A/N Well, this is it; my dream chapter. This is the reason I started writing this story, the culmination of nearly a year of hard work. It's everything I wished we could have seen on the show. (Although some of it wouldn't have made it through standards and practices lol). I've had some of these scenes written from the very beginning, and I've been dying to share them with everyone for months. We're finally here. Enjoy.

A special note to my reviewers: I quite literally couldn't have done this without you. You are AMAZING. You inspired me to be better, and to work harder. It's been a real pleasure getting to hear your thoughts, and being able to correspond with some of you. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

This one is to friends, both new and old.

And Happy belated B-day to Steph McG :)

Chapter 19


Logan and Veronica lay nude, their limbs intertwined haphazardly as they both tried to catch their breath. Logan's arm was draped across her body, his leg caught between hers. One of her hands had gone slightly numb, trapped below his shoulder. But she'd barely noticed. She rested her forehead against his stomach. His skin was damp with sweat, and the fine hair on his body tickled her nose as his chest rose and fell; but she had absolutely no desire to move.

After a moment, Logan moved his hand up to her head, gently sweeping the tangled hair back from her face. She turned her head sideways, her cheek on his stomach, and looked up at him. He opened his eyes and smiled.

"So. How do you feel?" he asked, a lazy grin spreading across his face.

She pulled herself up so that she was lying on her side next to him, her head on the pillow. "Scared," she replied honestly.

"Scared?" he repeated with a laugh. "Not quite the adjective I was hoping for. I was thinking more along the lines of 'impressed' or 'amazed'… I'd even accept 'satisfied'. I'm clearly off my game." When she didn't respond, he frowned. "Hey, are you serious? Are you really scared?"

"Terrified," she admitted.

Doubt flickered in Logan's eyes. "Did I-"

Veronica reached an assuring hand up to his cheek immediately, shaking her head. "No," she interrupted him, not wanting there to be even a second of misunderstanding. "I'm all of those things, I promise." She stroked her thumb down his jaw line and smiled. "Impressed. Amazed. Immensely satisfied. But I'm also scared."

Logan caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips, kissing her thumb lightly. But he still looked concerned, despite her assurances. "Why?"

She took a deep breath, trying to muster up the courage to be honest. To allow herself to be vulnerable. "Because I love you so much," she answered him in a whisper. "I don't know what I'd do if anything ever happened to you. Or if I lost you again."

"Hey," he said softly, pulling her close to him. "I'm not going anywhere. Ever." He kissed her forehead, and the tip of her nose, and then her lips. "And neither are you."

He seemed to mean that literally.

When Veronica motioned to stand up, about a half hour later, Logan reached his arms out and put his hands on her hips, pulling her back down onto the bed. He rolled them both over so he was straddling her, and shook his head. "Uh-uh."

Her mild protests were lost in his kisses, and within seconds she had no desire to go anywhere.

Some time later, Logan looked as though he were about to drift off to sleep. She quietly mentioned finding her clothes, and moved just slightly towards the edge of the bed. But Logan curled his arm around her waist tightly, eyes still closed. "Nope."

"But I'm cold," she laughed.

"That's what I'm here for," he mumbled. He scooted himself towards her, resting his head on her pillow and pulling the blanket up around them both.

"So," Veronica said, snuggling closer to him, "you're just gonna keep me chained up to you here, like Princess Leia?"

"That depends," he replied. He opened one eye. "Are you willing to wear a gold bikini?"

"Only if I get to call you Jabba," she retorted.

"You can call me whatever the hell you want, if you wear that bikini." He grinned at her sleepily, and she nestled her head into his chest.

They fell asleep that way. When Veronica awoke, she wasn't sure how much later, they were still in the same position. She didn't move for several moments, listening to the rhythm of his heart beat, breathing in his scent. She'd always marveled at how well their bodies molded together. With a full foot height difference between them, it seemed impossible that they should fit so perfectly. But we do.

She reveled in the familiar comfort of his body, feeling completely at ease. Safe. Loved. Veronica gently lifted his arm off of her body and moved away from him slightly. She studied his face as he slept. Logan was usually a bit of a restless sleeper, tossing and twisting, reaching out for her in his sleep. At the moment, he was totally still. She couldn't remember ever seeing him look so at peace.

Veronica looked down at his body, admiring his muscular physique. He looks even better than I remembered. She'd craved him these last few weeks, like she craved caffeine in the morning. No, much more than that. And for longer than a few weeks, if I'm being honest with myself. Much, much longer.

She traced her fingernails along the lines of his abdomen, smiling as she thought about the way they'd spent their morning. We've always worked, physically. That was the one part of our relationship that never took any effort.

Yet she still had nagging concerns that she wasn't quite his equal, sexually, despite how incredible it always felt. Veronica was certain that he'd done things with other women that he'd never attempted with her. She wasn't sure if he held back with her because he didn't want to make her uncomfortable, or if he just didn't think she'd be willing. The truth was, she knew she'd be up for pretty much anything he wanted to do.

It's something we'll have to discuss. But not now... She kissed Logan awake, trailing her lips softly across his neck, his chest, his stomach. "Mmm," he mumbled. "Best alarm clock ever." He weaved his fingers through her hair as she continued to explore his body, sighing contentedly. "God I've fucking missed you."

She grinned and climbed back up his body, kissing him lightly on the lips. "Morning, sunshine."

"Is it still morning?" he asked, glancing out the window.

"Does it matter?" she replied, catching his lower lip between her teeth.

"Not at all," he agreed. Logan ran his hands down her back until he reached her hips. He gripped them tightly, inhaling sharply as Veronica sunk her teeth into his neck. "We have much more…pressing concerns."

Morning lazed into afternoon, and they savored every moment spent together. Every kiss, every nibble, every whisper of love. Veronica checked the urge to pinch herself, to see if she were dreaming- because even if she were, she didn't want to wake up. At one point, she found herself staring at him, his brown eyes light as amber in the sunlit room. He stared back at her, his expression inscrutable.

"What are you thinking about?" he finally asked.

"I was thinking about what you said to me, that night in Mexico."

"Which part?" he asked warily.

"The part where you told me how much I suck. Thank you, by the way. That was very considerate of you."

"Hey, you asked me to do it," he reminded her, raising an eyebrow.

"I know." Veronica bit her lip. "And you were right, about a lot of it." Logan looked as though he were about to speak up, but she continued. "I was especially thinking about that thing you said, about me running away."

Logan was silent for a moment, as he looked into her eyes. "Yeah," he finally replied.

"I know you're right," Veronica began. "I do run away all the time. But it's not just from you. I mean, I don't want you to think it's something I only do with you. I do it whenever I feel… overwhelmed. I start to feel like I can't breathe, and I just need to get out of wherever I am. It's like… the only way I can start to feel calmer." She wasn't sure if she was explaining it well enough, but Logan nodded.

"I know," he said quietly.

"I'm not sure if I'm ever going to be able to deal with things differently," she told him honestly. "When I feel trapped, I just need to…" Veronica waved her hand vaguely at the door. Then she took his hand in hers. "But I promise you that I'm working on it."

"Okay." Logan squeezed her hand tightly. "Listen, all of that stuff I said to you that night… I mean, we both know I'm pretty damn far from perfect, too."

Veronica smiled slyly, running the tips of her fingers up his tan, well-formed forearm. "Well I don't know about that."

He smiled back at her, but it faded quickly as he continued. "The summer before senior year, when we got back together…" Logan let go of her hand, seeming suddenly uncomfortable. He shifted his body so that he lay on his back, looking up at the ceiling. "You were the only one who was there for me. Who stood by my side. You were amazing… But my head was too far up my ass to appreciate how good I had it. I had you. And I screwed it up."

Logan turned his head back towards her. "So my punishment was that I had to watch you with Duncan. I knew it was only fair, but it made me fucking insane. Instead of just… accepting it, or dealing with it, I wanted to make you hurt like I was hurting. Again. " He shook his head. "So I paraded Kendall around in front of you, trying to make you jealous." He laughed shortly. "Like you ever gave a crap about what I was doing. You looked at me with such… disgust."

His eyes shifted back upward, toward the ceiling. "It was torture to be around the two of you, do you know that?" he said softly. "Seeing you cuddled up on the couch with him, watching you come out of his room and knowing that you-" Logan stopped abruptly. His gaze dropped back to her face, and he looked her directly in the eye. "But it was still better than not seeing you at all."

He turned his body back towards her, running his hand down the side of her face. "Yet somehow, after all of that, you were mine again. But then you started to get more and more distant. I could feel you slipping away, no matter how tightly I tried to hold on. And then… you were gone." Logan exhaled heavily. "The way you looked at me that night, when you told me you knew about me and- about what had happened. I thought that was it. That I'd lost you forever, even as a friend."

"Logan, I told you…" Veronica began earnestly. "I'm sorry about that. I regret it more than you can possibly know."

"So do I," he replied quietly.

"I know." She chewed on her lower lip, wondering if she could muster up the courage to ask him the question that had been bothering her for almost a year. Finally, she just blurted it out. "Did you really like Parker?"

Logan smiled, and she fought every instinct not to run out of the room as she waited for his answer. "No," he finally replied. "I wanted to like her. But I think I just liked that she liked me. And that she was so easy to figure out. Unlike certain other people, who require their own guide book." He leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. "I always thought you saw right through that?"

"Of course," she lied.

He grinned. "Okay, Mars. My turn."

Veronica, feeling slightly panicked, reached for his hand again and kissed it quickly. "C'mon, Logan. I don't want to keep drudging up old stuff. I want a clean slate this time. And I really, truly mean that." She cleared her throat as she searched for a new topic. "So. Are you going to explain to me how you managed to buy a house while you were on a different continent?"

Logan, who didn't look at all convinced by her sudden interest in real estate, seemed willing to let the matter drop. "I closed on it before I'd even left for Mexico."

"Really? That was fast."

"Well, there was nothing to consider. As soon as I heard it was on the market, I knew it was the only place I'd settle for." He smirked at her. "Even if it wasn't on the market, it would have been the only place I'd have settled for."

Veronica smiled, still in a state of disbelief that Logan had bought her dream house for her. She kissed him gently on the lips, overcome with gratitude. He responded instantly, cupping his hand around the back of her neck and pulling her closer to him. Before things intensified, a sudden thought occurred to her and she broke off the kiss abruptly. "Did you tell Dick that you moved out of the suite yet?" Logan didn't respond, and she looked at him suspiciously. "Oh no."

"I asked him to move into the guest house," he admitted apologetically, confirming her worst fears.

Veronica flopped back onto her pillow, rolling her eyes. "Logan, I know he can afford to-"

"I want him here," Logan interrupted her. She looked at him in surprise, but waited for him to continue. "I like having him around. And he doesn't have anyone else. Not really."

She studied him for a moment, fully understanding for the first time the extent of Logan's loyalty to the people he loved. "Okay," she finally said. "Dick can be our very own Kato Kaelin." She paused. "It's just him though, right? Not, like, him and Chip, or one of his other frat buddies?"

"Just him. If anyone else tries to move in, I'll shoot 'em," Logan assured her. Veronica raised an eyebrow, and he shrugged. "Politely."

She laughed. "Fine. Just promise me that he doesn't have a key to the main house. I have a feeling we're going to need plenty…" Veronica leaned closer to him and kissed him on the lips. "…of privacy." She kissed him again, tangling her fingers in his hair and pulling him on top of her.

Logan returned her kisses for several moments; but then it was his turn to break away. He looked down at her, his eyes serious. "I want you to think of this as your house. Our house. And… when you're ready, I want you to move in here with me." He gave her a wry smile, as he pushed a strand of hair out of her eye. "From now on, my cards are on the table. Facing up. As much fun as it was playing our little chess game, it was kind of exhausting."

Veronica thought about that. She'd lived in four different places this year- her old apartment, the housing at Quantico, the dorms, and now the new house. She grimaced at the idea of having to pack her stuff up again. She focused back on Logan, who had suddenly gotten up off of her and moved over to his side of the bed. She glanced over at him, confused.


He shrugged, his eyes on the ceiling. "I get it. It's okay if you don't want that."

She inched herself closer to him, turning his head gently with the tips of her fingers so that he'd look at her. She bent her head down and kissed him fully on the lips. "I want," she told him. "I definitely want. We've spent enough time apart."

Logan smiled. "I agree." He drew her close to him, wrapping his arms around her tightly. It limited her movement, which she usually hated. But, for once, she pushed the panic away and surrendered herself to him. She relaxed instantly. He kissed the hollow of her throat softly. "I'm never letting you go," he informed her in a whisper. "Ever."

Veronica felt a pleasant fluttering in her stomach at the thought of living with Logan. Getting to wake up next to him every morning, falling asleep beside him every night. Having a place together that was just for them, their own little sanctuary away from the rest of the world. But then something occurred to her, and she frowned. "There are practical things to consider first."

"Hmm?" Logan asked, kissing his way slowly across her collarbone. "Like what?"

"Like my dad."

He glanced up at her, making a face. "Can we not talk about this right now? I was enjoying myself."

Veronica knew it would have to be discussed eventually, but she nodded. "Okay."

"Thank you."

Logan bowed his head back down, continuing where he'd left off. His movements were deliberate and achingly slow, but it was the sweetest kind of torture. Veronica closed her eyes and smiled, all thoughts of practicality quickly flowing out of her mind. He kissed the very tip of one nipple, then bit it lightly, running a flat palm down the side of her body. And all she could focus on were the sensations shivering through her body.

They dozed off again awhile later. Veronica awoke to the feel of Logan's hand running up her calf. She laughed lightly, her eyes still closed. "As much as I'd like to start round… four, is it?" She opened her eyes and lifted her head slightly, glancing down at him.

"Five," he corrected her, laying kisses up her thigh.

"Really? Hmmm…" She lost her train of thought for a moment, then shook herself back to the present. "I think I might need some food before I pass out."

"Want me to call for a pizza?"

"For breakfast?"

Logan traveled up her body, sowing a trail of kisses as he went. He bit her earlobe lightly and settled himself beside her again. "Veronica, it's like 3 o'clock."

"Oh, shit, is it really?" she asked. She sat up abruptly, looking for her phone. Her bag was on the floor beside her, the contents spilling out. She rifled through it, finally locating her phone, and quickly dialed her house. Alicia answered after just a couple of rings.

"Are you okay?" Alicia asked quickly.

"I'm fine," Veronica replied. "I'm so sorry."

"When you didn't show up for lunch, I got worried. It's just not like you. And then I tried calling you a couple of times, and you didn't answer-"

"I'm really sorry to worry you," she repeated. "You didn't say anything to my dad yet, did you?"

"No. I was actually just about to call him. What's going on?"

Veronica smiled into the phone. She and Alicia had spoken quite a bit about Logan, especially during his recent absence. Alicia had firmly believed that he'd just needed space; that when they spoke again, they'd work everything out. "I, uh, found Logan."

"I see," Alicia replied, and Veronica could hear the smile in her voice. "So we shouldn't expect you home tonight?"

"Ummm…no," Veronica answered slowly. "But can you please find a way to tell my dad that won't make his head explode?"

Alicia laughed. "Don't worry, I've got it covered."

"Thank you," Veronica said gratefully. "I owe you one!"

She said goodbye and hung up. When she turned back towards Logan, he was smiling. "What?" she asked suspiciously.

"You were really worried about me, huh?" he asked.

Veronica set her phone on the hardwood floor and lay back down beside him. "Of course," she replied. "You took off without a word, didn't answer any of my calls… When I found out you'd moved out of the hotel, I started thinking I was never going to see you again."

"You really think I could ever just pick up and leave you like that, without even saying goodbye?" he asked gently.

"Well, I hoped you wouldn't. But you were really mad. I thought maybe I'd… driven you away forever, this time," she admitted. She took a deep breath. The honesty thing was getting a tiny bit easier, but it still made her uncomfortable. She changed the subject abruptly. "So, what did you do in Uganda?"

Logan opened his mouth, but she put a finger to his lips. "Besides think about me."

He grinned and kissed the tip of her finger. "Apollo took me on a tour of the country. He showed me some of the schools they'd helped rebuild. I even got to do some actual work on one of them." He gave her a wry smile. "I was out there in the sun one day, sweating through clothes that were completely inappropriate, and I was just thinking- this is the most useful thing I've ever done. This will have results. You know what I mean?"

She nodded. "Yeah. I know exactly what you mean."

"Apollo wants me to use my connections- well, my parents connections- in the film industry. To try and build awareness, get more documentaries made, that kind of thing. But I want to try and help with the schools, too." He bent his elbow and propped his body up, so the side of his face rested on his hand. "I was thinking, maybe I'll try and get some of the local schools here involved with the program, or see if I can get some teachers to volunteer. Do you think that's stupid?"

She shook her head, feeling incredibly proud of him. "Not at all. I think it's an amazing idea, actually."

Logan smiled briefly, but his eyes were far away. "When I read Apollo's book, I kept thinking- there's no way this guy isn't completely messed up, after everything he's been through. No way in hell, not after doing all of the shit they made him do. But then I met him, and he's…okay. Normal. I mean, those memories are always going to be with him, but he hasn't let it… infect him. He was born into violence, but he managed to make it out alive."

Veronica looked at him intently. "Like you," she said softly. She ran her index finger along a particularly long scar on Logan's left shoulder, then reached out and took his hand, squeezing it tightly.

Logan looked back at her, silent for several moments. Finally, he took a deep breath and exhaled. "Yeah. Like me." He lay back down on his side and reached for her other hand, twining his fingers through hers. "I guess I've always been worried, you know? That when you're raised like that, it's inevitable that you become like that."

He'd mentioned this to her before, his worries that Aaron had passed along some kind of "murderer" gene to him; but she knew they weren't talking about what his father had done to Lilly, this time. We're talking about what Aaron did to him. Veronica stayed silent, waiting for him to continue.

Logan ran his thumb back and forth along her palm. "But Apollo resisted it, instead of embracing it. He made a choice." He glanced down at his shoulder, at the scar Veronica had just touched. It was about five inches long and slightly raised. "I remember how I got every single scar. But that one is special."

It took Veronica a few seconds to respond. She felt a lump rising in her throat, but she managed to keep her tears at bay. "Why is that?" she managed.

"I got that one the day I met you."

Veronica's mind traveled instantly back to that day, trying to figure out what Logan could have done to make Aaron so angry…

After an hour of lying in the sun, Lilly announces that she's bored and pulls Veronica up off the lounger. They go up to her room for awhile, chatting about boys and the upcoming school year. When they make their way back downstairs, they find the boys in the den, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. They're at the end of the movie, and Logan turns to Duncan.

"I gotta go. I'm supposed to be home for dinner tonight."

Lilly and Veronica walk farther into the room, and Lilly takes a pool cue off the wall. The boys notice their arrival and turn around. Lilly heads over to the pool table and starts to rack the balls. "We should play partners," she suggests. "Girls versus boys."

Logan looks from Lilly to Veronica, but doesn't make any move to get up.

"What?" Lilly asks with a grin. "Don't know how to play?"

"Of course I do," Logan replies, making a face. He stands up and walks over to them, and Duncan follows.

Veronica hesitates, glancing at her watch. "My dad is supposed to pick me up soon."

Lilly shrugs. "Just give him a call and tell him you want to stay here a little longer. We'll have the driver take you home later." She nods to Logan. "He can take both of you guys home."

Logan and Veronica glance at each other. "Uh, okay," he agrees. "I guess I can stay a little longer."

"Me too," Veronica decides quickly. "Let me just call my dad before we start."

"And let's order a pizza," Duncan suggests.

They end up making a tournament of it. Best of five becomes best of seven (Lilly's idea, since the girls are losing). After pizza, they decide to have ice cream and go for another swim.

It's very late, by the time Veronica and Logan finally get into the limo to go home. They're silent for several minutes. Veronica is a little nervous to be alone with him, but Logan is just looking out the window; he seems distracted.

"My dad's not going to be happy with me," she finally speaks up.

He glances at Veronica sharply, studying her intently as though he's looking for something specific. "Yeah," he says quietly. "Mine either." He doesn't say anything else, just continues to look out the window. After a few moments, he sighs and settles back in his seat. He looks over at her. "So. What position?"

"What?" she asks quickly. She can feel herself blushing, and she's grateful for the dim lighting within the limousine.

Logan grins, his brown eyes suddenly mischievous. But his face becomes serious quickly, and his tone innocent, as he gestures to her soccer uniform. "What position do you play?"

Veronica stared into that same set of eyes now, unclasping one of her hands from his so she could run her fingers down his cheek. "Was he upset because you came home so late?" she asked softly, feeling a surge of guilt. If I hadn't stayed, they wouldn't have been able to play teams. He would have gotten home on time.

"No," Logan replied. "I mean, yeah, but…that day, he was angry because he found out I crashed the brand new jet ski. Coming home late pissed him off more, but I already knew I had it coming." He shrugged. "The reason never really mattered that much. I used to think I was just a bad kid, that I probably deserved it. So I tried to be good. But even when I didn't do anything wrong, he'd just make something up."

Logan touched the scar on his shoulder again, his eyes still far away. "I made it all the way up to my room that night without running into him. I thought I was in the clear, you know? That maybe he'd gone out somewhere; or maybe, somehow, my mom had managed to hide it from him. But when I turned on my light, there was a belt lying across my pillow. And he was sitting in the chair in the corner, waiting for me." Logan laughed bitterly. "He loved to do shit like that. Make it all dramatic."

Veronica felt the tears spilling over, running down onto her pillow. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.

Logan's eyes shifted back to her face, and he frowned. He reached his hand up and wiped the tears from her face with his thumb. "Don't. Okay?"

She sniffled and wiped her eyes, forcing the horrible images of Aaron hurting him out her mind. She knew she'd cry for him later, when he wasn't around. But the last thing she wanted to do right now was make this any harder for him. Veronica scooted closer to Logan and wrapped her arm around his waist. He held her tightly, stroking her hair back.

"I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself," he said softly into her ear. "No matter how shitty my life has been, there are plenty of people out there who've had it worse. And I'm tired of worrying that I'm going to turn out like him."

Veronica pulled away from him slightly and looked into his eyes. "You're not," she said forcefully. "You're nothing like him."

Logan smiled faintly and kissed her on the forehead. "I love you."

"And I love you," she returned, kissing him on the lips.

"Well that works out nicely, then, doesn't it?" he asked, his lips brushing against hers as he spoke. He bent his head down and kissed the side of her neck softly, his breath warm against her skin.

"Mmm…" she agreed, pulling him closer. "Very nicely."


Several hours later, Veronica stood up and stretched lazily. She walked across the room to Logan's closet and opened it, quickly finding a t-shirt. She slipped it on and headed back over to the bed. Although she knew Logan was joking about not letting her leave the bedroom, she hadn't ventured out of the master suite all day. She hadn't wanted to. The outside world could offer her absolutely nothing as wonderful as the peace and security she'd felt all day with Logan, in that bedroom.

Thoughts of the outside world, however, led to thoughts about what she was supposed to be doing in the outside world. "Shit. Mac," she said aloud. Veronica reached for her phone and dialed her friend.

"Where the hell are you?" Mac demanded, skipping hello. "I was starting to get really worried."

Logan walked into the room with a bag full of takeout, shaking his head in disapproval at her. He set the bag down on the bed and pointed at her shirt. "Why even bother? You'll only have it on for about five seconds." He pulled off his own shirt and kicked off his jeans, climbing into bed beside her in just his boxers. He wasted no time slipping his hands beneath her shirt and beginning to lift it up gently. "Not that you don't look adorable in it," he assured her with a grin, sliding his hands up her bare back. "But I prefer skin on skin."

"I'm sorry," Veronica finally responded to Mac, biting her lip on a smile. "I'm with Logan, actually. We're, umm…" She trailed off as Logan started to tug playfully at the hem of her shirt. She smacked his hand lightly, but that only encouraged him more.

Mac laughed into the phone. "I see. And will you be 'umming' all night? Or do you think you guys will eventually make an appearance at our party?"

Veronica finally gave in to Logan's insistence, transferring the phone to her other hand as he pulled her shirt off. He lifted her into his lap, facing him, and started to run his index finger very slowly down her spine. "Well…uh…" Veronica shivered, as Logan began to nibble on her neck. "Probably… the first one. We have a lot of, uh, catching up to do. I'm really sorry."

Mac laughed again. "Don't be. Tell him welcome home. Give me a call when you've recovered. I can't wait to hear this one. And Happy New Year!"

"Happy New Year, Mac. Tell Casey we're sorry we couldn't be there-" Veronica broke off abruptly as she felt Logan pulling the phone out of her hand. "Talk to you soon!" she added quickly.

Logan took the phone from her before she could hear Mac's reply, and put it up to his own ear. "Mac, you know we both love you. But I'm hanging up now." He pushed a button and tossed the phone to the side. "Now. Where were we?"

Veronica's disapproving look quickly evolved into one of delight, as Logan continued to run his fingers very slowly along every inch of her body. His tongue, meanwhile, traveled a path along the outside of her ear, and down to the hollow of her throat. She wrapped her legs around his waist and tilted her head to the side, giving him better access to her neck.

"So we're not going to the party, right?" he mumbled into her skin.

"Did you want to?" she asked breathlessly, closing her eyes.

"Hell no," he replied, biting down on her neck.

She gasped and gripped the blanket beneath her, opening her eyes when she felt her arm brush against something warm. It was the bag of takeout Logan had set down on the bed. She knew there was an enchilada in there waiting for her, and she was starving. But Logan clearly had other things on the agenda. "So we're not going to eat dinner?"

"Did you want to?" he asked. He started to suck on the side of her neck, lightly at first, and then with increasing pressure.

She sighed happily, running her fingernails up his back and through his hair. She put both palms on Logan's chest and pushed him, so he fell backward onto the bed. "Hell no."



Wallace looked at his watch. 11:48. Twelve more minutes until my fairy godmother turns me into a pumpkin, and all of this disappears. Or something like that. Wallace sighed and sank down onto the brown leather couch. He didn't let his imagination run away from him, very often. He usually tried to stay pretty grounded in reality. Science and math were all about rational thought, after all. Solving for x.

But Casey's house was so vast and elaborate that it didn't take too much work to picture himself inside of a castle somewhere. Except instead of a princess waiting for her knight, the roles had been reversed. He was the one waiting for his princess, and she only had twelve more minutes to get there. Wallace sighed, trying once again to resign himself to the fact that she wasn't going to come. Unfortunately, he'd had just enough champagne to make him really, really wish that he had someone to kiss at midnight.

He looked around him. There were couples everywhere. Some of them had arrived that way, some of them had paired up since they'd gotten to the party. People were pretty superstitious, when it came down to it. Everyone wanted to start the New Year right. Wallace realized he probably should have started looking for someone to lock lips with as soon as he'd gotten there- but he'd held out hope that Jackie would take him up on his invitation.

She'd gotten in touch with him on Christmas day, finally, and they'd met for coffee the next morning... And then again, the following morning. Their conversations had been smooth and easy, fun and playful. She'd told him about the classes she was taking at Parsons- fashion design- and asked him how his own classes were going. They'd talked about her son, a little, and he'd told her the news about his mom and Keith.

But when he'd asked her if she wanted to come to Casey's party, her smile had disappeared and her gaze had shifted downward. "I don't think that would be such a good idea," she said softly. He asked her why, and she smiled sadly. "You know why."

He didn't; not really. So he'd grabbed a napkin off the table and asked the waitress if he could borrow her pen. And then he'd written down Casey's address and slid it across the table. "If you change your mind, meet me here before midnight."

She looked at him for a long time, and then nodded. "Okay."

11:51. Damn. I thought that napkin thing was kinda smooth. Guess not.

"Wallace, there you are! I've been looking all over for you."

He looked up to see Mac, cheeks flushed and eyes bright, adjusting the strap on her dress. He grinned at her and shook his head. "You're not fooling anyone."

"What are you talking about?" she asked innocently.

"You're missing an earring," he informed her.

Mac's hand flew to her ear. "Oh shit, am I? My mom's gonna kill me."

"I'm sure you'll be able to find it, if you, uh, retrace your 'steps'," he laughed. He drank the rest of his champagne, and set the flute down on the coffee table. "So Veronica's definitely not coming, huh?"

"Um, that would be a big no. Her and Logan are, uh, 'catching up'."

Wallace made a face at her. "Right. Catching up. I so don't need that visual." An image of them popped into his head anyway, as soon as he said it, and he shook his head vigorously.

"What the hell are you doing?" Mac asked.

"Etch-a-sketch. Gotta wipe that clean."

Mac burst out laughing. "Yeah, well, it's about freaking time they got back together. I can only take so much moping. And Logan and Veronica brood with the best of them." Casey came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her on the cheek. She twisted her head around and kissed him on the lips.

"I'd say get a room, but I know there are like eighty of them down the hall," Wallace said. He grinned at Mac. "And I wouldn't want you to lose another earring."

Mac blushed, but Casey just chuckled. He looked down at Wallace, nodding at his empty glass. "You need a refill. Here, let me get you one."

"No, I'm okay," Wallace said quickly. "I'll go get it myself." He got up off the couch and wandered over to one of the several makeshift bars Casey had set up for the party. The bartender topped him off with Cristal. Wallace started to head back to the couch; but at the last minute, he veered right and stepped out onto the deck instead. He loved Mac, and he thought Casey seemed like a decent guy… But he just couldn't stomach being around another happy couple right now.

Mac and Casey, Veronica and Logan… everyone is pairing up. I wish Piz was here. He'd at least play a game of pool with me, or help me figure out a way to sneak into Casey's garage so we could check out his car collection. He'd been dying to see it all night, but he was too embarrassed to ask. Veronica would have figured out some covert ops way to get down there in two seconds flat. Too bad she's more interested in getting busy tonight.

Wallace walked over to the railing of the deck, trying to shake himself out of his mood. It was a beautiful night, and the view from the deck was fantastic. He could see the lights of Neptune below him, and the ocean just beyond that. It looked too good to be real, like a backdrop for a movie set. But it is real. And I don't have anyone to share it with.

Most of the time, he didn't mind being single. He liked dating around, not being tied to anyone. He hadn't been looking for anything serious, since he'd started school at Hearst- until Vanessa had come along. He'd fallen for her hard, and the breakup had been pretty tough. Tougher than anyone knows- even Veronica. He'd just starting to feel like himself again when he'd run into Jackie. Seeing her had brought up a whole new mess of emotions, stuff he thought he'd dealt with years ago.

11:59. Well, that's that. Guess I'll go do a shot. Maybe I'll work up the nerve to break into that garage after all.

"Too bad this isn't a black tie event. You know I can't resist you in a tux."

Wallace spun around at the sound of her voice. Jackie stood just behind him, wearing a stunning gold dress and a sly smile. He looked at her, wondering if she were real, or just some figment of his imagination. But then he caught a whiff of her perfume on the breeze. She's real. Without a word, Wallace took two steps towards her and pulled her into his arms, kissing her fully on the lips.

Jackie returned the kiss, but she broke away after a few seconds and looked into his eyes. "It's just for tonight. Okay?"

"Tonight," Wallace agreed. The partygoers began to count down in the background, and his lips met hers.

"Five…four…three…two…one…Happy New Year!"

The sound of a loud boom came from overhead, and Wallace and Jackie broke apart and looked up. Gold and red fireworks exploded over their heads, reflecting in the pool below them. He glanced around him, realizing that a small crowd had gathered on the deck for the show. Mac and Casey were among them, kissing passionately in a dark corner.

Wallace shook his head and laughed. "Fireworks. Nice touch. Don't think I can compete with that."

"Oh yes you can," Jackie said softly. She pulled him towards her, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Happy New Year, Wallace," she whispered into his ear. And then she kissed him, and everything else faded away.



The next morning, Logan woke up to a very bright stream of sunlight directly in his face. He squinted angrily at the window, trying to figure out where he was. Oh, right. My house. This is going to take some getting used to. And I really need to invest in blinds. He looked down, realizing there was an arm draped across his waist. Logan remembered instantly whose arm it was, and he turned his head quickly to his right.

Veronica. God, I can't believe she's really here.

He twisted his body carefully, so he was facing her. Logan lay still for a long time, watching her as she slept. It had always been one of his favorite things to do, on the rare mornings when she'd been able to stay the night. There was something about seeing this constantly active person at rest that had always made him smile. He watched the way her hair fluttered lightly as she exhaled, the way her lips twitched and her shoulders rose and fell.

Logan's eyes swept down her body, memorizing every curve, every freckle. Veronica shifted suddenly in her sleep. The blanket slipped off of her shoulder, revealing much more of her bare skin to him, and he felt his heartbeat speed up. He knew she'd never believe him if he told her, but nothing in the world turned him on as much as the sight of her naked body in his bed. And I'm going to kiss every single inch of that body right now.

It was another favorite pastime of his, kissing her awake. It was something he'd never had the desire or patience to do with anyone else. It took time and self-control, and sometimes the wait for her to wake up was painful; but it was always, always worth it. He started at the nape of her neck, and she woke up just as he'd reached her belly button.

She didn't say anything right away, just sighed happily and closed her eyes again. Logan ran his tongue along her hip bone and began kissing a trail down her stomach. As he started to kiss lower, he was rewarded with a moan and a barely coherent sentence.

"Logan…love you…"

He smiled into her thigh.


Veronica lay with her head on Logan's shoulder, running her fingers back and forth across his stomach. He closed his eyes and smiled, focusing on the feel of her hand, the scent of her hair. After a few minutes, she shifted and moved away from him slightly, looking up into his eyes.

"So I know you're not a breakfast guy," she began, "but I'm starving, and I need a coffee. I won't mention any names, but someone kept me up all night and made me do very naughty things."

"Who is he? I'll kick his ass."

Veronica grinned and started to sit up. "As much as I don't want to leave, I think I'll run out and get something. Do you want a coffee?"

Logan pulled her back down onto the bed. "This is why phones were invented."

"Pretty sure that's not true."

"No, it's true. I just watched a documentary about Alexander Graham Bell. Apparently, he was a really lazy bastard. He came up with a ton of inventions so he didn't have to leave the house. Shocking stuff."

"Shocking, huh? Are you sure it wasn't a documentary about Thomas Edison?"

"Oh, the wit."

Veronica grinned. She sat back up, but made no move to get out of bed. Instead, she looked around the room slowly.

Logan sat up too, watching her. He brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. "What are you thinking about?"

"That the only things in this room are a bed and a television."

"You just realized that?" he laughed. He moved closer to her and kissed her on the cheek. "You haven't left the room in over twenty-four hours. Some detective you are."

She made a face at him. "Hey, I've been a little preoccupied."

He chuckled and looked around the room himself. "Well, what can I say, I have my priorities straight. I mean come on, I moved in two days ago. Ordered a bed and some sheets, a blanket. Couple of pillows. Got my cable hooked up. What else do I really need?" He paused, reconsidering. "Although, maybe I should put a couch in here too, just so we can mix things up a bit. And maybe, like, a dresser that's about-" he broke off and looked at Veronica, sizing her up, and then gestured with his hand, "-this high."

"You know," Veronica said, "some people actually use dressers to store clothing in. And not just for sex."

"Well those people clearly have no imagination," he replied, running his fingers down her arm.

She laughed. "So when are you going furniture shopping? Or are you hiring someone."

"I dunno," he mumbled, kissing her neck. "Haven't thought about it."

"Not at all?"

He stopped kissing her and looked up. "Are we really talking about fucking furniture right now?"

Veronica grinned mischievously. "Yes, actually. That's exactly the kind of furniture we're talking about."

"Well," he smirked. "That's the only kind of furniture I'm interested in." He sat up straight and looked around the room. "I mean, I don't need much else, do I?"

"So you're going the minimalist route, then? I guess that's better than the bachelor pad route. Neon bar signs, milk crates, posters of busty blondes thumbtacked to the walls." She pretended to shiver in horror.

Logan laughed. "I think you're confusing me with Dick." He shrugged and scooted closer to her again. "I really don't have too much stuff. I never bothered buying anything after the house burned down. I never really needed to, living at the hotel. I don't know, I sort of like that I don't have a bunch of old crap. It's a clean slate."

"Like us," she said softly.

"Exactly." Logan kissed the tip of her nose. "I did buy one thing I think is kinda cool, when I was in Africa. It's this wood carved mask. I was thinking about hanging it up on that wall." He pointed to his right, then laughed. "But it's sort of creepy looking, it might freak you out."

"Hey, it's your house. As long as it doesn't raise the dead, we're good."

"It's our house," he corrected her, kissing her forehead. She smiled, and he continued. "Aside from that, I was sort of thinking…maybe you can just pick out what you like. As long as it's not pink."

"Do I strike you as a 'pink' person?" she retorted.

Logan grinned. "No. Not at all." He raised an eyebrow and pulled her into a deep kiss. "You're more black leather, these days."

"You wish," she laughed. Veronica kissed him back, playfully biting his lower lip. Then she glanced around the room. "Well, I could play designer, I guess. But I'm not sure you'll be able to afford my fee."

He lay back down on the bed and placed his hand on her knee, circling it with his fingers and then running it slowly up her thigh. "Try me."

"Are you sure? It'll cost you."

"I'm ready to negotiate. Let's see…" Logan glanced around the room, his expression thoughtful. "I need a couch, a dresser, and enough artsy shit to make me look like I have good taste."

"You do realize there are other rooms in this house aside from this bedroom, right?"

Logan gave her a sly smile. "Well if things go according to plan, this is where we'll be spending most of our time. The other rooms are-" He waved his hand dismissively.

"Just for show?" Veronica laughed. She shook her head at him, but reached over and tousled his hair affectionately. "How many bedrooms are in this joint, anyway?"

"I think she said five? Maybe six?" Logan replied. He was distracted. Veronica was running her nails through his hair, down his neck, across his chest. God, this woman still has no idea what she does to me.

Without warning, he grabbed onto her hips and pulled her down flat onto the bed. Then he swung one of his legs over her body, straddling her, and lifted himself up so he wouldn't crush her. He bent his head down and kissed her on the lips. "Feel like playing a little game of hide and seek? You can go explore, and then I'll come find you… Or we could just stay here while I go exploring…"

Logan kissed her again, hard, and pressed her body closer to his. When she didn't respond, he pulled his head back and looked at her. Veronica's eyes were closed and she was smiling. I'll take that as a yes.


"I think I need a cigarette."

"You don't smoke."

"I know," Veronica replied, looking over at him. "Yes, you're that good. You can wipe that little smirk off your face now."

Logan grinned but said nothing.

Veronica was also silent. When he glanced at her, he was surprised to see that she looked nervous. She was chewing on her lower lip and toying with the edge of the blanket. He waited for her to speak up; it was obvious she had something on her mind.

"And me?" she finally asked quietly, not looking at him. "How do I measure up?"

Her question took Logan by surprise. It had been a very long time since she'd voiced any insecurities about herself to him. They worked so well together, physically- they always had. He'd assumed that she'd left those old inhibitions and doubts of hers back in high school. I mean we had sex in a fucking library. Does she think I do that with everyone?

Logan made a quick decision to keep things light, in the hopes that she'd stop dwelling on it. It was a tactic that worked about 30% of the time. He turned towards her and stroked the side of her face. "You're amazing and you know it. Why do you think I call you Bobcat?"

Veronica remained silent, and he could tell it hadn't worked. Logan knew, then, what was really bothering her. She's thinking about the women I've slept with since we broke up. It wasn't the first time the subject had come up between them. It wasn't exactly a secret that he'd had far more sexual partners than she had.

Part of him loved to see this vulnerable side of her; loved that she needed to know that his being with her meant more to him than being with anyone else did. But part of him wished he could go back and erase all of the pointless one night stands- all of the Ashlee's and Kendall's and Madison's- just so Veronica never had to worry about it again.

He leaned forward and put his mouth next to her ear. "You're a goddess," he whispered, running his hand down her body. "Perfect." He patted her lightly on her bottom, then squeezed it possessively. "Mine."

That got a little smile. He pulled her very close to him and looked into her eyes. "Veronica, being with you is like… nothing else in this world. And no one else even came close, or ever did," he told her honestly. "No one." Logan tightened his grip on her waist, and gently pushed her legs apart with his foot, so that he could slide his leg in between hers. "Look at how well we fit together."

Veronica smiled again. "We do," she agreed. "So… I was worth the wait?"

"Every. Single. Second."

She kissed him softly. "You're not too shabby yourself."

"Gee, thanks."

She laughed, but the expression on her face quickly became serious again. "It did bother me, you know."

"What did?"

"You and Kendall."

Logan looked at her in surprise. "Really?"

"Are you kidding? It drove me insane."

He knew it probably wasn't the right reaction, but her admission made him incredibly happy. He tried to hide his smile.

"Look," she continued. "I know you've been with a lot of women since we broke up-"

"Veronica," he said warningly.

"No, wait. Let me say this. I just want you to know that it bothers me."

"Fantastic," he replied with a sigh, rolling over onto his back.

"Just listen," she pleaded. She turned onto her side so she was facing him again. "It bothers me. But I swear I won't hold it against you, or ask you questions about it. Okay?"

Logan flipped back onto his side, looking into her eyes while he considered that. "I kind of like that it bothers you," he admitted. "It's proof that you care."

"I thought I already proved that over there," she joked, pointing to the edge of the bed. "And over there, and on the floor, and against that wall…"

He didn't laugh, just continued to stare at her intently. "Veronica, none of them meant a damn thing to me. I want you to tell me right now that you believe me, because it's the truth. And I don't want any misunderstandings between us." He stroked the side of her face with the backs of his fingers. "Everyone else pales in comparison to you."

"I don't know how they could get much paler than me, but okay," she laughed.

She seemed determined not to take him seriously; not to face the issue. Logan knew how uncomfortable this conversation was for Veronica, and he hated making things difficult for her. He'd let her change the subject a couple of times, already, when he'd realized that she was nervous about a particular topic. But Logan knew he had to remain firm on this point. "Tell me that you believe me," he repeated earnestly.

Veronica's smile faded. She didn't say anything for a long time, just looked from one of his eyes to the other. With every second that ticked by in silence, Logan started to get more and more concerned. Maybe she just couldn't move past the fact that he'd been with so many other women, while they'd been apart. Or maybe she's still dwelling on Madison…

"Okay," she said quietly. "I believe you."

Logan exhaled in relief; but he didn't relax completely. Because he'd realized something, while he'd been waiting for her to reply. It's not fair for me to ask her to accept my actions from the past, while I'm still struggling to accept hers. And I have to say this now, or it'll always be an issue. He took a deep breath. "I guarantee you that it bothers me more that you were with someone who did mean a damn to you."

He felt Veronica's entire body tense, and he knew instantly that this was a topic she wasn't ready to discuss yet. Truthfully, he didn't know if he was ready to discuss it yet, either. Logan ran his fingers through her hair soothingly, trying to break through the walls he could feel her putting up. Piz was something they'd have to talk about, eventually. He had too many questions, too many concerns, to just let it lie. But it can wait a little longer.

Logan leaned closer to her, kissing her forehead. "Come back to me."

"I'm right here," she said shortly.

"No, you're not."

Veronica hesitated, but eventually turned back towards him. "Logan, I'm just… I'm not sure there's anything I can say that won't make it worse."

Logan gave her an ironic smile. "I'm familiar with that feeling." He stared at the blank wall behind her for a moment, then looked back into her eyes. "Look, we don't have to talk about this right now, okay? Just know that I…I won't hold it against you, either," he promised. "Clean slate, remember? And this place- this place is just for us, no one else. That's how it's going to be from now on. No baggage."

Veronica nodded and took his hand. "I want that too. More than anything." She glanced around the room. "Everything is so perfect here, I'm… almost afraid to leave," she admitted. "I don't want anything to change, I just want it to be like this forever. When we leave this house…" She looked back up at him, her blue eyes dark with apprehension.

Logan pulled the blanket up around them both and drew her closer to him. Veronica nestled her head into his chest, while he moved his hand in slow circles across her back. "I can't promise you that things won't be tough sometimes. I can't promise you that there won't be times when we make each other angry, or accidentally hurt each other's feelings. But I can promise you that I'll never stop loving you. I'll always be here for you. And I'll do everything that I can to make you happy."

When Veronica pulled away and looked up at him, there were unshed tears in her eyes. "I promise that too," she whispered. "Everything you just said. I'm so sorry for screwing everything up between us."

He swept the hair out of her face with the tips of his fingers. "None of that matters anymore. If anything, maybe I should thank you."

"For being a crazy, jealous lunatic?"

"Yes," he replied. "Maybe we needed to be apart. You needed to forgive me, and I needed to grow up a little bit. And you needed to figure out that I was the one for you."

"But how did you know that I was the one for you?" she asked. "How are you so sure? I feel like I'm so screwed up, sometimes… what if you get sick of me- my jealousy, and my trust issues…"

"I sort of like that you get jealous," he admitted with a rueful grin.

"But what if you… get bored?" She gave him a look that made his heart melt, eyes big and blue and completely sincere; she still looked close to tears.

Logan looked into her eyes. "Veronica. I'll never get sick of you. And I will never get bored of you."

"How are you so sure?"

"We couldn't be boring even if we tried." He kissed the top of her head and smiled. "Besides. Boring might actually be a nice change of pace."

Veronica still didn't look convinced. And despite his outer show of confidence, Logan was nervous. He knew how vastly important this conversation was to the future of their relationship. For the first time, Veronica was sharing all of her insecurities with him. If she thought for a second that he was lying to her, or holding back with her, she'd never feel comfortable opening up to him again. He knew that she was desperately looking for assurances from him that everything really would work out between them this time. And he desperately wanted to give them to her.

She blinked a few times and looked at him with a furrowed brow. "What if we're too young for this? Too young to be so serious? You could meet someone who-"

Logan quieted her with a kiss. He thought back to something he'd read in their Lit class a couple of months earlier, something that had made him think of her. "'It is as absurd to say that a man can't love one woman all the time as it is to say that a violinist needs several violins to play the same piece of music.'"

Her face relaxed into a smile. "That's beautiful," she said softly.

He grinned. "Well, I kind of borrowed it from Honoré de Balzac. I'm not that good."

"Yes," she said ardently, pulling him towards her. "You are."


After over twenty-four hours spent in the master suite, Veronica's curiosity about the rest of the house finally got the best of her. Logan was shocked that she'd obeyed his request not to leave for as long as she had. At Logan's insistence, their tour began with a thorough examination of the whirlpool.

"But I've already seen the whirlpool," she protested mildly, glancing at the door.

"Yes, but you haven't seen it running," he pointed out. "We should fill it with hot water and turn on the jets. I want to make sure I got my money's worth."

Veronica crossed her arms over her chest. "And then I suppose we should get inside, to test its durability?"


"Later," she promised, laughing lightly. "C'mon." She took his hand and led him out of the bathroom. They journeyed into the hallway together. Veronica had borrowed another one of Logan's t-shirts, which came down almost to her knees; Logan wore just a pair of boxers.

He bent down to pick up an item off the floor, dangling it in front of Veronica with a grin. "I believe this belongs to you?"

Veronica blushed and made a grab for her bra, but he held it easily out of her reach. She rolled her eyes and gave up the fight rather quickly, allowing him to keep his spoils for the moment. She explored the bedrooms on the upper floor of the house with interest, looking around her in obvious approval. When they reached the top of the stairs, she turned to Logan with a grin. "I suppose if I follow the trail of clothing, it'll get me back to the front door?"

He laughed and bent down to kiss her. "Well, I didn't want you to get lost."

"So that was your reason for removing all of my clothing," she teased. "I wondered." She reached down to pick up her jeans, which were in a ball at the top of the stairs. As they descended, she recovered Logan's inside-out shirt from the banister and her own t-shirt, which was inexplicably on top of a light fixture. Veronica glanced up at Logan. "You just know the pizza delivery guy was laughing his ass off when he left here yesterday."

Logan shrugged. "My house, my rules."

"Clothing optional?" she guessed.

"Clothing strictly prohibited, if your name is Veronica Mars," he corrected with a smirk.

"Well that's going to be awkward when we throw parties."

"You'll get used to it."

She shook her head at him but laughed. They deposited the recovered clothing in a pile at the foot of the stairs before venturing from the foyer to the living room. Veronica stopped to study the enormous double-sided stone fireplace, which served to break up the spacious kitchen from the even more spacious living room. Logan watched her, as her eyes traveled up the fireplace to the vaulted wooden ceiling. "Wow," she remarked, her voice echoing slightly in the empty room.

"I know," he agreed. Logan knew they probably wouldn't get that much use out of the fireplace, but it was definitely one of his favorite things about the house. He was trying not to get ahead of himself, but he could so easily picture him and Veronica, sprawled on the couch at night with a bottle of wine and a blazing fire. Momentarily overcome with fervent hope for that future, Logan picked Veronica up easily, capturing her lips in a deep kiss. He was still amazed that they were both standing there, exploring their new house together.

Logan set her down gently, but Veronica didn't pull away from him. Instead she looked up at him with a big smile. "It really is incredible. Even better than I'd imagined."

He looked around him, nodding in agreement. "Just wait until you see the pool."

"I'm not talking about the house."

He glanced down in time to see her sly smile, just before she separated herself from him. As she skirted around him to get to the sliding glass doors of the patio, she smacked him on the ass affectionately. Logan grinned and followed her outside.

"Wow," she repeated.

He slid the door closed and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist as they looked out at the ocean before them. The flagstone patio was in two levels; the upper level contained an infinity pool and a large hot tub. There was ample space surrounding the pool for patio furniture, which Logan made a mental note to get as soon as possible. He had a feeling that they'd be spending a lot of their time out there.

Logan inhaled deeply, breathing in the ocean air and relishing in the sheer amount of open space in front of him. It puts my little balcony at the Grand to shame. From their vantage point, they had an unobstructed view of both Crescent Beach below them, and the rocky cliffs that jutted out into the ocean at its southernmost point. It was extremely easy to imagine that they were the only two people on the planet. He leaned down and rested his chin against Veronica's shoulder, squeezing her tightly.

She twisted around in his arms and kissed him gently on the lips. "It's perfect," she said softly. "I love it."

Logan smiled proudly. He pulled away from her and pointed to his left. "The guest house is around the corner there. Far enough away that we won't have to worry about any sound-proofing. And wait until you see the downstairs part of the patio. There's a built-in grill and a bar, it's pretty sweet." He glanced around him in satisfaction. "This place is like the perfect party house, isn't it?"

"Does this mean you're gonna be throwing raging keggers every weekend?" she teased.

"Actually," he corrected her, "I was thinking of hosting much more… private parties on the weekends. Just me and one other guest."

"And who is this lucky guest?" she asked innocently, raising her eyebrow. "Dick?"

"Not quite." Logan pulled her back to him, sliding his hands below her shirt and lifting it up to her waist.

"Logan," she protested, pulling it back down.


"We're outside. Someone could see."

He kissed her neck and laughed softly into her ear. "Who? There's not a soul in sight."

Veronica glanced around her slowly, and then looked back up at him with a thoughtful expression. "Hmm. I guess you're right." Without a word, she casually pulled her shirt off and tossed it to the ground.

Logan stared at her with his mouth open, shocked to suddenly find her standing completely naked before him in broad daylight. She walked past him and slowly started to descend the steps into the pool. After a few seconds, she paused and turned her head back towards him. "Well?" she asked impatiently, putting a hand to her hip. "What are you waiting for?"

He wasted no time stepping out of his boxer shorts and kicking them aside. He walked quickly into the pool and grasped her around the waist. "See?" he whispered, as he pressed his body against hers. "You'll never bore me."

Veronica grinned but wriggled out of his grasp. "Let's see if you can still catch me," she challenged. "Maybe you'll get a prize." She descended the rest of the way into the pool and dove below the surface.

And Logan dove in after her, knowing he'd happily chase her for the rest of his life.


Feeling refreshed but languid after their aquatic adventures, Veronica and Logan once again found themselves lying in bed. Since there was no other furniture, it was the only place they could relax comfortably. When Veronica drifted off to sleep, Logan slipped out to get them each a coffee, and her a bagel. She was just waking up when he got back, and she greeted him with a sleepy smile.

Veronica sat up and accepted the coffee he offered her, as he kicked his shoes off and climbed back into bed next to her. He unwrapped the bagel and handed it to her, and she took a big bite and a sip of her coffee. "Mmm. You're the best."

"Yeah, I get that a lot."

She rolled her eyes and took another bite of her bagel. "What time is it?"

"About eleven."

She sighed heavily. "I should probably get going soon."

"Are you kidding? I'm not letting you out of my sight for at least six months."

"Whatever you say, Jabba," Veronica laughed. "But seriously. I really need a change of clothes. And a toothbrush."

"What is this sudden obsession with wearing clothing?" he teased. "I thought you understood the house rules about that by now?" He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and stole a bite of her bagel. "And I can pick you up a toothbrush at the drug store."

She smiled and took a sip of coffee. "Believe me, I don't want to go anywhere. But it's Sunday. And we sort of do these family dinners on Sunday's… Anyway, I promised Alicia I'd pick up groceries for her. The doctor told her she needs to take it easy, but she doesn't seem to understand that concept."

Veronica glanced at Logan, who remained silent. She set her bagel down on its wrapper and took his hand. She squeezed it gently and he looked down at her. "I'd really like it if you came over for dinner tonight."

"Yeah," he said quietly. "I'm not so sure that's a good idea. Your dad is gonna freak out enough as it is, when he finds out that we're back together again."

Veronica's eyes twinkled with amusement. "Logan, I haven't been home in over twenty-four hours. The man is a private detective. I think it's safe to assume that he already knows." She nudged him in the side with her elbow. "Besides. I think he might surprise you."

Logan gave her a look of disbelief and started to make a sarcastic comment. But then he stopped, thinking back to the way Keith and Alicia had treated him at Thanksgiving. He glanced over at Veronica, clearing his throat a bit nervously. "I don't want to intrude on your family dinner."

She reached her hand out and touched his face, running her fingers down his cheek and cupping his chin. She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips. "Logan, you are family."

Logan swallowed hard, feeling a sudden lump in his throat. Unable to think of anything to say, he put an arm around her shoulder and drew her close to him, kissing her on the top of her head. "Okay," he agreed, his voice rough. "I'll be there." He tilted his head down to kiss her, but was distracted by the sound of her phone buzzing loudly against the hardwood floor. Veronica started to move away, but he wouldn't let her go. "Just leave it."

"I can't. It could be my dad."

He loosened his grip and she bent down to the floor to retrieve her phone. When he glanced over at her, he saw that she was frowning. "Can you turn on Channel 7?" she asked. Logan was curious about her request; but he'd followed far stranger instructions of hers over the years with much less explanation. So he grabbed the remote and turned on the television, flipping it to Channel 7.

The news was on. Various pictures of burning buildings flashed on the screen, with accompanying images of black body bags, and people huddled together crying on the streets. "This is why I never watch the news," Logan sighed. He picked up Veronica's bagel and took another bite.

But when he glanced at her, he was surprised to see that she was smiling. He looked back at the TV, paying more attention to the red banner that was flashing below the images. It read, "Breaking News: Over 20 arrests made in connection with recent terrorist activity…Members of local religious sect stand accused". Curious, he turned the volume up.

"At this time, twenty-two people have been taken into custody and dozens more are being held for questioning. Amazingly, only one of the individuals arrested appears to have any type of criminal record. That person is Richard Dodson, who was convicted three years ago in New Mexico on charges of distribution and possession of child pornography. The other twenty-one people who stand accused of these heinous acts of terrorism are, by all accounts, law-abiding citizens. One source tells us that, had it not been for an anonymous tip to the F.B.I, it could have been years before these individuals were apprehended…"

Logan looked over at Veronica with a wry smile. "Your doing?"

She glanced up at him, and he recognized the very familiar expression in her eyes. They were gleaming with the satisfied fulfillment of solving a case. Catching the bad guy. But she only shrugged, and took a small bite of her bagel. "I helped."

Logan shook his head. "What am I gonna do with you?"

"I'm not sure there's much left that you haven't already done with me," she returned with a sly smile.

"Oh, I can think of one or two things," he disagreed, moving closer to her. But he could see that she was still distracted by the news coverage, and he stopped. "So are you gonna tell me how you were involved in this?"

When Veronica didn't answer him, Logan reached forward and quickly grabbed the phone from her lap. Before she could stop him, he opened up her last text. It was from a blocked number, and it simply said, "Channel 7". She took the phone back from him and made a face; but he was more interested than ever now, and he wasn't about to drop it. "Will you at least tell me why you were involved?"

She sighed. "It's a little bit complicated. But it means that Duncan can come home soon."

"Really?" he asked incredulously. He glanced from Veronica to the television, and then back, trying to figure out how the two things could possibly be related.

"Really," she confirmed with a smile.

Logan studied her face carefully. "Did you… do this for him?" he asked. He was trying desperately to keep his voice level; but he couldn't help the surge of jealousy that had suddenly reared its head. Despite Duncan's recent and very adamant assurances that his feelings towards Veronica had changed, Logan knew that deep down, he'd always be just a little bit worried that Duncan would steal her away from him again.

Veronica looked at him sharply. "Logan… You can't possibly think that I still have feelings like that for him."

He shrugged. Truthfully, he hated the idea that she'd ever been with anyone else, cared for anyone else. Logan knew those feelings were both irrational and unfair, and he knew it made him a complete hypocrite. But in many ways, her past with Duncan was even harder for him to stomach than her relationship with Piz. Because he loved Duncan like a brother. And part of him would always suspect that Duncan deserved Veronica more than he did.

Logan looked at her. He wanted to be honest with Veronica; it was only fair, after she'd admitted to being jealous about the other women he'd been with. But if I tell her, and Duncan comes home… I don't want her to worry that I'm upset, every time we hang out together. I just want it to be the way it was in Mexico with the three of us. And I want her to know that I do trust her. He hesitated, trying to figure out a way to explain all of that so it made sense. Before he could say anything, though, he was distracted by an image of a man, woman and teenage girl that flashed on the television.

"…like this couple, Paul and Patricia Watson, who moved to Neptune from nearby Depuma last summer. Paul has worked as an accountant for Grant and Lowe for over fifteen years, and Patricia teaches art classes at Pan Middle School. By all accounts, they appeared to be a normal family. No one we spoke with had any idea that they'd become involved with the so-called 'Church of the Blessed Savior'. A close friend of the family, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us that she'd attributed their recent absence from their usual church to the fact that they'd moved…"

Logan stared at the photograph of Paul and Patricia, focusing on their smiling daughter. Poor kid. Your life is never going to be the same. He frowned, suddenly noticing the bright red streaks that ran through the girl's hair. "Hey, I know her!"

"Emily?" Veronica asked sharply. "How do you know Emily?"

"She spent the night at my place, about a month ago," he replied vaguely, trying to hear what the newscaster was saying.

"She what?"

Logan turned quickly to see that Veronica was glaring at him. She moved abruptly towards the edge of the bed. He reached over and grabbed her around the waist before she could get up. "Let me go," she demanded.

"No," he refused, tightening his grip. He turned her head towards him, forcing her to face him. "Veronica, stop. She crashed on my couch, okay? Nothing happened." She didn't say anything; but her whole body was tense, and he could still feel her trying to resist his grasp. "Dick hooked up with her friend. I didn't even know she was there until the morning." Logan sighed. "You have to stop jumping to the wrong conclusions. I thought you trusted me?"

She relaxed slightly and looked into his eyes, but she was still frowning. "I do trust you. But in your case, I don't need to jump," she replied petulantly. "A small hop, maybe, or a tiny step."

Logan stared at her. She had a point. And he couldn't very well give her a hard time about her jealousy issues when he'd just been worrying over her relationship with Duncan. The fact of the matter was, he could tell her over and over that she was the only woman he'd ever give a damn about; and she could tell him again and again that he was the only man for her. But sometimes, words aren't enough.

He reached for the remote and turned the television off. And then he pulled Veronica close to him, kissing her until he could feel the tension leave her body. So we'll just have to keep proving it to each other, until it sinks in for good.



"Wake up, darlin."


"There's coffee. And toast."


"And an egg white omelet, with spinach and cheese and mushrooms."

"Hmmm?" Mac opened one eye, to see Casey holding a tray of food out in front of him. She opened the other eye and smiled up at him sleepily. "Breakfast in bed? That's so sweet."

Casey waited for her to sit up, and then he set the tray down carefully in her lap. "Well I have to come clean. I didn't make it." He grinned and slid into bed next to her. "But I oversaw its creation very carefully."

Mac looked at him in some confusion, stifling a yawn. "Where's yours?"

"I ate awhile ago. It's almost noon." Casey gestured to the food. "But I know you can't stomach anything but breakfast when you wake up, no matter what time it is, so..."

"Thanks," Mac said gratefully, taking a small bite of toast. "But why'd you let me sleep so late?"

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "You looked so comfortable. I didn't want to wake you."

"Well is it still New Year's Day, at least, or did I sleep right through that?"

Casey laughed. "No, it's still New Year's."

"What day of the week is it, anyway?" Mac asked. She portioned off a piece of omelet with her fork and took a bite. "Oh my god this is good." She glanced at Casey. "How are you not, like, 300 pounds? If I had a personal chef I'd be demanding cheese fries at 3 am."

Casey laughed again. "You haven't met Marcus yet. First of all, if I ever tried waking him up at 3 am, he'd break my arm. Second, if I ever asked for something as unhealthy as cheese fries, well… he'd break my other arm."

Mac was intrigued. "But doesn't he work for you?"

"You try telling him that."

"Hmm, 09er-ville really is Bizarro World. Just as I've always suspected." Mac took another bite of omelet and washed it down with a sip of coffee, which was also delicious and exactly the way she liked it. I could get used to this. She looked over at Casey. "So you didn't answer my question. What day is it?"


"So you have to go back to work again tomorrow, huh?" she asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

"Nope." Casey grinned at her, stealing a kiss. "I took the week off so I could spend some time with you."

"You did?" she said softly. Mac knew how demanding his job was; the fact that he was taking an entire week off to be with her was an incredibly sweet gesture. "Now I just have to figure out what excuses to give my parents all week. I already played the 'crashing at Veronica's house' card last night." She sighed. "I need more female friends."

Casey frowned. "I wish you didn't have to lie to them."

"I know," Mac replied. "Me too."

"Have you… thought any more about what I asked you? About moving in here?"

"Are you kidding? I think about it all the time. But…" Mac reached out and squeezed his arm. "I still think we should wait. Is that okay?"

"Of course," Casey replied. "Just know that… Well, when you're ready…" He hesitated, seeming uncharacteristically at a loss for words. He placed his hand on top of Mac's and looked into her eyes. "I just want you to know that I want you in my life. I don't want any… confusion about that. I know, in the past, you've been in relationships with people who were… well, less than straightforward."

Mac stared at him, feeling instantly alert and on edge. Less than straightforward, Casey? Well, that's one way to put it. Another way would be to say that my most infamous ex was a sociopathic, mass-murdering rapist. But neither one of us likes to think about that, do we?

She and Casey hadn't spoken about Cassidy much at all, and that was just fine with her. Casey seemed to understand that the topic still made her very uncomfortable. So why is he bringing this up now? Mac looked down at her food; she'd suddenly lost her appetite. She put her fork down, and gently pulled her hand out from underneath his. Then she lifted up the breakfast tray and set it on the bedside table.

Casey watched her, his face very serious. After a moment, he reached out for her hand again, and she let him take it. "Listen," he began. "I'm not trying to upset you, okay? I just want you to know that I'm not into playing games. I've been- involved with manipulative people too, and…"

Mac glanced up at him curiously when he trailed off. It occurred to her that Casey hadn't spoken much about his past relationships, either. She knew he'd dated Darcy King for awhile back in high school, and he'd mentioned someone named Kim from NYU. He'd talked about a "Holly" enough times for Mac to ask about her; and she'd been surprised to learn that he'd been referring to Miss Mills. But he'd assured her that she was just a good friend. Looking at him now, she noticed that he seemed a bit uncomfortable; somehow, that made her more relaxed. She squeezed his hand. "I'm not into playing games either."

He nodded, smiling slightly. "I know you're not. That's one of the things I love about you." Casey cleared his throat, looking flustered. "I mean…"

Mac grinned. She loved when his composure slipped; it didn't happen often. When it did, it always reminded her that despite his multi-million dollar businessman exterior, he was still just a twenty-one year old guy underneath it all. Just Casey. "One of the things you love, huh?" she teased. "What are some of the other things you love?"

Casey stared at her for a moment, as he ran his thumb across the back of her hand. "You," he answered finally. "I love you."

Mac felt her jaw dropping open in surprise, her eyes widening. She felt simultaneously surprised, scared and insanely happy. "No one's ever said that to me before," she said quietly. "I mean, like, family and friends, but-" she broke off abruptly, suddenly realizing that while she was babbling, Casey was still waiting for a proper response. She smiled widely up at him. "I love you, too."

He exhaled, smiled, and reached out for her at the same time, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close to him. "You almost gave me a heart attack," he laughed softly into her ear. Casey tangled both of his hands in her hair and kissed her deeply on the lips. "How did I get so lucky?" he whispered.

Mac closed her eyes and pressed her forehead against his, savoring the moment. "I was just wondering the same thing."

Casey put an arm around her shoulder and kissed her on the temple, and she rested her head against his chest. They stayed like that for a few minutes, until he reminded her that her breakfast was getting cold. She lifted the tray back into her lap and resumed eating. When she was finished, she moved back over to Casey and snuggled close to him. "I think this is the longest I've ever gone without going on my computer."

He laughed softly. "I noticed. I'm not sure how the internet is surviving without you."

"I probably have, like, two hundred emails," she sighed.

"Do you want me to go grab your laptop?" he offered. "It's down in my office."

"Nope. I just want to hang out with you." Mac smiled at him, but Casey was looking back at her with both eyebrows raised. "What?" she laughed. "You don't believe me?"

"You're not even just a little curious about what's going on in the outside world?" he teased.

"Well," she reconsidered. "Maybe we should throw the TV on for a minute. Just to make sure the zombie apocalypse didn't come while we were sleeping."

Casey chuckled softly and turned on the television. He flipped through the channels a few times, but every station seemed to be covering the same news story. "No zombies yet," he joked. "But the day is still young."

Mac didn't respond. She watched as pictures of burning mosques and temples flashed across the screen, and she was curious about what was going on. She'd been following the coverage of the recent acts of arson in the area. But what she didn't understand was why the stationary graphic at the bottom of the screen said "Neptune's Curse". Mac read the banner that scrolled below it:

Members of local religious sect "Church of the Blessed Savior" accused in rash of arsons…Terrorist acts targeting places of worship have resulted in 28 deaths and 52 injuries… Accused sect described as "cult-like" by investigators… Members reportedly believed that their leader, Stewart Manning, was a prophet sent from God… He instructed them to "eradicate all heathens and purify the earth, to make way for God's final descent from heaven"…

"Can you turn this up?" she asked quickly. The screen changed to show a female reporter with wavy dark hair. She stood in front of a non-descript white house with a manicured lawn, speaking into a microphone. Casey turned the volume up on the television.

"…we've since learned that Dodson has violated the terms of his parole, both by leaving the state of New Mexico without informing the Parole Board, and by not registering as a convicted sex offender in the state of California.

There is no word yet on what, if any, contact Dodson had with Grace Manning, Stewart and Rose Manning's nine year old daughter. But we have gotten confirmation that a close relative has been granted temporary custody of little Grace.

As we reported earlier, Grace's oldest sister, Megan Manning, was one of the passengers on the Neptune High school bus that crashed into the Pacific Ocean over two years ago. Megan survived the initial crash, but eventually succumbed to her injuries and died several months later…"

An image of Meg flashed on the screen. "Holy shit," Mac said aloud. She glanced at Casey, who was also staring wide-eyed at the screen.

"…the father of the baby was none other than Duncan Kane, son of software pioneer Jake Kane. Their child, Hope Manning, disappeared nearly two years ago; the Manning family pressed charges against Duncan Kane for kidnapping. There have been no leads in the case, but with the new information that's come to light on the Manning family, there is speculation that those charges may be dropped by the FBI…"

The reporter gestured to the house behind her.

"… and as more details of this story unfold, it seems almost unbelievable that this quaint neighborhood could play host to so much violence and intrigue. Duncan Kane, whose family used to reside just blocks away from here, was, of course, the brother of Lilly Kane, who was brutally murdered over four years ago.

Although the murder of Lilly Kane remains officially unsolved, many believe that the late actor Aaron Echolls- although found not-guilty by a jury- was responsible for the crime. Echolls was found dead in his hotel room just days after his acquittal, and an arrest has yet to be made in connection with his death. Some believe that he committed suicide, overcome by guilt over what he'd done. Forensic evidence was inconclusive…"

A photograph of Aaron, Lynn, Trina and Logan, the same photo they'd used on the Tinseltown Diaries, popped onto the screen. Mac hoped Logan wasn't watching. But the picture changed rapidly to another one, of Meg in her cheerleader uniform.

"… and the town of Neptune, despite the vast wealth of many of its resident's, seems to have an unusually high instance of violent crime. In fact, the more we begin to piece this story together, the more tangled the web becomes. Is this town, in fact, cursed? This is Rachel Santana, reporting live for Action 5 News. Back to you, George."

A thirty-something man in a brown suit smiled grimly into the camera. "It does seem like they've had quite a string of bad luck there in Neptune, doesn't it Rachel?"

Mac and Casey stared at each other. "Wow. Meg's parents are murderers?" Mac asked, dumbfounded. "That's just…" Mac sighed. "I used to think she had the perfect life, you know? Beautiful, smart, popular and nice? I should have known it was all too good to be true."

Casey shook his head. "I always thought her parents were a little weird. But this? I never thought they were capable of something like this."

"Yeah," Mac replied quietly. "I guess it's always the nice ones who you have to watch out for."

Almost on cue, a photograph of Beaver flashed on the screen. He was standing next to Dick, who had his arm slung across his little brother's shoulder. They were both grinning widely into the camera.

"…having been rigged with explosives by fellow student, Cassidy Casablancas. Eight people were killed in the crash. He was also responsible for planting explosives on an airplane traveling from Reno to Neptune. All six passengers on the plane were killed, including the mayor of Neptune, Woody Goodman…"

Casey grabbed the remote and quickly shut the television off. He wrapped both of his arms around Mac, pulling her tightly to him. "You don't need to re-live that," he said softly. He kissed her on top of her head, and she sighed into his chest.

They were silent for a moment, and then Mac looked up at him. "Were you and Meg good friends?"

"No, not really. I mean I always liked her; everyone liked her. But- no, we weren't good friends."

"Have you ever lost anyone… close to you?" she asked. Mac saw the pain flash across his eyes, and she felt instantly regretful. "I'm sorry. You've told me about your grandmother..."

"Yeah," he said quietly. Casey moved away from her slightly, suddenly becoming interested in the pattern on the comforter. "And then there was Lilly."

She looked at him in surprise. "Oh. I didn't realize you guys were close."

"No one did," he said, still looking down. Casey took a deep breath and turned towards her, studying her carefully for a moment. "Mac, there's something I want to tell you. But it's not something I'd want you to tell anyone else, especially Veronica or Logan. If that's too much of a burden for you, I understand."

Mac felt suddenly anxious; but she was far too curious not to hear what he had to say. "I can keep a secret," she promised.

Casey nodded. "Okay." He ran his hand through his hair a couple of times, and she could tell that this secret of his was making him very nervous. He glanced over at her. "Lilly was the first person who I ever slept with."

"Oh." Well, that wasn't what I expected.

He continued in a rush. "We were in the same grade, and we had a bunch of classes together. And she used to flirt with me constantly. I don't know how well you knew her, or if you remember the way she was … I mean, I should have known better, I knew she flirted with everyone… But, well, I sort of got a crush on her anyway. She was off limits, though, like seriously off limits. She was Logan's, you know?

Casey cleared his throat. "Anyway, when we were sophomores, she and Logan broke up. Which wasn't strange, they broke up a lot. But that time seemed different. It had been almost a month, and they still hadn't gotten back together yet. So one night, we were at this party. Logan was hanging around this girl, Rebecca Mason, all night. Lilly was pretty pissed. Rebecca was a senior, and really popular, and Logan was only a freshman.

"I went upstairs to use the bathroom," he said slowly, his expression far away. "When I was on my way back, I ran into Lilly in the hallway. I said hello, and started to move past her. But the next thing I knew, she was pulling me into one of the upstairs bedrooms." Casey cleared his throat again, glancing up at Mac briefly.

"On Monday morning, I was all excited to see her. I got to school and headed over to her locker right away. But when I saw her… she was walking down the hall, hand in hand with Logan. She didn't even look at me. I know I should have known better, but…" He shrugged, then continued his story. "When I saw her in our Spanish class, later that day, she flirted with me like always… But neither one of us brought it up. I started wondering if it had just been a dream.

"But a couple of months later, Lilly and Logan broke up again. And I got a phone call at midnight…" He glanced at Mac, who was listening with rapt attention. "So that's how it was for awhile. Until this one day, when I knew they'd broken up, and I was waiting for her call. But it never came." Casey gave Mac a wry smile. "She'd found someone else, I guess. To this day, I have no idea why she stopped calling. Or what I meant to her.

"When she died…" He shook his head. "I'd shared this thing with her that no one else even knew about. I'd never told anyone, and I seriously doubted that she had, either. So when she died, it was sort of like that was gone forever. You're the first person I've ever told." Casey looked back up at Mac, his eyes serious. "Don't get me wrong, it wasn't love or anything like that. Despite their crazy relationship, Lilly really did love Logan." His voice got very quiet. "But I did miss her."

Mac stared back at him, unsure what to say. Part of her was surprised by what he'd just confessed, but part of her thought that it made perfect sense. Casey was so different now than he'd been when he was younger. She knew part of that had come from getting older, maturing. But part of it had come from experiencing real loss; recognizing that life is not a shallow stream, but a deep well. "Is that when you met up with the Moo Cow people?" she asked softly.

Casey burst into laughter, and Mac was taken aback. He kissed her on the lips and gave her a tight hug. "Why are you so awesome?"

"What?" she asked. "I was being serious."

"It was Moon Calf, not Moo Cow," he told her, still grinning.

"Oh, whatever," she grumbled. "It's a stupid name either way."

"It is," he agreed. "But they're really great people, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them. I'd actually like you to meet them, one of these days."

Mac was skeptical. "Veronica said they were a cult."

He rolled his eyes. "They're not a cult. They grow organic vegetables and poinsettias, and they play acoustic guitars and harmonicas around campfires."

"So they're…hippies?"


Mac glanced at the 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets beneath her, the 52" flat screen TV on the wall, and the Bruno Magli shoes Casey had kicked off next to the bed last night. She looked back up at him with a doubtful expression. "I can't picture you hanging out with a bunch of hippies."

He laughed softly. "What, are you saying I'm shallow because I like nice things?"

"Shallow? No. Discerning, maybe."

Casey's smiled faded, and he shook his head. "It's just stuff. It really doesn't matter to me. You matter to me. If all of this went away…" His eyes shifted downward again. "At Lilly's funeral, it was just so… These girls who I know hated her, who talked about her behind her back constantly, were standing there in their Prada dresses, fake crying into their tissues. It was just so false.

"The people who really loved her, like Veronica and Logan, they weren't crying. They just stood there, watching in silence as Lilly's coffin was lowered into the ground. When the service was over, and everyone left, I looked back at them. And they were alone together, holding on to each other, finally crying…completely devastated. After that day, I started wondering what was real and what was bullshit; what really mattered and what didn't. I started writing, and met Holly, and then I met those guys at the farm…" He looked back up at Mac. "I just… I really hope you don't think I'm shallow."

Mac took his face in her hands, and kissed him gently on the lips. "I don't. Not at all." When she pulled away, she continued to look at him. It's amazing that anyone got out of Neptune High alive. And those of us who did are all so…scarred. Back in high school, she'd never thought that people like Casey, Dick, Madison or Logan ever had any problems. But that's so narrow-minded. Beauty, wealth, privilege… it doesn't make people immune to pain.

"Good," Casey said, exhaling. "You know, I never thought I'd get to actually meet you. I wondered about you for so long, what you were like-"

"But why?" Mac interrupted him. "Why did you even notice me at all? I wasn't exactly Miss Popular, in high school." This was something they'd never talked about before, and she'd always been curious.

"I'm not sure…" he replied, looking thoughtful. "I think I just liked the way you walked down the hallway listening to your iPod, not caring what people were gossiping about. And you wore those ironic t-shirts, and typed really fast on your laptop at lunch. You were just…different. Unique. I knew that if you cried at a funeral, it would be because you were really sad. Not because it was what you were supposed to do. Does that make sense?"

"Yeah," she said quietly. "I think it does."

"And when I got to know you, you were exactly how I thought you'd be. Do you know how rare that is?" Casey smiled at her a bit shyly. "Do you have any idea how long I've wanted to tell you that I loved you?"

"Well, what were you waiting for?" she teased.

"I didn't want to freak you out," he admitted.

"You thought I'd freak out?"

"Honestly… I feel like I'm always holding back with you, just a little bit. I don't want you to think I'm being too intense. I don't want to scare you off."

"Really?" Mac replied. She was surprised to hear that she'd been coming off so guarded. She always felt relaxed and comfortable around Casey. But maybe he's right. Maybe I am holding back a little.

"Well, I know it took you by surprise when I asked you to move in. But Mac, I've never met anyone like you before. You've made me the happiest I've ever been, these last few months."

Mac smiled. "You make me happy too. I'm sorry if I'm too… reserved."

"Don't be," he said quietly. "It's okay to be cautious. To be completely honest, I'm usually the cautious one. There have been so many girls who said they liked me, but what they really liked was my bank account. It's hard to figure out who to trust. But with you, I never worried."

"Are you kidding? I'm totally using you for your money." She grinned and kissed him on the cheek.

He smiled back, but looked at her intently. "Look, I respect the fact that you're not ready to move in together yet, and I promise I won't push. You're probably right, it's too soon. I just hate that we're always so busy. Sometimes we go a whole week without seeing each other."

"I hate that too. I missed you so much, when you were in New York."

"Really?" he asked.

"Of course," she replied, looking at him in surprise. Didn't I tell him that? She watched his eyes lighten from brown to hazel in front of her, the way they did when he was happy. And she realized that it was time to stop analyzing her relationship to death and just go with it. I need to be more open with him. He's not Cassidy. Not even close.

She looked around her, trying to imagine what it would be like to live there one day. The weird thing was, she found it very easy to picture. Even stranger, the thought didn't make her want to run screaming from the room. Mac leaned over and kissed him on the lips. "Happy New Year, Casey."

The expression in his eyes changed again, his pupils becoming dilated and focused. And the next thing she knew, they were tangled up together underneath the softest set of sheets money could buy.



A week later, Logan and Veronica strolled leisurely down the stretch of Crescent Beach in front of his house. He was already beginning to think of it as an extension of his front yard, and he got just a little bit annoyed when there were other people around. He was glaring at a jogger who was headed in their direction when he felt a smack on his arm. Veronica was looking up at him with a smirk on her face.

"It's a public beach," she reminded him. "You're not allowed to kick anyone out."

"Okay, how the hell did you know what I was thinking?" he demanded.

"There's a specific look of disdain that you reserve for people who you deem unworthy of breathing the same air as you," Veronica informed him with a grin. She nodded in the direction of the disappearing jogger. "You just gave him that look."

He raised an eyebrow at her. "What if I was just attempting to scare him away, so I could get you alone and have my way with you?"

She laughed. "Oh, no, that look is completely different. And it's usually accompanied by groping, kissing, and frantic attempts at clothing removal."

Logan stopped walking and pulled her close to him, kissing her deeply. He ran his hands down her back and quickly snuck one of them up the front of her shirt. "Like this, you mean?"

Veronica smacked his arm again and stepped away, but she was laughing. "Behave yourself. Remember what I just said about this being a public beach?"

"Mmm-hmm." Logan pointed to his left. "And that is a very private house, which I just happen to have the keys to right in my pocket."

"We're supposed to meet Mac, remember?" Veronica replied. She crossed her arms. "See, this is why everyone keeps accusing us of being anti-social."

Logan rolled his eyes and groaned, but he allowed her to pull him forward. It wasn't that he didn't want to see Mac, or any of his other friends. It's just that every second spent with other people is another second that I'm not alone with Veronica. And all I can seem to think about, these days, is her naked body in my arms. He kept silent, though, and dutifully followed her up the beach.

"You're coming to dinner tonight, right?" she asked, linking her arm in his.

"Uh, sure. As long as you guys aren't sick of me yet," Logan agreed tentatively. Things had gone surprisingly well at dinner the previous weekend. Veronica had made no effort at all to keep their renewed relationship a secret from Keith, and her father had seemed to take it in stride. Alicia, Wallace and Darrell had all seemed happy to have him there. But I don't want to wear out my welcome.

Veronica gave him a very sweet smile, batting her eyelashes up at him. "I'll never get sick of you, Sugarpop. As long as you continue to earn your keep." Her smile turned mischievous, and Logan drew her to him for another kiss.

"I haven't heard any complaints so far," he returned. He pressed her even closer to him and kissed the hollow of her throat.

"Ugh, get a room!"

Logan didn't look up, continuing to place kisses up Veronica's neck until he got back to her lips. He took his time kissing her before he finally replied. "That's what I just suggested. But I was vetoed." Logan glanced up at Mac, who was standing in front of them and rolling her eyes. He was surprised to find that she wasn't alone. A girl who looked to be a little older than Heather stood next to her. She had dark brown hair, and she was watching them with interest. Logan broke away from Veronica and cleared his throat.

"Hey, Mac," Veronica said. "Sorry about that, he's…"

"Amazing?" Logan suggested. "Spectacular?"

"I was thinking 'impossible'," Veronica retorted, looking at him fondly.

Mac ignored them. "Guys, this is my sister Lauren." She looked down at the young brunette. "These are two of my best friends, Veronica and Logan."

"Nice to meet you, Lauren," Veronica said. "Please excuse my boyfriend. He was raised by a band of gorillas in the Congo. He's still learning how to interact properly with other humans."

"Nice to meet you," Lauren replied politely, although she wore a confused smile.

Mac laughed. "Don't listen to a word either of them say," she advised.

"You're one to talk. So are you ladies hungry?" Logan asked. "You want to grab some lunch? My treat."

"Sure," Mac agreed. She glanced down at Lauren. "Does that sound good?"

"Yeah, okay," Lauren replied. "I just have to make sure I get home pretty soon so I can study. Mr. Stone's tests are a nightmare."

Logan and Veronica glanced at each other. "Mr. Stone?" Veronica repeated casually.

"Yeah, he's my History teacher. And it's not exactly my best subject."

"Do you… happen to know what his first name is?" Veronica questioned.

"Umm… I think it's Charles. Or Christopher. Something with a 'Ch'."

"What school do you go to?" Logan asked quickly. Mac looked from him to Veronica curiously, recognizing the unusual amount of interest they had in the subject.

"Neptune High," Lauren answered.

"She skipped a grade," Mac spoke up. She frowned at Veronica, lowering her voice slightly. "Is he someone… not good?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that," Veronica replied dismissively. "C'mon, let's go to lunch. We don't want to keep Lauren from her studies."

The four of them headed down the beach, Mac and Lauren walking just slightly ahead. After a moment, Veronica reached out and put her hand on Logan's arm. She was looking at him in concern. "Are you alright?" she asked softly.

Logan nodded slowly. "Yeah." He stopped walking abruptly, and Veronica followed suit. "I mean, how does this change anything? I told you what happened when I saw him at Amy's. He still wants nothing to do with me. I can't… force him to talk to me."

"No," Veronica agreed. "You can't. But sometimes, people need a little push. What would have happened if you'd given up on me?"

He didn't say anything, just took her hand in his and followed Mac and Lauren down the beach. But he continued to think about what she'd said for the rest of the day.


"Wow. Everything looks so small."

Veronica rolled her eyes.

"What?" Logan asked. "Isn't that what people always say?"

"That's for when you go back to elementary school," Veronica corrected, continuing down the hall. "Not high school."

"Hmm." Logan caught her around the waist from behind, kissing her on the cheek. "Well I guess, to someone tiny like you, everything always looked pretty big here."

Veronica turned in his arms to face him, a suggestive smile on her lips. "Well… some things still look big."

"Is that so…?" Logan whispered in her ear. He was about to attempt to drag her into the nearby supply closet when a familiar voice interrupted them.

"Mr. Echolls. Miss Mars. I thought I'd finally gotten both of you out of my hair for good."

Logan glanced up to see Principal Clemmons studying them with amusement, arms crossed. Veronica pulled away from Logan and smiled up at their former principal. "Well, on the bright side, at least you still have hair," she quipped.

He grimaced at her pun. "I see you haven't changed." His expression suddenly became speculative. "Actually, Miss Mars, while you're here… There's a little matter that's been giving me some trouble. Do you mind joining me in my office for a moment?"

Veronica glanced at Logan, and he could already tell that she was intrigued. "It's okay," he told her. "Go. I'm just going to go hang up these posters." He waved the flyers in his hand at Principal Clemmons. "With your approval, of course."

Mr. Clemmons took one from him and studied it for a moment. He glanced back at Logan with curiosity, and something like grudging respect. "Of course, be my guest. Maybe we can discuss this further, after Miss Mars and I talk about this… other matter."

Logan nodded. Veronica kissed him on the cheek and squeezed his hand. "Good luck," she whispered. Then she headed down the hall with Mr. Clemmons.

He walked down the hallway towards the bulletin board in front of the teacher's lounge. Logan really was there to hang posters, but he had another purpose too. And I'm stalling. Veronica had done the required legwork, discovering that his brother Charlie did indeed work at Neptune High. She'd found out that he taught four classes a day, but had a break between 12:15 and 1, which he normally spent eating lunch in his empty classroom. The plan was for Logan to approach him in that classroom, when they knew he'd be alone.

But now that he was really there, he was having serious doubts. What the hell am I even doing here? Why would he care what I have to say? And why should I give a damn what he thinks about me, anyway? Logan stared at the posters in his hands, realizing that he'd forgotten thumbtacks. He looked up at the bulletin board, removing a poster for cheerleading tryouts and one for a football team bake sale, and replacing them with his own flyers.

The door to the teacher's lounge opened, and Logan quickly crumpled up the old posters and tossed them into the nearby trashcan. He was about to continue down the hall, when he noticed that one of the people coming out of the room was his brother. Charlie stopped short and stared at him. The woman next to him looked at him in confusion.

"Charlie? Aren't you coming?"

"I'll be there in a minute, Gina."

She nodded and headed down the hallway. Charlie continued staring at Logan. He looked down at the remaining posters in his hand, and Logan could tell that he was reading one of them. After a moment, Charlie cleared his throat. "I've heard of Invisible Children. It's a good organization. I didn't know you were involved."

For some reason, Logan felt instantly defensive and angry. And he knew that his carefully composed speech was already swirling down the drain, never to be used. "Why would you?" he retorted. "You don't know anything about me."

He regretted it at once, of course. He always did. But instead of turning and walking away, Charlie surprised him by nodding thoughtfully. "You're right. I don't."

Logan wasn't sure how to respond, and the two young men stared at each other in silence for a few seconds. Logan took a deep breath, opting for brutal honesty. "Look. I'm sorry about the whole Larry King thing. It was a misunderstanding, and I would have explained all of that to you if you'd ever bothered to call me back."

Charlie cleared his throat and crossed his arms over his chest. "Do you have any idea what that 'whole Larry King thing' did to me and my family? I had to leave my job. We had to move. We couldn't leave our house without getting accosted by paparazzi. I got death threats."

"Gee, I wonder what that's like," Logan said dryly. He saw the flash of anger in Charlie's eyes, and he quickly changed tactics. "I'm sorry," he repeated earnestly. "Okay? It was stupid, and thoughtless, and I'm sorry that I put you and your family through that." He wanted to explain about the Vanity Fair reporter, so that his actions would make more sense; but he didn't know if it even mattered anymore.

Charlie sighed. "And did you ever think that maybe I was planning on calling you back? That maybe I was just trying to figure out what to say to the little brother I'd never met?"

Logan was taken aback. "No," he replied honestly. "I never thought that." He ran his hand through his hair. "Listen, I know what people say about me. Some of it is completely true; but a lot of it is bullshit. And the only way you're ever going to be able to tell fact from fiction is if you actually get to know me. I mean, here we are living in the same town, and you-"

He broke off abruptly, trying not to let his frustration get the better of him. "I'm not going to beg," he continued in a calmer voice. "But honestly? I think it's pretty fucked up that you're not even willing to give me a chance." Logan looked him in the eye. "Like it or not, we are brothers." He pulled a pen out of his pocket and turned one of the flyers over, leaning it against the bulletin board and scrawling his number across it. Then he held it out to Charlie. "This is my number, if you want it."

Charlie didn't take the piece of paper, and Logan felt a knot in his stomach. But then his brother gave him a rueful smile. "I, uh, still have it saved on my phone," he admitted.

Logan nodded, trying to hide his surprise. "Well maybe you should call it, one of these days," he said quietly. He heard footsteps behind him and turned to see Veronica and Mr. Clemmons walking towards them. Veronica was glancing between him and his brother with a questioning look. Logan turned back to Charlie. I said what I wanted to say. It's in his hands now.

"Well, pardon me, but I have business to attend to," Logan said, gesturing to his flyers.

Charlie nodded, looking thoughtful, and slowly began walking down the hall. Logan watched him go. His brother greeted Mr. Clemmons politely and gave Veronica a look of interest. Just after Charlie had moved past them, Logan caught his eyes flickering down to Veronica's skirt appreciatively. Logan chuckled to himself. Yup. He's an Echolls, all right.

Logan looked from his brother to his former principal, flashing him a wide smile. "So Van, buddy, we didn't get to catch up earlier. How's tricks?"

"That's still Mr. Clemmons to you, Logan, but nice try," he replied dryly. "Veronica was just telling me about this program you're involved in. I have to say, I'm impressed. Care to join me for lunch in the cafeteria?"

"Well, that depends. Which lunch ladies are working the counter today?" Logan glanced down at Veronica, who was hiding a smile as she shook her head. "And do you think we can scare up another hair net? Purely for sanitary reasons. This one here sheds like a Golden Retriever."

Mr. Clemmons chose to ignore him, and began walking in the direction of the cafeteria. Logan and Veronica followed him, and he bent down to whisper in her ear. "Maybe we can take care of that Miss July shot you owe me."

She ignored him. "So how'd it go?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. We'll see, I guess. So are you going to tell me this mysterious case Clemmons has you working on?"

"I suppose I could do that," Veronica said slowly. She got a playful smile on her face and stopped walking. "But I thought you might be more interested in revisiting some of our old hotspots." She gestured to the girl's bathroom to their left, and pulled him down closer to her so she could whisper in his ear. "I may have, accidentally, forgotten to put on underwear this morning."

Without a word, Logan pushed her into the bathroom and kicked the door closed. He slid the wedge under the door with his foot while Veronica checked the stalls. When she walked back over to him, they could hear Clemmons calling out their names from outside. Veronica put her hand against her mouth, trying to suppress her laughter. Logan spun her around and pressed her up against the door, covering her mouth with his. As he ran his hand up her thigh, her giggles quickly turned to airy moans.



"How do we always seem to end up back here?" Veronica asked, stretching her legs out in front of her and reaching her arms towards the ceiling.

"Because the couch we ordered hasn't been delivered yet?" Logan suggested, biting her earlobe. "Although I think we've been pretty creative, under the circumstances."

"Maybe a little too creative." Veronica grimaced, remembering the cold tile of the kitchen floor. She flipped over onto her side and pulled the soft blanket up to her chin. "I know it's probably boring, but the bed is definitely the most comfortable option."

"Oh, it's never boring," he disagreed. "But I happen to know you like it when there's a chance we might get caught."

She bit her lip, but didn't deny it. He grinned and darted forward to kiss her on the lips, before getting up quickly. "Where are you going?" she asked.

"We're still going over to the campus, right? If so, I need a shower." Logan wrapped a towel around his waist and smirked at her. "I need to look my best, if I want my charms to work on Vikki."

Veronica frowned. "I'm not sure I'm loving this plan."

He grinned and sat back down next to her. "It was your idea," he reminded her. "C'mon, it's just a little harmless flirting. Don't you want to have at least one class together this semester?"

"Yes," she said grudgingly, looking down.

Logan cupped her chin in his hands and lifted it gently, so that she'd look into his eyes. "You know the only reason I flirted with her in the first place was so that I could get a copy of your schedule. Right?"

Veronica did know that; well, based on what Mac had told her, she'd assumed it. But she did have some doubts. I always have some doubts, when it comes to Logan and other women. She was working through it every day, but it was a struggle. Every time a pretty waitress was assigned to their table, every time she saw another woman running her eyes down his body as they walked down the street, she got instantly defensive.

She glanced up at him. "So nothing ever happened between you two?"

"Not a thing," Logan assured her. He gave her a satisfied smile and moved closer. "You are so fucking adorable when you're jealous."

"I'm glad one of us thinks so," she grumbled.

He chuckled and touched her cheek lightly. "Hey, it's not like I don't get jealous too."

She looked up at him, and noticed something in his eyes; a guardedness that she'd seen on a few occasions, over the last couple of weeks. Veronica had a feeling she knew what it was about, but she still didn't feel ready to tackle that particular issue. She was just about to change the subject when Logan spoke up.

"Veronica, we have to talk about this sooner or later."

"Talk about what?" she asked innocently, wrapping the blanket more tightly around herself.


"Logan," she said warningly, rolling onto her back. "I thought we were going to steer clear of talking about past relationships."

"Don't think I don't appreciate the irony, but I think you're wrong," he replied softly.

She glanced up at him. He wasn't looking at her either, and she hated the sudden wall that had arisen between them. She just wanted it to go back to the way it had been between them a few minutes ago. "Why do you want to talk about him at all?" she asked desperately.

"Because school is starting up in a week, and he's gonna be there. Whether I like it or not. And I have no idea what to expect."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked sharply.

"It means-" Logan stopped and looked down at her. "Are you sure that what you guys had wasn't-"

"No," she interrupted him forcefully. "Not even close." Veronica sat up and turned towards him, touching his arm tentatively. "He and I should never have tried to be more than friends. We didn't work as a couple."

"So why'd you get together with him in the first place?" he demanded.

"Why'd you get together with Parker?" she returned hotly, pulling her hand away.

They glared at each other for a moment. "Because I fucking missed you, okay?" Logan finally replied. "Is that what you want to hear?"

"Yes," she admitted. "But only if it's the truth."

Logan rolled his eyes. "Oh, give me a break," he replied shortly. "You know it is."

Veronica relaxed slightly. She hadn't known that, not really. She shook her head. "Do you know how much it sucked, going to her birthday party? Going back to your suite for the first time since we'd broken up, and seeing you two all 'perfect little couple' together?"

"You think it sucked any less for me, watching you make out with Piz in my hallway?" he asked angrily.

Veronica didn't answer right away. The conversation was getting away from them; they were both in attack mode, and that's when things got ugly. She took a deep breath. "I wasn't happy with him," she said quietly.

"You looked pretty damn happy to me," he muttered.

"I only kissed him because I missed you, you jackass," she snapped.

Logan didn't say anything, and Veronica sighed in frustration. She realized that she'd made this mess, and she needed to clean it up. But she hated the way he was avoiding her eyes. "Logan," she said softly. "I was in love with you the whole time."

He finally looked at her, then, and she forced herself to hold his gaze. Logan's expression softened slightly. "So why'd you stay with him for so long?"

"Because I was an idiot," she answered simply. "I convinced myself that it could never work between you and I. And then I convinced myself that my feelings toward him would change, if I gave it enough time."

"But you must have had some feelings towards him," Logan said stubbornly.

"I cared about him. I still do." Veronica saw Logan's jaw clench with anger, and she reached out quickly and grabbed his arm. "As a friend," she clarified. "And I'd like to stay friends with him. But only if you're okay with it. If it makes you too uncomfortable, I'll let it go. You're always going to be my priority, Logan. No other guy has ever come close to you." She smiled wryly, remembering his words from long ago. "What you and I have is… epic."

He gave her a strange look, but didn't move away. "That's an interesting choice of words," he finally said. Logan stood up and walked over to his closet. He opened the door, and Veronica could hear him rustling around inside. When he finally emerged, he held several sheets of paper in his hands. He tossed the papers onto her lap. "I'll be in the shower."

She couldn't decipher the look on his face as he walked away. Veronica glanced down, picking up the top piece of paper and looking at it more closely. It was Logan's final exam for their Lit class. He'd gotten an "A". Does this have to do with our bet?

Veronica began to read his essays. Like her, he'd opted to write about both The Scarlet Letter and Wuthering Heights. But for his last essay, he'd chosen to tackle one of the broader topics they'd been allowed to choose from: an analysis of one of the recurring themes in Romantic literature. Logan had written about love.

She read through it quickly. Like his Silent Noon essay, it was well-written and thoughtful; she was impressed, and she had to admit that it was better than her own. But when she got to the last line, her breath hitched and she smiled to herself. Veronica got out of bed and walked into the bathroom. She opened up the glass door and stepped over the threshold into the large tiled shower.

Logan was facing away from her. Veronica closed the door quietly behind her and crept up behind him. Then she slipped her arms around his soapy body, tilting her head upward and nibbling on his ear lobe. "'No one writes about the ones that come easily'," she quoted in a whisper. "I thought you didn't remember?"

He turned in her arms and smiled down at her, running his slick hands across her back. "I'm always a little groggy when I first wake up," he reminded her. "I remembered just as the elevator doors closed behind you. How's that for epic?" Veronica just shook her head at him, and his smile turned sly. "Did you happen to see the shiny red 'A'?"

"I did."

"And what did you get?"

"An A minus," she admitted grudgingly. "But in my defense, I was a little distracted that day."

"Hmm," he said, pulling her under the hot stream of water. "And what was distracting you?"

"You know what was distracting me," she replied, closing her eyes. The combination of the steam and the heat of his hard body pressed against her was making her dizzy. She clung to him as he slowly explored her body with his hands.

"I want to hear you say it," he whispered.

The stubborn side of her wanted to deny him; but the fact of the matter was, she was powerless when he got like this. He was the only man she'd ever completely dropped her guard with; and the combination of panic and elated anticipation that he alone brought out in her always made her heart race. And he knows it. "You," she finally replied shakily.

The intensity in his eyes at her honest response made the panicked part fade away. They reached out for each other at the same time. Logan's hands tangled in her wet hair and hers curled around his waist tightly. Veronica shivered, despite the heat, and the movement of her body only seemed to spur him on more. He kissed her passionately, desperately, until they were both breathless. "I won the bet," he said roughly, walking her forward until her back was pressed up against the tiled wall of the shower. "And I know what I want."

Veronica would never admit that she loved it when he took charge; even though she was certain that he already knew. And she would never tell him what she'd finally discovered about him. That he needs assurances about my feelings for him just as much as I do. She knew their recent argument was fresh in his mind, and that it would take some time before he was truly convinced that she'd never loved Piz. She smiled to herself as Logan continued to run his hands along her body possessively, closing her eyes at the sensations that traveled just below the surface of her skin. And I'm going to enjoy every second of proving it to him.


"Can I look yet?"

"Almost… Take a little step forward. Okay, open your eyes."

Veronica's eyes snapped open; as she'd suspected, Logan had led her out onto his back patio. She glanced around and smiled up at him. "You got furniture."

"Yup. I thought I'd make us dinner on the grill tonight."

She gave him a skeptical look. "Do you even know how to use a grill?"

Logan rolled his eyes at her. "Yes. I think I can handle turning a knob and flipping a couple of burgers. Have a little faith in me."

She grinned and walked forward, sinking down into one of the new chairs. "Nice and comfy. Well done."

"Why thank you." He took the seat next to her. "Dick actually helped, if you can believe it."

"Well, he has spent a good portion of his life poolside," Veronica replied dryly. "I imagine he's gotten very familiar with patio furniture, over the years." She glanced around. "Where is he, anyway? I haven't seen him all day."

"I told him to make himself scarce today."

"You didn't have to do that," Veronica said quietly. "I really am okay with him living here, Logan."

"Good," Logan smiled. "But… well it's the last day of break. I wanted to spend it alone with you. Once school starts, we won't be able to see each other as much."

He was doing a good job of hiding his emotions, but Veronica knew what he was thinking about; she was thinking about it too. After much discussion, they'd decided to hold off on moving in together. It had been Logan's idea. Things had been going so well between him and Keith, over the last few weeks, and he was worried about ruining it. But he seemed increasingly concerned that his relationship with Veronica may suffer because of the time apart.

Veronica scooted her chair closer to his and put her hand on his arm. "It won't be so bad. I'm only taking fifteen credits this semester. And I'm not going to get involved in any new cases." Logan shot her a look of amused disbelief, and she decided to rephrase that. "Okay. I'm going to try not to get involved in any new cases. Besides," she reminded him, "we have 'Modern Fantasy' with Professor Jayne together. So at the very least, we'll see each other twice a week."

Although she was joking, Logan frowned. She squeezed his arm. "Logan, I promise it won't be the way it was last time. We'll figure out a way to spend more time together."

He searched her eyes for a moment, and then nodded. "Okay," he said. "We'll try it your way. But if it doesn't work out, you know what has to happen."

"Collared chains and gold bikinis?" she guessed.

"Precisely," Logan grinned. But then his face became serious again, and he cleared his throat. "So I appreciate you not asking me about it, but I know I need to declare a major."

Veronica had been dying to ask him, but she hadn't wanted to push. "Did you decide?" she asked.

"I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it a lot."

"Well… what classes do you like the most?" she asked objectively.

"Believe it or not, I was kind of digging our Lit class," he told her. "I was thinking, next semester, maybe I'll sign up for more English classes." He hesitated. "Maybe a writing class, too."

Veronica looked at him proudly. "I think that's a really good idea." She gave him a wry smile. "I stole your Silent Noon essay. I know you know that."

"I suspected," he smiled, leaning forward to kiss her on the lips. "It was about you, of course. That day we spent at the park. I know you know that."

She grinned. "I suspected."

"And what did you think?" he asked a bit shyly.

"It was awesome," she replied honestly. "You can really write."

"Thanks," he said, seeming genuinely surprised. He smiled at her, and then looked out at the ocean. She watched him in silence for a moment. Logan took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he exhaled. When he opened his eyes again, he looked over at her. "It feels good to have a home. Finally."

"It must have been really tough living in a hotel like that," she said sympathetically.

"No, that's not what I mean. Not exactly." Logan turned his chair so that he was facing her fully, his knees touching hers. He leaned forward and took both of her hands in his. "I mean… it's home because I'm with you. You make it a home."

Veronica stared up at him, speechless and genuinely touched. She realized that she understood exactly what he meant. She'd spent so many years searching for something to fill the void she'd felt after Lilly died; after her mother left. But it's been in front of me the whole time. She reached forward and wrapped her arms around him. "I love you," she said emphatically.

Logan pulled her into his lap, kissing her on the forehead. "Love doesn't seem like a strong enough word for the way I feel about you."

"I know what you mean," she agreed, resting her head against his shoulder. "Maybe that's because people over-use it. They say it when they don't mean it."

"You don't do that, do you?" he asked softly.

"Obviously," she replied sheepishly. "In fact, the argument could be made that I under-use the word."

She could feel Logan's lips forming into a smile against her forehead. "You?" he asked in mock disbelief. "No."

"Shocking, isn't it? The rumors people spread about me?" Veronica teased.

Logan didn't say anything for several moments, only pulling her closer to him. She was just about to ask him if he was getting hungry when he spoke up. "I'm sorry," he said in a whisper, his lips brushing against her temple. "I'm so sorry that I put you through that."

His apology took Veronica by surprise; she hadn't meant to make him feel bad. But her dismissive, joking response got caught in her throat. Instead, she found herself silently considering everything they'd been through together- both the good and the bad. Yes, the bad parts were very bad. But the good parts are... indescribable. "I know you are," she said softly, looking up into his eyes. "And I really do forgive you." She smiled. "You know, it's always a rough road for the great ones. Han and Leia. Harold and Maude…"

"Alabama and Clarence," he added. "Maude and the Dude."

"Indy and Marion; Felicity and Ben."

"Hicks and Ripley; Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner."

"Jim and Pam; Starbuck and Apollo."

He squeezed her and kissed her lips lightly. "We put them all to shame."

"That we do," she agreed. They sat like that for a long time, listening to the ocean and enjoying the silence. Veronica considered what Logan had said about home, and it led to thoughts about her own family. But it wasn't just her father that came to mind, anymore. It's Wallace, Alicia, Darrell. Mac, Duncan, Lilly…even Dick. They're all family. Blood has nothing to do with it. And Logan…

She glanced back at Logan. His eyes were closed again, a slight smile on his lips as he ran his fingers up and down her arm. His other arm was curled around her waist snugly, making sure that she didn't fall.

Logan would always be where she belonged.

A/N Thanks for reading! If you like what you've read, please click on that little button that says "review" and let me know :)

I also love it when people favorite! It makes me giddy with joy.

As I've said, there will be an epilogue. The rest of the loose ends will be tied up in that chapter, so if you're concerned that I've forgotten something, fear not. I know I don't usually give anything away about upcoming chapters, but I will say this- we've had a lot of angst, and now it's time for a party! I don't know about you guys, but things wouldn't feel quite right for me if we didn't get to hear from Dick at least one more time. I know I've missed writing him…

I've been accused of not being a romantic. I think the above chapter dispels that myth ;) I sincerely hope that you all enjoyed it, and that it was worth the wait.


ETA 3/10/12- After re-reading and editing this story, I'm wondering if it even needs an epilogue? This feels like a good ending, and I don't want to ruin it. Maybe it's okay to have some loose ends. Thoughts? (Feel free to PM me if you can't review because you've already reviewed this chapter.)

Thanks again for reading! And thank you to all of the new reviewers who didn't catch version 1.0. It's been great reading your thoughts on the re-write. Your encouraging words gave me the push I needed to finally get this edit finished. Woohoo!