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Narcolepsy

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Fic: Narcolepsy - the_spin
Title: Narcolepsy

Author: [info]the_spin

 

*~*~*

Logan Echolls is really starting to hate Hearst College. Or maybe God. Or possibly the Universe. He hasn't quite figured out which yet.

All he knows is that someone or something is fucking with him.

Seriously. Either the Fates have yet again decided to align against him, or MTV's just bankrolled the longest, cruelest, most X-treme episode of 'Punk'd' in the history of the world. It'd be a fucking relief to see Ashton at this point, no matter how much Logan usually wants to punch the guy in the face. He just wants it to stop.

Five months. Five months of this shit. Most of the time, he's fine. But then every time he thinks he's ready to move on he'll see her, laughing with Wallace on the way to a class or chatting with Mac and Parker in the union and it hits him like a well-aimed haymaker from the Incredible Hulk, sending him spiraling back down, down into his sad, dark pit of despair.

And just to add the maraschino cherry to the top of his towering, drippy sundae of pain, Logan's in summer school. Summer school. He'd thought he finished with that shit when he graduated from Neptune. But alas, no. Apparently 'I went on a bender because my estranged ex-girlfriend ignored me at a party' isn't a valid excuse for missing an Astronomy final. While the professor, a sympathetic recent divorcee, wouldn't let Logan make up the exam, she did take pity on him and agreed to remove the course from his transcript under the condition that he takes it again over the summer and doesn't miss any more tests.

So that's how he ends up sitting in the Hearst library on a Saturday mid-July, trying his best not to glance in the direction of the Help Desk (and one Veronica Mars) as he pretends to work on a group project but mostly just contemplates what a fucking joke his life's become. Of all the times his group could have met, of all the places they could have chosen to plan the project, they had to pick this particular table in the library during one of Veronica's shifts.

Someone really, really has it in for him

"Okay, so, what planet do we want to base our model colony on?" Jim booms, obnoxiously loud for a library, and Logan's attention snaps from the way Veronica's hair shines in the sunlight and refocuses on the task at hand.

"Pluto?" he suggests with a smirk. "No, wait..."

As the obligatory know-it-all junior, Jim rolls his eyes at Logan as he adjusts his Mets cap. "Get serious."

"How about Mars?" Mike suggests. "It'd be the easiest. Hey Jim, you see the game last night? How hot was Christina singing the anthem?"

It's Logan's turn to roll his eyes as he cracks open his textbook. He sort of wishes he were back at Neptune, sitting at the outdoor tables eating pizza with his friends so he could make a crack about Mars being so easy it did the whole football team and actually get some laughs for his trouble. It'd been a lot easier to vent his frustration with Veronica at a school where she'd practically been branded as slutty white trash. Here at Hearst most people don't even know who she is, which really takes all the fun out of being broken-up and bitter.

"Hey, Echolls," calls Mike. "You ever met Christina?"

Logan blinks, caught off guard. "Uh, yeah, like once. At the Golden Globes."

"You fuck her?" Jim asks.

What? "Um, no," he replies, striving to keep his tone mild. "No, I did not."

"How about Mariah?" asks Mike doggedly. "She's smoking."

"Again," Logan says with growing annoyance, lips pursed. "No. How about we work on the project instead of messing around and wasting my time? I have somewhere to be."

Jim narrows his eyes. "Whatever, man."

"Hey," says Mike. "What about Paris? My girlfriend read in 'People' that your dad totally nailed her. Is that true?"

Logan's chest constricts, hard and angry like it always does when someone mentions his--mentions Aaron, and he's had it for today. Had. It.

"Okay, I'm out," he mutters harshly as he slams his bag up onto the table and begins shoving books inside as quickly as he can. "Call me about the next meeting. Or don't. Whatever," and he escapes, striding away before either of them can say anything else.

Logan stands in the lobby for a long moment slowing his breathing, and when he realize his hands are quaking he clenches his fingers tightly, shoving fists deeply into his pants pockets. How is it that over a year later, the slightest mention of his father still throws him so much? Instead of pushing through the front door he turns, heads over to the little stand selling coffee and muffins and orders himself a hazelnut latte. Maybe some sugar will calm his nerves.

But a loud voice, still too loud for the library, carries across the room to where he's leaning against the cart trying to ride out his adrenaline rush.

"That Echolls guy is such a dick, man. Just because he's some movie star's kid, he thinks he's so much better than everyone."

Jim.

"Yeah," Mike agrees. "How the hell did we get stuck working with him?"

Several heads swivel curiously in Logan's direction, and his face flushes with embarrassment as he wishes desperately for anonymity for the millionth time in his life. He contemplates the advantages and disadvantages of going back there and bashing their faces in (advantage: they'll shut the hell up; disadvantage: he'll probably get suspended and end up in summer classes yet again), but before he comes to a decision either way he notices a flash of blonde hair streaking determinedly toward the table.

As Veronica passes Jim and Mike, she fluidly tips her wrist so the Starbucks coffee she's carrying tumbles out of her hand and splatters onto the table, soaking the two boys and their books. Logan has to admire her execution; if he didn't know her so well, didn't know exactly what she's capable of, he really would've believed it was an accident.

"Bitch!" Jim exclaims. "This is a new shirt!"

"Whoops," and Logan hears her frosty reply as she leans in to glare. "My bad. Let me get you some napkins so you can continue to be incredibly rude. This is a library."

She leaves the two boys muttering under their breath, and as she rounds her desk her eyes flick up to lock warmly with Logan's. He stands, frozen under her gaze, and when the corner of her mouth tilts in a tiny, uncertain smile for him, he feels his heart shatter all over again.

Logan pushes out of the library, his only thought to get away, get out.

Veronica's made it crystal clear that she doesn't want him anymore; they've hardly spoken in months. So why can't she just stop pulling this crap?

He really fucking wishes she'd quit reminding him of all the reasons why he's in love with her, of her compassion and her hard edges and the fact that she's the only person who can go one for one with him. She needs to stop so he can finally let go, let her fade away into the dull background hum of his life and stop feeling like shit all the time.

Tonight he's supposed to go out with Dick and find a new girl; or at the very least, find a girl for tonight. Some Theta Beta sister Dick's been stalking invited them to go along with her friends to see a band play at the Viper Room on the Strip in LA, and they're supposed to go and party and hit on girls and have fun. It was going to be like old times, pre-Veronica-destroyed-his-spirit times.

But after that scene in the library Logan's pretty sure the only girl he's going to be hitting on tonight is whichever one is tending bar because he's gonna have to work hard to drink this heartache away. Goodbye, Veronica Mars; Hello, sweet, painless oblivion.

Logan is so cosmically fucked he doesn't even notice he forgot the latte he just paid for until he's pulling his truck into the lot at the Grand.

Shit.

*~*~*

 

Logan thinks that maybe he misses Neptune High.

Sure, he hated at least half of his time there (having your girlfriend killed and then being accused of murder will do that to a person), but he misses how easily he used to fit in the place, how walking those hallways always seemed right. He'd slid right to the top of the social strata as a son of a movie star and the best friend of a Kane when he arrived in Neptune at age twelve, and all the fawning attention and inquiries that his novelty garnered smoothed the transition to his new school, his new friends. By the time high school rolled around Logan's novelty faded and he was left in peace to wield his status easily and unchallenged at the top of the social ladder.

Hearst is different. It's big enough to lend him a degree of anonymity which he appreciates, but the size works against him too. Here, Logan's novelty will never wear off outside his circle of friends. Every time someone hears his full name or recognizes him from Tinseltown Diaries or whatever, he's subjected to a barrage of questions about everything from breaking into the screenwriting business to what clubs Celine Dion frequents. Like he would ever fucking care where to find Celine Dion.

Veronica, he thinks, is working the opposite way. Another reason why they never worked, he thinks with a helping of bitterness as he tips his head to rest against the passenger-side window.

Veronica never fit at Neptune, tiny and blond and serious against the bright sunny yellow of the hallway lockers as she dealt in murder and betrayal and intrigue. She always seemed wrong, somehow.

But at Hearst she's flourishing. She's at the top of her department with a good job at the paper, good friends, and no one who hates her enough to slash her tires. He'll give that last one time, though. He doesn't have much faith in Veronica's ability to refrain from pissing people off.

Her super-sleuthing isn't nearly as odd to the Hearst student body as it was to the kids at Neptune. Being a junior PI is far less absurd than being, say, a competitive body builder, like the guy that lived two rooms down from Wallace. PI's don't typically strip down to their skivvies and ask their neighbors to oil them up and take pictures.

So yeah, he'll admit he liked Neptune better than he likes Hearst. The near-universal hatred of Veronica did a lot to heal his broken heart after their first--

"Dude, Logan," Dick says, irritated, from the driver's seat of the Range Rover. "Will you stop with the moping and shit? My balls are shriveling up just looking at you."

A redheaded Theta Beta titters from the seat behind them, and Logan grimaces as he lifts a bottle of cheap champagne to his lips to chase down the pain pill Dick had pressed into his palm minutes before. "Schedule II, buddy," he'd grinned, and Logan was a little impressed that Dick even knew DEA narcotics ratings existed.

He chugs a little more champagne for good measure. This is going to be a long fucking evening so he's planning on getting wasted as fast as possible.

"My goal tonight," he announces with sweeping, acidic bravado to the carload of students, "is to drink until I can't feel feelings."

Dick just smirks over at him as he taps, staccato with the thumping bass line, on the steering wheel. "Amen, brother. Now that's what Dick likes to hear."

*~*~*

 

Over the past five months, Logan's cultivated a routine.

Every time he twists the cap off a bottle of Jack he tells himself that tonight's the night he's going to move on, to put Veronica behind him forever. If she can't deal with his sexual history that's her own problem, and why would he ever want to be with someone that repressed? Logan's a progressive guy. He's going to find a new girl, one that's not so fucking puritanical and who's maybe into threesomes, and one day he and Veronica can be friends again and he'll be able to enjoy her company without her judgment.

It never would have worked with them, he tells himself as he throws back a shot, savoring the burn down his throat. This'll save them a lot of pain in the future, as much as it hurts him now.

*~*~*

 

Three-quarters of the way through a bottle of Jack, Logan hates everything about Veronica Mars. He hates how she wears too much trashy eye make-up and how she can't ever leave anything alone. Her face is too square and her features are too sharp and she's built like a teenage boy, jagged-edged and flat-chested and narrow-hipped. Not like Lilly. Nothing like Lilly, who was all softness and full lips and breasts spilling out of a lacy bra.

He hates how Veronica can't ever say anything real to him, how it's all quip after joke after one-liner. He hates that she such a frosty fucking bitch and he hates the way she smells and the way she touched him when they were together, soft and tender and loving, because it was all one gigantic lie.

He swirls the JD over the ice cubes in his tumbler, drags the glass along the polished countertop as he watches the condensation rings slick across the surface. Dick is off with the sorority sisters, here somewhere in the crush watching some lame band play a lame set of lame songs.

Jack Daniels was the ubiquitous drink of his grandmother, his mother's mother; she's the one that gave him his first sip when he was eight and when he asked, told him she drinks because she loves the sound the ice cubes make when she drops them into a glass. He doesn't know why he chose it tonight, but he did.

The cute girl tending bar raises an eyebrow when he gestures for another bottle, but he ignores her. Logan knows his limits, and he's sure as hell got plenty of experience at drinking everything away.

Three-quarters of the way through a bottle of Jack, and Logan hates everything.

*~*~*

 

At the end of a bottle-and-a-half of Jack Daniels, Logan's usually warm and blissed-out and not at all thinking about Veronica and thinking instead about not puking.

But- not tonight. For some reason, tonight he's face-down on the bar and he can't stop thinking about the smoothness of her skin and how soft her hair is between his fingers and how she just lights him up and damn, this is really not how he wanted his night to go. This is not how he wanted his life to go.

"Logan?" a painfully familiar voice calls softly, and he blinks against the wave of vertigo, trying to focus his vision on the grain of the polished cedar counter where his head is currently resting.

"Logan? Are you all right?" the voice tries again, and he can't hold back the shiver that runs through him when her small hand smoothes cautiously up his arm.

He finally manages to sit up on the high stool to look at her, and he can't help but notice the way her skin glows against her black tank and skirt in the dim light of the club. Everything looks soft, colors blurred and bleeding across his retinas, and the blonde of her hair is the brightest thing he can see.

"Veronica," he murmurs gratefully against the roaring in his ears.

She leans closer and the scent of her mango shampoo tickles at his awareness. "What? Logan, it's loud in here," and wait, that roaring isn't in his ears, it's still the noise of the band in the other room, drums clashing over the shouts from the packed house. He lets her tug him off the chair and through the crowd, and the whole way he savors the feel of her hand in his again, small and soft and warm. Five months.

Logan stumbles as they step out into the alley behind the club and his skin feels too tight in the cool evening air. For a moment his vision slides sideways and the alley tips dizzying to the right but he knows this feeling, knows it well, and just peels his eyes open and waits for the world to snap back into balance. She steadies him carefully as he runs a hand over his own face, marveling at the numbness of his cheeks, his forehead. The back of his shirt is damp with sweat.

"Where are you stay-" and she looks so gorgeous illuminated in the streetlights that he sways forward to kiss her without thinking. He feels her hesitation, just for a moment, but then she's opening her mouth to him and he can taste the whiskey sours on her tongue. Unusual for Veronica; she tends to stick to wine or fruity, girly drinks.

Her hands slide up to run through the fine hairs at the base of his neck and Logan's legs almost go out from under him. She smells so damn good and he knows he wants her more than anything else in the entire universe right now. He could kiss her forever, he thinks along with a thousand other ridiculous clichés as her warm tongue tangles with his and Logan has to pull back just to taste her soft lips once again.

She presses close against his body, squeezing him too tightly and he goes with her tugging, leans into her and uses his weight to press her against the grimy wall of the building next to the club. They stumble against the dumpster and it smells like cigarettes and spoiled milk and stale urine out here but Logan's long past caring about romance or atmosphere. She doesn't seem to mind either, moaning loudly as he palms her breast roughly through the flimsy material of her black tank top, and his brain finally registers that she must be drunk too.

But that newfound knowledge slips easily away when her hands run over the bulge at the front of his pants and suddenly everything is too fast for him, too frantic and his mind can't quite keep up with his body.

He tips forward, hefting her up to sit on top of a stack of rickety wooden crates and he has a moment of hazy surprise when they don't tip over. Her warm sigh against his ear makes the blood surge to his aching cock, but he wants to taste her again because even blitzed out of his mind Logan knows that a drunken hook-up with Veronica in an alley does not a relationship make. This is quite probably the last time he'll ever get to touch her again so he's gonna do his best to make it count.

With no regard for his expensive jeans Logan falls to his knees in front of her, running his hands up her pale, smooth thighs and underneath her black skirt. The alcohol dampens his awareness, smoothing sensation into a sweet, constant pressure. He doesn't notice the detail of her skin like he usually does; Logan just knows she feels warm and wonderful under his hands.

She whimpers loudly, inching eagerly towards him as his fingers stroke along the damp seam of her underwear. He leans in closer, and god, she smells just like he dreams; it's the smell he tries both to remember and to forget every morning while he's fisting his cock under the hot spray of the shower.

His mouth is tracing sloppy, directionless kisses along the inside of her thigh before he presses his lips wetly against the thin cotton of her black underwear, lips working her through the wet, scratchy fabric with a distinct lack of finesse. As she bucks against his mouth Logan grins to himself, reaches up to pull her underwear aside and man, she tastes fantastic. He'd almost forgotten how much he loves this, Veronica warm and wriggling and desperate for him. Her fingernails rake through his hair and it tickles a little as he lets his fingers stumble up to stroke her folds in tandem with his tongue.

It only takes a few minutes for her to tense beneath him, her hips twitching uncontrollably against his chin, and Logan's on some blurry brand of autopilot, drawing out her orgasm like he's done a thousand times before as the heels of her pumps dig sharply into his shoulder blades.

He steadies himself against her thighs, uses his hands to leverage up to kiss her mouth again as she tugs at his belt. Logan sways, lightheaded in the face of whiskey and his arousal as the blood swells again to his cock. Her fingers slip loosely from where they've clenched around his biceps and he watches, fascinated, as she wriggles out of her panties.

Logan fumbles awkwardly in his pocket for the strip of condoms Dick tossed at him earlier with a wink as her hands work at his zipper. Finally his pants are off but he's still too clumsy to rip the foil so she takes the packet gently from him, tearing at the edge and then rolling the latex smoothly over his cock as he gasps at the chill of her fingers. Mindlessly he jerks forward, ends up kissing her neck as she guides him inside and god she's so hot and tight and it's like he's home again, the only place he ever wants to be.

He can't breathe easy when he's inside her like this, needs to gasp to fill his lungs with oxygen as he thrusts messily, keeping time with the dull echo of the thumping bass line from inside. Her fingernails scratch somewhere near his ears but he's drowning in pleasure and happiness so he can't really pinpoint the exact spot. Her hands are everywhere and her chest hitches against his, and the sound of her breathy little gasp shreds whatever semblance of control he had left, making Logan come with a force that has his eyes rolling upwards and his knees trembling hardly thirty seconds after he first slid inside.

His face is pressed against her neck and he can taste her sweat and he can't stand anymore or really even keep his eyes open, but as his vision slides slowly to black, Logan can't hold back a smile. "I love you," he slurs into her skin.

Maybe he's not so fucked after all, he thinks.

This is the last thing he remembers.

*~*~*

 

A door bangs open somewhere in the vicinity, and the sound startles Logan awake so violently that he tumbles off the side of the bed, getting hopelessly twisted in the sheets on the way down.

He winces against the bright sunlight streaming in the window. Hangover, right, he remembers. There was definitely drinking last night. Drinking-- and Veronica.

At the appearance of that blurred memory, Logan smiles and decides to slip back into the dream he was having until his headache subsides, not even bothering to get up off the floor. It's his favorite, most cherished dream, the one with him and Veronica and Lilly all together in a big bed and damn, he was so close to the good part, with Veronica's lips on his and Lilly's lips on his cock. Lilly's hand was just about to slide between Veronica's thighs so she'd make that little surprised squeak that he loves and soon the two of them would be kissing above him, blonde and pale in the morning sunlight—

Fuck, this isn't going to work, and he rolls himself upright, stumbles into the bathroom to get Advil and water and probably to puke.

He went overboard last night, way overboard, and Logan spends most of the afternoon hunched next to the toilet feeling like he's going to die. Dick comes in a few times to tell him they're heading back to Neptune at seven and to jokingly check his pulse, but finally leaves after Logan snaps nastily at him.

But somehow Logan isn't miserable, like he should be. He woke up alone and he has no idea how he got back to the hotel last night but for the first time in months he feels something like hope: hope that maybe the rest of his life might not be as empty as he thought it would be yesterday morning. Even if she hates him for Madison, Veronica still wants him enough to fuck him in an alley behind a club. That has to count for something, right? It's not hearts and roses, that's for fucking sure, but it's something.

This is the thought that keeps him company as he kneels in the bathroom all afternoon, as he dozes in the passenger seat of his own car the whole way back to Neptune, as he finally rolls into his bed at the Grand with a smile. This has to count for something. Just call him Logan Echolls, eternal optimist.

He and Veronica are never going to be over, not really, and this just proves that he hasn't lost his chance.

*~*~*

 

Should he call her?

No. No. He should play it cool. Veronica's a runner; if he puts the pressure on she'll probably head in the opposite direction as fast as humanly possible. He should wait until Tuesday, maybe run into her on campus 'accidentally' and go from there. He knows her work schedule well enough to swing that.

But- what if that gives her time to talk herself out of whatever weakness made her return the kiss on Friday night? What if it gives her time to convince herself they don't work together?

Logan scrubs an exasperated hand over his face, tossing his Xbox controller onto the coffee table with disgust. This is what his day's devolved into- one never-ending conversation with himself re: Veronica. She's seriously cutting into his enjoyment of the weekend and it's seriously starting to piss him off.

Fuck it. He's going out of his mind so he grabs his keys off the counter, jingling them nervously as he heads out the door and to the supermarket.

*~*~*

 

He stands in front of the ice cream freezer, rubbing impatiently at the condensation with his sleeve so he can see the flavor labels on the stacks of colorful pints inside.

Chubby Hubby? Or Karamel Sutra?

Finally he gives up on wiping the door, yanks the freezer open and stands with the cold air blasting against his face as he ponders, oblivious to the glare he's receiving from the high school kid mopping the tile floors at the other end of the aisle. He finally decides to go with both, and after a moment's hesitation grabs a pint of Mint Chocolate Cookie for good measure. If he's really going to show up on her porch and attempt to ply her good will with ice cream, he'd best be prepared.

*~*~*

 

There's a lone cashier on duty at the front of the store slowly and methodically ringing up purchases, so Logan ends up waiting nearly ten minutes behind three slow-moving senior citizens who, judging from the contents of their carts, must be stocking up on provisions for an imminent apocalypse. Finally he makes it to the conveyor belt, plunking down two of the pints with an exaggerated sigh of relief for the benefit of the old crone who's digging deeply into her gigantic handbag for exact change. As he reaches down to warm his hand up in his pocket, he looks up, blinking as he comes eye-to-eye with-- himself.

It's one of those Hollywood-issue gossip rags, too easy to find within a four-hour radius of LA, and he's looking at a cropped version of one of the publicity stills they use in 'Tinseltown Diaries' hovering above a dark grainy photo of a tall man, unmistakably him, getting very graphic with a petite, black-clad blonde in an alley, the Viper Room's glowing marquis faintly visible in the dark background.

"NICOLE RICHIE'S YOUNGER MAN???" the headline screams in blue and red, and opposite his picture is a photo that makes his blood run cold, a photo of a blond-again Nicole Richie in a black tank top and skirt, scowling as she pushes past the club's bouncer.

The pint of Chubby Hubby slips out of Logan's nerveless fingers, splattering arcs of vanilla and fudge across the speckled tile.

*~*~*

 

"Excuse me, sir," the cashier says with a bored, practiced drawl. "But you're going to have to pay for that anyway." Her airbrushed fingernails tap impatiently against the register keypad.

Logan keeps staring.

*~*~*

 

He drives back to the Grand wrapped in numb, detached calm, and the tiny piece of him that's still functioning as usual knows that this isn't normal, that calm is bad, but he's so far away that the rest of his brain doesn't heed any notice.

Is it in any way possible that-- he somehow mistook Nicole Richie for Veronica Mars?

Logan takes stock, breathing deeply as his fingers clench tightly on the wheel. The last time he saw Nicole was two, maybe three years ago. She's tiny, he remembers. Maybe five feet, just like his ex. And, well, it wouldn't be the first time in his life he's gotten wasted and fucked some other little blond girl and called her Veronica. More like the fifth or sixth time really, but who's counting?

No, it'd just the first time he actually believed it.

Most of Friday night is lost to the abyss of his subconscious, drowned in whiskey and champagne and whatever it was he took from Dick, and he can't be sure. He can't know. They didn't talk at all, he thinks as nausea rises up from the pit of his stomach. He remembers that they didn't talk, and when doesn't he talk to Veronica? When doesn't she talk to (or fight with) him?

And then his heart stutters, rippling fissures through his bubble of cool rationality, and he almost swerves across the solid yellow lines in the trembling aftershock. She hates clubs, and she hates the Strip, and she hates LA.

Why would Veronica be at the Viper Room?

And that is when Logan realizes: she wouldn't be.

*~*~*

 

Dick's unfortunate enough to step into the hall as Logan, who's growing more agitated by the minute, gets out of the elevator. As they pass each other, Logan's fingers spasm into fists in the wave of confusion and dread, and the white-hot anger that rips through him has him body-checking the whistling blond into the wall.

"What did you give me on Friday?" he demands, voice harsh and angry and dangerous to his own ears. He doesn't know how it could have happened. He doesn't understand and he needs to know. "What in the fucking hell did you give me? Was it E?"

Dick just stares at him, raised eyebrows showing more annoyance than fear. "Chill, dude, it was just a Percocet. Like the kind we've done, like, a billion times." He obviously feels no threat from Logan, even though his best friend just assaulted him in a hallway with no reason or warning, and the flat, curious cool in Dick's features makes Logan's tensed muscles relax a little as he steps backwards.

Dick turns to go back into the suite and Logan trails behind uncertainly, tense and freaked and lost in thought. "Can that make you-, I don't know," and he pauses to scrub a hand over his face, "make you see shit that isn't there?"

Dick shrugs. "Dunno, man," and he flops down on the couch, stretching his feet to rest on the table as he kicks Logan's Xbox controllers out of the way. "I mean, there was this one time when Chip Diller and I had this long talk about like, pancakes or something, and then the next day I was like 'Dude, let's get pancakes like we said yesterday,' but he didn't know what I was talking about and it turns out I was just high or whatever and made up the whole thing." Dick tips his palms up, shrugging good-naturedly. "That was pills and booze, I think. What, you have a bad trip or something?"

Logan just shakes his head and the panic that's starting to seep into his consciousness chokes off any response he might've made as he retreats to his bedroom, letting the door slam behind him.

"I'm going to see a chick," Dick shouts through the door as Logan collapses wearily onto the top of his thick comforter. "Don't wait up."

*~*~*

 

Lying in bed he replays it hundreds of times in his mind, those brief snatches he can still wrap his fingers around. Faded glimpses of Veronica against his body as she gasps passionately, but Logan's always had a vivid imagination. He dreams in full, lushly detailed, glorious Technicolor. How many times has he woken up reaching for her since they broke up?

He doesn't remember the rest of the night. If not for the tabloid photos, it all might've been a dream. And the idea that he could be so far gone, that he could do Nicole fucking Richie thinking she was someone else, is terrifying.

He's fucking losing it.

He needs a drink.

*~*~*

 

The bottle of tequila is cool and heavy in his hands. He pulls off the cap, grabbing a tumbler and tossing in a handful of ice cubes, but the light tinkling chime against the glass makes him pause.

And then his lungs constrict like someone dropped a Webster's on his chest. If Veronica's upset about Madison, how's she going to feel about him getting photographed fucking random girls next to dumpsters?

This is it. She'll never forgive him. She'll never be able to look him in the eye again.

This is the End (capital E) of Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars, and he didn't know it could hurt any more than it already did.

His breathing starts to stutter, erratic and uneven against his pounding heart as his fingers clench around the neck of the bottle. Hot tears prick at his vision, and Logan's arm swings, releases.

As the thick glass bottle shatters against the wall of his plush bedroom in the Neptune Grand, Logan slips quietly away.

*~*~*

 

When he comes back into himself, the suite is trashed (like coked-out-rock-star trashed) and he's hunched under the spray in the huge shower wearing nothing but his boxers, pouring the entire contents of his liquor cabinet down the drain with a shaking hand. He can't believe he could be so fucking stupid.

As he watches the amber liquid swirl across the gleaming marble tile, Logan understands with sudden, biting clarity that he hasn't been trying to move on, not really. Instead he's been biding his time, waiting for Veronica to come to her senses and forgive him. He's still holding on to her and Dick is right, it's pathetic.

But now, well, now that particular pipe dream is crushed. Maybe now he can make a clean break, leave behind the whole tangled mess of emotion between them since there's no chance in hell Veronica's ever going to touch him again.

Maybe now he'll have some peace.

*~*~*

 

He's finally exhausted himself, accepted the inevitability of a Veronica-less future, and is sprawled on the couch half-watching an 'Arrested Development' marathon when he hears a hesitant knock at the door.

When he presses his eye to the peephole he sees Veronica pacing in a tight circle, her expression shuttered as the muscles work in her jaw. She must have seen the pictures. Great, just what he needs right now. A verbal lashing and a reminder of what a fuck-up he is.

His hand hovers over the knob before drawing back and he tips his forehead against the door, squinting against the throbbing at his temples.

Her voice floats through the door, muffled but still distinct. "I know you're in there, Logan."

Of course she does. She knows everything. He tugs at the door handle to release the lock, turns away to walk back to the couch before they can make eye contact.

He hears her inhale deeply somewhere behind him, the way she always does as she's gearing up for a big speech and he doesn't want to hear it. He's done taking this crap from her.

"Let's make this quick," Logan says, and her jaw clicks shut audibly.

She's silent for so long that he almost turns, but then she's sweeping past and around the couch. "Redecorating?" she asks a little snidely, instead of whatever she was revving up for, and Logan turns to glare as she walks a path through the room, taking in the broken glass and overturned furniture. "The look needs some work."

Logan grits his teeth; it hurts his heart to see her here again in his living room, a reminder of everything he'll never get back and he just wants her gone. Is it really too much to ask to wallow in self-loathing without interruption? "I don't remember asking your opinion."

She shrugs a little, and there's something in her face he can't read. "I didn't come here to fight."

"Well then you should leave, because I don't want anything from you." Especially not to hear about how he shouldn't be getting photographed with skanks, which is what he's pretty sure is what's on the agenda right now.

She falls silent again, and this time he can't resist sneaking a glance at her face. Her lips are drawn tight, working with some unidentifiable Veronica Mars mirrorworld-version of emotion that he'll never understand, and she turns to leave. Eternally grateful for the reprieve, he sags against the couch but then she pauses in front of the heavy door.

"I know you have every right to hate me," she says seriously, and Logan isn't quite sure he heard that right because when has Veronica ever acknowledged his right to do anything? But before he can even process she's pressing on, turning to him with her mouth drawn in tightly, a long candy-pink slash across her angular face. "But I wish you would just listen, for once."

Logan just blinks at her, and what the hell is going on here?

"I came here to say that I'm sorry," she says haltingly, and something in Logan's brain short-circuits a little. "I've been thinking a lot lately, and I'm sorry for the way we broke up, about the Madison thing, and just- for everything. But the thing on Friday-- I've spent the day feeling sick. Physically sick, Logan."

"Veronica- " he starts desperately, and, awesome, she's succeeded in making him feel like shit yet again. Like he didn't hate himself enough already.

"It was wrong, Logan," she says, and when her voice breaks he wants to die all over again. He would do anything to take it back.

She closes her eyes, and god, god he's sorry. He never wants to hurt her and he just wants her to stop, but she visibly steels herself and continues. "And I can't believe that I could do something like that," and she's shaking her head, a little sadly. "I knew you were wasted, I knew it, but I missed you. You could barely stand up and- and I took advantage, me of all people."

"Wait," he says, and everything around him is stopped, a frozen, hanging moment in time. "What?"

Her face falls, hardens just as quickly. "You don't remember."

"No, I-," he says anxiously, trying to understand as the blood roars in his ears. "It was you? On Friday night?" and searing relief is surging through his veins with a force that might cripple him.

But that makes Veronica pale, her mouth slanting downward into a horrified tilt. "You couldn't even tell it was me." Her shoulders begin to shake under his gaze. "I thought you wanted to-" and she trails off weakly, laughing softly at herself but she looks like she might crumble any minute. "I am so, so sorry. I wasn't trying to hurt you, I swear."

Her eyes are wide and sad and pleading with more openness than he's seen from her in the past year but all he can think of is how insane it all is, how she's begging his forgiveness for the best thing that's happened to him in half a year and how he just dumped seven hundred dollars worth of alcohol down the shower drain for no good reason at all and how pissed Dick's going to be when he comes back and his brand new bottle of Patron is gone-

And Logan starts to laugh. It builds from a giggle, growing until it's gratingly raucous noise that bubbles up from somewhere under his ribcage, and even he can hear the note of hysteria under it all as his legs go out from under him and his body slides down the side of the couch to the floor. Veronica's looking at him like she's afraid he's about to snap and possibly go on a homicidal rampage and that's when the tears come, hot and fast and devastating.

Logan always tears up easily; just his body's natural reaction to stress (which incidentally earned him several of his uglier scars so it's something he's worked hard to suppress.) But this time, this time it's unstoppable and soon he's sobbing into his knees, big wet gasping breaths and snot all over his face and he couldn't feel like more of an idiot. And in spite of it all he's thinking about the last time he cried like this, when he'd just found out his father was a killer (and that he might be one too), and when Veronica still cared enough to cradle him in her lap to soothe him.

He's burning with shame and can't bring himself to look up but he can see her legs, locked and stiff where she stands stock-still a few feet away, and he remembers in a rush how much he misses Old Veronica, not Lilly's Veronica but his, the girl who didn't hate it when he cried and instead gave him whatever small comfort she could. He wants her, not this new Veronica who showed up when they got to Hearst, the one who covers herself with stupid theatrical bullshit and who crosses her arms and looks uncomfortable while he's losing it on the fucking floor.

He's got the tears under control now but the sobs are still coming, raspy hiccupping gasps spasming up from his abs and as much as he tries to slow down his breathing they just won't stop, echoing harshly in the silence of the room. Shit. He's never had one before but he's almost positive he's having a panic attack; great, that's exactly what he needs in this situation and come on, just how much emotional upheaval is one teenaged guy supposed to take in a day?

As he gasps unevenly against the pain in his chest, Logan desperately runs through everything he knows about panic attacks and comes up with jack-shit. He thinks he remembers something about lying in a dark room? Or maybe that's for migranes? Fuck. Fuck. It's times like these when Logan really misses having a mother.

There's movement just outside his peripheral vision: Veronica's jeans, he registers through it all. She folds to her knees next to him, rocking back on the heels of her little flat canvas shoes and then, suddenly, unexpectedly, (finally,) her arms lock solidly around his shoulders. The warm, soft skin of her forehead presses against his cheek and she rocks with him as he tries to stop hyperventilating.

"Breathe, Logan," she murmurs gently into his ear. "You're okay. Just breathe."

Her warm breath tickles his neck and 'okay,' he thinks. He can concentrate on that.

*~*~*

 

Half an hour later Logan's on the couch flat on his back, dry-eyed and empty. He's rubbed raw, exposed; it hurts to think but he does anyway, wonders if it's possible to bruise your psyche. He's never felt so flat before but there's a strange sort of clarity that comes after a breakdown and he's swimming in it, gloriously detached and far, far away from everything.

"I knew it was you," he says finally, and that makes Veronica twist around to look at him. She's lying on the other leg of the L-shaped couch; head close to Logan's where the two seats meet in the corner. "And I wanted what happened. You shouldn't apologize."

She frowns. "Then why- ,"

Logan sighs heavily. Might as well go with honesty this time around. "I saw this tabloid in the supermarket today, and well, like you said: I was wasted. I thought maybe it was all in my head."

She looks away, flushing a little. "Yeah, I saw the pictures. I found the Hollywood Observer sitting next to my Cheerios this morning." At his look, she elaborates. "My dad knew I went to LA and when he saw it at the supermarket, uh, he put two and two. Needless to say, he wasn't happy with me." She laughs, twisting her knuckles. "It was all pretty mortifying, actually."

As much as he respects Veronica's father, the idea of Keith Mars looking up from his grocery shopping to see pictures of him defiling his precious only daughter gives Logan a tiny tickle of perverse pleasure, and that takes the edge off the crackling static in his head.

"Yeah, I see you smiling," she grumbles a little. "All fun and games for you, but this is my dad."

"Nicole must be pissed," he says, a tiny bit gleeful. "Trina shot her in the ass with a bee-bee gun once, you know. She hates all Echolls clan members on principle."

Veronica lifts an eyebrow. "Why did Trina shoot her?"

Logan shrugs in response. "Who knows with Trina? She was probably coked out of her mind."

She's reeling him back in already and he knows that lying on a couch with the new Veronica Mars is probably an awful idea, but he's so emotionally spent that he's really not thinking about smart any more.

"Why were you at the club anyway? And how'd you get in? I had to pull the 'Tinseltown Diaries' card out of my ass to make it through the door," he asks, and really he doesn't care; he just wants to maybe talk about the sex again.

"The band that was playing? They graduated from Hearst a few years ago, and they sent the radio station some VIP passes." She's not meeting his eyes.

Fuck. "You were there with Piz," he says, and he congratulates himself when his voice comes out flat and unaffected. He tries for enthusiasm, but doesn't even come close to clearing the bar. "Are you two dating again?"

"Don't," she says abruptly. "And I went on three dates with him. How do you even know about that?"

He just shrugs.

He should let her go this time. They're always talking at cross-purposes, undercutting each other and locking horns over and over, and she's going to break his heart a hundred times. He always falls in with her after emotional trauma, when they're both so stripped down and wrecked they can't tell themselves what a terrible idea it is to be together, and that can't be a good way to start a healthy relationship.

He's feeling pretty raw right about now. Is it stupid that he's thinking about kissing her?

And isn't kissing Veronica again an even clearer sign of insanity than flipping out and trashing a hotel suite?

"I think I might be going crazy," he says up to the ceiling and he wonders if the super-sleuth can tell he's talking about her.

The couch shifts and her face rises to hover just next to his cheek as she rests her chin in her hand. Her breath plays across his face as he turns to meet her eyes.

"Going crazy?" she smirks, and it's nothing, a stupid throwaway quip, but for some strange reason it makes him feel a thousand times better.

This is why he's drawn to her, he remembers. Because even though ninety-five percent of the time she's pissing him off or breaking his heart, five percent of the time she understands him so perfectly that it aches. Five percent of the time she's more of what he needs than anyone else could be, ever.

He thought he'd lost that girl who knew him so well, but he sees now that maybe he was mistaken. Maybe that Veronica's been here all along, buried under new trauma, new attitude. He wallows in his pain, and she runs from hers. Maybe this time she just ran too far.

"I don't know if this is a good idea," she murmurs and wow, it's the retreat already. He almost laughs, because now Logan knows that he knows this girl and the way she's gently rubbing her thumb over his fingers tells him they'll be in bed together by the end of the week. She's always running.

Maybe he should let her have this. He should let her run, and he'll drink everything away. That's the way he deals and it's not like he's gonna change; Logan still loves falling into oblivion. He'll let her run, and she'll come back. He's too fucking tired to chase her this time.

He can see in her face that she wants him to kiss her, eyes soft and lips parted. She wants him to make her forget the hesitation and the fear, and for the first time in his life Logan doesn't kiss Veronica Mars when she wants him to. Instead he watches her face and he squeezes her fingers, and they're both fucked but he thinks maybe she understands.

Kissing can wait. Now is the time for that five percent, for falling asleep on sofas with fingers curled together, dry-eyed and empty and aching and clear.