The harsh blare from an interrupted line jolted him awake, and he bolted upright in his reclined seat, fumbling sleepily at the control panel to lower the volume. Beeping, static, silence. He stared at the display in confusion, his thoughts still muddled from his nap. He yawned, rubbing his eyes, and then set about to find the problem and fix it.
Sudden banging on the back passenger side door punctuated the frantic call, and Keith rushed to unlock it and slide it open.
"We gotta go! He knows!" There was a large cut above Vinnie's eye, and blood seeped from the wound and trailed down the side of his face before catching on the collar of his torn shirt. Keith reached out instinctively to help him get in the van.
He heard the first gunshot and then felt Vinnie sag against him, and the second shot rang out as Keith struggled with the weight from the body.
Everything went black.
~~Ten Months Later~~
Logan wiped at the corners of his bleary eyes as he shuffled barefoot to the main room. His head throbbed and stomach ached, but he was admittedly impressed by how well he held up after a night of hard drinking. It'd been years since he'd hit the bottle like that, and he had been anticipating a much worse hangover than the one he was battling against now.
He settled in on the couch, kicking his feet up on the coffee table and reaching for the remote at his side. Yet another day of what now? Maybe he'd order room service, or maybe he'd go back to bed. Maybe he'd catch up on the morning news first. Hell, he could do whatever he wanted; it was his call, his dime. He wasn't the one saddled with a new wife and a baby on the way. (He still couldn't quite believe it- God help them all, Dick Casablancas was procreating.) Nope, Logan answered to no one but himself. Or the call of the waves. Or a call from his wayward best friend, asking him to come to Vegas for wedding number three, swearing that this one was going to stick.
He didn't want to remember the night before. There was something about Las Vegas that did more of a number on his stomach than the Jack Daniels he had consumed. It had hit him sometime after the dinner, when he looked over at Dick and saw that the guy was genuinely happy and moving forward. The room felt smaller then, the collar of his dress shirt a little too tight, and he knew he had to get out. So he turned down a tempting offer from the maid of honor, said his goodbyes and bid his good wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Casablancas, and then called a cab to take him straight to the airport. He caught the first available flight to LA, where he booked a suite at the Sunset Regent and hit the room's mini bar until he passed out on the bed, his shoes off, tie on.
Now it was the morning after and he was in the same position as he was the night before, but this time he had to deal with it sober.
He flipped on the television and surfed through a bunch of channels, his eyes on the screen but his mind somewhere else entirely. He should have known better than to come back to LA. It was too close, and it always brought up memories of things best forgotten.
He settled on one of the local news channels, tossed the controller aside, and reached for the phone to order room service. He didn't want to have to wait, so he opted for cold cereal, sure his stomach could handle it.
The Fruit Loops arrived some time after the weather report, and Logan shoveled large spoonfuls in his mouth as he absently watched the highlight reels from the previous night's Lakers game. It was just starting to get easier to zone out, to dodge those close-calls with introspection.
He was on his last bite when he saw her on the screen, and he nearly choked in surprise, the milk dribbling down his chin. He sat the bowl down, swiped at his mouth with the back of his hand, and leaned forward in his seat as he turned up the volume on the television. The news camera angled to Veronica's somber face, hidden beneath large sunglasses, as she walked out of the courthouse.
"FBI Agent Veronica Mars pleaded not guilty this morning at her Los Angeles arraignment. The Agent was charged earlier this week with multiple counts, including conspiracy and illegally accessing FBI computers for personal use. Mars is the daughter of slain private detective Keith Mars, who was found murdered last May along with Balboa County Sheriff Vinnie Van Lowe.
Agent Mars is currently being held on a $25,000 bail."
"Have you considered my advice?" Cliff asked while he shuffled through his stack of papers.
Veronica exhaled slowly as she rubbed at her forehead. It had been a long day. "And what advice was that?"
"Get a better lawyer?"
She managed a weary smile but it never reached her eyes. "Oh c'mon, Cliff, I'm sure you've handled plenty of cases just like this."
He smirked at her as he reached over to open his briefcase, and it reminded her of years before, during a time when her biggest worry was Sheriff Lamb and is impenetrable grudge.
"If you're going to insist on my expertise," he said, growing serious, "then I think you should probably be as honest with me as possible."
Veronica tensed, her jaw set. "Full disclosure?" She sighed. "I'm not keeping anything from you."
"I know it's easy to confuse my boyish good looks with naivety, Vee, but give me some credit here. They're pissed and coming at you with everything they've got, so what exactly did you do to ruffle so many Fed feathers?"
"It's the Bureau. They're sticklers for the rules, and…maybe I broke a couple. What makes you think they'd go easy on me?"
"I never expected them to go easy on you, but you haven't talked to the prosecutors. They're fully prepared for a blood bath if this goes to trial, and I get the distinct feeling that they might just have a case."
She sat back in her seat and folded her arms across her chest, and Cliff rolled his eyes at her defensiveness. "If you take a plea bargain and resign," he told her, "you'll probably just get a slap on the wrist. Probation, maybe a reasonable fine. No jail time." He slid his briefcase aside and rested his elbows on the table, leaning in to stare Veronica down. "But if you want to fight this, and you lose, you're looking at a year in prison."
She remained quiet, but the tension radiating from her was nearly palpable.
Veronica had never thought it would come to this. On her first official day as a Fed, as she walked in and flashed her badge, the click-clack from her high-heels echoing throughout the building, she'd thought she had arrived. She thought she could finally do what she did best on the level with the best, and that everything that had ever happened to her before was just the stepping stone. A new Veronica was reborn that day. She was a professional, no-frills, no-bullshit Fed who was playing with the big boys.
Then, six months later, they found Keith's body. And nothing was ever going to be the same for her again.
"How about some good news?" Cliff asked, tapping his pen against the table.
Veronica shook herself from her thoughts and looked up, her mouth open in surprise. Good news didn't exist anymore.
"You must have a guardian angel or something, kid, because this morning I had twenty five grand deposited into my personal account. I was booking my cruise to the Caribbean when I got the anonymous instruction to use the money to bail you out." He tossed the pen in her direction. "But if you're still feeling stubborn, I'm sure I could catch a flight later tonight."
She caught the pen under her palm and rolled it against the wood surface, a tentative smile brightening her face. "So I'm free to go?"
"Yeah," he sighed in mock disappointment. "And I guess I'm free to get back to work." He stood from the table and gathered his suit jacket and briefcase. "Need a ride home?"
The prosecution and the judge hadn't gone easy on her, so Veronica had been prepared to spend a few nights in a cell. Now she was so relieved by the idea of getting out that she didn't even question the mystery behind the bail money. She stood to follow Cliff, the malaise melting away with each step she took toward the door. She walked alongside him down the hallway, but they both stopped short at the sight of Logan leaning against the wall near another interrogation room.
"Your guardian angel?" Cliff asked, turning to Veronica with a raised brow.
She ignored him, her eyes on Logan and his eyes on her. Cliff looked back and forth between the two, growing uncomfortable with the intensity, but he remained quiet. Finally able to break the hold, Logan pushed away from the concrete and straightened his body, nodding his head in Cliff's direction even though his eyes remained locked with Veronica's.
"Good to see you, Cliff," he told him as he continued to study his ex. Veronica tried to cover her shock with anger, her expression darkening as she looked back at Logan, who finally gave in and diverted his attention to the lawyer. "I started to worry that you might take the money and run off to the Caribbean or something."
"Way to underestimate me," he volleyed, turning to look at Veronica. "Should I go?"
"Huh?" she asked, her attention returning slowly. She realized his question and shook her head adamantly. "You're supposed to drive me home."
"I got it," Logan declared solidly, watching her for a reaction. He had to stop himself from grinning when her head whipped back in his direction, her eyes narrowing as she stared him down.
"Oh goody," Cliff said, moving away from them. "Now I can leave you two to the awkwardness and still hit the McDonald's drive-thru before the lunch rush. It must be my lucky day." He looked back over his shoulder at Veronica, who was now looking down at the floor as she awkwardly shuffled her feet. "Call me if you need anything," he told her seriously.
"How…are you?" Logan asked once they were alone. She glared at him but he could already tell that the fight in her was fading.
"Peachy keen," she bit, and he smiled, shrugging his shoulders to let her know that he was fully aware of the stupidity of that question.
"Well, since you're a free woman now, you want to grab a cup of coffee or something?"
"What are you doing here, Logan?" she asked, cutting through the pretenses.
"I'm asking you to have some coffee with me. Is that allowed?"
"No." She folded her arms across her chest, ducking her head as she tried to pass by him to leave, but Logan grabbed her gently by the elbow and propelled her around to face him.
"It's just coffee, Veronica," he said, but she pulled away from him and turned. She kept walking, so he went for the big guns. "Even you should be able to keep your hands off of me long enough for some coffee."
She stopped, and even with a view of just the back of her head, Logan knew two things: she was fuming, and he had won.
Veronica agreed to coffee, but only if she got to decide where they went, so Logan followed her directions and pulled his rental car into the one empty space in the crowded parking lot. The hotspot, called Ray's, was just outside of LA, and Logan was about to ask Veronica what made this place so special when she hurriedly unbuckled her seatbelt and hopped out of the car.
"Wait up!" he said, jogging to catch up with her. He stood beside her at the door, watching her curiously as she took a deep breath before entering.
The small restaurant/coffee bar was crammed full of people, most dressed in business attire as they chatted over lunch and coffee. Logan observed the area from the entry way, and Veronica took a cautious step forward, her eyes scanning the room. He studied her, recognizing the way she stood a little straighter, her shoulders back and head held high. It was as if she was throwing a challenge out to the room, daring anyone to say something to her, to even try and cut her down. Suddenly he was reminded of a young girl in a white dress, and then things started to make sense. It was an FBI hangout spot. Of course.
"So should we get a table?" he asked. She didn't answer him, her eyes still trained ahead. She seemed confused by the lack of response to her, like she had been expecting some sort of melee upon her arrival and now she didn't know how to react to being ignored. Logan broke away from her, moving to a seat at a corner table, knowing she would follow him when she was ready.
She did, a minute later. He sat expectantly, waiting for her to say something first, but he was met with cold silence and a hard stare.
He decided to break the ice when she didn't, so he rested his elbows on the table and stared back at her with a tight smile. "Come here often?"
She rolled her eyes, her tongue pressed against the back of her teeth, something she used to do when she was really pissed. And Logan had plenty of experience with that.
He waited for a response, fully prepared to kill her with patience if that was what it took. Her nervous hands were tearing at the napkin wrapped around the silverware in front of her, and Logan watched her with a mixture of confusion and concern. She seemed off kilter, thrumming with anxious energy, and it was showing. Veronica rarely showed vulnerability to anyone, and now she was stripped bare in a room full of people she'd probably call the enemy. Logan included.
"What are you doing in LA?" she finally asked, her eyes not quite meeting his, her hands still pulling at paper.
"Personal business," he replied succinctly, expecting her to prod.
She didn't, much to his disappointment. Veronica turned in her seat to look for a waitress, and Logan pressed at his temple with his fingertips, trying to work away the remnants of his hangover headache.
"Too loud in here for you?" she asked, facing him again. It was an absurd question; the place was busy but nobody spoke above a hushed whisper, just as nobody dared to put their elbows on the table or slouch in their seat. But Veronica wasn't asking out of concern.
His fingers moved to his hair, and he scratched his scalp while he pinned her with a sardonic smile. Sure, he'd bite. "Maybe I drank a little too much last night," he admitted, daring her to react just how he expected.
She didn't disappoint. "Ah, surprise, surprise. And here I thought that you actually meant it when you said that you had changed."
"I never said I gave up drinking," he returned, his mood darkening. "Everyone's allowed a hangover every now and then."
"Not in the FBI," she replied haughtily.
"I'm sure you follow all of their rules to a T, right?"
Veronica pushed back her chair, twisting around again to crane her neck as she continued her search for a waitress, an obvious bid to ignore Logan's ribbing. But he could see her mouth curve into a salacious smile in spite of herself, and he hated how hot it made him.
"I mean, it's not like you're being formally charged with rule breaking or anything."
"Innocent until proven guilty."
"Well it's good to know that still holds up for some people, huh?"
She met his eyes for a brief moment before looking away, her lips pursed. Logan had the higher ground here, and Veronica didn't want to tread. "So are you living in LA now or what?"
"Don't sound so thrilled by the prospect."
"Why would I be?"
She dug her fingernails into her palm, frustrated by his answering smirk. Surely he couldn't believe that she'd want him back. Not after how he left. Not after everything that happened. He was probably just trying to get under her skin again, she reasoned. That was the only thing he ever had any follow-through on, anyway.
"I'm just passing through. I was in Vegas for Dick's wedding."
"Dick got married?" she asked, her lip curled in disbelief.
"Dick's going to be a daddy."
She shook her head, falling further back in her seat. "Well, that's almost enough to make you appreciate forced sterilization."
Logan chuckled. "Yeah, I know." He sighed as he looked around the room. "The service here blows, by the way."
Her small smile helped relax him and he took it as a sign that she was starting to relent a little. "So you're still friends with Dick?"
"Don't hold Dick against me." Truth was Logan didn't have many people in his life. Dick had his issues, but he had proven himself a solid friend, and that wasn't something Logan took lightly. He was going to ask her about Wallace and Mac, but he knew enough and thought better of it.
"It's easy to lose touch with people after school," she said softly, and he nodded, a bit sad for her.
They both looked up to see a blond-haired man about their age standing beside the table. He was dressed in a suit and tie, FBI credentials hanging around his neck. Logan's eyes went to Veronica, who seemed taken aback by the man's presence. "Seth. Hey."
Seth shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his hands on his hips. "I've heard about what's going on. I'm really sorry that you're going through this now." He ignored Logan, his attention focused solely on Veronica. "I'm not sure what I could do, but if you ever need-"
"Thanks, but I can handle it."
"Yeah, okay," he said, nodding. "But my offer stands."
"I appreciate it," she told him, but Logan could tell that she seemed most interested in getting this guy to leave. Her eyes darted downward nervously, so Logan took the opportunity to introduce himself. "Hey," he broke in, offering his hand. "I'm Logan."
"Seth Fox. Nice to meet you." Seth's palm slid against his, and Logan, never one to back down from a challenge, held the other man's stare.
"I was just passing through, getting some coffee to go."
"Well we won't keep you," Veronica spoke up, a tight smile on her face.
"Eh, there's no rush. I'm just pushing a lot of paperwork today. I was dealing with a fifteen-year-old murder witness all last week so I'm taking it easy now."
If it were another place and another time, Veronica would have taken the opportunity to joke about paperwork being the easy route, but she couldn't muster the energy now. But she noticed the way Logan's jaw tensed at the mention of the young witness, and she wondered what he was thinking or remembering. "That's too bad about the teenager," she said, casting a sideways glance in Seth's direction. "I hope you were easy on the kid." Seth had a bit of a reputation as a hard-ass; Veronica always thought he came across as somebody who watched too much Law & Order growing up and was acting less on instinct and more for show. He was the quintessential Agent.
"I wouldn't go so far to call him a kid," he replied. "These teens today, they've probably seen more than either of us."
That was a subtle reminder of how little he really knew about her, she thought. But Logan still seemed agitated, and she noticed how he had his tongue pressed against the back of his teeth, something he started to do when he was really pissed. And Veronica had plenty of experience with that.
"They're still just kids."
Veronica threw a look his direction, telling him without words to not get too riled up. "Logan used to work with a lot of underprivileged or high-risk children," she said, by way of explanation. She wondered if either of them picked up on the hint of pride in her voice, despite her accurate use of the past tense.
Seth nodded again animatedly, but she could tell he had already checked out of the conversation. "I really should get going," he told them, motioning toward the barista who still hadn't looked their way in the more than fifteen minutes they'd been seated.
They exchanged simple pleasantries before he left, and once he was out of earshot, Logan turned to her with a raised brow. "So, how long did you two date?"
He didn't seem to buy her scoffing laughter, so she gave in. "A few weeks, back at the Academy. Not one of my best moments."
He grinned back at her, loving the predictability of it all. "Now why would you ever let that one go?"
She looked down at her hands, the small smile falling away from her face. "Actually, I dumped him for you."
"Well, thanks for lunch. And, you know, the bail." She shrugged awkwardly, her back to her door. He was invading her personal space again, a hairbreadth away, his bright eyes shining as he watched her plan her escape.
She turned away, her keys in her hand, but she froze when she felt his arm brush against hers. He was leaning against the frame, his arm above his head, and it made her feel as if she was trapped between him and the door. "Thanks again," she managed once she turned the key. She didn't know what else to say, so she slipped into her apartment and shut the door behind her.
Logan straightened at the sound of the door slamming in his face, and he stared at her apartment number, confused and a little hurt by her failure to even invite him in. But why should he have expected any different? Especially with the way things were left between them the last time…
He walked away, promising himself that he was really walking away this time, for good. He had tried to be there for her, tried to do what he could to help her, but it only ever ended in his own heartache, and he was done. If she wanted to hold his leaving against him, after all they had been through, then that was her prerogative. He couldn't control her actions, only his reactions. That had been his advice to others, so maybe it was time he started listening to himself.
He was halfway down her hall when he spun around, decided, and marched to her door. If she wanted to stay away, fine, but he didn't want to leave things the way they were; he didn't want her to think that he deserted her like so many others. He knocked and waited. Then he knocked again. He rolled his eyes, pounding against the wood with the side of his fist. "C'mon, Veronica, I know you're in there. I want to talk for a minute."
When there was no response, he turned the doorknob, finding it unlocked. "Veronica?" he called, poking his head inside to check on her. He swung the door wide open and walked through, taking in the surroundings. A couple of chairs were overturned in the living room, and the drawers from the tables and bureaus hung open, various papers scattered all around. Logan marched through the kitchen, searching for her worriedly. "Veronica?"
She was in her bedroom, staring in open-mouthed shock at the mess surrounding her. "Are you okay?" he asked, coming to stand beside her, his hand at her shoulder. She nodded and he steered her out of the room. "You shouldn't stay here."
"I'm sure it's fine," she managed, swallowing thickly. "There's nobody here."
Logan looked over at the small kitchen table, where a glass of orange juice and a mug had been knocked over. The liquids pooled together on the surface, and dried coffee stains marked the wood. "They've probably been gone for a few hours," he told her, leading her to the door. "But I want you to come back to my hotel."
"No, really." She pulled away from him and headed toward the living room, intent on cleaning up.
"Come on," he pressed. "It'll give us the chance to catch up. I think there's a lot we need to talk about."
Veronica half-heard his words, but her attention was on the picture frame at her feet, and she knelt to pick it up. Her father's smile stared back at her from behind the web of broken glass. It was a photo of them together on the day she graduated from the Academy.
She really didn't want to be alone tonight, and now she was too tired to fight that feeling. She looked up at him and exhaled softly, her shoulders slumping in resignation. "Fine. Let's go."
He handed her a t-shirt and pair of sweats from his suitcase. He knew she'd probably drown in them, but she had nothing else to sleep in after he rushed her out of her apartment without a second thought toward an overnight bag. She took the proffered clothing but stayed silent. She'd been quiet for awhile. For two people who were supposed to talk, they had both spent a lot of time not speaking.
"Do you have any idea who could have broken in?" he finally asked.
She shook her head, her hands clutching the cotton shirt. "Whoever it was…they were looking for something. I don't think they took anything, though."
"How did they get in?"
She shrugged. There weren't any signs of forced entry, and they locked the door behind them, despite leaving a mess for her to find. Maybe they were in a hurry, whoever it was.
"It might have been someone from the Bureau," she said after a moment, common sense finally catching up to her. She sighed, setting the pile of clothes beside her. "They probably had a warrant. It's nothing to worry about." And now she had no excuse to stay. "There's no reason for me not to go home." She moved to stand, but he held up his hand in protest.
"Stay." It wasn't a command, but a broken plea.
She nodded, much to his surprise, and so he took the initiative to sit next to her on the edge of the bed. "What do they have against you, Veronica?" he asked, referring to the Feds. "What'd you do?"
He could hear her soft exhale and he inched closer to her, his elbow bumping against hers. She flinched at the contact. "Veronica?"
"I was…I was looking into info about the Fitzpatricks. It wasn't a case, so everything I did using their resources…they're willing to charge me."
The Fitzpatricks. He had blissfully forgotten all about them. But after all of those years in Neptune, he had more psychologically damaging memories to haunt him.
"What about them?"
She worried her bottom lip as he watched her. Her hesitation gave him an excuse to study her. Veronica's hair was longer now, falling down to the middle of her back, but she still looked the same as she had when they were in college. But neither of them looked much like grownups. He imagined that she made up for her youthful appearance with her wardrobe for the Bureau; he tried to picture her in a stylish pantsuit, the credentials hanging around her neck like they had around Seth's, but she still looked like Veronica to him. His Veronica.
"I think they had something to do with my father and Vinnie's deaths."
He looked up, his face twisting in confusion. "I thought it was ruled a drive-by."
The pain was still fresh and she grimaced at the flash of images that accompanied his words. "They were in a surveillance van, Logan. I'd bet anything they were tracking the Fitzpatricks."
"What makes you so sure? I mean, was there any evidence?"
She shook her head but remained adamant. "But they could have taken all of that. They wouldn't have left anything behind."
"Why would they have left…" he trailed off, not wanting to seem insensitive but not sure how else to word his question. "Why would they have left the bodies there?"
"Because," she said, her voice growing stronger, "they could get away with it. You said so yourself, it was ruled a drive-by. Liam Fitzpatrick has a habit of getting off for anything."
He still didn't understand. "Why them? How do you know it was them?"
"I'm only sure about Liam," she explained. "And…there are lots of reasons."
He waited expectantly for her to elaborate. "Vinnie was working with him, for years. It's one of the main reasons he got elected."
"But why would Liam kill him if they worked together?"
"Because Vinnie was helping my dad? I don't know, maybe Vinnie grew a conscience or something. Stranger things have happened. If he and my dad were working together to put him away, and Liam found out?"
Logan nodded, understanding. He wanted to reach out and touch her hand, to do anything to try and comfort her. He knew how hard it was for her to talk about her father. He saw firsthand how badly she handled his death.
"They were shot with a M1911," she added, looking up to meet his eyes. "A .45 caliber handgun. And I know that Liam had a Colt just like that. I saw it myself, in his glove compartment, years ago. He would have killed my dad with it then if he had the chance." She sighed again, her head down. "I know they're not the rarest guns, but I just…I know he was behind it, Logan. I'm sure of it."
He didn't need much more convincing beyond that. "But the Feds should have helped you build a case around this. You shouldn't have had to go off on your own."
"I didn't trust anyone else," she admitted with a shrug. "Liam's served some time, but nothing compared to what he should have been doing. Every time a case was brought against him, something would happen to make it all fall apart. Witnesses would recant or just outright disappear, evidence would be lost. It was a mess. But when I put him away," she said, turning to him, fire in her eyes, "he's done. It's for good."
"What about Carter?" he asked suddenly, surprising even himself. Might as well follow through, he thought, the question already out there. "You don't trust Carter to help you out?"
"What the hell do you know about Carter?" Her words were harsher than her tone.
He looked down at the bedspread, unable to meet her eyes. He couldn't help but think back to that time. Veronica had been inconsolable, and he had spent six days at her side, holding her while she cried, pulling her hair back while she vomited, promising her he wouldn't leave. It had been months since they saw each other before that, but he couldn't stay away after he heard the news. He watched her at the cemetery as he stood propped against an old oak tree, his eyes only on her as she stared off into space while her father was being lowered into the ground. They weren't on the best of terms, but he vowed that he'd be there for her just as she was there for him when he needed her the most. She had collapsed in his arms after the funeral, and while he cradled her against him, he realized how wrong he was to leave her the first time.
And then Carter showed up on day seven. A fucking week later and he showed up, telling Logan that he was Veronica's partner and that he'd handle it from there.
He let his insecurity get the best of him that day. He took one look at the guy and all of his greatest fears were realized. Here was the male version of Veronica, the one who could measure up to her in ways he never could. This person was a part of her life now, a life that didn't include Logan.
So he left. He argued with Carter first (and every part of Logan might have told him to fight more), but in the end, he left.
"He's your partner. I assumed you guys were together, the way he talked. I-"
"What? Wait, when did you talk to Carter?"
He sighed. "Before I left. He told me he was there to take care of you and that I should go. So…I went."
He could see the realization dawning on her face. Truthfully, he was surprised the C-word hadn't come up sooner. Where the hell was Carter now? Why wasn't he the one to post bail? Logan could admit it- he loved Veronica. He always would. But he didn't have the stomach to be a placeholder until perfect FBI guy decided to show and step up to the fucking plate.
"Carter's dead, Logan." She took a deep breath, threading her fingers together nervously. "And we…we were never together."
"Yeah," she whispered, nodding sadly. "He was shot a couple of months ago, during a sting operation." It still hurt to think about losing another colleague (and Callie Farmer's death still replayed in her nightmares, another part of the never ending rotation of all things that continued to haunt her). But a piece of her was angry with him now for his role in Logan leaving. Carter probably thought he could handle her with that psych-babble-bullshit. Give her a week to grieve and then set her straight. She could still hear him: "It's going to hurt. It'll always hurt. But you're not the one who died, Veronica. So you have to decide to live."
Logan held her in silence. He let her cry.
"You're not angry with me. You're angry with your father for dying. You're projecting."
Logan let her fight him. He took her weak punches until she fell against him, exhausted. He let her scream.
He might have had his faults, but he was always there for her when she needed him the most, and now it was hard to not resent Carter for playing a part in sending him away. Joshua Carter was a weak substitute for Logan. Anyone would be.
"I'm sorry," he told her, and it was a loaded apology. I'm sorry you lost your partner. I'm really sorry I left you.
She watched him for a minute, her eyes lingering on his lips, but she forced herself to snap out of it. Things were complicated enough for her already.
"I should get to sleep. I have to meet Cliff and the prosecuting attorney tomorrow morning, and it's been a really long day."
"It's not even seven yet. Don't you want some dinner?" He stood from the bed, following her as she trudged to the bathroom.
"No, I can't. I shouldn't. I should…I need some sleep."
Logan sighed as he ran a hand through his hair, but he gave in. "Then I'll take the couch. And I'll pick up some stuff for you tomorrow from your apartment. I really think you should stay here until you figure things out."
She spun around to face him, resting her back against the countertop. He was close, but not too close. "I'm not sure that's a good idea."
His dark eyes bore into hers, and even in her state of mind, she had to admit to herself that if things weren't so complicated, she might have been tempted to kiss him. "Well, I am," he told her, backing away. He left the bathroom to give her some privacy, closing the door behind him, and she released the breath she'd been unconsciously holding for the last thirty seconds.
She removed her blazer and hung it on a nearby hook. As she was unbuttoning her blouse, she looked up and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror above the sink. She looked like hell, her eyes tired and makeup a mess. She wiped at her smudged mascara with shaky fingers, and suddenly she felt so overwhelmed it was hard to stand. She gasped for air as she leaned against the ceramic tile, her head down as she concentrated on breathing. One deep breath. Two. Breathe. Just breathe.
As her heart rate returned to normal, she lifted her eyes and dared herself to look at what she had become. She stared back at herself, everything else in the background fading to black.
God, what the hell had she gotten into now?