The crackle of the radio is familiar. It's beginning to feel like the bloody soundtrack of his life, actually.
Duncan sits in front of it, fiddling with the knobs. The man's a sucker for a lost cause. Logan should know, it's why they're friends after all.
Dick is sprawled in the corner, whittling away at a piece of wood like he knows how to do it. His dad's a Wall Street asshole, the investor-types that Logan would trust no further than the right end of an M1 Garand, but it got his unhinged son into the Navy, and power, Logan can appreciate. Besides he's simple, easy to understand, and these days, Logan Echolls is all about the easy.
"You'd imagine," Logan says, slow, measured, a drawl to his words, "the North Island station would be better equipped. We ask for no food, no water, no women. But whatever happened to the old-fashioned knowledge is power deal. Radio silence isn't what I'm looking forward to when there's entertainment to be had with the Japs and the Limeys going at it, not to mention, the French thrown in for good measure. Or even the Dodgers-Giants game. Why should the East Coast have all the fun, is what is ask."
Fact is, he's not choosy as long as it's not his old man's dulcet tones he has to listen to coming through that thing. The In Memoriam pieces from his old movies are getting close to a trigger point. The guy was a raping, murdering bastard, the only thing he needed to be memoriam-ed for was being ever so kind as to go and get himself killed.
The sudden influx of sound, distinguishable as a tune he can't recognize, but it's just as good as anything, he supposes.
"Duncan, my man," he claps his hands affectedly, "you've made Mama Kane proud again."
"Shut up," Duncan says, which is so unexpected, it makes Logan pause for a full second till—
"We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin—" CBS, he knows, he can recognize John Daly's voice by now, he almost would've considered the man someone worth knowing, if he hadn't been so close to the old man, a regular fixture in the Echolls household, "the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air, President Roosevelt has just announced. The attack also was made on all military and naval activities on the principal island of Ohau. We take you now to Washington—"
The crackle returns, the dead silence in the base making it sound louder, more persistent, mocking almost.
Duncan turns to him, "the bastard mispronounced Oahu," he says, matter-of-fact.
Dick looks up too, eyes lit with a gleam close to manic, "we're at war, baby."
The thing, Logan learns, about the war is, that there is nothing but. No future, no past, there's just survival.
Pity, of course, that he learns it when he's about to lose his life in the name of his country. But better late than never, as Lynn always said, or at least, probably would have said at some point in his life, if his asshole father hadn't led her to drink and an early watery grave.
On the bright side, at least he'll get a slap-bang funeral out of this dying-for-the-country deal.
He doesn't bother getting up, his leg hurts too much for it, heroism is all good in theory, but considering he's going to be dead in the next three seconds anyway, he can't imagine his soul is going to be particularly burdened by the fact that he didn't stand up and take it like a man.
"I don't want to do this," the accent is unfamiliar, foreign, the man's hands are shaking so badly that given a functional leg, Logan could have taken down the son of a bitch in forty seconds flat. But given the lack of a fully functional leg at the moment— well. Anyway, life's a bitch and then you die. His dear departed alcoholic mother actually did say that one.
"And yet circumstances compel you and you are a slave to them," Logan manages shortly, pleasantly. The fear has settled into numbness, by now. The peak was just one point, when Enbom had performed a ridiculous flight manoeuvre that was closer to something he'd probably seen on the Hollywood silver screen than anything they'd learned in the training program.
He'd been fucking terrified then.
"I have orders," the man says, almost desperately, "I can't disobey orders. You understand that. You have to understand that. You'd have done the same."
"Probably," Logan clamps his teeth with the pain, at least that would be over too, you win some etc., "if you're on a schedule here, officer, don't you think you should be getting along with it. I don't have all day to die, you know. Your time management is simply extravagant. If I were your commanding officer, I'd have strong words to say. about this."
"I'm sorry, I'm just so—" the man doesn't seem to have heard him, which is a tragic waste of his last words.
He raises the rifle, Logan closes his eyes, because why not. He doesn't have to watch, and it's not like anyone's watching him not watch.
The next he looks up, at the soft sound of something falling, the man's on the ground, unconscious, and a woman is standing over him with some kind of electroshock weapon in her hands. He would be surprised, he would be grateful, he would be something, for sure, if he could feel anything but his fucking leg killing him slower and more painfully than the rifle would have.
He gives her an appreciative once-over, just to be a dick, it ends fairly fast, she's a short, little thing, "it's true what they say about women and wartime, they're both—" then meets her eyes, and for a moment, he's winded, "Veronica Mars."
And passes out.
When he comes to, he hears the words needle, scissors and a lot of blood in succession, none of which is particularly enough to send him into a frenzied ecstasy at somehow being alive, and not strewn across the mainland in bloodied bits and pieces.
"How do you feel?" some guy asks him, and the fact that he's holding a needle is really not endearing him to Logan right now.
"Like death." he says, which is a fairly accurate assessment. He can make out the sound of other voices, the stringent, loud commands of an armed forces base, but he doesn't have the strength or energy to assess his bearings. His commanding officer would probably be disappointed. On the other hand, Logan practically has disappointing the guy down to a solid art form.
The guy wipes his hands on a towel next to him and holds it out, "Stosh Piznarski."
"Gesundheit," Logan says, "though I know gesundheit is a bit under the weather right now. The linguistics-oriented academics are still out on the moral propriety of that one. Us armed forces type have it easier, we just kill the bastards. Or get killed. But either way, we're not forced to consider the existential part of it at all. Which definitely makes life easier."
The guy cracks a smile, he seems the kind of guy who gets through life cracking a smile, "my name's Stosh Piznarski. You can call me Piz."
"That's unfortunate," he's not a jackass, he's honest, there's a difference there, "your parents really didn't want you, huh."
The other guy doesn't say anything, but Logan's pretty sure that next touch of metal on his skin stings more than it probably strictly needs to.
He closes his eyes again. He's going to get better and then he's going to fucking kill Enbom. The guy's father owned an airline, how he turned out such an idiot was a mystery for the ages. The son of a bitch left him for dead and it was only a miracle that—
His eyes snap open.
He doesn't know how he had missed her before. She's standing in front of the opening of the camouflage tent, looking out, hands crossed against her chest— she's curvier, fuller than he remembers, and he remembers a lot.
"If it isn't my own midget, bottle-blonde guardian angel."
She turns around, and for another goddamn moment in way too fucking soon, he's gutted.
Nine years of radio silence, nine years of dreaming about her and waking up hard and alone, the most intense sense of loss he's felt in his life somewhere in the middle of his chest, and she's here, somehow, a continent away from where he left her in Neptune. She left him. Semantics.
"Logan," she acknowledges. Just that, Logan. She has some kind of scarf over head, covering her hair. He can still remember her hair spilling over his hands, onto his bedsheet, as she arched into him, can remember cutting his fingers on her angles, getting lost inside her.
"You know him, Veronica?"
He had almost forgotten about Pizwhatski, still tending to him, which meant he was falling into his old rhythms with Veronica Mars.
Veronica looks over at the guy, and there's something in her smile that makes Logan fingers clench around the dirty sheet; it's too personal, too familiar. He remembers a variation of that look. All too well.
"We used to be friends," as he makes a low sound of disbelief in his throat, she turns her gaze to him, and she's not smiling anymore, "a long time ago."
"Alone again," like he hadn't waited for her to be.
The gin joint is loud, but at least the women are pretty.
"They're not pretty, Echolls," she says, "you're easy. Get that from your philandering father, I suppose."
"You're cute when you're jealous, Ronnie."
"You're recycling lines."
"I can't believe you remember that."
That makes her pause, "I can't believe I remember that."
"Nice unit you got here," he snorts, "you sleeping with that guy?"
His leg is better, but he still can't put his entire weight on it. She hasn't been to visit in two weeks, fourteen days. Three hundred and thirty six hours.
She doesn't seem particularly surprised to see him, her eyes lingering on his Air Medal, and yep, he's a goddamn hero alright, "I had heard, of course, but I couldn't fully picture it."
There's something different about her voice, a hint of an accent, nine years of absence, of distance, as a permanent part of her. It messes with her voice inside his head.
"Maybe if you'd stuck around, you wouldn't have had to picture it."
The look in her eyes makes something in him snap, because she doesn't get to look at him like that anymore, "Lieutenant Logan Echolls, at your service, ma'am. Or, well, just as long as that service is accepting you servicing me."
Fact is; he doesn't know why this is who he inevitably is with her when he's not with her.
The corners of her mouth turn up, "that's a lot of anger to carry around for eight years, Logan."
"Nine years," he's gritting his teeth so hard, his jaw is beginning to ache, "it's been nine years, Veronica." Three months and twenty days. He doesn't add that in, because yeah, he's an honest jackass, but he's not stupid.
"That's a long time," she says, almost to herself.
It takes him a moment to realize that the silence is awkward, because it's not in his repertoire of experiences with her. They have been acquaintances, friends, enemies, lovers; they've never been awkward. He hates it.
"Why did you?" and hates himself for asking that, for not being able to act like he doesn't care, "I'm a little rusty on the details. It was complicated, wasn't it. It was raining and you left...and yes, that's about it. Not so complicated after all."
She hides a smile, "you remember it was raining?"
It's not a question, really.
"You know how some people plan weddings and honeymoons and housing schemes," and okay so he's stupid, maybe that's what they should be broadcasting on Voice of America for purposes of national security, because he's a level of stupid that's clearly a danger to civilized society and the war efforts, "I had planned a lifetime of getaway cars with you."
A plot right out of Aaron's films; high speed car chases, international intrigue, sex in uncomfortable, cramped spaces. Getting so entangled in it with her, so wanted by every single federal authority in existence, so alone together, that she couldn't do anything but trust him for once. Either that or kill him.
She swirls her drink, "yes, I am."
He can make out the sound of gunfire in the distance. It doesn't make him flinch anymore.
She isn't looking at him, "sleeping with that guy."
Every day the news is a little bit worse. A series of headlines, of body counts, messages from the President telling them to keep their spirits up, fight the good fight.
He lies in his makeshift bed, and watches her, mostly. He has time enough, for once, maybe the first time since he joined the Navy. Catalogues all the differences he can make out without touching her.
Her hair is shorter than he remembers, but also longer than the shortest he's ever seen it. She still curtains her face with it when she's trying to avoid someone eyes. Her own are harder now, even more than they were before. There are more lines than Be— Cassidy, Aaron, or he himself put there. He wonders what she's seen. Wonders if he had a mirror, he's be seeing the same. Wonder how many scars he's not seeing beneath the surface. He has a lot of time, after all.
(At one point in his life, all he wanted to do was protect her— that was a long time ago.)
He largely gets ignored by the rest of the base, but Piznarski vacillates between amusement and annoyance, "that's my girl you're staring at like a lovelorn hero of a Greek tragedy."
Logan snorts, because if Piznarski thinks Veronica is his girl, he's obviously just someone she's trying to get something out of. Veronica is nobody's girl, everyone knows that.
She visits now, sometimes, doesn't come too close as if he'll pull her in with the sheer force of his gravity, his need. He's okay with that, he doesn't want to find out if that's true.
"There's no way you'd join the WAVES. You're a spy or nothing. I know you."
She rolls her eyes at him, "a lot can change in nine years, Logan. There's a war on."
The one time his stitches open, she only asks, nonchalant, "want me to stitch that up for you." and he says, "yes", and he almost doesn't feel the pain because she's touching him again.
That's not true, it hurts like all fucking hell because she's touching him again.
"You shouldn't have left." It's something he keeps picking at, like a constant toothache, although he'd like to say bygones or some such and keep his pride.
She laughs. A low, nondescript sound, "you seem to have forgotten it, Logan, but we were terrible for each other."
"We were a disaster," he says quietly, "I remember everything, every detail."
Part pity and part something undefinable, he can only read her in parts now. She's clinical, precise with the needle, and he wonders if she knows how to use a gun now. She'd cried once, when he had pulled out one in a fight, told himself he was going to get himself killed, Logan.
They both know now that there are worse things. Death is the easy way out.
"I think we're going to win," he says, just for something to say.
The look in her eyes is a curious mixture of disdain and hope, her tone almost mocking, the hint of the foreign pronounced, to remind him, he knows, that he doesn't know her anymore as he once did, "are we?"
"We are," he confirms, he has no idea, but this isn't about the truth at all, this is about the going on, and that's one thing he knows Veronica understands.
"I think," she busies herself with his bandages, "we're all going to lose."
He can barely make out her silhouette through the rain.
"I heard," is all he can think of. H's only that guy who can wield a gun like he knows how to use it, comfort is not his area of expertise.
She's sitting on the steps of the officer's club, her hair plastered across her face, her eyes wide and bloodshot. She looks younger than she does even in his memories of nine years ago.
"I need to," she's shivering uncontrollably, but when he touches her, her skin feels fevered, "I need—"
She's crashed her lips so hard into his, he can feel his teeth slice through her lip, taste her blood on his tongue.
"Don't talk," she says, "Logan, please."
Her fingers fumble with the buttons of his shirt, and when she can't seem to get them through the holes, she rips it open instead. She can't seem to slow down.
Her teeth dig into the nape of his neck, and she's pulling him closer and he's pushing her closer, her shirt is drenched, useless practically, and anyone can see them, he knows, but he doesn't care. He wants to trace the differences with his tongue, get acquainted with the new flesh, get re-acquainted with her bones. He's wanted that since he saw first saw her here. Even now. Even after all he knows.
He palms the base of her throat, shifts aside her shirt, there's a shrapnel-thin white scar running from the base of her throat till her left breast, "what happened to you."
"It doesn't matter," she says, "it doesn't matter. Don't stop, Logan. I'm begging you, okay, please, don't stop."
He has her up against the wall, the jagged ends have to be hurting her, cutting her open, but she doesn't seem to feel it. He can remember feeling this once before in his life. He's fucking terrified.
"Make me a whore," she whispers, "don't you dare make love to me, Logan. I left you, remember, just got up and left you all alone. Like you didn't matter. Like you'd never mattered at all."
Her movements are clumsy, feral, kissing every inch of skin she can reach. She's balancing precariously on his weight, her legs around him so tight, she's cutting off his blood supply, and when he finally manages to unzip her pants, she's almost tired herself out, breathing so hard, he can hear it even over the sound of thunder, even over the pounding of his heart.
"It's so cold," she whispers, shaking, and she's burning to the touch, "I'm so cold, Logan."
He gently untangles her legs from around him, and kneels down on the wet ground in front of her, spreading her legs.
"It was raining when you left," he says, again, this time against the skin of her inner thigh, tracing the blue veins under brittle skin. He's gripping too hard, he's going to leave bruises.
Her head falls back against the wall, he can see her eyes close. He can't tell if she's crying, even now. He can count the number of times he's seen her cry on one hand.
"I'm here," she runs her fingers through his hair, pushing him down, and she's gripping too hard too, "I'm here, and it's still raining," she's crying now, "I don't think I can make it stop. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so, sorry."
This is something he's always known, Veronica Mars has balls of steel, "how did you know?"
I've heard you imitating a German accent, Veronica, multiple times. I've heard you imitating everything from a Russian to an Indian accent to get what you want. Information. That resonance— it's permanent now, in every word you say. I know what your voice sounded like before; every pause, every inflection, every silence...
It feels surreal.
"...If I were trying to be inconspicuous, I wouldn't keep my alias Stosh Piznarski."
She stares at him blankly for a moment, then, laughs, quiet, high, open, like she's re-learning how, "that's his real name. I don't know how to feel about the fact that you blundered onto the truth by mistake, Echolls."
She's dry-eyed now, cold almost, but he understands self-preservation when he sees it.
"The broadcast," he says, quietly, "it was an interception, a decrypted Enigma message. The message talking about Keith Mars's death— it was a German code."
She considers that for a moment, "I should have known that. If I'd been thinking clearly, I'd have known that." She's tired, he can tell, "we're all fools in love, I suppose."
He should know, after all.
"Shouldn't have saved your life, huh. No good deed goes unpunished." She's only half joking, he knows.
"I could tell you," her voice is distant, "but it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't change anything. It would only make you regret something you could never have changed. And there's so much more to regret just right now. So much more. Save it for something— someone else."
"Why?" he counters, instead. He's asked her that question a lot, recently, and he has many more (when? what happened to you?) but he doesn't have world enough, or time.
She looks straight at him, "it's a war, Logan" she says, even, collected, always, that's his Veronica, "there's no why."
He hasn't understood her in nine years, but he understands her now.
"Why didn't you say anything." There's an edge of curiosity in her voice, even though she should know this. She should know this.
"Because I love you."
She's quiet at that, "love me enough to let me go?"
He took an oath, when he'd enlisted for the Navy. Laughed at it later, at the station with the boys. But he took it.
—against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties—
It wasn't poetic, it didn't inspire any great patriotism in him, and he never really thought he believed in it. He was the kind who fought anyway.
He doesn't have time enough for philosophy, but maybe— maybe he wouldn't have kept fighting if he didn't. Believe. A little.
"No." he says. This isn't about him. The war isn't about him.
She nods her head, "okay."
"Aren't you scared?"
She appears to consider that for a moment, frown lines forming across her forehead, "maybe."
The silence is like the quiet he can remember, when she used to sit by the edge of his bed and read. She hated it if he read over her shoulder, so he just watched her. He can remember that silence better than he can remember half his frenzied words, something about years and lives ruined. It feels like that now, like she can't cover up her damage any more than he can. Comfortable, familiar.
He wonders what that says about them. Maybe the only reality of war is that they're both far away from home. He has watched aircrafts in free-fall. Been the one to make it happen. Killed with the sliding of a lever.
"I'm going to tell them," he says, "with the first crack of dawn. I give you that. Night was always your time. It would feel like cheating."
She's standing on tiptoe, face raised to his, and in the midst of everything he remembered in burning detail, he'd forgotten this, what it felt like to stand like this with her, what it felt like when she wasn't avoiding his eyes, "still love me?"
He bends his head down, closes the distance, "yes."
The kiss is short, over before he can memorize her texture or taste. She drops her hands, but he doesn't move his away, pulls her in, closer, there's no space between them for air to pass, he doesn't need to breathe anyway.
"Come back to me," he can't seem to get the words out, "if you can, ever. When this is over. Even if it's another nine years. Twenty. Come back to me."
She cups his jaw with a hand and he has never really known if Veronica ever loved him, loved him even half as desperately as he does her, but he has always collected moments and glances to build a thing with feathers, "always."
He should stop her, he knows, not even give her that leeway, there's no forgiveness for traitors. But he has been in love with this woman far longer than he has been anything else. He's no good at being noble, never has been. He's only trying.
He doesn't know what he wants. That's a lie, he wants her to say she'll stay, because their love is epic, goddammit, he found her a continent across, wants her to say that she'll give up everything that made her who she is, nine years of her life that he knows nothing of, and just fight the good fight with him, on the right side.
He's been fighting all his life, without reason, purpose even, fighting blindly. But this one moment, right just now, he thinks he might have given up if he didn't have something worth fighting for. He still thinks of it that way— the good fight, the right side.
She doesn't say she'll stay, of course. Maybe she has something worth fighting for, too. He learned this at the wrong end of a gun once; that, in war, there is nothing but. No future, no past, there's just survival. You take what you can and you do your best with it. He doesn't understand her, not exactly, he was lying when he said he did, but he understands that.
He watches her walk away, before she stops.
Her eyes drop down, moving up, taking him in, and then she's smiling widely; young, sharp, fifteen, and he fucking hates everything, everyone who destroyed that. All the things he knows about, and all that he doesn't, "you know what, I can picture it now, Lieutenant."
Then, she's gone.
He doesn't know how long he stays up, alone, sleepless, staring blankly into the distance. He's still alone when the first shaft of light pierces through the opening in his tent.
Slowly, he stands up.