a pass at me. Last night you may have been drunk but you're definitely not drunk now! So what on Earth are you thinking trying to kiss me?"
Logan's breath hitched and he felt like a bucket of ice water had been poured over him. And then, he felt a rage building inside him that he could barely control. Well, he didn't really want to control it, especially, hearing Rory's outraged indignation and the fact that some bastard had tried to force himself on her but something told him to wait and listen, at least for a little more, instinctively knowing that this way he may learn some very important clues to Rory's strange behavior this day. But it was hard to remain in the shadows of the hallway and not rush out there and barge in on the asshole.
As there was currently only one asshole in the house, it wasn't much of a shock to recognize the voice who answered. "More interesting is that yet again, here you are, wearing nothing more than a shirt, knowing fully that you might run into me again. Somehow, I doubt the sincerity of your righteous anger." There was dead silence for a long moment, interrupted by a malicious laughter. "I am right, am I not? Don't worry, I'm sure we can figure something out."
"Fi... figure something out?" Rory sputtered, her voice carrying the shock of hearing such words which were so offensive to her.
"Of course. We will all benefit from this. You'll marry Logan, keep him in line. In return, you'll get whatever job your heart desires within the Huntzberger group. And you and me, we can have some private time whenever you feel like," Mitchum proposed confidently.
Without any emotions, Logan took that plan of his father in. He had to admit, the plan wasn't bad. Tempt Rory with her dream job, control him through Rory and control Rory by making her his own mistress, dependent on him. Yes, not a bad plan at all. A number of women would probably fall for this plan, accept the plan. The problem with those women though was their lack of power over him. He had to be in love with the woman for her to have any influence on him and none of the girls who had been paraded in front of him had ever the chance to move his heart. Now that he loved one though, his parents had tried to separate them. When that had not happened, his father had reevaluated his plans and found another way to ensure his continued control over him.
He would have succeeded if only he had not neglected to consider a very vital aspect in that cold, calculated little plan of his: Rory's loyalty and integrity. And her love for him.
"The only reason why I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear you make this… this scandalous not to mention appalling proposition to me is because… as foreign as this concept must be for you… I love Logan and I care for his happiness. So, I don't want him to know the outrageous scheming his own father is capable of… even if he has a very low opinion of you. How can you?" she asked and her absolute disbelief of such a machination by Mitchum was palpable. Logan smiled upon overhearing what Rory said to his father despite the fury still building inside of him. That and her show of love and protectiveness towards him. It was absolutely unnecessary, of course, as this didn't shock or even surprise Logan very much. Rather, it was a relief to finally know what his father was planning. Still, it was nice to see how very much he could trust his Ace with his heart, never having to worry that she'd betray him to be on his dad's good side. "You're his father! You're supposed to love and support him not control him until he slowly suffocates. And, certainly you should not get his girlfriend into your bed with your wife and son sleeping just down the hall!"
"Now, now, no need to be dramatic," his father said, his displeasure about Rory's reaction making Logan's smile turn cold.
"Quite the contrary! There is every need in the world to be dramatic about this. Now take your hands off me or I swear to God, first thing I'll do is call the police and press charges against you for harassment and attempted rape, then I'll call all the major newspapers to tell them about the true character of the oh so great Mitchum Huntzberger and, first thing Monday, I'll call my grandparents' lawyer to sue you for firing me because I wouldn't sleep with you," Rory threatened and Logan had no doubt that she meant every word of it. Of course Mitchum would ruin her and her reputation completely before it came to that but still, it was strangely exhilarating to hear someone, let alone his Ace, face off with his intimidating and incredibly powerful father like this.
"Oh yeah? What happened to wanting to protect Logan's feelings so much?" his father countered, surely this would put an end to this discussion.
"I changed my mind. Probably his opinion of you can't get any worse and I'm beginning to understand why. Getting you off his back will do him more good than trying to spare his feelings," Rory answered without hesitation, the low growl in her voice a sure proof of just how mad she was.
"For that he'll first have to believe you..."
"I doubt that that's hard to achieve."
"... and of course, he then has to be willing to renounce his money and privileges, should he choose to side with you," his father continued, not impressed with her interruption. "You may think very highly of my son but if you think you're more important than his precious extravagant lifestyle he is clinging to so desperately, you're more naive than I thought you were."
At that, Logan straightened, bringing up his chin.
"And I think you don't know your son at all," Rory replied matter-of-factly. "But I have a suggestion… you insist on this and I will not hesitate to go through with everything I just promised you. Or, if you care about your one and only son at all, you can ask me here and now to disregard whatever you just said and I will never breathe a word of this to anyone… If you promise that you will never try something like this ever again and only if you get off his back and let Logan make his own decisions. And you will absolutely not force him to go to London or anywhere else he doesn't want to go to."
He had been about to step forward but this offered deal from his Ace stopped him dead in his tracks. Not so much the gist of it, rather that she came up with this deal at all. For once, he and his father seemed to think the same thing. "What?"
"Let go of Logan. Let him make his own choices. Or I'll cause you a scandal that will bring you down," she repeated calmly.
Too calmly. His Ace was great at many things but she wasn't exactly quick at deciding anything. Her coming up with this deal was - unlikely. What was it his father had first insinuated? That she had planned on an apparently second confrontation with him. Maybe, he hadn't been so wrong about that after all. Though out of very different reasons.
But no, that couldn't be it. His Ace wasn't the type to provoke another confrontation in order to maneuver his father into a position where he had to accept her terms. Was she?
"Careful, honey. You do not want me as your enemy," Mitchum warned in a low voice Logan knew well enough. Sadly, he had to agree with him. No one wanted Mitchum Huntzberger as his enemy. He had no scruples... he would and could destroy anyone and anybody.
"And you forgot who I am," Rory countered though, seemingly unimpressed. "I'm not some poor, bimbo who's a complete nobody. I am the only grandchild of Richard Gilmore and the oldest daughter of the Hayden heir. I am a DAR girl. When I talk, people are going to listen to me and I'm fairly certain that three out of four will believe me rather than you, considering your reputation. It's not exactly a secret that you sleep around, some of your acquaintances being quite young, if one is to believe the rumors. Don't forget that I was the one who tamed your son. No, Mr. Huntzberger, you do not want me to go public with your outrageous behavior, not if you value the life you have because I assure you, that will change. Friends won't associate with you anymore, you and your family will be shunned, and powerful men will distance themselves from you. My grandparents have a great influence in this very exclusive circle. And a lot of people need my father on their good side. It's rather you who needs to be careful. So what will it be?"
He was flabbergasted and touched deeply by what Rory tried to do here for him. Not to mention that he was turned on as hell by this cold bargaining by his girlfriend. It was incredible how she had come up with all this. It was not a bad plan at all. Actually, it was quite ingenious. Still, he couldn't let her go through with this so, finally, he stepped out into plain view. With narrowed eyes he took in his father's hand gripping Rory's left wrist on the kitchen island. "Let Rory go," he ordered; he was surprised at how calm he felt, despite the urge for bloody murder pulsing through his veins at the sight of his girlfriend being manhandled by his fucking father.
Two heads swiveled around, both staring at him: Rory with shock but also relief, his father with his usual indifference and, if Logan wasn't completely wrong, there was a hint of satisfaction. Bastard. "Now," he ordered, not moving an inch, staring down his father.
Slowly Mitchum let go, and then straightened up. The second she was free, Rory rushed over to him. "Logan..."
He took his eyes off his father long enough to smile at her. "It's okay, Ace. Go back to our room, pack our things. We're leaving. I'll be with you in a moment," he soothed her, kissing her temple.
Her lips parted but, instead of spilling out the questions he could practically see burning on her tongue, she looked from him to his father and back to him. She closed her mouth, nodded and left, but not without briefly slipping her hand into his and squeezing it.
He waited until he heard the door close softly before he addressed his father again. "I'm leaving, Dad."
Strange how easy it suddenly was to say this, after all these years of yearning to do exactly this, but never having the balls to do so. In a way, he should perhaps be thankful for his father being such an asshole. Otherwise, he doubted that he would have found the courage to make this decision.
"I've heard. You can spare these unnecessary dramatics though. We both know that there won't be a way off this island before well into morning," Mitchum replied, walking over to the cabinet to pour himself some whiskey.
Logan shook his head, not surprised at all that his father had misunderstood him. "I'm leaving the group, Dad," he clarified. "I will not go to London, I will not head any office. I will not work for you, ever."
"Don't be ridiculous. You are my son and heir… so, yes, you are working for the group. You will do as I tell you." He regarded him with a dismissive look. "Now, go have your little tantrum or whatever you feel like. But in the end, you can't afford to quit as you and I know very well."
"What I can't afford is you dictating my life," Logan countered, still very calm. "Tonight, listening to you trying to corrupt my girlfriend, I finally understood that no matter what I do or achieve, once I start working for you, you will always try to control me, either by bribing or blackmailing me. You will never let me live my own life, make my own choices… not as long as you live. I can't have that, Dad. I won't have it. So I am leaving because it is really the only choice if I want to be my own person."
That Mitchum slammed down his glass was the only indication that he was losing his cool. Then again, with Mitchum Huntzberger, that was already quite an achievement. "And do what? You partied your whole life away, learning nothing. You know nothing else. Everything was given to you on a golden platter. Don't think you'll get one more penny from me if you walk out on us now."
"But, Dad, you forget one thing… I'm a Huntzberger," Logan reminded him gently and yes, a tad bit gleeful. "I can do whatever I set my mind on. And we're good at thriving in whatever we decide to do. I will find something to do and be good enough at it to succeed. And support myself."
"Not like you're used to."
"Maybe not. But if that is the price for my freedom then I'll gladly pay it. Besides, you might be surprised with what little I can be content with," he added, thinking about his Ace. No doubt she could teach him a thing or two about living on a budget. As long as she was at his side, there was nothing he couldn't do, nothing else he needed. He turned his back on him, having said all he needed to say. Almost. Stopping, he turned and looked at his father with a cold, unwavering face. "Oh, and just to be clear… You stay away from Rory. If you ever harass her again, if you lay another finger on her or if I hear even a word about you interfering with her career, Rory will go through with every step she threatened. And I will talk about some family secrets to the right ears."
He didn't bother to wait for his father's reaction to his threat. He knew him enough to recognize what he said was no empty threat. His father had wanted him to learn the ropes and he had done that, discovering some very interesting facts that could get his father into serious trouble, if and when even one of the Huntzberger secrets was ever disclosed. Plus, he had known about his family's numbered accounts with offshore banks since like forever. No, his father wasn't stupid enough to risk him talking.
Getting into their room, he saw that Rory must have been a true whirlwind, their two bags already sitting by her feet. She looked up, glancing at him with wide, worried eyes. He gave her another reassuring smile and walked over to the bed where she had placed some change of clothes for him. Two minutes later, he took the bags and gestured for her to go ahead. "Let's go."
It took Rory nearly ten minutes into their drive before she broke the silence at last. She held out longer than Logan had anticipated. "I'm sorry. I didn't want you to hear anything about your father's behavior."
He glanced at her. "That's incredibly sweet of you but you should have told me. If you didn't want to wake me up last night, at least, you should have said something first thing this morning. This is one of those things I absolutely need to know about."
She sighed deeply. "I didn't want to cause a greater rift between Mitchum and you than what already is."
This time he kept his eyes on the road. "First of all, you didn't cause anything. Second, that rift can hardly get any wider. And third, do you really think this has been the first time he went after my girl?" She gasped and he smiled, somewhat ruefully. "Ace, the main reason why I never took a girl home was because the first time I did that, the girl was in bed with my father after not even three days. Since then I never bothered again. And I was careful to never take a girl whom I particularly like to a party my parents attended as well. Until you." She had changed everything, very much to his annoyance in the beginning. Now, he wouldn't want it any other way. "So, you see… you really didn't have to worry about my feelings."
She was quiet for a full minute. Finally, she shook her head. "I can't help it. I love you. I don't want you hurt."
His heart swelled at this simple statement but he kept the smile trying to form on his face strictly at bay for the moment. This was too important. "I know. I'd like to protect you from any possible hurt as well. And I appreciate you feeling this way. It does mean a lot to me. But as I told you already last year after the whole thing with your internship with Dad and you and I stealing a boat… this won't work with you keeping big things from me, especially, when it concerns anything that my father or any member of my family did to you. Would you like it if your mother corners me and berates me for you joining the DAR or skipping a class and I tell you nothing about it?"
"No. No, I wouldn't like it," she grumbled. After a few seconds, she pierced him with her eyes. "Did she ever do something like that?"
Now he allowed the smile to form. "It was just a hypothetical question. If it did happen, I would have mentioned it to you." Most likely. Depending on just what was said between him and Lorelai. And the manner it was said. They stopped at a crossing and he looked at her fully, taking her hand, he said very seriously, "For what it's worth… I am very sorry for what my father did. If he..." He didn't know how to finish and just squeezed her hand.
Her thumb caressed reassuringly the back of his hand. "Nothing happened, Logan. He tried to kiss me and leered a bit at me, that's all. Nothing you need to be sorry about or worry about."
"Are you sure? Because… if not, I'll be the first to drag you to the next police station to press charges." He bit his lips. "I never thought he'd try anything with you. Even if he doesn't know you, it is so obvious that you would never agree to such a thing. And then, you are the granddaughter of a family friend... I am truly sorry."
"Don't. I've told you, this is not your fault. And nothing really happened anyway. So, can we please just forget about it now?" she begged and he could see that she really was tired and uncomfortable in continuing this conversation.
"Okay," he sighed, kissing her cheek before straightening in his seat and continuing to drive. This was something he was never bound to forget. But he could wait to vent about it when they were back home and he would tell Colin and Finn about this. They would understand his point-of-view better than her anyway.
"What happens now? Are you really going to leave the Huntzberger group?" she hesitatingly asked after a moment.
No need to even think twice about his answer to that. "Yes."
He shrugged, truly not caring about that right now. "Ace, don't worry about this, okay? I'll find something to do after graduation… I just need to figure out what I want and what's out there. Dad will no doubt try to stop me from getting any employment but while he surely has influence and knows half of the world, I'm not without any connections either. And he can't tyrannize everyone. Contrary to his belief, I'll have a pretty good Yale diploma once I'm done with school ..."
"Thanks to me."
"Thanks to you," he agreed with a chuckle. It was true enough. "I have worked hard this past year and I'll be valuable to anybody who gives me the chance, anyone will recognize this. I'll find my way."
She wasn't convinced though, worrying, "But how will you be able to support yourself? If Mitchum cuts you off now..."
"I'm not stupid, Ace. I've been saving for a while now, just in case. I have more than enough put aside to sustain me until I have full access to my trust account next year." Plus there were the numbered accounts in the Caymans and Switzerland. Yep, he should be able to do just fine. "Besides, haven't you always wanted to teach me the wonders of living on a budget? Now's your chance."
"Yeah, I'm sure you'll need a lesson in that," she replied dryly, rolling her eyes. "But I guess I have a tip or two for you, if you really need it."
"Aww, I love you, too, Baby," he crooned mockingly. Not an easy task but he pulled it off.
"Miscreant," she gave back generously. "Hey, where are we going? This isn't the way to the ferry or the airport."
"That's because we're heading to the marina," he confirmed. "We'll take the boat."
She frowned. "Boat? What boat? You really think it wise that we steal another boat? I don't want to do another million hours of community service!"
He laughed. "Relax, Ace. We're not stealing one. We'll take mine."
That stopped her. "Oh. What about the Porsche?"
"I'll have it delivered home Monday." If his father would not confiscate it, beforehand. He assumed that was very likely. Oh well, he could live without the Porsche. If he absolutely had to. And it did consume an awful lot of gas. He cringed a little at that thought. It was just wrong to worry about gas with such a dream of a car. "Or we can sit around until morning but that will be a long wait and frankly speaking, right now, I really don't want to be on the same island as my dear father. This way, we get off the island and still can do something nice tomorrow before we have to head back. You okay with that?"
"Oh well, I guess we can do that. After all, you always promised to take me on a boat trip and I guess we better do that before your father reports the boat stolen," she answered after a moment, relaxing into her seat.
He was about to ridicule her last comment when he thought better of it. Maybe she had a point there. "At least, then we can officially claim to be like Bonnie and Clyde."
"We're definitely not cool - and violent - enough for that," Rory said, shaking her head. "We may pull off a Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, though, if we work really hard at it."
"Please, I'm too handsome to be Laurel. And you're too sexy to pretend to be Hardy," he protested.
"Lois and Clark then?"
He snorted. "Too boring."
"Xena and Hercules?"
He glanced warily at her. "Neither of us is gay or are you not telling me something?"
She rewarded him with a glare for that comment before she cheered up. "I have it! We're..." she made a long pregnant pause, "... Rory and Logan, the scandalous rogues of Martha's Vineyard, destined to steal boats together until their very last breaths."
"I like the sound of that," he agreed, softly.
"You did it."
Mitchum looked up from his glass of whiskey at his wife slowly coming toward him, not looking too happy with him. Then again, he had stopped a long time ago to care about what his wife thought about him. He took another sip. "Looks like it."
"I still think this was a mistake, pushing Logan like that. We may have lost him forever with your stupid stunt," Shira said, acting for once as if she actually cared which would be a first since a long time as well.
"It needed to be done. Logan needs to stand on his own and nothing I've tried worked. Now… now he is out there, growing up, learning what is necessary to competently run an empire like our business conglomerate one day. Threatening that girl of his was the only way," he stated with finality, not wanting to get into another discussion about this. He knew his son, he knew how to work him, how to push his buttons.
For once though, Shira didn't shut up like she was supposed to. "How? You've heard him! He has left the family business, turned his back on you and now there's nothing we can do about him and that girl anymore."
"Which we want, remember? She's the only person who ever managed to keep him on track and sharp on his toes. He needs her. We need her." Though, he was beginning to second guess himself on that. The young Ms. Gilmore was a lot more resilient than he had calculated. "Besides, don't worry. You know her history with the Haydens. Honor told us how much she regretted not having both set of grandparents in her life. The moment they're expecting their first child, she'll have him try to mend his relationship with us so her children will be spared the same fate. By that time, hopefully, he has matured enough to be civil and not take every word we say as a personal attack against him."
Shira huffed. "I hope you are right, Mitchum, because otherwise you have lost not only our son but maybe our grandchildren also." Thus said, she grabbed another bottle of bourbon and stomped back into their bedroom.
Calmly, he refilled his glass. There was no need for such dramatics. He knew people. He knew his son.
One way or another, this day and his actions would lead Logan to become the son he needed him to be. Even if it meant that he would need to keep his distance from him for the next few years. He always planned way ahead.
And he always played to win. This time was not going to be an exception.
Prompt from R.: I want a story set on Valentines Day, season 6 (at Martha's Vineyard). I want this story to slightly stray from the path meaning that I don't want Luke and Lorelai to be there... and I want Mitchum to be there early. Like, Rory and Logan arrive there to find Mitchum already there. And then I want angst to follow involving Mitchum. It can be anything you want--Mitchum could be cheating on his wife with another woman, the Huntzberger family could be staying at Martha's Vineyard and now Rory has to deal with a family that hates her for a weekend, or Mitchum could do something out of line--anything you want. One thing I don't want is fluff... I hate fluff.
(Author's note: Okay, this was it. I sure had fun writing this one and I hope you all like it - especially you, R.. I really tried to avoid any fluff - I hope it was to your satisfaction. Thank you for the prompt! It was really interesting to venture into this possibility. Couldn't have done it without your prompt.
Thank you all for the wonderful reviews you left me! Glad you enjoyed this story so far - and really hope you did so with its end as well!)