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Schrödinger’s Child

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It would have been so easy to run away. What was it he’d said all those days and months and years ago? Exacts don’t matter—though she is sure that given enough time she can pull it back from wherever in her brain she had hidden it, desperate to compartmentalize the different agonies—what matters is that she can smile and kiss her fiancé, her husband, the man who someday will believe he is the father of her baby. She can keep up the façade just a little bit longer, just until she has recovered from whatever happened this time, and then she won’t be faking it. She will love her boyfriend, fiancé, husband with all her pure parts and be committed to never seeing or touching him ever again.

It was just supposed to be that one stupid kiss. A good-bye and she was going to have ended their long acquaintance-friendship-romance-rivalry on good terms for once. But his eyes had been open and—knowing it was the last time she’d ever be that close again, something he wasn’t supposed to have figured out, damn it—hers had been as well. Something in them more terrified and broken than she’d ever seen turned the chaste kiss of forever into the slow lovemaking of the damned with both of them pretending they weren’t each crying. He’d laid there pretending to be asleep so that she could sneak out—a sort of farewell present.

And she’d done so well, been the dutiful daughter with the dutiful boyfriend her father approved of. For a time. But the FBI program drummed her out and Gorya’s new favorite uncle was as devil-may-care as the worst of the Fitzpatricks only with magnitudes more gun- and lackey-power. Being in the same dark hole, literally, surviving narrowly enough that deathbed confessions of mutually undying love were believable, and breathing the same free relief while Piz was off mourning his grandmother had led to a kind of frenetic You’re Alive high where it almost seemed possible that when Piz returned she’d break up with him and this time— this fucking time—they’d make it. Only it doesn’t. Before they can talk about it, sort out that they’ll be together when she can end things tactfully, Piz is clinging to her, kissing her, and she doesn’t stop him and Logan--God, Logan—his face stony, walks away and won’t talk to her for a year.

Missing him, making due, pretending that yet more near death experiences don’t make her want him, want his comfort, is so much easier after a cup of wine with Mac or a shared six-pack with Wallace.

She makes it all the way to their engagement. She dreamily swirls Mrs. Veronica Piznarski in ways she hadn’t since Mrs. Veronica Kane, in ways she’d never ever been foolish enough to emblazon a single page over with Mrs. Veronica Echolls before another catastrophe has Dick, of all people, asking her to help him. Logan, looking at years in jail for something he actually did do, and no fight in him at all—a first. The screaming banshee impression Veronica had done had roused him enough to swing again, not at her but at the shoddy chain of evidence that was weak enough to get him off the hook and sober for maybe the first time in two years. The downside was that he was finally angry enough, aware enough, that the news that she would be marrying Piz in a matter of weeks culminated in a fury, a conflagration, a fuck so hot and intense that Veronica had simply thrown away the clothes he’d ripped to shreds, the buttons and shirt sleeve he’d left—head in his hands, apology on his lips, regret dripping off his chin—without.

Her wedding had gone off without a hitch and a perfectly bland toaster from their registry—Piz had put it there unironically (“What? We need a toaster. You killed that last one with the chocolate chip cookie fiasco!”—which, okay, not one of her better ideas; there had been a lot of wine with Mac involved)—had arrived with his name on it. It was a blessing and while part of her had curled up inside her chest sobbing in the shower spray, heartbroken and alone another part of her had unfurled a new assuredness in her course. Logan knew this was what was best for her, for them, to keep their distance, token oldest-friend gestures.

So what if she dropped his name to gain access—it wasn’t like the intervening years had lessened the interest in him (leave it to Logan Echolls to be a famous, reclusive author who had no qualms breaking type and painting the town red with the beautiful people). Logan certainly wasn’t complaining. There was even the occasional good-natured jibe of a text or e-mail (So I have a very pushy personal assistant. I think she might be tiny and blonde, “Sudden up-tic in the number of yacht brochures in my mailbox. But of course you wouldn’t know anything about that, right?”). Everything was fine, perfect even, the dream and so her guard was down when she walked in to a ballroom in the most expensive gown she could return with the tags still on to discover him actually in attendance. Since she’d gotten in pretending to be his girlfriend only to find him in his own seat there was only so much she could do to maintain her cover. Logan, of course, smirkingly obliged.

By the end of the night she’d gotten all the evidence she needed and all the champagne too. Logan had more or less carried her out and to his room in the hotel—Room? Ha! Like he’d ever be caught dead in anything less than a bloody suite. She hadn’t made it easy, undressing her, tucking her in. All she’d wanted was to be in his arms and there was too much alcohol muddling her reason to come up with a good enough rationale. He was right there and she’d been missing him for so long. Finally, finally, she could smell him, taste him. Finally. But she’d been hammered and he’d been sober and nothing—save a snuggle she’d deny till her dying breath—really happened. In the morning she’d bashfully thanked him, hoping they’d both pretend she meant for his assistance with the case and forget the whole thing. They did.

The next time she’d dropped his name in a big way, gotten tickets on his celebrity she’d texted him, hoping he’d steer clear, but he was there. Gorgeous and smiling and that light inside him was blinding—half the celebrity-obsessed world couldn’t seem to look away from it, but they hadn’t any idea how much stronger it was up close and knowing all that had happened that had almost doused it so many times—and she couldn’t look away.

The habit was formed, and she could tell herself that the groping, kissing, flirtations were Demi Blenham, Tory Liengugle, Simone Povoire and not Veronica Mars-Piznarski which made their slip from dance floor fumbles to mattress tumbles too easy. So easy.

The hard part became in between the cases. She couldn’t lie to herself well enough to let him climb into a stakeout with her. And maintaining her steady-handed demeanor with her husband and friends meant a nip of courage here or there. Especially when she knew she’d be away for a weekend in Tahoe on a case and playing Mrs. Carstairs—a very friendly widow looking for someone to steal jewels for her—for days, able to sleep next to him, touch him, roll into him.

It went on that way for a while. Too long. And one day she caught herself staring in a mirror, knowing she was pregnant, not knowing who the father was, and not caring. So of course she does the worst thing she can think of. She doesn’t break it off with Piz. She becomes her mother.

She cuts it out with the drinking—no use inducing fetal alcohol syndrome when she isn’t sure she could get rid of it (Piz doesn’t deserve that and if it’s Logan’s…)—and Logan is the only one who notices. At least, he’s the only one who comments. A brusque “Need a clear head for this case, schweathart” shuts it down with a gleam in his eyes. But without the alcohol to dull her sense of justice she starts loathe herself.

She’d hated Lianne. With the power of a thousand suns. She’d hated her for leaving, for lying, for taking what innocence and future had been left. And here she was setting her own kid up for the same fate. Was she really only as strong as Lianne? Would she keep running to Logan until she ran away with his bank card while Piz and her child reviled her?

Logan didn’t take it well. Kept texting and calling to see when she would need his special brand of backup. She was six months and showing like a house by the time he came bounding in to find her feet in Piz’s hands while they argued about finding out the sex and stopped dead.

And spent the next four months showing up everywhere but looking at her like she was a sixty-year-old nuclear bomb. And he was decidedly less sober every time.

The guilt was too much, a new stone on her chest every time she saw him. When they were finally alone, and she’d been back at work for a while—Piz’s podcast appearances paid for a half share of a nanny so Veronica could do the only thing that kept her sane—he finally snapped. He pinned her arms to a wall, huffed breath in her face that was so rank it probably blew a .23 and counted as a hangover, and demanded to know if the baby was his. He was so untethered and she was so afraid of what she’d give to sooth him--fuck you, Lianne—that she hit him with the one thing she knew would keep him away for good: “You think I’d let someone like you anywhere near my baby?” slipped quietly out of her mouth while she twisted, wincing, in his grasp.

As if she’d suddenly lit on fire he released her, jumped back staring at his hands—Aaron’s big hands—and backed away, backed out so quickly he should have left go-faster lines behind. Instead he’d left his haunted expression, the way he’s looked at his own palms as if they’d belonged to a monster, as if he’d only just realized who the monster was. She’d laughed bitterly. She was the monster.

With Logan gallivanting drunk and high around the world, trying to shake the specter of Christmas Past from his tail, Veronica’s son grew up. Always hungry, always eating, but his boundless energy kept much baby fat from his lanky frame. A bean pole at five. He made her laugh, and he charmed the pants off of anyone who ever met him with his thick eye lashes and wide, impish grins. And still Veronica could not make herself do the test.

Well, well, well, said the shade of Logan who was never far from her now, the mighty one has finally found something she doesn’t want to know. It was like Schrödinger’s cat. She could have both things be true at once. Levi could both be Piz—sweet Piz who was the most patient, loving father since Veronica’s own—and Logan’s son. Because she could not take the boy from Piz now. Telling him would only cause Piz to tell her how it didn’t matter, genetics didn’t matter, love did. But having a part of Logan still with her to kiss and smell and love—albeit quiet differently—was a balm in the midst of everything else. Hearing Logan’s sharp wit, his love of words, sparing with what was possibly the little version of him made her heart burst, made his sweetness and kindness so much more endearing—of course it also made her sure that Aaron had been a soulless devil because if baby Logan was even half was wonderful as her son then someone would have to be soulless to harm him—made his violent absence even more painful.

Every direction she turned there was pain, in the beauty of her child, the peace of her marriage, in the longing for a man who refused to return to her—and he did actively refuse; she’d been drunk enough a time or two to beg (actually beg) him to come back to her—but luckily almost everywhere she turned there was also a drink.

It was only a little relief from the constant driving of waves upon her thoughts (Piz, Levi, Logan, Dad, Lianne, Piz, Levi, Logan, Mom, Jake, Aaron, Logan, Dad, Lianne, Levi) that she couldn’t deny it any more. Besides, it wasn’t like she needed to shoot straight. It wasn’t long after Levi that she’d switched to the less invasive or dangerous (can’t leave him without the one parent we’re sure is his) journalism track. She started as a fact checker, and it wasn’t long before the editor realized she dug up the best dirt and could write a sharp paragraph.

So she bumped along, just ever so slightly numb, until he was back. With a wife of his own and seeming sober respectability, there shouldn’t have been anything about the puff piece she’d been asked to interview him for that was at all their usual brand of stupid. Afterwards though she’d bled so deep in her heart she thought she was dying. He’d given no indication he still felt anything for her, let alone the undying love they’d sworn in that loamy hole. It was worse than if he’d come back with evidence that Levi was his and demanded paternity rights, broken up her family, shattered her son’s love of her, and destroyed every other relationship she’d been able to build—her more terrifying and longed for nightmare and a perplexing guilt-fest in itself. He’d been there, on his way through the bar to join his wife—Isla—at their table when she’d stumbled, and dropped her car keys. He tried to call a car for her, tried to talk to her, followed her to her car while making covert swipes at the fob until she finally whirled on him slashing out with, “What do you even care? You’ve finally scraped the trash of Neptune High from your shoes.” She’s spun back around, dizzy and ashamed of how much she’d revealed in that statement, sick with how much more she wanted to say.

And yet she couldn’t open the car door. She rested her forehead on the frame and let the tears roll down her cheeks silently.

“Veronica,” he said as a gentle pressure on her shoulder turned her. “Veronica,” he said again in the language he had that, like pictures, conveyed a thousand meanings.

“No, don’t. I can’t.” She was fully sobbing, ugly breathes ripping through her. “You’re happy.” Sob. “You should be happy. I’m happy. “Sob, hiccup. “I’m happy you’re happy.”

“Veronica,” he said with his forehead against hers, warm where the metal car was cool. “I’m not that happy. And you…you’re miserable.”

It was too late at that point. She was clutching at him. Bawling, sucking in great gasps of air only to choke them out again and yet it was the best she’d felt since she’d held Levi in her arms, high on drugs and the final achievement of bringing him safely into the world (knowing that it was not without sacrifice or agony).

It was like breathing that time. The pretenses that it was a one off or that they were somehow not themselves were gone. Gone too though was Veronica’s guilt; there was only the desperate certainty that she had to keep both these men but separate. The father and the lover. The irony was not lost on her that this was the Madonna-whore complex she’d been beating her head against since high school done over. But there was so little left of Veronica Mars that she didn’t care and what little complaints there were from that teenage girl were easy enough to silence with vodka, tonic, and lime.

The irony that shouldn’t have been lost—but inevitably was—was that without that younger, brighter, truer self there was only memory between her and Logan. Both of them remembering what once was there what was turned dim and dingy through hard use.

So eventually Isla left him and he left Veronica—“She’s my wife. And that’s never been a position that’s held much interest for you, Ronnie”—to get her back.

They’d repeat the bitter scene, Veronica would offer to leave Piz but not to test Levi—a cat both Logan’s son and Piz’s—but nothing would come of it but a greater mess, greater heartache and Piz at home helping Levi with his homework and teaching him to play the guitar.

Maybe it will end with Veronica flying off a cliff in a car, passed out at the wheel. Maybe with Levi conning her into rehab after Piz has had enough and left her—taken Levi and left her. Maybe history will truly repeat itself and she will find herself staring at the other side of incest. Maybe she’ll leave them all behind to sort the pieces themselves; leap from the bridge and feel no fear on the way down—a first. Maybe she’ll finally come clean to Piz, to Logan and one of them will snap and snap her neck.

She doesn’t know how it’ll end, doesn’t care so much. All she knows is that the most alive she ever feels anymore is when her son smiles at her, clear and happy and bright. The second most is when Logan’s lips quirk as his arms come around her.