Disclaimer: The characters were created by Rob Thomas and remain the property of Thomas, the CW, and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Author's Note: This fic was originally written for challenge 3 (Thanksgiving) of Round 3 of vmfic_gameon . That didn't work out so well, so now it's written for challenge 4 of Round 4 of vmfic_gameon (word table). All the words are in the fic. I would like to thank the awesome annie_oakley and the lovely love_is_epic for beta-reading.
The operation was scheduled on the day before Thanksgiving, and Charlie was at the hospital when Veronica brought Logan in. Charlie had left Marcy with the nurse in order to say hello to his brother, and he stood outside the room for a moment, listening while Veronica fussed over Logan in a motherly way that Charlie wasn't sure he would take from Joanne. Logan, however, didn't seem to protest much, and Charlie remembered that Logan's real mother was dead. It seemed that in addition to being Logan's girlfriend and his private detective, Veronica was also trying to mommy him, and again Charlie wondered where she found the time to do it all.
He entered the room as Veronica was kissing Logan goodbye.
"Dad and I will drop by tomorrow," she was telling him. "We'll bring turkey, stuffing...all kinds of good stuff."
"Can you bring brownies?"
"Okay, I'll try to see if I have time to squeeze in some brownies."
She saw Charlie in the doorway. "Oh! Hi, Charlie! I'm glad I'm leaving him in good hands. I have to run… Library shift in half-an-hour!"
And with that, she darted out.
"Is she always in such a rush?" asked Charlie when she was gone.
"Yeah. She's pretty busy, you know, with both her jobs and college. She didn't always use to be like that, though. She only got like that, well, you know…" he trailed off until he realised that Charlie didn't know what he meant. "After Lilly died," he added sadly, almost in a whisper.
And there they were, suddenly so close to the elephant in the room.
"Is that when you and Veronica got together? After Lilly Kane died?"
"No. We got together later. Right after Lilly died, I was really messed up and I did a lot of stupid shit. I wasn't exactly a boy scout, if you know what I mean. But you probably already know about that."
Logan smiled wryly. It was clear that he wasn't proud of the tabloid headlines that had clinched Charlie's opinion of him and that he didn't want to discuss them. Charlie just returned his smile and shrugged, not quite knowing how to dispel the moment.
"The first time we got together was after my Mom died," Logan started again. "We were kind of on-and-off for a long time, because we were both still really messed up, I guess. But now we've been together for more than a year without breaking up. We even had our one year anniversary in July!" Logan grinned proudly.
Charlie was surprised to hear that Logan and Veronica had ever broken up. They seemed so lovey-dovey that it seemed almost impossible. He was about to say so when a nurse came in and started inspecting Logan. First, she asked him to stick out his tongue and she tested Logan's reflexes. Charlie wondered what the etiquette was, if he should go or not, but then she asked Logan to take off his shirt so she could listen to his heartbeat.
Logan was very casual about it, flirting with her about that not being the real reason she wanted him to take it off, but he did as he was told. Charlie gasped when he saw Logan's back. It was covered with little scars, and Charlie remembered a detail from Logan's interview with Larry King – how he'd talked about his father punishing him with belt lashes, and how Aaron Echolls made him choose the belt himself. Suddenly Charlie knew instinctively that Logan was telling the truth, that his father, their father, really was a murderer and an abuser.
Later that night, Charlie barely paid attention to the reports that everything had gone smoothly, that both Logan and Marcy were doing well and the preliminary observations were promising. He didn't really listen when Joanne called him to remind him of tomorrow's plans. All he could think about was the fact that he was the son of such a monster. A philanderer, a child abuser, a murderer and a child abandoner - how was he supposed to live with that knowledge?
He couldn't talk to his mother about it. She'd always made sure that Charlie had a high opinion of his father. When the tabloids had started publishing the details of Aaron's philandering tendencies, she'd taken one look at them and declared it to be all rubbish – which was odd, Charlie realised now, because Aaron had most definitely cheated on his wife with her. She had looked at Logan with badly disguised suspicion at Marcy's birthday, even though, for Marcy's sake, she'd been polite with him.
The only one who had an answer to that horrible, obsessing question, Charlie realised, was Logan. He'd had to cope with it for much longer than Charlie, and he would certainly have at least a few helpful tips. He thought about Logan's scars and about all the anguish he'd gone through over the years because of Aaron. Maybe Charlie had been the lucky one after all. Right now all the years he'd spent aching for his father seemed like superficial navel-gazing compared to what his brother had gone through growing up in Aaron's home. Logan probably envied him much more than he had ever envied Logan.
He came to a decision during the quiet celebration they had the following day in Marcy's room. She was still very tired from her operation, and all those who dropped by – Charlie's mother, Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, Veronica (who had smuggled turkey and stuffing into the hospital) – only stayed for a short time and had whispered conversations. It made Charlie even gloomier than before.
"Honey, do you mind if I leave you alone with Marcy for a while tonight?" Charlie suddenly asked his wife after they had been watching their daughter sleep for a few minutes.
"Sure, no problem," she said, looking a little surprised.
He gave her a kiss and then he walked to Logan's room. There was a more pleasant ambiance there, which was partly due to the fact that Logan was recovering sooner than Marcy, and partly because there was a proper, if slightly unconventional, Thanksgiving in progress. Veronica was there with Dick and the bald man from the detective agency, who Veronica introduced as her father. There were also a couple more friends who had just dropped by: a guy named Wallace and a girl named Mac who was telling a story about having narrowly escaped having to watch the football game with her family. Charlie smiled. Nobody in his family was at all into sporting events, but he remembered how Logan had confessed his relief at avoiding the analysis of old home runs with Mr. Mars, the Padres devotee. The turkey and the stuffing were gone, as well as the brownies, but there was still some pie left and Veronica offered Charlie some.
"Veronica, is it okay if I give Logan a ride home tonight?" he asked her after she'd helped him to a slice of chocolate pecan pie.
She gave him a long, calculating stare, as if she were establishing whether or not Charlie could be trusted with Logan.
"Okay," she finally answered, turning away while she was preparing a selection of pie for Joanne. "Make sure you check his prescription, though, I don't want him to get the wrong pills."
"Yeah," said Logan from the bed, "it's a well-known fact that I'm incapable of doing that myself. It's not like I'm an adult who's been taking care of himself for more than two years, now."
"Logan, you know that you're just going to swallow whatever they give you. There have been cases…"
"Veronica, those cases were extremely rare. Don't worry, Charlie and I will be fine. We need to do some male bonding and go get drunk in a bar."
"You're not allowed…"
"I know. I'm just kidding, dear."
* * *
As Charlie helped Logan get discharged, he couldn't help but get nervous at Veronica's admonishments. Somehow she'd managed to make him extra-scared to screw up Logan's return home.
"You really don't need to do that, you know," Logan protested while he was checking the description of the pills on his Blackberry.
"I don't want any trouble with Veronica, that's all."
Logan leaned against a wall and smiled at his brother while he was dealing with WebMD and the irate pharmacist.
"What?" Charlie demanded when he was done.
"Nothing," Logan replied. "It's just… Have you read Anansi Boys? It's this novel about an African god who has twin sons and they're complete opposites. I was just thinking we were a bit like that. Like, I'm the bad boy and you're the good one."
"You're not that bad."
"You don't know me."
"You don't know me either," huffed Charlie. "Maybe I'm not that good."
Logan laughed and shook his head. Now that Charlie took the time to observe him, he seemed pretty tired and his skin looked rather sallow. When they got to Charlie's car, Logan sank into the passenger's seat and closed his eyes. Charlie knew that the party must have tired him out, even though he'd seemed quite happy to be surrounded with his friends. For a second Charlie wondered if it was the right time to bring up the subject of Aaron.
"Listen," he said, starting the car. "There's something I wanted to ask you. If you're too tired for this, lemme know, but… How do you cope with the fact that your father is a murderer?"
For a moment Logan didn't answer, and Charlie thought he'd fallen asleep.
"Most of the time," he finally said without opening his eyes, "I try to think he's just… DNA, you know. Just...brown eyes and brown hair and blood type and stuff like that. And as long as they don't find the gene for being a violent asshole, I have a chance to end up okay."
Charlie considered this. "It's just…When I was a kid, I thought, if I'm good enough, maybe he'll notice me. Maybe he'll come to tell me he's proud of me," he said. "You know, if I became an astronaut or something."
"Oh, he would have noticed if you'd been an astronaut. Hell, he'd probably have taken credit for it. He was all about the cameras…"
They were silent a little longer as Charlie pondered what Logan had said. He'd never thought about how he would have felt if his father had sought him out only if he were a success story. Wouldn't he, indeed, have been resentful for it, and wouldn't he have been right to feel that way? He was suddenly glad that he'd never gotten his wish.
"Why didn't you become one?" asked Logan after a while.
"An astronaut. Why didn't you become an astronaut, if you really wanted Daddy Dearest's attention so much?"
Charlie noticed how Logan referred to Aaron now - Daddy Dearest. He said it with derision, probably not understanding how fervently Charlie had once wanted to be able to have a dad. But that was a dream they both had to give up, and Charlie realised that all the envy and resentment he'd ever fostered towards his brother was gone. It wasn't Logan's fault that Charlie had to mourn that dream. On the contrary, for the first time, Charlie wasn't alone anymore. He had a brother, and they were mourning together. It made all the difference in the world.
"I guess, when I got older, I realised that he wasn't ever going to come to me," he replied. "I figured I might as well do something I wanted to do. And that was teaching, not flying to the moon."
"When I first found out about you," said Logan, "and I found out you were a teacher, with a proper job and everything, I figured, maybe there was hope for me, you know. That I wouldn't end up some rich idiot who doesn't do anything with his life."
"Really?" Charlie asked. He was touched by the admission, and he felt a little short for words. "Well, thanks. That's really nice of you to say."
He considered telling Logan how much Joanne had helped him to take that decision, but maybe that was a story for another day.
"It's great, the way you are with Marcy," continued Logan. "You're a good dad. Dad was never like that. He would never have gone to someone he hated to beg them for bone marrow for Trina or me."
"I didn't hate you."
"Yeah, you did."
"Okay, maybe," conceded Charlie. "I just didn't know you. I'd spent my life wondering what you had that I didn't, and then you came out and accused our dad of abuse and murder. I was confused."
Logan laughed. "Anyway, it's wonderful that you love your daughter. At least, it shows that hating your kids is not a genetic Echolls family trait."
Charlie stared in front of him, slightly embarrassed. "Just wait until Marcy comes home and gets her hands on that fire truck you gave her," he joked. "Then we'll see how far my fatherly love stretches!"
Logan smiled, and Charlie saw a mischievous glint in his eyes that clearly meant that his brother was greatly looking forward to that.
"Sorry I fed you to the paps, by the way," Logan blurted out, in an obviously failed attempt at a casual tone. "I really sucked on that one."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Charlie answered airily. He realised that, even though he had been furious about it at the time and had sworn he would never forgive Logan, he had completely forgotten about it. "They lost interest after a few days. And at least now I'm vindicated for all the times in grade school where nobody believed that my dad was a movie star."
Logan snorted. "All the same," he said. "I shouldn't have done it."
They were silent some more before Logan spoke again.
"When I got the call that he was dead, I didn't feel anything. Just relief that he was gone." He said it in such a toneless voice that Charlie knew Logan was now very tired. "He'd just come out of jail, you know, and he let me know he was going to make me pay for testifying against him. I didn't really know what to do. I didn't really see what I could do except run away, but I had only graduated high school and I didn't have a lot of money of my own. Then I got the call that someone killed him, and it was as if I was breathing again."
"I don't think anyone could blame you for thinking that."
"It's just… I still feel horrible that it took someone's death for me to be able to start living my life. But at the same time, I really wish I could thank whoever did it. It's awful, but they really saved my life."
"Maybe Aaron doesn't have anyone to blame for that except himself," answered Charlie, and he was surprised at his own tone. He sounded the way Joanne did whenever he used to bring up Aaron to her, but until now he had never figured out what she meant. "Maybe he brought it all on himself. I mean, did he ever do anything to make you miss him?"
"Well then," Charlie said in the same chirpy voice Joanne would use in such arguments, "what are you feeling guilty about?"
Logan had no answer. He only lifted his head from the headrest and stared out of the window for a while. Charlie took the opportunity to ask something else that had been on his mind for a long time.
"Do you have any idea who killed him?"
"No," Logan answered, but Charlie was almost sure that he was lying, even though he couldn't have told why. He let it slide, though. Whoever Logan suspected, he probably didn't want to make frivolous accusations against them, and he'd just told Charlie that he was grateful to the murderer. Charlie wasn't sure he wanted Logan to break his silence with him on the subject.
They finally arrived at Logan's apartment complex and Charlie parked his car in the garage and helped Logan out of his seat. The way Logan towered over him as he leaned on his shoulder made Charlie feel not just gratitude for the bone marrow donor, but true affection for that little brother of his, who had to grow up so fast. He promised himself that from now on he'd be there for him the way an older brother should.
Charlie opened the door to the apartment and Logan broke away from him, heading straight for his bedroom where he crashed on the bed.
"Can you just leave the pills on the night stand and get me a glass of water?" he asked. "I think I need a nap."
When Charlie came back from the kitchen, Logan was nearly asleep.
"Hey," he said, before the window of opportunity of the conversation closed and he lost his nerve, "I just wanted to say… I apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt all these years. You deserve better than that."
"No problem," Logan muttered. "Thanks for the second chance."
And with that, his eyes fell shut, his mouth dropped open and he started snoring lightly. Charlie took off his shoes and tucked him under the covers.
* * *
As he drove back to the hospital, Charlie thought about Logan had said, and he thought he understood what his brother had meant. Their father, with his larger-than-life personality and his many deadly sins, had been so oppressive for both of them that his death had freed a lot of space that they were still, more than two years later, gingerly trying to occupy. They were both struggling to define themselves without referring to him. And maybe DNA wasn't such a bad place to start: brown hair, brown eyes, blood type… Those were easy building blocks, ones that didn't bring too many negative connotations with them – and it was certainly thanks to Aaron Echolls's genes that they had the bone marrow that was saving Marcy.
But of course it was much more difficult than that, and Charlie was certain that there were many things that Logan hadn't told him, many fears and hang-ups that he hadn't wanted to talk about yet. But there was one thing that Logan had pointed out that was reassuring, and Charlie was surprised that he had never thought about it himself- they didn't have to be like their father, and there was no Echolls family curse, like one tabloid had suggested.
It was strange that he'd never thought about his father when he got married, when he and Joanne had been discussing children, or when she had announced to him that she was pregnant. The idea that he'd end up leaving Joanne and Marcy, just like his father had left him and his mother, hadn't even occurred to him. Maybe he wasn't that screwed up after all.
Charlie didn't know what the next step was, and neither did Logan, but they would find it. For now he was just thankful that fate had forced him to reach out to Logan, and that he now had a companion on his journey.
End Notes: Thanks for reading this fic. I just wanted to add that, in real life, Logan and Marcy would probably never be HLA-compatible if Charlie and Marcy weren't. Fortunately, they're fictional.
Also, Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman.