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The Last Chapter - L/V - NC-17 - rindee

Title:  The Last Chapter
Author:  Rindee
Characters/Pairing:  Logan/Veronica
Word Count:  17,131
Rating:  NC-17, sexual situations, implied violence, language
Summary:  AU future fic:  Veronica and Logan broke up near the end of their junior year at Hearst, and have gone their separate ways ever since.  Spoilers through 3.16. 

A/N:  Written for the vm_library Alternate Ending/Roll Your Own challenge, and cross-posted to veronicamarsfic.  Beta’d by the most patient, kind, and annoyingly persnickety:  taken_with_youmoire2, and mastermia, all of whom get karma points just for putting up with me and my inability to spell or use spellcheck.  I’m so sorry, guys.  All remaining mistakes are mine. 


Unlike the first time she arrived at O’Hare, she barely registered the ethereal tinkle of the chimey, new-age music and the flickering glow of the rainbow florescents as she rolled her suiter down the endless United terminal.  This time it felt like home, or, if not exactly home, familiar and comforting.  Tucking her paperback copy of Keith’s latest thriller into her carry-on – the autographed, hardback copy had a position of honor on the bookcase in her apartment – she wound her red silk scarf a little tighter, zipped her leather jacket, and fished out her CTA pass. 

Though it was only November, the weather had turned frigid over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Fortunately, she’d been living in Chicago long enough to know how unpredictable autumn could be, and had taken her heavy jacket, cashmere-lined gloves, and scarf with her to California. Swaying in the aisle as the El rattled and hurtled down the track next to the Edens Expressway, her heart lifted at her first glimpse of the stately vertical columns of black glass, steel, and concrete - the best skyline she’d ever seen.  She debated grabbing a cab when she got off at Logan Square, but decided the walk would do her good, despite the whip of the winter-like wind. 

Hanging up her coat on the tree in the entry-way, Veronica shoved her suitcase in the bedroom, kicked off her traveling clothes, and changed into sweat pants and thick, fuzzy socks.  Rooting through her closet for something cozy and warm, she pulled out an old Hearst hoodie from the bottom of a pile of sweaters.  As she tugged it out and started to put it on, she was overwhelmed by a scent.  His scent, still clinging to the fabric after nearly five years of tears and quarrels and distance.

Logan

Smiling, she rubbed her nose in the soft fleece, remembering how she’d filched it from him after an exuberant afternoon at the beach.  It was their last good summer.  Their only good summer, really, the one between sophomore and junior year.  Logan had rented a cottage on the beach, and they’d spent every spare minute in or near the water.  She’d learned to surf, he learned to cook, and it seemed they would finally be able to put the past behind them and be together in a healthy relationship.  Except, it didn’t turn out that way. 

Sighing, she padded into the kitchen and put on the coffee.  It was only eleven in Neptune, but she knew Keith would be waiting impatiently for her call. 

“Hey, Dad.”

“Who is this?”

“Very funny, father.  It’s your wayward daughter.  I just wanted you to know I’m home, safe and sound.”

“Veronica.  How many times do I have to tell you, home is where your pater familias resides?  No matter how old or sophisticated or well-educated you think you are now.”

“I know, old man.  One of these days, you’re going to have to come here and spend the holidays at my place.”

“And brave Chicago in the winter?  I don’t think so, honey.  Your ancient relic of a father is liable to freeze to death in that weather.  You’ll get tired of your fancy prosecutor’s job one of these days and come home to sunny California, take care of your old man.”

“I don’t know, Dad.  Things are pretty good at the U.S. Attorney’s office.  I have a postage stamp office with a view of the walls of the building next door, a sassy secretary who thinks she knows more about the law than me, and, by the way, she might, and a boss who thinks he’s God’s gift to women, men, agents, and judges.  Oh, and I’m low man on the trial team totem pole on this new case we’re working.”

“You know you’re welcome any time, kiddo.  Come back, find someone special, and give me some grandchildren.”  There’s a long pause.  “Veronica?  Honey?”

“I know, Dad.”  Her voice was tight, wistful.  There’s nothing left for me in Neptune, except my dad.  Wallace is in San Diego, which isn’t far, but he’s involved in coaching, the NBA D-league, and Sofia.  Mac’s in the Valley, being paid ungodly amounts of money to do what she does best, she has a new baby and a new lover.  Piz is in Darfur, working in a refugee camp, and Parker’s in New York, an associate editor at Vogue.  And Logan - he’s in New York too, also in journalism, but the real kind, colorful, gritty crime and local politics.  “One of these days I’ll be ready for all that.” 

“Okay, Veronica.  Thanks for calling.  I’ll talk to you next week.”

“Okay, dad.  Bye.”

“Bye, honey.  Oh, and, Veronica?”

“Yeah, dad?”

“I love you, kiddo.” 

“Uh huh.  You too, dad.” 

Taking a single-serve package of frozen lasagna from the freezer, she threw it in the oven and pulled out her laptop.  Checking her email, she noted three new messages from David.Fitzgibbons@usdojgov.  Sighing, she clicked open the last one first – doesn’t that man every stop? – and began reading her boss’ latest, endless list of things to be accomplished in the upcoming week. 

Saving and deleting in rapid succession, Veronica weeded her in-box until she came to the message she’d been avoiding since its arrival the previous Tuesday.  LLE@nytimes.com.  The last time he’d contacted her, about nine months ago, it was to say he’d be in town the following day, and wanted to have coffee.  She had assumed this one would be the same, and, like the one before, she hadn’t replied, knowing she was leaving Chicago the next day. 

It had seemed like a pointless exercise anyway.  The last time she and Logan had seen each other, he’d been passing through Chicago on his way to Dallas.  He’d arranged a stop-over at O’Hare, and she’d met him there, allegedly to have a beer.  What started out as an amiable, let’s-catch-up discussion about their lives had degenerated into a near-scene as she accused Logan of cheating on her and precipitating their last break-up.  He accused her of engineering the whole thing by abandoning him, blind-drunk, at a spring break party at Parker’s sorority house during the last semester of their junior year. 

For Veronica, Logan’s brief, one-night reunion with Parker had been the end of the end.  She had already been considering a transfer to Stanford, and Logan’s last indiscretion had given her the impetus she needed to make it happen.  By May 2009, she had been accepted, found a small apartment in Palo Alto, and even had a roommate lined up.  She’d received early admittance to Stanford law the following December, and, by taking day and night classes, graduated in June 2012.  Having done an internship at the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office during the summer of 2011, she’d been hired there before the ink on her degree was dry. 

Logan hadn’t known what hit him.  As he’d informed her, that gray, snowy afternoon at the airport, from his perspective, it felt like he woke up with a monster hangover and lost his girlfriend.  She’d never given him the chance to explain, and, three years later, he was still bitter about it.  Veronica was too. 

Finger posed over her mouse, she debated whether or not to even bother with his email.  If he’d come and gone already, there was no point torturing herself with the knowledge she’d blown him off once again.  And, if he was planning a future meeting – well, she didn’t know how she felt about that.  Deciding it would be easier to avoid it altogether, she saved it, unopened, to her personal file. 

&&&&&&

He grabbed his Blackberry almost the moment he stuck his tousled head out from beneath the three-hundred-thread-count sheets and fluffy down comforter.  He would have checked anyway, as a reporter, it was his habit, but being in Chicago, on her turf, and knowing she was no more than a few miles away, made him crazy. 

The night before, his plane had touched down at 9:47 p.m., and by 10:07 p.m., he was in a cab, headed downtown to the Drake Hotel.  His employers wouldn’t foot the bill for a first class seat, or the Gold Coast Suite at the Drake either, but even though, now, he worked for a living, it was worth it to disembark and be out the door before the “little people.” 
    
He wasn’t surprised to see she hadn’t replied.  Like his bedhead, Veronica’s capacity for avoidance hadn’t changed, some things never do.  She was either still mad from last time, or embarrassed about having made a scene.  It didn’t really matter which, it was clear she was planning to duck him again. 

The Medill Journalism Symposium wasn’t scheduled to start until Wednesday afternoon, which gave him today, tomorrow, and Wednesday to track her down and ....   He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he found her; he figured he’d wing it.  It wasn’t as if she was actually going to be hard to locate.  The federal courthouse, the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Building, to be exact, was about three miles south, and a couple blocks west, of Michigan Avenue.  Not to mention, the building was a thirty-story skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe.  So, really, finding Veronica was the least of his problems. 

Rapidly slurping his second cup o’ joe, he ruffled his hand through his hair.  Forgetting he was naked, he stood at the window, taking in the view of busy, vibrant Lake Shore Drive.  Just beyond the Drive, Lake Michigan was slate gray and foreboding under the deceptively brilliant, windswept blue of the late November sky.  Even the weather reminded him of Veronica, picture-perfect on the surface, but cold and brittle when you were out in it. 

She was already on his mind, there was no reason to fight it, so he pulled up an old favorite, The Fray’s How to Save a Life, and cranked it before slipping into the steam.  Closing his eyes against the spray, he called her to mind, as he almost always did, in happier times:  the curve of her neck underneath her golden mane as he rocked her from sleep, pulling her tight to his body, cupping her breast in his hand as he slid his hard dick between her thighs ... the little gasp she always made, right before he.... 

Groaning, he jerked himself, hard and furious, and came with a sudden gush, whispering her name.  It made him mad, his inability to find something – someone – more suitable for his morning ritual, but, no matter how many beautiful women he’d been with since Veronica, she was the one who woke him.  Letting the stinging spray wash away the damning evidence, he got out and got dressed:  heavy black jeans, dark olive sweater, running shoes, and his brown leather car coat.  He’d brought a watchcap, wool scarf, and fur-lined gloves, but decided against the hat and scarf.  He didn’t want to look like a total pussy, in case he happened to run into her in a lobby somewhere. 

Making a bacon sandwich from the room service cart, he grabbed his complimentary copy of the Chicago Tribune, slung his messenger bag over his shoulder, and made his way to the lobby.  Strolling around the corner, to the Magnificent Mile, he made a brisk, two-block walk to the John Hancock Building, across the street from his next destination, Water Tower Place.  Pushing through the revolving doors, he caught the escalator to the food court on the “second” floor, and stood at the balcony railing, watching the people teeming into the two-story lobby, gawking at the glass elevators and gurgling cascading fountain rising next to the stairs.  Christmas decorations twinkled dully in the bright sunlight; the sheer overwhelmingness of it took even his breath away. 

He briefly considered buying her something, kind-of a goodbye present, but decided against it.  For now, anyway.  He glanced at his Rolex – he knew it was a cliche, but he wore it because he liked it – and realized he had little more than an hour to get to the South Loop.  The first thing he’d done, when they told him he would be attending the journalism conference in Chicago, was wheedle his way into working Thanksgiving, and the day after, in exchange for being off on Monday and Tuesday after the holiday.  In terms of crime and corruption, New York was fairly quiet on Thanksgiving, and he was not only glad he’d made the deal, but knew he’d gotten the better end of it. 

The second thing he’d done was call Wallace, in San Diego, and con him into revealing Veronica’s workday schedule.  It took a fair amount of fast-talking, but if there was one thing he’d learned at Columbia, it was how to “persuade” an unwilling subject to disclose information to a reporter.  He knew Keith would never tell him anything, even though his attitude about Logan had softened over the years.  As far as Logan knew, Keith still regarded Logan as the most unsuitable boyfriend Veronica had ever had.  Keith was probably right, but then, it really wasn’t Keith’s call.  Never had been. 

Loping down the moving staircase, he hit the street again, making his way south past the glittering, high-end shopping district – Mayor Daley’s pride and joy.  He would have stopped to admire the ancient facades of the Tribune Tower and Wrigley building, but he was on a schedule,  and needed to get to 219 South Dearborn by 11:45 a.m., at the latest.  When he got to the north end of Millennium Park, however, he slowed and wandered through it at a leisurely pace, pausing to gaze at the shiny steel sculpture affectionately known as “The Bean” and the changing faces on the fifty-foot high towers of the Crown Fountain. 

At Monroe, the south border of the park, he made a right, crossed Michigan, and headed west toward Dearborn.  He had less than twenty minutes to do the last seven blocks, but fortunately for him, Chicagoans moved fast.  Must be the wind.  At the Dirksen, he debated going to the fifth floor and asking for her, but realized he’d be blowing the one advantage he had – surprise.  In his email, he’d told her about the seminar, but hadn’t mentioned his early arrival.  He hadn’t intended to be sneaky, not really, but some small part of his brain expected her to try to dodge him.  Now, he was glad he’d had the forethought. 

Slouching by the Calder, across the street from the courthouse, he spotted her the minute she exited an elevator, blond hair glowing against the sensible navy of her business suit.  Surrounded by an officious looking group of about five men, some in suits and ties, some in jeans and jackets, she seemed more petite than he remembered.  Squeezing his eyes shut, he fought against the wave of memories:  Veronica in her frilly black prom dress; the way she glowed, lying in his arms after they made love; her giggle, when they were busted for making out in the backseat; the proud look she wore when he’d gotten accepted to Hearst.... 

Shaking his head to clear the rosy cobwebs, he stood, made ready to follow them, puzzled when they headed south rather than north.  With all the posh eateries in the Loop, they walked down dismal Federal Street, past the front door of John Marshall Law School, to a seedy bar under the El tracks.  A cop bar.  He wasn’t surprised.  She probably felt right at home. 

&&&&&&

“Here you go, Veronica.”

Handing her a glass of club soda with his usual skeptically-arched eyebrow, she was grateful Dave managed to abstain from further commentary about her inability to drink with the boys.  Of course, it was noon, but time of day was never a problem for Jimmy, Danny, Bill, Tom, and Dave.  If left to his own devices, Dave would have beer for breakfast, beer for lunch, and beer for dinner.  It was, as he often said, the perfect food, belonging, as it did, to three of the four main food groups.  They ordered – she was just going to have a salad, but Dave made her get a sandwich too, so he could eat half. 

About ten minutes into it, the waitress in the tight tee shirt delivered the second round.  It was Dave’s signal to begin dictating.  “Write this down, Veronica,” he ordered imperiously, popping a handful of peanuts and chewing as he spoke. 

“With what, kimosabe?  I didn’t bring my laptop, and, hey,” she snapped her fingers under her boss’s nose.  “I don’t have anything to write on.” 

Scowling, he glanced around until he spotted something.  “Here, use this.”  Straight-faced, he handed over the cocktail napkin from beneath his Sam Adams.  “Okay, so we’ve got to – ”

“Wait!  You’re serious?  You want me to take notes on a bar napkin?”  Holding the slightly damp paper between two fingers, she shook it at him.  “And a wet one at that.”  Her nose wrinkled.  Dave laughed. 

“I’ll get you a clean one.”  Rising to his full height of six-foot-six, Dave marched to the bar and thumbed a hand-full of white squares from the dispenser.  In his long, tapered fingers, the napkins looked like cotton swatches.  “Here.”  He deposited the pile at her elbow and slipped gracefully back into his seat.  “Okay, so, where was I?  Oh, yeah, ...collect all the police reports from CPD, and the inventories from the old search warrants.  I want them in a file, each search warrant with the corresponding inventory, and any pictures we have of the guns, drugs, and money, associated with each RICO count.”
          
Dutifully nodding her head, Veronica scribbled as Dave talked, occasionally swiping a bite of her Caesar between items.  By the time he was done with his list, he’d finished his Reuben and half of her tuna melt.  The other half was wrapped while Veronica choked down as much of her salad as possible in the five minutes remaining.  She tried to give Dave some money, but he waved her away, indicating it had been a working meal, and he was buying.  Shrugging, a grin quirking the edges of her mouth, she tucked the graffittied napkin in her jacket, and followed the guys out the door.

Although it was half past noon, they stepped out into the slanted, criss-cross shadows of the CTA tracks.  Immediately, they were assaulted by a cacophony of sound as a train rumbled overhead, taxis and delivery trucks rolled past, horns blared, and brakes squealed.  Although she felt conspicuous – and really petite – surrounded by so many tall men, Veronica was glad of their company.  The sights and sounds of downtown could still be a bit overwhelming, and, today, she felt eyes on the back of her head; maybe it was because of the barred, slit windows of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a mere stone’s throw away. 

She’d never been in the MCC, but it wasn’t so much the idea of being inside the prison that made her queasy, it was who lived there.  She’d begun working for Dave while she was still an intern, so once she’d been hired, they’d assigned her to his team.  At first, she’d spent hours and hours pouring over and organizing boxes of photos, police reports, and wire tap transcripts, but, gradually, having gotten to know the case agents, she’d started to hear stories about the several cooperating witnesses, a/k/a snitches, who were helping the government in its investigation.  The “flippers,” so-called by the prosecutors because they’d “flipped sides,” had been in the office lately, testifying in the grand jury as Dave and the team prepared the indictment. 

A frightening collection of men with jail tattoos and ready sneers, each flipper had been an important cog in the drugs-and-bookmaking operation that was Dave’s target:  Rocco was the enforcer and had provided the muscle when a bettor didn’t want to pay up; the bookie, Gino, set the odds on the games and races; the drug distribution operation, mixing and packaging, had been supervised by Horace, and Rudolpho was the big boss who oversaw the crew.  All but Gino had done substantial prison time before, and all were anxious not to return to long-term confinement.  Mostly motivated by self-interest, some had wives and children, and realized another prison term would destroy their last remaining chance at normalcy.  So they’d made the tough decision to rollover and cooperate with the cops, lawyers, and federal agents who comprised Dave’s team. 

A few days before Thanksgiving, Dave had called her into his office, and introduced her to Rudolpho Garcia, the man who’d had the foresight and brains to orchestrate the entire operation.  Before setting up the bookmaking scheme, Rudy, as he liked to be called, had done seventeen years on a two hundred year sentence for a double murder.  He’d been about to be released on a technicality when Dave scooped him up from prison and “convinced” him to cooperate.  Dave’s inducement, plain and simple, was freedom – Rudy’s freedom, to be exact.  Dave had persuaded Rudy by letting him know they – the prosecutors – had enough evidence to put him back behind bars for at least another dime unless Garcia played ball.  Once Rudy agreed, the other flippers fell like dominos. 

Veronica hadn’t known Rudy’s history when she first met him, a large, polite, diffident Hispanic man with strangely impeccable manners.  Unlike the other cooperators, Rudy was so important to the government that they didn’t think he was safe enough at the MCC.  So, instead of being in jail, Garcia was out, living in a safe house in the northern suburbs, two agents with him 24/7.  She wasn’t especially afraid of Rudy at first, despite his imposing stature and menacing eyes.  In fact, even though she knew he’d been in charge, he actually seemed less dangerous than the other witnesses, whom she’d met a few days earlier. 

It wasn’t until Danny whispered in her ear that Garcia’s aka was “Smith” – as in, Smith & Wesson, his weapon of choice and trademark – that it hit her.  He was a killer.  A reformed killer, perhaps, but a killer nonetheless.  According to the agents, during his seventeen years behind bars, Rudy ruthlessly controlled the entire prison, deciding not only who would be placed on which work detail, but also, who lived and who died. 

Unsure whether or not she should believe the agents, she accepted the information with a poker-face and a tight-lipped nod.  The day before she left for Neptune, however, she’d gotten confirmation of Rudy’s status, if not his actual prowess.  She’d been in and out of Dave’s office all afternoon, ferrying documents and files, and sitting in on some of Dave’s debriefing of Garcia.  At one point, Rudy produced some photographs of the interior his “cell” at Lincoln Correctional.  It looked more like a dorm room than a prison cell; the walls of the tiny space were covered with copies of art work, both traditional and gang-related, there were two, twenty-seven-inch TVs, and his stereo consisted of massive, bookcase-sized speakers – just like the kind she’d seen when Logan dragged her to an Aerosmith concert.  It was mind-blowing, to say the least.

Now, whenever she saw the concertina barbed wire, heavy steel gates, chained locks, and barred windows of the federal prison, all she could think of was the true nature of the men housed there.  Men she’d worked alongside, even shared meals with.  Although she’d never admit it, they, and her job, scared her a bit, made her rethink her previously fearless attitude.  Every time she walked by the MCC, she could feel eyes on the back of her head.   

&&&&&&

He seriously considered slipping into the bar and having a beer while she ate with her colleagues, but decided against it.  Too risky.  He didn’t want a public scene, wasn’t trying to piss her off before they’d even had a chance to talk.  Talk?  Who was he kidding?  The last time he and Veronica had really talked, they were freshman – no, sophomores – at Hearst.  It was after Parker and Piz, but before their final, colorfully-explosive blow-out.  They’d been at the beach, pretending to study for finals.  Really, they’d been studying the fluffy white clouds, lazily telling stories about the shapes they saw. 

Lying perpendicular and using him as a pillow, Veronica’s head had been on his chest when he asked what she wanted to do with her future.  Before answering, she, in turn, made the same inquiry.  New York, Chicago, and Palo Alto were the cities named:  NYC for his favorite journalism program, Chicago for Northwestern Law or the University of Chicago, both of which she was just about to apply to, and, of course, Stanford’s home at Palo Alto.  Anxious to get as far away from Neptune as possible, he begged her to consider some NY law schools.  She reminded him of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. 

They’d agreed being in the same city was a priority, and each would apply to schools in the other’s city.  Funny how things turned out.  He went to New York, she to Palo Alto, and now both were in Chicago. 

He roused himself from the doorway when he noticed her and the cadre exit the tavern.  Trailing after her, he noticed her furtive backward glance and thought he’d been made.  Apparently, the old P.I. instinct hadn’t completely evaporated.  But when she didn’t look back again, he concluded something else was worrying her.  Lagging further behind, he studied the men accompanying her. 

The cops were easy to spot, with their casual street clothes, heavy jackets, and ‘I’m-the-man’ strut.  It was easy to see the tall blonde guy was the boss; he had the smug air of a man who’d been both born to money and was accustomed to being in charge.  He breathed a sigh of relief when he realized all of them were years older than Veronica; he guessed she was the designated gopher and token female on what was clearly a well-oiled machine.  Which meant the lunch was probably purely business, and it was unlikely she’d be dating any of them. 

As they strolled the last block to the courthouse, Logan noticed something – someone – else.  A black guy, or maybe Hispanic, about twenty feet behind the group, appeared to be tailing them, and not all that well.  About thirty, he was non-descript, about five-eleven, a welterweight, or maybe a light middle, dressed in inexpensive street clothes, of conservative, not hip-hop style.  Every few feet, he’d drift out to the curb, make sure Veronica and the others were still in front of him, and fade back into the foot traffic. 

At the corner, where the team crossed Jackson to head into the federal building, the dude turned left and crossed Federal.  Assuming it’d just been a coincidence, or that the guy had had another purpose, Logan returned his attention to Veronica, who was entering the glassed-in lobby.  Something – instinct – made him turn back, just in time to see the shadow spin and dart across the street to the north side of Jackson, where he hovered at the edge of the other federal building, staring intently at Veronica and her boss as they got on the elevator. 

That can’t be good.

If he’d been at all unsure of his decision to contact Veronica – today – the skulking dude sealed the deal.  Grabbing the Sun-Times from the newspaper box on the corner, Logan wandered back to the bench where he’d perched before, and, tucking in an earbud, settled himself for a cold afternoon’s wait, Steve Tyler and Aerosmith wailing in his ear. 

He became restless at three, scrolling through his email, then circling the plaza to study the Calder from all angles.  By four, he was freezing, and made his way into the Dunkin Donuts on the corner, to warm up and ingest some caffeine.  One foot on the rail, he stared balefully at the Dirksen, willing her to leave work early, for once in her life. 

At about four-thirty, he decided to take the bull by the horns, and meet her in the lobby.  Removing all the metal from his jeans pockets, he stuffed his Blackberry, iPod, and earphones in his messenger bag and got ready to brave security.  Miraculously, just as he got to the entrance, she emerged from the north bank of elevators.  Backing out the door, ignoring the cross-eyed, suspicious glare of the security guards, he ran around the corner and loped down the block. 

“Veronica,” he huffed excitedly, just as she twirled through the revolving doors into the weak setting sun, and bracing cold of a late November afternoon. 

“Logan?”  She came to a complete halt, blocking the exit, heedless of the people spilling out behind her.  “What are you – ”  Without thinking, she flung her arms around him, pulling him into a fierce hug.  “You’re here,” she murmured against his neck, her breath warm, heart pounding. 

“I am,” he agreed, delighted and surprised by her enthusiasm.  “I’ve missed you,” he informed her, squeezing back, his mouth brushing her temple.  But when he bent to kiss her lips, she started and pulled away. 

“Um ... don’t,” she whispered.  “Not here, where everyone can see us.” 

Perplexed, he nodded curtly, but, unwilling to let go, kept her tucked on his hip, an arm around her waist.  “You have time for a drink, or maybe dinner?” he asked, his words shrouded in white steam as his breath hit the cold air.  “Preferably somewhere warm?” he continued, feeling a shiver shake her slight frame as he eased her away from the door. 

“Yeah, okay,” she said, hesitating, her gaze not meeting his eyes.  “I don’t have any plans.  It can’t be too late, though.  I just got back last night, and I’m kind of beat,” she warned. 

“You go home for Thanksgiving?” he asked with a small smile, brushing her golden hair from her face with bare, trembling fingers. 

“How long have you been waiting?” she replied sternly, suddenly noticing his blue hands and lips. 

“Since eleven-thirty this morning, give or take,” he confessed with a sheepish smirk. 

Blue eyes flashing, she admonished, “Logan!  Are you crazy?  It’s like – ”

“Twenty-nine degrees out.  I know.”  He leaned in close, and blew into her ear.  “Believe me, Veronica, I know.”

“Is there somewhere special you’d like to eat?” she inquired shyly, looking up at him in wonder. 

“I was thinking – I’m staying at the Drake – I hear they have great food at the Cape Cod?  That way, you could ....”   He trailed off when she began to shake her head vigorously.  “Okay, so, not the Cape Cod.” 

“I don’t think so, Logan.  It’s at your hotel, number one, and I don’t think I’m ready to go there yet.  Second, as charming as you are, I’m not hopping into bed with you again.  And, I’m not really dressed for it, either.  How ‘bout ... pizza?  We are in Chicago, after all.”

“I live in New York, remember?  Good pizza’s not really hard to come by,” he softly interjected, trying to swallow his disappointment. 

“Maybe you’d like Berghoff’s?” she continued, pointing to the overhead marquis on the building next door.  “Except it’s not really Berghoff’s anymore, it’s 17/West Adams.  But the food’s still good.” 

“Wherever you want to go, Veronica.  I don’t much care, at this point, as long as it’s close, and warm, once we get there.”  Stomping and hopping from foot to foot, Logan rubbed his hands together briskly. 

She looked him up and down, eyes dancing merrily in the twilight.  “I know where we should go,” she announced with a grin.  “C’mon,” she urged, grabbing his frigid hand in her gloved one and tugging him to the stoplight.  “You live in New York, right?  You’ve lived there for a couple of years now, so how is it you don’t own a pair of gloves?” 

“I have gloves,” he huffed, tucking her hand, and his, into his jacket pocket.  “Where are we going, by the way, and is it far?” 

“Relax, you big baby.  It’s right up the street, two blocks.”  She jerked her head, indicating they should cross Adams Street. 

“It’s not another dive bar, is it?  I wanted to take you somewhere nice.” 

“Dive bar?” she puffed after they reached the opposite corner.  Her eyes got big.  “You ... saw me?  At lunch?” 

“Uh huh.  You and your phalanx of escorts.  Very impressive.  Now, please tell me where we’re going.  I’m fuckin’ freezing, here, ‘Ronica.” 

“You know,” she teased, scurrying to stay a step ahead of him as she guided him up the street.  “I could probably have you arrested for stalking, or obstructing justice, or something.” 

“Yeah, well, remind me to talk to you about that, once I can feel my fingers and toes again, and my face thaws.” 

&&&&&&

“So, the political beat for the New York Times.  I’m impressed, Logan.  Really, you’ve done well,” she said earnestly, fumbling with the linen napkin in her lap.  “Do you like it?  You must.”

Shrugging uncomfortably, he played with the array of forks and spoons flanking his now empty appetizer plate.  “It’s just local politics,” he demurred, embarrassed.  “It’s not that impressive.” 

“I’m impressed,” she assured him, reaching across the table to touch his sleeve.  “There was a time when I thought you’d never ....”

“Accomplish anything?”  He arched an eyebrow.  “I know.  I remember.”  He smacked his lips loudly.  “The Rosebud, huh?  Nice place,” his head swiveled as he took in the dark wood, rose-tinted leather, white linens and lace-covered windows.  “You come here often?” he asked vaguely, his body stiffening when he spotted a denim-and-wool-clad figure at the bar. 

She shook her head impatiently, not noticing his heightened scrutiny of the restaurants denizens.  “The real Rosebud, the first one, is actually on Taylor Street, in the Italian section.  They’re all over now, and no, I don’t come here often.  I’m not dating anyone, by the way, if that was your real question.  So, do you have your own byline?” she continued, undeterred by his attempt to change the subject. 

He sighed aloud, brought his attention back to the table, and shook his head.  “Veronica,” he began in a slow, measured tone.  “I’ll be happy to give you a disk of my published stories, but I didn’t come here to talk business, at least, not mine.  ‘S fine if you want to talk about yours, though, since I have no idea what it is you do these days.”  She flushed guiltily, aware she’d been the one to reduce their communication to an email or two a month. 

“So,” she said, after the silence stretched on for a few moments that felt like hours.  “Why are you here, other than the Medill symposium?” 

“The conference’s just an excuse to see you,” he informed her cautiously, unable to lie while looking into the direct gaze of her clear aqua eyes, but afraid of the effect of his admission.  “I wanted to see ... you, of course, and see if – see what’s left ... of us, if there is anything left,” he added with a rush of breath.  She averted her eyes, toying with the last bits of calamari on her plate, unsure of how to respond. 

“Look,” he continued, his voice now cold and matter-of-fact.  “I don’t expect you to give me an answer right now.”  His fingers scrubbed absently through his hair, which looked as it always did, spiky and well-kept.  “I’m not sure what the question is.  I just know we – I – can’t go forward until I put us to rest, one way or the other.” 

“Us?  There hasn’t been an ‘us’ for a long time.”

“So, the fact that you’re not dating anyone is because ... you just broke some poor schmuck’s heart?  Or because you haven’t dated anyone in,” he squeezed his eyes closed, lips moving soundlessly as he did the math, “three-and-a-half years, give or take?” 

Her mouth snapped shut, her face instantly blank, her eyes wary.  “It’s none of your business why I haven’t been dating,” she hissed, glancing around the restaurant to make sure no one she knew was in earshot.  “Or who.”

“C’mon, Veronica,” he whispered back.  “Who do you think you’re talking to?  I know you – I’ve known you since we were twelve.  You don’t switch gears that quickly, but – ” 

“How do you even know I haven’t been dated any – Wallace?  You called Wallace, didn’t you?” she hurled the reproach as if accusing him of murder.  Red spots appeared on her cheeks, and she clenched her fork so hard he thought she’d break it in two. 

“Guilty as charged.  I called Wallace – he’s the only one you still talk to anyway, aside from me, and that’s only when you’re feeling nostalgic.  He said you live like a nun, which is a whole ‘nother issue, and haven’t had a real date since your first year of law school.” 

He paused and took a deep, sustaining breath.  “So, what’s up, Veronica?  Did I really hurt you that badly, or are you just being stubborn, trying to make God-knows what point?”  He could tell, from the luminous sheen in her eyes, that he might have gone a bit further than he’d intended.  “Veronica,” he reached for her hand, only to have her snatch it away. 

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been kinda busy the last few years.  I was in law school, studying twenty-four-seven, so I could finish, graduate, and get on with ... my career.  I haven’t had time to fool around with every pretty thing I meet, the way you have.” 

“So it’s all on me, huh?” he replied defensively, his voice raw and guttural.  “I’m the reason you’ve made the choices you have?  It had nothing to do with your well-chronicled ability and need to run away when things get too emotional?  And, not that it’s any of your business,” he leaned in, hands planted flat, his nose inches from hers, “but I haven’t had a date or slept with anyone in fifteen months, give or take.” 

Stunned, the blood drained from her face, her fingers fisted on the tabletop.  “Why do we keep doing this to each other, Logan?” she rasped, shaking her head.  “What is it with us, anyway?”

“I have no idea, sweetheart.”  He laughed mirthlessly.  “But you’re right.  Let’s start over.  Hi, I’m Logan,” he began in a high-pitched imitation of a ditz.  “And I’m interested in fluffy puppy dogs, scary movies, the New York Mets, and contemporary art.  ...  Oh, yeah –  and handguns, did I forget to mention handguns?  The bigger, the better.”

Without thinking, Veronica burst out laughing, and slapped the table hard enough to make the flatware rattle.  “You’re making a scene, dear,” he purred, pleased he’d managed to lighten the mood.  “Let’s not rehash the past, okay?”  Hand clapped over her mouth, she nodded.  “You’ve hurt me, I’ve hurt you, but we’re both in a different place now.  Let’s just agree to let it go.” 

She nodded again soberly, puzzled hope in her glistening eyes.  Saved, however briefly, from further unpleasantness by the arrival of their salads, Logan watched as she dug in with gusto, rolling her eyes in orgasmic delight at the homemade Italian dressing and fresh baked bread.  Good to know some things haven’t changed.  Her eggplant parmesan, and his lasagna – ordered at her request, so she could sample it – arrived a few minutes later, and, after Logan ordered a second bottle of the house red, they settled into an easier conversation about more general subjects. 

He amused her with scatological descriptions of the editors at the Times, while she recounted the pertinent details of the cases she’d been assigned, especially the big one she’d been working since before graduation.  After he swore their conversation was off the record, she gave him a few minor details about Rudy, Gino, Horace, and Rocco, including the basic structure of the gang, and the bare outline of the indictment being prepared by the U.S. Attorney’s office.  When she finished her plate, he grinned and slid his half-finished one to her side of the table.  She eyed it eagerly. 

“You’re not going to eat any more?”

“It’s all yours, Veronica.  I’m full.  I still don’t know where you put it all,” he added, shaking his head in mock dismay before lifting his wine glass and draining it. 

“So ... we’re not going to have tiramisu ... and some espresso?” she asked, disappointed.  He rubbed his right hand over his watch face and glanced at her.  “It’s fine,” she gently assured him.  “I have time, and I won’t be as tired after an espresso.” 

Nodding, he signaled the waiter as she dug into his leftover lasagna.  Ordering a single serving of tiramisu, two forks, an espresso and a cappuccino, he watched with satisfaction as his former lover polished off the remains of his dinner.  By the time dessert arrived, she’d finished all but a bite or two, shoving the plate away with a grimace. 

“Why did you let me eat all that?” she moaned, hand on her stomach. 

“Me, let you? – when was the last time I ‘let’ you do anything?” 

“Yeah, okay.  You’re probably right, but I don’t think I can eat that.”  She nodded toward the tempting, brandy-laced concoction currently sitting between them on the damask. 

“Drink your coffee.  I don’t want you passing out before you get home.  I’ll have them box the tiramisu you wanted so badly, and we can take it with us.” 

“We?” she replied, tilting her head in the old, familiar way, a quizzical look on her face. 

“Yeah, we.  I think you should let me take you home, Veronica.  There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”  With a deep breath, he launched into a description of his morning’s surveillance.  Sparing no details, he told her about tailing her and her ‘posse’ to their lunch meeting, and the strange dude he’d seen following her back to the courthouse.  After describing the man in detail, Logan reluctantly admitted he’d been so excited to see her he hadn’t scanned the lobby area, or the outside grounds, when she was leaving the building, but .... 

“He was at the bar, Veronica, not ten minutes ago.  I swear it was the same guy.  Is that case you’re working a big one?  I mean, does it involve ... I get that they’re bad guys, but are they those kind of bad dudes, the kind who’d be stupid enough to come after a prosecutor?”

“I don’t think so, Logan.  I think you’re probably overreacting, don’t you?” she replied, her voice carefully pitched to a non-confrontational tone. “ I mean, when we walked in, there were probably five or six men at the bar who fit the description you gave me.”  She waved at the bar curving along the far wall.  “There’s probably four guys there now who could be him.  I’ll ask the guys if they know of anyone like that who’s associated with the case, but even if there is someone out there, I doubt he’s following me,” she reassured him, reaching out to put her hand on his wrist. 

“I don’t care.  I still want to see you home.  I’ll be a perfect gentleman, I promise.”  He raised his right hand, as if taking an oath.  “Just let me do this, okay?”

Dubious, she shrugged, then nodded.  “I don’t think I can stop you anyway, right?”

“No,” he agreed with a smirk.  “Not really.”

Gloved and garbed against the frosty night air, they boarded the El and, like lovers, sat in the corner at the end of the car, Logan’s arm draped possessively across her shoulders.  Lulled by the rock and whoosh of the train, Veronica twisted so she was resting on his chest, and both stared out the window, mesmerized by the lights of the city against the velvety black of the star-strewn night. 

The icy cold air had left the streets and sidewalks dangerously slick.  When they descended the El platform, Veronica laced her arm through Logan’s, and they carefully treaded the glazed walkway to the courtyard of her apartment.  Fishing for her keys, Veronica finally extracted them from her purse and promptly dropped them on the steps.  Before she could react, Logan stooped and scooped them up.  A hand pressed on the small of her back, he reached around her and fiddled with her keys, trying to find the one that opened the vestibule door.  Uncharacteristically passive, she waited.  When he still couldn’t find the right one, she put her hand on his and guided it to the lock. 

Holding the door, he ushered her underneath his outstretched arm and into the warm, wood paneled entryway.  “I’m on the third floor,” she advised, starting up the stairs, assuming he’d follow. 

“What do you do when you have groceries?” he teased. 

Pausing on the step above him, she turned her head and gave him a flirtatious glance over her shoulder.  “Why, Ah find a big, strong mahn to help me, of cou’se,” she said, batting her eyes and twitching her hips.  His dark eyes smoldered as he openly leered. 

“I bet you do, sugah.  I bet you do.” 

Chortling, she scurried up the staircase, screeching as he slapped at her ass.  When they got to her door, she faced him, cheeks pink from exertion, eyes twinkling in delight as he reached for her.  “I had fun tonight,” she confided quietly. 

“Me, too,” he instantly agreed, crowding in to press her against the solid oak door.  “Can I – ” he bent to kiss her, “see you tomorrow?”

“Mmm hmm,” she murmured, her lips parting to meet his as she rose to her toes and twined her fingers around his neck. 

Hands resting lightly on her hips, he kissed her soundly, his warm tongue slipping softly into her mouth.  Eyes closed, body bowed against his, she sighed happily, low and sweet.  After a minute, he broke the kiss to whisper, “This would be a lot more fun if we weren’t dressed for an impending blizzard.” 

Giggling, she nodded.  “Sorry, sailor,” she cooed.  “But you have to go home, now.  I have to be at work early tomorrow.  We’re going into the grand jury at nine.” 

Groaning, he said, “There’s a buzz kill if I ever heard one,” and kissed her once more, chastely.  “I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon, okay?”  Unable to stop touching her, he ran the back of his hand over her cheek.  “Dinner.  Plan on it.”

“I think I can pencil you in,” she joked, clutching his hand.  “What are you going to do in the meantime?” 

“Don’t you worry your pretty head, baby,” he smirked, bending so his lips fluttered against her ear.  “I’ll think of something,” he promised, sinfully kissing the curve of her ear, his mouth sliding down her neck to sweep over her jaw before finding her lips again.  This time, the kiss was rougher, more intense, leaving both panting for more. 

“Logan,” she huffed.  “You have to leave, now!”

“Uh huh,” he mumbled into her inviting mouth.  “I’m going.  Right now.” 

“Good,” she breathed, sealing her lips on his.  “I wish you would.”

Breaking the kiss after another minute, Logan announced, “This reminds me of that movie – the one you used to make me watch all the time.  What was the name of it?”

Momentarily befuddled, she rolled her eyes when she remembered.  “While You Were Sleeping.

“Yeah, that’s the one,” he concurred.  “The part when ... Bill Pullman was ... leaning,” he whispered, tilting forward to kiss her one more time. 

Elated and ebullient, he clattered down the stairs and flew out the door, a satisfied grin creasing his face.  When he reached the building’s courtyard, however, the smile died on his lips.  Lurking behind a tree, directly across the street, was the same unsavory-looking dude he’d seen at the restaurant, in the plaza by the Calder, and in the street behind Veronica and the other prosecutors.  It was him, Logan was sure of it.  He whipped out his cell, opened it, and snapped it shut without dialing.

Returning to the entrance to Veronica’s apartment building, he stabbed at her call button, once, twice, three times, until he heard her dazed, sleepy voice.  “Logan?”

“Veronica.  Let me in for a sec.  I – I forgot something.”

“‘S late, Logan.”

“I know.  Trust me, babe, just this once.  Let me in, please?”

She didn’t reply, but the cellanoid buzz told him she’d agreed.  Loping up the steps two at a time, he had just raised his hand to bang on the door when it clicked open.  Without asking, he shouldered in, immediately shutting the door behind him.  Whirling to slide home the deadbolt, he turned to find a drowsy Veronica, in a pale pink satin robe, blinking uneasily. 

“What is it?  What did you forget?”

“Nothing.  He’s out there.  He’s out there right now, Veronica.  Across the street.”  A few long strides, and Logan was at the window, peering into the murky shadows.  “Are all your windows locked?” he demanded, his voice suddenly adrenaline-fueled. 

“I live on the third floor.  I don’t really think I have to worry about anyone scaling the brick walls,” she retorted sharply, crossing to his side.  “Except, maybe, Spiderman?”

“It isn’t funny.” 

“It is, just a little bit,” she argued, raising her thumb and forefinger to display the space between.  “It’s okay.  I’m okay.  Let me make you some coffee,” she added, soothing him with a stroke of her hand on his forearm.  “Take your jacket off, calm down.”  Holding out her hand, she waited expectantly until he unzipped and shed it.  She hung it next to hers, on a hook beside the door.

“Want some tiramisu?” she coaxed, leading him by the hand into her tiny kitchen.  Motioning to the doll-like cafe table, she turned to the counter and bustled about, putting on coffee and pulling the ‘to go’ box from the fridge.  He sat, unable to relax, perched on the edge of the chair while his leg jiggling nervously.  Placing the carton and two forks on the table, she went back to the refrigerator for milk, grabbed two mugs and set it all on the table.  Reaching over, she ruffled her fingers through his hair before retreating to the coffee maker. 

“You need to come back to the hotel with me.”

Although her face was impassive, her eyes revealed her conflicted emotions.  “I can’t do that,” she countered.  “You know I can’t.”

“Then I’m staying here,” he insisted, a dangerous, stubborn glint in his eye. 

She stared at him.  “You don’t need to do that.  I’m a big girl, Logan,” she argued.  “I can take care of myself.” 

“I’m sure you can – you always have – but there’s a wacko out there, and this is the fourth time I’ve seen him, and it’s just not safe.”  She took a deep breath; he could tell she was wavering.  “I’ll sleep on the couch; you won’t even know I’m here.”

“It’s really not necessary,” she sniffed.  “I don’t want you sleeping on my couch.  It’s too much, too fast.” 

“It’s either the couch or the bed, Sugarlips,” he threatened, flashing a grim smile. 

Her lips twitched.  “Fine,” she conceded, defeated by his simmering glare.  “I’ll get you a pillow and blanket.” 

“And a nightgown?” he prodded with a mischievous grin. 

“Don’t push your luck.” 

&&&&&&

Go ahead, push your luck.

Comments

flickering glow of the rainbow florescents as she rolled her suiter down the endless United terminal

I've been there and I love how you are weaving in all these real details, though it makes since because you lived there so long! I still just really love your descriptions of Chicago, makes me remember so much. I went there for fun for a weekend with a friend in the fall and I know all about this whip like wind you speak of, I was stupid enough to not bring a heavy jacket with me for a concert and had to sit outside so when Logan didn't wear a scarf and hat I was worried for him... Haaa.

And I just love your descriptions and dialogue, like the banter between Veronica and Keith, it's so much fun. And then there's Veronica's interactions with her co-workers, everything is so layered. Another detail I really liked was Veronica's tiny doll table, definitely fitting for someone living the life of a nun like Wallace said.

Even the weather reminded him of Veronica, picture-perfect on the surface, but cold and brittle when you were out in it.

That's a beautiful description that I wish I had wrote! :D Hehe. Oh I love your stories so much. When Logan first ran up to Veronica I got so giddy, and the fact that their meeting wasn't as explosive as their last definitely made me happy though I would have liked to see that last airplane fight play out and I really wonder when it's going to come back.

I think this may be one of the first time's you've written from Logan's POV and I love it. His thoughts in the shower, guh, his watching her, nostalgic and reverent, and the way he noticed her turning to find who was watching her. I'm also so happy with where you have put him as a NY Times reporter too.

And their dinner together. *swoon* I love how you take the time to paint the scene with where they are and what they eat, how they lean closer and Veronica's laugh. I'm so excited to see what happens next, especially with that creepy stalking man. What is he going to do?! eeep.

And then there's the tension between L/V, I loved that he admitted that he came just to see her, and that he hasn't had sex in a while, for me that's almost like him admitting he's been sober, because so many of the times Logan's had sex on the show has been to show how destructive he is.

Anyway I'm so excited about the rest of this story and I can't linger here any longer!

Gloved and garbed against the frosty night air, they boarded the El and, like lovers, sat in the corner at the end of the car, Logan’s arm draped possessively across her shoulders. Lulled by the rock and whoosh of the train, Veronica twisted so she was resting on his chest, and both stared out the window, mesmerized by the lights of the city against the velvety black of the star-strewn night.

Oh and that might be one of the most beautiful paragraphs I've ever read.
There are so many wonderful things about this fic! The details here are priceless! For instance: the picture you painted of of Chicago, the description of the cold, the way Logan jerks off in the shower... all brilliant!

Your voice in this story really reeled me in. I can't wait to see how this finishes.
defineatly a high quality fic.

dude man, chicago has the worst pedestrians.

knew pizza was going to make its way in and glad logan didnt say ny has the best because thats an 1.5hr from there.

hoping to see the boys make a bigger part next.

happy that wallace gave up the info.