Story Title: Refuge
AN: Rogan, futurefic. My version on setting right the events of the last episodes. It's been done a million ways, but this is my attempt. Set in London, just prior to the 2012 Olympics. One-shot. Disclaimer: that is supposed to be a horribly long run-on sentence. (smiles)
The English concierge stood behind his counter, staring blankly at the irate, soaked-to-the-bone American who had rambled off a sob story about how she was not some dumb American tourist that had never left her small hometown before, but a seasoned traveler; one that had made it through the cluster that was Heathrow Airport now for the fourth time and managed to hail a cab without assistance, though she mistakenly told him to let her off at Piccadilly Circus, not Cambridge Circus, where he dropped her seconds before the heavens opened up and negated all chances of her procuring another taxi, meaning she had to walk all the way, after getting directions from a man selling hats on the street (who was very put out that she was not interested in a hat for purchase) to that very spot in the rain wearing flip flops, because she was fresh off the plane and she always wore flip flops on airplanes because security takes too long to get through to wear sneakers and she always has to run, which negates high heels, and flip flops always seem like a better idea in theory than in practice, but it didn't matter because as soon as she arrived at her hotel she was going to take a long bubble bath and snuggle up in her hotel robe and slippers and watch Fawlty Towers and eat the giant Cadbury bar she'd purchased for way too much at the airport, but now her life had come to a halt as he'd simply told her she had no reservation in her name due to a likely computer glitch. He didn't even have the decency to look sorry about the inconvenience for leaving her homeless and without hope of shelter for the duration of her stay on this side of the Atlantic. His resigned detachment in the matter did nothing to solve her immediate problem of now being without a place to sleep, it only fueled her panic as he told her in that droll tone that he could think of no place nearby that might possibly have any vacancy.
"Nothing? You can't recommend one other place in all of your motherland for me to stay? Not even some crappy, hole-in-the-wall shanty that includes a wake-up call of Irishmen coming and puking outside my door in the morning? You're seriously just telling me that all of England is booked and I might as well go back to the States?" she blinked at him as she prattled on at a rapid pace.
"If you hadn't taken notice, Miss Gilmore, there's an unusual number of folks come to London at the moment. What with the Olympics and all. Perhaps you should have taken more care in planning your itinerary."
"It was in my phone!" she yelled, thrusting her smartphone across the desk for him to read, though he didn't bother to check the electronic device. "Look, right there. That's the name of this hotel! With my reservation, which you have lost! Seriously, you don't have any place you could stick an extra bed? I'm just one small American. I just need a flat surface, Wi-Fi, and access to coffee!"
"I'd try outside of London proper," he cleared his throat, ready to be rid of her. "You might try north of Inverness; the northern coast of Scotland is lovely, though it's a bit touch and go on the internet access in those parts."
Rory Gilmore stood there, shaking her head, her soggy belongings at her feet. She couldn't go to Scotland. She had no business in Scotland. All she wanted to do was go back to New York, find the administrative assistant that had been responsible for handling all the travel arrangements, which she'd attempted to talk her assigning editor into allowing her to take on herself, and beat her to death with the oversized chocolate bar sticking out of her carry-on bag.
She had nothing else to say to the man who was in all reality just doing his job, even if his English accent did make him sound rather like Simon Cowell insulting her for even standing in his lobby. She looked up at him in hope as his expression suddenly changed and he spoke again, this time in a manner befitting Alfred the Butler in response to Bruce Wayne entering his presence.
"Ah, Sir, is there something I can do for you this evening?"
The contrast of utter confusion and familiarity of the voice coming from behind her led to a dizzying sensation as she turned from the man who was denying her to face a man that she had denied.
His name. After all that they'd been through, after the way he'd simply walked away from her, and after all this time they'd spent apart—all she could say was his name.
"Is there a problem, Mr. Huntzberger?" the concierge spoke up after a few moments of the two of them just standing there, a few yards apart, staring at one another while she continued to drip on the pristine floor of the hotel lobby.
"No, thank you," Logan answered, his attention remaining on the damsel in distress in front of him. "I was just returning for the evening. Shall we?"
Rory glanced from Logan to the concierge, though she didn't really need his permission. She turned her focus back to Logan and nodded warily. She wouldn't have expected Logan, of all people, to want to spend time with her, let alone allow her to share a space with him. Perhaps time could heal all wounds, but after successfully avoiding one another for five years, being near him now for the first time—it all came rushing back. The hurt on his face when she handed him back the ring box. The pain she'd felt that night, the next morning—for months afterward. Not to mention the doubt—all the times she had nearly driven to the airport to catch the next plane bound for California; all the times while waiting for a plane for her next assignment and she noticed the next gate was destined for San Francisco, fighting the urge to exchange her ticket. But she hadn't. She's stayed on her path, faithful to her career. She'd assumed that she was finally being rewarded for her dedication with this try out for a foreign correspondent position with her current employer, which had landed her in London—and face-to-face with Logan nonetheless.
She stepped onto the elevator, watching him as he pushed the button for the penthouse and dropped the bag of hers he'd carried from the lobby. The moment the doors closed, he turned to face her. He said nothing, but pain distorted his features. It was as though he was conscious of being on the verge of doing something that he knew was going to end badly, like put his hand on a hot burner or drive off a cliff. Yet as he stepped forward, eyes still full of anguish, he pressed past the discomfort and sought relief against her. His hands wrapped around her back, still damp and cold from being out in the elements, and she sank into his warmth. She opened her mouth as his tongue traced along her lips, and it was so easy to let him engage her body, doing everything he knew how to do so well, that she was tempted to let it ride. Especially after he pulled off her soaked hoodie to reveal a now see-through, simple, white tee shirt, clinging to her body under the weight of the moisture—providing an outline of her form as a preview of what was to come, as if he needed the reminder. Logan kicked it up into high gear at that point, stealing not only kisses but her breath as he backed his way out of the elevator and against his door, opening it with one hand and basic muscle memory as he continued to kiss down her neck, pushing strands of long, damp brown hair out of his way. She tossed her discarded jacket onto the floor near the entry, kicked her small carry-on over on its side, and peeled her shirt up over her head, letting it fall down next to her shoes before she stepped out of them and back into his arms.
"Jesus, you taste amazing," he murmured against her skin, kissing between her breasts, making her shiver. "Are you cold?"
"I think I might melt," she assured him, making him smile and continue his descent. The rest of her clothing, in need of being removed anyhow due to exposure to the elements, was gone faster than she would have managed on her own, had she her own room and only the shower to restore her body temperature. His tongue was making her warmer than any hot water she'd ever had beating down on her, and she cried out as she gripped the sheets she'd landed on as he hit a spot on her body that only he had ever successfully used to bring her so far so fast. After the absence from his touch—five long years—it took her over the edge almost immediately. Her body was quaking, but he was still touching her, still grabbing handfuls of curves, caressing her with his lips, making his way back up to her chest, her neck, her lips. He was all over her, encompassing her, and for a brief moment she was clinging to him, completely engulfed by his touch. He was entering her before she had come all the way back down from her first swell of pleasure, and they both gasped at the sensation. His voice, deep with relief, anchored her as she dug her fingers into the taut muscles of his back, sure that whatever satisfaction she found next would be just as much for her as it was for him. He had always been a gentleman, not necessarily gentle, by always attending her needs first. This time she wasn't sure if it was out of concern for her or just his enjoyment. God knows it seemed to be something they both craved.
If the time apart had caused him to forget her, even the smallest details, he certainly wasn't letting on as he moved against her body, stroking her in places that she might never feel comfortable telling anyone else to touch her. She never had to tell him how best to arouse her, but she felt no shame in speaking the words while they were intimate—it seemed to spur him, though she mainly just didn't want him to ever stop. Those were the words she pleaded the most, just please, God, don't stop. He had a perfect memory for every last inch of her, though he was leaving no room for her to think about all the time he spent exploring and mapping her erogenous zones in the past—she was too wrapped up in the present moment, achieving heights that she had assumed were unreachable with the normal progression of years. He was proving to her that her body was simply out of practice; or that anyone who had attempted such acts in his absence was simply not as skilled as he. And her fears were irrational—he was not about to stop once he got her going.
By the time he got that look in his eyes signaling the beginning of the end of this particular union, just as he was caught in her heady blue gaze, she could no longer remember why she'd ever let him go. Why she didn't fight, or at least take a risk, to be with him. He raised her leg up to wrap around his waist, shifting the angle at which he was moving inside of her, and just before her stomach tightened and her release began, his lips covered hers, her moans never making it out of her mouth. She knew he was chasing her, unable to ride out the bucking of her hips in tandem with her muscles fluttering so tightly around him, and suddenly he pressed his forehead into her shoulder, his breath shallow and fast as he continued on until they were both past the point of no return.
The coward in her saw two options as she waited for her breathing to slow and stabilize; she could either get him going again, a feat that usually required shockingly minimal suggestion and her mouth reviving his arousal, or she could make a hasty exit. Either of these routes allowed them to avoid talking; something she was sure was a bad idea. Five years apart hadn't changed the fact that they'd had problems before the proposal. Five years apart and the ability to have great sex didn't mean that either of them wanted to try to overcome anything. She didn't know what was worse; if he would want to get back together with her after all this time without thinking it through or if he had no interest whatsoever in the idea. The throngs of girls that had come before her, and surely in her wake, were proof that he wasn't just that good in bed because he loved her. His attentiveness to her, his ability to bring out the most primal of her responses—his ability to nearly cause her black out with pleasure—that didn't speak of his eternal love for her. It simply meant he was damn good at what he did. Practice made perfect, after all. She had to believe that, or else she'd have just been a damn fool.
Her decision was made much easier by the fact that she simply had nowhere else to go. Once she left the penthouse that he was occupying—the wealth of space in a full city—she was temporarily homeless until her return flight. She would have to stay, fear be damned, at least unless he threw her out. She just had no feel for how this would shake down, being near him. Though, so far, she had no room to complain. His hand slid up from her ribcage, grazing her breast, slowing slightly, but continuing up to her jawline. He searched her eyes for a moment and then kissed her yet again. It was much less needful, not nearly as brutal as they'd become since he crashed into her on the elevator. His lips were soft as he pressed them against hers, though no less searing. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as he pulled away, willing herself not to speak first. They both had a way with words, but they also had a bad history of saying the worst ones in each other's presence.
"So you're in London," he began, going for the painstakingly obvious. She took a small amount of comfort that maybe this was as awkward for him as it was for her.
"It is a modern Babylon," she retorted easily, pulling from someone's words.
"Samuel Johnson?" he inquired.
"Benjamin Disraeli," she corrected.
"I should have known. You do your homework," he complimented her, his chest still sealed against hers, skin-on-skin sensations making it hard to focus on quotations from nineteenth century politicians and novelists. Hell, he was still inside of her. To say the least, he had her full attention.
"Logan, I didn't come here for this," she broke under the weight of her good intentions, unable to hold back the truth from him as she was literally naked and more vulnerable than she was used to allowing herself to be. That was the danger of being in his presence.
"It's too late for that," he said quietly, rolling off of her and sitting up with his back facing her. She assumed he would retrieve his boxers from the floor, but instead he just sat there with his legs swung over the side. She eased her body up to sit on her knees behind him, her hands resting on his shoulders. His muscles jumped under her light touch. It seemed so soon to want to take back her words. She had no desire to take back any of her actions. He turned his head halfway, to show she had his attention, but not far enough to look at her bare form.
"I'm sorry. I feel like I should be honest with you."
"Sometimes honesty isn't just brutal," he said gently. "It's devastating."
"I know," she mimicked his tone, treading water, wondering just what it was he didn't want to hear.
"So why are you here? Since you didn't come here for that," he had turned farther now, straining to watch her reaction to his question. She had nowhere to hide, there in the bed, not even a sheet covering her. She would have felt naked under his gaze no matter how many layers she could have put on at that point.
"I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it," she assured him, sidestepping his questions.
"Your acting skills aren't good enough for me to believe otherwise," he informed her, his tone even, his face straight. "But you didn't come here for this—or for me, either, right?"
She cast her gaze down at the mass of discarded, tangled bed sheets. "I'm on assignment."
His brow furrowed. "What?"
She tugged at the corner of the bed sheet and obtained just enough to wrap around her torso. "I was sent here for a story."
"What story does a feature writer in New York come to London during a major sporting event to find?" he asked. "A personal piece on one of the American competitors?"
"You know I'm at the News?" she countered. "Logan?"
He shifted his hips, turning his whole body farther around, bringing one leg back up onto the bed closer to her. He too, drew some of the sheet over his lap, giving a semblance of modesty. "I've followed your stuff. I read your pieces. At first, my father," he cleared his throat in the quiet room, "sent me a link to your online pieces, when you were on the campaign trail. I thought," he paused, and then shook his head. "Anyway, they were good. I kept reading. I overheard you got a position at the News, through some shoptalk with colleagues, so it's not like I was stalking you, I just," he sighed. "I read your pieces."
One eyebrow raised, her interest piqued. "You thought they were good?"
He smiled, slowly; knowingly. "You never needed me to tell you that you're a great journalist."
"You must have one criticism," she smiled back, also knowingly.
"Let's hear it," she said, bracing for something simple yet devastating. It was the forte of the Huntzberger family, the men especially.
"You made me vote for Obama," he revealed.
She paused. "How could you not want to vote for Obama?"
He laughed. "I was registered Republican before I was born. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the rich tend to swing right in their political views."
"But you weren't," she began, but stopped. She'd never talked about his net worth before, not when they were dating. Hell, she'd been stunned to find out he had three million dollars of his own to invest, let alone lose, after he lost it all years ago. After his father cut him off, sure, he got a good job, but it had to be a lifestyle change, draining his trust fund and venturing out on his own for the first time ever.
"Clearly you weren't keeping tabs on me," he raised his eyebrow back at her.
She bit her lip. "Well, I can't believe I swayed you to vote for Obama, no matter how much money you had. His whole message was about hope and change. You of all people should have wanted to embrace that."
"Why is that?" he asked.
"You know as well as anyone that just because things are the way they've always been, it doesn't mean that there isn't another way. A better way."
He considered her words. "Change is inevitable. That should have been his platform."
"His platform got plenty of people to support him, you included," she offered.
"He's a good guy. He's got more problems to deal with other than whether or not I believe in hope and change."
"Wait, you've met him?" she frowned.
"Yes, but you didn't finish answering my question," he smiled, dodging her last question.
"How you got to be in London."
"Oh. Well, I've been submitting ideas and articles to the desk of the editor of the foreign affairs department. For, like, three years. I'm pretty sure he sent me here to get me away from his desk, but nonetheless, he gave me a shot. There's a heads of state meeting, leaders from all over, scheduled to be held just before the opening of the Olympics, and so I'm here to cover that. I could care less about the sports part."
"You don't say," he teased her with an easy familiarity.
"Why are you here? Last I heard, you had plans to grow avocados in your backyard," she said, feeling no small pang of regret at her words. She hadn't been able to even look at a bowl of guacamole since her college graduation without thinking of him. It was hard to avoid everything that she associated with him over the years. Luckily she hadn't had any run-ins with a suit of armor, or she probably would have had a nervous breakdown.
"I'm here on business, mostly. I usually get here about twice a year, though that will be increasing. I'm still based in California, but I get to New York about once a month, so I bought brownstone a couple of years ago. I get really tired of hotels."
She felt all the blood drain from her face. "Wait. You live in New York; and you knew I was working at the News?"
He sighed. "Why haven't I looked you up?"
She shook her head. "No, I mean, I get why. I just," she brought her hand up to her lips, pressing her thumb into her jaw.
"Would you have wanted to try to have awkward lunches or to sit near each other and attempt not to, well, do this?" he gestured to the aftermath of a frenzy of lovemaking they'd just completed.
"I guess it's a bad idea for us to have caught up over drinks," she acknowledged.
"I don't drink anymore."
"Oh," she frowned, sitting on the bed so close to him, and yet feeling so far away from his life.
"I just have too much to do, I'm not working the steps of recovery," he shrugged. "I didn't end up in an alley with no money and a bottle of Jack Daniels."
"No, I never thought," she began, but she knew it was in part a lie. His personality lent itself to addiction; had he taken a wrong step—most likely had she not been a part of his life, it was a path he could have followed had he not channeled it into work. Though she was fairly sure someone else would have prevented him from ever hitting rock bottom. He just had too far to fall.
"You really don't know what I've been doing at all, do you?"
"Other than traveling internationally, being based in California, and owning real estate in New York, you mean?"
He smiled. "I sort of created my own empire. It incorporates social media and major news sources; we go in and attempt to give the dinosaurs better inroads to the way technology is constantly changing how people get and share information, trying to put an influx of life into established, trusted sources by partnering them with what's actually happening online, making sure people are able to get trustworthy information in real time," he explained.
"Where you the one behind the campaign to get Seymour Hersh on Twitter?" she asked, her eyes lighting up.
"I may have had something to do with that. He still thinks it's inane, though," he raised a shoulder.
"Wow. That's amazing, Logan. I knew you were going to find a way to make all this your own."
"You were the first," he assured her.
"That's not true," she said, though she wasn't sure why she would argue that point.
"No, if not for you—when we were together, when my family freaked out after I brought you home, I started putting money away. I knew there was going to come a time when I'd have to make a decision; one they weren't going to like. It turned out I was wrong about what led to my parting ways with the old man and his money, but if it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have been prepared. I wouldn't have been smart about it at all. I would have lost a lot more than just that three million dollars in the trust fund he set up for me."
She was stunned, but that didn't hold her words back. "What decision did you think was going to get you cut off?"
He shook his head. "Come on, Rory."
"No, what did you know, all the way back then? When I first went over to your family's house, we'd just begun dating. If you still thought you'd be working with your dad then," she led.
"Us. You; I knew that choice would be met with some level of punishment, because you didn't fit in with the vision they had for me and my life. The easiest way for them to punish me; the only real way in their mind, would have been to cut off money to discourage me from marrying you."
She felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. Suddenly the entire timeline of their relationship shifted in her eyes. "How long did you…?"
"I told you when we started dating, before that even, it was a big deal. I couldn't just bring any girl home, not one like you, not unless I was sure," he hesitated. "This isn't news to you. You knew what I wanted."
She shook her head. "I had no idea. Logan, I was so surprised, when you did that, it felt like a spur of the moment decision," she admitted. "The only reason I could think of for you doing that was that I was the last stable thing in your life at that point, and you didn't want to lose that anchor."
"That's why you thought I proposed?" his tone was beyond incredulous, his voice was loud and disturbed.
She nodded, numb. She'd gone through their entire relationship unaware of just how seriously he'd been taking it. "You never told me things, Logan, not until much after the fact. You told me about trips after you'd planned them; accounts after you'd won or tanked them; you probably wouldn't have told me about moving to London until after you'd gone if we hadn't been living together."
"None of that had anything to do with you," he frowned. "Certainly not with how I felt about you."
"It affected me, Logan! Every time you came home drunk, every time you fought with your dad, every time you had to pick up and move to another country—it affected me! And all I could do was watch!"
He took in her anger, all the emotion she'd bottled up years ago. She'd probably been so busy repressing it that she had no idea why their relationship had fallen apart so completely, so effortlessly. "Why did you just keep telling me it was okay? No matter what happened, you were so resigned, you supported me, and then suddenly you were done," he remembered, all too well. She never told him to stay with her, to buck his responsibility; she never asked him for a damn thing.
"Is that all you wanted me to be? The woman behind the man?" she cried out, clearly frustrated, after all this time, at the thought.
"I wanted to be with you. I wanted us both to have exactly what we wanted."
"Isn't that what happened?" she asked bitterly.
"Apparently for you," he managed, looking away from her and out the window yet again. As her heart sank, she looked past his shoulder, to the view of the Thames. She had gone from having nowhere to stay to being in one of the choicest locations in the whole city; but it came at a price, regardless of the lack of charge to her or the paper's accounts.
"I wanted to be with you; I told you I wanted to be with you, I loved you," she spoke, her stomach now the center of a slow burn. She ached, for reasons unknown, save for simply being in his presence and not touching him. Even after being so intimate with him, she didn't feel it was her right to seek comfort in his arms.
"For how long, Rory? You weren't willing to take the next step, and anything else felt hollow."
"Everything was happening so fast! I just wanted time to get used to things; to catch up to you," she frowned, trying to remember her reasons for turning him down. It had gotten muddled over time; the moment she started to doubt her decisions, her steadfastness had begun to get lost in the rubble of her heartbreak.
"You had two years to catch up to me," he shook his head. "You just wanted time, to wait for me to screw up again so you could be done with me for good."
"Screw you, Logan!" she moved at a harried pace, shifting out of the bed and grabbing her clothes. She had barely started to pull her underwear back up her legs before he had rounded the bed, his boxers apparently more easily found and replaced.
"Is that all I ever was to you? A good lay?"
"Well, if anyone would know, it would be you," she spat back at him.
"Oh, here we go. I'm a sex addict because I've had more sex than you."
"More sex than me? Logan, you've had more sex than most people I've ever met, combined!"
"I never cheated on you," he shook his head vehemently. "You know that, no matter what you wanted to believe."
"Why would I ever want to believe that you cheated on me?"
"Because what we had scared you the same way it scared me. Maybe more, though you wanted to still be able to play the good guy. But you wanted an out."
"So did you," she volleyed back, though her steam of anger had mostly dissipated. She'd managed to get three-quarters of her clothing back on as they'd done their best to try to win an argument that left only losers in its wake.
"Being in love wasn't something I was ready for. I admitted that. I moved past it, because I wanted to be with you. People change, Rory."
"I know that. I didn't say no because I thought you would cheat on me," she sat down on a chair opposite the bed, her long, bare legs outstretched toward him.
He stood, now looking down at her from a short distance. "Then why did you?"
She looked up at him, her eyes wide, almost scared, but definitely weary. "I can't remember anymore."
He shook his head, his hand reaching out to pause her. "Don't. Don't do that."
Her eyebrows furrowed, her fear melting into confusion. "Don't do what?"
"You can't come in here after five years, screw me, then look up at me like that, telling me you don't know why you let me go. It's beneath you."
"I didn't come here to beg your forgiveness. I came here for my job," she explained, her defenses rising like hackles.
"And that's exactly why you said no to me. That's why you didn't want to marry me."
She bit her lip, bested for the moment. She had no volley to that point. "You knew where I was."
"So?" he asked, clearly still frustrated, still hurt. Probably wishing she'd leave, if not spontaneously combust.
"So, for five years, you've known where I was—and it sounds like you have connections everywhere. You could have found me."
"So that we could have this very pleasant reunion?" he pressed.
"I had no idea where you were, not really, other than California. I just kept thinking, all I had to do was get a plane ticket, fly into San Francisco, find you and tell you I was wrong. That I did want to marry you, and try to believe that no matter where I was, I could find work. That the freedom to pay my dues wasn't worth losing you. I can't tell you how many times I drove my car and parked in long-term parking, with a bag packed, wrestling with myself. Do you know what the only thing that held me back was?"
"The idea of me sleeping my way through the Bay Area?" he offered knowingly.
She shook her head, wiping away a stray tear that had escaped the protective barrier of her eyelashes. "No. I couldn't imagine you'd want me back, after the way you looked at me the last time I saw you. Like you were done. You just looked so resigned, like you were going to move on with or without me."
"I loved you. More than anything. But I had to leave."
She nodded, looking down, escaping his scrutiny for a moment. "Why did you do it?"
She gave the slightest shake of her head, returning her eyes to his. "Propose."
It was his turn to sit, on the nearest object, the edge of the bed behind him. "I loved you. I couldn't imagine," he began, his mouth open as he searched for the right words. "Everything was changing. You were graduating, I got that job offer. After everything else that happened that last year; you going back to Yale, you being so successful, me failing so spectacularly; after all that, what kept me going was you. I knew that you were never going to let me just slide by. You were going to push me. You were going to love me no matter what else was happening. That's why I proposed. I never worried about being alone. I worried about losing you."
Her breath caught. She'd never heard anyone say something so shattering in her life. Not to her; not about her. "Logan."
He tensed at the tone of her voice. It was tender, it was soft in a way that signified so much more than what they had become. He stood up. "You're welcome to stay the night. I need some air."
With that, he left her alone in the bedroom, taking with him pants and a shirt. A moment later she heard the door to the penthouse open and close. She was in no shape to follow him, and she didn't know London well enough to race out into the night alone on a manhunt anyhow. She stood up and walked into the bathroom, staring at her image in the mirror over the sink. Disgusted, she turned, reaching into the shower to turn the hot water on full blast. Minutes later the mirror was foggy from steam, a welcome change. She wasn't up to facing herself right now. She had no answers, and she was tired of feeling so unfinished when it came to Logan. The least she could do was shower and let the hot water release her tense muscles.
She hadn't heard him come back in. She opened the bathroom door with just a towel wrapped around her, not having thought to bring extra clothes in with her. He sat on the foot of the bed, his head in his hands. When the door opened, he raised his head to look at her.
"I can go. I wasn't looking to you for a place to sleep. It's just, when I saw you," she began, but he held up his hand again, a signal for her to slow down, to stop. She halted, not coming closer, just readjusting her grip on the towel and pulling it a little tighter around her chest.
"I told you I don't drink anymore, right?" he asked, as if he was having a short-term memory lapse.
She nodded. "Yeah."
He nodded as well. "I left here and all I wanted to do was put you out of my mind. I walked out of the lobby, into the rain, down the street, and by the time I got to the corner without a destination in mind, it hit me."
She waited, holding her breath in case any sound she might make could distract him. She'd grown used to feeling vulnerable in his presence, and though she knew a towel wasn't the outfit of choice to be wearing as she listened to whatever he might say next, most likely there wasn't any clothing she could choose to help her make peace with how he felt about her.
"I can't escape from you," he finally clued her in, his eyes slowly rising to meet hers. "In college, I would drink to try to forget about my dad's last phone call or whatever upcoming obligation I had, or just to make the time I spent in Huntzberger purgatory more bearable. Women, they were easy enough to find, and caused me no guilt until the point at which I met you."
She opened her mouth, but she knew better. God, how she knew better. Her lips pressed together, to the point of pain, and she waited for him to continue.
"I don't smoke, and drinking has long since lost its luster. And since you," he blew out a breath. "You damn near ruined me. Do you know that?"
"Logan, I," she sucked in a breath, now starting to envision how comfortable a bench at Kings Cross would be for the night. Once she changed out of the towel, it seemed her best option.
"How would you feel," he stood up now, taking a step closer to her, "if coffee failed to relieve you? If you got your hands on a hot cup in the morning after pulling an all-nighter and not only did it just not perk you up, but it just left you feeling," he took a pause as he considered her, coming closer still, "lacking."
"Because that's how it feels to be with other women. And I've tried, I've been with one after the other, thinking the problem wasn't mine; convinced that if I found one girl I wanted to marry, surely if I looked hard enough I could find someone else that at least took my mind off of everything, off of you, for just a few goddamn minutes."
She closed her eyes, having no other way to shut him out. She could feel him, though he wasn't touching her. Heat rolled off his body in waves; all the frustration, anger, and longing that was pent up in his words too much for her.
"Look at me. Rory," he urged, his hand coming out to graze her cheek. "You're the only vice I have left, and that's a big fucking problem when you're the thing I'm trying to forget."
"I," she swallowed, willing herself to hold back tears as he breached all her barriers. He was in her face, he was calling her out, and it was all she could do to remain stoic.
"Don't tell me you're sorry. I don't need you to pity me," he closed his eyes now, not backing away.
"What do you want from me?" she asked finally, her heart broken and her arms aching to hold him.
"I just wanted you."
He'd advanced on her, but she was the one to close the gap. She let go of her towel to pull him against her, kissing him without worrying about anything other than easing his ache. It was a comfort for her as well, the feel of his body responding to hers, attending to one another without the feeling of urgency. Her hands smoothed his hair, his lips brushed away tears. Her towel slipped down between them, and his hands covered her. They made their way in a slow dance back to the bed, to the mess of covers atop an expanse of mattress, easing each other down as they found some solace in one another.
Once his body was anchored against hers, she rocked back up with him, the rhythm something no one else could replicate in its perfection, she gave in to the power that drew them together. Whatever it was that foiled each of their attempts to push past each other, whatever strength the universe held to allow his body to unlock hers, she was done trying to deny it. She knew as she dug her fingers into his shoulders, her body stiffening with pleasure, that she could fight for her independence until the day she died, but she would never be free of desire for this man. It was, quite simply, a foolish endeavor.
He took a moment to catch his breath as he rolled onto his back, his shoulder pressed against hers. She didn't want to recover; she didn't want time to change her mind. She knew the longer they lay there in silence, the more they'd be able to distance themselves from what they'd proven to be true. Time and doubt had a funny way of allowing her to convince her heart that she could not only survive without him, but thrive. It didn't matter how big of a lie she had to tell herself, she'd done it before. She just needed to say something before she chickened out.
"Where do you go from here?" he asked, turning his head only a fraction to see her.
It was not what she expected him to say, and light years away from the words she had been trying to formulate in her head. "What?"
He paused. "You're covering the summit; that's tomorrow, right?"
"Oh. Yes," she managed, trying to switch gears from being so intimate, thinking about a future she'd walked away from, to attempting to remember her already botched itinerary.
"You're not really a sports-oriented woman, so I assume you didn't try to wrangle any seats to the opening ceremonies," he led.
"The Olympics lost its appeal after Mom and I ate all that baklava during the Athens' opening ceremony; we got so sick and after that I just couldn't get it up for watching all those people walking and carrying things in matching jump suits. The very idea makes me queasy," she frowned, the memory itself enough to cause her phantom nausea.
He smiled, enjoying the ease she showed, the slip away from all the tension and the intensity to divulge a personal anecdote. "Baklava's bad, got it."
"Anyway, I should arrive in New York just in time to take a nap and drag myself into the office on Friday morning."
"And then you'll be prepping to follow Obama on his last-push campaign stops," he reasoned.
"How did you know that?" she asked, not correcting him.
"Well, you haven't got a new job yet, and they'd be idiots not to put you on that beat after your work on his first campaign run. You're the best writer they have, not just in the political beat."
"That's very kind of you to say," she began, hesitation filling every word.
"I'm not being kind, I'm being honest. Every editor in the business should be clamoring at your feet for you to be on staff."
"Okay, I think maybe that's too strong," she blushed, a slight nervous laugh escaping her throat as she ran one hand up her own forearm. He was distracting her from her train of thought. She didn't want to think about Obama's speeches or deadlines. She wanted to tell him that she knew now that she'd made a mistake. But first she was going to have to get a word in edgewise.
"So you're going to have some decisions to make," he said definitively.
"Decisions?" she asked, now more startled, especially at his eerie calm.
He sat up and nodded. "I would like it noted that I put in the first offer, when you're considering all the merits of your many proposals."
She sat up, pulling the sheet over her chest with her. "You're proposing?"
He smiled as he let out a breathy laugh. "Now, before you say no, hear me out."
She looked at him with all seriousness, the need for honesty crashing over her again. "I didn't make a pro/con list."
His direct line of thought was suddenly derailed. She had a habit of doing that to him. She was the only person that could do that to him. "What?"
She bit her lip. It was tender, raw from layers of skin having been rubbed away by his. "When you proposed. I thought I knew my answer, because it seemed like…," she exhaled and stopped, starting again slowly. "I told myself it was just one of your big ideas, and that I wasn't ready for marriage and it would be this entire other life that neither of us was ready for. So I never sat down and really made myself look at the decision I was making."
"Rory," he began, but this time it was her turn to keep the ball rolling.
"I hate that I did that to you, and to me—to us. Because whether or not I was ready to be married or the length of time you'd considered the proposal or how crazy it might or might not have been—I know now why you did it. I get it. You wanted to be with me. And I punished you for it."
He nodded, his eyes mournful. "That's an understatement."
She looked at him, concerned. "I wouldn't do that again. Whatever you're proposing; I'll really give it thought. Even if it sounds crazy to me," she smiled.
He smiled back. "That's the biggest vote of confidence I've ever gotten from anyone."
"I do what I can."
"I'm going a new direction. I mean, I'm still going strong with the company as we established it, but we're branching out, instead of just helping recognized media sites conform, we are gathering talent to become our own hub. But I need writers; I need the best writers. I have a lot of production people in place, but I need more people like you. If I could clone you, I would. Getting you," he took a deep breath, "would be huge. Honestly I never thought you'd take a meeting with me, so it's actually my benefit that this fine hotel lost your reservation."
"You … heard?"
"I was staring in stunned silence for longer than you might imagine. No one can rant in run-on sentences better than you. Though I will discourage you from doing that on the clock."
"You want me to work for you?"
"As a foreign correspondent."
She sat back against the headboard. Stunned. She was stunned. This man had literally offered everything in the world to her, at one time or another. To say that she had never imagined getting the offer for her dream job whilst naked was a given. It seemed, in fact, a reason to turn him down flat. Except, of course, that she'd promised otherwise.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" she inquired.
He nodded. "I don't propose lightly."
"Wow. Well, that is a lot to consider," she began.
"I'm not done."
She looked up again, distress showing through. "There's more?"
"You'd be based out of New York and London, primarily. I know it can be stressful, to be constantly uprooting yourself, and living in hotels, even nice ones like this, it's hard to feel grounded."
"It's small price to pay."
He shrugged. "I don't want my best reporter burned out. I want you to check in with me. This will be a new venture, and there will be a lot of time, throwing ideas out, ironing out just where we're going, getting it right."
"So, we'd be working closely together?" she summarized.
"And living closely together," he added, his gaze intense. "That offer stands, whether or not you want the job."
"You promised. And if you need help with the pro column, I'm more than willing to stay right here until you fill up a notebook."
She couldn't help but smile at the implication. "I think you've already given me a prime example of your best qualities."
"But you still have reservations?"
"It's been five years, Logan. Don't you?"
He shook his head. "It was five years of purgatory. We're still us. I'd like to hope that you don't balk so much at commitment, just as I don't anymore. You seem more comfortable in your own skin. I've figured out who I am. Think of it as us, version 2.0."
"You make it sound like a human experiment."
"There are no guarantees in life. The most I can offer you is your dream job and the pleasure of my company."
"Is that all?" she laughed, mocking him good-naturedly as the enormity of it all washed over her.
"You'd be doing me a favor. A man's gotta have at least one vice."
She felt something inside her swell. "You want me to move in with you, on two continents?"
"We could pretend we were able to take things slower than that, but the second I saw you, it was all I could do to wait until we were out of the elevator," he led. "I'd like to pick up where we left off. I don't want an answer now. Do your interview. Go back to New York. I'll be back in a week. We can meet for dinner and talk then."
He leaned in and kissed her, signifying he was done adding to the list of ways he wanted to intertwine their lives again. Save for asking her to give him a kidney, she couldn't imagine him being able to add to that list. At one time, with what seemed like ease, they had lived together, and they'd worked together to varying degrees on the Yale paper, though she'd always somehow been on a higher keel than him. She wondered if it really could be that easy, to slip back into it all; to build on the good times and learn from all their past mistakes. Sitting there with her now, in the middle of the night, a literal and metaphorical ocean between where they'd said goodbye and where they'd been reunited—he seemed like the best version of himself. She could only hope to be the best version of herself for him. If that's what the pro/con list she promised him revealed.
"That's one heck of a closing statement," she breathed, holding his face in her hands, smiling against him.
"I can do better, but I hate to sway you with my sexual prowess," he joked.
It was too late for that. Her body already ached for him, and he was still in bed next to her, his bare body still pressed into her. She kissed him again. When he pulled back, he stroked her cheek with his thumb, his focus clear.
"I'm serious, about all of it. You were on top of everyone's list, not just mine. I know you've had problems in the past, believing that you were entitled to certain things. I'm not going to argue your place in the world because of who your grandparents are or the fact that a Huntzberger fell in love with you. The job is yours for the taking because your talent is high above everyone else in your field, and you deserve it. As for me, well, I don't know if I deserve you, but I can promise you that no one wants you more than I do."
She nodded. "I'll put that in my pro column."
He smiled. "You do that," he kissed her again, a quick action, before moving to reach for the phone. He spoke briefly with someone downstairs, arranging for a wake-up call. He replaced the receiver and turned off the light. The city lights coming in through the picture windows gave the room a soft glow.
He settled against his pillows. "I have a train to catch. My sister has a country house in Scotland, and I'm going to see my nephew and attempt to not talk business for a few days before coming back and finishing the meetings here in London."
"And then back to New York."
"And then back to New York," he confirmed. "I'll arrange for you to stay here until you head back. I have it for the week, in case I need to get away from the family early. My relationship with my dad is better, but it's taken a turn for the strange. Now he's on my case to join up back up with him, and while I'm happy to work with him on a contract basis, I can't go back to working for him. He keeps it in check somewhat when he's playing Grandpa, but," he shrugged.
"Your dad as a grandpa. That image is," she paused, attempting to picture it herself.
"It's bizarre. Probably just as strange as me enjoying being an uncle, but," he admitted.
"No, I can see that. You'd be a great… uncle," she finished with a rush of possibility.
He nodded. "I really should get some sleep."
"Yeah, me too. Wake me up, before you leave?"
He reached an arm out, an offering for her to curl up into his body and settle in for sleep. It was an ingrained habit, from five years prior, his body reacting to the stimulus of shutting down for sleep in her presence. His body was so attuned to her, it was certain to betray him if he ever attempted to deny her.
"I can just set another wake-up call," he offered.
She shook her head against him. "I want to see you in the morning. To have coffee with you. Kiss you goodbye."
"I'd like that."
She kissed him one more time. "Goodnight, Logan."
"Goodnight, Rory," he said, kissing her hair lightly before they settled down in the darkness, quiet until sleep claimed them. They were both exhausted, but the gravity of all the promises and offers that had been made that night still caused their minds to reel. Each would fall asleep thinking; him about all the things he needed to accomplish in the next week to ease her into all aspects of his life—her focusing on the fact that a week was a long time to work on a pro/con list, especially when the positive aspects were already outweighing the negatives by such a strong factor. Perhaps it had taken some time, but maybe this time they could both get everything they wanted after all.