Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
Chapter 16 – You Don't Have to Go It Alone
A/N - This is more like an itty-bitty mini-chapter. I could have held it back and kept writing, but for some reason, it felt right to make it a short one this time. Only two scenes. Hope you like.
Duncan - Day Five – Dallas, TX – Lakeview Court Motel - Room 118
The silence of the morning was shattered by a cry.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?"
Duncan's face was ashen and his eyes wild, as he took in his surroundings. He stood at the side of a red-covered double bed - obviously in a motel room.
In the other bed, Logan's eyelids flew open, staring at Duncan in shock. In his own bed, a small blonde, sleeping on her stomach, lifted up and rubbed her eyes. He didn't need to see her face to know her identity.
Oh God no! Not again! Not again! Not again!
"WHAT IS THIS?" Duncan demanded again, pointing at the blonde.
Veronica - of course it's Veronica - rolled over, staring at him. Is that fear in her eyes?
Logan scrambled out of bed, in a tee shirt and plaid boxers. "Duncan…" he said, his face etched with worry. "Good to see you up, man." He held Duncan's eyes while surreptitiously stretching out a hand to Veronica.
Veronica's eyes also remained on Duncan as she clutched the offered hand, stealthily slipping out of bed, and allowing Logan to pull her behind him and onto his bed. She sat back on her heels looking out from behind him.
"What?" Duncan demanded. "Do you think I'm going to HURT her?"
Logan shook his head in the negative, unconvincingly.
Duncan's heart pounded on the verge of exploding. He'd sworn he would never touch her again. How had this happened? There had obviously been alcohol involved. Enough to make him black out. But how? He had never been a heavy drinker. And shouldn't he at least remember the beginning of the night? He probed at the corners of his memory, but the last thing he could recall was playing soccer. Everything after that…? Blackness.
"Hey...DK" Logan started, stepping forward. "Are you okay?" He spoke in the soothing tones one would use to gentle a wild stallion.
"What do you think?" Duncan's eyes flooded, despite himself. "This shouldn't have happened." His voice broke. "I wasn't supposed to ever…"
"Ever what?" Logan asked.
"Ever touch her again." The first tear spilled over, making a wet path down his cheek. "So what happened here? Some kind of threesome or something?" He pinched the webbed skin between his thumb and his index finger to alleviate the nausea threatening to overwhelm him.
Logan erupted with laughter. "Dude, um...you're a nice looking guy and everything, but…"
"You think this is amusing?"
All humor drained from Logan's eyes. "No man, not amusing. No threesomes happened here. Nothing happened at all. I swear."
Duncan let out the breath he'd been holding. "So I didn't…? With Veronica?"
"No," Veronica shook her head.
His shoulders relaxed. "No kissing? No making out?"
"Even so...this can never happen again," he said. "Don't ever let me sleep in a bed with her again."
"Um...hello?" Veronica said, sarcastically, holding up a hand. "Sitting right here."
"I'm telling you, Duncan..." Logan flopped down on his bed near Veronica. "Nothing at all happened."
"Never again." Duncan repeated.
Bruises covered the left side of Logan's face, although he didn't have a black eye. Had they gotten into a fight last night while they were drunk? Somehow, Duncan doubted it. He imagined he would be in a lot of pain right now, if they had.
He took in his surroundings. The room was small. In addition to the two double beds, a long dresser with mirrors lined the wall under a mounted television. Some kind of coffee bar stood outside what he suspected was the bathroom. "What were we drinking last night? And where are we? The Camelot?"
A silent communication passed between Veronica and Logan. Worried.
"It's kind of a long story…" Logan trailed off, glancing at Veronica again.
Duncan rubbed at his forehead. How were Logan and Veronica even in the same room without World War 3 breaking out, let alone sitting together as some kind of united front?
"I'm hallucinating," Duncan concluded aloud, running a hand over his face. "Because this…" his fingers pointed to his friend and his ex, "...is not possible."
"It's...complicated, Duncan," Logan said, sharing another furtive glance with Veronica.
"Oh my God. You're sleeping together." His voice came out almost growl-like. "How long has this been going on?" He swept a tear away with a sharp jab.
"Veronica and I are NOT having sex," Logan insisted. "We need to explain."
Duncan exhaled. For a second, he'd believed that something had happened between Logan and Veronica. He should have known better. Logan would never do that to him.
"Lemme use the bathroom first," Duncan said. "I need to go, and it feels like I haven't brushed my teeth in days."
"Your toothbrush is in the small blue grooming bag in the closet," Logan pointed to a door, avoiding Duncan's eyes.
The knife of fear in Duncan's gut twisted painfully at the sight of a pile of bags and duffels in the closet.
"Luggage?" he demanded, hair lifting on the nape of his neck. "We're not in Neptune anymore, are we?"
Logan bit his lower lip and shook his head in the negative. Duncan felt another wave of nausea, and snatched up the bag with his grooming products. He rushed to bathroom before he ended up vomiting.
Veronica - Day Five – Dallas, Texas - Lakeview Court Motel - Room 118
As the door closed behind Duncan, Veronica let out the breath she'd been holding and Logan ran a hand over his face nervously. From the bathroom came the sound of retching, causing Veronica to shudder. Logan stared at the door anxiously, and Veronica stared at him.
She scooted forward, propping her chin on his shoulder from behind. "I'm sorry," she murmured.
Logan shook himself out of his trance, but still didn't look at her. "Me too."
She wrapped her arms around him, clasping her hands together and leaning the side of her head against his. Logan's hand automatically moved to cover her own, but then pulled back before he made contact.
Damn. He's pouting.
Veronica didn't want to give last night's argument a chance to fester. Her relationship with Logan had been going too well, and she would not allow things to deteriorate now.
She opened her mouth to speak, but Duncan shrieked out from the bathroom. "What the hell am I wearing under my pajamas?"
Logan cringed. "It was necessary, dude! I swear!" he called back.
"Fuck you, Logan."
Logan's eyes widened. "He's swearing," he spoke out of the side of his mouth. "He must be really pissed."
"You think?" Veronica asked. "Come on, we need to talk - but not here." She jumped out of bed, snagging Logan's hand and pulling him after her.
"We'll be back in a second, Duncan." she called out, before dragging Logan out the door.
Veronica glanced quickly to the left, and then dragged Logan to the right and around the nearby corner to the backside of the motel. The shadows of tall oaks and cedars from the bordering wooded area fell upon the small rear parking lot. Further off, the faint hum of highway traffic broke the silence.
Veronica released Logan's hand and faced him. "So...that just happened."
"Yeah, that was kinda weird."
The morning air had a slight chill, and Veronica wished she had thought to snag a blanket on the way out. Logan was still in his boxers, and she had even more exposed skin.
"I didn't bring you out here to discuss Duncan. Let me start over. I'm sorry, Logan. I was a...bitch last night."
Logan stared down at his bare feet. "It's okay. I should have kept my mouth shut."
"No, I don't want to brush this off. Let's talk about it."
Logan eyed her warily. "Talking didn't go so well last night."
"Okay, I'll talk. You listen."
Behind Logan, a knee-high concrete wall surrounded an ornamental bed planted with fragrant pink, blue and lavender flowers. He took a seat, curling his fingers around the edge, and nodded for Veronica to proceed. He seemed to be humoring her, rather than fully engaged.
He wasn't going to make this easy for her.
"I couldn't sleep at all last night," she began.
"The nightmares?" Logan rubbed the back of his neck. "I heard you, but what could I do? I was damned if I did. Damned if I didn't."
"No. I mean...yes, I had nightmares, but that's not what I meant. I laid awake most of the night thinking about what you said...and the look on your face."
"I didn't mean-"
"Will you let me speak, Logan?" Veronica snapped, cutting him off.
"If I must," The corner of his lip lifted fractionally.
"You said I was sending you mixed messages."
Logan shrugged and ran his index finger along a faded old scar on his knee. Veronica had noticed many such scars in the past few days. He must have been a clumsy child - although, in her experience, Logan had always exuded pure grace. Besides the shiny pink circle of a recent injury on his inner forearm, his other scars appeared long healed.
She took a seat on the wall next to him, examining her freshly painted red toenails. "You ever associate a physical reaction to a trigger?"
"You mean like the other night after the bar?"
Veronica rolled her eyes. "Um...kinda, but less sexual. My Grandma Mars, who died three years ago, used to make me these amazing cookies every time I visited her. To this day, a single bite of a Snickerdoodle creates this feeling of pure love in my heart."
"I witnessed this accident a year ago - right after Lilly died. Some girl on a cell phone hit a man on a motorcycle. Dragged him down the road a bit…"
"Me and my dad ran to help the guy, but it was too late. Half of his face was gone. But the bike" She shivered at the memory. "...that stereo kept right on playing - as if nothing had happened. That song 'Low' by Cracker. 'Blue blue is the sun. Brown brown is the sky. Green green are her eyes'. To this day, I hear that song, and I instantly feel the need to vomit."
"I can imagine."
"The body is this mysterious machine. You've heard of Pavlov's dogs. The mere ringing of a bell would cause them to salivate. But anything can be a trigger: a scent, a sight, a taste, a sound, a song."
"Pears," Logan said.
"I had a pear-related…incident…when I was nine. The slightest whiff of a pear makes me throw up." He still would not meet Veronica's eyes, but he was participating in the conversation. Progress.
"Okay, so you understand the concept, then."
"Sure, but not the connection," Logan answered.
"These past few days, I've been experiencing quite a bit of...anxiety… over Liam, and our situation. My chest tightens, and I become dizzy. I can't stop thinking about the worst-case scenarios, and blaming myself for bringing this down upon us."
Veronica rose to her feet, and walked a few steps away watching a flock of birds make patterns in the sky. After several heartbeats, she turned back to face him. "Logan, whenever you hug me, or touch me, or initiate some sort of physical contact with me..." deep breath. "...the tightness in my chest loosens. My posture relaxes. My heart stops racing. My thoughts stop racing and I become more centered and at peace."
Logan's skeptical eyes rose to meet Veronica's. She wondered if he doubted his calming effect on her, or if he knew she'd neglected to mention the exception to the rule - those moments when she'd thought they were about to kiss, and her heartbeat had doubled. Regardless, most of the time, he gave her peace.
"It's so…addictive…to feel so calm and centered. I don't know if your signature scent is the trigger, or just you as a whole, but it's real. Remember...maybe three years ago, when you pulled me out of the way of that car?"
Logan nodded, shaking his head in mock disapproval. "Thirteen years old, and you still forgot to look both ways."
Veronica let the dig pass. "Or maybe it was that time I suffered a leg cramp in the ocean and you came back for me...or the time when you punched Felix the PCHer for me. Somewhere along the way, my subconscious decided that you were my safety net."
"So this is a gratitude thing?" Logan asked.
"No clue. I only know that it makes me super irritable. Like last night."
"Why, because I'm a jackass?"
"Needing you," she mumbled and looked away. "I don't want to. You can't imagine what this past year was like for me."
Logan fiddled with the hem of his tee shirt, unable to meet her eyes again.
"I learned some harsh truths when Lilly died. I learned that the people you count on, will let you down and break your heart when you need them the most."
Logan took a pained breath and slumped his shoulders, staring at the ground.
Veronica continued. "I conditioned myself to become hard. And strong. To need no one. To never rely on another person again."
She had been the injured party, so why did her stomach clench at the sight of Logan's guilt-stricken eyes? Why did she want to offer him comfort?
"This...dependence...thing I have with you...I hate it! I feel so weak. And ineffectual. I'm letting myself down. I should be able to deal with my issues on my own." Veronica's voice thickened with frustration.
"Sometimes you can't make it on your own."
"Yep." He jumped up and moved closer, looking into her eyes compassionately. "Veronica, there has never been a girl as strong as you are. Sometimes, I am in complete awe of you. If you can draw strength from another person, why wouldn't you? I hardly see that as weakness."
How did Logan always manage to make her feel like some kind of super hero? At least since this thing started.
"I draw strength from you too, Ronnie," he continued. "If I didn't have this intense drive to keep you safe, I'd probably be at the bottom of a bottle right about now. So doesn't that make us even? You give to me? I give to you?" His hand moved up, and she could almost feel the heat of his touch against her cheek, before his arm fell limply to his side. He dropped his eyes and stepped back, lowering himself to the concrete wall again.
"Will you cut that out?" Veronica demanded testily.
"That. Being afraid to touch me."
"I don't want to upset you again...or make you super irritable."
"I won't get upset."
"I'm a little gun shy now, Veronica."
"Just touch me, dammit."
Logan arched an eyebrow, and the corner of his lip twitched. "Touch you where?"
"Wherever." Veronica said with exasperation.
"Can I touch your butt?" Now he was smirking.
Veronica rolled her eyes. "Um...Let me think about that...Hell to the no."
"Can I touch your boobs?" A quick waggle of the eyebrows.
"Not a chance."
"Can I touch your—"
"Finish that sentence and you'll be eating your food through a straw for a month." Veronica laughed, happy the tension was gone.
"I was going to say cheek. Sheesh. Get your mind out of the gutter, Veronica." Logan said, now smiling.
"So...We're good, Logan?" Veronica asked hopefully.
"Are we?" he responded. "What if I were to...I don't know...lose control of my lips and ended up molesting your innocent forehead again? You going to freak out?"
Veronica smirked and stepped between his parted knees. She braced either side of his face gently with her hands, leaned forward, and kissed him softly on the forehead.
"Weird...I still feel like a frog," Logan said, before wrapping his arms around Veronica's back and pulling her close, burying his face in her neck.
Veronica sighed with relief and sank into Logan. "I needed this," she exhaled, and Logan squeezed tighter. "Thank you."
Veronica let out a squeak when Logan's arm slid behind her legs, scooping her up and depositing her sideways on his lap.
"And...we're right back where we were yesterday," Veronica said, shaking her head ruefully. "You don't do anything half way, do you, Logan?"
"What do you mean?" Logan's eyes crinkled with amusement. "This is halfway. Besides, you dragged me out here - you can keep my legs warm."
Butterflies fluttered in Veronica's belly.
This is halfway...
"We should be getting back."
"One sec," Logan said, holding Veronica still. "I need to apologize too. For the way I acted about Duncan. And for yelling." Flash of puppy dog eyes. "Guess I did act like a jealous boyfriend."
"I thought about that last night, as well. You may have been right; I did change a bit when I dated Duncan."
"But I should have minded my own business." Logan glanced behind him, plucking a pink flower and presenting it to Veronica. The flower was daisy-like. An Aster, perhaps? Veronica had always loved daisies.
"No, it wasn't your business, but I'll explain anyway." She brought the flower to her nose and inhaled its scent. She aimed a shy smile at Logan and continued. "When we hung out – as a group – we discussed celebrities often enough that I knew exactly what type of girl Duncan found attractive - and they were all super girly and feminine. The opposite of me."
"You were perfect the way you were."
"Thank you for the sentiment." she said. "I realize now that I should never have changed for a guy. I didn't know anything about dating back then, though. I just wanted Duncan to think I was pretty too."
"He'd have to be blind not to think you were pretty," Logan said plucking a second flower - blue this time - and tucking it above her ear. He leaned back to study the effect. "It brings out your eyes," he concluded.
"Thank you." Veronica answered, cheeks turning a faint shade of pink.
"Now that he's awake…" Logan began, avoiding Veronica's eyes. "Do you think...? Do you still love him?"
"He was my first love. I'll probably always love him."
"Oh…" Logan flicked at a wood chip that had escaped from the bed behind him.
"But I'm not 'in love' with him. I don't even like him much right now."
Logan's eyes snapped back to Veronica's.
"I doubt I'll get past what happened. Not only did he refuse to tell me what I did wrong, he couldn't even be bothered to tell me we were over. He's spent almost a year pretending I didn't exist."
"So last night…?"
"You were right last night. I did look at Duncan when you asked me what had changed."
"Okay…" He took a deep breath, but didn't continue.
"Not for the reason you think, Logan." Veronica said. "It's just…"
Logan's gaze was now direct, as he waited for her to continue.
Veronica sighed, and wrapped a strand of hair around her index finger - a rare show of nerves. "It's just…you and I - this physical...thing...between us…" She gestured to her current position on his lap. "...Wouldn't make sense to anybody else. It barely makes sense to me."
"It makes perfect sense to me," Logan said, his face turning arrogant.
"Care to share?" Veronica asked.
"Easy. You want my bod. It's a popular sentiment." He laughed at her glare and gave her a loud smooch on the cheek, before setting her on the ground and standing. "Come on," he reached for her hand. "We'd better get back and deal with the Duncan fallout."
He dropped her hand outside of their door. Pausing. "You ready?" Logan asked.
"How about I wait out here. He's your best friend."
"Nope." He grinned at her. "We're in this together." He turned the knob.
Duncan didn't glance up as the door opened. He sat on the foot of the bed staring intently at the TV.
Veronica heard her own voice onscreen. "I would like to tell my father one more time that I love him." The TV was replaying their video statement, and it was at the end.
"Duncan?" Logan asked nervously. "How much of that did you see?"
"All of it." Duncan answered, turning to face Logan with terrified eyes. "Five days? I had another blackout?"
"Uh huh," Logan answered. "You've had blackouts before?"
"Twice, that I can remember." Duncan's shoulders slumped and his eyes became glassy again. He stared at the wall, his Adam's apple bobbing. Finally, he inhaled and turned back to Logan, his voice flat. "I need you to explain exactly what you meant by 'episode'. What did I do, and why is Liam Fitzpatrick after us?"
"Um…" Logan said, eyes flicking to Veronica for support.
"You stabbed Ciaran Fitzpatrick eleven times, and you've been catatonic ever since." Veronica blurted out.
Within moments, Duncan was in the bathroom retching again.
Logan rounded on Veronica, annoyed. "Way to rip off the band aid." He sighed, and hurried off to the bathroom, where Veronica could hear him speaking to Duncan in reassuring tones.
A/N Thank you so much for your ongoing support. As usual, I'd like to thank those who I can't thank personally through messaging. You all are so amazing and supportive!