Word Count: 4383
Rating: R for language and mild sexuality
Spoilers Warnings: Through 1x10
Summary: Logan and Veronica. And a wardrobe. Set post Echolls Family Christmas, but Pre Clash of the Tritons. AU.
Author's note: Major hugs and kisses to truemyth for holding my hand throughout this process, helping me rework it when Logan and Veronica were being stubborn, and being an awesome beta when it finally got itself written.
Veronica surveyed her surroundings with distaste. At any other time the impeccably and comfortably opulent room might have inspired nothing worse than indifference, but her simple surveillance plans had been rendered infinitely more complicated by the chosen location’s bell-manned glory.
It really wasn’t fair. In her day, people had the decency to conduct their sordid affairs in the semi-public squalor of Neptune’s cheapest motels. Didn’t they know what a pain in the ass it was to monitor their activities in any establishment with something approaching a security system and decent curtains? It was like they had no regard for her convenience at all.
Had she the time to grouse, she would, but it had taken so long to swipe that maid’s keys that she probably had only minutes to set up if she didn’t want her surveillance to be of the first-hand kind.
Or, she realized, as someone bumped against the door, less time than even that.
Please let them be slow. Let a keycard be too complicated of a procedure for them. Let them be so busy sucking face that they don’t even know where the key is.
Veronica eyed the furnishings again, but this time her appraisal was based on whether they’d provide a decent hiding space. Her mind raced with cover stories as she automatically rejected hiding under the bed on the grounds that not being discovered by the adulterous duo would probably be more scarring than being caught. She could try the bathroom, but if they made any use of the twelve-man Jacuzzi in there, then she was just as sunk. Finally she settled on the enormous wardrobe residing in isolated splendor on the far wall. After all, people intent on screwing each other’s brains out probably weren’t too concerned about hanging their coats up.
Her calculations had taken less than a second, but the door was already edging open, and she darted desperately for the welcoming shelter of the wardrobe, flinging the door shut behind her, thanking God that it closed with barely a click.
She crouched in the corner of wooden monstrosity, shrouded in darkness and waiting for the approaching footsteps to make a beeline for her hiding space. When they didn’t, she had to concentrate on not audibly sighing out her relief and making her already precarious situation worse. From the sound, of it, only one person had entered – probably the guy, unless Emma Chesterfield was rather heavier than the current fashion for Neptune trophy wives.
Seconds stretched slowly by, and when she’d finally decided she was safe, every single uncomfortable place where the wood failed to adequately cushion her body decided to make itself known.
Veronica bit her lip, but refrained from shifting.
Vague rustling sounds emanated from behind the thick wooden doors, but Veronica’s focus had relocated to the ache in her shoulder blades and to mentally estimating how long it would be before bedsprings were being abused and she could allow herself to get more comfortable without worrying about getting caught. She sighed and wondered why she could never find one of those wardrobes with entire countries and multiple escape routes inside.
She never heard his approach.
One second she was wondering why in the world someone couldn’t make a closet out of bean bag material, the next she was blinking at a flood of light and the amused scorn of one Logan Echolls.
She was almost relieved. He was trespassing too. Her mission wasn’t totally and completely screwed.
His eyes raked over her as she scrambled to her feet and he raised an eyebrow. “Huh. Looks like even the most expensive places can have a vermin problem.”
Only mostly so.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she demanded. Hopefully she could get him so busy defending his own actions, it wouldn’t occur to him that he could put hers in jeopardy.
But he didn’t grow defensive. If anything, he looked amused, damn him.
“You’re the detective; you tell me.”
He leaned casually against the doorframe, his every movement speaking his confidence and the security of his position.
She frowned. “Stalking is illegal, you know”
“Says the girl hiding in the closet of my hotel room.”
“Your…” She recoiled as the implications of his statement sunk in. And maybe it should have been obvious, but she couldn’t help feeling shocked. “You mean…”
His grin broadened as he took in her discomfort.
“You’re despicable,” she spat out.
All humor vanished and he glared at her, stepping forward so he was half in the wardrobe and entirely in her personal space. “And how exactly are you in a position to judge me?”
She considered the question, and then smiled sweetly. “Well, I’m not a lying adulterous bastard for one.”
“No, just a sneaking judgmental bitch.”
She still felt almost sick, and she wondered when she’d decided Logan actually had standards for her to be so shaken by his behavior. Why the hell was she surprised? Nevertheless - “I can’t believe this.”
For a split second she almost thought he looked ashamed, but the flicker of emotion passed as quickly as it had come and after a moment she was sure she’d imagined it. He sighed theatrically. “What can I say, Veronica? We can’t all do the football team.”
“Not for a lack of trying.”
“You know,” he murmured, leaning closer to her, “I’m thinking I should make that call to the management now. Let them know about the rat problem in here.”
Veronica shifted, but there was no further back she could go. He was entirely in the wardrobe now, and her back was practically one with the grain of the wood.
“I’m sure your girlfriend will appreciate the publicity.”
He smirked, but there was something brittle about it. “Because I give a fuck what she appreciates?”
“God, you’re such a -”
“What?” he asked sharply. “I’m a what?”
He took another step toward her, and this time there was nowhere for her to go. He was a heartbeat away and it was too much. Rage boiled in her and she snapped.
“Forget it. I’m not doing this. Fuck her brains out, I don’t care.”
He laughed. “Big words, Mars. And I remember when you were such a good little girl.”
She found herself pushing him away, trying to barrel past him, out of the closet, out of the room, out of his life. He didn’t budge.
“And I’m letting you go because I’m an idiot?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
He smiled a smile as utterly fake as it was cheerful, and one of his hands moved up to tweak her nose. “You think you’re so, cute, don’t you?”
“Compared to the present company, most assuredly.” She surveyed him with a calm she didn’t exactly feel. “And the next time you try that, you lose a hand.”
“Ever the bitch,” he muttered. But while his voice was still harsh, his smile seemed almost admiring. And that was an alarming notion. Especially since he was still too damn close.
“What can I say? Claustrophobia does that to me.” It was doing something to her, anyway.
He laughed shortly – the laugh of the upper hand – and God she hated him for that. “Funny, you’d think you’d be used to it, given that shoebox you call an apartment.”
“Personal space, Logan. Ever hear of it?”
“And again, here’s where I’ll point out that it’s my hotel room.”
“And somebody else’s wife.”
“Just marveling at how far the apple didn’t fall from the tree.”
She’d been too busy racking her brain for a way out of this situation to pay full attention to their back and forth, and but even if she had, she couldn’t have predicted the success of her last volley. When he didn’t return her throw, she glanced up and found herself staring. Logan had gone utterly white. His horror was palpable and for second she wasn’t sure if he was going to hit her or collapse.
“Get the fuck out. Now.”
She wasn’t aware they’d had a line until she’d crossed it.
She wanted to snap out that she’d be glad to and just storm past him. She wanted to take delight in finally hurting him as much as he’d hurt her. After all, it wasn’t like he hadn’t said worse things about her – about her parents. He had, a thousand times. Suddenly she was supposed to give a fuck because he couldn’t take what he dished out?
But the look in his eyes was haunting and without even meaning to she found herself almost apologizing. “I didn’t mean that.” It wasn’t really a lie. She had meant what she’d said, but she sure as hell hadn’t meant whatever he’d taken from it.
“Don’t back down now, Veronica. We were just getting to the good stuff.” His voice was quiet, almost contemplative, and he seemed to have forgotten that he’d just ordered her out.
He smiled at her and it was brittle, his eyes suspiciously bright – and she hated where this had gone. Logan hadn’t shown weakness in front of her since the day he’d decided that it was her fault their lives had been destroyed. It had taken her a little longer, but once she’d grasped the rules they’d thrown everything they could at each other and then some knowing neither of them would ever get way.
She felt instinctively certain that he was cheating. His weakness was weakening her and part of her was waiting for him to take advantage of the fact and hurt her worse.
The rest was apparently suffering from some sort of year long amnesia and feeling terribly guilty for hurting her friend.
“I’m sorry. Whatever you – I’m sorry.”
He’d stilled completely, and if things hadn’t already shifted into bizarre territory, that sure as hell would have done the trick. Logan Echolls was about as capable of stillness as Tigger. Or something else known for perpetual movement that wasn’t an A. A. Milne character.
“Logan…” She trailed off, realizing abruptly that there was nothing she could say, nothing she should say, inwardly cursing her inability to remember that assholes didn’t deserve her pity, no matter how sad they looked. “I should go.”
He replaced his hollow expression with a smirk that didn’t quite meet his eyes. “And here I figured you’d be willing to help me drown my sorrows.” He leaned toward her, his cheek almost brushing hers as he whispered in her ear, “After all, if I’m going to be my dad, you might as well be your lush of a mother.”
She went cold.
She told herself that it wasn’t like she’d expected better of him, but it was still a slap in the face, and she recoiled, her back hitting the wall of the wardrobe, her eyes pricking treacherously.
“No snappy comeback? You’re disappointing me, Mars.”
He looked calm, but she could still feel the barely suppressed rage and hurt from her earlier comment and she was so sick and tired of being Logan Echolls’s punching bag.
“Fuck you, Logan.”
“I admit, I ‘ve thought about it,” he returned, his eyes raking casually over her form. “But I do have some standards.”
She was suddenly, overwhelmingly, furious. At Logan for refusing to even pretend to be a human being, at herself for daring to expect better of him, even for a moment, at the damn job that had gotten her into the situation in the first place. Before she could even begin to sort through the various scathing retorts all vying for prominence, a noise from across the room attracted her attention, and she realized to her horror that someone else was entering the room.
“Ah. Showtime.” He’d already turned to the door, but he cast a glitteringly amused glance back at Veronica. “Stick around, maybe you’ll learn something.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need lessons in adultery.”
“Already got that one down, huh?”
The sound of raised voices filtered through the door and Veronica realized that the situation was infinitely worse than she’d imagined. Because that wasn’t Logan’s dalliance at the door, it was the husband.
From the sounds of it, the very angry husband.
Logan was staring at the door with dawning apprehension while Veronica’s mind flashed to all the warnings her dad had given her about getting the hell out of there should an irate spouse take matters into their own hands. It had only happened to her once before, and in that case the wronged party had been a waiflike brunette more intent on sobbing over her philandering husband than in lashing out at him and his mistress.
Veronica was able to pick out the conciliatory murmurs of a harassed maid under the increasingly violent expostulations from the husband, and she prayed the woman had enough sense not to let the angry stranger into his wife’s hotel room. And that the man wasn’t thinking clearly enough to resort to bribery.
“Logan,” she said, trying to convey the sense of urgency while still keeping her voice low. “Logan.” He didn’t respond, and when she looked at him it was to find him frozen, his face a mixture of fear, defiance, and – horrifically – resignation, and she realized he wasn’t going to do a thing to save himself.
She closed her hand over his wrist and he jumped, turning a startled gaze on her, and she had a feeling he’d all but forgotten her existence.
“You have to – if he finds you in here…”
“It might push my dad’s indiscretions out of the tabloids for a day?” He laughed another mirthless laugh, this one ending in something like a choked sob.
“Well, actually, they’ll probably do a big ‘Like Father, Like Son’ article, which I’m sure is what you’re going for here.”
It wasn’t quite as biting as she would have hoped, but Logan hadn’t seemed to notice. He’d returned to staring at the door, and Veronica noted abstractedly that the noise on the other side had rather ominously subsided for the moment. “What do you care, Veronica?” he whispered. “This should be your lucky day, right?”
Self-pitying Logan was actually more annoying than pathologically obnoxious Logan. Go figure.
She considered her options. Sympathy, in addition to slowly killing her soul, apparently wasn’t going to work. And as tempting as the idea of leaving him to deal with his own mess was, something in her was balking at abandoning him.
Unfortunately, the door was opening, which meant she needed to make up her mind and fast. Without thinking, she grabbed Logan’s arm, propelling him back into the wardrobe with her. He fell against her, and they wound up in a crumpled heap on the wardrobe floor.
Veronica closed her eyes and reminded herself that killing the boy whose life she was attempting to save was probably counterproductive.
She wasn’t sure if it was the muted crash from outside or her hand slipping firmly over his mouth that shut him up. Possibly it was a combination of the two. She leaned forward the mere six inches that brought her lips to his ear and reminded him in a breath of a whisper that any noise – any movement – would get them caught, and he might like to play fast and loose with his life, but she’d thank him not to do it on her watch.
His eyes were on her, his expression unreadable, and she was suddenly extremely aware of how intimately they were intertwined.
And she could probably drop her hand now.
The man’s rampage continued a bit more quietly and she hoped somebody had bothered to call security. While there were very few things less appealing then being found hiding in a closet with Logan Echolls by some hotel rent-a-cop, being found by a potentially homicidal client was definitely among them.
She didn’t have Backup. She didn’t have her taser. Her bag was still on the floor by the bed - and shit what if Mr. Chesterfield found it - and her dad had no idea where she was since she hadn’t exactly mentioned that she was taking this case. Oh and she and Logan were wrapped around each other like some sort of human pretzel.
And Logan was still staring at her.
“What on earth are you doing?” cried a soft, utterly feminine voice.
Such a good question, really.
Veronica and Logan both turned toward the closed closet door, rather futilely as only the barest sliver of light shone through the crack – nowhere near enough to get an idea of what was going on outside – just enough to lime the contours of Logan’s lips as they pressed together while he strained to identify the next character in this farce of a stakeout. But Veronica had already recognized that voice as that of the woman she’d been tailing for the past three days. And whatever or whoever the woman had done, she didn’t deserve to face the wrath of that man.
Veronica scrabbled to right herself, knowing her intervention might not help, but unwilling to leave the woman to herself. Her hand pushed at Logan’s thigh as she attempted to lever herself into a standing position, only to have him catch her arm and hold her in place.
She glared, and leaned forward again to hiss in his ear, “What are you –”
“If you open that door, he’ll see me, and it’ll get infinitely worse.” His voice was heavy in her ear, wrapping round her like velvet, its very softness adding to its intensity.
He was right. She knew he was right.
But sitting there and doing nothing went so deeply against her nature that she wanted to scream.
They sat in tense silence as Mr. Chesterfield called his wife a slut and a whore. Veronica bit her lip as the poisoned words washed over them, and she locked eyes with Logan, glowering at him with all the hostility she could muster.
“I swear to God, if he hurts her…”
“If he hurts her you can kill me after I kill him,” he muttered as he broke her gaze and looked down, the words tumbling out with a fervor that astonished her.
A sharp trill of laughter cut across the diatribe outside, and she tensed in surprise, mildly gratified to feel an echoing movement from Logan.
“Honey, what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about this. Secret hotel rooms under fake names? Coming up here in the middle of the day? Who is he?”
“Fake names? Are you okay, sweetie?”
“The room. Was rented out. To a Pussy Gardener.”
Veronica couldn’t help snorting. She’d gotten a copy of the reservation, but she hadn’t bothered to glance at anything but the room number. Logan’s eyes were dancing as he took in her reaction and she suddenly felt a weight being lifted.
She told herself that it was because if the man was going to try any violence, he would have by now. His wife was going to have to talk herself into circles trying to explain the situation, but she was, in all probability, safe.
Emma Chesterfield laughed again. “Holly Gardener left her purse at the gym. The girls needed to reserve the room so we’d have a base of operations for the fundraiser tonight. We’re going to have to spend the whole day setting up. Fighting traffic both ways so we could change at home just didn’t seem worth it. I can’t believe you thought I was, what? Coming up here for some sordid quickie, while everyone I know was downstairs waiting? I just needed to drop my dress off so I didn’t have to watch it all day.”
Okay. Veronica had to hand it to her, the woman frighteningly good. Now if she could just get her husband out of there, Veronica could begin the arduous process of erasing the last hour from her memory.
“Holly Gardener’s a bitch,” the man muttered, but he was quiet now, the rage from before having shifted into confusion.
“Sweetheart, you’re overreacting. I know I’ve been a little busy with my projects lately, but it’s only because I’ve missed you.” Her voice dropped to a sensuous murmur, and Veronica sat in stunned silence while Mr. Chesterfield was slowly convinced that he had always been at war with Eurasia.
Note to self. Never try to cross Emma Chesterfield.
From the look on his face, Logan was thinking the same thing, and she wondered exactly how much he knew about his little fling.
Then the sounds from outside grew more… amorous, and Veronica forgot everything but her own embarrassment. Logan shifted and she glanced at him, wondering if he was bothered by the fact that his girlfriend was getting it on with someone else – even if that someone else was her husband – but Logan wasn’t looking at the door. His eyes were fixed on her, and her breath caught in her throat momentarily.
She frowned at him, trying to remember the disgust she’d felt when he’d opened the door, and she snapped at him that he’d found a real keeper with this one. For a second he looked almost angry, but then the corners of his mouth quirked upward, and she had the strangest feeling that she wasn’t doing a very good job of fooling him.
“How many times do I have to tell you,” he whispered, lips brushing against her cheek as he leaned against her, “that I don’t care? She can fuck,” he drawled the word with just the slightest bit of deliberate exaggeration, “Anyone she wants.”
Veronica flushed, but felt a resurgence of her anger. “You’re just…” she trailed off, unable to think of an appropriate word for him. “Then why do you do it? Is it really just the sex, cause I thought you had your share of the Neptune High tramps without having to seek out married women?”
She didn’t bother to lower her voice as much this time. From the sounds of the couple in the next room, they wouldn’t notice if a bomb went off in the wardrobe, much less a whispered conversation.
Logan looked at her with derision. “Come on, Veronica. You of all people should understand.”
Her throat tightened. “Nice. You’d think having you imply I’m a whore would get stale, but no.” She tried to pull herself back, no longer caring if they were caught, intent on getting away from him. But his hands were as heavy on her as before and she couldn’t move.
“I didn’t – I’m not talking about that crap.” His tone was almost rueful and she wondered if that counted as an apology for all the times he had been talking about ‘that crap’. “I meant… you doing this, being little Miss Nancy Drew, you know better than anyone that none of it’s real. None of it means anything. So what’s the point?”
She shook her head. “The point? That marriage vows should mean something?”
“Yeah, my mom thought that. Funny, my dad gets skewered – for real, skewered – and somehow she’s still the one hurting.”
“That doesn’t justify –”
“Please, Veronica.” His voice was deadly in its quiet, the anger rolling off of him. “It happens every time. Anna, Lilly, Caitlin – none of them ever – at least this way I know what’s up.”
“Logan,” she whispered.
“Don’t,” he bit out. “You don’t – you do it too. You honestly think you do all this ‘cause it’s the right thing to do? That you don’t get off on taking control?” He was looking at her like he knew her better than she knew herself, secrets she’d never admit.
And suddenly her heart was racing.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said stiffly. “This is my job; it has nothing to do with-”
“We aren’t that different, you know. Not anymore. Not now. You hurt everyone so they can’t hurt you first. You mess with people’s lives to prove to yourself that you aren’t the only broken one and take risks just to prove you can.” His voice was thick as syrup as his words poured over her. “And part of you,” he continued deliberately, “likes the power.” She closed her eyes. “The danger.” His hand came up to brush her hair back and she could feel his amusement and disdain even as she leaned into his touch. “The fact that it’s a little bit wrong.”
When his lips claimed hers it was both a shock to her system and the realization of a promise.
His hands slid across her skin with a practiced efficiency, undeterred by her clothing as their lips met in a series of frenzied kisses, and she tried to remind herself that this was nothing to him. That was his point, after all, right? But she wasn’t sure if her blood was boiling or melting, and she didn’t want it to stop. It was too much and not enough and it didn’t matter if this was an act, and she gasped as his mouth trailed over her neck.
She shouldn’t be doing this. He was Logan Echolls and this would be worlds of wrong even if he hadn’t spent a year making her life miserable.
That didn’t stop her arms from going round him, her fingers twisting through his hair as she worked to get closer to him, to take over the kiss. They didn’t need words to fight.
When she finally pulled away, breathless, it was to find his gaze on hers, rich with something too much like love, and glittering with something too much like hatred.
His words from before were still ringing in her ears. “I’m not like that,” she blurted, turning red as she realized how her words sounded. “I don’t do this to mess with other people.”
He traced kisses up her jaw line toward her ear, and she couldn’t help sighing against him. “Liar.”
He seized her mouth again, and this kiss was slower, deeper – and she was drowning in him. She stopped short, pulling back and taking him in breathlessly, as she tried to remember anything but the way he felt.
“We have to get out of here.”
“Yeah.” He grinned and tugged her against him again. “But not just yet.”
Veronica sighed. A hidden country would have been so much easier than this unexplored territory.