He’s sprawled out on the makeshift cot when they let her into the holding area, staring at the ceiling.
"Echolls," the guard calls. "It’s you."
If she wasn’t already pissed that he dragged her out in the middle of the night in her pajama pants and flip flops, his next move would have done the trick.
He doesn’t make a single move to get up. Instead, he turns his face to look at her, lazy and amused all at once.
"Why, Veronica Mars," he drawls. "What a nice surprise."
"It doesn’t count as a surprise when you call me," she says tightly. "Get up."
He pushes himself into a sitting position, smirking at her. "And in a good mood to boot. Must be my lucky night."
She gives him a sugary sweet smile. "If by lucky you’re referring to that fact that I haven’t killed you yet, then you’re right."
"It’s cute how she worries," Logan tells the guard as he saunters out of the cell.
"What are you even doing in Santa Monica?" she demands, trotting to keep up with him in the hallway. "It took me forever to get here."
"Party," he shrugs. "One of Dick’s Pi Sig friends has a house up here. Cops busted it."
She raises her eyebrows. "And Dick is…?"
He taps his chin in thought. "I’m gonna guess hitchhiking on the 101 by now. Everyone ran. I ran too, but…" his mouth twists wryly. "You know me and the law." He crosses his fingers for her. "Like this. We always seem to find each other."
"You seem awfully glib for someone who’s just been arrested," she remarks, watching him gather up his cell phone and keys. "Again."
"Ah, you forget," he says grinning. "I was arrested for murder. Twice. Underage drinking is like a cakewalk."
"And Parker was busy?" she snits. She can’t help it. She’s been watching Logan and Parker walk arm-in-arm around campus for months like love’s young dream, and yet she’s the one who ends up with bail duty?
He smiles down at her, brief and painful. "You didn’t hear? Miss Parker Lee decided it was time we parted ways. She dumped me last week."
The emotion that runs through her is part pity, part sympathy, part jealousy, and a whole lot of satisfaction. "Oh," is all she says.
"Buck up, Mars," he says, and there’s a self-deprecating tilt to his mouth that could mean just about anything. "I’ve been through worse breakups. Like, all of them."
Okay, ouch. She desperately wants to ask what happened, but his eyes are shuttered and a little bit dangerous, and she knows he won’t say another word about it, no matter how much she pushes.
"Well, you owe me three hundred dollars," she says, changing the subject neatly.
"Three hundred?" he exclaims. "The bail was two."
"Interest is a bitch," she informs him.
"That’s not interest; it’s highway robbery," he says, pushing through the doors out into the warm, spring night.
"Funny you should call it that, since I just spent two hours on the highway to bail you out of here."
"I’m nothing if not accommodating," he says grandly.
"Yeah, you’re pure gentleman," she says, letting the irony fall heavy between them. She’s struggling to hold on to her anger at being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, but it started evaporating the second he told her about Parker. Sometimes she has to wonder if she really is as big a bitch as everyone says. Because Logan is hurting and all she can feel is relieved that it didn’t work out for him and Parker. She will never be all right seeing him touch another girl.
"That’s what it says in the ladies room at the food court," he says absently, scanning the parking lot for his SUV. "It’s good to know you drive such a hard bargain, though. Next time I’ll remember to – "
He stops talking abruptly. She follows his gaze to the clear figure of Piz, leaning against her car in the dark. Logan doesn’t finish whatever it was that he was going to say. His face suddenly looks very young in the street lamp, like a little kid whose balloon has been ripped away by the wind.
She’s hit by a sudden spurt of irritation, and surprisingly, it’s not for Logan. Piz wanted to come in with her. She’d asked him to stay outside but, from the looks of it, he was about thirty seconds from coming in anyway. Piz pushes off the side of the car impatiently, clearly about to make his way over, when Logan breaks the silence with a brittle laugh. "Hey," he says, his voice suddenly hard and glossy. "What do you know? You brought Piz along. I had no idea he cared so much."
"I wasn’t going to drive two hours by myself," she says defensively, and then immediately wants to slap her hand over her mouth. She doesn’t owe Logan any explanations. He just barely got out of a relationship himself.
"No, why would you?" Logan returns, an edge creeping into his tone. "You hunt down murderers, thieves, and rapists by yourself, but a two hour commute is just a little too daunting. It makes perfect sense."
"You call me in the middle of the night," she says, hearing her own voice sharpen. "You tell me you’re in Santa Monica and you need me to come bail you out of jail. I didn’t realize there were specifications as to exactly how I was supposed to go about saving your ass."
"Well you should have told me it was slumber party night," he says, his voice rising angrily. "I wouldn’t have dreamed of interrupting."
"I’m sure you had scores of sober friends to choose from," she flings back at him. "Hey, maybe next time Madison will be available," she suggests venomously, and watches him flush a dull red. She determinedly ignores the tiny shock of guilt that runs through her.
"I’m doing you a favor," she bites out. "Why are you being such a jackass?"
"It’s only fitting, when you’re being such a bitch," he shoots back, stalking over to his towed SUV.
"Don’t call me again," she calls sharply.
"I wouldn’t worry," he mutters. "I’m not into torture these days."
The slam of his car door echoes in her head the whole way home.
He calls her again. Of course he does.
"We found him throwing sliced bread at a store front on Main Street," Sacks explains to her, leading her down the too-familiar cell block of the Neptune Sheriff’s Department. "His breathalyzer reading was off the charts."
She stops short. "Sliced bread?"
"Sliced bread. They said they were protesting the restaurant’s new carb free menu. Also? They’re high as kites."
She hears the two of them from halfway down the hall. Logan and Dick are slumped against the concrete walls in adjoining cells, glassy eyed and giggling at each other.
"Ronnie!" Dick throws his arms wide when he sees her. "Dude, Logan. Your knight in bitchy armor is here to rescue us."
"Huh," she says. "Your wit decreases as your blood alcohol level goes up. Fascinating."
Logan seems to sober for a second. "Public drunkenness is no laughing matter, young lady," he informs her solemnly. And then starts cackling again.
She looks helplessly at Sacks, who just shrugs his moustache at her. Useless.
"Let’s go," she sighs. Dick lumbers to his feet in the next cell, and she points at him. "Not you," she says firmly. "One drunk idiot at a time. Logan can come back for you in the morning."
Dick flips her the bird as she drags Logan out of there.
"Hey, where’s your boyfriend?" Logan asks in the car, struggling to fasten his seat belt. "Where’s the Pizzer?" He’s having trouble getting his tongue around the words. Logan high is better than Logan drunk, but the verdict is still out on both of them together.
"It’s summer," she explains patiently. "Piz is at home, like normal college students. You and I being the abnormal ones."
Logan gasps in fake shock. "But who will be your lap dog now?"
The anger hits her with lightening speed. "Fuck you, Logan."
The car goes deafeningly silent in the wake of her words, and when she steals a look, Logan is staring out the window, muttering silently to himself. Her blood is spinning in her veins and she’s spoiling for a fight. She’s so sick of the taunts and the sarcasm and the scornful looks that Logan tosses her and Piz in the cafeteria. She gave her blessing to him and Parker even though it almost choked her, and he can’t just step aside and let her be.
She’s spent more time in the last few months acting happy with Piz for Logan’s sake than actually being happy with him, and now that he’s gone home for the summer, she’s beginning to wonder what they’re doing together in the first place. She’s pretty sure she can find a way to blame that on Logan, too, if she really tries.
"Hey. Hey, I’m sorry," Logan says suddenly. She can feel him staring at her from the passenger seat, all his considerable drunken energy focused in her direction. She doesn’t answer.
"I said I’m sorry, okay? Okay? Hey." He leans forward.
"Fine," she says shortly. "Whatever."
He puts a hand on her shoulder. "Don’t be mad. I don’t want you to be mad."
"Then don’t be an asshole," she says.
She feels his fingers dancing along her neck, stroking lightly at her cheek. It sends shivers through her. "Logan," she says unsteadily.
"I was being stupid," he says, voice lowered to a breath. "Thanks for coming to get me."
He drops his hand away, and she immediately feels bereft. She inhales, long and controlled, against the emotion bouncing around in her brain. "It’s okay," she says finally, even though it’s not.
He rolls his head back toward the window. "I miss you," he sighs.
And what the hell, he probably won’t remember this in the morning anyway. "I miss you, too," she says and watches him swallow.
He stumbles after her into the elevator, plucking aimlessly at the velvet walls as the doors slide shut. She considers asking him for his key, so she can keep up the pretense that she threw away the one he gave her, but given the state he’s in they might not find it until morning. He’s suspiciously docile, although he doesn’t stop looking at her. He looks at her like this when he’s drunk, like he’s afraid she’ll up and disappear, and it makes her want to do just that.
He’s so docile that she doesn’t see it coming. One second he’s leaning against the wall as she digs in her purse, the next he’s twisting toward her, pushing languidly off the glitzy wallpaper to crowd her against the door, slipping a leg intimately between her own. He presses her into the wood with his body, slides his hands into her hair, tips his face so close to hers that she can smell the vodka on his breath, and the smoky sweet taste of weed. "You’re fucking beautiful," he murmurs, thumbs stroking softly at her temples. "You’re so fucking…"
He’s leaning his whole weight against her, and she feels blanketed, immersed, overwhelmed by him. Swallowed up. His eyes are dark and fuzzy with chemicals, and his mouth is dipping down, down towards hers. She waits too long to push him away. She waits until the last second, and then it’s too late, and she forgets. Or at least that’s what she tells herself as she goes up on her toes and meets the kiss halfway.
She lets it go on for a few seconds. Just long enough to remember what chemistry feels like, how effortless, delirious, perfect attraction feels. And then she lets it go.
"Bad idea," she whispers shakily into his chest. He tries to kiss her again, and she stops him this time, despite the screaming protest of her body. "I have a boyfriend," she says, ducking under his arm. "And you couldn’t get much drunker if you tried."
His back thumps against the wall, and he watches her smoothly operate the key card with mournful eyes. "I hate your boyfriend," he tells her, with the blunt logic of the drunk and the insane.
"I know," she says, letting the door swing open. "Drink water and sleep on your stomach." It’s only later, when she’s drifting off to sleep, that she realizes she didn’t even once flash to Madison when he was touching her.
There’s a voicemail waiting for her after her library shift the next day:
Hey, uh, it’s Logan. I wanted to thank you for last night. I can’t remember much, but Dick told me you came and bailed me out. Logan laughs briefly. He says thanks for leaving him there, by the way. I think he’s still pissed we didn’t get to carry out our anti-carb campaign. Pause. Hey. If I did anything…out of line last night, I’m sorry. I was wasted, and I want to make sure I didn’t…Another laugh, uncomfortable this time. Anyway. Sorry. And thanks.
She tears her breakup letter to Piz into little pieces and tosses them into the trash.
She was wrong. He could get drunker after all.
The phone rings at three in the morning on a Wednesday. Piz lets out a groan beside her. "Whoever that is. Must. Die." He mumbles into the pillow.
"Hello?" she answers groggily.
"V’ronica," Logan slurs into the phone. "M’in trouble, V’ronica. Shit, m’screwed, so fucking screwed…" he trails off, mumbling.
Butterflies start to go in her stomach. She sits up. "Logan? Where are you?" Piz stiffens beside her.
"Dunno. Fuck. SDSU? SCU? There was this party, ‘n they broke it up, ‘n they put me in handcuffs, ‘n I tried t’tell ‘em I didn’t do anything, but they won’t fucking listen." He ends the sentence half-yelling in frustration. "Listen to me!" he calls out to someone on the other end of the line.
Her heart sinks. "You got arrested again," she says flatly, disappointed.
"Wha? No, I didn’t do anything…" He’s barely coherent, and her mind is already four steps ahead: how much she’ll have to pay this time, how she’ll get him to the car, how she’ll get him up to his hotel room before he passes out.
"Don’t do it," Piz says quietly, stopping her thought process in its tracks. He’s looking at her, blue eyes cutting through the dark.
"Logan," she says, making her voice very, very calm. "Are you hurt?"
His answer is garbled, but she’s pretty sure she hears a "fucking wasted" in there. She can’t stop picturing him slumped in some unknown cell. What if he passes out and needs to be brought to the hospital and no one notices? What if he’s gotten himself in real trouble this time and needs a lawyer? What if-
"Don’t do it," Piz repeats urgently. "If you keep it up he’ll never leave you alone. It’s a new year, babe. Don’t keep doing this."
"Need you to come," Logan’s muffled appeals are still leaking through the phone, twisting her stomach into knots of indecision.
"Veronica, please," Piz says, very deliberately. "If you care about me, even a little bit, hang up the phone."
It’s a dirty trick. It’s such a dirty trick, and at any other time she’d call him on it, but in this moment it snaps some sense back into her. Logan is not her boyfriend. He’s not her responsibility, and it’s not fair to her or to Piz to keep running to his rescue. Not fair to anyone.
She steels herself. "You’re going to have to sleep it off," she says clearly into the phone.
"But – "
"Veronica," Logan pleads. The desperation in his voice twists low and acidic through her stomach.
She hangs up.
That night Piz tells her he loves her for the first time. She doesn’t sleep a wink.
She manages to hold out until approximately 11:15 the next morning. Her classmates all turn and stare at her as she gathers up her things in the middle of sociology lecture and heads for the back of the auditorium.
Logan takes a full three minutes to answer her knock, and she’s getting awfully tired of waiting outside this goddamn doorway with her heart in her throat.
When the door finally does swing open, it reveals a hungover Logan, complete with red-rimmed eyes, sunken cheeks, and a spectacularly chalky complexion. He looks like shit, so she can’t quite understand the relief that courses through her at the sight of him. He’s clinging to the doorway like it’s the only thing keeping him standing, and he’s staring at her like he’s not quite sure she’s real.
"I- I just came to check –" she stammers. "Last night you were…" She can’t think of what to say to him. She doesn’t know how to explain her presence here when she doesn’t understand it herself. She turns to go, but his voice stops her.
"I knew you couldn’t stay away," he croaks out.
She looks at him, at the curious weightlessness in his eyes, and she knows he didn’t know anything of the sort. She wants to scream at him for being so stupid, so fucking careless with his life when she’s the one who pays for it. She wants to put her arms around him just to reassure herself that he’s still there, because despite everything that’s happened between them, she’s pretty sure him disappearing is the one thing she couldn’t take.
"Go back to bed," she says. She tries for detached, but her voice comes out somewhere between exasperated and tender, and she’s beginning to think she’s in deep fucking trouble. She turns and leaves before she can betray herself even further, and she pretends she can’t feel him smiling at her back as the elevator doors slide shut.
"This is your fault," she tells him, tight lipped.
"My fault?" he laughs incredulously. "How do you figure?"
"You can’t just go punching people."
"And you can’t just go waltzing into one of the worst bars in the county dressed like a Maxim cover and expect nothing to happen."
"I was trying to blend," she says, shifting self-consciously in her postage stamp of a skirt. "And nothing would have happened if you hadn’t jumped in with your fists swinging."
"So you were totally okay with that guy trying to feel you up?"
"I had it under control," she says with as much dignity as possible. It’s a lie. She’d been terrified until Logan had shown up out of nowhere. It’s too bad the ensuing bar fight had left both of them handcuffed and shoved into the back of a police cruiser.
"And what were you doing there anyway?" she flings at him in annoyance. "Were you following me?"
His eyeroll is so huge it’s practically audible. "God, your ego is incredible."
"So you just happened to be in the same bar as me, three towns over, on the same night, at the same time?" she prods skeptically. "That’s pushing the bounds of my credulity a little too far."
"Yeah, I confess," he says sarcastically. "You caught me. I have nothing better to do than follow you around and watch you fight crime and rescue puppies all day long. Then at night I spy on you through that peep hole I drilled in your mirror."
If her hands were free she would hit him. "Oh, grow up," she snaps. She turns her head to watch the empty storefronts and wilted palms streaming by the window. She’d gone out tonight in the hopes of getting hard proof that the husband of her dad’s latest client was indeed cheating on his wife. They’d been working this case for months, and she’d been sure all she needed was a few hours out from under her dad’s watchful eye to nail this guy. Instead she’d found herself fending off the advances of another of the bar’s patrons, alone and completely overpowered until Logan had showed up. It wasn’t a good feeling. And if a tiny part of her brain was telling her that it wasn’t fair to take her failure out on Logan, well…she’s gotten very, very good at ignoring her brain.
"It was Wallace," she hears Logan mutter, and she cranes her neck around.
"Your BFF called me. He said you might be doing something stupid, and told me where I could find you."
She has the unpleasant suspicion that she’s gaping. "But – "
The door closest to Logan swings open. She hadn’t even noticed the cruiser had stopped.
They lock her in a cell with a passed-out co-ed, and they shove Logan into the empty cell next door. She sits stiffly against the far wall and crosses her arms. She wants this night to be over. Later, when she’s alone, she’ll deal with her humiliation and her fear and the memory of a stranger’s hands all over her. But not now. Not in front of Logan.
"And why were you by yourself anyway?" he says suddenly, angrily, like they’ve been carrying on a conversation this whole time. "Where the hell was Piz? Or is he stupid enough to think you could actually handle that place?"
"I could handle it," she bites out. "And no one was there because I didn’t tell anyone I was going. I don’t even know how Wallace found out."
"It’s not like it’s hard," he says, voice harsh. "Throw a stone on any given day and you’ll hit Veronica Mars, snooping around where she doesn’t belong. Did it ever occur to you that Piz should know that by now?"
"I doubt he’d put it so flatteringly."
He ignores her. "Seriously," he says, picking up steam. "It’s been what? Six months? And he’s still clueless? Jesus, Veronica, even Duncan saw you better than that, and he practically thought you had a halo attached to your head."
"Duncan saw me just fine," she says sharply. "And it doesn’t matter. Piz and I broke up."
Logan stops, surprised. She’s not quite sure what made her say it, but having it out in the open makes her oddly relieved. She realizes she’s been unconsciously gearing up to tell Logan for weeks now, and just hasn’t found the words. But in the end, it barely took any words at all.
Logan sinks down on the bench lining the wall. After a minute, he slides all the way over toward the point where their cells meet.
"I’m sorry," he offers through the bars.
She can’t help but smile a little at that. "No, you’re not."
"Fuck, no," he says. "I hated that guy."
She wants to ask him if he hated Piz because it was Piz, or if he hated Piz just because Piz was dating her. It doesn’t really matter at this point, though, so she keeps her mouth shut.
"What happened?" Logan asks her.
"Oh, the usual," she says lightly. "He’s sweet, easygoing, and doesn’t understand why I spend my Friday nights on stakeouts instead of bumping knuckles in the popcorn bag with him. I’m distant, quippy, and I freak out at the first sign of commitment. It was a match made in heaven."
He raises his eyebrows, and she sighs. "We’ll call it irreconcilable differences." It had been more along the lines of escalating fights about her level of commitment, until he’d broken up with her in a fit of frustration. It took her a week to realize that she barely missed him.
"Funny, that’s why I thought we broke up," Logan remarks. He’s too far away to have a real conversation with, so she slides along the bench until they’re side by side in adjoining cells.
"No, ours was a lot more like…you slept with Madison Sinclair."
"Yeah," he says softly. He’s not looking at her, but she can see how tightly his skin is pulled over his bones, the delicate pulse beating at his temple. He’s still not over it, she realizes. And somehow, some way, she is. Maybe it was being with Piz that made her understand, how she could love Logan and be with someone else, how it was possible that he loved her all the time she was with Duncan, and never let her see it.
"I’m still pissed you followed me," she says mildly.
"And I’m still pissed you went in there alone," he returns instantly.
She turns her head toward him, and she’s suddenly fiercely glad he’s here, whatever the reason. They sit in easy silence until Dick Casablancas’ shock of blonde hair appears around the corner.
"Aw, isn’t this cute." Dick says, taking in the sight of them slouched together against the wall. "Nice outfit," he says, nodding at her tiny skirt and halter top. "Embracing your true colors. I like it."
She levels a death glare at him, and he throws his hands up in mock surrender. "Someone had a rough night on the corner," he says in Logan’s direction. There’s amusement ticking at the corners of Logan’s mouth, and if it weren’t for their tenuous truce she’d hit him through the bars.
"Whatever," she mutters as the guard approaches. "Let’s just get out of here."
"Uh, wrong," Dick says. "I came to bail out Logan. Not you."
She gapes as the guard unlocks the door to Logan’s cell and lets him out. Logan’s smile only widens.
"Oh, I forgot to mention," he says thoughtfully, wrapping two hands around the metal bars. "The reason Wallace didn’t come himself is because his car died. And Mac’s out of town and you and Piz broke up, so that just leaves…your dad, right?" He clucks at her. "Rough."
"Don’t you dare leave me here," she says warningly.
"Sweet dreams," he says cheerfully. He practically sashays out of the holding area, whistling all the way.
By the time she gets to the police station she’s almost trembling with rage. She’s just barely keeping the tears at bay, but theywill stay at bay. She’s already dealt with this, and she’s done with this bullshit, and the only reason she’s here at all is to tell him that. They’d had almost four whole months of civility between them, of easy hellos and cafeteria lunches and secret passing smiles on campus, and for the first time in a year she was beginning to think they’d be okay. And then he had to go and do this.
She can see his face already starting to bruise under the flickering fluorescent lights. There’s dried blood on his shirt and a cut on his cheek and she sucks her breath at the sight of his mangled knuckles. This wasn’t just a fist fight; it was a knock-down, drag-out blood battle.
He looks dangerous stretched out on the cot, cast into squares by the shadow of the bars. He’s motionless, staring at the ceiling with his hands behind his head, but she can see the rage churning in his eyes from across the room, the bloodless tension around his mouth. There’s practically electricity crackling in a web around him, and she knows he’s not nearly done with fighting.
He takes one look at her face and rolls his eyes. "Jesus Christ, not tonight, ok? You can leave all the judgmental messages you want on my cell phone. I promise to listen to them tomorrow and self-castigate properly."
"Shut. Up." she says, voice trembling. "What the hell is wrong with you, starting fights in the middle of a PCH bar? You’re lucky they didn’t kill you."
"Technically, they started it," he says, peeling himself off the mattress with a grimace.
"And?" she says sharply. "What the hell were you doing in that bar in the first place?"
"Giving free ESL lessons," he quips darkly.
"What do you think?" he snaps. "I was shooting pool. I was getting drunk. I was pissing people off. What the fuck does it matter?"
"It matters because I’m starting to think you’re getting locked in on purpose," she says coldly. "How many times is it this year? Six? Seven?"
"Yeah, because I can’t get enough of your sermons," he says, rolling his eyes. "Music to my ears."
"There must be something you like about it, since you won’t stop doing it," she shoots at him.
"What’s not to love?" he snarks back. "Bitchy comments, judgmental stares, silent car rides home. It should be a national past time."
"You think I enjoy this?" she cries. "You think this is fun for me?" And she can’t help it; the upset is bleeding through her voice, her skin, her existence. She can’t mask it and she can’t make it go away and she wants to just pound against the wall until she pounds it out of existence. She didn’t choose this, but she can’t seem to make it stop, either.
"Then why are you here?" he yells. "Why the hell do you keep coming back if I’m such a goddamn burden, huh?"
"Because someone has to make sure you don’t kill yourself," she yells right back, and she is far, far too angry to be doing this. Any second now she’ll be saying things she regrets and he’ll blow up right in her face and the tentative peace of the last few months will be shot to hell. She’s shocked at how much that thought pains her.
"I’m so glad I have the 90-lb wonder looking out for me," he snaps. "Because you would never, say, use yourself as bait for a rapist, right?" He’s raw and mocking and she wants to shake him, to hammer into his head what he’s doing to her when he does things like this – goes out and picks fights and puts himself in danger for no reason at all. He won’t be normal and he won’t be safe and she loves him anyway, and he may love her back, but he doesn’t care enough to change.
And the worst thing is – he’s right. She’s no peach to be in a relationship with, either. She’s stubborn and she’s brittle and she runs at the first sign of trouble. And the only one who has stuck around for her in all her life is Logan, and he’s the only one she can’t handle.
Logan’s not paying one bit of attention to her internal struggle. "Look, are you going to get me out of here or not?" he says angrily.
She looks at him, at the deepening bruises on his face and smoldering remnants of fury in his eyes, the coiled tension in his shoulders and the tight line of his mouth. "No," she says.
His face goes slack, blank, as she walks past him. "Veronica," he says hoarsely. She keeps walking.
She hears it on the news on the way home from class. Logan Echolls arrested for public drunkenness. Third time in less than a year. She sits back and waits for the call.
It never comes.
She goes to sleep in her jeans and sweatshirt with her cell phone on her pillow. She wakes up stiff and uncomfortable and sweaty from sleeping in her clothes, and he still hasn’t called her. By the time lunch rolls around, she realizes he’s not going to.
She waffles back and forth. Should she check on him? Would he even want her to? In two months she hasn’t forgotten his gut-punched face as she left him in his cell. No, she decides finally. No. He’s never hesitated to inconvenience her before. If he wants her, he’ll call her.
It’s two days later when she finally stops checking her caller id for his name. She resists the urge to go by his hotel suite, and she doesn’t ask Wallace if he showed up for astronomy.
Another month goes by. Two months, three, and no calls.
It’s fine, she tells herself. Really. She’s happy he’s found someone else to bail him out, to take the midnight rides down to the police station, to drive his smug ass home. She never wanted that job anyway.
And hey – maybe he’s managed to stay out of prison long enough for the blankets to cool. Maybe he’s rounded the corner, seen the error of his ways, turned over a new leaf, pick your cliché. But she doesn’t think so. She’s pretty sure he’s still as fucked up as always, and that he’s just finally given up on the idea that she can save him in some way.
Again, she tells herself it’s better this way. They’re no good for each other. One of them has to be the smart one, here. It’s just…she always assumed the smart one would be her.
She scrolls through the entries on her phone book, until she gets to the half-jokingly entered "Jackass." She sits and stares at it for a long time.
He’s still in his pajamas when the officer leads him into the holding cell, or at least in the clothes he always keeps folded by the side of his bed. He eschews pajamas entirely if at all possible. But still, the paper-thin t-shirt and boxer shorts tell her she pulled him out of a sound sleep. He’s unshaven and bleary-eyed and, judging from the height of his hair, didn’t even take time to glance in the mirror before coming down to the station.
He looks like a walking Hanes ad, and she wishes to God there wasn’t a set of steel bars between them.
"Is this some kind of joke?" he asks sleepily, rubbing a hand over his face.
"Getting myself arrested is a little far to go for a laugh," she says nervously. "Don’t you think?"
"I don’t know what to think," he says flatly. "I can only assume this is a detective thing, and you called me because your dad doesn’t know what you’ve been doing, and you don’t want him to find out. Am I close?"
She’s so surprised that it takes a few seconds to dredge up the words to answer him. It’s not because he’s assumed the worst of her – they’re always doing that to each other – but because he’s so on. It still takes her by surprise, how well he knows her.
Maybe, just maybe, she should start remembering.
"Well, you’re right about my dad not knowing," she says with feeling, "although you’re off with the detectiving. This has nothing to do with Mars Investigations."
He’s silent and inscrutable on the other side of the bars, and she feels very, very exposed. It’s an entirely different story inside here. She’s locked away from the world, but she might as well be spinning in a display case for all the security it affords her.
"How are you?" she asks awkwardly, and his eyebrows snap together.
"Studying for finals," he says, disbelief and annoyance warring in his tone. "What’s going on, Veronica?"
It was now or never. "I got myself into a little scrape with the sheriff’s car," she explains. "I left him some artwork he didn’t appreciate."
"I had one of Weevil’s friends spray paint a unicorn on the side of Lamb’s cruiser. I presented it to Lamb in person, but I don’t think he’s a fan of graffiti art."
Logan stares. "You got yourself locked in on purpose?"
"Officially I got myself locked in for vandalism."
He shakes his head. "Fine. Look, I’ll go get the guard to get you out of here."
He turns away, but her voice stops him in his tracks. "So I’ve been thinking," she says. "About you. Us."
"Us?" he repeats. "Us…us….hmmm. Nope, doesn’t ring a bell. What’s this ‘us’ of which you speak?" He may be joking, but his eyes are cool, and she shivers with the realization that he’s not going to make this easy on her.
"I was thinking about how we haven’t seen each other for a while," she says evenly, "and how it might be nice to try something outside of a county police station again. Like, say, eating dinner."
Confusion overtakes the rigidity of his scowl for a second. "Eating dinner, like, in the food court?"
"Eating dinner, like, at a restaurant. Like, tonight." She falters slightly at his expression. "Or some other time."
He’s fascinated now in spite of himself. She can see him slowly starting to put the pieces together in his mind.
"And you got yourself locked in for this…?" He trails off questioningly.
"To give you home court advantage," she replies. "Naturally."
He rubs his hand over his face again, in frustration this time. "Look, I’ll bail you out," he says, "but I’m not going out to dinner with you, Veronica. I’m not doing," he gestures between them "this again."
She wants to back down. She doesn’t do things like this. She doesn’t use gimmicks and games to trap boys, and definitely not this boy. She wants to say, fine and you’re right and forget about it, I was just kidding. And then she weighs it against everything else: against elevator kisses and seedy bar rescues, Logan touching knees in the cafeteria with another blonde, Piz looking at her adoringly and never really seeing her, Logan’s hands and his mouth hot on hers, both their scars, new and old, and the thought of never falling asleep with her legs tangled in his, ever again.
She shores up what’s left of her bravado. "Sorry," she says. "Package deal."
There’s a hint of…something in his eyes, and she can’t tell if it’s exasperation, or amusement, or both. "Package deal? As in, can’t get one without the other?"
No, he’s definitely amused now. He’s trying to keep a straight face, but she can see the corners of his mouth curling and her stomach unclenches, just a little bit. "So you’re saying you’ll let me bail you out if I agree to go out with you. Is that the gist?"
She takes a deep breath. "That about covers it."
He leans into the bars a little bit. "And what if I decide not to take you up on your generous offer?"
Now or never. "Then you leave me here," she says quietly. "And we’re even."
He presses his forehead against the metal, slides his hands through to cradle her face. She closes her eyes briefly as his calloused fingertips brush along her neck, and she hears him sigh. "I don’t know," he says, troubled. "I don’t know if this is a good idea." His voice is clouded, but his palms are like liquid on her skin, slowly, softly stroking.
She covers his wrists with her hands. "I don’t know, either," she confesses. "I know I miss you." His eyes are velvety soft and so, so tempted, and she can tell he’s already halfway given in.
Still, he’s resisting. "You understand this is gonna fall apart, right?" he murmurs. "I’ll do something stupid, you’ll run, we’ll both end up miserable."
"Maybe," she admits. "Okay probably." He laughs a little bit, hopeful and despairing all at once, and she reaches up and touches his mouth with her own. She doesn’t care right now, about caution or bad choices or impending heartbreak. She just wants him to kiss her again, because in all this time the one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that she dreams about his mouth.
"But maybe not," she rushes on, touching his chest, his jaw, his face. "Maybe this time it won’t." They can’t embrace through the bars or really even kiss, but he loosely slides his hands down to her waist. It’s probably wishful thinking, or hormones, or a combination of both, but she’s pretty sure she’s never wanted it to work quite this badly before.
He pulls back to look at her, and that doubt is in his face again, that caution that she put there.
"What do you say?" she asks, and holds her breath.
He looks over his shoulder. "Guard," he calls.
The door slides open.