Author’s Note: This story takes place right after the end of season three of Veronica Mars, and has spoilers for the entire series – especially the episodes ‘The Bitch is Back’, and ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’. I started writing this story a long time ago as a thank you for Lisa, who sent me a lovely gift. Unfortunately, after I started writing it, I got stuck with writer’s block, and just couldn’t find a way to finish it until now. While it may be too little, too late, to actually be a thank you story, I’m still very fond of the show and the character Logan, so it I’m pleased to be finishing it. Finished April 2016.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, and I’m not making any money from this story.
Warning: Descriptions of past child abuse, both mental and physical. Non-consensual spanking shown as a bad thing - unlike my usual stories.



DEATH WISH


Logan took another sip of beer as he stared into the fire, and almost choked when he felt a heavy slap to the back of his shoulder. Looking up with annoyance at his smiling friend, Dick, he said, "Careful man, there’s a beverage here."

Still smiling Dick looked at the girl under his right arm and said, "This is Michelle..." he turned and put his left arm around a second girl and continued, “...and this is..."

The petite blond filled in, "Katrina."

Dick shared a look with Logan and said, "They're sisters. I told you a bonfire at the beach was the best way to celebrate finals being over."

"Don't you have your last one tomorrow?"

Dick shrugged. Logan shook his head with a knowing smile, and opened the lid of the ice chest next to him. "Would you ladies care for a refreshment?"

An hour later the four of them were getting along nicely when Michelle's cell phone rang. A few minutes after that, Dick and Logan found themselves alone. Logan muttered, "Nice jail bait Dick."

"How was I supposed to know? She looked eighteen to me."

"Did you ask?"

"Ask what?
"How old they were?"

"Why would I do that?"

Logan smiled in spite of his irritation, and handed Dick another beer. "Ready to head home, or are we still trolling for girls?"

Having had quite a lot to drink already, Dick took the beer, drank half the can, let out a large belch, and said, "I gotta say, I'm so glad that you didn't go all pathetic after Parker dumped you the way you did after Ronnie dumped you. What was up with that anyway?"

Logan knew the real reason. He loved Veronica. Parker had just been a pleasant distraction. He turned back to the fire and said with fake cheer, "I guess I decided life's too short to spend it moping."

Dick lost his smile as he thought about his brother. After a pause he said, "Let's go look for more girls."

"Sure."

The two of them heard a voice behind them say, "Don't go just yet."

They turned and saw Gory with four large men standing behind him "Remember me?"

Logan's heart rate went up and adrenaline rushed through him as he calculated the amount of beer he had consumed, with how large the guys behind Gory were. He hid his nervousness and smirked, "I don't know. Why don't you lay face first in the sand, and maybe I'll recognize the back of your head."

Furry crossed over Gory's face and he gestured to the men behind him. Two of them went for Logan and the other two went for Dick. They took Dick by surprise and had him before he had time to react, but Logan exchanged a few punches with one of the men before he was overpowered.

Gory gave Logan a malicious smile. "You obviously don't know who I am."

With some blood trickling from his mouth Logan said with indifference, "You obviously don't realize I don't care."

Gory's face contorted with anger. "You'll care before I'm through with you."

Gory turned to Dick and said, "I've got no beef with you yet. You keep your mouth shut, and you can walk away when we're done."

Dick was quick to say, "I'm totally wasted. I'll be happy to go home, pass out, and forget everything about this night."

Logan looked at Dick with disbelief and felt slightly betrayed. Dick shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. Logan was pulled back to the current situation as Gory punched him in the jaw.

Logan was dazed for a few seconds, but instead of the fear Gory was hoping for, Logan gave him a condescending, "Could you hurry it up? I’ve got things to do tomorrow."

Livid, Gory said with menace, "You don't seem to understand. You're not going to live to see tomorrow."

Logan shrugged. "Living hasn't worked out for me so well lately. Do your best."

Gory got his face close to Logan's and said with a clenched jaw, "You'll beg me to kill you by the time I'm done with you."

Logan hid his growing nervousness well and smirked, "Dude, you need four bodyguards to beat me up. That doesn't exactly instill fear."

"It should." Gory nodded to his bodyguards, and they started to punch Logan in the head and stomach. Logan would have fallen to the ground if one of the bodyguards hadn't been holding him up.

A few seconds later they stopped, and once Logan caught his breath Gory said, "I have an image to maintain. You took me by surprise and got the best of me in a crowded cafeteria. I can't let that go unpunished."

Logan spit some blood and replied, "You taped Veronica having sex without her knowledge or consent, and put it on the internet. I couldn't let that go unpunished."

Laughing Gory said, "Did you even watch he tape? The bitch didn't even put out."

Logan struggled against his captors, wanting to beat Gory down again. Gory was pleased to finally see a reaction out of Logan. He looked at his bodyguards and said, "This is too public. Let's take him somewhere a little more private."

The bodyguards started to drag Logan away, and Gory turned to Dick, "My bodyguards are just gonna make sure you don't follow us."

Before the bodyguards had a chance to punch Dick, everyone heard a gunshot and froze. Logan looked over his shoulder and saw Dick's father, Richard Casablancas, standing there with his gun pointed at Gory.

Richard said, "Let the boy go."
The bodyguards dropped him, and Logan fell into the sand. Gory glared down at Logan and said, "This isn't over."

Richard said, "The sheriff is on his way. Why don't you all have a seat until they arrive."

"Cover me." Gory said, as he started to back away. His bodyguards stepped in between Gory and Richard. When Richard didn't shoot, Gory took off running with his bodyguards following soon after.

Once they were gone, Richard and Dick went over to Logan, who couldn't quite pull himself up off the sand. Logan hadn't seen Richard since he’d gotten back to the States. He looked up at him and asked, "Why?"

"Why what son?"

Logan tried to gather his scattered thoughts, but his head wasn't cooperating. "Did you save me so you could shoot me yourself?"

Smiling, Richard helped Dick pull Logan up to a sitting position in the sand. Logan groaned in pain and shook his head as he lay back down. Richard said, "Lie still. The paramedics will be here soon."

Logan was persistent. "Why?"

Richard said seriously, "I can't say I'm thrilled that you slept with my wife, but Kendall was half my age, and you weren't the first fling she’d had. I saved you because... because we've lost enough already."

Logan gave him a nod of understanding, and said, "Good timing."

Dick pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and said, "All that texting during class really paid off tonight."

Richard patted Dick on the shoulder and said, "I'm glad you thought of me first."

Logan heard sirens in the distance and passed out.

# # #

Keith was asleep when he heard a knock on the door. He looked at the clock, one thirty in the morning. The knock sounded urgent as it came again. Keith got up and answered it. "Richard?"

"Hi Keith."

There was an awkward pause, and Keith asked, "What's wrong?"

"Have you reopened your private investigation office since... the election?"

Keith smiled, "Since I lost?"

“Yeah.”

“The charges against me were just dropped yesterday, so I was planning to open my office again tomorrow.”

“Then I have a job for you. Logan Echolls needs protection.”

Keith smiled slightly, “From himself?”

Having been woken up by the noise, Veronica came out of her bedroom and said, “Logan? What happened?”

Richard said, “Someone tried to kill him tonight.”

Keith lost his smile and opened the door wider, “Come in.”

Twenty minutes later Richard had told them what he knew, and Veronica had told Keith and Richard what she knew about Gory. Keith assured Richard that he would help Logan. Once Richard was gone Veronica gave her dad a hug and said, “Why would he come to us for help? Why would he even want to help Logan?”

Keith kissed the top of her head and after thinking about it for a few seconds he said, “I’m not sure, but my guess is that it has a lot to do with Cassidy.”

Veronica closed her eyes for a second and nodded. Keith let her go and said, “I’m going to get dressed and go to the hospital. Why don’t you try and get some more sleep.”

Veronica shook her head. “I’ll come with you.”

# # #

Logan opened his eyes. He could tell he was in a hospital room. There was bright sunlight coming in his window. He turned his head and saw Veronica sitting in the chair next to his bed and smiled. “Hey.”

“Hey.”
After a pause he said, “I guess you were right about Gory.”

“Guess so.” Veronica said with a hit of ‘I told you so’ in her voice.

Logan looked up at the ceiling. “How long have I been out?”

Veronica looked at her watch. “About five hours. The doctor said you have a broken rib and a slight concussion.”

“Déjà vu huh?”

“Good thing you have a hard head.”

Logan laughed and then hissed in pain. A voice from the doorway said with satisfaction, “Ah, proof of Karma.”

Veronica and Logan both looked over to see Piz standing in the doorway holding two cups of coffee and wearing a big grin. Logan still felt bad about beating him up and mumbled, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right about that.”

Piz walked up to Veronica, handed her the coffee and said, “Want me to find your dad?”

“Sure.”

Piz looked over at Logan, and then made a point of leaning down and kissing Veronica on the forehead before walking back out. Looking back at Veronica, Logan said with surprise, “Your dad came to see me?”

Veronica leaned forward and gave Logan a very serious look. “Logan, Gory is dangerous. You need to do what my dad tells you to do so you can stay safe.”

Logan gave Veronica the smile only she could bring out in him. “Nice to know you still care.”

Veronica shook her head once and said, “You don’t understand. I saw this video clip of a confession from Gory. He was talking about his father and uncle taking some dead bodies up to a cabin in the woods to dispose of them. He was calm when he talked about it, and even sounded proud of it.”

“Which is why we’re gonna make sure Logan keeps a low profile for a while.” Keith’s voice came from the doorway.

Logan looked over and said, “Mr. Mars.”

“Logan.”

Piz showed up in the doorway behind Keith, and Veronica stood up. She looked at Logan and said, “Take care of yourself.”

She headed out and gave Keith a quick kiss on the cheek before taking Piz’s hand and leaving the room. Keith walked over and sat next to Logan. “You’re going to be released in a couple of hours, and then I’ll be taking you directly to a safehouse. I have a bodyguard set up for you already.”

Logan couldn’t understand why Keith would help him, but felt uncomfortable about it. “No offence Mr. Mars, but I don’t see why you’re doing this.”

“Richard Casablancas is paying me to look out for you.”

Frowning slightly, Logan looked away and said, “Right.”

“Hey.”

Once Logan looked back at him, Keith continued, “You saved Veronica’s life. I’d be here to help you whether I was getting paid or not. It’s the least I can do.”

Logan found himself more emotional about that then he would like to be, and nodded in acceptance. Keith patted Logan’s shoulder and said, “Sit tight. I’m going to make more arrangements before you get released.”

# # #

A few hours later, Keith stood with Logan while he signed release papers and got some prescription strength painkillers. Once they were out of the hospital Logan turned to Keith and said, “What now?”

“Now we have a two hour drive ahead of us.”

Keith started walking towards his car with Logan walking beside him. Logan got in Keith’s car and tried to find a sitting position that didn’t hurt his ribs. Once they were on the road Keith noticed his squirming and said, “I’ll pull over, and you can stretch out in the back seat.”

Logan shook his head. “I’ll be fine until we get to the hotel.”

“We’re not going to a hotel. I told you we’re going to a safehouse.”

“I mean my hotel.”

Keith kept his eyes forward and didn’t comment even though he knew Logan was looking at him. “We are going to the hotel right? I need to pack some stuff if you want me to stay at a safehouse. And I need to leave Dick a note or something.”

Keith gave Logan a sympathetic look and said, “Sorry Logan. We’re going straight to the safehouse. We have everything you need there, and I’m sure Dick’s dad will let him know I’m protecting you.”

Feeling a little nervous but covering it with a smile Logan said, “Come on Mr. Mars, you can’t expect me to stay at a safehouse without my stuff.”

Keith didn’t answer. Logan lost his smile. “No really. You can’t expect me to stay without my stuff.”

Keith pulled over, parked and turned to Logan. “I don’t think you understand the magnitude of the mess you’re in here. We’re not going to stop at the hotel, you are going to stay without your stuff, and you’re going to lay low for a few days or maybe even weeks. I need time to find out who Gory is, and what kind of connections he has, so that I can figure out what our next step is going to be.”

Logan and Keith stared at each other for a few seconds, trying to decide what the other’s next move would be. Logan broke eye contact first and said, “You think he’s really a threat?”

“I do.”

After a pause Keith said, “Why don’t you take one of your painkillers, and lay down in the back for a little while. I’m going to have to drive around the city for a while to make sure we’re not being followed.”

Logan opened the passenger door and got out. He looked around suspiciously for a second at the people on the sidewalk and then got into the back seat. Once Logan was in, Keith said, “There’s a bottled water on the floor back there for you.”

“Thanks.” Logan took his pill and lay down while Keith pulled back into traffic and started driving.

# # #

Logan hadn’t thought he was tired, but he realized he must have fallen asleep, because Keith was out of the car and calling his name to wake him up. Logan sat up and looked around. He could see a little blue house standing alone with miles of desert all around. He looked back at the house and saw a large muscular man with dark black hair walk out of the house. Getting out of the car, Logan overheard Keith as he shook hands with the man, “Spencer, good to see you again.”

“Good to see you too, Keith.”

“Is everything set up?”

“Just like you ordered.”

Turning towards Logan, Keith waved him over and said, “Logan, this is an old friend of mine, Spencer. He usually works for witness protection, but he’s doing this favor for me. Spencer, this is Logan.”

Spencer stuck out his hand and Logan shook it. Spencer said, “Nice to meet you Logan.”

Turning to Keith, Spencer asked, “Does he know the drill?”

Keith shook his head. Nodding in understanding Spencer said, “Well then, come in and let’s sit down and talk.”

Logan went in and looked around. It was a very small house with the front door entering into the living room. The combined kitchen and dining room was to the left, and to the right there was a short hallway with three other doors. Logan got a quick glimpse of a bathroom and two bedrooms as he walked by. They all sat down in the living room and Spencer said, “Should I start?”

Keith nodded and Spencer turned to look at Logan. “No computer. I don’t know you well enough to trust that you won’t be out there instant messaging people and telling them where you are. No cell phone. I keep a non traceable disposable cell on me at all times, and there is a cell phone in the SUV in the garage which we may need to use on the move if our location is compromised. No leaving the house for any reason other then a direct attack. We have enough food and water here for three weeks.”

Trying to take it all in, and not be upset, Logan sat back for a few minutes and said, “Please tell me we have cable and a game system here.”

Spencer looked at Keith. Keith said, “There’s a TV, but no cable or satellite, so the three channels you get don’t come in very well. There’s no game system.”

Panicked, Logan said, “Please tell me you’ve stalked up on booze.”

Keith glared at Logan and said, “You’re nineteen.”

“Hence the reason I need the booze when you’ve stuck me in the third level of hell.”

Ignoring the remark, Keith said, “I’ll call once every night on the land line and give you both an update on how the investigation on Gory is going. And that reminds me, no using the landline either. Assume that all your friend’s phones are bugged until this is over.”

Keith looked at Spencer. “Anything else?”

“You sure you weren’t followed?”

Giving Spencer a mock wounded face, Keith said, “Et tu, Spencer? Not only do I lose the vote of the people, but now my friends turn on me too.”

“Kind of melodramatic don’t you think?”

Keith chuckled. “I wasn’t followed.”

Standing Keith shook hands with Spencer one more time before he headed towards the door. “I’ll call tonight.”

“Great.” Logan muttered.

Once Logan and Spencer were alone, Spencer said, “You hungry kid?”

“Might as well eat, there isn’t much else to do.”

# # #

Veronica sat and stared at the paperwork in front of her while her mind wandered. Logan had been gone for two days now, and her father hadn’t gotten very far in the investigation. Both Keith and Veronica had looked into Gory’s background, and his family’s background without much luck. There were plenty of people who were scared of Gory, but that was about all they had uncovered so far. And now Veronica was scheduled to leave for Virginia tomorrow morning to start her internship with the FBI for the summer. She sighed wishing she could do more, but knew her father would do his best to help Logan out.

Veronica heard the door to the office open and saw Piz walk in. She perked up and smiled, “Hi there.”

“I was wondering if you could help me, you see my girlfriend is going to be leaving for the summer, and I want to make sure she’s still mine when the summer ends.”

Playing along Veronica asked, “You want twenty four hour surveillance?”

Smiling Piz said, “I was thinking more along the lines of a romantic dinner in my dorm room. Wallace is gone for the night.”

Veronica and Piz still hadn’t had sex. Things had been too strange after the video, but now that they were going to be apart for three months, Veronica knew that tonight was the night. She stood up, walked around the desk, and put her arms around his shoulders as she gave him a kiss. “Sounds like a great plan.”

Later that night as she lay snuggled up next to Piz, she couldn’t help but replay Logan’s words to her the first time she had decided to sleep with Duncan. “FYI, if the cuddle is the best part, he didn’t do it right.”

She closed her eyes and berated herself for thinking of Logan while lying naked next to Piz, but the longer she lay there, the more she found herself comparing the three men she had been in a serious relationship with. Of the three, Logan won in bed hands down. It wasn’t just about passion. She had been in love with each of them when she slept with them. It was about the mechanics of sex. Logan had had experience and knew the right ways to touch her. Duncan and Piz had been kind and attentive, but had left her unsatisfied. Then when she thought about the things the three men had done to her out of bed, she remembered why she was with Piz.

She sighed. Piz leaned over and kissed her. “I’m going to miss you.”

She opened her eyes and could see the love for her in his eyes. She kissed his shoulder and said, “Three months is going to fly by. We’ll be back in school before you know it.”

# # #

The first couple of days Logan stayed at the safehouse were okay, but by the third day he was feeling trapped. Spencer was a nice enough guy, and they found that they both enjoyed playing poker to pass the time, but that was only entertaining for so long without alcohol. On the third night Keith called them and spoke with Spencer for a few minutes. Then Spencer handed the phone to Logan.

“Mr. Mars.”

“How are you holding up Logan?”

“I guess that depends on if you’ve found anything yet.”

“Gory is ether really good at covering his tracks, or he’s kept his activities on the verge of being legal. People are afraid of him, but I can’t get any of them to tell something that would get him locked up. I’ve done quite a bit of research on Gory’s family as well. They’re not so clean, and I can link a combined six disappearances to his father and uncle. But that doesn’t really help with your situation since the threat came directly from Gory. I’m afraid it’s looking like this is going to take a while.”

Sighing dejectedly Logan said, “Is Veronica there? Could I talk to her?”

“I’m at a pay phone remember?”

Logan’s face flushed, realizing that he wouldn’t know what to say to her if he did get her on the phone. He just missed her and had wanted to hear her voice. Without Dick around to distract him, Logan noticed missing Veronica even more then usual. After a pause Keith added, “And she left this morning for her internship with the FBI.”

“Right. Of course. Is that everything about the case then?”

“I wish I had better news for you, but you’re just going to have to stick it out.”

Still embarrassed, and wanting off the phone now that he realized he had shown Keith some vulnerability, Logan asked, “Did you need to talk to Spencer again?”

“Sure.”

Logan handed over the phone and went to sit on the couch.

That night Logan lay in bed trying to sleep but found himself tossing and turning. He thought, ‘This is ridiculous. I’ll just hire my own bodyguard and go about my normal routine. That little prick Gory isn’t going to try and come after me in the hotel, and that’s where I spend most of my time when I’m not at the beach.’

Logan lay there for the next half an hour, talking himself into leaving the safehouse the next day. Once that decision was made, he tried to sleep, but thoughts of Veronica saying goodbye to Piz ran through his mind. He got up and searched the kitchen for something to eat, but what he really wanted was alcohol. As he searched through the cupboards, he saw the keys to the car on the kitchen counter. He looked down the hallway. Spencer’s door was ajar as usual, so he would wake up if there were any loud noises.

He thought, ‘I wonder how loud the garage door is. I might be able to get it up without waking Spencer, but it’s not likely. Starting the car will wake him up for sure, but if the garage is open I could get out before he had a chance to stop me. But what if he thinks someone has broken in and taken me. Would he shoot at the car? Maybe I should leave him a note.’

Logan put a hand through his hair and shook his head. He muttered, “This isn’t a good idea, Logan.”

Then thought, ‘It’s not even the adult thing to do. But then he thinks of me as a kid already. I should go wake him up and tell him I’m leaving… but he’ll try to stop me… and he’s bigger then me. Who am I kidding, he’ll be able to talk me out of it because I know it’s a bad idea. But when has that ever stopped me before?’

He took a good look around the kitchen, “I’m already in hell, might as well live it up.”

He got out a piece of paper and jotted down a note for Spencer. He took the keys, went back to his room to change into some jeans and grab his wallet, and then went to the garage. He saw a little button on the wall and assumed the garage was equipped with an automatic garage door. He went to the car, opened the driver’s door, and settled into the car. He adjusted the seat, and put the key in the ignition. He looked in the glove box and found a remote for the garage door. He smiled and clicked it.

As he was driving away from the house he heard a gunshot and automatically ducked. He drove faster and laughed, feeling the rush he usually got when he did something wild. Once he was further down the road he used the car’s phone to call Dick.

After a few rings, a tired sounding Dick answered with, “If this isn’t a hot chick, I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Dick man, it’s Logan. I busted out. Wanna meet me for drinks?”

“Logan? I thought you were all incognito or something.”

“I told you I busted out, and I’m thirsty.”

“Sure dude. Where are you?”

“I don’t know yet. Get your ass up and get ready to go, and I’ll give you a call when I see a road sign.”

“Okay.”

An hour later Logan and Dick met up in a small town halfway between Neptune and the middle of nowhere. They found a bar, and ordered some drinks. Then they spent the next hour drinking steadily while Dick filled Logan in on what had been going on in Neptune for the past three days.

When Logan had drunk enough that he felt the need to lay his head down on the table to try and make the room stop spinning, he looked up and saw Gory standing over him. Logan looked over at Dick who just sat with his mouth half open and said, “No way.”

Gory looked over at Dick and said, “You’re a moron. I would say that it paid off to bug your phone since you did lead us to Logan here, but having to listen to you yack about nonsense for the past three days has really pissed me off. So I think I’ll be doing the world a favor by taking you along for the ride.”

Gory nodded to a couple of guys who were behind him, and they tried to make Logan stand up. Before they actually succeeded, the local law enforcement showed up and said, “Is there a Logan Echolls here?”

Dick raised his hand along with Logan, and Gory backed away with his men. Logan looked up at the sheriff and said, “Thanks.”

The sheriff hauled him up, turned him around and handcuffed him as he said, “You have the right to remain silent…”

Dick looked over at Gory, and then waved down the deputy who was standing next to the sheriff and said, “I’m his accomplice, you should really take me in for questioning, too.”

As Dick was getting put into the police car he asked, “What are we charged with anyway?”

The sheriff answered, “Grand Theft Auto.”

# # #

Keith arrived at the local sheriff’s office an hour later. He smiled at the sheriff and stuck out his hand to shake, “Hi Ray, I take it the locator chip in the car worked.”

“Worked like a charm” Ray smiled while shaking Keith’s hand.

“Did you have any trouble with the kid?”

“No trouble at all. He was with another kid, so I brought them both in. They seemed to be happy to come with us. When we got there, a kid matching Gory’s description was already there with some serious looking thugs.”

“Damn.” Keith said under his breath. Then he asked, “Did you read them the riot act?”

“I would have if they’d been sober enough to listen. We’ve mostly just been listening to Logan puke while the other one laughs.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “Must be Dick. What do I need to fill out to get Logan released?”

“Just Logan?”

“I’ll put a call into Dick’s father. Let him deal with it. I have my hands full enough with one drunken teenager. I really appreciate your help on this one Ray.”

“No problem Keith. I owed you one.”

Fifteen minutes later Keith walked into the back where the cells were. Logan was lying on the floor next to the toilet, and Dick was sitting on a bunk staring off into space. Dick saw Keith first and said, “Hey Veronica’s dad.”

“Dick.”

“Did you come to bail us out?”

“I came to bail Logan out. I called your dad. He’s on his way to get you.”

Dick started to laugh, and nudged Logan’s leg with his foot. “Hear that Logan? My Dad’s coming to bail me out. That’s so… What do you call it when it’s kind of funny but not? You know, ‘cause he’s going to prison at the end of the summer.”

Logan muttered, “Ironic.”

Dick smiled big. “Yeah. It’s ironic.”

Keith looked at Logan, who still had his eyes closed, and said, “Can you get up, or do I need to come help you?”

“Just leave me here. Gory can’t get me when I’m locked up.”

“Can’t do that Logan. I need to get you set up at a new location. Preferably before daylight.”

Groaning Logan did get to his feet, but it was an effort. They let him out of the cell and Dick said, “Be careful Dude. That Gory is a freak, and I don’t want… Just be careful.”

Logan gave Dick an honest look and nodded. Logan and Keith walked silently to Keith’s car. Once they were on the road Keith said, “Do you have a death wish Logan?”

With his head pressed up against the cool glass of the passenger door Logan shrugged. “Everyone dies sometime. Papers would have a field day. I can see the headlines now. Son of murderer is murdered. Except the bastard was found not guilty.”

Keith was shocked at Logan’s openness. Logan had dated Veronica on and off again over the past three years, but he hadn’t heard him talk about his family before. Logan continued with his eyes closed, “Trina would play the grieving sister on the outside, but she’d be counting up the money on the inside. Maybe she could even get them to make a movie of the week about it – rake in more dough. Charlie wouldn’t care, but that’s nothing new.”

Keith said quietly, “Dick and Veronica would miss you. And Duncan too.”

With a bitter laugh Logan said, “Duncan? Who’s that? And Dick? Dick would go on a year long bender and get over it. Veronica… well there may have been a time when Veronica would have missed me, but that boat has sailed”

Keith had found it difficult to like Logan in the past. Not only because he had dated Veronica, but also because he was always in and out of trouble of some kind, and because of his general attitude. Tonight he found himself feeling sorry for him. He had lost both parents in the span of two years, and the only family members he had left were his adopted sister who apparently liked money more then family, and a half brother who he had never even met. Keith said, “You underestimate Veronica if you think she wouldn’t miss you Logan. Even if you’re not dating, she still cares about you.”

“How much farther? I think I’m gonna be sick.”

“Fifteen minutes.”

Logan rolled down his window, and stuck his head out hoping to stave off more dry heaves.

As soon as they arrived at the safehouse Keith said, “Why don’t you get in the back and lay down.”

Logan was happy to comply. As he was getting out, an angry looking Spencer came storming out of the house holding a note. Sighing and bracing himself, Logan waited outside of the car for the attack. Spencer walked up to him and shook the note in his face. “Don’t wait up for me?! What the hell were you thinking?! I could have shot you! I was aiming for the driver!”

Giving Spencer a look of disinterest, Logan shrugged, “I wouldn’t have held it against you.”

Spencer grabbed the front of Logan’s shirt and shoved him up against the car, “I would have held it against me, and I would have held it against you too. I’m here to protect you, not shoot at you!”

Logan’s broken rib protested at the shove against the car. Logan yelled back, “I can hire my own bodyguard! Leave me alone!”

Keith walked up to them, and put a hand on Spencer’s arm, in an effort to make him let Logan go. Spencer did let go of Logan, but leaned his face closer and said, “If you were my kid, I’d beat your ass for the stunt you pulled tonight.”

Feeling a familiar cold dread wash over him as he thought about his father, Logan gave Spencer a superior look. “Good thing I’m not your kid then.”

Keith pulled at Spencer’s arm to get him to back up, and told Logan, “Get in the car.”

Logan kept his eye on Spencer as he got in the back seat to make sure there would be no surprise attack. Once the door was closed he took a deep breath and watched Keith and Spencer talking for a few minutes before lying down and falling asleep.

Once the door was shut, and Logan was ‘safe’ inside the car Keith tried to calm Spencer down. “Take a minute and calm down. Hitting the kid isn’t gonna do any good, it will just make him bolt.”

Spencer muttered, “Might make me feel better though.”

Shaking his head Keith said with conviction, “No it wouldn’t.”

Raising an eyebrow Spencer said, “A few smacks to the kid’s backside? Yeah, I think it would make me feel better, and probably do him some good too.”

Looking over at Logan, who was lying down with his eyes closed in the back seat of the car, Keith thought to himself that what Logan really needed was someone to give a damn. He thought about that for a few seconds and then turned back to Spencer. “Our location has been compromised. We need to pack up and find a new safehouse, and I have an idea about that.”

“Already packed and ready to go.”

“Good. Get the stuff. We’re going to San Juan Capistrano.”

“What? Why?”

“Just get the stuff.”

A few minutes later, Keith was explaining his idea to Spencer while Logan was snoring in the back.

# # #

A little while later, at four in the morning, Keith and Spencer pulled Logan out of the car. They carried Logan up some stairs to a house and rang the bell. After a few minutes a sleepy looking man in a bathrobe answered the door. Keith said, “Charlie Stone?”

Charlie squinted against the bright porch light and looked at the three men on his porch. “Yeah, who wants to… Logan? And you’re Keith Mars right?”

Smiling Keith said, “I see my reputation proceeds me. Can we come in?”

Charlie looked at Logan’s bruised face, and opened the door wider. They walked in and dumped Logan on the couch. He rolled over and started snoring softly. Keith got an electronic gadget out of his pocket. He said, “Mind if I check for bugs before we talk?”

Charlie shook his head. Keith walked through the living room and kitchen, and only found one bug, which was in Charlie’s phone. Keith took it out and crushed it. Then he turned back to Spencer and said, “We’re clear. Go make sure no one is watching the house.”

Spencer nodded and took off. Staring at Logan, Charlie said, “What’s going on?”

Trying to figure out where to start Keith said, “I’m hoping that you’re the kind of man I think you are, and that you’ll help me. Well really that you’ll help Logan.”

Charlie didn’t comment, but thought about the things Logan had said on Larry King. Logan’s little interview had changed Charlie’s life for the worse.

Keith said, “Someone has threatened to kill Logan, and it’s someone who should be taken seriously. I had Logan at a safehouse, but it’s not safe anymore. I was hoping to hide him here for a few weeks.”

Charlie looked back over at Keith and started shaking his head no. Keith held up his hand and said, “Before you answer me, just listen. A few months ago when Logan found out about you, I did some digging on my daughter’s behalf. I’ve done a background check on you, and I’ve seen your employee file at Calvert Academy.”

“How did…?”

“I’m a private investigator.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s still illegal.”

“The point is, that I know you’re a good teacher. You’ve taught high school students for the past five years, and everything in your file is positive. I even read a letter of recommendation from a parent who said you helped their kid turn his life around. So I know you’re a good person. What I don’t understand is why you’ve shut Logan out.”

Crossing his arms, Charlie said, “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

“This person Logan has gotten mixed up with will kill him if he gets a hold of him. This could be the last chance you ever have to get to know your brother.”

Looking back over at Logan, Charlie thought about it for a few seconds with his jaw clenched. Keith said quietly, “Logan would never ask for your help. He thinks you don’t care. In fact tonight he told me that it wouldn’t matter if he died, because there’s no one who would care if he were gone. He’s kind of a mess.”

Charlie looked over at Keith with surprise, and then back at Logan. After a pause he said, “I read your book.”

Wondering what Charlie was getting at Keith said, “And?”

“Did Aaron really kill that girl?”

“Yes.”

“The same girl Logan was dating?”

“Yes.”

Charlie looked at his feet and shook his head, as if he already regretted saying it, and said, “Okay, Logan can stay here.”

Smiling Keith said, “Thank you. Can we sit down and go over a few things to keep him safe?”

Soon Charlie was sitting down with a cup of coffee for both himself and Keith. Keith said, “Are you working, or on summer break?”

“I’m on summer break.”

“Did you have plans over the next few weeks?”

“I did, but I can break them.”

“For the next couple of weeks, I need you to keep your blinds closed at all times, and in all rooms. If there is some reporter lurking around, we don’t want them to see that Logan is here. Logan absolutely needs to stay in the house at all times. Don’t tell anyone that Logan is here – not your mom, not your best friend, not your girlfriend, not anyone. Don’t let Logan answer the phone for any reason, and don’t let him get a cell phone. Don’t let him get on the computer, unless someone is standing behind him watching what sites he’s on the whole time. He can’t answer any emails, and he can’t log in with a password to any site he belongs to. Logan is well known for thumbing his nose at authority, and for being a runner. Don’t leave him alone for any length of time. You and Logan’s bodyguard, Spencer, should take different shifts to sleep. Think you can handle all that, or should I take him somewhere else before the sun comes up?”

Charlie looked over at Logan and said, “How did he get those bruises?”

“The guy who’s after him, Gory, had some of his men beat him up. If someone hadn’t stepped in that night, Logan would most likely be missing right now, and we would never have found him. As it is he has a broken rib and some bruising.”

Sighing Charlie said, “I can handle it. Go do whatever you need to do to make sure he stays safe.”

Keith stood up, and Charlie did as well. Keith stuck out his hand and they shook. Keith said, “Thank you. Spencer knows how to get in touch with me if Logan is too much of a handful.”

Keith opened the front door, and let Spencer in. He said, “The parameter is clear.”

“Check every room for bugs and cameras. Charlie knows the basics. You know what to do if you need me.”

# # #

Keith got home early that morning, and decided to get a little more sleep. He was woken up at ten in the morning with a phone call. “Hello?”

“Hey Dad. Are you sleeping?”

“Hi sweetie. How was your first day?”

They talked for a while about the things Veronica had done so far, and then she asked, “How’s it coming on Gory?”

“Not so great.”

“You know, I was thinking that since I’m here, I could take a look at some files and see…”

Keith used his sternest voice and said, “Veronica, don’t you dare. I have Gory covered. You are not to go snooping over at the FBI. Do you hear me?”

With a smile Veronica said, “You worry too much Dad. I’m a petite blond teenager remember? I’ll just pretend I was looking for the bathroom.”

“You’re going to get kicked out before you ever actually get in.”

Teasing Veronica said, “So little faith?”

“I mean it Veronica. Don’t blow the opportunity of a lifetime over this.”

“Sorry Dad, I’ve got to go. Someone’s flagging me down. Love you.”

“Veronica, promise me…” Keith listened to the dial tone and said, “…you won’t do it.”

Groaning and knowing there was no way he could sleep now, Keith got out of bed and got ready for the day.

# # #

Logan woke up disoriented with a pounding headache. He checked his surroundings, and jerked himself into a sitting position when he realized he had no idea where he was. From his position, he could see into the kitchen. Spencer and his half brother, Charlie, who he had only seen in pictures, were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast.

Charlie and Spencer had both heard the movement and turned towards Logan. Logan and Charlie locked eyes for a few seconds. Logan couldn’t get over how much Charlie looked like Aaron. He had the same hair, the same nose, and the same mouth. Charlie, having never seen Logan’s behavior when he wasn’t in front of a camera, was amazed to see uncertainty and fear in his expression. Logan broke eye contact first as he turned to Spencer. “Where are we?”

“Charlie’s house.”

“Why?”

Spencer looked to Charlie, wondering if he should let him explain. Charlie said, “Keith brought you here last night. He asked me if you could stay here for a little while, so he has time to investigate that Gory person.”

Sounding astonished Logan asked, “And you agreed?”

“I did.”

Logan wasn’t sure what to make of it. He put a hand to his forehead and grimaced at the pain. He said, “Why? Why are you letting me stay after… everything? Why now?”

“I don’t honestly know.”

Spencer said, “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go try to catch some sleep now so I can be up tonight.”

“Sure, the guest bedroom is at the end of the hall on the right.”

Spencer got up and started to leave. Feeling a little lost, and overwhelmed Logan said, “Hey Spencer?”

“Yeah?”

Logan looked away and muttered, “I’m sorry about last night.”

Spencer didn’t comment, and waited until Logan looked back at him. Once he had eye contact, Spencer said, “You should be.”

Logan blushed and looked back at his lap while Spencer went back to his bedroom.

After a short pause Charlie said, “If you’re hungry I could make you something to eat, or the bathroom is free if you want to take a shower. Your bag is by the front door there.”

Looking over at the bag Logan said, “I’d like to take a shower.”

“Go ahead. We can talk once you get out. There’s some Tylenol in there to help your head if you want it.”

Not believing he was actually in Charlie’s house, let alone having a normal conversation with him, Logan numbly stood and picked up his bag. He knew it had clothes that were his size, but they weren’t his clothes. He took one more look at Charlie before heading to the bathroom. He went in and locked the door.

Staring at himself in the mirror for a few seconds he said, “What the hell are you gonna do now?”

He shook his head, and winced at the pain. He took some Tylenol and started the shower. As he was showering his mind walked through all the times he had called Charlie, only to get no response. He thought about ratting Charlie out in front of the whole world on Larry King Live. He thought about all the things he didn’t know about Charlie. “This is what you wanted. This is why you called him in the first place. He’s the only biological family you have left.”

The back of his mind screamed, ‘He looks just like Dad, and he’s hurt you already.’

Wiping some of the water off his face Logan thought, ‘No. You’ve hurt each other already. But maybe we can start over. I was so quick to believe Norman. Spilled my guts to a total stranger just because I was desperate to have some kind of family connection. What if the real thing is worse?’

Turning off the water and drying off, Logan muttered to himself, “Can’t be any worse then Trina.”

Feeling a little better, Logan finished getting dressed, and went back out to the living room. Charlie was still sitting at the kitchen table, and as he saw Logan he got up and said, “Come sit down, I’ll get you something to eat.”

Logan slowly walked over, and sat in the chair against the wall, so that no one would be able to come up behind him or startle him. He said, “Coffee would be great.”

“Cream and sugar?”

“Yes please.”

Charlie got him a cup and put it in front of him. Logan continued staring at Charlie through everything. Charlie said, “How about some toast or a bagel?”

“I’m fine.”

“You should eat something.”
Logan sipped his coffee and said, “Just the coffee for now.”

Charlie sat down across from Logan, and there was an uncomfortable silence for a few long seconds. Soon he couldn’t take it, and Logan said, “On second thought, toast sounds good.”

Charlie got up and put some bread in the toaster. As he was rummaging around in the refrigerator, Logan looked down into his coffee, wondering if it had the answers of how to start a conversation with this man he knew next to nothing about.

A few minutes later a plate was set down in front of him with a piece of toast, while Charlie put a fruit cup full of pears in front of himself. The smell assaulted Logan, and he looked up at Charlie with panic. Logan couldn’t stop himself from flinching away from Charlie at that moment. He looked too much like Aaron, and he was standing above him with the smell of pears in the air. Logan pushed past him, dashed for the bathroom, and puked up the half-digested Tylenol along with some coffee and water.

He flushed while breathing hard, and tried to push away the memories of his father shoving pears down his throat while he choked, and his mom forcing his dad to stop by holding a knife to his throat. He swallowed a couple of times, and once the nausea had passed, he stood to get a glass of water. He realized he hadn’t shut the door, and Charlie was standing in the doorway looking at him with concern. “Everything okay?”

Logan put on his game face. “I guess that will teach me to drink a fifth of vodka in one night huh?”

Charlie still looked concerned. Logan got himself a glass of water and took some sips while looking at the sink. “Maybe we should hold off on breakfast for a while.”

“I could make you some tea. That might help calm your stomach.”

“Sure. Just make sure there’s no food around please.”

“Okay.”

Logan heard Charlie’s footsteps going back to the kitchen. He took a few deep breaths to try and calm down. He muttered, “You’re pathetic Logan. It was ten years ago. Get over it already.”

He went back out to the kitchen and sat back down. The food was gone, and the kettle was on the stove. After a few seconds of awkward silence Logan said, “You look like him you know.”

“Yeah.”

They were quiet again until the kettle whistled. Once Logan had a cup of tea in front of him Charlie sat down and asked, “Do you miss him?”

Logan kept his eyes on his cup. “No.”

After a pause, Logan with his eyes still on his cup, muttered, “I don’t know if you ever got my messages, but I’m really sorry about the things I said during my Larry King interview. When that reporter came and pretended he was you… I thought you had set me up.”

Logan shook his head and darted his eyes to Charlie’s for a second, “If I had known that you had nothing to do with it, I never would have said those things.”

Charlie sighed. “Well I guess I’m partially to blame for not calling you back the first time, but… It was just such a shock, you know? I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t want my life disrupted.”

Logan was happy that Charlie wasn’t yelling at him and telling him that he hated him for all of it. He gave Charlie a tentative smile. “I still shouldn’t have jumped the gun like that. I tend to act first and think later.”

Charlie smiled back, “I tend to think things to death, and then end up not acting at all. Maybe your way is better.”

After a few more seconds Logan said, “So if you’ve seen the hour long special on the entertainment network, you know all about my life. I’d really like to hear about yours.”

“Let’s see, I was mostly raised by my mom and my grandmother. My mom had a few boyfriends here and there, but no one stuck around for more then six months. I grew up here in San Juan Capistrano in my grandmother’s house. I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was in college. I did substitute teaching for a couple of years before I got the position at Calvert Academy. I’ve been there for going on six years now, and I like it.”

Logan asked, “How old are you?”

“Thirty one.”

Logan thought about it. “That would make you twelve years older then me.”

“Yes.”

“When did you find out you had the dubious honor of being Aaron Echolls son?”

Charlie looked away and said, “I’m not ready to talk about that yet.”

Surprised but hiding it, Logan forced a laugh and said, “Yeah, with all the recent press, I don’t really want to be related to him either.” Charlie didn’t answer. After an awkward pause Logan said, “Do you live here alone?”

“Yes.”

“Have any kids?”

“No.”

“Girlfriend?”

Looking away, Charlie said, “I was in a serious relationship for four years before… before it came out that I’m Aaron’s son.”

Logan made eye contact, and Charlie could tell he was genuinely sorry. “She couldn’t take the press?”

“Things went south quickly.”

“I’m really sorry… again. The press can be hard to take.”

Charlie gave Logan a little smile, “I believe you, but that part isn’t your fault. How about you? Girlfriend?”

Logan didn’t want to pour his heart out to someone only to have it stomped on again. He said, “I guess you could say I’ve had two serious relationships.”

“Lily was one?”

Taking a drink of tea and clearing his throat, Logan gave a husky, “Yeah.”

“And Veronica is the other?”
“How do you know about her?” Logan asked with surprise.

Charlie looked away, and Logan thought he saw a blush as Charlie said, “I watched the trial.”

“Wow.”

“So is it Veronica?”

“Yeah.”
“Still love her?”

Sighing Logan said, “Yeah.”

After a pause Charlie said, “How’s your stomach?”

“Better thanks.”

“How about your hangover?”

“My head isn’t pounding as much.”

“Good… so what are you studying in school?”

For the next couple of hours Charlie and Logan stayed on the neutral subject of school, but got to know more about each other just the same.

When there was a natural pause in the conversation Charlie said, “You hungry now?”

Logan nodded and got up, “You don’t have to wait on me. I can make myself a sandwich or something. If you don’t mind that is.”
“No, of course not. Feel free to help yourself to anything in the kitchen.”

“Thanks.”

Logan started making himself a sandwich and said, “Did you want one too?”

“No thanks. In fact, I should really go work for a little bit.”

“Oh, I didn’t even think about that. Are you missing work right now?”

Shaking his head Charlie said, “No, not that kind of work, I’m on summer break. I need to go do some stuff on the computer.”

“Stuff?”

“Well… It may sound silly to you, but I’m trying to be a writer. I’ve written two small mystery novels, and I’m working on a third.”

“It doesn’t sound silly at all. I think it’s kind of awesome. How did your first two books sell?”

Charlie chuckled, “They didn’t get published. Although right after everyone found out who I was, a few publishers who had originally turned me down, said they would be happy to print them. But if it wasn’t good enough the first time, then I don’t want it published.”

“Do you think I could read one of your books?”

Charlie pursed his lips as if he didn’t like the idea and said, “I’ll think about it.”

Trying to hide his disappointment Logan said, “That’s okay. Hey, do you have cable?”

“Yeah, I get all the channels.”

Looking up at the ceiling Logan said, “Thank you God.”

He put the lunchmeat back in the refrigerator, and put his sandwich on a plate. “Just point me to the remote, and I’ll be covered for the afternoon.”

# # #

Three hours later Charlie came out and sat down on the couch next to Logan. Logan turned and said, “Taking a break?”

“I couldn’t write.”
“I could turn the TV off if you…”
“No, it’s not that. My head just isn’t in it right now. Too many other things to think about.” Charlie said giving Logan a little smile.

Logan smiled as well and said, “Yeah.”

They sat and watched some of ‘Dirty Harry’ together until a commercial came on. Charlie said, “You want to tell me why this guy Gory is after you?”

Logan muted the TV and told the whole story, including the fact that he had beat up Piz. He ended it with waking up in the hospital, and Keith taking him to the safehouse. After a few seconds to process things Charlie asked, “What went wrong at the safehouse?”

Blushing, Logan turned the sound back up on the TV and muttered, “The same thing that always goes wrong. I decided to do something stupid.”

Charlie ignored the movie and said, “Spencer told me what you did, I was wondering what went wrong at the safehouse that made you want to run off.”

Getting annoyed that Charlie didn’t take the hint, and still embarrassed about it, Logan said, “Story of my life. Things are good, and I can’t stand it, so I screw them up.”

“Why?”

Logan turned the volume up higher and said, “I’d like to watch this if you don’t mind.”

Charlie waited for the next commercial, and then said, “I’m going to store this afternoon. Anything you want?”

“Beer. Lots and lots of beer.”

Chuckling Charlie said, “After last night? I don’t think so. Your birthday isn’t for two more months, and even then you’ll only be twenty.”

Logan lost all interest in his show, and he gave Charlie a wide eyed look. After a second Charlie said, “What?”

Logan said with some awe, “You know my birthday?”

Logan couldn’t help but remember the bitter conversation he’d had with his father a couple of years ago, and the pain of realizing that his dad didn’t know when his birthday was.

Charlie seemed uncomfortable, looked at his watch and said, “Is there anything you want at the store that isn’t alcoholic?”

Taking a hint, and trying not to be hurt that Charlie wasn’t going to answer, Logan looked back at the TV and said, “I’m not that picky. I’m allergic to shellfish, but other then that get whatever you want.”

Charlie got up and went into the kitchen to make a list of the things he needed to buy. Logan looked at the TV, but his mind was busy trying to figure out how Charlie knew his birthday. Deciding it must have been mentioned in the hour long special that the Entertainment network kept running about his family, Logan switched his attention back to the TV.

A little while later Charlie came and sat down next to Logan again. “I thought you were going to the store.”

“I have to wait for Spencer to get up.”

Glaring at Charlie, and thinking he already knew the answer, Logan asked, “Why?”

Charlie suspected that Logan knew he wasn’t supposed to be left alone, and that it was bothering him. He decided to go with a half truth. “I want to see if he wants anything at the store before I go.”

Logan grunted. After a few seconds Logan said, “Do you have any kind of game system? Playstation? Xbox?”

“Sorry I don’t.”

Sighing Logan said, “Figures. How about a deck of cards? Spencer likes poker.”

Charlie went to the kitchen and came back with a deck of cards. Logan said, “Thanks. Is the computer in your room the only one you have?”

“Yes.”

“Can I use it while you’re gone?”

“Sorry, Keith left instructions for you not to answer any emails, and not to log in to any sites that you belong to. He doesn’t want anyone to trace you to my house.”

Logan gave Charlie a sour look, so Charlie decided to get it all out there at the same time. “And I suppose while we’re at it, he also said not to open any blinds, and for you to stay away from all the windows in case any reporters are lurking around. You’re not to answer the phone, call anyone on the phone, or use any cell phones.”

Logan couldn’t help feeling trapped. He stood up and yelled, “That’s ridiculous! No one knows that I’m here, the reporters lost interest in you months ago, and Gory isn’t smart enough to trace me through an email!”

Keeping calm Charlie said, “When Keith brought you over here, he found a bug in my phone, so I don’t think it’s ridiculous. And even if Gory isn’t smart enough to trace you here, that doesn’t mean he can’t hire people who are smart enough.”

Logan thought about that for a second, looked away as his anger receded, and suggested, “I could hire a private body guard to stay with me at the hotel, and just go about my regular routine instead of staying here.”

“You could, but I’d rather you stay here, so we have a chance to get to know each other.”

Logan’s eyes darted over to meet Charlie’s for a second, and he saw honesty there. He looked away and muttered, “Yeah, I’d like that.”

Looking like he had just woken up, Spencer came in from the hallway and said, “Everything okay in here? I heard yelling.”

Logan remained silent, so Charlie stood up to face Spencer. “Everything’s fine. Are you up for now? I need to go to the store and buy some supplies.”

“I’m up. Hold on a second and I’ll get you some of the money Keith left for supplies.”
Shaking his head Charlie said, “No, that’s fine. I’ve got it covered. Is there anything you want from the store?”

“A steak would be nice. Do you usually go to the same store for groceries?”

“Yeah.”

“Then go to a different one today. We don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re buying more food then usual.”

“Okay.”

“And if you run into someone you know, don’t mention anything about us.”

“I know, I got that warning from Keith last night.”

Spencer gave Charlie an apologetic smile and said, “Can’t be too careful.”

“It’s okay, I understand. I’m gonna head out, and I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Logan sat back down on the couch and watched Charlie leave. A few minutes later Spencer sat down on the couch next to him. Spencer said, “What are you watching?”

Logan handed Spencer the remote and said, “I’m just surfing. Feel free to pick.”

Spencer muted the TV and said, “I wanted to tell you I’m sorry about this morning. I was tired and still pissed. But I do accept your apology.”

Logan raised his eyebrows. “Really?”

“Really.”

Giving Spencer a genuine smile, Logan said, “Thanks man.”

“I accept your apology this time because, I figure everyone is entitled to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them. Now you know that Gory is out there looking for you, and he does want to see you dead, so I assume you’ve learned your lesson and don’t plan to run off again. But if you do try to run again while under my watch, and if I’m lucky enough to find you before you’re dead, things are going to get ugly between us.”

Logan clenched his jaw and thought, ‘Great, so if I sneak out and manage not to get beat up by Gory’s thugs, he’ll be happy to do the honors. Fantastic.’

“Thanks for the warning, I’ll keep it in mind.”

“You do that.”

“If your done making threats, why don’t you pick something to watch.”

Spencer turned back to the TV and before turning the sound up he said, “It wasn’t a threat, it was a promise.”

Logan rolled his eyes but kept silent.

A few hours later Charlie came home, with some bags of groceries, and a bag from the local video store, which held a Playstation, some games, and a few movies. Charlie handed the bag to Logan and said, “I hope this helps with the boredom.”

Logan gave him a genuine smile, “Thanks. That was really nice of you.”

Charlie smiled too. “Have you played any of those?”

“I’ve played most of them a few times, but it’s always fun to play again.”

“Maybe you can show me how to play later tonight.”

“Sure, I’d like that.”

Spencer said, “Why don’t you two go ahead and play now. I’ll cook for us.”

Charlie and Logan played for the next four hours, with a short break to eat, and had fun together.

# # #

While Logan and Charlie were playing video games, Veronica was skipping dinner to sneak into one of the class rooms at the academy. The room had computers at every desk, and earlier that day, she had listened to a lecture on how to look up criminals in the database. She went to the front desk and looked around in the drawers for a login. “Bingo.”

She typed in her teacher’s login, and soon had typed in Gory’s name. Before the information could come up on the screen, the lights went on in the classroom. Veronica quickly hit the escape button, and tried to end the program while smiling at her teacher. “Am I in the classroom? I was trying to get to the cafeteria. I must have gotten lost.”

Her smile faltered when the teacher glared. “You need to come with me Veronica. My boss wants to talk to you.”

As the two women walked down the hall, Veronica thought to herself, ‘You’ve really done it now. Dad was right. I’ll get kicked out before I even get in. What am I going to tell him?’

Her teacher led her to an interrogation room. A few minutes later they were joined by a middle aged man. He looked Veronica in the eye, and said, “What’s your connection to Gorya Sorokin?”

“Connection? No connection. I… I’m looking for information on him so that I can protect a friend of mine.”

The man sat down across from her and said, “Is that right? Why don’t you tell me about it.”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Because we’ve been trying to get something on his father for years now. Maybe we can help each other.”

Relieved, Veronica said, “Maybe we can.”

# # #

Over the next three days, Logan and Charlie spent a lot of time together, but both remained guarded when it came to personal information about their shared father, or their lives while growing up. They talked about video games, television, movies, books, school, and surfing. Through those topics they got to know each other’s personalities and found they liked each other.

On the fourth day during breakfast, Logan saw the sun through the blinds and sighed. Charlie looked over and said, “What?”

“It’s a beautiful summer day, and I can’t surf.”

Spencer rolled his eyes and said, “It’s only been a week.”

Charlie said sympathetically, “Missing a week of summer is like having three extra weeks of school.”

Grinning, Logan said, “That’s right.”

“Hopefully Keith will find something soon,” Spencer said.

“How long did your longest safehouse detail last?” Logan was almost afraid to hear the answer.

“Two months.”

Logan groaned. “There’s no way I can stay cooped up for two months. Just no way.”

Chuckling Spencer said, “Don’t worry kid, it’s not going to take Keith that long on this case. It’ll be a month tops.”

“A month?” Logan shook his head, and frowned at his plate.

Charlie put a consoling hand on Logan’s shoulder. “Better a month cooped up here, then having no month at all.”

Both men could tell by Logan’s unchanged expression that he was sill doubtful. Spencer said, “Better a month here then at the other safehouse right?”

Logan didn’t have to think about that one. “God, yes.”

Wanting to get Logan out of his slump, Charlie asked, “What would make it better?”

“Alcohol.”

Taking his hand off Logan’s shoulder, Charlie shook his head. They’d had this conversation before, so Charlie didn’t feel the need to sugar coat his statement. “You’re not twenty one, and you don’t drink responsibly.”

Logan’s eyebrows went up in surprise.

Spencer added, “No drinking for any of us while this is a safehouse. We need to keep our wits about us.”

With a sour glare, Logan said, “Okay then, how about letting me use the computer to surf the internet for a while. I promise not to check my email, or log onto any sites I belong to.”

Charlie looked to Spencer and said, ‘It’s okay with me, if it’s okay with you.”

Scrutinizing Logan, Spencer said, “Only if you leave the door open, and don’t get pissy when I come in to check on you every few minutes.”

“Fine.” Logan gave Spencer his most charming smile, which usually made strangers trust him. It only made Spencer more wary.

Logan got onto the internet, and opened multiple windows, minimizing each one as he went. He checked the open door to make sure neither Charlie or Spencer could see him, and then went to Charlie’s documents. He searched them for anything that looked like a book title. The first one he opened said, ‘Chapter 1’. He checked the doorway again, and then made sure his mouse was ready to bring up one of the internet sites in an instant, before turning back to start reading.

Half an hour later, Logan was so caught up in the story, that he didn’t hear Charlie walk into the room until it was too late. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and immediately clicked on an internet site before turning to look behind him. The look on Charlie’s face made his stomach twist. It was the same look his father would give him before a slap, kick, or punch.

“I trusted you, and you’re reading my book?”

“Charlie, I…” He didn’t have any excuses. He knew he was in the wrong. “I’m sorry.”

Charlie took a step towards him, his hands balled into fists.

From early childhood, Logan had learned to read people’s body language, and his fight or flight reaction responded automatically to Charlie. He leaned further away from the older man, and checked his escape route.

“You’re sorry! You betray my trust after four days, and you’re sorry?!”

Logan’s mouth was dry, and he started sweating. His voice was barely audible when he said, “I just wanted to see it.”

Charlie reached a hand towards the mouse, but Logan read it as a hand coming towards his head. He ducked, pushed past his brother, and ran towards the bedroom door. Charlie froze in place, trying to figure out what Logan was doing.

Spencer had heard the yelling, and was already standing at the bedroom door when Logan tried to push past him. Spencer grabbed Logan around the waist, and held him in place while he struggled. Logan tried to shove his way out of Spencer’s grip, the adrenaline pumping through his body, helping him not to notice the pain of his ribs as he twisted. Spencer got a better grip on him and said, “Calm down, you’re going to hurt yourself.”

Realizing that he was trapped, Logan stilled.

The two brothers made eye contact. Charlie saw terror on Logan’s face, and realized he’d handled things the wrong way. In the six years he’d been a teacher, he’d learned that the best way to get through to a teenager was to stay calm and rational, no matter how emotional they got. He’d been caught off guard for a moment because of their family ties, and let his anger get the better of him. But now he was able to put his experience with teens to work.

In a level voice, he said, “I’m sorry I yelled. We can sit down and talk this out.”

Logan’s terror receded, at hearing those strange words come out of this man that looked like his father. He realized he’d overreacted. Not trusting his voice, he gave Charlie a short nod.

“Why don’t we go sit on the couch,” Charlie said.

Spencer said, “You gonna try to bolt if I let you go?”

Logan shook his head no.

Once he was released, Logan had to stifle a groan, and put a hand on the side of his chest, where his fractured rib was protesting.

Charlie said, “If you don’t mind Spencer, I’d like to talk to Logan alone for a few minutes.”

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. The kid has a tendency to run off.”

“It’s not going to be a problem,” Charlie said.

Spencer glared at Logan and pointed a finger at his chest. “You run off again, and I’m going to make good on my promise.”

Logan glared back, and found his voice. “Yeah? You’ll have to catch me first.”

“Don’t test me, kid. You won’t like the results.”

Not liking Spencer’s threatening stance, Charlie wondered if Logan’s fear was because of him. He stepped into Spencer’s personal space to force his attention towards him. “I’d like to talk to my brother alone.”

Spencer stalked off to the spare bedroom.

Charlie and Logan regarded each other for a few seconds, and then Charlie moved towards the couch, hoping Logan would follow.

Watching Charlie’s back as he walked to the couch, Logan cursed himself for being stupid enough to get caught. With a sigh, he followed Charlie, and sat as far away from him as possible on the couch.

Once he had eye contact, Charlie said, “Tell me why you did it.”

Logan looked over at the opposite wall and said, “I wanted to read what you’d written.” His eyes darted back to Charlie’s face for a millisecond. Not seeing any anger, he added, “I wanted to get to know you better.”

Charlie sighed, “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Logan didn’t understand.

“I’m sorry that I haven’t had the courage to tell you about my relationship with our father, and I’m sorry that I haven’t let you read some of my writing before now.”

Logan had no idea what to say. He’d done something blatantly wrong, and Charlie was apologizing to him. “You don’t need to apologize, I do. I went behind your back. Betrayed your trust.”

Charlie shook his head. “I shouldn’t have said that. I mean sure it’s an invasion of privacy, and it was wrong of you, but I can understand why you did it.”
“You can?” Logan wasn’t sure what to make of the man sitting next to him. His father would have had him black and blue by now, his mother would have been pouring herself another shot, and Trina would be screaming at the top of her lungs. But his older brother wasn’t doing any of those things. Logan knew he should be ashamed of what he’d done, but mostly he just felt relieved and somewhat awed that Charlie was being so understanding.

“I can, and once I tell you about me and Aaron, maybe you’ll understand why I overreacted just now.”

“Okay.”

Charlie stared a point above Logan’s shoulder and said, “I’ve always known that Aaron Echolls was my father. I used to see him five or six times a year when I was growing up. Sometimes he’d come to the house, or meet me and mom at the park, or take us out to lunch.”

Logan couldn’t believe that his father had never told him he had an older brother. He wondered if his mother even knew.

Making eye contact, Charlie said, “I remember the day you were born. Dad called to tell me I had a brother. I begged him to bring you over so I could meet you, but I had to wait until you were about a month old. That year he had a lull between movies, so I actually got to see you quite a few times. We took you to the park together a few times when you were first walking.”

“So all this time, you’ve known about me?”

Charlie nodded. “I met Trina once right after she was adopted, but I was never that interested in her. Probably because Dad was such a small part of my life, and because she wasn’t actually a blood relative.”

Feeling cheated out of having an older brother, Logan said, “I don’t understand. Why haven’t I ever heard about you? What happened?”

“Our father disowned me. The last time I saw him, I was fourteen, and you were two and a half. We were going to take you to a park, but he’d just been in a big movie, so we couldn’t be seen in public. But he came over to my grandmother’s house, and brought you along. My mom and grandma went to see a movie, so we could have time to visit.”

When Charlie trailed off, Logan said, “And?”

“I told him I had a crush on one of my teachers. Mr. Sanders.”

After a short pause, Logan said, “Mr. Sanders?”

“Yes. I’m gay, and if you have a problem with it, I’ll call Keith, and he can find you another safe house.”

Logan shook his head. Growing up, Logan had heard all kinds of derogatory remarks about gay people from his father. Being in the movie industry, Aaron worked with quite a few openly gay people behind the scenes, and while he was always friendly to their faces, Logan knew the horrible things he said about them behind their backs. He’d always been ashamed of his father in those moments, but then there were so many reasons to be ashamed of his father, that it didn’t stand out.

“Let me get this straight. Our father disowned you because you’re gay?”

“He grabbed the front of my shirt, hauled me up so we were nose to nose, and said, ‘No son of mine is going to be a fucking faggot. You can get yourself a girlfriend, and I’ll forget this conversation ever happened, or I wash my hands of you.’”

Logan shook his head. It sounded exactly like something his father would do.

Lost in his own memories, Charlie continued, “I was terrified. There’s no other word for it. Sheer terror.”

Logan nodded, knowing exactly what that moment would have felt like.

“Luckily for me, both my mom and my grandmother already knew, and they were very accepting, which was even more rare seventeen years ago then it is today. So like an idiot, I thought my father would be just as accepting when I told him. I’d like to say that Aaron’s opinion didn’t matter, and that he wasn’t a big influence in my life, but that wouldn’t be true. I whispered the words; ‘I can’t just turn it off.’”

“What did he do?”

“Shoved me back onto the couch, and picked you up so suddenly that it made you cry. He told me that he’d cut off my child support and make my mom’s life hell if I ever came out as openly gay in public. I never saw him, or you, again.”

The room grew silent. After an awkward pause, Logan said gently, “I’ve always known that Dad was a bastard, but I had no idea he was capable of actually disowning his own son.”

“He’d always been so nice to me before that day. It… well it really messed me up for a long time.”

“I’m sorry.”

Charlie shook his head. “It’s not your fault. I’m sorry that I missed out on watching you grow up, and I’m sorry that I didn’t call you back as soon as you called me the first time. I was worried you’d react the same way he had. And at that time, I was still with Brian, so there’d be no hiding it from you.”

“Brian?”
“We were together for four years before the press started hounding me. It got too hard to keep our relationship quiet after that.”

“Wait, you mean you’re still in the closet?”

“Yes.”

“But why? I mean, even if Dad weren’t dead, screw him, he’s a bigot. Just for the record, I don’t have the same views as our father.”

With a smile, Charlie said, “I’m glad to hear you’re more open minded. But it has less to do with our father, and more to do with my life. I’ve worked so hard to hide it for so many years, I don’t know how I’d even start to come out. My friends, and all the people I work with have no idea.”

Logan sympathized. He knew how hard it was to live a lie. To go to school with bruises, and tell his gushing teachers all about how wonderful his father was. “You shouldn’t have to hide who you are. So the first three months would suck. After that things would be so much better for you, it would be worth it.”

Having had this exact conversation with his mother more times than he could count, Charlie changed the subject. “I’ll keep that in mind, but for now I think we should talk about you reading my book.”

Blushing, Logan looked away.

Charlie said, “I’ll give you a printed copy, and you can tell me what you think of it once you’re done reading it.”

Logan’s eyes snapped back to his brother’s. “You mean it?”

“Yeah.” Charlie stood up, and headed to his bedroom, and Logan trailed behind.

Charlie pulled a large manuscript out of his desk drawer, and handed it to his brother. Instead of taking it, Logan said, “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

Taking it, Logan said, “Thanks.”

“You bet.”

Shaking his head, Logan said, “No, really, thank you. It was wrong of me to go behind your back, and instead of being angry, you’re giving it to me.”

Charlie clapped Logan’s shoulder and said, “I should have let you read it the first time you asked.”

Getting choked up, Logan couldn’t help but wonder how much better his childhood would have been, if he’d had Charlie around as an older brother.

# # #

That night, Keith called, and asked for Logan. “Hey Mr. Mars, please tell me you have good news.”

“I do. Veronica is working with the FBI to take down Gory.”

Logan lost his smile. “What?”

“While Veronica was in the middle of her internship, she decided it would be a good idea to go through their database to see if they had any dirt on Gory.”

Logan groaned in dismay.

“She got caught, but instead of kicking her out, they’re working with her to try and get him arrested.”

Not liking that idea at all, Logan said, “She can’t. What if she gets hurt trying to help me? I couldn’t live with that.”

Keith sighed. “Well I don’t like it anymore then you do, but once Veronica makes up her mind about something, there’s no stopping her.”

“Didn’t you teach her any kind of self preservation?” Logan snapped.

“Hey, watch your tone!”

“She can’t work on this case, while I sit here in a safe house and twiddle my thumbs!”

Understanding Logan’s worry, Keith said, “She went over the whole plan with me, and she shouldn’t be in any actual danger. She gave them all the information she had, and they’re sending in an undercover agent to get close to Gory. They hope to have enough to convict him in a week or less.”

“Mr. Mars, you should know Veronica better then that. Something will go wrong, and she’ll be right in the middle of it when things get ugly.”

“She promised me that she’d be careful.”

Logan rolled his eyes, and thought Keith didn’t know his daughter as well as he thought he did. “Well as long as she promised, everything should be fine.”

Having had enough lip from the kid, Keith said, “Put Spencer on the phone.”

“He’s asleep.”

“Okay, then put Charlie on.”

Disgusted with the situation, Logan shoved the phone towards Charlie and said, “It’s for you.”

Charlie put his ear to the phone and said, “What’s wrong?”

Logan’s simply couldn’t let Veronica do it without talking to her first. He glanced at the clock. It was eight o’clock in the evening, and Spencer usually got up around ten o’clock for the night shift. He looked over at Charlie, and then to the front door. Charlie was listening to Keith intently, and when Logan took a step backwards towards the front door, Charlie didn’t notice.

Logan made it to the front door without calling attention to himself. He tried to open it quietly, but as soon as he undid the deadbolt, Charlie looked over at him. Logan saw confusion on his brother’s face. He threw the door open, and ran out into the fading daylight.

“Logan! Wait!” Charlie yelled.

Logan ran for all he was worth, darting off the sidewalk and into someone’s backyard as soon as he got around the corner. He wandered through back yards, until he found one with a tree house. He climbed up, and settled down to wait a few hours. Even with a head start, he doubted he could out run Spencer, and no way was he letting that gorilla catch him.

When Charlie realized Logan wasn’t going to stop, he dropped the phone and ran to Spencer’s door. He opened it without knocking. “Spencer, wake up! Logan just took off.”

Once he saw Spencer was jumping out of bed, and grabbing his jeans off the floor, Charlie ran back to the phone. “Keith?”

Keith said, “I heard, I’m on my way.” He hung up on Charlie, and called Veronica.

Spencer ran out the door, and ran down the street, looking in all directions for Logan. Charlie ran outside as well, and went the opposite direction, trying and failing to catch a glimpse of Logan’s retreating form.

# # #

Logan stretched out his cramped legs, and looked at his watch. It had been difficult to stay put for the last two hours, when all he wanted to do was get Veronica on the phone, but he knew better then to move before it got completely dark. He climbed down, and made his way out to the street, keeping to other people’s yards as much as possible. Half an hour later, he made it to a gas station with a pay phone.

He put in some quarters, and dialed her cell phone.

She answered on the first ring, “Hello?”

“Hey.”

“Logan?”

He leaned his head against the glass, and closed his eyes. Just hearing her voice made him ache. “I miss you,” he whispered.

She’d been waiting for his call, and her fingers were in the middle of dialing her father’s number on the land line, but her fingers stilled at that confession. “Logan…” she didn’t know what else to say, but hung up the other phone.

“I know it’s not fair of me to say that, and I know it’s my fault we’re not together, but I can’t help it. I love you, and I miss you, and I don’t want you anywhere near Gory.”

Hating herself, she picked the second phone back up, and started dialing. “I’m not going to be in any danger.”

“Liar.”

She smiled at the affection he put into that one word. “I’m not going to be anywhere near Gory or his thugs. I simply briefed the guy they’re sending in.”

“And?”

Her smile grew. “And nothing. Where are you? You’re supposed to be in a safe house.”

Logan sighed, and turned so his back was against the glass. “Promise me you won’t put yourself in danger.”

“I’ll promise, if you tell me where you are.”

Logan knew she was going to rat him out to her father as soon as he hung up, and didn’t want the conversation to end. He said, “Did your father tell you I’m with Charlie?”

“Yeah,” she said softly, knowing how much it meant to Logan to have contact with his brother. “How’s it going?”

He barked out a bitter laugh, “Really well until a couple of hours ago.”

“I promise, okay? I promise not to put myself in danger.”

“Not even if something goes wrong, and you’re the only one who can bring the guy down, okay?”

“Not even if I’m the only one who can bring him down.”

He took a deep breath, and said, “I couldn’t take if it you got hurt because of me.”

“I couldn’t take it if you got killed, so why don’t you tell me where you are.”

Opening his eyes, Logan said, “The Shell gas station on Maple street, about a mile from Charlie’s.”

“Promise me you’ll stay there, and let my dad help you.”

He sighed, knowing the conversation was over, but not wanting it to be. “I promise.”

“Be safe.”

“You too.”

He heard the click, and knew Keith or Spencer would be there in a few seconds to pick him up. He hung up, and walked into the gas station’s convenience store. He grabbed a six pack of beer, and got his fake ID out, but the guy sold it to him without even asking for it. Logan took it to the curb, and chugged the first one. He’d gotten halfway through the second before Keith’s car pulled up alongside the curb.

Logan held up his beer in a toast, and gave Keith a grin through the car window. Keith shook his head and leaned across the car to open the passenger side door. Logan finished off the beer, and belched. Keith said, “I got a call saying there was a self destructive jackass in need of a ride. Have you seen anyone matching that description?”

Logan put the empty can down. “I haven’t, but I’ll let you know if I do.”

Getting serious, Keith said quietly, “I appreciate you looking out for Veronica, but she’s not the one in danger here, and your lack of self preservation is astounding.”

“She’s more important then I could ever be, Mr. Mars, and you know it.”

“Get in the car, Logan.”

Not wanting to deal with Spencer or his promises, he asked, “Where’s Spencer?”

“On his way back to Charlie’s house. He’s been driving the streets looking for you.”

“I want a different bodyguard. I can pay.”

Surprised, Keith said, “It’s not a question of money. I need someone I can trust. That someone is Spencer.”

“I want someone else.”

“Why?”

“He threatened to hit me if I ran off again.”

Keith shook his head. “Remember what I said about your lack of self preservation?”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I.”

The two faced off for a few seconds. Keith sighed and said, “I’ll talk to him, okay? The longer you sit out here, the greater your chance of being seen. We can talk about it at Charlie’s.”

Reluctantly, Logan got in, and put his four remaining beers on the floor of Keith’s car.

# # #

Logan could see Charlie standing on the porch leaning out over the railing, trying to see who’s car was coming up the street in the darkness. As they pulled up, Charlie rushed down the porch steps to meet them at the curb.

That familiar cold dread washed over Logan, as he watched the older man stride purposely towards the car. He swallowed a couple of times, trying to keep his beer down, and forced himself not to follow his instincts and lock the car door. He’d locked himself in the car once when his father had been after him, and would never follow through with that instinct again.

Charlie opened the passenger side door, and Logan pushed his upper body back against the car’s seat, eyeing his older brother warily.

When Logan didn’t get out, Charlie squatted down so they could be eye to eye. Getting into Logan’s personal space, Charlie put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Are you hurt?”

“Hurt?” Logan could see worry on Charlie’s face, he just wasn’t sure why it was there. The only time his father would show concern was when the cameras were rolling, and he doubted Charlie would be putting on a show for Keith.

“Did they get to you? Do you need help getting to the house?”

Not knowing what to say, Logan simply shook his head no.

Keith got out of the car and said, “We’re likely to draw attention out here. We need to get in the house.”

Charlie stood and backed up a step. Logan found the willpower to undo his seatbelt, and step out of the car, forgetting his beer on the floor. The second he was standing, Charlie pulled him into an unexpected hug.

Logan tensed, and held his breath.

“I was so afraid that they’d gotten to you,” Charlie whispered, and tightened his grip. “You were gone for so long.”

It took a few milliseconds, but soon Logan was able to breathe again, and was struck with the thought that Charlie smelled nothing like Aaron. He tentatively put his arms around Charlie’s back. His eyes filled with unshed tears of relief mixed with guilt. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m just glad you’re okay.”

Keith was happy to see that his instincts about Charlie had been correct. He put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder and said, “We need to get inside.”

“Right,” Charlie said, and let go.

Logan immediately let go as well. Charlie put an arm around his shoulders and led him into the house.

Once they were inside, Keith said, “I need to make a couple of calls. Can I use the spare bedroom?”

“Of course,” Charlie said.

Logan said, “Tell Veronica I kept my promise. Now she has to keep hers.”

Keith wasn’t sure if he wanted to strangle the kid, or give him a hug, too. “I’ll tell her.”

Once Keith was in the spare bedroom with the door shut, an awkward silence settled between the brothers.

Charlie was the first to speak. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

Unsure of what to say, Logan stuck his hands in his pockets.

Before he had a chance to respond, Charlie continued. “It made me realized how much I’d miss you. I know you’ve only been staying here with me for a few days, but getting to know you now, has brought up all those old memories and feelings. I was so excited to have a brother, and you were so tiny, I wanted to protect you from the world. When we’d take you to the park, Dad would want me to sit with him and talk while you played, but I’d follow you around instead, to make sure you didn’t get hurt. And when you ran out of here tonight…” Charlie shook his head.

Logan couldn’t speak. He was waiting for Charlie’s worry to turn into anger.

Charlie made sure they had eye contact and said, “I was afraid I’d never get the chance to tell you how happy I am we’ve gotten to know each other again after all these years. I know this may sound sudden to you, but once this whole thing with Gory is over, I want you to consider moving in with me, for a year or two, while you go to school.”

“Move in?” Logan asked with dazed confusion.

“Just something for you to think about. I know you’re in college, and out on your own for the first time in your life, so I understand if you don’t want to. But I want you to know you’re not alone in the world. Both of your parents are gone, but you still have me. I want you to think of my house, as the place you come home to for the holidays, or even when you just need someone to talk to.”

Logan couldn’t believe his ears. He’d just done something stupid, and instead of being angry, Charlie was offering him a home. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to decide right now, just think about it.”

“Okay.”

After a short pause, Charlie said quietly, “Running out of here like you did…”

“Was stupid.” Logan finished for him. “I know.”

Charlie shook his head. “Well it was a bad decision. Why didn’t you just talk to me about it? You didn’t have to put yourself in danger. I could have bought you a disposable cell phone to call Veronica.”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” Charlie asked, getting upset all over again, at the thought of his baby brother out on the street with Gory gunning for him.

Logan heard the anger in Charlie’s tone, and tensed up. He’d almost let himself believe the anger wasn’t going to be coming. “I didn’t think anyone would listen to me.”

Charlie put a hand on Logan’s shoulder, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “I would have.”

“Okay,” Logan said, feeling close to tears.

Charlie let his hand drop and said, “I’m going to make some hot chocolate. You want some?”

“No thanks.” Logan remembered the beer he’d left in Keith’s car. He desperately wanted to down the rest of it, but knew exactly what Charlie thought of his drinking.

As soon as Charlie’s back was turned, Logan headed to the front door. Once Charlie turned the water on to fill the kettle, Logan eased the door open, only to find Spencer standing on the other side.

“Spencer?”

Spencer advanced on Logan, shutting the door behind him.

Logan walked backwards until his butt hit the back of the couch. “I had to call Veronica.”
“You didn’t have to run away to do it.”

Logan shook his head and opened his mouth, but Spencer wasn’t in the mood to listen. He grabbed Logan’s right arm, twisted it behind his back, and bent him face down over the back of the couch.

Logan quietly whimpered, “Fuck,” and then clamped his mouth shut.

Spencer kept the kid down with one hand, and yanked his own belt off with the other.

Hearing the familiar sound, Logan closed his eyes, and forced himself to take shallow quick breaths through his nose.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Charlie demanded from the kitchen.

“Keeping a promise,” Spencer said.

The belt whistled through the air, before landing with a loud thwack against Logan’s jeans. Logan had been belted plenty of times, and kept himself perfectly still and quiet.

Momentarily frozen in confusion, Charlie said, “Promise?”
Surprised by Logan’s lack of reaction to the first swat, Spencer started whipping him in earnest, and raised his voice to be heard over the noise. “I told him if he ran off again under my watch, things were going to get ugly between us.” By the time the sentence was out of his mouth, he’d already given Logan six licks.

Logan tried to keep his muscles relaxed, but Spencer was whipping faster then his father usually did, and he found himself tensing up.

In the spare bedroom, Keith heard distinct smacking sounds coming from the living room, and quickly told Veronica he’d call her back. He rushed to the living room to stop Spencer, but found he was too late.

Charlie’s confusion changed to fury while Spencer was explaining, and before Spencer could land the belt a seventh time, Charlie had grabbed his swinging arm with both of his hands. Charlie blocked Logan’s body by stepping in between him and Spencer.

Logan tensed up even more, when the swats suddenly stopped, anticipating something worse. He opened his eyes, and craned his neck back to see what was happening.

Charlie let go of Spencer’s arm, and shoved him. Spencer stumbled back a couple of steps, letting go of Logan’s arm. With calm authority, Charlie said, “If you ever hit my brother again, I’ll have you charged with assault.”

Shocked, Logan pushed himself to a standing position, and turned so he was facing Charlie’s back.

Spencer’s glare moved back and forth between the two brothers as he shouted, “If he keeps running off, he’ll be dead before this assignment is over! I’m trying to protect him!”

“Whipping him like that will make him more likely to run off again!” Charlie yelled.

Logan’s eyes went wide with shock. Hearing those words come out of Charlie’s mouth brought up all kinds of emotions.

“Well doing nothing wasn’t working!” Spencer pointed at Logan with the belt, and said, “He was opening the front door to leave again when I got here!”

“Probably because he was afraid of you!” Charlie said.

Before things could escalate, Keith stepped in and put a hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “Let’s go for a walk.”

“I give up!” Spencer tossed his belt onto the floor, and stormed out of the house with Keith on his heels.

Once they were alone, Charlie turned to see Logan standing behind him, less then two feet away. Charlie raised his arm to put a hand on Logan’s shoulder, saw him flinch, and froze. With that flinch, everything fell into place in Charlie’s mind.

The terror on Logan’s face when he’d been discovered reading Charlie’s book. The struggle to escape that day. Running away tonight without asking anyone for help. The hesitation to get out of the car when he arrived home. The silence while being whipped. Calling his father a bastard even though he was dead, and saying he didn’t miss him with conviction. It all added up to abuse. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized it before now. During college, he’d spent a few months volunteering for child services, and Logan’s behavior mirrored that of some of the children he’d seen.

Keeping his movements slow, Charlie put his hand on Logan’s shoulder and said, “Are you alright?”

Logan wanted to say yes, but nothing would come out of his mouth. No one had ever stood up for him like that before. His mom had forced his father to stop hurting him three separate times while he was growing up. But never during a formal whipping, and never when he’d clearly done something to deserve it, like he had tonight. Tears filled his eyes, and his vision blurred. He whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Charlie gently pulled him into a hug and said, “It’s okay, I’m not mad.”

Sagging with relief at those words and the hug, Logan held onto Charlie for support. He broke down into tears, and tried to explain himself at the same time. “I… w… wasn’t trying to leave.”

Rubbing his hand up and down Logan’s back, Charlie said, “Alright, I believe you.”

“I… I wanted…”

Interrupting, Charlie said gently, “Hey, give yourself a few minutes here. I’m not going anywhere, and later we can sit and talk about it.”

Logan let his forehead rest on Charlie’s shoulder, and shook his head, thinking Charlie wouldn’t be happy to hear that the reason he wanted to go outside was to get his beer.

“I’m not going to let anyone hurt you,” Charlie said, trying to remember everything he’d learned from the people he’d met at child services. “I’m not going to get angry, no matter what you say or do.”

Logan shook his head again, too lost in his tears to think straight.

Charlie stopped trying to convince him, knowing trust would take time, and just held him. It didn’t take Logan long to get a hold of himself, and once he did, he realized he’d been crying on Charlie’s shoulder. He was completely ashamed to have broken down over the kind of whipping he would have received when he was seven.

Letting go of Charlie, Logan stepped back and wiped at his face. He sniffed and muttered, “Sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. The stress of being cooped up must be getting to me.”

“What were you trying to tell me earlier?”

Unable to make eye contact, Logan said, “I wasn’t trying to leave when Spencer showed up. I was trying to go get my beer out of Keith’s car.” Logan darted a glance at Charlie’s face, trying to gage his reaction.

“I see.” Charlie nodded. The drinking made more sense to him now, and decided not to comment on it. Instead he said, “Spencer had no right to hit you.”

Logan made eye contact, and Charlie could see how nervous he was. He pointedly added, “No one has the right to hit you like that.”

Logan realized that Charlie knew, and blushed with shame. Staring at the floor, he whispered, “Dad thought he did.”

“He was wrong.”

Wiping at fresh tears, Logan said, “When that asshole reporter, Norman, showed up, I thought he was you. I poured my guts out to him, and the whole time he just wanted to use me to get a fucking story.”

Hating himself for not calling Logan back in the first place, Charlie said, “I’m sorry. Sorry I wasn’t there to listen to you the first time around, but I’m here now, and I want to hear about it.”

Logan shrugged, not knowing what to say.

“When was the last time he hit you?”

“The last big one was a couple of years ago. Thank God for prison huh?”

“You wanna tell me about it?”

“My friends and I were paying bums to beat each other up, and then betting on who would win.” Logan paused to see Charlie’s reaction.

Charlie nodded, and waited to hear the rest.

“A video of it leaked onto the internet, and I knew I’d be in for it when I got home, Dad hated bad press. So I stayed out until two in the morning, trying to avoid him. But he was there waiting. And I would have understood, you know. It was a shitty thing for me to do, and I would have deserved it. But he didn’t. He forced me to go work in a soup kitchen for a day with him, while the press was there. Dad always thought the best remedy for bad press was good press. But on the way there…”

Logan shook his head. “There was this bum who’d refused to fight for me, because he had too much integrity. Like he’d rather go hungry, than sell himself out for me. Dad had zero integrity. He signed up for movies that he knew were bad, selling himself out to the highest bidder for money we didn’t even need. And then he expected me to go smile for the camera and tell everyone I was a bonehead kid, while he was a wonderful father. I couldn’t stand it, so once we got there, I smiled and told the press he was going to donate half a million to the homeless shelter. I knew he’d beat the shit out of me when we got home, but it was worth it to see the look on his face.”

“What happened when you got home?”

“He was eerily quiet the whole ride home, and when we pulled up to the house he ordered me to get a belt. Mom met us at the door, with a drink in her hand, and a glare on her face. They both were fond of money. I got the belt, met him in his office, and took off my shirt. He whipped my back until he felt better I guess. I couldn’t move very well the next day, so I took a day off school. Had bruises for a week and a half.”

Charlie had hated Aaron for years, and he hadn’t thought it possible to hate him even more, but he’d been wrong. “That’s horrible.”

Logan shrugged. “It’s not like I was innocent. I embarrassed him in public, and lost him a shit load of money.”

There were so many things wrong with that statement Charlie didn’t know where to start. “The punishment was much too severe to fit the crime, and it was given by someone who didn’t deserve respect. That makes it abuse.”

Logan stared at the floor for a few seconds. During his childhood he’d tried to tell people it was abuse, but they never believed him. After an awkward pause, Logan said, “Thanks for stepping in tonight.”

“I’m your older brother, it’s my job to protect you. Has Spencer hit you before?”

“No.”

“Thank goodness for that. We’ll get a new bodyguard.”

Logan snorted.

“What?”

“I tried telling Keith I wanted a new bodyguard before coming back here, because I knew what he was planning to do. Keith said he trusts Spencer.”

“Well I don’t, and he’s not staying with us.”

Surprised by the conviction in Charlie’s voice, Logan said, “It’s almost eleven o’clock. I kind of doubt Keith is going to be able to find someone else tonight.”

“Hey, what happened to Mr. Mars?” Both brothers turned to see Keith coming in the front door, and shutting it behind him.

“Sorry,” Logan said, nervously watching the front door for Spencer. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Where’s Spencer?” Charlie asked.

“Gone. He’s taking my car, and going to a hotel for the night. I’ll stay here tonight, and then tomorrow, we’ll talk about where to go from here.”

“Thanks Mr. Mars,” Logan said, surprised that Keith would stay himself.

“Are you okay?” he asked, with genuine concern.

Logan tried to put on a smile, but couldn’t quite pull it off. “I’m fine.”

Not believing it for a second, Keith said, “Right.” He turned to Charlie and said, “I’ve got to call Veronica back. Can I use the spare room again?”

“Sure.”

Keith picked the belt up off the floor on his way to the spare room, to put with Spencer’s other things. As Keith was leaving, Logan realized he would tell Veronica what had happened. He opened his mouth to ask him not to, but then closed it again. He doubted Keith would keep something like that from Veronica even if he asked, and Veronica was one of the few people who did know what his father had done.

When the door to the bedroom shut, Charlie said, “What?”

“Just thinking about Veronica.”

“Now that your beer is on its way to a hotel room, did you want to reconsider the hot chocolate?”

“Sure.” Logan followed Charlie into the kitchen.

# # #

Keith wasn’t able to find a new bodyguard, and decided to take Spencer’s place, staying at Charlie’s until this assignment was done. He slept during the day, so he could be up for the night shift, leaving Charlie and Logan their days free to continue getting to know each other.

During lunch, four days after the incident with Spencer, Logan said, “When this is all over, you should call Brian.”

Charlie choked on his ham sandwich. After taking a drink of water, he said, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, you told me that when he broke things off, he said he still loved you right?”

“Yes, but…”

Logan held up a hand. “Just hear me out. You still love him right?”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Yes or no.”

“Yes.”

“And the reason he broke it off, is because he didn’t want to keep hiding the relationship?”

Charlie nodded.

“So cowboy up, give him a call, and stop hiding.”

Charlie sighed, “It’s not that easy, Logan. You may have grown up with cameras around, but I hate hearing other people talk about me on television.”

“Lame excuse. Dad was the star, and he’s dead. Even if the press hounds you for a day or two, it won’t last for long.”

“Brian might be seeing someone else by now.”

Logan shook his head. “You’re an idiot.”

“Hey!” Charlie sounded more hurt then offended.

“If I could get another chance with Veronica, I’d do whatever it took. Love isn’t that easy to find. When you’re lucky enough to have it, you should do everything in your power to keep it.”

Charlie thought Logan was much to young to think love was hard to find. He smiled and said, “Who’s the older brother here? I’m supposed to be giving you advice, not the other way around.”

Logan smirked. “Trina always did say I was an annoying little brother. If you want to play it that way, I can bug you about it every day until you call.”

Losing his smile Charlie said, “You can bug me all you want, I’m not going to call until I’m ready.”

“You told me yourself that sometimes you think things to death, and then regret not acting on them. Like not calling me back that first time.”

“And you told me that you act without thinking things through, and then regret it.”

The two sat in silence for a few seconds, facing off. Then Logan said with a smile, “And that’s why you should use the best parts of both of our methods. Take the time to think about it now, so you’ll be ready to take action and call him when this is over.”

Charlie rolled his eyes and said, “Eat your sandwich.”

# # #

That evening, the three men were sitting around the kitchen table playing poker. Logan said, “I call.”

Before Keith could respond, his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller and smiled before answering. “Hi, sweetheart.”

Charlie got up to get a soda, while they waited for Keith to get off the phone. Coming back to the table, he saw Logan’s expression, and wondered what was wrong. He hadn’t heard Keith say anything other then ‘yes’, but Logan appeared to be in pain. When Charlie sat down, he saw nothing but a smile on Keith’s face. Keith said, “A ninety-nine? Really?”

Logan smiled too, even though he kept his eyes on his poker chips.

“I’m so proud I could burst.”

Logan grimaced, and muttered, “Bathroom break.”

Charlie waited outside the bathroom door. When Logan came out, Charlie said, “What’s wrong?”

Surprised, Logan said, “Nothing.”

“I saw your face, it’s not nothing. Thinking about Veronica?”

Logan leaned against the doorframe. “Kind of.” He looked over at Keith’s smiling face and said, “I see how close they are, and on the one hand, I’m happy for her, because I love her, and seeing her happy makes me happy. But on the other hand, I’m…” He looked back at Charlie. “I’m jealous of the bond they have.”

Charlie pulled Logan into a hug. Logan’s voice was muffled by Charlie’s chest. “Come on, dude, we talked about this.”

Rubbing a hand up and down the kid’s back, Charlie murmured, “Yeah we did, and I didn’t agree.”

Logan sighed, wrapping his arms around Charlie, and thinking back to the first day Keith had slept there.

# # #

They were sitting side by side on the couch, and Logan finished his current story with, “I still puke when I smell pears.”

Moving slow enough not to startle the kid, Charlie pulled him into a hug.

“Um… what gives? I just told you I didn’t need a hug after every story.”

“I think you do.”

With a huff, Logan said, “It’s kind of making me uncomfortable.”

Charlie let him go, but kept his hands on his shoulders. “Why, because I’m gay?”

“What? No!” Logan said, surprised and hurt that Charlie would think that of him.

“Then why?”

Logan looked down and thought about it. “Because it makes it harder to block out my feelings.”

Charlie pulled him back into the hug and said, “You’re telling me these horror stories with detachment, like they happened to someone else. But they happened to you. You should have feelings about it.”

“I don’t want to break down every time I tell you something.”

“I’m sure you don’t want to, but maybe you need to. Dad was wrong to treat you the way he did, and keeping all that anger, pain, and sorrow inside, isn’t going to help you get past it.”

Logan felt his throat tightening. “Fuck,” he said with dismay, his voice cracking.

Patting the kid’s back, Charlie could hear the tears start. He said, “Shoving those pears down you throat was unforgivable. You were a helpless little kid, and he tortured you to get rid of his own anger. Most kids try to peek at the Christmas gifts, it doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you normal.”

# # #

Logan felt his eyes start to fill again now, and shook his head. Breaking down in front of Keith was not on his list of things to do. He let go of Charlie and whispered, “Not in front of other people, okay?”

“Okay.” Charlie let go, too.

Once Keith was off the phone, they resumed their game.

Three hours later, Charlie folded and said, “That’s it for me. I’m going to bed.” He stood, but stayed by the table when Keith’s phone rang.

Keith frowned, and answered, “Veronica?”
Worried, Logan fiddled with the hem of his sleeve, while waiting to hear what was wrong.

After a short, one sided, conversation, Keith smiled and said, “That’s the best news I’ve heard in a while. Yeah, I’ll tell him. Good night, sweetheart.”

Keith turned to Logan and said, “Gory is in custody.”

“What?” Logan couldn’t quite believe it was true.

“They followed him, and caught him up at his father’s cabin. Not just Gory, but his father and uncle too. There was a body in the bathroom, and Veronica is certain that they’ll find more bodies buried out in their property. Gory is going to have bigger things to worry about then you.”

Grinning, Charlie clapped Logan on the back.

Staying serious, Logan turned to Keith, “So it’s all over?”

“That’s right,” Keith said with a smile.

Logan turned to Charlie and saw his grin. Charlie said, “No more protective custody.”

A smile was slow to form on Logan’s face, but it grew into a huge grin. He jumped up, and grabbed Charlie in a hug.

Chuckling, Charlie said, “And, no more being cooped up in the house while the sun is shining.”

“That’s right!” Logan said. He let go and turned to Keith. He held out his hand to shake and said, “Thank you for everything, Mr. Mars.”

Keith stood up, grabbed Logan’s hand, and surprised the kid by pulling him into a quick one-armed hug as well. “Anytime, Logan.”

Keith let go and said to Charlie, “I’ll go pack up my stuff and call Spencer to come pick me up.”

“It’s late, you can stay the night if you want.”

“Thanks, but I’d rather go home.” Keith went to the spare bedroom to pack.

Too happy and excited to be still, Logan said, “We should go out and celebrate!”

“Sounds good. What do you want to do?”

“There’s this great bar over on…” Logan saw Charlie’s frown, and frowned himself. “Or not.”

“I teach for a private school. If pictures came out of me drinking at a bar with my nineteen-year-old brother, I wouldn’t have a job come fall.”

“Right. I hadn’t even thought of it from that perspective, I was just thinking that you didn’t want me to drink.”

Charlie chose his words carefully, “Drinking is a coping mechanism. I don’t like you doing it, but I understand why you would. Especially since it was your mother’s coping mechanism of choice.”

Logan’s frowned deepened. “All my friends drink at parties. It’s not a coping mechanism, it’s normal teenage behavior.”

Not wanting to start an argument, Charlie said, “We could go to a late night movie.” He checked his watch and said, “Or we could go bowling. There’s this place Brian and I used to go that stays open until one.”

“You guys went out in public together?”

“Sure, we went out all the time as ‘friends’.

“Oh.”

“Or, we could go to an all night diner for some dessert, and talk about what happens now.”

“What happens now?” Logan asked, wishing he didn’t feel as nervous as he did. Had Charlie changed his mind about that offer to move in?

“You’re a free man. I want you to move in with me, but I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”

With a smile, Logan said, “I do want to move in. We should go to the diner and talk.”

# # #

They moved Logan’s things in the next day, and the spare bedroom became Logan’s room. It only took one trip, because Logan had been living in the hotel since their father’s house had burned down, and he didn’t have any furniture.

Now that the last box had been unpacked, they were relaxing together on the couch. Charlie said, “I was thinking about calling my mom, and inviting her to dinner tonight.”

“Oh… Okay.” Logan wasn’t sure if he was supposed to meet her, or make himself scarce for the night.

“I know it’s kind of sudden, but we usually have dinner together at least once a month. And once I tell her what’s been going on, she’ll want to meet you right away.”

Smiling Logan said, “Why? Does she want to yell at me for telling the world about you on Larry King?”

Charlie grinned. “Well, when I bring up your name she may want to, but once I explain, she won’t.”

“If you say so.”

“I do.” Charlie patted Logan’s knee.

# # #

That night Charlie noticed Logan fidgeting and looking at the clock every few minutes. He opened his mouth to reassure the younger man, but the doorbell rang before he had the chance.

Charlie went to the door, and said, “Hi, Mom.”

She gave him a hug. “Hello, dear.” She let him go and made eye contact with Logan a few feet away. She pushed past Charlie and said, “And this must be Logan.”

“Hi, Ms. Stone,” Logan said, giving her a little wave, unsure what to do with his hands.

“None of that now,” she said, as she walked towards him, “It’s Jane.”

“Okay.” He held out his hand to shake and said, “Nice to meet you, Jane.”

“Well, I’ve met you a few times before,” she said with a smile, “but you were much smaller then.” Instead of taking his hand, she put both of her hands on his shoulders, and pulled him down slightly to give him a quick hug.

After letting him go, she kept one hand on his shoulder, and put the other on his chin. She turned his head to the right and left, getting a good look at him. “You take after your mother,” she said, and let go.

Logan nodded, “Everyone tells me I look like her.” He turned to Charlie with a smile, “It was a surprise to see how much Charlie looks like Aaron.”

Jane walked back to her son and put an arm around his waist. “He got the best of both worlds. Aaron’s looks, and my sweet disposition.”

With a smile, Charlie kissed the top of her head. Logan could see the bond they had, which reminded him of Keith and Veronica. He decided he liked Jane, and tried not to feel too jealous.

Fifteen minutes later, Jane had just finished telling Logan an amusing story about five year old Charlie, when Charlie said, “Dinner’s ready. Come sit down.”

Once everyone was sitting down with food, Logan said, “So, Jane, do you think your son is stubborn?”

Surprised, Charlie wondered where Logan was going with that.

Looking surprised herself, Jane said, “Well, I suppose he can be. Why do you ask?”

“You know Brian right?”

Charlie glared at his little brother, and his tone held warning when he said, “Logan…”

Jane looked back and forth between the two young men. Logan kept his eyes on her, and Charlie kept his eyes on Logan. After a pause, she said, “Yes. Brian is a lovely young man.”

Without looking his way, Logan pointed a fork in Charlie’s direction, and said, “Help me convince Charlie to give him a call.”

Raising his voice, Charlie said, “We will not be discussing my love life at the dinner table!”

Purposely keeping his eyes off Charlie’s face, because he looked way too much like Aaron when he was angry, Logan said, “What love life? Maybe if you’d call him like I told you to, you’d have a love life to talk about.”

Jane burst out laughing startling both men. Once she had caught her breath, she said, “Oh Charlie, you looked like steam was going to be coming out of your ears.” She shook her head, and turned to Logan, “I’m with you one hundred percent. It would be wonderful if you could get him to come out of the closet and repair his relationship with Brian.”

Logan smirked and darted his eyes to Charlie to see if the anger was still visible. Instead of anger, the man looked a bit exasperated, but he clearly saw some humor in his mother’s statement too.

“If I tell you both that I’ll consider it, can we let it drop for the evening?” Charlie asked.

They both agreed, and the conversation veered off towards Charlie’s newest book.

# # #

A week later, Logan had worn Charlie down with his badgering, and Brian had been called. Logan had met Brian a couple of days after that, and they’d hit it off right away with their mutual love of surfing. Soon Charlie and Biran started openly dating, and after three days of annoying media coverage on Aaron’s gay offspring, the press ignored them. Wanting to give his brother space, Logan had spent most of his free time surfing with Dick, and hanging out at the beach.

Two weeks after that Brian had moved in, and after a lot of reassurance from both Charlie and Brian, Logan had been convinced to stay, and the three settled into living together. But Logan could only handle the happy family situation for a couple of weeks before he started to feel out of place and restless.

# # #

Looking at the clock again, Charlie wondered if he should call. Brian looked up from his book to see Charlie watching the clock instead of trying to write. Brian set his book down, and said, “Just call him, or you’ll never get to sleep.”

Charlie didn’t want to come off as a killjoy or a disapproving authority figure, but he honestly didn’t approve of all the late night partying that Logan did, especially when it meant he’d be drinking. He reluctantly called Logan’s cell.

“Charlie?” Logan said.

The noise was so loud on the other end of the phone, he doubted Logan would be able to hear him. “Hi Logan, where are you?”

“Dick’s throwing a ‘Send Your Father to Prison’ party, complete with nail files in the chocolate cake.”

Charlie snorted. “Sounds like fun.”

“Has been so far. So, what’s up?”

“I just wanted to know where you were, and when you thought you’d be home.”

The line was silent for a few minutes. “Logan?”

“I’m at Dick’s house, and I’ll probably crash here tonight.”

With a frown Charlie said, “Okay, so you’ll be back tomorrow morning then?”

“Better make it tomorrow afternoon.”

Charlie sighed. “Be careful. Try not to get wasted okay? And if you need me to come pick you up, just call.”

“Dude, don’t worry so much. I’m fine. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’ll see…” The background noises cut off. “Logan?”

Brian put his arm around Charlie’s shoulders and said, “He’s nineteen and he’s at a party with his friend. That’s normal teenage behavior. He’ll be okay.”

Charley shook his head. “It would be normal teen behavior if he were trying to rebel, but he’s not.”

“How do you know?”

“If he were trying to rebel, he’d be doing something a lot more reckless and creative than drinking at a party.”

“Okay, then what do you think it is?”

“He told me something when we were first getting to know each other. He said when things are good in his life, he always messes them up. A part of me has to wonder if he’s just not sure how to handle life when he’s in a happy situation.”

“And the other part of you?”

“Has to wonder if he’s pushing me to see if I’ll react the way our father would have, since he knows without a doubt that I don’t approve of his drinking.”

Brian kissed the top of Charlie’s head and said, “Give it time. He’ll settle down after a while.” Brian stood up off the couch and held his hand out to his boyfriend. “It’s late. Let’s go try to get some sleep.”

Charlie let himself get pulled to bed.

# # #

The ringing of the telephone woke Charlie up. Beside him on the bed, Brian muttered, “What time is it?”

Glancing at the alarm clock, he said, “Two fifteen,” and then picked up the phone, “Hello?”

“Hey Charlie.”

“Logan?”

“Yeah.”

“What happened?”

“Dick and I kind of got in an accident.”

“Are you okay?” Charlie sat up all the way, causing Brian to do the same.

“Yeah, we’re fine.”

“You need me to come pick you up?”

“About that…” Logan trailed off.

“Yes?”

“I need you to pick me up at the police station.”

“What? Why?”

“Dick got a DUI, and they said I can’t leave unless I pass a breathalizer, or have someone sober pick me up.”

Charlie rubbed a hand down his face to keep himself from yelling into the phone.

“Charlie?” Logan asked.

“I’m here. Hold on, let me get a pen, and you can give me the address.”

Once he had the address, Charlie said, “Okay, I’m on my way. Sit tight.”

“Thanks.”

“What happened?” Brian asked once Charlie had hung up.

“I have to pick up Logan at the police station.”

With a groan, Brian got up and started putting his clothes on.

“You don’t have to come,” Charlie said as he got up to get dressed also.

“I know, but he’s your brother. I want to come… if it’s okay with you.”

“Of course it’s okay. I’ll probably need the support.” Charlie shook his head. “He said his friend, Dick, got a DUI. They were in an accident.”

Brian stilled. “Wait a minute. Logan and Dick went out driving? When they were drunk?”

“Yeah I think they did,” Charlie said with a frown. He finished getting dressed by pulling a shirt over his head, and sat down on the edge of the bed. He looked over at Brian and said, “What should I do?”

Brian shook his head, walked around to Charlie’s side of the bed, and sat down next to him. He took Charlie’s hand in both of his own and said, “What do you think you should do?”

“I don’t know. Logan is nineteen, almost twenty. He’s an adult. I’ve told him again and again that he shouldn’t be drinking, but he doesn’t listen to me, and I can’t stop him when he’s out with his friends. But…”

“But?”

“What I really want to do is tell him he’s grounded,” Charlie admitted, “but I can’t force him to accept that, and I’m afraid he’ll tell me to screw off and move back to the hotel.”

Brian squeezed Charlie’s hand and said, “I think you have to try.”

“You do?”

“I do. The kid is going to wind up in jail or dead if he keeps going down this path. You need to take a firm stand on this, even if it does make him move out. Logan is a smart kid, he knows what he’s doing is wrong. Give him an ultimatum, and even if he walks out tonight, I’ll bet he’ll be back in a few days to accept it. But even if he never comes back, and it creates a rift in your relationship, at least you’ll know that you did everything you could to help him.”

Charlie slowly nodded, and then gave Brian a quick kiss before standing up. “Let’s go get him.”

# # #

Dick saw Charlie and Brian before Logan did, and said, “Dude, look. Your fake fag folks are here to pick you up.”

Logan glared, and punched Dick in the shoulder hard.

“Ow!” Dick said while laughing, and covering the spot with his other hand.

Logan muttered, “At least my older brother is looking out for me.”

Dick lost his smile, thinking about Cassidy. Without warning, he lunged at Logan, knocking him down to the floor of the cell, and started punching him.

Logan fought back, and they rolled around the floor exchanging punches, while the guard unlocked the cell door.

Charlie yelled, “Stop it! Both of you knock it off! Logan!”

The boys continued to struggle with each other until the guard came in, and hauled Logan up off the floor, and away from Dick. Logan hissed, “You’re a moron.”

Dick wiped some blood off his lip and said, “Whatever man.”

The guard pulled Logan out of the cell, and locked the door again with Dick inside.

Charlie put a hand on Logan’s shoulder and took a look at the kid’s face. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Logan touched his eyebrow, and saw blood when he pulled his hand away.

“Let’s get you out of here.” Charlie and Logan followed the guard to go fill out paperwork so Logan could go home.

# # #

The car ride home was silent. Logan was too nervous to say anything, and Charlie wanted to have the potentially volatile discussion face to face in the comfort of home.

Once Brian pulled up to the house and parked, Charlie turned to the back seat and said, “Go have a seat in the living room. We need to talk.”

Logan’s stomach twisted. That was it then. He’d screwed himself over again, and now they were going to ask him to leave. He nodded in acceptance, got out of the car, and walked to the house with Charlie and Brian following him.

Instead of sitting, he stood by the couch and turned to face his brother. “Why don’t we just skip the talk. I’ll go pack my bags, and I’ll be out of here first thing in the morning.”

“Do you want to leave?” Charlie asked as he crossed his arms.

Logan shrugged and looked down at the couch. “No.”

“Good, because I don’t want you to leave.”

“You don’t?” Logan asked, looking up again.

“We don’t want you to leave,” Brian added.

“Right,” Charlie smiled at his boyfriend. “We don’t want you to leave. We like having you here.”

Logan slowly nodded, believing them, and sat down on the couch. “Okay then, go ahead and talk.”

Having thought about it the whole way home, Charlie started in with his lecture. “You already know that I don’t approve of your drinking. You’re underage, and we both know you use drinking as a coping mechanism to drown out your emotions, which isn’t healthy. But I understand that going to a party and drinking is normal for someone your age, so I haven’t tried to stop you. But tonight…” Charlie shook his head, and glared at his little brother. “Tonight you didn’t just drink. You got in the car with someone who was clearly drunk, and let him drive.”

Unable to maintain eye contact, Logan looked down his knees and said softly, “Yeah.”

“You could have been killed, Logan.”

“Or Dick could have killed someone else,” Brian added.

“Right,” Charlie agreed. “That’s way beyond the usual college student mistake.”

“I know, okay?” Logan said. “I know it was an idiotic, bone headed move that could have ended in disaster. I get it.” He shook his head. “I just didn’t think it through at the time.”

“Is that the truth?” Charlie asked, “Or maybe you just didn’t think anyone would care? Because I do care, and I’m really unhappy with you. Or maybe you wanted to see how I’d react? I may look like our father, but I’d never hit you.”
Logan shook his head. “I know you wouldn’t.”
“But I am going to react, and you’re not going to like it.”

Logan looked up warily.

“You’re grounded,” Charlie said.

“What?” Logan said softly, not quite believing what he had heard.

“You’re grounded for three weeks. No parties, no leaving the house, no having anyone over, and certainly no drinking.”

Logan tilted his head to the side, as if trying to figure his brother out. “I’m gonna be twenty next week.”

“Yeah you are, and you’re going to spend it here at home, because you’re grounded.”

Logan’s eyebrows drew together in a frown while he tried to come to terms with what was being said. He squinted at Charlie and said, “What if I say no?”

Charlie sighed, and walked over to sit next to Logan on the couch. The teen tensed up, not knowing what to expect. Charlie put his arm around Logan’s shoulders, and gave him a side hug, “You’re my brother, and I love you. I want you to stay here with me, but if you refuse to be grounded, then you’re going to have to move out, because I refuse to sit by and let you risk your future if I can stop you.”

Brian moved a few steps closer and added, “You said yourself it was an idiotic move. You know you deserve it, even if you don’t like it.”

Silence stretched out while Logan thought about what they’d said. A few moments later Charlie patted Logan’s shoulder and said, “Why don’t you think about it tonight, and let me know in the morning.”

Logan shook his head and said quietly, “I’ll be grounded.”

“You will?” Charlie said, not quite believing it had gone so smoothly.

Logan looked at Charlie with tears in his eyes and said, “My mom is the only other person who has ever told me that they loved me. Not Aaron, not Lily, not Trina, not even Veronica said those words to me.”

Charlie felt like he was looking into Logan’s broken soul, and pulled the boy into a full hug. “I love you. I’ve loved you since you were a baby. I tried to shut those feelings out when Aaron disowned me, but it took a long time, and now that you’re back in my life, I don’t think I could ever do it again.”

“I love you, too,” Logan whispered, and tried unsuccessfully not to let anymore tears slide down his face. Charlie held him tight until Logan let go.

Charlie patted Logan’s back and said, “Why don’t you go get some sleep. We can talk more about being grounded and what that entails in the morning.”

“Okay.” Logan wiped the tears off his face, got up, and went to his room.

Brian held his hand out to Charlie and said, “I’d say that went pretty well.”

Charlie took the offered hand and let Brian pull him off the couch. “Better than I expected,” he said as they walked down the hall to their room. “We’ll see how agreeable he is over the next three weeks.”

“I think he’ll surprise you,” Brian said with confidence as he shut the door to their bedroom. “He’s starved for affection. If you’re consistent with him, and show him that you really do care, he’ll stop being so self destructive.”

“I hope so,” Charlie said.

Soon both men were undressed and back in bed for the second time that night.

# # #

A month later, the summer was coming to a close. Logan had taken his grounding relatively well, only complaining a few times, and once it was done, he didn’t immediately revert back to his partying.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon at the beach, with a slight breeze to keep everyone from overheating, and Charlie was sitting on the sand holding his laptop, when a young woman came and sat next to him.

“Hi Charlie.”

He recognized her immediately from Aaron’s trial. “Veronica?”

“That’s me.”

Charlie looked out towards the water to try and spot Logan or Brian, but he couldn’t easily find them among all the surfers. He turned back to her. “What can I do for you?”

She shook her head. “Nothing. I just wanted to say thanks.”

“Thanks? Thanks for what?”

She looked out towards the ocean. “For looking after him. For taking him in. For keeping him safe.” She looked back at him. “For giving a crap, unlike the rest of his family. You probably saved his life.” She looked back at the ocean. “In more ways than one.”

He smiled at her profile. “I should be the one thanking you. You’re the one who got the FBI to take down Gory and his family.”

With a grin she said, “That wasn’t entirely selfless, I would have investigated Gory even if Logan wasn’t involved, because I owed him one. But I’m glad I was able to have a hand in saving Logan. I owed him one, too.”

Charlie knew he probably shouldn’t stick his nose in his brother’s love life, but he couldn’t stop himself. “He still loves you.”

“Yeah, I know. The feeling is mutual.” She stood up and dusted the sand off her shorts, and walked towards the water.

Charlie wasn’t sure what to make of that comment, but closed his laptop, and watched the young woman to see what she was going to do next.

# # #

Logan caught sight of Veronica as he and Brian were wading towards the shore. He hadn’t realized she was back yet, and the sight of her took his breath away for a second.

“You okay?” Brian asked when Logan didn’t respond to his question.

Logan kept is eyes on Veronica and picked up the pace. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked if you wanted to eat out tonight.”

“Oh, sure. Sounds great.”

Brian looked towards the shore, to see what was holding Logan’s attention, and quit asking questions once he saw the petite blond. Instead he patted Logan’s shoulder and said, “Want me to take your board up to Charlie so you and your friend can catch up.”

Logan handed the surfboard over and said, “Thanks, Brian.”

“No problem.”

Brian nodded at Veronica as he walked past, and headed towards Charlie.

Logan walked up to Veronica, and forced himself to keep a friendly distance.

“You’re back.”

“I got home last night.”

“Was it everything you’d hoped for and more?”

She smiled. “It was pretty great, and my life wasn’t in danger even once this whole summer.”

“Must have been difficult to cope with,” he said with a smirk.

“You have no idea.”

After an awkward little pause, she looked out towards the ocean and said, “You probably haven’t heard, but Piz got a job offer from a New York radio station.” Logan’s eyebrows shot up. She looked back at him and added, “He won’t be going to college with us next year.”

“Oh… well…” Logan forced himself not to jump the gun by asking her out, “…are you guys going to try the long distance thing?”

“No. We talked about it, and we both decided it would be best to break things off.”

“Yeah?” He wasn’t sure what to say. He was ecstatic that they’d broken up, but that wasn’t the kind of thing a person should be saying, especially to an ex.

“Yeah.”

After another somewhat awkward pause, Veronica said, “How have things been going with Charlie?”

“They’ve been great,” Logan said with a genuine smile. He opened his mouth to tell her that he’d been grounded, thought twice about that, and then decided to trust that she’d understand, even if no one else would. “He grounded me for getting drunk and being in the car with Dick when he got a DUI.”

She gave him a soft smile. “I’m happy for you. You deserve to have someone looking out for you.”

“Thanks.” He blushed slightly and looked away.

She moved closer to him and put her hand on his chest. When he looked down into her eyes, she said, “I miss you.”

“I miss you, too,” he whispered. “So much.”

“We could try again,” she said hopefully.

That was all the incentive he needed. He pulled her close, and leaned down to kiss her. Their lips met, and the rest of the world dropped away. Her hands in his damp hair, the smell of her perfume, and the sound of her soft moan as their tongues entwined, blocked everything else out of Logan’s mind.

A few moments later they stopped kissing, and just held each other close with their forehead’s touching.

“I take it that’s a yes?” she said.

“Yes. Absolutely yes.”

She put her hands on the sides of his face and said, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he whispered, and then leaned down to kiss her again, so that he wouldn’t break down and cry from the amount joy he felt in his soul.


The End


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