The first thing you think is oh, please, because he says, "why, Veronica Mars, however did you find me?" Okay, it's the second thing. You don't think about the first.
"A little birdie found me," you tell him. "Well, actually it looked a bit like a cartoon llama." His hair is even blonder, face burned. Logan never could sit out in the sun too long. Even so, he looks good - physically, anyway.
He tilts his head, and you wonder how the two weeks away have treated him. "Ahh, the llama did it," he says. "And here I thought you trailed the family lawyer or something."
You don't tell him that you tried that and it didn't pan out; neither did bugging the family lawyer's office, though one two minute phone call gave you hope he wasn't, in fact, at the bottom of the ocean. "Nice digs," you tell him, to cover up your crushing disappointment at the lukewarm welcome. "How are you paying for it, anyway? Not your credit cards, not cash unless you had some stashed away."
Logan holds up a Visa, a plain old Visa, with Lynn Echolls' name on it. Of course. How poetic. "Frankly, I'm surprised it took you this long." He pauses, glances away, shoves the card back into his pocket. "Can't have been trying too hard."
You maintain his nonchalance cool for cool, and don't think about the tracker on Trina's car, or the dedicated phone line at home. If either of you were more casual, you'd be unconscious. It's ridiculous, you drove for four and a half hours, skipped your biology final and thus probably failed biology, to trade not-particularly-witty lines. It's more than you hoped for, so instead of doing all those rash things you imagined in the car, you lean against the door frame and try not to show him how much you're hurt.
You tell him, "My resources are more limited now." He raises an eyebrow, and you pull out a business card - one of the fifty Mac printed up. It says V. Mars Investigates, and lists your business cell phone.
"You get fired or something?" he asks you. "I'd figure you deserve a raise. At least a bonus. You caught the bad guy."
It's the first he's mentioned it, but you don't press it because he's still so distant. Something tells you that the only reason he's not slamming the door in your face is because; and then, there's no real reason he's not so you try and smile, try and keep everything on the same level as he seems to want it.
You tell him, "dad closed up shop. They want him to start working as a real detective." Off his look, you add, "not sheriff. He doesn't want the badge back, not yet. Anyway, the police cases he'll be consulting on are too sensitive to bring home, nevermind want his daughter's help on." You give him a wry grin, and tell him, "I'm all on my lonesome."
"Nice for him," Logan says. You're not sure if he means it's nice that he's got a real job, that he'll probably be made detective in the police department, or it's nice that he doesn't have to work with you anymore. Maybe all three, maybe nothing.
You shrug; "and so now I'm taking pictures of people's parents and cheating husbands, making forty bucks a day." Cliff still throws you the more juicy cases, the insurance scams, the hookers being blackmailed. It's fun, thinking you're helping, but you've only made $3000 for college, and that just won't cut it. Goodbye, Harvard.
Logan says, "Awww. What do you need money for? Thought you had your Ivy League scholarship fund locked in from Duncan's parents."
Oh, yeah. He doesn't know. "Mom took the reward money the Kanes gave us." You shrug. "I told her to leave and she took it," you say. "Whatever."
"Oh." Logan still hasn't said really anything; the two of you are having such a bizarre conversation that it physically hurts your stomach. The reason you had to come is because after Lilly, you became a person that had to know things. You have to know if Logan will ever forgive just like you had to know if he was alive. You're not someone who can let things go anymore. People call you persistent.
You say, "Yeah, so."
The knot in your stomach seems to encompass the last two weeks of people talking about Logan, people talking about you and your dad, people congratulating you, people calling you amazing, people calling you all kinds of things. Nothing is really different, except; Logan steps back slightly, tells you, "I haven't forgiven you," and then says, "come in."
"How does that work, anyway?" Logan asks you, and hands you a bottle of water. The room is actually a dump compared to what an Echolls is used to, but you figure it's about ten dollars a night. A credit card with a fifteen thousand dollar limit will last a long time on ten bucks a night.
"How does what work?"
"Finding the bad guy." He sits down across from you. "You decide I did it, and somehow stumble onto everything else?"
"You don't know the story?" He doesn't know the story. Well, this isn't really how you were planning on spending your day yesterday. Yesterday, you were planning on cramming with Meg in the morning, and then spending the afternoon taking photos of some guy's wife as she stripped at the Seven Veils, getting paid two hundred for the pictures.
Logan holds up a newspaper. Aaron's face is on the front page, but the headline is in Spanish. "And it's not like this place gets Access Hollywood."
For the first time, you think maybe he didn't try and get your attention for the two of you, but just to know. You play with your bottle cap, and idly wonder if it's tap water, if Logan has decided to get a little revenge by giving you dysentary. "I went to search Lilly's room for the letter you gave her."
"Why, to prove I was in the country? I didn't date the stupid thing."
You swallow. "Because then I thought I'd know the truth. Either way. I had to know."
"I guess she didn't keep it, huh?" Logan stands, paces the three steps to the fridge, gets a coke, which fuels your tap water theory. He sits down. "Figures."
You're quiet. "I don't know. Duncan and I only found the tapes."
You figured the truth, the complete truth, is best, but decide against it when he says, "wait. Duncan?"
It's an unconscious choice. "He didn't believe me," you tell him. "He was just there."
"Just there." Logan shakes his head. "It's okay. I thought it was him. Maybe. I wasn't sure." He's angry, he's angry in his clenched fists and his hunched posture, but in his eyes are sad. Not an understatement. Your eyes are pretty sad too. Logan asks you suddenly, "why didn't anyone ever suspect it was you, anyway?"
You make a decision, and drink your water. It's probably tap water, but it tastes good. "I'm not sure."
Logan says to you, "I think I'm a little more screwed up than I previously thought."
You wait; it's coming. it's all coming. Painful or otherwise it's coming - he continues, "I think I'm grateful you got my dad arrested. No, I know I'm grateful you got that bastard on death row."
"Because now I can stop feeling like it - that Duncan." he stops. "And then I remember, wow. my dad's gonna end up on death row."
You shudder, slightly, like the aftershock from an earthquake hundreds of miles away. "I'll believe it when I see it."
He looks surprised, probably for the first time since you showed up. "You don't believe it yet?"
"Not much of anything unless I see it." A wry grin; it doesn't reach your eyes.
"So believe it or not," Logan says, hand on the doorframe, "I have to go to work for a few hours."
"Not, definitely," you say. He hasn't shown even a crack in his face, not one, so you fight to keep yours the same. He wants you to joke, apparently; so you joke. You want him to start yelling. "You'll be back soon?"
"A few hours," he tells you. His back is to yours, he's already halfway to the door with his jacket in his hand, and so you think it's a little funny that he asks you next, "you gonna still be here?"
It'd be funny if it weren't sad and bitter and if it didn't make your forehead hurt. "Yep," you say.
Logan still isn't looking at you. You think he hates you. "Good," he says, and tells you, "don't steal anything," before he goes.
"You're still here."
Logan drops his keys on the table by the door, shrugs his jacket off too, and stands in the doorway as if he's suddenly not the one welcome in his own hotel room. Motel room. Beach bungalow. Hideaway shack. Whatever one calls it.
You nod. "I said I would be."
"Yeah, well." He steps in, shuts the door. "Your modus operandi seems to be coming around just long enough to do the most damage, and then," and he makes a poof motion with his hand.
You nod again. "True."
"Is this the part," he asks you, "where we're supposed to reconcile? Where we hug and kiss and promise everything's going to be okay?"
You bite your lip, and brush hair from your face. Logan isn't yelling at you, in fact he's being more civil than you ever expected him capable of. He's sarcastic, sure, but you don't think it's simply to hurt you. You think it's because Logan doesn't know any other way to react. You don't know how to react except to be brutally honest, even when you shouldn't be. You say, "you want me to lie?" He waits. "I'm not going to apologize," you tell him.
"Oh, good," Logan says. He flops down onto the couch. "We wouldn't want that." For all his sarcasm, you still don't know where he's coming from. Sure, he's trying to be mean, but it's half-hearted, it's nowhere as cruel as he could be. He's not beaten, he hasn't lost yet, you can see it in his eyes, so why he's holding back, you don't know. "No," he mutters, "we wouldn't want that."
You move a pace closer to him. "Even if I were sorry, for a lot of different reasons," you reply, "I wouldn't say it."
He tilts his head, and a smile comes across his face, briefly. It's not really a happy one. "I know," he tells you.
You shrug, put some false cheer in your voice. "What can I say," you tell him brightly, "we of the Mars family don't change. Apparently."
He rolls his eyes. "You are a stubborn lot," he says.
After a moment, when neither of you has anything to say, you sit in the chair across from him, and lean back. You put your arms across your chest; yes, it's instinctively defensive body language. There's nothing you can do about it. "This isn't going quite the way I had pictured it," you tell him.
"Honestly? I expected more yelling," you say, and that faint smile appears again. "Really," you add, "I don't know why I'm here at all."
"Don't you want to prove that the heir to the Echolls' fortune is still alive?" he asks you. "To be honest, I'm surprised your camera's not out yet."
You hadn't even thought of that - no one else knows that Logan is still alive. No one else knows what you know, yet again. Somehow, it's not as satisfying as it once was, finding the truth. You'll still do it, you'll still chase the proverbial hurricane to get to the bottom of things, but it's less exciting than it used to be. "You should tell Duncan," you say. "He thinks you're dead."
"Everyone does," he says. "I wanted it that way, you know."
"Then why'd you send me a postcard?"
He stares at you, that way he's got of staring. There's so much more in it than you can handle, and you have to look away. Still he's staring at you. Veronica Mars doesn't back down, though, so you finally bring your eyes up to his again, and wait. You don't back down because you're stubborn and persistent and have to know, but that doesn't mean Logan isn't as stubborn as you are, and that doesn't mean that he'll answer.
It's dark out, and it's cold sitting by the window; the breeze is blowing over the ratty sofa where the two of you sit. "I should call my dad," you tell Logan. "He'll want to know I'm safe."
"He doesn't know where you are?" Off your headshake, Logan snorts. He says, "I'm surprised he's not already here."
"He's a little out of commission, still on doctor's orders to take it easy," you tell him. Of course - Logan doesn't know. It's Aaron that made all the headlines, it's Aaron that managed to steal the spotlight from his own missing son long enough for Logan to cross the border. He won't know any of it.
Logan asks, "what happened?"
You look at him, and try to gauge the level of anger he currently harbours against you. It's not like you really expected him to forgive you - you sure wouldn't forgive him, if it were you - but then again, you don't want to do anything to make it worse, either. "How much detail do you want?" you ask.
He shifts, and replies, "as much as you can stomach telling me, I guess."
You start to explain, start relating the whole story beginning to end. You've only told this story once before, to anyone, and that time you were on tape for the prosecution. You tell him about how his father was hiding in the back seat of your car, you tell him about how his father threatened you to get the evidence that he'd had an affair with Lilly, and you start to tell him about how his father locked you in a refrigerator.
Halfway through saying the phrase "burn me alive", you suddenly realize that tears are coming down Logan's cheeks, and he's just letting them. You look away quickly, because he's stubborn, too, and doesn't like to be seen at a disadvantage, not by his enemies. "Dad came and found me, and saved me," you finish lamely. "Second degree burns. So he's still in the hospital."
Logan puts his head in his hands, and sits there motionless for a long moment. Finally he raises his head. He's looking straight ahead, not at you, and you can see that he's still crying a little. You'd be crying too except that it seems like you've spent the last weeks waking up crying, waking up from nightmares, and so now you're wrung dry. He shakes his head, and still looking straight ahead tells you, "don't expect me to apologize."
"I don't," you tell him quietly.
"I wish my mom were here," he tells you. It doesn't sound particularly sad, and that's what makes you feel bad, even guilty. He wipes his eyes, and turns to you. "You know why? I want to ask if she knew about Dad and Lilly. If she--" He looks away again. "I don't even know if you knew about him and Lilly. Maybe everyone knew but me."
You bite your lip. There's no reason he should ever believe you about anything at all, but you have to tell him the truth now, anyway. Maybe he'll believe it. "I didn't know," you say. "The day she died, Lilly told me she had a secret, a big one." You look at the dirty carpet, and wonder - not for the first time - what would have happened if Lilly had told you everything at that car-wash. "But she didn't tell me what," you say.
Logan looks at you, and his mask is back in place, eyes barely even red. He's back to that person that has to pretend everything is okay in order to function. His voice is back to that same old cool exterior, his mouth curved in a little smile. It's so disconcerting, after seeing him hurting, that it takes you a second to realize what he's talking about. "After the fire department and the police came?" you say. "Dad went to the hospital, I was released." You look at him uncertainly, wondering what he's waiting for. "And I went to bed, and the next day found out you'd thrown yourself off a bridge."
"But you didn't believe it," he says. He shakes his head. "Everyone calls you paranoid. I've called you paranoid. But what you are, Veronica?" he tells you, "is naive. You want that happy ending, even still."
You feel yourself biting your cheek to try and keep your calm, even as he says it - because, okay, yes, you wanted to find him alive. You're the kind of person that wants everything to end, not happily ever after? Then at least better than they started out before. You want to think that if a person tries hard enough to get to a better place, then eventually they will. Logan seems to be sitting in front of you as proof that's not the case.
"Veronica?" he says, when you don't reply. "What, no comeback? You're supposed to say," Logan tells you, "I don't know, something like, 'well, the knight in shining armor ends up needing my protection', or 'I'm already awake, I don't need a prince to kiss me'." He stares, and something in his eyes softens. "You're not supposed to just sit there."
You don't know Logan Echolls at all, you decide suddenly. Instead of cursing you out and calling you hateful things, instead of drinking his life away - much - and making a hollywood ending for himself, instead of wanting you back desperately - he just wants to talk. He wants things to get back to their usual quippy self. He wanted you to come find him because he thought you could keep your cool and not upset the equilibrium of his safe haven. Logan doesn't know you either.
"I don't know," you say, standing up, "why I thought coming here would do any good." You reach for your jacket, draped across the chair, for your bag, sitting beside it. "I guess--" and you don't look at him. "Naive. Maybe I am." You shake your head. "First Lilly's death, then Troy - who was just pretending, but I guess you knew that - then Duncan, then mom--" You close your mouth, and take a breath. "It doesn't matter." You turn to Logan. "your secret's safe with me. You can stay dead forever."
Logan stands up, very carefully, and puts his hands on his hips. He watches you, as you fight to breath. There's no point in staying, this can't do any good and you know it. You know the score, and still, your feet don't move towards the door. You aren't crying.
Eventually, he reaches a hand out, and takes your arm. Logan pulls, gently, and you sit on the couch beside him.
"I'll come back to Neptune," he tells you. "Just don't tell anyone what a crappy room I was staying in. Make it a five star."
You nod. "I can do that."
"And I don't know if I forgive you yet," he says. He still has that bite of anger in every glance he sends your way, and every thing he says to you. Honestly, it's a bit like when Lilly first died; you two hated each other except for the parts that united you, even if you didn't want them to. Except instead of it being Lilly's memory uniting you, now it's Aaron Echolls and his violence. Maybe nothing good can ever come of it, but you want to know for sure.
"I know," you tell him. "Let's face it, hombre," you say, "there's a lot of bad blood between us."
"There is," he says. "But there was between Neo and Trinity too, right? And that turned out okay."
You look at him, face scrunched up in a confused frown. You say, "you only ever saw the first one, right?"
Logan nods. "So? You only saw the first one, too, so the analogy works."
You even smile a little. "Where did you learn a word like 'analogy'--" and he smiles back, a little, even if it's in preparation to call you names. If you're honest with yourself, you know in your heart that you won't fully believe anyone a hundred percent again. Probably not. There's no way a stranger is going to be able to walk into your life and become your everything, because you'll constantly be waiting for them to stab you in the back. But at least you can believe Logan, because even if he lies, even if you lie, the two of you have already gouged pretty deep wounds. Deep enough maybe that it can't get worse.
He doesn't touch you, but he does look more relaxed. You remember Aaron saying that he liked Logan better when you were around - which is creepy, thinking about it now, but maybe it's true anyway. Logan's coming back to Neptune. You can find out if it's better later.
"So, mystery of the missing movie star's son solved, Nancy Drew," he says. "Time to find your next case."
You look down at where your knees are pretty close to Logan's, and tell him, "I'm considering giving up the biz." Off his look, you add, "despite being good at it, I don't know if I like what it." You stop. You say, "maybe I'll choose my cases a little more carefully."
"That might be a good idea," he tells you.
"Anyway," you reply, "this one isn't completely solved. There is something I don't get." He waits for it. "I understand how you ran away, I understand how you managed to keep it out of the press spotlight, and I understand you using the family lawyer to keep yourself not listed as dead, but missing, while still making everyone that knew you think you were dead."
"What I don't get," you say to him, "is the postcard."
"What?" He shrugs, tells you, "maybe I thought it was time I came home."
"No," you say, "the actual postcard." You pull it out of your pocket, slightly more wrinkled. It sat in your back pocket quite a while. "'The right one'?"
"I dunno, it's nothing," Logan tells you. "It's a metaphor," and he sits up, leans into your personal space to yank it from you.
"Metaphor for what?"
"Like," and he shifts closer to you to explain. "For us. This whole thing."
"Please tell me I'm not the one wearing the sombrero," you say.
"Gee, I'm afraid so." He hands it back to you. "See, I'm Wily Coyote, always runnning after stuff and hitting walls and falling off bridges. You actually catch the things you go after."
You scrutinize the picture, trying to see whatever insult or secret message Logan's attempting to explain. It still just looks like a cartoon llama and a lady in a hat dancing, to you; you feel like you've failed again, somehow, in some small but significant way, instead of all the huge ways. "And I'm an overweight lady in a sombrero?"
"She's letting him lead," Logan says to you, not cool at all.