Summer's nearly here, and she's almost gone.
He watches the result declaration alone in his suite with a bottle of beer that stops just short of being chilled.
When the numbers finally come in, he thinks of her and Keith, leaning against the kitchen island, constantly arguing, constantly in love, and feels a dull ache settle somewhere low in his chest. Something like second-hand disappointment.
He will text her just once: sorry.
It's after pressing send that he realizes he probably should have specified he was talking about the election, because god knows, he has a lot to be sorry for just about now. But he can't do it now, so he lets it go. It's something he's working on; letting things go.
The buzzing of his phone wakes him up from his alcohol-induced stupor, and when he looks at the lit screen, it's three in the morning.
He stares at her name flashing across his screen for as long as he can, putting words in her hands across the letters of her keypad. I didn't mean it when I said you were out of my life or I forgive you or I could love you again or I never stopped or—
I know, it reads, when he finally clicks on her name, me too.
He doesn't know what she assumed he was apologizing for, but he can't imagine it matters much either way.
Honestly, he doesn't see her around much.
The Heart campus is bigger than he remembers, and she's everywhere and nowhere all at once. This one time, soon after, he spots wavy blonde hair and a short frame and his heart nearly beats out of his chest. That's all it takes, and he can almost hear Dick's disappointed dude in his head. Still, he can't contain the deflation when the girl finally turns around.
Another time, days later, when he's finally stopped turning to look at every blonde, petite girl who passes by, he literally runs into her, arms automatically wrapping around her to break the collision.
She makes a sound of surprise somewhere at the back of her throat and he dimly registers that his body feels familiarized to this position with the one trapped between before realizing why.
"That was an impressive way to get to touch me," he smirks, living up to his stereotype. Somehow this is inevitably who he is with her when he's not with her, "you know, all you had to do was ask, Veronica. Maybe beg, just a little."
She snorts, "you wish."
He doesn't bother with a witty remark or the confirmation nobody needs; the entire campus, the entire city knows he does.
It feels so much like habit to hold her like this, that it's a few moments before he registers she's subtly trying to break out of his grip. He lets go. He's working on that.
She makes a grimace of pain as he steps back, and he realizes he's somehow managed to crush her foot. Size six, he remembers, randomly. It's the microcosmic version of his usual fuck-ups with her.
"Sorry," he says that a lot.
She smiles, face white. "It's okay. I have class, so I should-"
She stumbles then, and he catches her. He's used to that, catching her. Of course, he's mostly also the one who makes her fall, so he's not quite sure how that particular two-variable linear equation works out. It's probably more of a quadratic equation. Or a hextetrapentagonal cesequation or something. He's always sucked at math.
He half-carries her to the ledge in front of the nearest classroom before automatically looking through the back pocket of her sling bag, for the salve he knows she carries for all the possible cuts and bruises that she manages in a day's work. This is Veronica Mars, after all.
"You don't have to do this," her tone is sharper than before, and it takes him a while to realize she resents the casual intimacy of the gesture.
"I know I don't," he replies, instead, before kneeling down and slipping off her sandal, putting her foot on his knee.
He can feel her tense, foot unresponsive in his hands, as he gently starts rubbing in the salve. But eventually, she sighs, and lets go, allowing him to carry on, and he can't help thinking of fucking her in his bed, the sheets off her, the way she always goes rigid before her orgasm; spine straight, body taut, till he's afraid she's going to snap. The way she melts after, boneless in his arms, as near vulnerable as she ever has been with him.
It's not the right thing to be thinking about in the moment, he realizes belatedly, because his pain-alleviating techniques are definitively more sensual now than he intends or the scenario demands. She can recognize the shift, he knows, because when he looks up, her face is bright red; with anger, arousal or embarrassment, he can't tell.
"It's fine, now." she informs him shortly, before getting up. It obviously takes effort, but she'd rather break both her feet than allow him to see her vulnerable again, he knows.
He watches as she walks ahead, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, pretend casual. When she's a suitable distance away, she turns around, once, uncertainly, "thanks."
When he looks down so she won't be able to read his expression which is stuck on a litany of fuckiloveyougoddammits, he sees Piz about to take the stairs.
"You're welcome." he says.
When he looks back up, Piz is already there. He watches her grip his hand in a too-tight grip as she uses his body as a crutch.
Logan turns away then, he's late for class anyway.
Summer comes, she leaves.
He runs into Parker once in the middle of the quad.
It's awkward and painful and he can tell she's not quite sure how to play this, how to define where they are now-- he can almost catalog the shifts in her expression; the hurt, the anger, the resentment, the residual attraction, before her eyes register resignation and stay there.
He says something stupid like "you're not in Denver", and then mentally kicks himself for having 'gone there', for vocalizing the usual oddity of a post-break-up relationship; the awkward kind where he's left with random bits of information from Parker's life, because he had planned his own around it for months.
She's silent for a long moment, before shortly telling him about the volunteering position she's taken up at Take Back The Night. Doesn't mention how they both know she did it so she wouldn't have to go home. Doesn't mention why they both know; the dinner with the Lees, the time she'd cried for an hour after her mother told her to dress decently so that no boy would be tempted to do that to her again, the time they hadn't called for her nineteenth birthday.
He doesn't ask her where she's staying over the summer. Remembers how he'd told her once she could stay at the Grand when they thought they could be something else, something more. It feels like a long time ago.
"I'll see you around then maybe," she says finally, avoiding his eyes. And he allows himself to think that maybe they can move past the destruction someday, be friends even. He has several positions open on that front.
The next time he sees her, across the room in his Public Policy class, she raises her hand in a stilted 'hello', before turning back quickly to the person she was talking to. It almost feels like progress. Growing older. Growing up. Or something.
In the mornings, he carries his board to the beach and floats lazily for hours before the waves are good enough to actually make use of it.
He has too much time on his hands, he concludes, too much time and not enough to do. Nothing that will stop him thinking of "you're out of my life, Logan" over and over in his head, the background soundtrack to all his thoughts.
She hadn't said his name like that, he knows. But at the back of his mind, her lips always close around the syllables of his name with cold precision. He remembers different details each time; her hair, the color of her jacket, his door behind her, the way she'd stood, the tie holding her hair up. It's only when he kisses her, sliding his hand through her hair, pulling out the tie, and allowing it to drape across his arms, to pull her closer that he realizes his memory may not exactly be accurate.
He gives up the farce entirely by his seventeenth wave. She's still wearing the same clothes, her hair lying on one side, but he pulls her shirt over her head, and when it's off her shoulders, she looks down. In the fifth scenario, she rips his shirt first. He has her up against the wall, of course, because she won't be able to reach otherwise, but then her lips are against his bare skin and when he groans low at the back of his throat, he can feel her smile growing across his bones. He remembers that.
When she stands between his legs, fingers on his zip, looking up at him, warm, inviting, he wipes out. It's with the cold, sharp water pressing into him, cutting into the air supply to his lungs, that he concludes he's probably crossed a threshold level of lameness greater than gravity can reasonably withstand.
He won't think of her again, he decides.
Later, as he's lying on the sand in the evening, empty cans of cheap beer by his feet, another in his hand, and it's three hours since he last thought of her, he thinks: you're out of my life. Forever.
Sometimes she's disappointed when she says it, and he knows she wants him to make it up to her, so he makes grand promises and actually keeps them. He doesn't beat up her boyfriend and he doesn't mess up her life in sixteen ways till Tuesday. Sometimes she's quiet, the words uncertain, and he knows she's hurt, and then he's on his knees for her, apologizing in the only way he's ever been good at. Sometimes, she's hard, unforgiving, and he just gives her time.
"You're out of my life. Forever."
Somehow, that part never changes.
Keith Mars is the one to bail him out.
"Logan," he nods, seeming to take in the blood and the cuts in one sharp glance.
"Sheriff," he gives the man a two-finger salute, even with Vinnie Van Lowe standing two feet away with the key to his handcuffs.
He can remember watching the two of them, Veronica and Keith, line after line of quotable quotes, both willing to do anything for the other and the jealousy that settled in the pit of his stomach, even when he tried to shove it away, because he'd never had that. Never had someone who would stand by him when the entire town believed he was wrong, even if it meant losing everyone else they'd ever cared for. Never had someone else willing to go to jail because he messed up.
The papers had been filled with headlines talking about the prosecution of the former Sheriff for loss of papers in his custody pertaining to a case his daughter was the defendant in. Nobody quite came out and said the exact words- destruction of evidence- but it was between all the lines for anyone willing to read. And then, just as suddenly, it was all gone. An unremarkable snippet, hidden out of sight on the bottom of the seventh page, claiming the case was still unresolved, but there were some leads; public memory being what it was, probably forgotten in six minutes. Veronica obviously had something to do with that. When didn't she.
"Was it worth it?"
He thinks Keith might now have the answer to the question he'd asked him about the other tapes a long time ago.
He stumbles a little as they walk towards Keith's car, his own still in the garage, because when he'd started out of the Grand, he hadn't thought he'd be waylaid on his evening walk, beaten up by the lackeys of the guy he'd beaten up himself and then jailed. Life is just full of pleasant surprises and poetic justice that way.
"How did you-"
"It was on Entertainment Tonight," Keith informs him briefly, eyes on the road, as he starts the car.
"Oh." Logan turns to look out the window. His head is hammering, he wants to press his hands against his skull and wait for his brain to pop out.
He turns back a moment later, at the explosive sound out of Keith's mouth, he's laughing, "you hit speed dial sometime. It connected to our phone. I picked just in time to hear Van Lowe's dulcet tones."
He thinks he'd have preferred an Entertainment Tonight exclusive scoop instead. It must have been an accident, he doesn't remember this. Somehow he feels the need to justify; "I've been meaning to change that."
Keith's face is set in serious lines, but Logan can see his lips twitching, "because you know someone better to call in an emergency than my daughter or I?"
He doesn't reply, mouth twisting up a little in a mockery of a smile. It hurts his face. He does it anyway. There is no one better, nobody who comes through like she does, like her father does, even though her father hates him, even if she's also the one who sends him to jail on occasional accusations of murdering the love of his life; because while she's working on intimacy with him, he's working on trust with her. They're always trying to peel back layers and there are always more layers to peel, he knows. He's seen her without clothes on, more times than he can count, but he's never seen her naked.
It's when they turn the corner to her house and his throat closes up with familiarity that he says sardonically, "I don't actually live here, you know, Sheriff. Although I can see why you'd be confused, considering I was your daughter's personal Anne Shirley-esque charity case for a while back there. A permanent fixture. Like that fortune about true love never dying or something on her mirror. Or that hole in her mattress, her hand's small enough to slip through. It's a pain to try and pull it out, completely kills the mood. I never understood why she didn't just buy a new one, but then I remembered the district code. And, well."
Keith doesn't take the bait. It's oddly disappointing. "Get out of the car, Logan." he says instead, fairly neutrally for a guy who once threw him out for breaking a lamp and screaming at his daughter. And now he's claiming carnal knowledge of the aforementioned daughter and nothing.
The way he remembers it is a constant sine wave of ecstasy and tragedy. They're in love or they're nothing. He doesn't remember a middle ground. He also doesn't remember not being in love with her, but theoretically, his history would define that. It's just: if he can come to her house, with her gone, sit with her father, with her gone, then maybe someday he can be the guy who gets her the right kind of groceries for a special dinner with the fiancé and sits around surfing channels, making the occasional sarcastic remark, while she loses her head over the risotto recipe and throws a knife to get him to shut up.
A friend. Or whatever you call it. But she said it herself; they tried that and it didn't work. He can't. Be that guy. Not with her. He can't not be in love with her and she'd said that the friends thing hadn't worked for them, because, as her friend, he didn't have the privilege of rearranging her boyfriend's face for something he knew somewhere at the back of his mind the other guy didn't do. And he's always going to want to punch anyone she looks at the way she used to look at him.
We're epic. He remembers her saying that. She was apparently repeating something he'd said, but he can't recall that moment. All he can recall is her saying it. His head throbs so much, he thinks he could kneel with it.
Keith seems to understand, pushing him through, "get in, kid."
"That's Mr. Echolls to you." he manages through gritted teeth, clenched over the pain.
It's Veronica's room, he notes through half-shut eyes. He doesn't even know when they got through the main door. The constant acidic ache somewhere in the middle of his rib-cage intensifies. There's a lot he remembers about last summer.
"Sorry we didn't send you an invitation for the grand break-up party- what with the underage drinking and your former buzzkill Sheriff-hood- but newsflash, we're kind of not together. I think the exact words she used were: you're out of my life. This," he drawls, expansively taking in the water bed, the mirror, her notebooks, the hole in the mattress, all the details he'd cataloged at the back of his head, trying to calm his breathing, not come embarrassingly early as she took him in her hands; they'd never actually had sex on the bed, it was too small for one, and it was still her childhood home. He wonders if it was the same with Piz. Or maybe they'd had managed to have sex in the cramped space, Piz is shorter than he is. He feels sick, "is very much her life, as far as I can tell. And unless this is Opposite Day or I've been mistaken all my life about the concept, "out" means something very different according to the dictionary."
Keith holds his gaze then, and he can't read the expression, which pisses him off. He's always considered himself a keen observer of the human condition. "You took a gun out of my daughter's hands once."
There's a beat of silence and Logan finds he can't look at the man, "yeah, well, she doesn't have the market monopoly on heroism. She's an annoying, sanctimonious bitch. But she's not a killer. At least not the kind that doesn't involve ripping out hearts and crushing them under sensible two-dollar shoes." Wow, okay, he totally did not mean to say 'hearts' like a Wonder Years reject. Maybe Sorokin caused actual brain damage, that would explain it.
Keith is still staring at him, disconcertingly focused, so he sits on the bed, as his legs give way, and turns to the mirror instead: "you know she kept that for Duncan, right? Even when we were together," he says, dully.
"She never took it down because it never stopped meaning something," Keith looks annoyingly unruffled, as always, it pisses him off, "even if it doesn't mean exactly what it had meant when she put it up."
Logan tries to work that out, like a particularly difficult crossword, the Nine Down to Veronica Mars' head; but there are too many 'means' in the sentence to make meaning from and every part of his body aches.
"Yeah," he says, "whatever". He can feel his eyes close of their own accord.
"And Logan," out of the periphery of his blurred vision, he can see Keith turn around at the door, "we're leaving for the hospital in twenty minutes, so clean up. Also, if you ever call my daughter a bitch again, I may have to wash out your mouth with phenyl and water. And trust me, that hurts like a bitch."
Keith closes the door, and through fast-swelling lips, he laughs.
When it rings, he picks the phone up by habit.
"What are you doing in my house," her voice sounds suspicious, like she suspects him of having broken in to rifle through her clothes, all stalker-like.
"Slumming it," he says, propping himself up on one arm. Wonders if she likes Stanford. If she wants to stay. If it really is that easy to leave. Wonders if he can, too. His mother chose the ocean.
There's silence on the other end for a while, "don't steal the silver."
(If he'd known then that this would almost be the last he would hear from her in nine years, he'd have maybe said something more, everything he's always believed with an almost ridiculous desperation he was going to have time enough to say. Maybe.)
(The last time he actually hears from her? She probably won't remember this, but she calls once:
She sounds far away, sleep-heavy, sleep-deprived, and alcohol-glazed. Voice small as she says: please don't fall out of love with me, okay?
He's due for deployment the next day. And here's something to know; he doesn't take the next plane to New York, land up at her dorm-room in Columbia, tell her she's a bitch for leaving and rip her clothes off and refamiliarize himself to her angles. Doesn't make nostalgia and loneliness and accidents out to be fate. LOST taught him that much, at least.
This is something to know; letting go-- yeah, still working on it.)
But summer's almost here, and we won't see each other at all. And then you leave town- and then it's over.
He finally remembers, ironically enough, when he's drunk again. It has nothing to do with her, this time, it has to do with the screaming headlines declaring that he murdered the girl he'd once been in love with. Again.
And then it does; have to do with her.
He can be unpredictable, he's heard her say. But the truth is, usually, with her, he falls into easily recognizable patterns, if anyone looks hard enough. He's in love with her and- he's never out. It's not so much a pattern as the geometric definition of a ray.
I'm sorry about last summer. You know, if I could do it over—
"I need your help, Veronica."
Really did a number on you, huh?
Wait. Don't go.
(There's a lot he remembers about their summers, even now, even nine summers after.
He remember the color of the sky and the red dress she'd worn that time it was too hot for jeans and he'd told her the day before that she was gorgeous in red. The feeling of the sand between his fingers and making out for hours in the alcove. He remembers the height of the waves under his board and her skin salty with sweat and the sea air.
He remembers sitting on his couch in the Grand, playing video games while she looked up the prospectus and sniped at the cultural activities at Hearst. Remembers that time Keith was away for the night and she stayed over for the first time. Remembers laughing against her skin, hot, sticky. Remembers her moving away after, lying three feet away, because it's just too hot. Remembers getting up to turn the conditioner to 'freezing', the way she'd looked amused but moulded her body to his anyway. Remembers her summer cold after and the two days she sat under a blanket in blistering heat and called him the choicest curse words in the dictionary, and told Keith to tell him she'd shifted planets when he called.
He remembers the fights: the time he'd looked at their waitress with mild interest and given her what Veronica called his bedroom eyes, the time she almost got hit by a baseball bat wielded by a guy she was searching for who didn't want to be found. The time she'd told him she was done, Logan because he had no idea what to do with his life and she wasn't built that way, to be with someone like him, who had too much and didn't want enough. The time he'd punched the guy with the camera and ended up with his face splattered all over the Neptune Tribune. The time she returned to the Grand because she couldn't let Keith see her like that; hair matted to her face, covered in bruises and mud, both crusting over her skin, his blood running cold at the sight.
He'd pushed her in the shower, fully clothed, roughly scrubbing at the dirt, part rage and part panic making his hands shake, her soft, brittle physicality under his hands at a terrifying dissonance with the Veronica he carried in his head. She filled up his lungs, body, and sometimes he forgot how tiny she was, how real, how destructibly real. She'd stood, silent, face set in a stubborn line, soaked to the skin, the water running in streams down purpling skin, and he'd known he was hurting her, gripping too hard, but she was far too proud to tell him to be gentle, and he'd said: I can't do this anymore.
He remembers the call, days later, the sound of her on his answering machine, half-asleep, the words slurred with the pain medication from yet another mission gone wrong: don't you dare give up on me.
He remembers her leaving.
Going with her a couple of times on her nighttime stake-outs and banging the car door too loud, probably startling all the would-be adulterers in the Camelot, till she'd told him firmly that she worked best alone. He remembers driving back to the beach and waiting for hours, as long as it took, staring out at the sea, till he'd convinced himself the summer was some sort of long-drawn fantasy he'd constructed in his head, a delusion created by the alcoholic haze and the constant ache of wanting her.
He remembers her coming back.)
you're out of my life.
"Come back to me."
This is how a hundred and eighty days end:
"I can't do this anymore," he'd said, once.
Honestly, he can't even remember it clearly now, it was so long ago.
When he pulls her to him, far too roughly, her body is already braced for the fall, filling all the crevices in his, as the hard planes of her frame melt into familiar curves against him, and he bends down and she reaches up; it always has to be both ways, she's too short, and he's not. He's going to try this new thing this time; holding on.
Her lips are warm, his are chapped by the salt-air and the journey and he whispers the answer to a question she hadn't framed as one against her mouth, something she probably doesn't even remember; I don't think I can, you know. I tried. It's too much effort. And if I were into effort, I wouldn't be staying at Dick's house.
He can feel her smile growing against his, and they're going to fight by the time he drives her home, he knows, before they've even reached her door perhaps. Maybe about his bruised ribs that she'll demand an explanation for, tell him again how much she hates the thought of him out there, or maybe over the fact that she's going to get a case tomorrow and leave him waiting for her to come back, with the running possibility she won't.
Maybe about the fact that they both have to live with that, the lives the other chose for themselves, and how much it sucks; this being in love thing.
But there's an endless stretch of summer behind his eyelids. Her bare feet, covered in grains of sand, propped up on his old surfboard. Red dress hitched higher than decency commands, as she licks a finger and reaches across his arm around her to flip a page in her book, his history in tune with his memories this time.
And he thinks: don't you dare fall out of love with me.