Fic: Like a Knife Cuts It Clear
Characters/Pairings: Veronica, Logan, LoVe
Word Count: ~8,000
Summary: "A wise man once said that time enjoyed isn't time wasted," he tells her. "Let's think about that." Logan and Veronica take a road trip.
A/N: It's been a while since I've written VM, so I may be a little rusty. All mistakes are mine. Title and lyrics are from Carbon Leaf's "What About Everything?"
Get away and come with me,
Come away with me and we'll see,
If I was right on that night, that a future was made.
Before time takes each year, like a knife cuts it clear,
It's school, then work, and then life that just sharpens the blade.
I think about time for fun,
I think about time for play,
Then I think about being done, with no resume,
With no one left to blame.
What about fortune and fame?
What about your love to obtain?
The whole summer stretches ahead, hot and sticky and miserable, and she wants an escape.
Her house doesn't feel like home anymore, not after everything that happened with her father, and she can't spend her time at Mars Investigations for the same reason — because of what she did, her father lost the election; because of what she did, he's once more stuck in Mars Investigations.
She spends some time with Mac, but Mac has a job and a boyfriend and a life.
And Veronica has a job she quit and a boyfriend who doesn't know she quit her job, and just not much of a life at all.
The air conditioning in the house quits at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday, her attempt to cool off by lying spread out on the cool tile of the kitchen floor only helps for so long, and before even an hour passes she simply wants out. She decides on a trip to the grocery store.
She sees him on the cereal aisle. (When did he start to grocery shop?)
A box of Fruit Loops in his hands, he only stares at her, and finally she offers a small smile of acknowledgement, because she can't simply ignore him. "Hey Logan."
He smiles, too, this small, sweet smile that makes her heart turn over in her chest, and then he simply puts the Fruit Loops in his cart and moves down the aisle past her. She breathes a sigh of relief. But then she thinks about how much she misses that smile of his, and how much she misses his sly, cocky smile, too, and how much she misses the feel of his smile against her temple, and —
"Logan?" she calls, and he looks over his shoulder at her. "Are you maybe free for dinner?"
He suggests they meet at this new Mexican place, and she agrees.
It's strange to feel this way with him, simply because she's known him forever yet she's never felt this way. She's always known how to act around him, whether as a friend or an enemy or a girlfriend, but this strange limbo of nothing between them makes her beyond uncomfortable.
It's even worse than the weeks after their break-up, when he would have done anything to win her back and she would have done anything to make herself truly hate him, but instead they danced a complicated waltz of something without a label, until, well, until disaster stuck, just like always.
"What've you been up to this summer?" he asks.
She shrugs. "I was in D.C. for an internship with the FBI, but, as it turns out, the FBI are basically a sexist clubhouse, and that lasted a solid two weeks." She looks at her menu so she doesn't have to look at him. "How's everything with Gory?" she asks. "He hasn't tried to retaliate, has he?"
"Nah," Logan says. "He doesn't have the cahones, Mars." He grins a reckless half grin and takes a swig of the beer that the waitress hadn't carded him for.
"How's Piz?" he asks, and she bites down hard on the straw between her teeth.
"I wouldn't know," she replies.
That's all the catch-up they deem necessary, and they fill the rest of the meal with talk of movies and politics and television and baseball. It's after he watches her her take a giant bite of her triple fudge brownie that he makes the offer.
"I think I need a little break from Neptune," he tells her. "You wanna come with?"
She sets her fork down. "Come where?"
He shrugs. "Anywhere. I thought maybe I'd take a car and drive and see where I end up. It's something to do to pass the summer." His face is casual but his shoulders are tense, and the little observations like that aren't a mark of what a good private eye she is — it's a mark of how well she knows this boy. "So," he says. "You wanna come with?"
She broke the ice when she invited him to dinner. This is his attempt to thaw that ice entirely.
It'll seem like an insane idea in an hour, but for now it doesn't seem so terrible.
And what else does she have to do?
"I'm in," she says, and she smacks his hand when he tries to eat a fingerful of brownie.
"You want to go on a road trip with Logan Echolls?" her dad asks, incredulous.
The last of her clothes packed, Veronica zips her duffel bag. Logan will be by to pick her up at eight tomorrow morning, and besides her toiletries and her laptop, she's pretty much ready to go.
"It's something to do," she says. "I won't be able to find a job this summer, not with the economy in the dumps. And, honestly, I need out of Neptune for a while, like I was supposed to be." She knows that mention of her failed adventure with the FBI will quiet her dad some.
(And she knows he doesn't want her working at Mars Investigations again.)
"Is Stosh okay with this?" he asks.
Veronica sits down at her desk, booting up her computer so she can send Wallace an e-mail before bed. But she can't avoid the question entirely, and she finally looks at her dad. "He doesn't need to be," she says. "It's a road trip with my friend, and who my friends are isn't really something my boyfriend can dictate."
Her father sighs. "I didn't know you and Logan were friends anymore."
"We are," she replies.
She can already see the glimmer of defeat and the plans for retreat in her dad, because battles between them are better left unsought for now. He hesitantly leans down and kisses her forehead. "You call me a lot, okay?" he says. "You know how I worry. And I'll miss you. You know that too, don't you?"
"Yeah, Dad," she murmurs, "I know."
She laughs when she sees that yellow monstrosity parked outside.
"I told you I kept it, didn't I?" Logan asks, grinning. "I thought the old girl could use the adventure." He slaps his hand down on the hood, and she shakes her head as she opens the backdoor and tosses her duffel in. "Plus," he continues, "I know how fond you are of her."
"Yes, I can't wait to tour the country in Big Bird."
"That's not very nice," he replies, shaking his head at her. "We don't call you Tiny Veronica, do we? It's not the size that matters, Veronica. It's the heart."
She rolls her eyes, slips on her sunglasses, and climbs into the passenger seat.
They listen to the radio for most of the drive, and they stop for Chinese at lunch.
Her cell goes off while she's in the bathroom, and when she comes back, he holds up the phone. "Piz called," he says. She waits for something more, but he only stares at her, expectant, smug that he caught her but an edge to that, because there's always an edge with Logan.
"I've kind of decked his calls for the last few days," she admits. If she wants to spend a summer with Logan, a reality that is only now really hitting her, she needs to make an effort, right?
"Already sick of his solid Oregon values and charm?" Logan asks.
And her defences fly right back up in annoyance. "That's really not your business," she replies. He holds his hands up, as if she tried to attack him, and she sighs. "I haven't told him I'm back from Virginia. I haven't told him I quit the FBI internship. And I'm not ready for that conversation yet."
He nods, "sure," like he understands, and that's the sweeter side of him.
She takes the wheel for the rest of the afternoon. He drums his hands on the dashboard as he sings along with the radio, and when Cindy Lauper comes on, she can't resist, and she sings along with him, screaming the words out the open windows. They spend the night at this spectacular hotel he finds in San Diego on his blackberry, and she texts her dad to check in.
It's a little strange to lie on a huge hotel bed five feet from his huge hotel bed, to lie in the dark in this beautiful room and not feel him lie beside her, but she does manage to fall asleep eventually.
She wakes up early and uses the hotel gym. He sleeps through her shower, too, and she finally wakes him up with a snapped towel to his bare back. He flicks her off, she decides to try out her vocals again, and eventually he lumbers off to the bathroom.
They buy maps that morning, but before they start up the California coast, she wants to spend a day in San Diego, at the zoo and at the beach. She rolls her eyes when Logan buys a surfboard, because he could have simply brought a board, but he ignores her, just like always.
Soon enough, he heads out to surf, and she falls asleep reading on the beach.
He wakes her up by dropping a crab on her stomach.
But he buys dinner that night, these greasy burgers that he knows she likes even though she tries to tell herself she doesn't, and they fall asleep to some old movie on AMC. The next day they hit the road yet again, driving North, and this time she finds them a hotel on his blackberry.
Logan pulls in the parking lot, looks at the Motel 8, and shakes his head.
"The Cockroach Motel, Veronica?"
He tears right back out of the parking lot, ignoring her protests, and he snags the blackberry from her. "You'll crash! Stop! Logan!" He only continues to ignore her, blocking her with his elbow, and he manages to find them another outrageously expensive hotel to stay in.
"I can't afford this," she says.
"Like I'd ever let you pay," he replies.
That argument lasts them through the night.
She watches Millionaire Matchmaker until she wants to claw her eyes out.
The moment Logan returns to the hotel room with two six packs, she starts in on how stupid that show is, how stupid America is, and how people like that make her disgusted for the human race, and why is she here? Why is she on a road trip to nowhere for no reason, wasting her summer?
He frowns, pops open his beer, and throws himself on his bed.
"A wise man once said that time enjoyed isn't time wasted," he tells her. "Let's think about that."
"I'm serious, Logan!" she exclaims, and now that they've been on the road three days, long enough for the novelty to wear off and the panic to set in, she feels like a complete idiot. This was a terrible idea, and since when did she do this? A week ago, she hadn't talked to Logan in a month, hadn't even seen him since the time he beat another kid to a pulp.
"You're nineteen, Veronica," he says, flipping the television to a baseball game. "Nobody cares what you do when you're nineteen except you. Here." He tosses her a beer, and she has to clamber off the bed to stop that disaster. Moments later, a bottle opener follows.
She stares at him, his own eyes on the television, and then huffs and opens her beer.
It's blueberry beer — her favourite.
"This was just a bad idea," she murmurs.
"It's something to do," he replies, and he finally looks at her. "It's fun. And maybe it's not the kind of fun that you think you're supposed to like, but, for once, Veronica, do something because you actually wanted to and not because you think you're supposed to want to."
She gapes at him, and her annoyance wells up. He always says stuff like that, but he doesn't have any idea what —
"You know," he continues, "The Dude would love this vacation."
He looks at her, a teasing glint in his gaze, and her annoyance dissolves.
"What do you do for recreation?" he asks, taking on a voice.
She shrugs and gives her best The Dude impression. "Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback."
Logan smiles into his beer bottle.
They spend a few days in Los Angeles, and they continue North.
Her camera breaks in Santa Barbara, and he buys her a new one for an early birthday present. It's a Canon, this gorgeous piece of technology, and she starts to take more pictures than she has in ages. She feels silly taking pictures of Logan on the beach or shoving an entire chicken wing into his mouth instead of the usual photos of adultery and drug deals, but photography is photography.
She sets up Skype in a Panera on a random Wednesday to talk to Wallace, who loves Africa, and her heart swells a little as he talks about everything he's done. She misses that boy. She tells him so, and his face softens a little as he echoes the words.
When she closes the computer, she catches Logan staring, and she only smiles, looking away.
He takes her out to a bar that night. He has fake IDs for the both of them, and she doesn't even want to know. It's when he's had a few two many beers that he starts to hum along to the Beach Boys song playing, and, probably a little drunk herself, she only giggles and blushes when he pulls her out onto the dance floor.
He can't really dance, and neither can she, but he spins her, and she sways her hips, and his shoulders are firm and familiar under her hands. The feeling of his own large hands on her hips warms her heart, or that might simply be the alcohol, but she doesn't really care.
She doesn't know the song that leads them into a slow dance, but she leans against him and sighs.
"I'm sorry I tried to push you out of my life," she murmurs. He smells like hair gel and vodka and boy, like Logan, and she likes the way he cradles her when they dance this way. "I'm always trying to push you out of my life, and I don't know why."
"It doesn't matter," he says, speaking into her hair. "You've always still cared."
She wakes up to the blissful sight of aspirin and a bottle of water, and she dozes the rest of the day away as Logan does the same, eating room service and watching something on the discovery channel. She can't really remember their conversation the night before.
It doesn't matter.
They always have the same conversations, and they always end up in the same place.
By the end of this summer, she'll probably hate him. For now, though, she helps him give voices to the peacocks on the screen, tries to shoot peanuts into his mouth from across the room, and talks about maybe Seattle as a fun destination. She's never been and, as it turns out, neither has he.
"Seattle, then," he says. "I wonder if I'll be sleepless."
"Oh, always," she teases.
They spend an entire week at the Santa Cruz beach.
She lets him buy her a surf board, and in exchange he visits the Santa Cruz Spanish Missions with her. He makes snarky comments the entire time, but he poses for pictures with her, and for someone who generally behaves like a seven-year-old in these situations, he behaves pretty well.
She buys him ice cream on the boardwalk to reward that good behaviour.
Their next big stop is San Francisco, and she loves this city.
(She loves any city that isn't Neptune, to be honest.)
It's in San Francisco, as they lie out on the beach, her feet buried in the sand, her face baking under the sun, her skin slick with salt water and sun tan lotion and sweat, that he finally asks.
"Why'd you quit the FBI?"
She glances over at him. His eyes are closed as his face tips up towards the sky, a blinding white from the sun. She sighs, shifting slightly and wiggling her toes in the sand. "They basically fired me," she admits. "I didn't want to play by all their rules, and they told me to shape up or else, and I . . . I said fine, I'd take or else."
"The FBI would have ruined you," he finally murmurs.
She frowns. "What?"
"You're not Veronica Mars because you play by the rules and do what the system says," he explains. "You're Veronica Mars 'cause you take up the cause when the rules and the system fails. You're a vigilante, Mars. Face it. You're the person that saves the day when the FBI can't."
She props herself up at her elbow to look at him properly. She touches a hand to his bare chest. His eyes flicker open, blinking quickly at the onslaught of bright light. And she leans over and kisses him.
His laps are chap under hers, and he tastes like cheap beach corn dogs, but he lifts a hand up to hold her face, and she feels like she could melt, from the sun, from his kiss, from the way her heart thuds erratically inside her.
She pulls back, eyes searching his face.
"I know what you're thinking," he murmurs. He pauses. "Why can't you quit me?" He grins.
She smacks him, falling back into the sand. Her heart is still pounding. She tries to pretend it isn't.
(Why did he make a joke? Why did she just kissed him? Why does she want to kiss him again?)
"You're still with Piz, aren't you?" he asks, voice quieter.
"I haven't talked to him since before we left," she replies. "He's stopped calling."
Logan nods, and this time he reaches out to touch a hand to her face, his fingers so achingly light against her cheek. Her breathe catches. There isn't a joke in his eyes now. He kisses her.
"I don't . . ." she murmurs.
"You never do," he replies, and his smile is sad now. He lies back, eyes flickering closed.
She pushes herself up to her feet, wraps a towel around her waist, and takes her bag. She needs to break up with Piz. She doesn't know why she just kissed Logan, or what he thinks of that, or what will happen next. But she knows she can't string Piz along any longer.
He sounds resigned on the phone. "I pretty much thought you already had dumped me," he confesses. She holds the phone a little closer, feeling awful. Why does she always do this?
"I'm sorry, Piz," she says, "really. I never. . . ."
"It's okay," he says, sighing a little. "You were always kinda out of my league."
"No," she protests, "no, that's not true. We're just — built differently. I used to be like you. And I want so desperately to be that way again, but I can't be — I'm not —" She breaks off. "I'm sorry."
"I kinda fell in love with you, you know?" he says.
She swallows thickly. "I'm sorry."
They don't talk again.
She loves Seattle.
She likes all the rain, likes the cooler air and the mountains rising up in the skyline. She likes the food, likes the people, likes Pike Place Market, and Logan takes her pictures outside the first Starbucks. For dinner on a breezy Friday, they eat fish caught that same morning, and when she has sauce on her lips, he wipes the smudge away with his thumb.
She kisses him again. She wants to. She won't deny that.
He looks at her, his eyes searching her face, but she doesn't have any answers for him to find.
"I don't know if I can do this again," he says. He looks down at his lap. "It's all or nothing for me now, Veronica. And I don't think you can do all." He takes a sip of his soda, staring out at the water, and she doesn't say anything.
She can't think of something to say.
They avoid the subject for a while.
They're in Seattle for two weeks, long enough to do all the tourist attractions, even for him to buy her an insanely expensive dinner atop the Space Needle, and then they head East. She finds a site on his blackberry that lists weird tourist attractions to keep them entertained.
She makes him take pictures by giant statues, and they visit a milk farm, and she decides she wants to see Mount Rushmore. That's a long drive, but, as has been the mantra of the summer, why not?
(And it's at the random places that she finds the best postcards to send her dad.)
They're in Boise, Idaho for July 4th, and they end up on a Ferris Wheel, like out of a bad movie.
He rocks the seat just to be a jerk because he knows she feels a little sick from all her cotton candy, and as she slaps him and he only laughs, she thinks maybe she could be all in with him again. After all, they've already spent a month together, travelling alone and happy.
What does she have to lose?
(She could break his heart again. She's already done so much damage.)
Later that night, as they lie in the dark in their separate beds in their fancy hotel room, she decides just to go for broke. "Why is it we always do so well alone," she starts softly, "but when we have to face the real world, we can't work?"
He doesn't reply for the longest time. She thinks he might be asleep.
"I don't know," he finally answers. "That's on you."
She frowns, about to protest, but she stops herself, because he doesn't say things like that to hurt her, she knows. He isn't trying to be mean. He's long since grown past cruel barbs to piss her off as a defence mechanism. He's grown up.
And maybe it is on her. She always only gives him a part of herself, and the real world knows that and finds a way to come between them, to tear them apart, and —
"You're the one who's ashamed of me," he tells her.
"I am not ashamed of you," she snaps.
He doesn't reply, and she falls asleep angry.
They don't talk the entire drive out of Idaho. He's such an asshole.
They arrive in South Dakota, and at a German restaurant with absolutely amazing Spatzle, she breaks the ice. "Seeing you punch Gory," she says, "I loved that. I loved it. I wasn't supposed to. I was supposed to turn the other cheek, like Piz. Just like Piz. But I. . . ."
"But we're about the Old Testament, you and me," he replies.
She nods. "Why do I hate that so much?"
He doesn't answer, but he steals a bite of her noodles, and that night in the hotel they find the Padres game on television, and the air has cooled between them, even if she still feels so cautious around him, so full of feelings that she doesn't want to face.
She likes Mount Rushmore. He wants to see if Richie Rich's family really has a vault inside.
He even asks the tour guide. The woman is confused. Veronica smacks him on the arm. She can't take him anywhere, honestly. (But, come on, has that tour guide seriously never seen Richie Rich?)
She calls her dad that night, the first actual call since she left, and she fills up the conversation with talk of all the cool thing she's seen and done, all the cool places she's been. He tells her he likes her postcards, and he appreciates her texts, and he misses her.
Before they hang up, he teasingly asks if she found Richie Rich's family vault.
She doesn't know how she and Logan actually start to fight, but suddenly they're screaming, and this is as familiar as anything with him, the arguments that make no sense but leave her so frustratingly furious. "You used Madison as an excuse," Logan snarls. "You felt bad that you'd run back to me, so you took the first out you found!"
"That is not true!" she says. "She is the reason I was raped, Logan, and you slept with her —"
"No, Veronica, Cassidy is the reason you were raped. Madison was a bitch, and she had a role to play in what happened to you, but you know what? So did Duncan, and so did Dick, and so did I, and you can't possibly hate us all. Or is that it? Is that why you refuse to let yourself love me?"
He spits the words venomously, and her own fire burns her heart but won't offer up a response.
"I loved you more than anyone," she finally breathes.
"Yeah, but you didn't want to. You hated that you did. And do you know what that's like, Veronica? I know I fucked up. I know I treated you like shit after Lilly died, and I wasn't the model boyfriend. No way. But do you know how hard it is to have a girlfriend that hates how much she doesn't hate you? You know what that feels like?"
He stares at her, and she can't say anything. Her eyes are glassy with tears, but she presses her lips together to keep her emotions at bay, and finally he pushes past her, leaves the hotel room, and she simply stands there for the longest moment, feeling raw and broken.
He doesn't come back for hours.
Finally she leaves the room to go to the lobby to ask the concierge if he has any idea where Logan might have gone, only to find Logan sitting right outside the room. She sits down beside him, their backs to the motel wall, their view the parking lot, the air too cold for the middle of July.
He offers her a vodka bottle. She takes a sip. It's quiet for a long time.
"You said I was ashamed of you, and . . . and that I didn't want to love you."
"I know what I said, Veronica," he replies lowly.
She looks down at her chipped nail polish. "I think sometimes," she whispers, "I think — I don't want to love you, because I don't want to be who I am, and you — you are everything I don't want to be but am. It's not that I'm ashamed of you. It's that I'm . . ."
"You're ashamed of you," he says.
She doesn't say anything. She hates all this psychological babble. He does, too.
"You're like me," she says. "Broken. And I don't want to be broken."
She takes another sip of vodka, and her throat burns.
"You're not broken, Veronica," he says softly, catching her gaze. "You were, and then you put yourself back together." His voice is thick with too many emotions for her to place. "And you look at yourself, and you see all the lines where you glued the pieces of yourself back together, and you hate them, but — but you shouldn't.
"You're better for them, Veronica. You're stronger for them. You're . . ."
He shakes his head, as if he can't find the words to finish.
"I do love you," she whispers. "I have for years."
"I know," he says.
She leans forward, her forehead pressed against his. Her tears fall on his cheeks.
"I think we should try again," she whispers. "If you can give it to me, I want a last chance, Logan. I want a last chance to be with you, and I don't want any more chances than that, because I'll do it right this time, I'll —"
He cuts her off with a kiss.
He tastes like vodka.
And he cradles her head in his hands, because when Logan holds her, he cradles her. He cradles her like she's fragile, and he's the only person that makes her feel like it's okay to be fragile, and she kisses him, pouring herself, her heart and her fear and her into him, before breaking away.
She catches his gaze, his eyes dark. She stands, and she holds her hand out.
He takes her hand, his eyes never leaving hers. He follows her into the motel room, helps her pull off her shirt, and presses kisses across her neck and over her collarbone and to the top of her breasts, and he makes her feel warm and exhilarated and loved, and she's missed this so much.
She lies back on the bed, and he crawls on top of her, his own shirt discarded, and she runs her hands over his arms, around to his back, up to his soft hair, and when she curls her fingers into his hair, she feels him smile against her lips. She knows he loves that.
She knows everything about him. And she does love him.
He draws back, cups her cheek, brushes her face with his thumb. And she smiles.
He draws her into another kiss, and coherent thought swirls away as warmth spirals to life inside her, her feelings too much and too many for words, but it's him, it's Logan, it's the love of her life, because that's really what he's always been, isn't it?
Afterward, as they lie on their sides, facing each other, his hand resting on her waist, she holds his gaze, wanting him to know how much she means this. "I'm not ashamed of you," she says.
He kisses her. "I love you," he says, and it's a question.
"I love you, too," she answers.
His smile melts her heart all over again.
It's easy to fall back into this, whatever this is, with him.
Their banter becomes punctuated with kisses, their nights are spent in a single bed, remembering each other, her heart pounding against his, her smile irrepressible as he reminds her that despite everything she really has always trusted him in a strange way that she's trusted so few.
She's always trusted him to be there, through thick and thin, good or evil. Logan is a constant in her life, and that's something she really can't say about most people.
And Logan makes her happy. That's what matters, right?
(There's still so much to fear, and she doesn't know what will happen when they return to the real world, because they've always worked in the summer; it's their time. But after summer ends?)
She Skypes with Mac, and she tugs Logan in front of the screen and tells Mac they're back together. "So you've escaped the eggplant," Mac says, grinning. Veronica kisses Logan on the mouth as her answer, and he laughingly asks what that means.
She only tells Mac she has to go, and Mac makes a face at her before she signs off.
They pass through Minneapolis and head to Grand Rapids, and it's pretty there. She likes it.
She takes enough pictures to make a book, and Logan asks if maybe she wants to go to school for photography. "You can still catch bad guys on the side," he says. "But that was never supposed to be your life, right? And you're good at photography."
"Yeah," she murmurs. "I am. I've been thinking maybe I might like to study journalism, too."
He's the first to hear that admission. She's more anxious about his response than she should be.
"As long as you don't end up sharing a cell with Judith Miller," he says, "make it happen, Mars."
She smiles, and she rewards that answer with a kiss.
They're in Indiana when August dawns, hot and muggy, and Logan whines about the humidity like he's paid to be as miserable as the weather. But she only rolls her eyes, whacks him in the stomach, and blasts the admittedly superb air conditioning in his yellow monstrosity.
For her birthday, Logan takes her to dinner at Applebee's, just so he can have them sing Happy Birthday to her over a free piece of cake, because he knows how much she hates that.
And then he surprises her with two tickets to see Yellowcard.
For someone who wanted so badly to have a typical college experience, she barely went to any actual concerts last year, and this is Yellowcard. She kisses him all over his face in excitement, and the concert is spectacular. It reminds her of when she and Lilly went to see My Chemical Romance.
(But that was another lifetime, and this is the life she lives, the life she loves.)
As they walk back to the hotel, tipsy on beer, she swings their intertwined hands and belts out Hang You Up to him. He laughs and stops her in the middle of the street to kiss her.
And when they climb the stairs up to their hotel room, her body thrumming with too much energy to let Logan convince her to take the elevator, he walks behind her, hands hovering around her waist, so he can catch her. He does, two stairs from the top, when she tumbles into him happily.
She might be more than a little tipsy. She doesn't care.
She wakes up late, the sun already peaking out brightly from behind the hotel curtains, and the alarm clock by their bed reads past eleven in the morning. She sighs, rubbing her eyes.
Her hang over isn't that bad, actually.
She looks at Logan, sprawled on his stomach, clutching a pillow.
His back is bare in front of her, and she can see the faded scars. It's not the first time she's seen them. The map of a twisted childhood on his back is as familiar to her as the sight of his smirk or his perfectly gelled brown hair. She reaches out and runs her hand over a scar that traces smoothly down from his shoulder blade.
"Morning," Logan grumbles.
"Hey," she greets. She runs her fingers across his shoulders and to a smooth stretch of scared skin just the right size for a cigar burn, and she rubs her thumb back and forth over the scar. She's never really asked about any of these scars, and he's never volunteered any explanation.
"How come you never told anyone?" she asks. The question simply leaks out of her, her mind still muddled. But if they're going to do this right, try again one last time, then shouldn't she truly know all his secrets, all his hidden horrors? She's always let this subject lie out of affection for him, but maybe —
"Told who?" he asks. He doesn't ask told what.
"I don't know," she murmurs. "Anyone. My dad. Or even me."
"You would have told your dad," he says. "And that wouldn't have done anything. He would have tried to help me, I know that. But then the famous Aaron Echolls would have flashed some tears and told a sob story about his own old man, and how he'd seen the error of his ways with the help of loyal fans, and after the press left, he would make me pick another belt."
There isn't any emotion in his voice; he speaks as if explaining something he read in a book to her.
"Is that what he would do?" Veronica whispers.
"Make me pick a belt? Yeah."
It's quiet for a long time. "We don't have to talk about it," she finally says. "I don't want to — I've never wanted to make you —" She can't really finish. His father is one of those topics that they both silently agreed to let lie a long time ago, buried and forgotten. But he still has the scars.
(She does too.)
"That was when he was calm," Logan says. He hasn't moved from his belly, his back still exposed to her, and he talks half into his pillow now. "That was his punishment when I misbehaved. When he lost his cool, that's when he would turn around in the car and smack me in the face, or put a cigarette out in my arm, or pin me against the wall."
She runs her hand over another scar, thicker and rigged, and then she replaces her fingers with her lips, kissing her way along the torn skin. "I'm sorry, Logan," she whispers.
"He did worse to Lilly," Logan replies, and there's finally a catch in his voice. "And to you."
"No," Veronica says, and she feels so heartbroken for him. She thinks of herself as broken, but it's nothing to him, yet he's managed to make a life for himself, to put together a person out of the broken pieces, and it's a good person. He's a good person. How can she have ever denied him that?
"The worst, you know, was the way I was so — so helpless —" His body trembles a little under hers, and she strokes her thumb against a scar that circles under his arm, waiting.
"You're not helpless anymore," she tells him softly.
"He never touched my mom or Trina," he continues. "And I'm glad. If he had tried, I would have — but — but his dad hit him, so he hit me, because he wasn't a scared kid anymore, he was the jackass in charge, and he wanted to make sure I knew it —" He cuts himself off.
"You won't be like that," she says. "You aren't like that. You're so much better than that."
She lies against him, her cheek pressed to his back, allowing a few of her tears to trickle down onto his skin, and she runs her hand up and down his back, half holding her against him.
He starts to talk again, to tell her stories, and she's heard a handful before, about the time he had to wear turtle necks for a week in seventh grade because his dad choked him so hard that he left marks, about the time his dad broke all the fingers in his right hand because Logan stuck his tongue out in a red carpet picture, about the time his dad beat him after he set up bum fights.
But he tells more now, not in passing, not in jest, only in a soft whisper, story after story, to explain to her, finally, after all these years, the scars she can see and those she can't. She kisses her way across his back, and she listens, and they spend the day in bed, together, talking.
They decide to turn around when they reach West Virginia.
She convinces Logan to go on a hike with her, and they cook hot dogs over a fire, and she trades her graham crackers for his chocolate to create the greatest s'more ever. And then, because school starts in three and a half week and the real world beckons, they start the drive home.
She doesn't really want to return to Neptune. But she wants to see Wallace, who flies into L.A. in a week, and Mac too, and her dad, because she really does need to fix that relationship. But to be trapped in Neptune for yet another year?
"As soon as we're finished with Hearst, we're out," Logan tells her.
She smiles at him and steals a bite of his Mississippi Mud ice cream, because she's already finished her Peanut Butter Chocolate cone, and he's eating too slowly.
His phone goes off when he's in the shower, and she can't help checking the screen.
It's Dick. She rolls her eyes. She still doesn't understand how Logan is friends with Dick. And when he comes out of the shower, a towel around his waist, she asks before he can say anything.
"You and your BFF, Dick," she says, "still going strong?"
"Like Pumbaa and Timon," he replies, grabbing a t-shirt from his suitcase.
"The Lion King, really?"
He half smiles. "Why the sudden interest?" he asks.
She shrugs, leaning back against the headboard of their bed. "I just don't see how you've stayed friends with him all this time. I mean, what exactly does Dick Casablancas bring to a friendship?" To be honest, she expects him to side-step the question, just like he always does.
(This isn't exactly the first time she's passive-aggressively frowned upon that friendship.)
But he slips on his t-shirt, grabs his deodorant, and looks at her seriously. "Full disclosure?"
"Um, yeah," she says, nodding. "Full disclosure."
"He's Dick. He's always been around. He's always had my back. You don't just abandon somebody 'cause he fucks up a little — especially not when he finally starts to get his act together." He doesn't speak angrily or defensively, but he looks at her calmly.
"I guess what happened to — what happened to Cassidy has really changed him," Veronica says.
It's her peace offering. Who is she to deprive Logan of his friends? And Dick might be an asshole, but he isn't evil. He isn't another Aaron Echolls; he certainly isn't his brother.
Logan pulls on his boxers, and he runs his towel over his hair. "What Dick did to you —" he starts, "how he and Sean —"
Veronica shakes her head. "It's okay."
"Is it?" Logan asks. "We've never actually talked about any of . . . that." He's cautious as he talks, but he isn't hesitant, and this is her chance to share her deep, dark secrets, too, right?
She smiles a little wryly to herself; she's a teenage girl who actually has deep, dark secrets.
"I've never really blamed him," Veronica admits. "I don't know. I guess I've blamed the — the mentality of people like him, but never Dick himself. I don't know." She looks down at her hands. "I know that I don't have to remember any of the actual . . . act, and I know that it was years ago, and. . . ."
She forces her gaze back to him, and his eyes are soft and sweet. "And I know that Cassidy was sick, but he — he took something from me. It's not just my — my virginity. I don't care about — he just took a piece of me, and it's not okay. I don't think it'll ever be okay."
(It's like his scars, like the abuse, like the indelible mark his father left him. It'll never really be okay, no matter what.)
She refuses to cry. She's already cried enough over this.
"But knowing the truth helped," she admits. "It didn't — fix anything, because it can't be fixed, it can't, and I know that, and I'm not trying to — but it makes it easier. I don't know why. It just . . ." She shrugs. "I wanted that for Parker. I wanted to give her answers."
"You did," Logan says.
She nods. "I don't hate Dick," she says. She snorts. "I've almost become immune to him, actually."
Logan smiles, and he leans down and kisses her forehead casually, sweetly.
That's it. That's the conversation. They hit the road ten minutes later.
She asks him as they drive through Texas if he knows what he wants to do with his life.
"I declared English as my major," he says. She's surprised. How did she not know that? He shrugs, driving with one hand on the wheel, the other on her knee. "I've thought maybe I could teach." He smirks to himself. "I always said I wanted to be a high school English teacher."
"You'd be a good teacher," she says. "Kids might actually listen to you."
He squeezes her knee, and they stop for lunch at a pizza place, 'cause she has a craving.
The car breaks down for the first time in Texas, and they call AAA to have it towed.
It's almost a reprieve, a chance to spent a few extra nights out on the road, even if they really do need to be home soon, to prepare for a second year at Hearst. He takes her to the Texas State Fair, though, and she wins him a purple stuffed monkey.
She tells him all about Gory, finally — about her last case, about the secret society, about how her dad took the fall for her, and it cost him his chance at the Sheriff's office. "It's never been like this between us before," she says. "It's weird. I don't know how to act around him."
He takes a sip of his slurpee. "Why don't you help him?" Logan suggests.
"I wish I could," she says, kicking her feet aimlessly, "but I can't exactly explain to the fine citizenry of Neptune that they've sent themselves to hell in a handbasket labelled Vinne Van Low."
"No, but you can prove it to him. You're Veronica Mars. He's corrupt. Isn't proving his black heart to the world like cat nip to you?" He raises his eyebrows at her, and she knows he's teasing her, yet he's serious, too.
"If I tried to take Vinnie down for good, it would involve —"
"A lot of bad guys with big guns and scary connections, and it'll be dangerous and awful and you'll probably make a whole slew of enemies as you put a strain on all the relationships in your life but it'll all be worth it when you save the day?" he asks.
She smiles at him incredulously, because really?
He only nods, as if full of wisdom. "It's how we do, Mars. It's how we do."
She snorts and shakes her head and finishes her slurpee, because the engine is almost ready.
(She should bring Vinnie down, though, shouldn't she?)
She buys cheap plastic key chains in Arizona for Mac and Wallace that read my best friend went to Phoenix, Arizona, and all I got was this stupid keychain! She has real gifts for them, but she loves cheesy, stupid stuff like this, and at a dollar fifty a piece, it's not hard to splurge a little.
They arrive in Neptune around three on a Thursday afternoon, and the town looks exactly the same as when they left, but she feels different, and as Logan drives down Main Street, past the Starbucks and her favourite seedy sports bar and Larry's Car Emporium, she feels more foreign from this place than she ever has before. It's a nice feeling, in a way.
This place has done the worst to her, and she's still here, and she loves the boy in the car beside her, and she won't be afraid or ashamed of that. She looks at Logan, and he must feel her gaze, because he glances over at her. "Happy to be home?" he asks.
"No," she says.
He grabs her hand, and she intertwines their fingers.
Her father stands in the doorway as Logan pulls the car up to their apartment, and he's laughing as he hugs her, so unbelievably happy, and she hugs him tightly, pressing his face into her shoulder. She really did miss him, and he missed her, and she's knows they'll be okay. They're always okay.
Logan has her bags slung over each of his shoulders, and her father looks between her and him.
"How'd you like to stay for dinner, Logan?" he asks.
"Sure," Logan agrees, his finger tapping the strap of her duffel bag, the subtle sign that he's nervous. But Veronica takes his hand, smiling softly at him, and then she smiles at her father, who shakes his head at her knowingly but then only claps Logan on the back and asks about the trip.
She invites Mac over for dinner, too, and they all end up going for ice cream.
Later that night, after she kisses Logan goodbye, her dad sits her down, saying he has something to tell her. She's slightly alarmed, but his smile is infectious. "I've recently started to see an old flame of mine," he begins. She frowns. The only person he's ever been with that she actually liked —
"And I know you and Wallace have a big day planned tomorrow to catch up, but Alicia and I thought maybe we could all have dinner together." He smiles, waiting for a reaction.
"I think I can do that," she replies.
"Oh, you think you can?"
"I think I can." She nods, and she smiles at him, and his own smile turns even wider as he pulls her into another hug.
"Are you happy, sweetheart?" he asks. "Are you happy with Logan?"
"Are you happy with Alicia?" she replies.
"I am," he says, nodding. "I really am."
She smiles. "Me, too."
It's strange to spend the night without Logan, and it's even stranger to wake up without him, alone in her old room, not beside him in a fancy hotel with silky sheets.
But the summer is over, the air already cooler with the coming of fall, and it's time to face the real world. Third time's the charm, right?
What about everything?
What about aeroplanes?
And what about ships that drank the sea?
What about the moon and stars?
What about soldier battle scars,
And all the anger that they eat?
I am not in need.
Holiday quiet on these streets,
Except for some reason me.
The hometown harbor lights bright,
The sailboats clatter in vain.
Holiday sky, midnight clear,
Wind is high on this pier. . . .