Logan sees them before he answers the door, two guys Veronica works with who’ve decided to make a house call. Makes sure he doesn’t have a shirt on. Makes sure he’s working the “rich asshole bum” angle that he perfected so long ago. He knows why they’re here. It’s what happens. One guy decides Veronica is the bee’s knees, and then agents are at the door, investigating him under the guise of being friendly - to him, to her, it doesn’t matter. He knows what they think of him. Knows it, because it’s what he used to think of himself. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not enough. Veronica’s bedside manner has never been worse than when dealing with his inadequacy issues, and it’s one of the things he loves about her. One of the things that helps combat those same issues. Nothing makes him feel stupider - happier - than Veronica rolling her eyes at him and saying something like, “Of course you’re not good enough for me, sugar lips! I keep you around solely for the sex”.
She’s also quick to tell him that’s what therapy’s for, dealing with those ‘latent’ issues of his childhood. She’s never suggested he go, though. Because when it comes to her trust issues, well, therapy’s off the table, and she knows he’s a fan of an eye for an eye. Veronica Mars doesn’t open up. Veronica Mars lives her life with her issues, and everyone around her gets to decide whether or not they’re along for the ride. A long time ago, in a town not so very far away, he decided he was going to be in the passenger seat of that car, damn the consequences. Even if those consequences are men in cheap, dark suits with sunglasses, playing at being protectors to a tiny blonde woman who would tase their asses into the next century or beyond if she had any inkling what they were doing. Especially if, actually, given what the other consequences have been.
He opens the door after having them knock for close to three minutes. He takes his thrills where he can, these days. He’s into clean living. No drugs. No booze, except for very special occasions. No high speed chases for him. No riding to the rescue. No punching out men who may or may not be members of biker gangs or mobs of any kind. No highly emotional break ups, no life and death make ups. The last time before this very last time, he and Veronica made a pact to not do that anymore. It didn’t take immediately, but it has for the last three years. Three years of continuous, unbroken relationship semi-bliss. And that’s three uninterrupted years longer than any of his other relationships.
“Can I help you?” he asks, making sure to stretch and lean against the door in a way that drive women other than his girlfriend crazy, the lean that makes men clench their teeth, the lean he’s discovered that tends to make men who like his girlfriend a little more than as just friends flinch. He’s quite the specimen of a man, if he does say so himself. One of the suits clenches his teeth. The other, the one wearing sunglasses, flinches.
Suits looks at him with disdain. He pretends not to notice, and Sunglasses is the one to speak. “We were looking for Veronica? We’re all meeting for lunch. We were going to give her a ride over.”
“Really? Ronnie’s already left for the restaurant. It must have slipped her mind.” Logan shifts slightly, makes himself more comfortable. Nothing ever slips Veronica’s mind. Unless she has cause to let it. And she rarely has cause to let it.
Sunglasses shuffles. Suits steps in. “Ah, we forgot to remind her. Shoot.” Snaps his fingers and everything. Logan resists the urge to rolls his eyes. He almost wishes they’d get to the question and answer period of this little meeting, just so he can have his grand finale and get on with his day and put on a shirt.
“Yeah, it’s such a shame how her mind’s started to go. Twenty-seven years old and already things are just *poof*”, waves his hand for dramatic effect, thank god for actor parents, “gone. She’d lose her head if I didn’t put a sticky note on it every morning.”
“As long as we’re here, we might as well get to know the mysterious boyfriend,” Suits continues. Sunglasses nods.
“Ah, but that would leave Veronica at the restaurant, all alone and bored. She gets antsy, you know. Starts mischief.” Logan wonders if Sunglasses knows how much. He also wonders if these two are anything more than desk jockeys, and if they are, how he can make sure they’re not Veronica’s back up out in the field. Because Mulder, they ain’t.
“She’ll be fine for a couple of minutes,” Sunglasses answers confidently. “And, really, we know next to nothing about you. She doesn’t talk about you at all.”
That gets a smirk. “Yeah, well, my little Ronniekins is nothing if not private.”
They both look taken aback at his pet name, but Suits takes the lead. “Well, maybe you could enlighten us a bit. Like, about how those bum fights are going?”
Logan”s smirk deepens. This is a lot more interesting than the computer guy who wanted to know how long he and Veronica had had a thing. “Well, I see Google is your friend. In which case, I’d just like to mention that I stopped organizing bum fights when I was seventeen, I was arrested but never tried for that murder, and I have never knowingly slept with Paris Hilton. No matter what she alleges took place in my pool house.”
“What about those allegations of abuse?”
For the first time, Logan feels himself stiffening. “What allegations?”
Sunglasses feels it’s now his turn to smirk, hands him a tabloid. It’s him, and it’s Veronica. There are pictures from when she caught Aaron, bruises from that night still gracing her features - and his. Pictures from other times when she got herself in too deep, too fast. There are pictures from the other week, when she’d caught a wave wrong after he finally convinced her to let him teach her how to surf. And there are pictures of Piz, and of Gory, and of some of the other people he has run his fists into in the past decade who have crossed Veronica. The pictures accompany what could loosely be defined as an article, proudly screaming the question to the world ECHOLLS’ HEIR: ABUSER? He shakes his head. Sometimes they make it too easy for him. Briefly scans the page. It references “close sources”, of course. It mentions their penchant for dumping each other and taking each other back. He hands it back to Sunglasses.
“Didn’t know I was still tabloid fodder. Good to hear there’s not someone else’s life they could be crapping on.”
Suits leans in. “So, you deny it?”
“No, I’m guilty on all accounts. Please, lock me up and throw away the key.”
Suits presses forward. Clearly, if this all goes to shit they’ve worked it out that Suits gets the ire of Veronica, leaving Sunglasses with plausible deniability. It’s a shame, really, that they know so little about her. Veronica would rather someone who goes balls to the wall after their quarry than someone who hides in the tall grass. Of course, if they knew more about her, this may not happen with an almost alarming frequency. “Veronica means something to us.”
He doesn’t even have to fake the yawn. “That’s very sweet of you. I’m sure she appreciates it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date poolside.”
Suits and Sunglasses both look a little outraged at the insinuation, and Logan makes sure he turns slowly enough as he pads back away from the door to give them the opportunity to see evidence of real abuse, the scars that have never faded away, as he kicks the door closed behind him. He learned this trick accidentally, with Piz, after the whole beating the shit out of him unnecessarily thing. It’s something Veronica doesn’t truck with, the idea that he could be abusive because he was abused, the idea that he could be abusive to her, and it is by far the easiest way to bring about her protective instincts. Men looking to curry favor will question her, try to save her. And his Ronnie will go all mother bear on their asses. Just because he didn’t mean to do it to Piz doesn’t mean that he hasn’t meant to do it a half a dozen times since then. Just because he didn’t mean to do it to Piz doesn’t mean he didn’t take an obscene amount of pleasure in how it all went down.
He used to hide the scars. Used to hide the evidence that his father was fucked up in all manner of ways and liked to take out his frustrations on his own son’s hide. It’s taken him a long time to accept them, to accept that they’re there, that barring plastic surgery they aren’t going away, and that they don’t define him. It’s taken him a long time, but he doesn’t feel them any more. They aren’t a stone around his neck. What they have become, though, is a tool in his arsenal. He thinks that maybe, if he’d gone to therapy like everyone except Veronica pushed him to do, he would have been cured of this tendency to manipulate situations by using them. He pulls out a tee shirt and covers them up again, and watches his girlfriend’s would be white knights pull back down his driveway. But, frankly, he likes his way better. It’s more Veronica. He can’t wait for her to come home.
* * *
By the time Marshall and Erikson get to the Chinese Buffet, Veronica has already eaten two plates of food, called and left Weevil a message about when he was coming to visit her, and texted back and forth with Wallace about Logan’s sudden and strange desire to host a Film Noir party. Wallace is all for it, wanting to get all - in his own words - pimptastic. Veronica manages to not mock him mercilessly for thinking that word was still appropriate to use. But barely. Logan has turned from someone who would throw a party if the weathermen rightly predicted rainfall to someone who refuses to even look at invitations other people send them, and she texts Wallace that. He in turn tells her to stop being so suspicious and go with the flow. She pauses a second to wonder who he thinks his best friend is, and waves the two agents over. They were supposed to be here fifteen minutes prior, and Veronica gives them a tight smile as they amble over to her.
Wallace isn’t necessarily wrong. Life would be easier if she trusted people more easily. Life would be easier, and maybe what they say about ignorance is right. But she is Agent Veronica Mars because she is who she is, and she still keeps files on everyone in her life - even if they’re now mental ones.
What she knows about Agents Marshall and Erikson could fill a very tiny sheet of paper. She’s just recently been transferred from the Washington office to LA, and Kevin Marshall somehow got stuck on babysitting duty. And when he suggested he and Alan Erikson and herself take in lunch before perusing some old case files, she’d said yes, mostly because she knew that everyone else in her life would expect her to say no and she’s attempting to turn over a new leaf here. Attempting to fit in. Attempting to not experience full FBI burnout before she’s thirty. Attempting to be personable. Logan laughed, and told her she was only personable when she wasn’t her. Which, Veronica concedes, is pretty true. When she’s Becky or Marie or any of the other aliases she has created over her long run of being a junior PI to junior agent to agent, she taps into the old Veronica Mars, the one who truly liked people. Now, though, she’s the new Veronica Mars, the one who snaps when someone other than those on her short list call her Vee. She doesn’t want the old Veronica back, got through with that desire a while ago, but a little bit of her tact would probably help her career trajectory a bit.
Which is why she sighs when she sees the tabloid tucked in Erikson’s not-man purse. His shoulder bag. She’s not blind. She knows about his little crush. She mentioned Logan’s existence a couple of times in his presence, in an attempt to get him to back off. Now, she’s wondering if she’d been better suited playing the “I don’t fuck where I work” card instead. Too late, though, and she’s pretty sure lunch is going to get hella awkward.
“Hey, Vee.” Veronica starts when Kevin lets that nickname slip through his lips. Starts, but doesn’t snap. See? Newish and improved Veronica.
“Hey, Marshall. Erikson.” Newish and improved though she might be, she’s still trying to get them on a last name basis. No need for nicknames here, no siree bob.
Erikson gives her a bashful smile. “I think we’re good enough friends that you can call me Alan.”
She manages to not bang her head against the table. “Right. So, I’m going to go up for plate numero tres”, holds up three fingers, “because you two were late-late-late. Wanna go up and see if they’ve refilled the kung pao?”
Marshall and Erikson nod, follow her, and pick up plates along the way. Erikson picks up a spring roll, and gestures to the left side of her face. “What happened there?”
Veronica busies herself with the kung pao, and then some moo goo gai pan. Tries not to feel the ache in her cheek. Tries to ignore what it looks like.
“Aw, this old thing? Surfing accident. I told my boyfriend I don’t have the skills to ride the waves, but he just wouldn’t listen until I offered him incontrovertible proof. Voila! I now have said proof.” And what comes along with that proof is a very sorry boyfriend who is willing to do any number of things to make it up to her, which is why she puts on a production over the whole deal. If he weren’t feeling guilty, he’d probably pick up on the fact that she doesn’t blame him. But if he picked up on that fact, she would have to fight for her right to get foot rubs, so she’s willing to needle that guilty feeling for a little while longer.
“That’s too bad. It really looks like it hurts,” Marshall says sympathetically. She’s well aware of that, actually. She’s well aware of what Erikson and Marshall think happened, and she’s well aware of what the tabloids still, after 2 and a half years of sobriety and drama-free shenanigans from Logan, write about. It’s not like Logan hasn’t lead them to those accusations by the nose after years of drunken and not-so-drunken fisticuffs. It’s not like he hasn’t, on more than one occasion, beaten the ever loving snot out of someone or another. But it still makes her blood boil and makes her face pinched and makes her ready to take on the world for him. Because he’s profoundly screwed up, but not like that. And he’s hers. Hers to protect.
“Well, it doesn’t tickle.” She’s trying desperately not to shut down, trying to battle her way back from feeling like she’s drowning under the anger and resentment that is still only a stone’s throw from her surface emotions all these years later. She’s glad Logan has never suggested therapy, because then she’d have to go, but every once in a blue moon she considers it. Like, right now. She walks to the table and thinks about what she’s going to text Wallace once this all goes to shit. “Well, BFF, it’s another sunny day in the neighborhood and I’ve burned two more bridges I hope I never need to get over any water. Tell me when you’re free to live it up Bogey style!” She shakes her head to clear it.
The worst part of it is, the bruising looks much worse than it feels. Well, the worst part of it is, once this is done, she’ll have to go over old case files with these guys and then go home to Logan and not tell him about her day. Because she doesn’t tell him about what people think of him. He knows that too well already.
She picks up her chopsticks and goes to town on her food, and Marshall and Erikson do the same. And in a brief lull, when she thinks it’s all going to blow over, Erikson pushes the tabloid over to her.
She looks down at it, looking at her face from a decade ago, from 7 years ago. From 3 years ago, from a week ago. She notes that she gets bruised and banged up a lot, and that Logan is always around. She smiles. Logan is always around. Whenever she needs him. Looks back up at the two guys she had hoped to call her friends, maybe. Or, at least, friendish office people. “Boys, haven’t you heard you can’t believe everything you read?”
Erikson looks down, but Marshall doesn’t. “You’re telling me that none of these came from him?”
Veronica looks dead ahead, projecting the kind of calm she wishes she ever felt. “Not a one.” She picks up some more noodles. “Is this why were you late? Because I’ve got to say, not the quality work I’ve come to expect from two upstanding young gentlemen.”
Marshall presses on. She’s a little surprised. She expects Erikson to do more of the rescue attempt here, but que sera. “You can’t deny your boyfriend is a volatile individual. Multiple arrests, public intoxication, allegations of his beating people up - beating your boyfriends up - “
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. A. I know exactly what he’s been accused of and what exactly he’s actually done, because he’s been in my life since I was twelve. B. He has beaten exactly one of my boyfriends up, and he thought he had good cause. And C. You’re telling me that you were so concerned about a tabloid report, that you ran a check on my boyfriend?”
Erikson speaks up, finally. “Ronnie, you know how many times it takes before a battered woman will leave her batterer, statistically speaking.”
“Ok, two things: Only Logan and a handful of dead people get the privilege of calling me Ronnie. And I’m not battered. Logan doesn’t hit women.”
Marshall presses on. “Given his history and the lack of psychiatric care, I’d say there’s a more than reasonable percentage that he is or can become abusive.”
Erikson nods, and Veronica can feel her extremities going numb. “His history?”
“We saw his back, Veronica. We stopped by your house before coming here.”
“He may also be having an affair, but we can’t confirm that,” Marshall continues.
Veronica sees white, and thinks that for how often she’s had talks like this after that first one with Piz, she should stop being surprised by now. “You went by the house.”
Erikson nods. “Yes. He’s an asshole, Veronica.”
She laughs. “You know, he is. He really, really is. But not like you think.”
Erikson plods ahead and takes her hand, whispers, “We know you’re ashamed. You never talk about him unless you have to. You don’t have to stay with him, Veronica.”
She pulls her hand away. She stands up. “Listen to me, both of you. Aaron Echolls beat the shit out of his son. Logan is not his father. Logan has never been his father. And if either one of you come after him or mention his abuse to anyone else, I will do everything in my power to make sure you suffer as much as he’s suffered. And here are the new rules to our relationship: Marshall, thank you ever so much for helping me out. I’m done needing your assistance, so if you or Erikson need any help with any actual work from here on out, let me know. But don’t talk to me or about me from this point forward.
We’re not friends. We’re not going to be friends. And you’re going to stay the hell out of my personal life. I’m taking the rest of the day off to be with my boyfriend.”
As she walks away from the table, she types out the text to Wallace she composed when she saw her day going to shit. She thinks she may be most upset about the fact that she only got three plates of food and no ice cream before she had to make her grand and definitive exit. She decides to stop on the way home for some Ben & Jerry’s.
* * *
He hears the door open, and then slam shut. He smiles. Right on time. He wonders how long Sunglasses held out for before delivering his puppy dog stare and his reassurances that whatever happened isn’t Veronica’s fault. He wonders if Veronica went apocalyptic, or if she went quiet and just stormed out. He’s hoping she tells him, but is past is prologue she’ll keep it to herself.
“Hi Taffy Toes, how was lunch with the boys?”
She’s silent for a couple seconds. “Taffy Toes?”
He pauses his game and grins at her. “Our old nicknames could use some updating, methinks.”
She flops beside him on the couch, and grins at him a bit too brightly. He is suddenly struck by the overwhelming certainty that he’s not going to enjoy where this is going. “Hmm... OK. Well, I heard the funniest thing today, Muffin Mouth. It seems that two guys I work with stopped by the house and got a really good look at you. Sans tee shirt.”
He sighs. “I know you think my pecs are only for you, honey boo. But I like to share my gifts with the general public.”
She nods, and he remembers why he thought he hated her, because when her eyes are bright and her smile is hard, she is a terror to behold. And it was either hate her or fall for her completely. “Oh, but booface, they were more interested in your back. Which, if I can recall, has been an issue that oh -” she taps her finger to her chin and her face scrunches up in a parody of actually thinking, “ - more than a few men of my immediate acquaintance have brought up over the years.”
There are a few moments in Logan’s life when he’s been completely frozen in place. A few times when ideas that he thought were excellent have come back and bit him, badly. Given the fact that his father did beat him and regularly, when he’s told the few people he talks to this, they generally think it is Aaron who created a majority of these moments. But that’s not true, because Logan has always known that his father would use any excuse, so no one moment created that kind of terror. Instead, a lot of them revolve around Veronica. She’s looking at him expectantly, and he has nothing he can say to her in return. She nods.
“How about I continue on, mkay? I’m going to guess this started with Piz. I mean, it had to have. You saw how he reacted to you, and how I reacted to him, and I ended up screaming at him in a beach parking lot and leaving with you. But here’s where I get a little fuzzy. Why are you convincing more people you’re an abusive asshole, instead of just an asshole-asshole?”
Logan shrugs, and picks up his game controller. He’s not surprised when she knocks it out of his hand. “Oh, no, buddy. We’re talking about this. Now.”
He doesn’t turn to her, doesn’t look at her. “What do you want me to say, Veronica? I’m sorry?”
“Then, no. I don’t want you to say it.”
They sit there for a moment, in silence. Logan knows that this is going to happen, that this conversation is going to happen, because it’s Veronica and she has always and will forever be a bulldog with a bone when it comes to conversations she wants to have and avenues of investigation she wants to pursue. No matter who it hurts or what stones get overturned. He has to tell her, because she won’t have it any other way.
“It did start with Piz, but I didn’t mean for that to happen. I mean, I never planned on him seeing them. I didn’t want him to see them. But when he did, and he asked you to tell him if I ever hurt you, it wasn’t like things didn’t work out in my favor.”
Veronica looks slightly appalled. “What?”
“Ronnie, you are who you are, and I love who you are. For years, including then, I thought you didn’t love me as much as I loved you. That you couldn’t, because if you did, you wouldn’t be closed off and you would trust me and let me in. And I dealt with it and I wanted to be with you or near you or whatever. But I was still convinced that I was someone you... ...tolerated. And then Piz said those things and you - you went right for his jugular. You went in for the kill and you ripped him apart and I knew that you did it for me. You weren’t going to let anyone believe that I was that person. And it was... It was incredible. It felt incredible.”
She looks mollified, but softly asks, “And you felt like you had to do it again and again?”
He thinks about looking chagrined, but they’ve come too far for him to play a role. She knows him too well for him to act like he cares when he doesn’t or that he’s embarrassed when he’s not. So he goes all out. “No. Not exactly. You’re this tiny pixie that ensnares all these guys. And out of all the guys you ensnare, at least one of them is going to be in love with you, and he’s probably going to see me as an asshole. Which I’m good with. I mean, we both know I am and always will be a jackass. But some of them come around to size me up, see about taking me down. And in the beginning, I cared. I was really worried someone would make you see that I’m not enough. And so I’d do things to make you show that you cared. About me.”
She leans her head against her hand. “So, let me get this straight - you thought I didn’t love you enough publically, so you planted seeds for these guys to trip over and I’d lose my cool for you.”
“Um, no. I thought those guys didn’t know how much you loved me, and that if they thought I was a useless bag of flesh, it didn’t matter as long as they knew you didn’t think that too. And bonus, once they stopped coming around or you stopped talking about them, it meant that I knew you didn’t think that too, even when I might have.”
“And now?” She’s looking up at him, eyes bright and wide and he knows she’s gone from pissed off to gently curious.
“And now, you’ve convinced me that you’re mine and I’m yours and when those guys come around, I’m playing with them like a cat plays with a mouse. Plus, I get all hot and bothered when you defend my honor, so sometimes I like to let you be my prince.”
She scoffs, and pushes him playfully. “You’re acting like I don’t know linoleum makes you hot and bothered.”
“Oh, you’re right, Bubblegum, but I get especially excited when you’re showing the world what 5 foot nothing, 90 pounds package of pure terror is.” He snuggles in close and kisses her.
She sighs against his lips. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” He feels himself start to ease when she nuzzles into his neck.
“Hmm... How’s about a deal, Slim Jim?”
He furrows his brow as he pulls back and mouths “Slim Jim?” at her, but nods for her to continue.
“Whenever a guy decides that he’s going to rescue me from my fate, give me a heads up.”
He pulls back. “That’s it?”
“Yeah.” She shrugs. “If you think I’m thrilled that some guy looks at me and thinks, ‘Hmm... I like her because she seems kickass, but I bet she’s too chickenshit to leave her boyfriend so I’d better save her’, you’ve got another thing coming. So, two birds, one stone. I’ll make a mockery of them for even assuming I don’t give as good as I get in this relationship, and maybe you get to watch me do it instead of waiting at home for the eventual fallout. What do you say?”
He scoops her up and moves to carry her to the bedroom. “I think, Pint-Sized, that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
She laughs, and he chuckles along with her.