Story: Somebody Else's Page
Chapter: We Were Certainly Uncertain
Description: Rory/Logan. Slightly AU. What if Logan managed to take a little less time off during his college career and made it through without overlapping Rory's years at Yale? She's about to start her first internship at the Stamford Gazette, just as it's being taken over by the Huntzbergers.
Disclaimer: I write fan fiction. I own none of these characters. None of this happened on the show, which is the whole point of fan fiction. You get the idea.
Rory swiveled halfway around in her office chair, laughing over her fresh mug of coffee. It was well past quitting time and certainly past time to switch to a less stimulating beverage, but both her resistance levels to the caffeine and her late-night plans made it an easy choice to continue to imbibe.
"You didn't say that to Walter Cronkite," she managed as tears streamed down her cheeks.
"I did. In my defense, I was three," Logan said jovially, his arms casually crossed over his chest as he continued to entertain her.
"That also forgives the sitting on his lap part. And the kicking him in the shins as well," she continued to giggle. "It's hard to get work done, when you regale me with tales of your star-studded past."
"Only you would consider Walter Cronkite and Bernard Shaw stars," he teased.
"I don't equate them with popular culture's view of celebrities, but they're incredible influences on our entire country all the same. They shaped our world views, and they were in everyone's homes on a nightly basis, and you've been in theirs."
"I admit my life has had certain advantages. I don't think that every part of the business is cumbersome."
She tossed her hands up to the sky. "He finally admits it!"
He cast her a bemused smirk. "Very funny, Miss Gilmore."
She clasped her hands and brought them up over her heart. "I just think you should keep an appreciation for us little folk, who toil away into the night in this profession without a hope of ever mingling with our idols. We looked up to all the people you thought existed solely to be a fourth for bridge or the fun 'uncle' that never noticed the kids swiping his alcohol."
He stood up and stretched. "It is pretty late. We should get out of here."
She did a quick check of her wristwatch and reacted to the hour, which was later than she'd anticipated. Time always went quickly whenever she was in a newsroom, no matter what the level of publication. She loved every aspect, from editing to writing to what she'd been doing that night, which was research and fact checks. She hadn't even known Logan was still around until a good half hour ago, when he wandered back and began thwarting her productivity. "Yes, we should."
He turned off the light at the switch next to the door and the light from the hallway backlit him. He clearly wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere not matter the hour. "You know, it's not that late."
She ducked her chin slightly and smiled. "What, you're not heading straight to bed?" she asked, knowing full well she was flirting. They'd been good, true to their word, and kept things at bay in the office. It wasn't as easy to quell as she would have thought. It was impossible given his proximity to her now, as he hovered in the door frame a mere six inches from her was as close as he'd been to her on the premises since the night he'd brought pizza over to her room by way of apologizing for the slip in his office.
"If you really want to go to bed, that can be arranged," he assured her, his voice lowering a half an octave and sending shock waves from her stomach in a southerly direction.
Her smiled faltered. "I… can't. Not tonight, anyway."
He paused and his eyes stopped traveling over her curves and refocused on her eyes. "Big plans?"
"Sort of. An old friend is in town and he wanted to meet for drinks and catch up. I haven't seen him in years."
"Old friend," he uttered knowingly. "Sounds like fun."
She opened her mouth, but found herself too confused to respond. She hadn't considered whether the evening would in fact be fun. To be honest, she was a little nervous about seeing said old friend. Their attempts at reconnecting had been tenuous in the past. At least an evening in bed with Logan would leave her sure of where she stood. "Logan," she said softly.
He cringed, pulling back from her attempt to soften the rejection. "Don't. It's no big deal, right? We'll hook up another time."
She nodded, wanting to touch him. It was a show of emotion that didn't fit with the situation. She couldn't leave him with a lingering kiss after blowing off his offer, especially on her way to meet another guy. It didn't matter that in a couple of days' time they could be naked in his shower, giving no thought to work or anyone else. "Yeah. Of course."
He snapped his fingers, as if he'd forgotten something. "I meant to tell you, there's a big party in New York next week. It's the anniversary of the company, so all the subsidiaries are invited, from the bigwigs down to the interns. The more the merrier. They announced it Monday, but you aren't in on Mondays."
"It's the kind of thing you would enjoy," he assured her. "Plenty of people that you'd rather have for a boss when you graduate will be there, my father included."
"Right, your dad," she nodded, a subject that was never easy with Logan. Not only did he have a strained relationship, but there'd been a botched attempt for her to talk to the titular Huntzberger and a near-miss with their tryst and the boss roaming the office. She wasn't certain if the giant had heard anything about her from his son, and what that information would entail.
"You don't have to show. It's not mandatory. Well, for me it is. But if you have other plans," he led in a manner that she didn't have to guess that her refusal stung a little.
"I'm pretty open next week. What night is it?"
"I'll be there," she promised.
"Great. I'll pass on the information to my secretary, who is my go-between with my mother to keep her updated on our contribution to her headcount."
"If she's anything like my grandmother, she's obsessed with headcounts. And taper-lengths," Rory mused.
He smiled at her curiously. "Do you know my mother?"
Rory laughed. "I don't think so. But I've seen my grandmother plan events for my grandfather's work functions—not that they're anywhere near the scale of this, I'm sure, but she goes all out."
"With my mother, it's just a haze of cigarette smoke and barked orders at caterers and rental managers on the phone, then after she hangs up she snags the first person she can find and grills them about their involvement. She begs people to help her, and then freaks out that they've not done things her way. My sister and I became very adept at avoidance tactics at certain times of the year, depending on her charity volunteer schedule."
Rory listened raptly, as she tended to do whenever he spoke about himself. The instances were rare, but he was becoming slowly unguarded around her. "You have a sister?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Hey, I shouldn't keep you. Have a good evening, Rory."
She was acutely aware that whatever wall he might have lowered had been put right back in place. It was for the best, that much she knew. It didn't make sense for them to delve into personal histories or become dependent on the other. If they were lucky, when all was said and done, they'd part friends with a fondness for a time gone by. They might run into each other at the industry parties that he hated so much, should he remain in the business—or if she was successful in finding a foothold after her internship and graduation. At the moment she fought the urge to ask him if something was wrong, to stay longer though it would mean being late for her previously arranged plans. Even though she'd told Jess that she'd text him when she was on her way back to campus and hadn't solidified anything in stone, Logan's state of mind wasn't a reason for her to stay longer. He was his own man, capable of either finding another outlet for his energy or making his way home on his own accord.
She left feeling guilty, as though she owed him more than she'd allowed for. She pulled out her phone and sent a text to the number she'd only had in her phone for less than twelve hours, asking her old friend to meet her at what was to be a crowded pub on campus. Hooking up with more than one guy in a week, while perfectly within her rights, wasn't going to do her any favors.
He paid no attention as his host stirred his drink and moved to sit it down in front of him. He only looked up when she snapped her fingers in front of his face.
"You do still like scotch, don't you? Please don't tell me you're on the wagon, because it's really not the time to give up vices."
He rolled his eyes at his sister and reached for his drink. "When is it ever? I still like scotch, I was just thinking."
"So you can use that organ that's taking up space in your skull. Plenty of people are going to lose money on that bet," she teased him as any big sister would.
"I have a lot going on."
"So much so that you're here imposing on my night?" she led.
"Did I make you change your plans?"
She waved her hand dismissively. "No. Part of my job as your sister is to be here when you need me. Even when you don't know you need me, but since you showed up here, I figure it's a real cry for help. What's going on?"
"Everything's fine, it's just not… have you spoken with Dad lately?"
Honor tossed her head back and gave a groan. "You two are fighting again?"
"We're not fighting. He has me at the paper in Stamford."
"Yes, a very high profile gig," she joked. "Is that it? You wanted to make a big splash in New York, see your name in lights or go down in flames trying?"
"It's going well. I mean, it was a rocky start and I'm not doing what Dad asked of me at all, but it's going well. I actually sort of like going to work every day."
Honor sat up, her mouth together in prim surprise. "You … enjoy work? It is a newspaper he's put you at, not a brothel or a speakeasy?" she checked.
"It's not the Roaring 20s," he mocked her examples, still coming to grips with his newfound fulfillment in his current role. "Can you just accept what I'm telling you for once and not question my every motive? I'm not to the meat yet."
"There's more? I'm not sure I can take any more surprises, Logan, I mean it. It's like you're a pod person that invaded my brother's body. Next you'll tell me you have a girlfriend and you're adopting a cat together."
He stared into his glass for a beat. "There's this girl."
Her hand flew to her heart. "Oh my God. Wait. You're teasing me. This is your idea of a joke."
He shook his head slowly. "No. We're not serious. We're just, you know," he said with a clearing of his throat.
"Oh, I know. And as your sister, believe me, I wish I didn't know."
He met her eyes sheepishly. "I'm just trying to let you see the whole picture here."
"I prefer the PG-13 version when it comes to your sex life."
"Noted. But at the risk of upsetting your delicate sensibilities yet again," he led, "it was going really well. She's not interested in anything more than I was, and she's smart and funny and forgiving."
Honor arched a brow. "Forgiving?"
He averted his eyes again. "She's seen me when I wasn't at my finest."
"It's a rare glimpse, I'm sure," she said soberly.
"She gets me. And the sex," he said, forgetting her feelings.
"Logan, please," she complained.
"I'm just saying, with most girls it's a distraction. It's momentary. I don't think about it afterward."
"I wouldn't boast about that. It's not one of your finer qualities."
He took a drink. "I keep thinking about her. I keep seeking her out."
"You're like a little lost puppy," she said gleefully.
"Shut up," he groaned.
"You like this girl. How did you meet her?"
He sat back. "That's the thing. She's an intern at the paper."
Honor's eyes widened. "That doesn't sound familiar at all," she said with distaste.
"It's not like that."
"You just said yourself that you're having a sex-only relationship with an intern. How old is she? Please tell me over eighteen."
"She goes to Yale, and when I first met her, it wasn't clear that I was her boss, to her anyhow."
"Where were you?"
He paused. "In the break room at the office."
"I know, okay? It's messed up. I shouldn't care about any of this. I have enough on my plate without worrying about the fact that she's out right now, having drinks with an old friend instead of at my place."
"Finally, something I can work with."
"Don't start trying to give me advice. I didn't come here for that. I came here for this," he said, raising his glass.
"Please. You could have gone to any bar or your own apartment to get soused. You're not drinking to forget, you're drinking to have something to do with your hands. Which, I might add, I prefer than you using my friends for the same end. I am sick of the morning after calls they put in to me, complaining what a lout you are."
"What do I do?"
Honor put a finger to her chin and narrowed her gaze, losing herself in thought. "Has Dad met her?"
He had a hard time hiding his emotions from his sister. She knew within an instant that was a topic he had gotten tangled up in. "He's aware of her, in a tangential manner."
"He knows she works there, and he knows I'm screwing her, but they haven't met, even though I'd promised her a meeting with him before we started, well, you know."
"Screwing," she said succinctly.
"I've made a big mess, haven't I?"
She took a stiff drink of her own. "Oh, yeah, little brother. Most definitely."
Rory looked around the crowded scene, finding exactly what she'd hoped for—a packed house that made intimacy all but impossible. It also made finding her companion far more difficult. She didn't see him at all, until she did. He looked so familiarly out of place with his dark features and his dark clothes, in a sea of colorful, lively co-eds. He appeared to be brooding, but she knew he was simply lost in thought. She stood just inside the entrance watching him for a moment before he caught sight of her as well.
The moment their eyes met, she felt silly for having been so nervous about the meeting. She smiled and made a beeline for his booth. He stood up as she got near. "You came."
She shrugged off her jacket and tossed it into her side of the bench. "Of course I came."
He sat down as she did. "I wouldn't have blamed you for blowing me off."
"I wouldn't do that."
"No, you wouldn't," he agreed. "But still. You're in college and I'm sure there were a million things you could be doing."
"I keep busy. What brings you to New Haven?"
She frowned. "You came to New Haven to go to a bookstore? There aren't enough in New York?"
He smiled. "I moved to Philly a while ago."
She didn't bother to hide her surprise. "I had no idea."
"I'm not known for keeping people apprised of my whereabouts."
"Do you like it there?"
"Philly? Yeah, I mean, it's got all the charm of a big city without the noise and crowding of New York. There's still stuff to do, but I can hear my own thoughts. It's conducive to writing."
Her ears perked up. "You've been writing?"
He nodded and pulled something out of his jacket and tossed it on the table between them. She picked it up with a last glance his direction before inspecting the cover of the book. "This has your name on it."
"I thought about a pen name, but I figured not enough people would read it for my personal privacy to become an issue," he confided.
She couldn't help herself from flipping through past the cover and into the pages. She'd never received a book from him that wasn't inked up and down the margins with his thoughts and observations. This was pristine and unmarred, as all his thoughts and observations were the contents of each page, not afterthoughts. "You wrote a book."
"I figured you wouldn't believe it unless I handed you proof. Turns out if you don't have an agent, the shops are more inclined to sell your books when you bring them stock and beg them, so that's what I'm doing here. But I knew you were here and it felt weird to come here and not at least tell you."
"This is amazing. Can I keep this?"
He nodded. "It's all yours. Just try not to resist the urge to send it back to me full of red marks. I can't even look at it anymore, it drives me crazy."
She smiled. "You would say that. I bet it's great."
"It's passable at best."
"I want to read it now!" she exclaimed, giddy like a child with a Christmas present.
He cringed. "Have a drink first, at least. It'll help."
She shook her head at him. "This is the best surprise. I have to admit, I was curious about what it would be like to see you again, what you might have been up to."
"So, what about you? Has Yale lived up to your Ivy League expectations?"
"And then some," she said agreeably. "I'm on the paper, and I won an internship at a paper in Stamford. I just came from there, actually."
"It all seems to suit you. You seem happy."
She smiled. "I am. I mean, life's not a cakewalk. I live with Paris."
His face was wiped of emotion. "No."
She laughed. "She showed up in my dorm room freshmen year and I haven't been able to shake her since."
"You're cursed," he teased her.
"I may be," she nodded, staring down at his book. "I barely have time to write articles. Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly running from class to Stamford and back."
"If you're an intern why are you putting in such late hours? Aren't you just making coffee and keeping the printer full of paper?"
"I do more than that," she defended.
"Hey, I didn't mean to offend you," he said, lowering his tone and reaching his hand out to meet hers. The side of his hand bumped hers lightly and remained there as she found her sanity.
"No, it's okay. I'm just tired and I think I had a fight with my boss earlier."
He drew his hand back and it fell back in his lap. "I can't picture you fighting with your boss."
"He's not a normal boss. He's our age," she explained.
"A prodigy?" he guessed.
"A couple of years older, but mentally still a freshman sometimes."
He nodded with understanding. "So what did you argue about?"
"We didn't. We just misunderstood each other. I left feeling like I'd disappointed him."
"I'm sure you'll clear it up the next time you see him," he offered genuinely, listening to her woes as if he were a real old friend, as opposed to an ex-boyfriend that had popped up suddenly in her life. She knew that Logan had made the leap to guess she was meeting an old boyfriend. If that had been the reason he'd closed himself off, it seemed out of character. Jealousy did not lend itself to their carefree attachment. She operated under the assumption that he was seeing other women in addition to her. She might have a certain appeal, given the fact she was a novelty to his life.
"Yeah. I just hate leaving things like that, you know?" she asked, not really needing an answer.
"You could call him."
She met Jess' eyes across the table. "Is jealousy a normal male reaction?"
He gave a sardonic chuckle. "It's a normal human reaction. Why?"
"I've never really understood it. I mean, if people are in agreement or share a trust, then why can't that be enough?"
"Because people aren't perfect. They're insecure and needy and they just want someone else to make them feel like the whole world isn't out to get them."
"Even though it is?" she guessed.
He grinned. "In my experience."
"It's good to see you, Jess."
He tapped a thumb on the table. "Can I ask you a question?"
She knew what was coming. He could always read her, even when she didn't want him to. "Sure."
"Was all that related; the jealousy thing and the issue with your boss? What was the misunderstanding?"
She hesitated. "I mentioned I was meeting someone tonight, and he assumed that I was meeting an ex-boyfriend."
He smiled, being the ex-boyfriend in question. "Aren't you?"
"Yes, but not what he thought we were meeting for."
Jess leaned on his elbows across the table. "What does he think we're meeting for?"
She gave him a pleading look. "That we… you know how some couples have rebound … issues?"
"Rory," he began carefully. "Those kinds of couples usually had sex prior to breaking up."
Her cheeks stained pink. "Oh. Right."
"Besides, you and I have had our own unique rebound… issues," he said, pulling from her lexicon.
"That's just because the way things ended, it was so unfinished. We just needed a better ending, didn't we?"
"We did. Or maybe we just needed time to get to a new place."
"A place where you give me the book you wrote?"
He nodded. "It's better than where we were three years ago."
"It is. It's nice to talk to you again. I didn't mean to drag you into my murky relationship with my boss. I'm sure I was exaggerating things."
"You're a pretty good judge of character. You do tend to err on seeing more good in people than I tend to think exists, but overall, you're usually pretty dead on."
"Thanks," she laughed. "I think."
He pulled his cell phone out of his jacket and stared at the number lit up on the display. The timing was impeccable, but he didn't want to seem to be in a hurry to answer. After three rings he finally accepted the incoming call.
"Logan, hi. I'm sorry it's so late. Is it too late?"
He smiled. It was the first time she'd sought him out. She obviously wasn't used to asking for company at such a late hour. It was endearing, in a naïve sort of way. "Now's fine. What's up?"
He wasn't going to make it that easy for her. After all, why should he?
"I was just thinking about you and wondering if you still wanted to get together."
He'd done nothing but think or talk about her since they'd parted ways at the office. That in and of itself should have been enough reason to tell her that he was tired or he simply wasn't interested. But what he really wasn't interested in was another lecture from his sister. "I'm on my way home. Do you need me to pick you up on my way?"
"Uh, sure. I'm off campus, on Third just off of University Ave."
"I can be there in a few minutes."
He'd already turned his car back toward New Haven, before she got up her courage. It was small details that he was glad she wasn't privy to. It would make putting up defenses against her far harder, if she could just see right through his efforts. No matter what his sister said, he wasn't ready for more than these late-night calls and bouts of companionship. So what if he preferred her company more than other girls at the moment? Was it a crime to enjoy pillow talk? If so, it would just have to be added to the list of things he'd been rightfully accused of in his life.
By the time he slowed the car near her form on the sidewalk, he had achieved an even state of mind. This was a strictly sexual encounter. His reaction to her silhouette was confirmation of the fact that he would have agreed to pick her up off the street even if he didn't know her name. She was a combination of curves and lean lines that would mold to his body to dole out pleasures untold. It didn't matter if she called him because she was lonely or horny or sorry. It mattered that for whatever reason, she wanted to be in his bed until sunrise. That was enough.
"Fancy meeting you here," he said as she opened the passenger side car door.
"I hope you didn't go too far out of your way," she said as she settled in for the drive.
"Don't worry about it. Did you have a good evening?"
She held up a book. "I did."
"You went shopping?"
"No. My friend that I mentioned? He wrote a book since I saw him last."
"Must have been a while since you'd seen him."
"Long enough," she agreed simply. "He was my boyfriend, a long time ago."
He tightened his grip on the wheel. "Yeah?" he asked tightly, trying not to encourage further detail from her.
"Yeah. We're friends now, but I feel like I was purposely concealing our past, earlier when I talked to you about it."
He wanted to tell her he'd guessed as much before and that she needed to work on her subterfuge, but instead he kept his thoughts to himself and his eyes on the road. "There's no need for that."
"No, I know. I just wanted to be clear."
"You don't need to explain yourself to me. I mean, we're not exclusive. It's not my business when you see other guys. As long as you want to be with me, then I'm okay with us."
She was quiet for a minute. "What if I was seeing him… or anyone, really, and it got serious?"
"That's up to you. If you choose to stop seeing me because of a change in your life, or choose to keep seeing me despite it, it's your decision."
She appeared startled at the connotation. "Wouldn't you stop seeing me if you suddenly found yourself in a committed relationship with someone else?"
"No, because that won't happen. I told you, I don't do relationships. I never have."
"I know, but everyone falls in love sooner or later," she reasoned.
He felt a strange tightening in his chest. He wrote it off as his body's response to the long hours he kept and his relatively fast living. "Were you in love with this old boyfriend?"
He half expected her to lie to him. More than half of him wished she would. "Yes. I mean, I was at the time."
"That's exactly my point. Love is fleeting, it doesn't last forever. I'd much rather enjoy what's in the moment, right in front of me than worry about what might happen next week or next year."
"You've really never been in love?" she asked, unable to grasp the concept.
He sighed. "I thought I was clear when we started this."
She held up her hand. "I'm not saying I want you to fall in love with me. I just think it's sad that you don't want it at all, ever."
"Just because it's right for you doesn't mean it's right for everyone else. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get married and have kids and that whole deal," he said, trying to extend his laidback, live-and-let-live attitude in an effort to get past the talking and on with the not-talking. He wondered if it was some kind of karmic load he was balancing that after focusing on wanting to be with her all evening, now that she was there he still wasn't getting what he wanted.
"I agree. I never want to get married, either."
He stared at her in disbelief. "You just said you wanted to be in love."
"No, I said I've been in love. I expect to fall in love again someday, probably more than once. But that doesn't mean I expect to get married."
"That's a very realistic mindset," he praised her.
"I wish I could say the same for you," she retorted, though her words weren't biting.
"We're not so different, you and me. If you'd never been in love with that guy, whatever his name is, would you be so sure it would happen to you again?"
"His name is Jess. And yes, I think I would."
He was fairly sure that there was no way she could know that for sure. Hindsight was hard to shake. "What makes you so sure?"
"Because I've been in love more than once."
"Do you fall in love that easily?" he cried, put off by her honest yet surprising answer.
"Look, it's not that big a deal. I just think that there's a big difference in being okay with either outcome and closing yourself off. You're a great guy. You deserve to be happy, whatever that looks like."
He pulled her in swiftly, taking her by surprise. "You want to see me happy?"
She smiled at him, amused at his segue. "Of course."
"Good," he said, barely getting the word out before he kissed her. He was tired of talking and tired of feeling like he was talking himself out of something. She was there, in his arms, in his apartment. He didn't need her to love him or want any more than what was happening in the moment. She was able-bodied, willing, and if was being completely honest, she made him happy.
His lips pressed into her shoulder, coaxing her out of deep sleep but not yet to full waking. She was turned away from him, in his bed, with his sheet wrapped around her chest and under her arm. She relished the state of drowsiness mixed with the physical contact he provided. Her body ached for extra rest. They'd stayed up way too late involved in extremely aerobic activities using only his mattress and each other for support.
"I have to get to work."
She stirred properly at the sound of his voice, turning just far enough to look at him over her shoulder. "Oh. Right. I'll get up."
He pressed a hand on her hip, keeping her reclined. "No, stay put. Take your time. There are fresh towels in the bathroom and the fridge is full when you're hungry. I just didn't want you to wake up alone without an explanation."
She blinked sleep from her eyes. "I can't stay here alone, at your apartment. I'll just grab my stuff, it'll take a second."
"I insist. Stay and rest. I happen to know you're exhausted," he said with a mischievous grin.
"Guilty," she said as she relaxed back into the covers. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. And since you don't have your car, I'll leave the number for my car service on the front table."
It took her a minute to ingest the information involved in that offer. "You have a car service?"
He nodded. "Yeah, they're on-call twenty-four hours a day. Whenever you're ready, just call the number."
She was always amazed at the simple ways he was able to highlight the differences in their lives. Everything that he was used to, his so-called creature comforts, were luxury items she couldn't imagine having access to. "I can just call a cab."
"That's crazy. A cab will cost you a ton of money, just to get back to New Haven from here. The car service is already paid for."
"But not by me."
"You'd have your car if I hadn't picked you up. Consider it me giving you a ride home, it's practically the same thing."
"It's not the same thing. Is there a nearby bus line?" she inquired.
He stared down at her as he continued to lie next to her, his head propped up on one elbow and his other arm still on her waist. "Not the bus discussion again. Why won't you just use the car service? Is it impossible for you to accept things from people? Did you force your ex to let you pay for the book he wrote?"
"That's completely different," she dismissed his attempt at an argument.
"Why, because you were in love with him?"
His words stung. She was pretty sure that had been his intent, given his thoughts on the matter and his biting tone. He must view her as a silly girl that allowed such foolish emotions like love to cloud her judgment. "A book is not that same as a car and driver."
"Then I guess I need a list of acceptable gifts, other than books and sexual favors," he said, snapping at her out of frustration.
She hadn't meant to start an argument, but she wasn't about to back away from one either. "That's not fair!"
"Isn't it?" he asked, clearly still peeved. He tossed back his side of the covers and exited the bed. "You know what, leave whenever you want and go home however you want. It makes no difference to me."
She lay in bed in shock as she watched him shut the bathroom door, no longer comfortable and near falling back to sleep. Her whole body was agitated, from her racing mind to the muscles in her legs twitching. She thought about getting up and following him into the bathroom to yell at him, but she wasn't sure what else to say. She'd offended him without meaning to, but he had been callous in return very much on purpose. She sat up in bed, keeping the sheet wrapped around her torso as she waited for him to come back out into the bedroom. She sat there like that for a good quarter of an hour that in his bed, mulling over her words.
He opened the door to reveal lingering shower steam and a towel wrapped around his waist for the bare minimum of modesty. She couldn't help but take a long look at the sight of him. It wasn't hard to figure out why she chose to keep engaging with him, without hope of a commitment and despite their penchant for arguing. He was a fine specimen of the male form. Currently his hair was damp and there was a hardness to his brown eyes that made him appear guarded—neither detracted from his appeal.
He gave a slight turn of his head. "It's okay. You don't need anything from me. I get that. I respect that, I really do."
"You do?" she asked. She hadn't been prepared for him to back down, let alone see things from her point of view.
He nodded. "I need you to understand that it's hard for me not to offer you things."
She shook her head, flummoxed. "Why?"
"Part of it is that it's my nature to share my wealth, especially with those around me. The other part of it is that you're not expecting anything from me, and that's incredibly refreshing and seems to make my prompts far more frequent."
"And I'm not turning down your offers because I don't want anything from you," she said quietly. "Fending for myself is deeply ingrained in who I am. I'm not used to this kind of stuff. You live in a penthouse, for crying out loud. I live in a shoe box in comparison, and I'm in one of the nicer dorms on campus."
"Where you live has no bearing on why I like being with you," he expressed adamantly.
"I'm glad. I don't care where you live either, I just want you to realize that I don't see our relationship as a way to get you to do things for me. Being with you is enough for me."
He crawled back under the covers, pulling his towel from his body and tossing it on the floor as he did so. She slid down to adjust to his new position. "What are you doing?" she asked, though his advancing form left little room for misinterpretation.
"I'm making myself late for work," he informed her as he coaxed her into sinking down into his very comfortable mattress.
He sat in a coffee shop near his office, having called to check in to make sure his extended absence that morning wasn't affecting any deadlines. He needed time alone, time to think. He was uneasy with his reactions to the last twenty-four hours of his life. Something had shifted, something he thought would fade into the background given enough time. He thought that getting Rory out of his system would help, but getting her into his bed had only made the feeling more intense. Having her turn down his initial offer in lieu of going out with another guy had been a far worse circumstance than he'd imagined.
He was left wondering if his sister had been right, if he was finally getting a glimpse of wanting more than just sex out of a relationship. It was foreign and unsettling to say the least, if that's what the root cause of his current state turned out to be.
All the usual roadblocks to engaging in a committed relationship remained. He couldn't bring a girl home, not one he actually liked, without the threat of having her taken to task by his family members. Any girl that he brought home, as the heir apparent of the family business, would be treated as his potential wife. Wives inherited a sizable fortune along with his cumbersome last name, and therefore background checks and lawyers would be consulted in order to make a decision about true compatibility. Marriage to him was a twisted kind of transaction, as were most aspects of his life, with his personal desires not entering into the equation.
Honor had been quick to point out that it could be different, having someone at his side that was a contender to not just inherit the money but to be a contributor to the empire. A future journalist was a wholly different animal to bring home than a future trophy wife.
The other main difference, it hit him suddenly, was that she was the first girl that not only told him she didn't want anything more than a sexual relationship with him, but seemed to firmly believe it past using the line to gain entrance to his bed. Lots of girls had said a host of things that they knew he wanted to hear, hoping for an in. Every woman he'd ever met had bought into the ability to change men, given regular sex and time. It was why he was so adamant, so unusually blunt on the topic. He just wanted to have a good time, and having a string of women be pissed at him really cut into the good times. It never occurred to him that it could backfire in such a way, to find a woman whose desires aligned with his so strongly.
He was confusing compatibility with emotion. It was also entirely possible that his pride was slightly wounded by a woman who wasn't harboring the kind of desire for him that he was used to. He wasn't one to brag about his sexual conquests, but his skill often translated to women confusing his prowess with deeper feelings. More than one woman had asked him how he could be so good in bed if he wasn't falling in love with her. He saw no correlation, as he'd always been instructed that practice made perfect.
He'd keep things in context and check his pride at the door. All that was required was an attitude adjustment on his part. The alternative was to seek out a committed relationship with her, and he had nothing to back up his ability to either navigate or sustain such an undertaking and he wasn't ready to watch her walk out of his life yet.
Rory had showered alone, in the empty apartment full of items she imagined a bachelor who wasn't on a budget would own. There were two shower heads, designer body wash and a built-in fog-free mirror in the shower alone. It wasn't difficult to locate any of her post-shower needs in his large master bath. She found Q-tips and floss, and even a spare toothbrush in a drawer full of like utensils, all still in individual packages. There were constant reminders that she wasn't the first woman he opened his home to. He was clearly used to guests being there in the morning after sharing his bed. She finished in the bathroom and went to put on her clothes she'd worn the day before. They were only mildly wrinkled, but more importantly her only option. One thing he didn't provide for was a full wardrobe. All the clothes in his closet were clearly his and his alone. He was an idiot if he expected any girl to be alone in his apartment and not snoop a little. She had no interest in stealing anything, save for the Q-tip and toothbrush. She knew so little about him, and found small clues to his interests as she gave his closet a once-over. He had basketball shoes and a whole stash of mesh shorts that clued her into the fact that he didn't always wear suits and was sporty in some regard. Her search remained cursory, deciding that doors were okay to open for inspection, but respecting the privacy of drawers. Learning a little more about him seemed appropriate, but there was a line she wouldn't cross with the knowledge that she couldn't erase the memories of whatever she uncovered. Finding out too much could put their arrangement in jeopardy and at times it already seemed a tenuous connection.
She'd made her way into the kitchen at the prompting of her grumbling stomach and his promise of finding food therein. He had none of her staples, save for one cereal with sugar as the third ingredient, so she opted for that and found a bowl in his cabinets.
It didn't register at first that there was a key turning in the lock. She heard the noise, but attributed it to him returning home. He could have thought better of leaving her alone in his house, he could have forgotten his phone, or he could be a sex addict that explained his need for the amount of sex he engaged in with her and others. Honestly she couldn't imagine having more sex than they already had. The last ten hours had left her slightly sore and in need of rest and probably a few Kegel exercises to gear up for next time. That's what she was thinking about, with a spoon half to her mouth full of cereal and milk, when a blonde woman walked purposefully in from the other room and put her designer purse down on the counter.
Rory put her spoon back in the bowl. "Um, hello."
The blonde woman smiled. "Is Logan here?"
Her mind snapped back to his comments about it being her choice to break things off or not, should she enter into a serious relationship. It shocked her, none more than being faced with the reality of a woman with a key to his place showing up while she was less than an hour post-coital with him and eating cereal in his kitchen. She wasn't sure who she felt worse for, herself or this other woman, to be put in this position by a man who felt no shame in keeping so many women in play that they overlapped in that manner. It was one thing to know he was seeing other people, it was altogether different to have to see it for herself.
"Uh, no. He went to work."
The blonde smiled again. "Are you Rory?"
Rory remained uneasy talking to this woman. Her counterpart didn't seem upset or even remotely surprised to find a strange woman in Logan's apartment, and Rory found it even odder that she knew her name. "I am."
"So, he did call you last night?"
Rory shifted her weight and studied the contents of her bowl. "No, actually, I called him."
The other woman sighed, put out by some unknown factor. "Men never listen."
"I'm sorry, did you have plans with him last night? He said he was free," Rory explained, not wanting to gain a line of catty enemies. From the looks of his toothbrush drawer, it could be a long line if she kept monopolizing his evenings.
"I should introduce myself. I'm sorry, I tend to jump right into things. I'm Honor Huntzberger."
Rory watched as the woman extended her hand out. She took it and gave it a brief shake.
"Logan's sister," Honor clarified.
"Oh, right. He said he had a sister," Rory said, tying in the information.
"It's nice to know he admits it publicly of his own free will," Honor said with a sugary smile. "My brother has a short attention span."
"Yeah, I've noticed," Rory nodded in agreement, but felt only the urge to flee. "So, I should probably get going."
Honor sat down at a bar stool on the opposite side of the counter. "Do you need to be somewhere? I was hoping we might have coffee and a chat."
Rory frowned furtively. "You came here to have coffee with me?"
"No, actually I came to harass my brother by checking up on him, but as he's suddenly developed a work ethic, that is harder and harder to do. I felt like I wasn't really getting through to him last night, and I figured I'd try again. But now that you're here, I thought we could have some girl talk."
"I should really go. I mean, he told me to stay as long as I wanted, but I'm pretty sure he didn't anticipate this scenario."
"Which is all the more reason you should stay and talk to me. I know everything about him. I'm the resident expert on all the embarrassing details of his life. I'm privy to all his inner turmoil and exasperating habits. Unless you really have no interest in finding out more about him?" Honor asked curiously.
Rory sat down on a bar stool. "He's told me some things."
"Let me guess, stories about famous people, where he comes off as a little scamp, but nothing that give you any insight into who he is."
Rory nodded, surprised by her refreshing candor. "That sums it up."
"Logan has trust issues. Our parents did their best to screw us up as completely as possible. I'm very well adjusted and managed to sidestep most of the mental scarring, but Logan was targeted far more directly. He's the heir apparent, you know."
Rory cleared her throat. "I don't think he could hide that burden if he tried."
"He's worked very hard to keep their expectations as low as possible. Unfortunately my father is a very determined man and my mother has learned to overlook a whole host of sins on such a regular basis that she might as well be blind. It's not a particularly good combination to be raised with."
"I can imagine. But I don't see why you're telling me all this. I like Logan, but he and I aren't… I mean, we're not dating."
Honor arched a brow. "I know. He doesn't do that. He told me about a million different ways last night, even though he's never had a girlfriend and I would have never assumed he was likely to find one. Have you ever heard the term 'overcompensation'?"
Rory nodded with the hint of a grin. "Of course."
"He was full into it last night. He was cagey and bothered. He barely touched his scotch. I've never seen him like that. He finally admitted that some girl had rebuffed him in favor of another guy."
Rory was incensed. "It wasn't a date! I just had plans with a friend."
Honor shook her head. "It doesn't matter, it's all about his perception anyhow. Logan had an epiphany last night, not that he'd admit it, but it happened all the same. And that realization has unnerved him."
"And what's that?"
"He likes you, and he doesn't like the idea of you being with another guy. He just doesn't know quite how to reconcile putting his foot down with his regular MO."
Rory scoffed. "That's ridiculous. We're just… we're not going to date. Neither of us wants that. He's probably just used to getting his own way, and I prevented that. The only feeling I hurt in him last night was his pride."
"Oh, that's completely true. Logan's been catered to his whole life. It's amazing he can dress himself and make a whole day without someone telling him how special he is, but trust me on this."
"Listen, I'm sure that as his sister you want what's best for him, but I assure you, a relationship with me is not it. I'm happy to spend time with him, and he and I get along really well, but I'm awful at relationships. Even if he's great at them, which is doubtful as he's never had one, it would be doomed before it even began."
Honor smiled knowingly. "But if he asked you out, on a real date, would you go?"
"What? No! I mean, I don't know. It's something I have never prepared for in my mind, like a zombie apocalypse. I mean, yeah, sure, it could happen, but I feel safe in saying it's not something I'll ever have to deal with."
"Dating my brother would be like surviving a zombie apocalypse? Where did he find you? I adore you."
Rory laughed. "You're really nice, and I like your brother, but trust me, he doesn't feel that way about me. I know my credibility is low as I woke up in his apartment and I'm here alone mid-morning, but we're just a passing thing."
Honor was more than a little disappointed. "You're sure?"
Rory nodded firmly. "Totally."
"That's a shame. My brother needs someone to keep him in line and as the only person whose calls he'll take on a regular basis, I have to tell you it's exhausting. It would have been nice to have a little back up."
"Sorry to disappoint you."
Honor shrugged. "We could still go get coffee. We don't have to talk about Logan. There are so many other more fascinating topics in the world. Do you like shoe shopping? I know the best place, not far from here."
Rory smiled and stood to put her bowl in the sink. "I'm all yours."
Honor clapped her hands together happily. "Yay!"