vanessagalore: (!Precipitation)
[personal profile] vanessagalore

TITLE: Pendulum (19/?)
AUTHOR:

[personal profile] vanessagalore
CHARACTERS: Veronica, Logan, Keith
WORD COUNT: 6,931
RATING:
R for this chapter
SUMMARY:
Sometimes it's best to just get the hell out of Dodge. Set right after 'The Bitch Is Back'.
SPOILERS:
Spoilers for the whole series, especially season 3.
WARNINGS:
Cursing. Adult content.
DISCLAIMER:
I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. Beta'd by [personal profile] boobsnotbombs and [livejournal.com profile] zaftig_darling. All remaining errors are my responsibility.

 

1~Precipitation 2~Precarious 3~Paranoia 4~Prevarication 5~Probation 6~Predicament 7~Paradox 8~Please 9~Perilous 10~Palpitation 11~Precipice 12~Perspiration 13~Peregrination 14~Pursuit 15~Plexus 16~Pier 17~Perception 18~Phantasm

Last time on 'Precipitation': (Highlight to read ~OR~ click here to skip directly to the new chapter)

Logan, Veronica, and her dad take another look at their copy of The Castle hard drive in an attempt to figure out why the Russian mafia pursued Veronica so relentlessly in Chicago. They consider the theory that Jake Kane is involved. Logan is assigned the task of transcribing all the recent audio and video confessions while he is stuck hiding in the apartment. Keith forbids Veronica from researching on the Internet.

Veronica has a terrible nightmare: Gory, with Jake Kane egging him on, threatens to rape her to force her to reveal the location of her copy of the hard drive. Veronica wakes up, disoriented and terrified, and hides in the bathroom. Logan hears her and goes to her, but her dad isn't aware of her distress.




We settle into our new life. I strike out at all the pizza parlors and diners, but, after three days of pounding the pavement, I spot someone shoplifting at a J. Crew clothing store and notify the manager. And that's how I get my excellent job folding T-shirts and advising customers that those capris definitely do not make them look fat. The manager loves me because I made a couple suggestions how to decrease store losses from theft, and I'm also a surprisingly effective salesperson with middle-aged male customers. Logan says I could get promoted to store manager within a week if I'd wear a Catholic schoolgirl outfit.

Dad's disposed of the Glock handgun somewhere so the shooting in Chicago will hopefully never be tied to me, at least not forensically. I've taken the Walther that Logan had until Dad can procure another weapon for me.

I miss the Glock. The Walther feels strange under my fingers when I touch it in my bag as I ride the 'F' bus to the shopping center for my shift. Chapel Hill is really civilized; traffic is reasonable, the weather is pleasant, the streets are tree-lined, and the people are nice. The UNC campus is on summer session now, and I wonder how much it's going to needle me when classes start up in the fall. Store manager at J. Crew is probably going to be the best I can do for a career—it's not quite Special Agent Mars, is it?

I try not to think about it.

Logan gets about fifteen to twenty confessions transcribed per day before he starts to go crazy. It's not easy for him to sit inside when it's sunny out and every molecule in his body is telling him to go surfing. And it doesn't help that we're so close to Cape Hatteras and its 'gnarly' waves.

The confessions are lurid but not assassination-worthy. An SAT cheating ring and more than a few hit-and-runs, usually involving alcohol. A high school prank gone wrong when a chemistry teacher's slashed tire led to a fatal accident, and a hateful boy who enjoyed kidnapping and killing cats. There was a particularly repulsive account of a boy who'd roofied girls and purposely gave them herpes, and plenty of sad tales of tawdry circumstance or reckless misbehavior. Some of the pledges seem evil and others just caught up in bad luck and worse decisions.

Logan starts scoring the videos by the degree of contrition, from zero for sociopaths to five for the ones who actually regret their actions. There are a lot of zeros.

Dad and I review Logan's transcriptions every night and flag the ones that seem like they might be important. It still feels like we're missing something. I've never been a big believer in man's essential humanity, but as the famous names accumulate, even I'm shaken by the foibles of men in powerful positions.

At night, Logan waits for Dad to fall asleep before sneaking into my sofabed and holding me so I can fall asleep. He hasn't tried to make love to me again—waiting for me to make the first move, I guess. Almost every night, he shakes me awake, my palms sweaty and my heart pounding, from a rerun of my interrogation nightmare.

Let's be honest, Veronica. Your rape nightmare.

I still can't talk about it, and I know it worries him.

I see Logan massaging himself in the mornings when he thinks I'm not looking. It's not easy for him to lie close to me every night, and I know I need to let him touch me sooner rather than later. But in the meantime I can't bear to sleep alone.

Need, need, need. It's a lousy basis for a relationship.

I don't know if Dad suspects that we're sleeping together. I think he's just glad that I haven't brought it up again about investigating Jake and the Sorokins to try to get our lives back.

Except he doesn't know about the USB prepaid modem I bought yesterday. I stopped in the library and reviewed the protocols for using Tor to hide my tracks as I surf the net. Dad's still stuck in the typewriter age in some ways, and I know that he doesn't understand much about computer hacking or IP anonymizer programs. Still, I recognize that Jake Kane is a formidable intellect, and I'm not going to underestimate his abilities.

I'm not sure Logan would approve of this plan either, so I haven't told him. I'm not sure how I'm going to do this when he's stuck in the apartment all day. He's putting on a front of being at peace with this new life of ours. I check out novels from the library for him, and he whips through them in a day.

At night, we pick a stupid B-movie to mock or watch a ballgame—Logan rooting for the Nationals and Dad for the Braves. Maybe we play a little Monopoly or Scrabble, games that I'd picked up for a dollar each at a garage sale. We never watch private eye movies or CSI. Sci-fi is always safe.

I'd found a set of free weights at that same garage sale, and all three of us use them, with a tacit acknowledgment that we need to stay strong...just in case. One day, Dad showed up with a lightweight Ruger .38 Special with an ankle holster, and now both Dad and I have started jogging every day, with the tiny handgun strapped on.

I see the look of jealousy in Logan's eyes when one of us returns home from a run, and I know we've got to find a way to get him out of the apartment soon. The fake tattoos have faded, and his hair is about a quarter inch long. There's a bristly sensation if I happen to touch his head when we're snuggled in bed. I don't tell him that it reminds me of how my scalp felt after Moe shaved off a chunk of my hair, but he senses that something about his hair bothers me. Logan's letting his beard grow, too; he hasn't said anything but I think he's hoping a beard might be enough to have a little bit of a life again.

Here's a secret. I don't even want to admit it to myself—it's vile and selfish when you consider that this is all my fault. But sometimes I like going to work just to get away from him for a little while. Just over two and a half weeks since we left Neptune, and already I'm chafing.

Like I said, I'm responsible for this mess, so I suck it up. But I have to find a way to fix this, somehow—this holding pattern, this quicksand of a life.

Sometimes I squint my eyes and pretend we're just hanging out at the old Sunset Cliffs apartment. Tomorrow I'll be packing for my summer internship at the FBI. Logan's skin has turned that golden brown it gets in the summer from long hours of surfing. Dad's still the sheriff, and all's right with the world.

***

One night, he kisses me, with an urgency like the old days. "I love you, you know," he murmurs.

"I know." And I'm supposed to say it back. And I do love him. What's my fucking problem here? I spent the whole time on the bus wishing I could be with him. "I, um, I love you too."

He snorts gently. "That's my girl. You're a veritable Hallmark card of sentiment."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Maybe."

"When did you know? That you loved me." I snuggle closer and relax into his chest.

"This is one of your trick questions. Where nothing I say will be right."

"Come on, there's no wrong answer."

"I knew...when I saw you with that cop at the eighties dance, after we found Trina impersonating my mom. You know, I was so fucked up about my mom, but I still couldn't stand seeing you with him. I remember having the dry heaves for the next twenty-four hours, and all I could think about was killing that guy."

"Good plan. That's usually an excellent way to win a girl's heart, to kill a cop."

"I know, right? Way better than a dozen roses. ...And?" he asks.

"What?"

"You're supposed to tell me... You know, when you knew. God, you suck at this romantic crap."

"Yeah, I really do. I guess...on the roof. You were the one person in the world that I knew would come. The one person I wanted to come."

"Thanks for putting me in danger, Mars."

"Anytime, Echolls."

***

The next day, Logan and I are sitting together after breakfast. Morning is our best opportunity for privacy, when Dad's at work in the apartment complex and before I have to be at the store. And I've decided that it's time.

"See, here's the thing."

"Yeah?"

"I...um...I know it's irrational. My nightmare."

He stays silent and threads his fingers with mine.

"Okay, here goes. ...In my dream, they catch me, and Gory wants to...ah, crap, I can't say it. Dammit. I hate this."

"Veronica, it's okay. I'm right here."

A slow inhale and exhale, and then I say it. "Gory's about to— to rape me, to try to force me to tell him where the copy of the hard drive is."

Pressure from his fingers. "It's all right, it's just a dream."

It's not all right. A flash of anger—what does Logan know about waking up with your underwear gone? And why didn't he, why did he— I push it down, way, way down, because I love him, right?...I need him. Need. Anger. No, need. "In the dream, Jake Kane is egging Gory on, and I'm begging Jake to help me."

Egging them on. Blurry stars, the hard plastic of a chaise longue, and my muscles refusing to cooperate. The nauseating smell of tequila. Later, Dick with his hands all over me...was Logan watching? Cheering him on? No. Logan didn't, no, he wouldn't...he'd left by then, he said.

Maybe he did watch.
Note to self: check timeline. No. Focus. This is about your nightmare, and Logan's right here. You need him. He loves you. You need him. You've forgiven him.

"Jesus, Veronica! Jake was egging Gory on?" His hand crushes mine.

I'm sparing him the details because the Cliff Notes version is bad enough. And I don't want him to know everything. As I talk, I let my eyes unfocus so I can't see his expression. "It's stupid. In the dream, Gory says some of the things that Mercer said to me. It's my brain addling everything together. And at the end, he— he drops the towel he's wearing, just like— Um. When I first confronted Gory in his dorm room back at Hearst, he was coming from the shower, and, you know, he tried to screw with my head by dropping his towel."

"What a prick."

Ba-dump-bump. Let's joke about it, shall we? "Yeah. Good one." I try to smile, and it feels like my face is breaking.

"I didn't mean that. What I meant was..."

"It's okay, I know what you meant."

Logan frowns. "Maybe talking about it is good?"

"Yeah, maybe."

"Jake Kane was actually ordering Gory to, um, hurt you?"

Just say it. I nod, and swallow the little bit of vomit tickling the back of my throat.

His voice is cautious, tentative. "Did you ever talk to anyone about Mercer? It must have been really terrifying that night."

Talk. Ah. Hello, euphemism. His thumb starts caressing the back of my hand, and I can't decide if it's soothing or irritating. I keep it casual. Veronica, the mistress of deception. "I've never talked to anyone about anything. A little bit with Wallace, you know, about Shelly's party. And you know, what you and I have..." I shrug.

The truth is, we've barely talked about my rape. The first time, I'd basically rewritten history, told him that it wasn't really even rape at all—even though I still felt like I'd been violated by everyone at that fucking party—and that we were 'past the confessional portion of this program.' And then I'd kissed him to make sure he wasn't repulsed by the rape victim. Thereafter, I'd deflected in classic Veronica fashion, and it didn't take long for him to drop it.

It's pretty fucked up that I've never forgiven Madison and yet I've barely talked to Logan about his culpability that night. It's crazy to realize that you have a tender little spot exposed by a gaping chink in your armor; I've duct-taped that sucker over and over again. I hear an echo of Logan's whoop, chortling over me as they turned me into a salt lick out by Shelly's pool. Ripping off another strip of tape, I obliterate that memory—for a little while.

Sort of.


And after the roof—well, I knew he was waiting for me to bring it up. Raise your hand if you think I ever did.

I realize that Logan's saying something. His über-concerned face swims into focus—I fucking dread that expression. "That's not good. That's not enough. You've got to talk about it. Parker was going to a support group every week."

I want to wipe that compassion right off his face. I am strong, goddammit, don't you fucking pity me! "Well, good for Parker. I'm not really support group material."

"Whoa." Logan exhales loudly.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be a bitch. I just don't know what wallowing in this stuff is going to do for me."

"Maybe it will help you to sleep at night."

"I didn't know I was bothering you. You can sleep in your own bed from now on, okay?" I pull my hand from his and walk away.

"Veronica."

I go to the bureau and start pulling out sweats and a T-shirt so I can go for a run.

"Veronica! Don't run away."

I keep my back turned to him as I root around for a sports bra. "I'm going for a run. I'm not running away."

"Damn it! You're running away from me." He grabs me and turns me around. "I love you and we're going to figure this out." Frustrated, he tries to hug me, but I pull away.

"You manhandling me isn't going to solve anything." I'm shocked at the coldness in my voice. I'm doing it again. You've forgiven him, remember?

"It's not fair. You can walk away. I can't."

"I'm sorry about that." I bundle up my clothes and head to the bathroom to change, remembering that not that long ago, we'd been so comfortable with each other that we'd barely bothered with clothes.

But he's determined. With his long legs, he gets in front of me and sits down in front of the bathroom door.

I say rudely, "Move."

"Change here." He glares at me. "Nothing I haven't seen before."

"Okay, I will." I start to strip off my pajamas, keeping my eyes defiantly locked on his. My top gets tangled in my arms, and I blush. I turn my back to him and pull on the sports bra, that oddly intimate action of pulling the elastic down below your breasts seeming a little too personal all of a sudden.

"Veronica." His voice sounds so sad that I turn around without thinking. Logan stands up and walks away. "I'm not going to do this to you. If you want to change in the bathroom, go ahead. If you want to run away, go ahead."

I watch in silence as he sits down at the kitchen table, his back to me, his head buried in his hands and his body hunched and beaten. He never did have much fortitude when we fought. Logan never had the courage or the cruelty to deliver the coup de grâce; he was always able to walk away without destroying me. He'd prefer to blow up the relationship rather than hurt me. We're different that way—I can go for the kill.

And you did. You did it, Veronica. You're a killer. Way to go.

Throwing on the T-shirt, I walk over to him and stand behind him. My voice rasps. "I don't know why I want to run away from you. It's crazy, I need you like I need air."

He doesn't turn around, just sits there, defeated. "You have to talk about it. With your dad, and with me. Your dad needs to know about the nightmares. And everything else. You've never told him about Shelly's party, have you?"

"I can't. He'll die."

"He won't die. I didn't die."

"I can't! He'll never look at me the same."

Logan turns around. "You are the strongest person I know. You can do anything you want."

"I don't feel strong. I feel scared and lonely." He flinches when I say 'lonely.' "I mean...I don't know what I mean. I feel so guilty about killing that man, and I'm terrified that I screwed up somehow and they're going to be able to find us. And it's all jumbled up with...with...with the way I've been hurt before."

"I'm not going to let them hurt you." He grabs my hand, squeezing it almost painfully and pulling me closer. "I'm not going to let go of you."

"And I feel guilty because you're stuck here. You don't have a life here."

"It's all right. We're alive. I won't have to hide forever."

"I want our old life back." And that does it; I start to tear up. I hate being fragile like this. I want to be the old Veronica who knew exactly what to do. The old Veronica wouldn't be paralyzed by guilt and fear. Old Veronica would be on the move, kicking ass and taking names, with no worry about the consequences. Old Veronica moved past her rape, goddammit. Motherfucking Beaver sailed over the edge, and that shit was done. Over. Ancient fucking history.

He pulls me closer and hugs me. "You've got to give it time. We're still figuring this out."

Veronica Mars does not wallow. She moves on. "Let me go...I want to show you something." I retrieve the modem I've purchased from the bathroom where I've hidden it.

He looks at the box dubiously. "Tampons?"

"No, you idiot. This is a prepaid wireless modem." I slide it out from its hiding place and show him the small device about the size of a pack of gum.

"I thought your dad said no Internet."

"There's no way that anyone could track the location of this—it picks a different IP address every time. It could be Kansas, it could be New Jersey, anywhere in the U.S. And I'm going to use a proxy server to be doubly sure. Dad's just being paranoid." He's silent, assessing me, and I add, "I swear to you this is safe. I'm not taking crazy chances. I'm not doing that."

"Of course you are. We could just keep our heads down, live our lives—"

"This isn't a life. Especially for you."

"What are you going to do if you find something, Veronica, blackmail the mob? Take down a senator or a governor? Dig up dirt on Jake Kane, try to get him thrown in jail? Even if that works, how's that going to help us? The criminal charges won't just go away. There are going to be more charges from what happened in Arkansas. And—" He doesn't finish, but I know he means the shooting in Chicago—manslaughter charges.

I slaughtered a man.

I'm breathing heavily. We don't put it in words very often, just how screwed we are. Finally, I say, "I don't know what I'm going to do, but I want to try."

"Veronica—"

"I can't not try. Don't tell Dad about this. Please. I need this."

He looks wounded, and I don't really understand what I said to cause that. I look at him quizzically, and Logan says, in a flat tone, "Veronica. We are safe right now. Together. Your dad is right. If this goes wrong...one or more of us could end up dead. Or in prison. Do you need this," he motions to the modem, "more than you need me?" He looks away, and then adds, "Am I ever going to be enough for you? Are you ever going to need me?"

"Of course I need you. I'm doing this for you! You can't hide the rest of your life."

"You're a liar, Veronica. Jesus." It's like a blow—he's slapped me, drawn blood. Logan's capable of more cruelty than I thought.

"What do you want from me? I've told you over and over again, that you were right, that I was taking too many chances. I know this whole thing is my fault! You've got to let me fix this."

"You don't have to fix this. We're safe. Your dad has made us safe. Don't throw it away."

"Are you going to tell him what I'm doing?"

He sighs. "I guess— No, I won't tell him. But you should. And I think you should tell your dad about Shelly's party, and Mercer, and you should talk to him about how you're feeling about the shooting. I don't think I can help you get over what happened in Chicago. He's been through it. You should be talking to a shrink, but maybe your dad can help."

It's another direct hit. "You're a bastard. Now I need a shrink?" But the truth is, I don't need a shrink. I need a rubber room, a straitjacket, and a bucketful of psychotropic meds.

I turn away from him and put on my sweats. It's a chickenshit move, but I can't stand to be in the apartment with him right now, and if I don't run, I'll explode into a million pieces.

He watches me in silence as I tie my sneakers. I strap on the tiny revolver in its ankle holster under my baggy sweatpants. When I open the door to leave, he says, "I miss you. I miss you more now than when we were broken up. It's killing me the way things are."

Me too. Me too.

I close the door and run like hell.

***

It's humid here. It's not like Neptune. The air is sodden, and you feel like the air is too thick to run through. You sweat when you run and gasp for breath until you get used to it. I long for the constancy of California weather—blue skies and temperate weather that persists for months on end, only marred by the smoke of brush fires and smog. Purplish Pacific sunsets, beautiful with an unheralded drama that's taken for granted if you grew up there.

It's greener in North Carolina. Lush vegetation: azaleas, rhododendrons, honeysuckle, wisteria, and a few daring magnolias eking out an existence north of their home in the deep South.

I miss palm trees and xeriscaping, the quirky look of California's landscape.

Puffy clouds today in Chapel Hill, in a grayish-blue sky threatening a cloudburst. I should have brought a jacket.

I set off on a running loop I've grown to like—not too populated, but not so sparse that I worry about somebody getting the jump on me when I'm alone. Like always, I wish I could wear an iPod, but I can't stop being on alert even for a second. That's the new status quo.

I want to forget our fight. I want it to have never happened.

'You're running away from me....You've got to talk about it....Parker went to a support group every week.'

Shut up, shut up, shut up!

A single drop of rain on my cheek, and then another.

'You should be talking to a shrink....Are you ever going to need me?'

Left, right. The right a little heavier because of the little revolver on my ankle, an extra pound of guilt and stress fifty percent of the time. Left, right. I'm getting better at compensating, and I hardly lurch at all now. Left, right. Left, right. I lick a drop of sweat off my upper lip: salty. Salt lick.

I hear a rustling of leaves, rain and a slight wind disturbing the underbrush. More raindrops on my face; I brush the wetness away impatiently.

Doesn't he understand? Need...that's the whole problem, that I need him so much.

There's a little hill ahead, and I gun it, pushing hard to sail to the top on aching muscles. Fatigue is my friend. Exhaustion is my Ambien.

Rain sprinkles on my face, soft trickles brushing my skin. A droplet catches in my eyelashes and prisms the world. Moisture begins to soak into my clothes, making them cling uncomfortably to my striving body.

Rivulets of tequila snaking down my torso, my dress reeking of it the next day.

A wet branch slaps my face, and I whimper.

I remember wading into the ocean in Neptune, the sand shifting beneath my feet. Soaked with rain and seawater, I'd been so certain that I'd lost everything and everyone with my recklessness. I'd thought I'd killed Logan—I'd been convinced I'd find him half-dead in the hospital, kneecapped and concussed, with gaping exit wounds and a bullet lodged in his brain stem. Half-dead, or worse.

Left, right. Left, right.

I'm getting winded now, and my breaths are harsh and labored. Sweat runs into my eyes, and the rain and humidity blanket me. I'm drenched and sopping, and then the skies open up.

You thought that was bad? Check this out, the sky laughs at me.

Needles of precipitation prick my skin and a rumble of thunder washes over me. The sky is black, with oppressive clouds chasing me. Water pours down, sheets of misery that fight me as I push myself to run, run, run.

I'm not quite to the halfway point yet. Turn now? Push on and complete the loop?

As if that was my most pressing concern.

The sweat pants soak up the water. They drag, winding themselves around my legs, and in a moment of paranoia I think that the gun must be visible through the sodden material.

I decide that I'm a lunatic.

My shoes squelch, left, right, left, right, with an occasional slip when traction just isn't there. I don't bother avoiding the pools of rainwater that drench me over and over again.

And then a police car passes by, its wheels slapping the wet pavement as they hit a puddle and send a sheet of water up over the curb. I see brake lights, and the cruiser stops by the side of the road just ahead.

Did they see the gun? Are they looking for me?

Act normal. Keep running. Oh god. This is it. I don't even have a phone to warn them. Or to say goodbye.

As I run past, an officer opens the window and yells, "Miss, do you want a ride?"

Southern hospitality; it always throws me. I force my voice to stay steady. "I'm fine. Thanks." Waving a little—I'm still a good little soldier, keeping up the pretense—I speed up and leave the cops behind. I pray that they don't look too closely at the outline of a concealed weapon on my ankle.

I hear the whoop of a siren behind me.

This is it. They've called in my description, and I'm done. How many 5'1" criminals are there?

'Suspect is heading west on foot on Estes Drive.'

'Roger, one-six-niner, suspect may be armed, and is considered dangerous.'

I keep running. I'm not going to prison, goddammit!

I'm so fucking wet, it's like dragging fifty pound weights on every step. Well, fifty-one on the right foot. But I keep moving—I even speed up, exhorting myself to hurry down the road. That target on my back has returned, the one from Chicago. It's like an itch, skin puckered and drawn, powder burns on the edge of an entrance wound.

'This isn't a life.'

And then, against my will, I'm forced to slow down, momentum the only thing that's left to propel me forward in my exhaustion. I've expended every iota of energy from my body. Every muscle screams—they're drowning in lactic acid. My lungs cramp and burn, demanding oxygen and a respite. Stopping, I bend over with my hands on my knees and my chest heaving with exertion.

Drops of sweat mixed with rain run into my eyes as I wait to be arrested. I listen for the sound of pistols cocking, handcuffs tinkling as they're readied, radio static crackling, the ka-chunk of a cruiser door being opened for a recalcitrant criminal wanted in three states.

But there's nothing. Just the shimmering wash of rain and the rustling of wet leaves in the wind.

I turn slowly, and the cruiser is gone. It was all my imagination. Was there even a police car at all?

You've completely lost it, Veronica.

'This isn't a life.'

***

I knock on the apartment door. "It's me. Honeybun." The code word makes me wince. He's probably wishing we could change it to 'crazy bitch'.

One last chance to wipe the tears from my eyes before the door opens; surely the rain and sweat will hide them from him.

Why do I feel like I have to hide crying from him?

I compose myself. I will be strong; I won't be a freak show. But one look at his face, tortured and anguished over our fight, and I'm saying it. "I'm sorry. You're right. I'll talk to Dad like you want me to." And my eyes start leaking again as he pulls me inside the apartment and locks the door. "I'm so tired of being scared. I'm so tired of being wrong all the time."

"You're not wrong all the time." His fingers tremble as he strokes my cheek. "I'm sorry too. I was worried when it started to rain, and you didn't come back. Did something happen?" He touches my wet hair, and then pulls away, a pained expression on his face.

I wish I knew what he was thinking. Why does this have to be so hard? Why did he pull away? "Did something happen?" I echo. "Just the usual, me feeling like a lunatic. God, Logan, I don't want to feel so lonely. I don't want to be alone."

"You're not alone. I'm right here."

I swallow. "I love you. I'm sorry I can't ever say it. I'm not very good at showing it. I'm— I'm so scared. I'm scared we made a mistake by running. I'm scared they're going to find us. I'm scared I'm going to screw it up between you and me, and I'll lose you forever."

Logan whispers, "I'm scared too."

"How the hell are we going to do this? I'm such a fucking mess."

He looks appalled at my tone of self-hatred. "You're not a mess. I don't know how you survived in Chicago. I really don't know how you've survived the last four years at all. It's unbelievable how strong you are." Logan tilts his head and looks at me for a moment, and I wonder what's going through his head. I shiver a little as the air conditioning in the apartment cools me off. "You're soaked. Let's get you out of those wet clothes."

He grabs my hand and pulls me into the bathroom. Closing the toilet seat, he says, "Sit," and it feels okay not to argue and just cooperate with him for a change. I put my arms up in the air like a toddler, and he pulls the sweaty, soaked T-shirt over my head.

Logan kneels down and unties my sneakers as I loll backward, exhausted from pushing myself on my run. He rolls up the sweat pants and unbuckles the handgun in its holster, removing it to the kitchen drawer that my dad had assigned for its storage.

When he returns, Logan hesitates for a moment, and then he reaches for my sports bra, helping me to ease it over my head. Something's weird about the way he's acting, and I can't figure out what it is.

And then I realize he's not looking at my breasts. I murmur, "It's okay to look at me." He smiles a little, his eyes staying on my face. It's an achingly sad smile, and I crumble, my eyes filling with tears. "Logan, I'm so sorry."

"Please don't cry," he whispers. "Come on, let me help you get those sweats off. I don't know how you ran in them; they're completely waterlogged." He stands me up and eases the sodden sweat pants over my hips and down my legs. It's too fucking clinical, from a guy who used to burn with passion for me. Socks and underwear are next, with that same detachment, and he turns to the shower and adjusts the water for me. "Okay, you're all set."

"Damn it!"

He catches my eye and looks away. "Veronica. I'm scared. Don't you get it? Scared of whatever the hell is going on between you and me. Scared of the way you always run away from me."

"I don't want to feel lonely anymore." I'm practically begging. "Please, I want to be close to you again."

"I'll be right outside."

"No! Please, Logan! I— Come in the shower with me." It's hell, but I force myself to stand relaxed in front of him, nude and vulnerable. My hands tense into painful, tight fists, but I refuse to let them leave my side, my arms trembling with the stress. "Can't you see? I'm letting you in. Look at me. I'm naked. I'm yours, all yours. I love you, can't you see that? Please, Logan."

His eyes stay resolutely on my face. "Are you having another panic attack?"

I cringe, realizing he's picturing me curled up in a ball in the tub again. "Oh god. I'm sorry for everything." I step into the shower and pull the curtain shut. Leaning against the tiles, I start to cry, my shoulders shaking in soundless sobs as the water courses across my back.

I hear him moving around, and then the curtain opens and he steps into the shower with me. "Please don't cry." He turns me into his chest and hugs me. "Please don't cry."

"Why can't you look at me?" My voice is muffled, buried in his torso by his embrace.

"Because I don't understand what you're going through. I don't know how to help you. I'm worried because you seem to be thinking a lot about your ra— I mean, about when you were assaulted and it feels like I'm a part of it somehow."

I lie. Well, obfuscate. "You're not a part of it. You're the only thing that's keeping me sane."

"You're sure?"

I can't identify the tone of his voice. Is it disgust? Embarrassment? His timbre is mutated by the damn shower. It's white noise, a soothing sound that mocks me.

He says, "I keep thinking about your nightmare, and all I can see is you lying there at Shelly's and me not doing anything to stop it. Hell, encouraging it! I egged them on that night. When you pull away from me..." No, not embarrassment. It's self-loathing: 'all I want to do is protect you'. Water runs into his eyes, and he flicks his head impatiently.

"I'm not pulling away from you. I'm just—" What am I doing? I don't even know. "I love you. That's all I know."

He sighs and closes his eyes for a second. "I love you too."

"I need to hang onto that. I— I want to start over with you. No petty jealousies. No worrying about the past, what we've done to each other, what people have done to us."

"Yeah, that sounds good." Logan doesn't sound convinced, and I can't blame him.

I shiver suddenly, and he maneuvers me under the shower head to warm me up. I close my eyes and whisper, "I'm really scared, but I like it when you take care of me. I want you to take care of me, to not be afraid to look at me, to touch me." The words scorch me when I let them hang there in the open, frightening and intimate.

"Then you've got to stop running away from me. You can't push me away, and then grab onto me when you're having a nightmare. I can't take it anymore, Veronica." Logan grabs the shampoo and pours a dollop onto his hands. "You're a mess. It must be pouring outside." His hands rub my scalp, the coolness of the liquid shampoo mixing with the soft warmth of the water.

I'd always loved our showers together, suds and heat and passion. Slick skin and relaxed muscles, a little illicit, but comforting too. I remember the two of us taking turns scrubbing each other's back, caked with sand and salt and sweat from the beach...being hoisted up onto his hips, the cool tiles pressing into my back as he thrust into me...the water pouring down, threatening to drown us, as we explored each other's bodies with our mouths and hands. I remember it all.

My eyes drift shut as his fingers drag through my knotted hair. Fingertips massage my scalp—an electrical current runs through my nervous system, telling me to relax.

Let go. Let it be.

And I feel him jutting against me, hard and ready. His body isn't confused by all the push-pull.

"Keep your eyes closed so I can rinse your hair." He eases me backward into the shower stream, and I let him—I trust him to hold me. My eyes closed, I step over the edge into the void.

"Repeat," I murmur.

"Hmm?"

"You know, lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat, please." Logan pours out more shampoo and begins to work it into my scalp.

I moan softly. It feels unimaginatively easy right this moment, with a simple closeness between us. This is what a relationship is supposed to feel like. I try to embrace it, to let it wash over me like the water.

"Feels good, huh?"

"Yeah. You feel good." I run a knuckle along his length, a soft caress of intent—if he'll have me. His flesh responds, nudging me and begging for more.

He exhales. His hand grasps mine, and he guides me to touch him with the pressure he wants. "You're sure? You don't have to." A tight voice, hopeful, but throttled down. Not the usual confident growl that hustles me into his bed.

I open my eyes and look directly into his face. "I'm sure. Please, Logan." I begin to stroke him softly, a languid loving to keep him on edge—a promise of afternoon delights and taking our time. An assurance that I want to be with him, need to be with him.

His voice is husky, tense with pent-up desire. "Rinsing again." I close my eyes again, and I give myself over to him and the water. He leans me into the stream, and I sigh with pleasure as he steadies me and holds me.

Peeking, I see one hand cupping water onto me to wash away the last lacy bits of suds on my torso. I take his hand and place it on my breast, his smooth palm slipping over my aching, taut nipple. "Aren't you ever gonna kiss me?"

He smiles, subtle but genuine. Logan leans toward me, and I feel that ache deep inside me that says that I'm ready for him, my autonomic reaction to his proximity. His lips touch mine. It's the first real kiss we've had in ages—since that first day here when he'd chased me and tickled me.

The flesh is willing, yielding and supple. Familiar but longed for, missed and mourned in its absence, so new again—renewed. A tongue tip, desirous and tentative, slips through my parted lips and then without warning, it's teeth clacking, skin bruising, tongues seeking. His legs, driven by instinct, press against my thighs and try to open me to him. His hand tightens on my breast; a thumb seeks and finds the engorged tenderness of my nipple. I gasp a little, and he groans, "Come on. We need to get—"

"I know."

It's a tangle of limbs trying to shut off the water, opening the shower curtain, and grabbing towels. It's threadbare terrycloth hastily wrapped around our torsos and tripping us as it falls unheeded. It's hands that don't leave the other's body as we stumble into the bedroom and fall onto the bed. It's Logan above me, under me, rolling me in the heady vertigo of sexual positioning. It's a lovely, mutual slickness and blood rushing to all the right places, a moment of intuitive, carefree pleasure and pure emotion, untainted and unexamined.

Here he is with a condom in his hand, his eyes locked on mine, a last chance to say 'no', but there is trust that I won't.

And I don't. My hand follows his; we smooth the latex together, both of us panting with need and desperation. And then it's my legs spread and an accommodation, a fitting of my body to his and a joining of flesh and intent. Last reserves of energy are expended; impossibly contorted limbs and muscles are urged beyond pain to please the other.

And then the other disappears and we are just one.

Continue reading...Pyromania

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-05 12:23 am (UTC)
afrocurl: (VM - Kiss)
From: [personal profile] afrocurl
I'm glad that Veronica finally listened to Logan about needing to talk about everything because at this point, she's just a coil ready to spring and hurt someone.

Of course there's also the part of me that hopes a little roll in the hay will help her relax and unwind.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-05 06:15 pm (UTC)
afrocurl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] afrocurl
She never tells anyone anything, which, given everything here is just compounding her myriad problems. It's part of her personality, sure, but there are times when you need to see how much that is destructive.

Oooh!

Yeah, she's not about talking--always action--which makes me wonder if she can ever give into the emotional side of life.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-05 01:55 pm (UTC)
zaftig_goddess: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zaftig_goddess
I'm so glad you let them come together at the end of this chapter.
This is a really good chapter. My favorite so far.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-06 04:53 pm (UTC)
medjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] medjunkie
A lovely long chapter, a real treat. It was great to leave it on a positive note, of them connecting even in a physial way, although arguably Veronica is still putting off addressing important things. From a readers point of view it created a nice balance between it and all the dark moments, of which there are many,but rightly so

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-07 04:57 pm (UTC)
medjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] medjunkie
In answer to your question I don't think your use of the rain to bring the reader's mind back to the beginning was forced at all. I actually think that worked well, to evidence in another way how bleak Veronica is actually feeling in this chapter. It was very natural for V to be comparing her home state with their different location - with homesickness as well.

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