What she eventually figures is; settling into old rhythms? Not exactly the wham, bam, thank you ma'am of life decisions. She doesn't so much as get a Welcome Back, Veronica brochure detailing how to do adulthood in your childhood home in seven easy steps! Which seems a gross oversight on the universe's part, if you ask her.
She nearly cries when she can't find the chicken place at the corner of the second lane in the 05 code. And then nearly cries at being twenty eight and nearly crying over chicken.
(It's like- Logan magically transferred all his past emotional volatility into her when he left. The bastard. She's going to kill him when he comes back. Or kiss him quite insane and never let him go. Or-- yeah, no, kill him sounds about right. She won't plan the whole thing out just yet, because then the word premeditated would get thrown around in the courtroom and complicate things. She should know, she has a degree and everything.)
"They moved," Mac says, not unkindly, "as in v. to change the place or position of. Wallace could not move his arm after his basketball injury. Mac had hoped to move to Chicago but sold her soul to the Man for loose change and a penthouse instead. Veronica actually did move to New York and forgot to call or send a present on the Christmas of 2010."
"I think the side of belligerence is even more filling than the chicken would have been," Veronica nods. "You just saved me five dollars, homegirl."
Mac looks at her for a moment, "I'm going to throw my arms around you in the next three seconds, and it's all your fault, because you left and I almost lost my mojo and became a real girl. I can feel the wood transforming into soft, luscious flesh this very moment and making me say things like luscious flesh unironically. You have three seconds to change my mind. Give it your best shot, Mars."
Veronica does the arm-throwing instead, pulling the other girl in in a tight hug, even before the time's up; she's not made of stone either, okay. She can smell a hint of peppermint and clove and Mac; it's comforting in a way that nothing has been in far too long.
"The five second rule applies," her voice is muffled by Mac's shirt, but that's okay, "close your eyes, this never happened. Wouldn't want to break stereotype or anything."
It derails mid-way into this, mostly; Logan. Bound. At her mercy. That image is way more pleasant than it has any right to be.
For reference; that wasn't the original plan. But she's a go-with-the-flow kind of gal anyway, so.
"So... when do I get killed, exactly. Because it's been fifteen minutes and I'm still pretty much, you know, not dead. Very constrained though, yes. I'll be sure to reflect sternly on my sin of, uh, 'making you emotionally volatile.'"
"I'm coming to it," she snaps, "you're not even letting me finish tying the ropes."
He laughs, on the other end, warm, low, and everything in her flares up, achingly bright, almost.
"How did you even reach far enough to tie my hands over my head, shortie. There's suspension of disbelief and then there's suspension of disbelief."
"I told you I wanted to tie you up," she says, easily, cradling the phone between her shoulder and ear, closing the curtains, it's dark outside, and he's so far away, "said something about going down on my knees. Think that's an offer you can refuse, Lieutenant?
He appears to consider that for a moment, the static louder in silence, "give me a minute, I clearly need to re-evaluate my life choices and factor in the psychopath girlfriend in the general scheme of things."
She almost says I miss you, I miss you so much my jaw's beginning to ache with it and I can feel it alone in the sheets at night, and in the cup of coffee in the morning, and I don't even know if you still take your coffee black with two sugars and give me time enough to relearn you, come back to me, god, Logan, please.
"Make her blonde," she advises, "the girlfriend. We all know about officers and gentlemen from that one Richard Gere movie, and gentlemen prefer blondes. You got the Navy fooled pretty good till now, don't get screwed on the fine print."
There are some rhythms that are easier than others and she doesn't know what it says about her that those are the ones where she guilts and manipulates the (very limited number of) people who love her into doing things she wants. Possibly that she isn't a very good person. Wait, that is Brand New Information.
"Wallace, my main man, my brother from another mother, the Taylor Swift to my I'mma let you finish, the Kardashian to my wardrobe malfunction, the princess to my basketcase, the Murakami hero to my Manic Pixie Dream Girl, the Captain America to my Tony Stark- they're weirdly popular on the internet, by the way, don't google it, especially not now that I've used it for us- the Miss Honey to my Trunchbull, the- are you getting the general idea here, because—"
"What do you want," he actually sighs, like it isn't offensive at all that he thinks she always wants something, which she does, but she doesn't want him to think it.
Her mouth falls open in mock outrage, "and that after I didn't specify which Kardashian just so you could maintain your fantasies of being Khloé- you're Kim b-t-w. I'm beginning to feel a little under-appreciated here. Where's the love, sugar, didn't you miss our fun dynamic?"
Wallace just stares at her, arms crossed, and oh, wow, suddenly, she can totally see the teacher-thing, it's like entering a 3D theatre without the glasses, like she has to cross her eyes for the world to make sense, "I'm a teacher now, V, I am the system, I'm the Hale to your Deakins, the Han to your Karate Kid, you really wanna mess with me? Did your high school experience not teach you that everyone who enters this field becomes a pod person with Rules and Regulations and a direct hotline to the Powers That Be- If it involves something that is a felony in all fifty states, you're on your own, Nancy. "
"So, there's just this one little thing," she says, and she can already feel the tingle of excitement at the dots connecting if her hunch is right, it has to be, it's the only thing that makes sense— and fine, she's a junkie, so sue her "but I'm fairly sure it's only a felony in about forty eight states, so it's all good."
He shakes his head, and then he's laughing, "I'm beginning to feel I'm actually the Veronica to your Logan. You're bad for my mental stability and bodily health, and you're probably going to get me twenty in Neptune's finest law enforcement establishments someday, so why can't I quit you, V?
—and just like that, like it sometimes happens when she least expects, the missing, the wait, is overwhelming, spreading through her like cancer; not just the time now, but all the time before, the entire nine years she hadn't allowed herself to think of him, compressed into these moments. It's strange how physical a thing it is, missing Logan, it weighs her down, she can feel it in every crevice of her body, her skin stretched taut, like elastic over bone, like any moment she's going to snap back and fuck, it's going to hurt like hell, like—
She forces a smile, and links her arm with Wallace's, "we're best friends, buddy, you're stuck here in this rabbit hole, the Alice to my wonderland, couldn't quit me if you tried. Where were you when they taught self-fulfilling prophecies in Harry Potter?"
"Careful, Mars," his voice is lower, seductive almost, still with that lazy ease that always used to make her more prickly by default, "that's dangerously close to the general vicinity of 'what are you wearing right now'. Do you really want to go there."
"What are you wearing," she counters, and it's surreal that she can do this, again, "right now."
She feels aflushed, her face burning when she puts a hand to it, and she's glad he can't see her, she's never been particularly good at this- real intimacy. She likes to think she's better now, than before, but it's not like she took extra-credit classes on it at Columbia.
"Nothing at all," he says, suggestive, though she can read the amusement in his voice, this is different, they're different, she doesn't know what changed, maybe they just got older. That seems to be the usual thing with time, she's noticed.
"Nope," she says, "try again."
He's silent for a minute, "my...uniform?"
She makes a low, choked sound at the back of her throat, and honestly, only about half of it is fake, fuck her life, why does getting to see Logan in uniform mean that he also has to be away; that seems like an unfair bargain, "yes," she draws out the word in exaggerated pleasure, "god, don't stop talking, describe the buttons, the cut, the hat. Don't you dare leave out the hat, Logan."
"It has a white brim," he says, obliging, always, "and it fits me like a glove. And-" serious suddenly, "I miss you so fucking much, Veronica, I almost can't stand it, not being able to touch you."
What's a hundred and eighty days to us.
He hadn't completed that: we've survived nine years of radio silence.
It's different, she wants to tell him, even though she knows nobody really understands. It's different from that time- because that time, she wasn't waiting.
She slides deeper under the covers, and when her hand falls down on the bed, there's just a cotton mattress and emptiness beneath it, "is that a threat or a promise."
"You can burn a hole through the paper with your eyes, of course, honey, " her dad says, wiping his hands on a paper towel, "no one's doubting your superpowers, or- just a suggestion here- you can cross out the dates with a red marker like normal people, if I may so unfairly deign to categorize you as such. I think that might be easier, but then what do I know."
She jumps, she hadn't even heard him come out of the kitchen. Nine years of easy living have dulled her PI instincts to the point where that point is pretty much four dimensional.
She forces herself away from the calendar, and honestly? she hadn't so much as realized she was looking, "oh, you know, Logan and I, we're all about the easy."
Her dad looks at her knowingly, and see, this is what comes of being the freakish teenager who enjoys talking to her dad more than she enjoys talking to 100% of the other people she knows, it turns you into a freakish adult whose dad can read her like an open book with size 30 print. Would not recommend.
"I feel like a heroine in an old Hollywood movie," she admits, "pining away for her lover to return safely to her arms from the dreaded war. And for all you know, Logan's probably stuffing his face and looking at dirty magazines right now. Not at the same time hopefully, because, ew."
Her dad's grimace is pretty magnificent, she'd almost forgotten, "new ground rule: we don't use the L word around here, unless we want repercussions like an overactive gag reflex from an old-fashioned father whose daughter will remain chaste and pure and untouched and virginal till she's eighty, capiche?
"You know I aim to please, but, just so we're clear, which one," she smirks, "Logan or looooover. Hey, that's alliterative; pretty darn fitting, wouldn't you say? Like the universe aligned to make it happen just like that."
Keith makes gagging motions with his finger, "Veronica. Another word and I will tell you everything about the lady I saw at the super-market yesterday, in a tight red-"
"Fine," she rolls her eyes playfully, "but you do realize I'm twenty eight now, right? There's suspension of disbelief and then there's suspension of disbelief."
"T.M.I." her dad says, eyes wide, and she'd forgotten what this used to feel like. She'd forgotten a lot, "we call him The Echolls Kid or we don't call him at all. And the other L word is persona non grata in this household until further notice."
She pats him on his balding head, and it's familiar and beautiful, "yep, you're the man, so hip and with the times and down with the cool acronyms and all. Let's stop talking about The Echolls Kid before you have a seizure and I'm forced to spend still more time pretending that keeping you company at the hospital is all that I have ever really wanted from life and nothing gives me greater pleasure than the gross mystery meat they serve for lunch."
"My daughter," her dad wipes a fake tear, "the filial. How I have missed your dulcet tones and sweet words of love and loyalty to your old man."
"Yeah, yeah, don't just sweet talk my ear off, vato, you gotta show me the money; how's the Weevil case coming along? Did you get the video footage from the garage shop down the road?"
Her dad isn't fooling anyone with the Adult In The House routine. Truth be told, he's as much a junkie as she is. And, well, between Lianne and her dad, what chance in hell did she ever have?
He smiles, eyes gleaming, "who's your daddy?"
She can feel the rush beneath her skin, like everything's easing up just a little, "Okay, one; that is never not super creepy. And two; let's nail the bastards."
She sleeps in her old bedroom, and it's stupid how everything, right now, reminds her of Logan. This room used to be hers alone, and now it's filled with Logan's hands and mouth and quiet, whispered words telling her everything's going to be okay, Veronica, you're going to be okay between fevered touch and breathless gasps, and how, for a long, desperate, hopeful moment, she had actually believed it because he was the one saying it.
The old Bach quote is still on her mirror, mostly peeling off now, but still there: true love stories never have endings. She doesn't know how long she stares at it before she falls asleep.
"Ronnie," Dick is leaning against the door, and he doesn't seem particularly surprised to see her here, which is an affront really, because she's surprised to find herself here. She wasn't going to end up here inevitably or anything okay. He should look a little surprised.
"Richard," she acknowledges, because he hates it. But hey, turnaround's fair play, she isn't Ronnie. Ronnie is Lilly's and Lilly's alone. She's just plain Veronica Mars- and, well, a bunch of other aliases on different ID's, but none of which are Ronnie either.
He steps aside, "come to pull out a few of Logan's clothes from his closet and weep over them? And if so, can you be naked while doing it, because the pay-per-view's screwed right now and I have no source of entertainment left."
"First," she says, "gross. Second, gross. Third, I want his car keys."
Dick eyes her, in muted admiration, maybe? she can't really tell over the glaze of the drugs, "damn, if he's giving you those he must really be in love with you, in that actually, truly, movie sort of way. I was pretty sure the only thing he loved more than you was that car. He never even lets me touch that thing."
"The fact," she declares, "that you're comparing us, as in we, as in you and I, in this regard, or any regard at all, should give you a fair indication as to why he doesn't let you touch his car. Friendly hint: the distinction is based on our respective positions on the evolutionary ladder. And anyway— what he doesn't know won't hurt him."
"Ronnie," definitely admiration this time, "did you learn anything else in New York sides Grand Theft Auto. Like, pole-dancing maybe. Cuz, I gotta tell ya, my bed's one of those huge four poster ones with poles attached. Very handy for moments like these."
She fakes yawning, covering her mouth with the back of a hand, "the keys, Dick."
He walks over to the television, and picks them up and throws them at her, "I had nothing to do with it, if he or his new girlfriend ask."
"Oh," Dick shrugs, with a shit-eating grin on his face, "you know, this Chinese girl he was talking to while we had our Skype date."
It's stupid, but there's an odd sort of heaviness pressing against her chest, and for a moment she has to pause to breathe, "she can't be Chinese and an officer in the United States Navy. God, do you even know about citizenship or—"
Dick makes a slicing motion with his hand, no one cares, "whatever, she's hot, and in uniform. And if she can get Logan to a pre-whipped, pre-Veronica Mars stage—"
"You know, you say this now, but you're going to miss me when I'm gone," she interrupts cheerily. It comes out slightly manic, so she clears her throat.
Dick throws her a can of- what she hopes is only- beer, "I'm really not. I already had nine years to make up my mind on that one, remember."
"What mind," she catches the can, and shuts the door behind her, entering further in, "there's a Saw marathon on tonight. I checked the listing."
Dick whistles, "awesome. I'll make the popcorn. Don't steal the couch while I'm gone, I had spy cams installed when I realized you and Logan were doing your you-and-Logan thing again and you were going to be around. Love doesn't make the best friend blind, y'know."
She leans against the car, and holds the phone high in front of her so he can see, dangling the keys, and in her best robot voice- which is pretty good, actually, if she does say so herself; "your car is in my possession now, Officer. If you want it safe and sound, meet me in twenty days in the backseat. Don't forget the family jewels, okay, this girl ain't going soft on you just because you're cute."
He's visibly taken aback, she can make it out even through the terrible Skype video quality and the small phone screen, and she can't decide between being amused and annoyed. God, maybe he does love that thing more than her. She doesn't know if he loves her at all, in fact. She's now the woman in competition with a car, the kind they write jokes about.
"Clearly," he says, "we need to have a Talk about private property, when I'm back. And the felonies. And how much I would hate for our next meeting to be through bars of a prison cell."
She shrugs, "possession is nine-tenths the law, amigo. Admit it, I own you. And please, I'm a socialist seven years running. My hand is pictured on the Humans of New York Facebook page holding a red rose. I know all about private property, okay. It's the root cause of all evil and should be abolished. And till the government does its thing, I'll do mine."
He laughs, and it's another twenty endless days, twenty whole days and twenty more nights, "that's my girl, always on the side of the downtrodden, the have nots, the monetarily insolvent."
"You know," she says, voice small, "when I said to take the long way home, you didn't have to take me so literally. I know you have problems with metaphors because you failed English in the eighth grade- god, how did you even, you speak English- but fyi, I wasn't serious. Don't take the long way home."
There's a long silence and maybe- maybe she said the wrong thing, maybe that was too real, too soon, why is she so terrible at this, "I don't mean-"
"Do you miss me?"
She backtracks almost immediately, "I plead the fifth," she says, mouth quirking at the corners, so he knows she's kidding.
"Veronica," he's not smiling anymore, "if you miss me, just say it. If you want me, love me, whatever, just say it, okay. We've nine years to make up for, and I need you to say everything you want to say. I'm not going to run because you didn't attach a quip along with it, because you actually mean it. And I need you to not run either. We're not nineteen anymore; I want this to be real."
They're not nineteen anymore; ain't that the truth.
She breathes out, slowly, "fine, I miss you. I miss you. So much, I feel like I could kneel over with it right now."
She can't believe she actually said that, actually uttered those words in that sequence. Out loud.
But then he's smiling again and it feels okay- better than okay, "don't stop till I'm back, okay."
It feels less like there's something heavy pressing against her chest, cutting off her air supply, less like she's weighed down with the longing and distance and all the things she can't bring herself to say, "I'll try. But you better come back soon, cuz my short term memory leaves a lot to be desired. And I'm holding your car hostage, remember. Think of that fine paint job, under my sharpest stripper- of the chemical variety, not the Seventh Veil variety, don't get too excited there, Maverick."
She stays like that, leaning against his car, long after the connection's cut and he's continents away, again. She didn't ask about the other girl after all, she doesn't need to; deep down she's always known that.
It's nearly evening, the Neptune streetlights glowing, the Camelot probably already out of spare rooms, when she finally slides into the driver's seat, checking the rearview mirror- and the glove compartment- because, well, ain't nothing that really competes with habit. That she has to adjust the seat just to reach the wheel is something Logan would never shut up about if he could see her, the jerk.
She'll buy a red marker on the way back home, she decides.