Because it's Veronica, she makes it complicated.
She's lying sprawled across his bed when he comes back. It's been a hundred and eighty days and twenty hours. He didn't keep time down to the minute; that should count for something.
"Hey," she says.
He drops his suitcase, and honestly, he hadn't expected her, here, "hey."
"Dick let me in," she says by way of explanation, "I missed you," and smiles widely, mostly still sixteen in his head.
But this Veronica Mars apparently tells him she misses him. That girl he sometimes forgets to forget from all those years ago wouldn't ever have done that.
Nine years of radio silence press across chest, make it feel like it might cave in itself if he doesn't breathe forty times in the next minute. Doesn't kiss her in the next second.
"Let's go to Mexico."
If it makes any difference; he doesn't actually mean to say that.
She has her sunglasses on, even though he can barely see through the dark at five in the morning. She's leaning against his car in her leather jacket and the sling he always thinks of as her PI bag, and for a nanosecond he pauses to take in the image.
(He's pretty sure he could've come from just that at sixteen, twenty, a variety of ages in between and after. Dick would shake his head, send him a NSFW video and tell him to check into A Taste of Private Dicks Anonymous.)
He tries to think of a suitable movie reference, something Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque, settle down into old rhythms, "I didn't think you'd actually want to go," he says, instead, because honesty is apparently a thing he now does. She always brings out the worst in him.
She raises her glasses slightly over the bridge of her nose, looks up at him through half-lidded eyes, "booze, drugs, and the ladies? You kidding, wouldn't trade it for yet another Jennifer Lawrence Oscar tripdown moment, amigo."
Because it's Veronica and she's fucking confusing at the best of times, he can't figure out the sincerity level, whether it's the ground zero of a new relationship or the fifth level of an old one. He knows many women in his life have been placeholders for her; and there are moments he thinks he's a placeholder for an adrenalin rush.
Wonders if she'll fully figure out he's not exactly that guy anymore. She’s had a taste of it, but he knows she thinks of it as an oddity, not a permanent aspect of him, that he couldn’t have solidified into a different shape from the liquid destruction he used to be. Wonders if she'll leave him when she does figure out.
"Milady," he says, with an exaggerated bow, opening the door for her. She flips him off, nearly takes his hand off when she shuts the door, it makes something inside his chest ease a little.
God, he hopes it's not today.
She doesn't stop to draw little hearts on his upper thigh; she goes straight in for the kill.
"Jesus", he slams his hand hard against the wheel.
She stops moving her hand (jesus christ), but doesn't remove it, "what?"
"I can't," he wills himself to calm down, "concentrate, if you do that."
The corner of her lip turns up, like she thinks he's kidding (he's really fucking not, for reference), "come on, Logan, I was best friends with Lilly, and I practically owned the girl's bathroom at Neptune High, you think I don't have audio recordings detailing all your sexual preferences. You've been around the block and then some with every girl who came within the signal distance of my trusty recorder, bromie, I have notes."
Here's something to know; he can't stand the thought of her with anyone else. As much as he knows he has no right, no ownership, no claim; he can't. He's forgotten the exact shade of Parker's hair now, but he remembers you must have been devastated. I mean, Veronica had sex with someone else— and he doesn't know if it means something that the reverse isn't true for her.
"I was sixteen then."
"Is that a comment on your stamina," an eyebrow raised in amusement, "in the words of a popular song, does it mean you ain't got it going no more?"
Fact is; he could handle it before because he knew he understood her, past the façade, past the quips and the hair-flips. He's not so confident anymore. If she stays on the surface, the surface is all he gets. Nine years is a hell lot of time.
"It means my sexual preferences have changed." He doesn't tell her that she's his sexual preference and all she really needs to do on most occasions is show up, because that would be pointless and about thirteen synonyms of lame. Or pathetic. One of those.
For a moment, something flashes across her face, before it's gone, and he's left with no modes of interpretation. Doesn't even know if he'd have been able to interpret it at all anyway, or it's something she learned in the time she's been away.
She drags her hand away from his pants, fuck, "what a waste of the tapes, huh?” flippant, of course, always, “all that research good for naught. As an academic, I feel a sense of loss." She turns her head to the other side, drumming her fingers against the side of the door.
He doesn’t say anything.
(Two times out of five, he looks through her side-mirror instead of his. He doesn't let her choose the music, though.)
The motel is...dingy. There's no better SAT word for it. He can afford better, she can too, but she doesn't want to spend the money, and he doesn't really care.
"When in Mexico," she shrugs; he can see her shoulders shift beneath the material of her shirt.
She picks up their (like their, like one, like this weird alta-verse where he gets domesticity with Veronica Mars instead of the wrong end of a gun) bag and walks away. The clerk stares after her, and maybe being grown-up means not punching his lights out there and then. If so, he's doing an admirable imitation of it.
When he makes it to the room ten minutes later, filling an insane number of forms, the manager acting like this place actually pays taxes, she has half a bottle of whiskey next to her.
“Let’s blow this hole,” is all she says.
Too many guys stare at her, and he spends the entire time trying not to be a jealous dick. They’re kids anyway, she can handle herself.
She drinks too much, too fast, and he can feel his skin stretch too taut across bone, a leftover pavlovian reaction that didn’t disappear with Carrie, and he has to physically stop himself from taking the bottle out of her hands. This isn’t his role here.
“A long time ago,” she scans the room, a slight upturn to her lip, more bitter than amused this time, eyes briefly resting on the group he's had his eyes on since he entered, “you used to be them.”
“Yeah,” he can feel the liquid burn down his throat, when he presses the glass to his lips, “a long time ago.”
"You said--" she's admirably not slurring too much, even though he half carried her back, "you said bygones. I don't know what you're being such an asshole about. I missed you, okay. What is your fucking problem."
The rejection is tangible and maybe he should’ve waited. But the wait is endless and it wouldn’t make a difference anyway, whether he does it now, or three hours later or tomorrow.
"Miss me enough to let me go?"
"What," she's resting her head on the side of the bed, sitting on the ground, hand clutching the carpet, and he thinks she may have been pretending the adult thing too, "what are you talking about."
"I have to go," he says, "again, in a week," and well, that's that.
The end of the beginning, the beginning of the end, choose-your-own-goddamn-cliché-day.
She sits up straighter. From where he's standing, she doesn’t look drunk, she looks exhausted, "you just came back."
"I know," and it's not an explanation, but there are no explanations. He's in the Navy, he knew what he was getting into. Then, it hadn't mattered. Now, it somehow does, all over again.
See, he's not stupid. Just because she wasn't really into Piz doesn't mean it's his epic love pulling her in. Veronica is softer around the edges, but it could have been just nostalgia, familiarity, comfort, a rush. About a million different things that have nothing to do with Veronica Mars being in love with Logan Echolls. About a million different things that don't mean she's going to keep waiting each time, every time. About a million different things that don't mean he has the right to ask her to.
"I don't know if we can do this."
She gets up from the carpet, and falls back on the bed, locking her hands on her stomach, "ain't epic love grand. You’re breaking up with me in Nowheresville, Mexico?"
She raises herself up on an elbow, hair tangled over her shoulder, mouth set in a straight line, "seems like you have it all sorted. What's the Mexican trip for; one last hurrah in Sin City? Was Vegas too expensive, cuz it's about the same distance."
He leans against the open door, doesn't know why he doesn't go in, but that would be crossing a line, not a real one, but it feels real anyway. Real enough to not cross.
"How long?" she asks, subdued.
"Five months," and he can't fool himself into believing he doesn't put it like that because it sounds shorter than it would in days.
"You don't think I can wait."
"What," that's not— that's not at all, "I wasn't—"
Her hand falls from under her, and she's lying down again and fuck his brain, this is the most intensely he's wanted her, because he's going to have to let go eventually.All the other times, all the times before, he never really believed it, never believed she'd actually go till she was gone.
Now, he's too old, nine years too old, to have any excuse to not know better
"It isn't your call to make," she says to the ceiling, "you get to decide if you want me. You don't get to decide if I want you."
"It's always going to be like this," he says, "it isn't a one time deal. Fuck, it isn't even a ten time deal, Veronica."
"I missed you," she says, slowly, drawing the words out, "and I'm not going to stop when you're away because you're going to be away regardless of whether we're together or not. God, how hard is that to understand, what are you, stupid?"
"You're willing to wait," he asks, abruptly, because he's not sure he's getting this correctly, "the next time, and the time after that, and the time after that?"
"And the time after that," she says, and this time, the woman in his head isn't sixteen, “just as long as you come back to me.”
She has him against the door before he's closed it completely, her hand on his collar, pulling his head down. "Should have brought that uniform along, officer," she mouths against his neck, her tongue flicking out, making him grit his teeth, "would have been half your job done."
When she's this close, her breath hot against his neck, he can make out the slight difference in accent, the hint of New York, she stretches out some words, cuts the others in half, probably doesn't even notice it anymore. It makes something inside him ache.
"I happen to like my job."
He spins her around so she's against the door. He palms the line of her throat, her head falling back to allow him access. When he slips a hand inside her jeans, she arches her back and bangs her head hard against the door, making a soft sound of pain, before he cushions it with his other hand.
When all I want to do is protect you, doesn’t know if it’s healthy that, with her, he sometimes still feels the same things he did when he was eighteen.
"Please—" the word half caught in her throat, and she’s so fucking beautiful, he can’t stand it. Her clothing has remarkable tensile strength and he can't figure out if she'll be more turned on if he manages to rip it off or mad that he did. Probably the latter. He does it anyway.
"You're shivering," she whispers, a hand against his chest, and it's odd that he can't feel it but he can see her hand move.
"I'm happy," he manages, leaning his head against hers, till her forehead is touching his, barely, just about.
He doesn't know if it'll ever feel less intense with her, less like his heart is going to pound right out of his body, less like the pulse is never going to stop jackhammering at his throat, less like he has this one last chance and then it’s endgame and she’s going to leave and not come back, not come back to him; same difference.
"Did you just quote—" she closes her eyes, makes a low sound at the back of her throat he can't remember having heard before, he wants to get familiar with all the new sounds and tastes and movements. He wants to have time enough for that, "oh my god, you did just—"
"Originality," he can't stop shaking, he’s missed her so goddamned much, and he's glad he didn't quite realize how much till she was back, because he would've gone insane with it otherwise, and god knows, he didn't have a far drive down that alley when she left, "is overrated."
(On the way back, she props her feet against the dashboard, humming something he can't recognize. He lets her choose the music.
He bitches about it the entire time, though, if it makes any difference.)