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[fic] i knew you were trouble when you walked in

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She gets thrown out of the FBI internship two weeks into it.

That's not what they officially call it; they give her a subdued letter of recommendation, couched in carefully neutral terms, telling her to explore "other avenues", and cautiously expressing "hope" that she'll "discover her field of expertise" in the "near future". She knows the only reason she gets even that much is because the FBI doesn't like to admit it may have been wrong in any of its decisions. There's a lot the FBI doesn't like to admit.

She still has bruises from when she tried to confront their tracking "assignment" on her own. That she may have prevented a potential kidnapping is apparently not the point, Mars. You had specific instructions, and you disobeyed them. 

"You're not fit for the FBI," her supervisor tells her, bluntly, "we've seen too many of your kind; all headstrong arrogance, and no patience for instructions, or respect for protocol. You walk in here thinking you must be something special because you had your name in the local papers once. This is a sensitive, government organization, Mars, we handle classified, confidential data, data that might cause the United States of America to potentially go to war at any time, if our counterintelligence doesn't follow the rules, maintain the hierarchy, and keep their damn mouths shut. Rebels without causes aren't what we specialize in; looks like you walked onto the wrong set, James Dean."

She's been concentrating so hard on this thing that it's pretty much the only future she can remember having tried to build in a very long time. Which is ridiculous, because she hadn't even thought of the FBI till Professor Landry mentioned it, but she still can see the golden gates comically shutting inside her head. Her future is suddenly empty, open, and for some reason, that's terrifying.

She hefts her travel bags on her shoulder, and doesn't bother looking back at the room she'd been given as she walks out. There is no space in her head for regrets. She's going to move on. She's from Neptune, for chrissake, this isn't even in a day's work.

It's raining outside when she gets onto the plane, and the initial minor turbulence makes her convulsively clutch the arms of her seat in reflex. But soon they're above the clouds, and when she sinks down into the seat, and turns her head to look out of the window, there's nothing but the blue.






-






She ends up at his door in the middle of the night. She remembers having done this before, but she's a little nervous anyway. It surprises her, the feeling. Then again, this isn't the kind of thing she usually does, so maybe it's understandable.

He opens it, rubbing sleep from his eyes, hair all over the place, and she feels such a surprisingly strong sense of affection, looking at him like this, it makes her pause.

He's alone. She hadn't even realized she'd been waiting for him to be with someone till he wasn't. Apparently, that's her default setting. You can take the PI out of the Camelot, but you can't take the sleaziness and the distrust of the Camelot out of the PI.

"Veronica," he says, surprise evident in his voice, even half-asleep, "what are you–?"

She keeps her bags down, and nearly knocks him over.

"Hi," she whispers against his mouth.

Piz laughs against her lips, the sound vibrating through her, right down to her toes, "hey."






-






Sex with Piz is...fun.

She generically asks about the condom in his bedside table, because it seems like the girlfriend thing to do, unable to stop smiling through her pretense of outrage, making a show of looking beneath his bed. He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear with one hand, and, glancing pointedly at her suitcases, tells her that when he's dating Veronica Mars, a guy always has to be prepared for everything ever.

It's a good answer, so she stretches out on top of him, and kisses him again.

They mess up with the only condom he has. She breaks it, while trying to put it on with her teeth, like she'd seen in one of the adult movies Lilly had forced her to watch as part of the Lilly Kane Sex-Ed-straordinary Class.

"When you finally realize you're too fabulous for the virginal Donut, and find yourself a real man, a less clingy version of Logan perhaps– because that boy is magic with his fingers, but so whiny; don't make the same mistakes I did and vet your lovers, love– you'll be thanking me. So listen up, Veronica Mars, here's where we make an honest woman out of you."

They'd giggled over it, she remembers with a sharp pang. Remembers watching it with her hand half over her eyes, while Lilly kept up an outrageous commentary and soundtrack. God, she misses Lilly. And she'd gone and made the exact same mistake her best friend had. Except Lilly had loved Logan, of course, but Veronica had fallen in love with him. Because she's always been a bigger fool than Lilly ever was.

She determinedly brings her thoughts back to the present. There is no space for regrets in her head. She's done with the ghosts who broke her heart before she met Piz. This is the future. This is the future with a boy who'd turned down his dream internship just to be close to her.

They both look at the torn material silently for a few seconds, and then Piz laughs.

"You better return your pornstar nameplate, Uranus," he teases, "doesn't look like you'll be branching out the business into a thorough...investigation of the Case of the Piznarski Family Jewels anytime soon."

That's such an awkwardly Piz thing to say, even when he's fully naked, and half hard, it makes her laugh too.

"Are they missing?" she gasps breathily, "that would explain so much," and he flicks her across the nose.

He goes out to buy another one, and she lies back on the hard bed of the small room and doesn't think about anything except the number of different shades of brown in the wood of the ceiling.

She raises an eyebrow when he comes back with three packs, "hopeful, aren't you?"

"You know me; ever the optimist," he nods, solemnly.

She thinks of Logan just twice. About how, if she'd turned up at his door, he wouldn't have slept with her just because she wanted him to, because Logan never did anything just because she wanted him to. He'd have given her the third degree about why she was back, searched for injuries, raged at the faint bruises that still line her neck and forearms and hips, if someone looks closely. He would have looked closely. They'd inevitably have ended up screaming, on opposite sides of the room, probably broken up, and then not even made it to his bed.

He'd have made her come as many times as he could, left her breathless, and drained, and aching, using his hands, his mouth, his cock almost as weapons. Because he couldn't really hurt her, but he could let her feel how much she wanted him, how much she needed him– at least for this, at least in the moment– and let that knowledge hurt her instead.

A truth should exist. It should not be used like this, she remembers wryly, the printed words of her ninth grade textbook drifting at the back of her closed eyelids, if I love you, is that a fact or a weapon.

Piz doesn't ask questions. He believes her when she tells him that it just didn't work out. Believes her when she says she's here rather than back home because she was missing him. Believes her when she says she's okay. He only asks her about the FBI food with mock-seriousness, and she answers him for five whole minutes with equal seriousness, before he laughs and shuts her up with his tongue in her mouth.

It's so easy– this– she'd almost forgotten what that felt like.

She doesn't want songs written about her, she decides, she wants easy. Easy is good. Easy is better than good.






-






She stays in New York for three whole days.

She goes out, while Piz is at the Pitchforkmedia office, window-shops alone, doesn't look into dark corners or wander down narrow alleys. Doesn't look for trouble, or invent it, when she sees a man grip the hand of the woman next to him too hard. She walks inside one of the cool, air-conditioned shops instead, and stays there as long as she can.

She calls her dad on the second day.

"Oh," is his only response.

"Gee, dad," she rolls her eyes at him, even though he can't see her, but she knows he knows she's doing it, "let me look that up in the dictionary and get back to you."

"Saturday night, did you say?" he asks, suspicious, and there it is, the father-thing, he still cares, for some reason, he still cares, even though she messed up again, even though she can't seem to stop messing up, "then where are you now?"

"You mean when I'm not working the poles and giving the Haves of the world lap-dances to pay for my college education?"

"Veronica," his mild tone has a thread of danger in it, only for her fine-tuned ear.

She caves, "at my boyfriend's tiny, rented apartment, like any other nineteen-year-old. Oh look, daddy, I'm a real girl now!"

She can hear him snort, part amused, part irate, part resigned, "you must be getting too used to the good life if you're calling that room tiny, honey. I didn't know you kids were back together. Also, get your ass back home this instant."

"We never broke up," she replies, blankly.

There's something to be said about her dad that he covers up almost immediately, "and how is Stosh?"

"Piz," she says, feeling herself flush, because when did she ever, in recent times, give any indication it was anyone but, "is good. Great, even. He loves this internship."

Her dad seems to be at a loss at that, "good for the young man. He seems...ambitious."

She fiddles with the bedspread, "I'm staying another day."

"Veronica–"

"Come on, dad," she interrupts, "I got kicked off an internship, and immediately ran off to cry in the manly arms of my musician boyfriend. Are you really going to deny me my teenage dream moment?"

She can almost see her dad considering that; his little girl's virtue vs. his little girl being normal. It's not really a choice, since they both know she'll do whatever she wants to, but they go through the routine all the same, and she can't stand the thought that there may be a time when they won't. That somehow, someday she'll do something that will take away his trust entirely, and she won't have anybody left. Logan was wrong, she does need something. She needs her dad.

"Besides," she says, coaxing, "it's not like Piz is going to introduce me to the dark, seedy underworld of sin and debauchery."

She bites her tongue almost as soon as she says it, because now they're both thinking of who would and, she is so, so stupid. But Logan always makes her feel vaguely dirty, like she isn't the pre-Lilly, sexually shy, Veronica one point oh. Or the post– rape, she forces out the word, rape– sexually distant Veronica two point oh, but someone else, another Veronica entirely. Like wanting too much and articulating that want and being a complete slut is okay in Logan's bedroom, by the soft blue glow of the headboard.

She grips the bedspread tightly; she won't go down that road again, she can't, and soon those memories of the blue light flickering across his face as he thrusts into her erratically, his gaze dark, piercing, will be replaced by other, newer memories. They have to. So what if Logan is a consummate lover, that can't be the sole basis for any healthy relationship. She's old enough to understand that.

"The public prosecutor has withdrawn the case against me," Keith says, out of the blue– not the headboard, the metaphor; god, she is losing it– and for some reason her dad isn't pushing this, for some reason he's giving her an out, and she's grateful, she really is, "because Jake Kane apparently mistook what happened that night, and was too hasty in declaring a B&E and theft, and had the charges against you cancelled when he realized. Because of which, the evidence, which was supposed to have been destroyed during my watch, wasn't in existence at the time. Almost all the deputies and the Sheriff himself are willing to corroborate that."

"That's great!" she says, and she's not even fooling herself.

"What did you do?" she can hear the I told you not to get involved in this undertone, and she so badly wants things to not be awkward between them again.

"I didn't do anything," at least it's the truth, for once; Jake Kane may say whatever he wants to about it being too late, but she has a healthy respect for Clarence Wiedman's ability to time travel to protect his boss, if necessary, "Mr. Kane called about some...files, a couple of days back. And I may have mentioned I was down at the FBI headquarters, and he may have gotten the wrong impression about what I was doing there. But I can't know for sure; the other's subjectivity is necessarily unavailable to the self. I learnt that in the Beckett credit course. See, I learn intellectual things in college, and nothing at all about B&E's, whatever those may be."

For a moment she doesn't know how this will go down, and she doesn't even realize she's holding her breath, till Keith laughs over the line, and she lets it out, shakily, feeling the sheer relief at the sound settling in her bones.

"Your plausible deniability ranges with the best of them," he says, affectionately.

Vinnie Van Lowe may have the shiny badge, but Jake Kane holds the invisible strings to the Sheriff marionette at Neptune. And she hadn't stayed to comfort her dad after the loss of the election, the office seat he'd lost because of her; she'd run away, instead, as usual. Even though she had an excuse this time, it was still running away, it was still just an excuse. Maybe she can make up for it, bit by bit. Be who her dad wants her to be, for once.

"You can stay," her dad breaks into her thoughts, "but only for a day. And, honey? You're grounded for a month when you get back."

She makes a sound of outrage at the back of her throat, "like you even know how grounding works!"

"Locked up in your room for days?" he guesses, "no food? No water? No sunlight? Some fancy torture equipment perhaps? I think we can figure something out. Love you."

"Love you too," and she does, she does so much. She's not a robotic automaton, incapable of human emotion or something, she'snot.

She keeps down the phone, and picks up her purse. Today, she'll try on much-too-expensive dresses in fancy shops on the Fifth Avenue, and drink things with little umbrellas in them, she decides.






-






Being back at Hearst feels...different.

Piz is her boyfriend, Mac is down for her semester at Yale on scholarship, Wallace is more withdrawn, reserved, buried in his books, and if she catches glimpses of Logan around campus sometimes, then that's all there is to that. Dick is still away with his father, and she doesn't know when he'll be back, because it's not like they're friends, and it's not like Logan's going to come up, kiss her on the top of her head, and tell her these things anymore.

Even the sex tape is old news, she realizes her first week back. Some of the guys still grin lasciviously when she passes them, but it's more perfunctory than anything else. There have been two more sex tapes since hers, and the girls had bigger breasts, and were probably more adventurous than her. She's almost irrationally annoyed by that for a second, before shaking her head, because she's clearly losing her mind.

Even with Lilly's death, and Duncan running away with his daughter, and Bea–Cassidy, this feels like the most change she's experienced in a while. Like everything is really different this time, and it's going to stay this way.

But that's okay, because she's not the same Veronica she was, not the girl rushing headlong into trouble, creating it where she can't find it. Not after she's seen how her father's clients have decreased drastically because of the bad publicity, because of her, even though the charges have been dropped. She's different too now, she has to be.

Piz waits for her outside classes, and carries her books sometimes, and she lets him, because it seems like the girl thing to do. Normal is the watchword again, and this time it's going to be a permanent fixture in her dictionary.






-






Third month of sophomore year, Logan gets together with a girl from his Sociology class.

She first hears about it from the new waitress at the Java, oddly enough.

"Aaron Echolls's son, you know." the girl informs her gleefully, "I gave him head once."

Her stomach churns, but she has no right. Not anymore. So she smiles, tight, brittle, and says, "so did I."






-






"Wallace," she says, loudly, brightly, "the road to my runner, the Bubbles to my Buttercup, the Greta to my Garbo, my BFF, my soul-sister, and how are you this fine morning?"

"It isn't any of your business." He's lying flat on his stomach on top of his bedspread, a book open in front of him, sections on quantum physics highlighted with neon green marker. The diagrams look complicated, like a line-depiction of their relationship. Hers and Logan's.

God, she needs to stop with the bad metaphors. And thinking of him, she needs to stop with that too. She doesn't know what it is about imagining him with someone else that does this to her, makes her go completely crazy. Her normal always seems to extend only as far as Logan's bachelorhood does.

"Whatever do you mean, best friend of mine," she busies herself with the strap of her bag, running a thumb over where a golden sequin has fallen off. They keep falling, no matter how many times she tries to sew them tighter, or glue them back on. Just like–

No. Seriously. Shut up.

But she can't keep it up for long, and when she looks up, Wallace is giving her his patented BFF gaze; the one that tells her he knows her now. As much as she may want to pretend she's unreadable and inaccessible, he knows her.

"I didn't tell you about Logan's girlfriend," he says, slowly, deliberately, "because it's none of your business."

She didn't know the relationship status was Logan's girlfriend. She'd sort of imagined another girl to share memories of giving him head with. Maybe they could all form a club, half the female population at Neptune, probably some of the male population she doesn't know about. Meet every Thursday, or something, exchange stories. His hand in her hair, clutching too tightly, the soft, plush carpeting scraping against her knees.

She'd swallowed, once. It was the closest she'd ever come to any form of submission in their relationship, to any form of submission in any of her relationships. But the frenetic movement of his hands, the awkward jerk of his hips, the blistering heat in his eyes, when he'd told her he was fuck, so close, Veronica, and she hadn't moved her head away, hadn't stopped the rhythmic movement of her mouth, and he'd realized what she was doing–

She flushes, when she grasps that Wallace's eyes are still on her, his gaze mildly wary, and she hopes to god he hasn't yet learned to read her completely. What is wrong with her?

"That wasn't what I–"

"Yes, it was." he sounds disappointed in her, like he'd thought they were past the excuses, past the pretense. She doesn't know if she'll ever be that. Past the pretense.

She can still see the naked lust in Logan's eyes, mixed with his brand of dizzying, intense love, if she concentrates hard enough. She'd left almost immediately after, when he'd tried to return the favor, not even waiting to get around to the actual sex. She'd avoided his gaze throughout, while she was pulling her clothes back on, and pretended she didn't hear his soft, questioning, guarded Veronica? Till he'd realized how this was going to play out, because he was practiced in her, and basically a jerk, and told her mockingly to not let the door hit her bruised ego on the way out.

She'd turned around once, before leaving. Hadn't meant to, but had anyway. He'd been sitting in middle of his silk sheets, with their impossible thread count, still shirtless, head bent, hands clasped around spread knees, till it was as if he could feel her eyes on him, and looked up.

"I didn't ask you to." he'd said, quietly, locking eyes with her, his gaze blank, unreadable almost, making her want to stay to decipher it, which made it even more imperative she leave, "I've never asked you to."

"I know," she'd said shortly, because it was the truth.

She'd closed the door on him five seconds later.

"Won't disturb you any longer from your scholastic achievements," she forces out cheerfully to Wallace, batting her eyelashes at him, "big, strong man like you needs to go out and slay those dangerous physics equations. If I'm going to wear a 'kiss the chef!' apron and dedicate my life to keeping your kitchen tidy and making you sandwiches for the next fifty years, you got to show me the money, you know. Bro-five on a Jerry Maguire reference? It's a sports movie and everything, I personalize my referenciality for you!"

He halfheartedly claps a hand against hers, "you're with Piz now."

"I know that," she says, unnecessarily, eyes involuntarily moving to the bed beside Wallace's. She likes Pizneyland, she always has, and rollercoasters make her lightheaded and nauseous and stupid.

"And you broke up with Logan."

"Okay," she says, "those are the Facts for the Day. I get it."

"I don't want you to hurt Piz." Wallace is quieter since his return from Uganda, and she doesn't know what to do about it, how to fix him, to magically make okay the things he's seen. Done, maybe. It makes her chest hurt.

"I'm beginning to feel like you don't trust me at all, Fennel." she says, dramatically clutching her chest. It's almost as if she's... forgotten how to be real. How to do real. It's strange, the feeling.

"I don't want you to get hurt, Mars," Wallace says, gently, and there's that other patented look that she hasn't yet gotten used to, ridiculous amounts of caring, without the slightest expectation of material returns. Christ, she's beginning to categorize feelings in economic terms. It probably means she's damaged in some way. Some special way, because god knows she's damaged in lots of ways already.

She tries to think of a suitable one-liner, but she can't, so she settles for, "I won't." And she won't.

Wallace nods, once, "good."

"Good," she echoes.






-






She runs into him outside his Sociology class, by some strange coincidence, considering her own Domestic Violence and the Justice System class is on the other side of the Quad.

He's leaning against the door, talking to a guy she doesn't know. It's a different door, a different minion or friend or whatever, but it feels like Neptune High anyway. Like she'd back in the middle of the tentative truce they'd built after his mother died, and she wants to approach him, but doesn't know how he'll react. Doesn't know if their truce extends to the interested glances of the people they both know, or it's a secret thing, restricted to her doorstep and her arms awkwardly around him in the lobbies of hotel rooms.

He catches her gaze on a laugh, the smile slowly sliding off. He nods at her once in acknowledgment, before turning back to the other guy.

She walks up to him, "hey."

He shifts his gaze to her, in slight surprise. She knows it's the first time she's voluntarily talked to him since you're out of my life, forever. That had been a silly thing to say, overly dramatic. They're both adults here.

"Hey," he repeats, shuffling his feet uncomfortably, "what's up?"

His friend smiles at her, "Veronica."

She nods, in mild confusion, "yeah, I'm sorry I–?"

"Samuel Horshack."

She vaguely remembers the name. Logan had mentioned him sometime, she thinks, glancing at her ex-boyfriend. It hadn't been all doom and gloom and angst, she knows, though sometimes she likes to pretend that. Pretend they were always a disaster, counting-down to ground zero. But it wasn't just that. There were days when he couldn't stop touching her; just kissing the top of her head, spinning her across rooms, telling her about his day, ineptly cutting the vegetables and nicking his finger at equal intervals. The disaster is so much easier to remember.

"Lover," the voice behind her is like a midnight dip in freezing water. A red satin dress.

The kiss is long, lingering, and it strikes her she should probably turn away. It's as intimate, as it is exhibitionist, and it reminds so strongly of Lilly, it makes her ache. She's fascinated again, as always.

"Hey," the girl breaks away, noticing her, "I'm Claire."

It takes her another thirty seconds to realize she's been silent for a whole minute.

"Hi," she speaks around the cotton wool in her mouth, throat dry, "I'm Veronica."

Logan isn't looking at her, she notes, distantly. He's staring at a point behind her head. The feeling of betrayal hits her hard. She hasn't realized she's been expecting anything at all, but apparently she has. Someone like Meg, another Hannah, another Parker, another Kendall even. A redux version of someone he'd once liked, been with, because Logan has this tendency of sticking within the diametrical constraints of his own circular orbit when it comes to women. She hadn't expected a redux of someone he'd once loved.

"I've to go back to the Grand," he tells Claire, stroking her hair in the way that she remembers him doing to her, "I left my Development project behind."

She laughs at him, and kisses him on the nose, "ain't that typical, Echolls. And I bet you have your Nintendo in your bag." The easy affection makes something in her stomach turn uncomfortably.

"You would know all about going back," she says, sarcastically, once the other two are inside, and he's turning away without even bothering to say anything to her, to explain, "considering you're apparently dating Lilly-Lite."

His mouth sets in a grim line, "you don't know anything about Claire. You've barely even met her."

"Don't I, lover?" She doesn't know why she's being a bitch about this. But, it's just that– it's Lilly, she can't compete with Lilly. She's never been able to. Which is ridiculous, because she isn't competing at all. This is not a competition. And she is not Lilly. Neither of them are. Neither of them can be. Not for Logan.

He's staring at her like he doesn't know her, "it's none of your business, Veronica." He says, so coldly, it nearly makes her shiver.

She watches him walk away, that's different too.






-






And that's when it gets annoying.

It’s like they’re all over the place. Everywhere she looks, it’s Logan and Claire; making out in the darkest corner of the library, staying past her shift, by the trees near the Chemistry Department, at the frat parties, in front of the stupid Sociology classroom, the Hearst canteen. And every time she sees the back of the blonde head, joined at the hip with his dark one, it makes her miss Lilly so fiercely, she can’t stand it sometimes.

Parker looks over, equally fascinated, “wow, huh.”

“Yeah,” Veronica echoes, “wow.” Pretends she can’t feel Parker’s steadfast gaze on her. She feels, unreasonably, that Parker should be affected too. After all, Parker was his last girlfriend. But she hadn't been in love with him. Parker had done that thing where she had moved on.

And when Piz slides down on the chair beside hers and kisses her chastely, talking about the new guest star he’s managed to rope in for his show, she feels a relief so strong, it nearly makes her lightheaded.

She can’t stand to be alone, when Logan’s not. She doesn’t know what it is in her, but she can’t.

Parker still looks her way much too often, with an odd sympathy, almost as if she doesn't even realize she’s doing it, but it’s easier to ignore now, with Piz here, and that makes it okay. She just wants okay.






-






Piz and Claire become friends. Like calling-each-other-in-the-evening-to-talk-about-indie-bands friends.

Because, of course they do. And she wonders something bitchy like god, does she want all the boys. And then pretends she didn't think that. Then remembers Jackie saying pretty much the same thing to her once. Then pretends she didn't think that even harder.


“Logan invited us over,” he says, when they’re lying on his bed and she’s trying to read her Criminology & Profiling textbook, through his arm wrapped around her, “for drinks. Or dinner. Or something. But I’m not passing up a free meal at the Neptune Grand.”

Logan invited us over,” she repeats, incredulously, before she can help herself. Maybe this is it, his way of showing that it’s finally over. That this, right now, is the moment, where it's just done. That he’s managed the moving on thing too, which seems so popular with the kids these days. No more beating up people who he feels might have threatened her maidenly honor.

Piz thinks about that for a moment, “actually I think it may have been Claire. But she mentioned Logan in some capacity. Either way, it’s a double date. Or something.”

She thinks of Duncan. She hasn’t thought of him in very long. She barely even notices the peeling paper fortune on her mirror anymore; it’s become a part of the scenery, like the small hole in the wall right next to her bed, but she thinks of him now.

"Is that fine with you?" Piz asks her, completely unironically.

She wants to refuse; she really doesn’t want this warped session of history repeating in 3-D, with technicolor and surround sound, but she can’t think of a good enough reason to.

"Is it fine with you?" she asks in return; he got stitches because of Logan, and that should not be fine with him.

Piz shrugs, "hell yeah. I actually kind of like the guy, you know, in this odd Stockholm Syndromish way."

So she agrees, because she has no real reason not to. There isn't a real reason not to. She's an adult now. She's a normal adult now.

And maybe this will be good for her; maybe they can actually be a different foursome, Logan and she at diagonals again. And maybe she’ll stop categorizing them, trying to fit them in the spaces left behind by the Kane siblings, and do the moving on thing too.






-






“No,” she says, and she can’t.

“Oh come on, Veronica,” Claire pouts at her, “don’t be a spoilsport.”

Piz laughs, “it’s just a stupid game.”

She doesn’t want to, but she looks at Logan anyway, because he, of all people, should know why. And that’s the trouble with half her life, she decides, that Logan fucking Echolls is literally the only person left in it who knows everything about her, starting from the beginning. Not even Wallace does, and Wallace is her best friend.

If she’s expecting sympathy, she’s not going to get it there, she realizes wryly. His face is impassive, and when she looks over, he drawls, “oh come on Ronnie, for old time’s sake.”

Bastard.

It feels enough like old times to make her sick. She feels outshined, sidelined, and unable to compete. Except, the difference is, with Lilly, she’d never actually- felt- those things. She’d been happy, content to be out of the limelight, in Duncan’s arms, while Logan and Lilly painted the town red. That was how it should have been. But she can't go back to being that girl. That girl left town a long time ago.

He walks over to the kitchen, and brings back a glass of Sangria for her. “Here, now you can join in.”

“I didn’t ask for that.” she says, uncomprehending.

“I know your memory isn’t what it used to be, Detective Mars, but you need a drink to play.”

She doesn’t know why she’s pushing this, but she hates his presumptuousness, “yeah, but I didn’t ask for that. You never asked me what I wanted.”

"So," he says slowly, "you don't want the Sangria."

"Yes I do," she says, exasperated, "that's not the point."

"So there is one," he smiles pleasantly enough, an edge to his voice, "because I was beginning to wonder for a moment there."

She resents it, she decides. The casual intimacy of his knowledge of what she likes, what she doesn't, when she lies. It's something she'd like to forget. She can't be a different person entirely, just so he wouldn't have her mapped out under his hands anymore. There are so many things she can't change; her body, the coffee she likes in the morning, the way she looks sleeping, the drink she always orders, the things he knows and is always going to know.

She takes it, because Piz is beginning to look at her carefully, and it’s stupid anyway. She doesn’t know why she always allows Logan to do this to her.

“Okay,” Claire claps her hands, “now that we’re all set. Let’s dial-up to the uncomfortably sexy because no one cares about the sob stories, but we’ll keep the good ones for later so; I’ve never been skinny dipping.”

You haven’t?” Piz asks, in mock disbelief, “seriously?”

She flicks his arm, “I’m still young, child, I have all the time in the world to run away to a nudist colony. This body ain’t going nowhere, trust me.”

Veronica drinks, it’s mostly sweet, but she can’t tell around the ashes in her mouth. Logan drinks too, just as he had the first time. He quirks his lips when she raises her glass, probably wondering when in the interim period between being raped and nearly killed and nearly killed again and nearly killing and probably being nearly killed and raped a couple more times, she’d taken out the time for skinny-dipping.

Screw him, she doesn't care what he thinks. He doesn't know everything about her, and she likes it that way. This is between her and Lilly.

Piz doesn’t drink, but he’s looking at her, amused. “I’ve yet to explore this side of you, Mars,” he whispers, pushing her hair back. She can see Logan’s grip on his bottle-neck tightening. But then that’s because she’s looking. Dammit.

“I have never,” says Piz, smirking at her, “been part of a hot, public sex tape.”

She forces a smile, and raises the glass again. She knows Piz, after the initial awkwardness, was convinced it was silly, and people would get over it, and it’d be something they could joke about later. She can’t blame him; he hasn’t been privy to her high-school years of Super Slut Status, he doesn't know about Lilly apart from what he's seen on TV, doesn't know how specifically the tape hurt her, he doesn't know anything about Shelley Pomeroy’s party, and it's her fault for not having mentioned it, any of it, for wanting to keep this part of her life with him… untainted… like it would just go away, if she didn’t talk about it.

“All right,” Claire hoots, “I haven’t actually seen the video in question, but from what I’ve heard, it’s definitely worth looking at, munchkins. Mind sending me the mpegs?”

“I’ve seen it,” Logan’s voice offers quietly, automatically.

His face is drained of color; and she’s never really thought of this before, thought this through completely, but he’s seen both her and Lilly in flagrante with other people on tape. She remembers how she’d felt when she’d returned the day after the Alterna Prom, and she hadn’t even actually– seen– him and Kendall. It makes her want to reach over and– and what? Fix him? Stop him from every having to think of it again? Get it out of his head, like she'd demanded he do with the images of him and Madison in hers? Save him from ever getting hurt again?

He isn’t hers for saving, not her responsibility. You can’t save anyone. She knows this by now. She’s not the naïve sixteen year old she used to be.

“Boy, have you,” Piz mutters under his breath behind her, his hand on his jaw, like it still hurts to think about it. And she’d almost forgotten about that part. This was always going to be like this, god, why had she agreed to this thing.

“I have never,” Logan says grandly, raising his glass high, breaking into her thoughts; his sheer physicality always makes her more prickly, and she unconsciously braces herself for it, “masturbated in front of someone.”

Fuck him.

‘Aren’t you kinky,” Claire says, fondly, running her fingers through his hair, before taking a long swig, “you must remind me to do that for you sometime, lover.” She can feel her own fingers tightening around her glass, and Jesus, what is with the fucking subtext; they’ve been broken up for more than a year, this has moved from absurd to psychopathic.

Piz is looking at her, because he’s not stupid. She keeps her hand firmly around her glass, doesn’t raise it to her lips.

“O--kay,” says Claire, “Veronica’s turn. You lot are repressed, just a b-t-w.”

“Wait,” Logan says, and he’s more drunk than she’d realized initially, she registers, almost in panic. He’s composed, usually, subtle in his digs, and she doesn’t understand how she’d missed it before, because it’s written across his face. Drunk-Logan is long declarations of love, a train-wreck of epic proportions, “I want to make sure everyone here understands the rules of the game. You drink if you’ve done something. No, really. It’s literally that easy,” he claps his hands, faking surprise.

He’s not even pretending anymore, his mouth set in a hard, mocking line. She has a feeling he’s going to call her out on it if she doesn’t drink. So she does. The standstill is ridiculous, Piz knows she and Logan were together, that they've slept with each other, it doesn’t change anything.

Piz looks over once, watching the glass touch her lips, before glancing at Logan, still staring at her, then looks away. It’ll be fine. They’re all adults here.

“Why, Veronica Mars,” Claire says, admiring, “aren’t you quite the hidden minx. You seem to have all the bases in the game covered. Your turn.”

“I’m bored,” she says, “this is stupid, I don’t want to play.”

Logan snorts somewhere to her left, but she determinedly doesn’t look his way. If she never sees him again, it’ll be too soon. He’s an asshole of a hitherto unattained order.

Claire sighs, “fine. Let’s just eat then.”

“I’ll take her turn,” Logan raises his glass in toast, “just to complete the round. Symmetry, you know.”

“Fine,” Claire says, pointing “the gentleman in the emo sleeves; go!”

“I have never,” he pauses, as if deliberating, which is ludicrous, he’s probably planned this whole thing down to this very moment, Logan is surprisingly astute when it comes to people, she knows. Not in loving them; he’s thoughtless in love, he loves too recklessly, too desperately, but hurting them, hurting himself; he’s just a championship away from the world trophy, “cheated on someone.”

She thinks of a long elevator ride– so it was just you and Piz, huh. He has no right here.

She opens her mouth to say "no" as icily as she can manage, even though it’s not supposed to be a question. And then remembers Leo. She remembers kissing Logan on the balcony of the Camelot. Remembers doing it even though she shouldn’t have, even though she’d been with a sweet guy who actually liked her, and didn’t make her want to break things. Remembers she hadn’t even thought about Leo in the moment. Or the second time.

And she’s drained, suddenly, she doesn’t even care anymore that he’ll get the wrong impression, that she doesn’t have to drink this time, because no one here can call her out on this. But, whatever. She drinks anyway.

Logan's sharp intake of breath is audible, while Piz stares at her, in slight bemusement, like he’s not sure he knows her very well, which makes her want to laugh a little, because he has no idea.

“Guess I should drink to that too though, huh, Ronnie?” Logan raises the bottle to his lips, the tight grip turning his knuckles white, taking long gulps, till she loses count, “here’s to good old Yolanda.”

“You’re too intense about this,” Claire says, looking between all of them, like their subtextual drama bores her, which it probably does, “it ruins the fun.”

“I have to go,” Veronica gets up. She can hear Piz making excuses about some paper they have due or something, but she’s so angry, she can’t even think straight.

“Thank you for a nice evening,” she says to Claire, colder than she intends, although it's misdirected. And doesn’t throw something at his head. It probably counts as a point on the karmic scale somewhere.




-




She almost knocks on the door, then steps back before she does. She should just use her Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card and get the hell out of this mess and stay out, but instead she’s choosing to miss another turn yet again, for another pointless confrontation.

She’s going to use the keycard, she knows, even though she shouldn’t. She doesn’t even know why she hasn’t given it back. It was hers just as long as I only want you, and now he doesn’t. Only want her. But she’s going to use it anyway, and then throw it in his face later, because having him open the door; it gives him the control. It gives him the chance to loom over her, refuse to let her in, or look at her like he’d been looking at her all evening.

And she can’t let him have any more power than he does right now. It’s too much already, too many parts of hers in the loose pockets of his pants that she’s sure he stole, because there’s no way in hell she’d have given them willingly.

She’s already swiped the keycard in and opened the door, before it strikes her; this is a no good, very bad, terrible idea, Kendall’s image fills the space behind her eyelids, and how had she forgotten? He’s probably in there with Claire, and she’s going to look like the jilted lover, the desperate ex girlfriend, come to beg him to take back or something, and she doesn’t remember if she’s always been this stupid, or if it’s something special about him that makes all the brain cells melt in her head.

“Veronica Mars,” his voice comes from the left; she blinks trying to adjust her eyes to the darkness, “extending that mile long criminal record. Color me surprised.”

He’s sitting on the couch– alone– she notes with an excruciating sense of relief– a shoe in one hand.

She wants to scream first, not get involved in his drama. Because he has a silver tongue, she knows, and if she lets him get a word in, she’s going to be the worse off for it. So her best bet is to tell him how much she hates him, and that if his girlfriend want to be bff’s with her boyfriend, that’s just fine and dandy, but no way in hell is she ever coming within fifty feet of him again, because his asshole gene seems to go into overdrive when she’s around. He probably gets it from his dear, old, departed dad, and did she mention she hates him?

But she doesn’t. Because she wants to know where he’s going at two-thirty a.m., after an evening of antagonizing her with uncomfortable, drunk innuendoes, because that’s his modus operandi when it comes to her. Damn her curiosity.

“It’s past two in the morning,” she leads in.

He makes a big show of looking at his watch, the theatrical twist of his hand making her heart beat faster with remembrance, “daddy teach you about the big hand and the little hand and time-reading? Good girl! Here’s a cookie. Now maybe we can start on social graces that they probably don’t teach in the Land of the Trailer Trash; what time is appropriate to visit the ex-boyfriend so he doesn’t think it’s a booty call. Or is that it, Mars? The new, sainted boyfriend not doing it for you? How much do you want to bet he hasn’t ever made you beg? Word on the street is, you like the bad boys.”

She ignores him, “where are you going, Logan?”

The tense line of his body and the way he’s looking at the door tells her she’s not going to like the answer, and the sudden rush of dread settling in the pit of her stomach is both familiar and unwelcome, “Logan—”

“Not,” he says, deliberately, “that it’s any of your business, but an old friend of ours invited me out for drinks, and it’d be so rude to refuse. And you were always whining at me about being nicer to people; so look, this is me, taking your advice.”

She doesn’t even know how she knows, but she does. “Gorya Sorokin,” she states, flatly.

He avoids her eyes, “Super Sleuth Mars strikes again! And so once again, the day is saved, thanks to the overgrown Powerpuff Girl.”

He’s going to get himself killed. It’s the Russian mob, he’s going to get himself killed. He’s going to go in there, all stupid bravado and patented witticisms and not know when to fucking stay down, and he’s going to get himself killed.

Her tongue feels swollen, stuck to the roof of her mouth, making words difficult to pronounce, "I'm not letting you go."

"Really," he drags the word out in a mock-bright, high pitched falsetto, before lapsing into sullen grimness, "fortunately for both of us, you don't get to make that decision."

"I used to." That's a stupid thing to say, but the blind terror is making her stupid.

He looks at her for a second, obviously still registering that she just went there. "Yeah, well, didn't you hear? The Nagging Girlfriend package is a limited time offer. You time-stamped the expiration date, remember?"

"Stop being a jackass, Logan," she says, flaring up, suddenly, and doesn't miss his brow smoothing out, like this version of her he can handle. He can never quite handle her concern, she knows. "I'm trying to help."

"Sorry," he replies pleasantly, "it's just, your bitch factor upped to about a hundred, just speaks to the jackass in me. It's why we've always worked so well, I guess. Birds of a feather," his dramatized sigh of faux-nostalgia makes her want to hit something. Preferably him. Hard. It's a familiar feeling. Almost like release.

“Aren’t you going to ask why I’m here?” she's being unfair, hitting where it will hurt, but she doesn’t care if it’s good or right, she only cares if he’s safe.

“No,” he says, “but that isn’t going to stop you from telling me anyway.”

“Because I want you.”

She throws in the gauntlet and hopes to god he’ll pick it up. Hopes that she hasn’t been reading the signs wrong, that he isn’t well and truly, completely over her, and she’s not allowed to care for him anymore.

He stops short, “—what?”

“I can’t,” she twists her hands, “stand to see you with her. Claire. I can’t stand you kissing her or imagine her in your bed or you falling in love with her. I don’t want you to live out what could have been with Lilly, because when I dream of it, we end up together. Even when Lilly’s there. Even when she’s alive, and she’s just as beautiful, and just as desirable, we still end up together. I want you. I’ve always wanted you. I want you, right now, so much. This moment. Please stay with me. Logan, please.”

His gaze is unguarded for a moment, before it hardens into something ugly, to match the hideous thing she is inside. But that’s okay, because that flash tells her she hasn’t been reading the signs wrong. And now he thinks she’s playing him. She probably is. But she’s not going to let him go.

She reaches over and pulls her dress over her head in one fluid movement. His jaw almost drops, before he clenches his teeth.

"Is this because of that one time I said I've never slept with a hooker, and you want to make sure I've experienced everything that life has to offer before I die?" his voice is strained.

It's a harsh blow, but she doesn't even flinch.

"This is the one way we've always worked." she says, "the only way we've always worked."

"Do you take cards," he asks, rifling through his wallet, she doesn't miss the shaking of his hands, "because I think I'm all out of cash at the moment, and I don't want to end up with a lawsuit when you sell the video to Entertainment Weekly. No money equals no discretionary clause, I've done my research."

"Anything," she says, and she doesn't even know who she is anymore, "you can do anything you want to me. You can make me do anything you want."

It's one of those loaded sentences, she knows. The kind where changing the italics changes the meaning. She did it in that grammatical construction class in seventh grade. You can make me do anything you want. You can make me do anything you want. You can make me do anything you want. You can make me do anything you want. You can make me do anything you want. You can make me do anything you want. You can make me do anything you want, Logan, goddammit, listen. It's not about the sex, really. Maybe a little bit. But not all of it. It's about control. So he can string her up as high as he always says she has him. She can give him that for his life. It's not good or righteous, but she does. N't. Doesn't. Care, that is.

His jaw tightens, "can I make you go away? Click your heels three times. Maybe that'll work. Cuz I'm pretty sure you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

"Come on," she forces seduction in her voice, even though she knows he can see right through her, "are you really going to let this go? Isn't there anything you've always wanted me to do, Logan?" She bites her lip, and feels a momentary rush of satisfaction, that dizzying power, when his eyes drop to take in the movement. He knows she's acting, and it still affects him.

"Say you loved me." he says, finally, roughly.

She feels sick suddenly, "what?"

"Say," he repeats, measured, even, "you. loved. me."

"What the hell kind of question is that." she snaps, patience wearing thin, even though it's not a question, "you know I loved you."

"Do I?" his gaze is unreadable. "Is this a reference to the time," he adopts a high-pitched voice, it grates at her nerves, "I love you, Veronica. I love you. Do you love me?"

"I said I loved you then," she drops her eyes.

"I'm pretty sure," he puts his hand to his chin in a model image of 'thinking', "you said 'yeah'. Which may, of course, substitute 'love' in some foreign dictionary."

She's silent, probably for too long, till he laughs, an awful sound, and shakes his head, pulling on his jacket.

She doesn’t even think twice, “I loved you,” she says, moving towards him, “I loved you. So much. I loved you, I swear. I had since so long.”

He doesn’t believe her. He’s never believed it. It’s why he’s never asked her if she loves him, except once when he had to, only when he had to, and she’s reacted just as he’d probably known she would; pushed him away.

He starts moving towards the door, "where are you going?" she can't recognize her own voice.

"Did you miss this entire conversation, Veronica? Jesus, didn't anybody ever put you in remedial class when there was still time?"

"You promised, you said you wouldn't if I said I- Logan-" her voice sounds rough, as if with disuse.

"Let this be a lesson, young Miss Mars," he says, in an exaggerated Southern drawl, "always get in in writing. Legal Aid 101, courtesy Logan Echolls Inc. Just leave the money on the table."

She grabs him by the lapels of his jacket, moulding her body against his planes, re-familiarizing herself to the feeling of him. He's taller than Piz, and it always makes her feel even shorter, almost vulnerable.

“Kissing,” he says sardonically, his voice barely above a whisper, her lips inches from his, “is cheating.” But his breathing is uneven, and she can read his tells.

It should have made her stop, made the sordidness of this whole thing clear. But it doesn’t. She can feel the fight go out of him the moment she kisses him; hot, desperate, teeth clashing against his, biting his tongue hard enough to draw blood. He hauls her up against him, to reach her neck, but she pushes him back on the couch, climbing on top, the pleather sinking down under their combined weight. She pushes all her fear into the kiss, everything she’s ever felt for him– feels for him– she doesn’t know.

He tries to run his hands over her, cup her breasts, slide his hand between her thighs, give like he always does, like she'll run away if he doesn't, if it isn't all about her. But she slides down his body instead, and runs her lips over his cock, mouthing him through his pants, feeling the familiar hardness beneath the expensive material.

He lets out a low, involuntary moan at the back of his throat, the kind that always makes her feel aflush with fever. He’s staring at the ceiling, but as she looks up, he looks down, expression agonized, like he wants to tell her to stop, but can’t.

And she knows then; he’s not going to go tonight. And he’d not going to die today. Someday, maybe, probably, definitely. But not today. He's not her fucking problem, she can’t always be around to save him, but she’s here tonight anyway.

And, she realizes embarrassed, angry, aroused, she wants this. That hadn’t been a lie. She doesn’t know how much of it had been, but that hadn’t.

She unbuckles his belt.

 



-

 



Piz doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t ask her the why of her leaving him at two in the morning, where she had gone, whom she had been with, all the things she would have done, before tracking his car, and bugging his room.

He just smiles up at her when she enters the next day, and that's it. She’s showered, thrice, but she can't seem to get rid of Logan's cologne. She knows it’s just in her head, but she can’t. Lady Macwhore: The Slutty Shakespeare For College Co-Eds, she thinks with wry irony.

“Case go well?” he shifts, making space for her on the bed. She sits on Wallace’s instead. She can still feel Logan's fingers ghosting over her, making the fine hair on her arms stand up every time she thinks about it. It had been more... more, probably because they were both the sort of awful people who got off on the clandestinity, the wrongness of the whole thing.

“Yeah,” she remembers she’d asked Leo for a favor after. Cheated on him, broken up with him, and then asked him for a favor. Maybe she’s always been this much of a bitch. She and Logan can't seem to stay together, but they definitely deserve each other.

 “You want to do something today,” Piz asks, strumming his guitar, concentrating on his hand movements, “I have class at one. But maybe after?”

 She smiles around clenched teeth, “not today, I’m kind of tired.” It’s not even a lie, her subconscious tells her, and she shuts it down.

 “Okay,” he looks at her closely, “hey, you okay, Mars? You don’t look very well.”

“I’m fine,” she says, and falls back on Wallace’s bed, staring at the ceiling, “I’m fine.”

 

 

-

 

 

“Hey,” Claire says from behind her, rushing to join her in her slow walk towards the cafeteria.

I cheated on my boyfriend with yours. It’s an endless litany of the same words inside her head, over and over, till she's not sure she understands them anymore.

“Hey,” she repeats, and feels a little sick inside.

“Earth to Mars,” Claire says, waving her hand in front of her face; she hadn’t even realized she’d zoned out, “I bet you’re tired of hearing it, but it’s the first chance I’ve gotten to say it, so.”

She laughs, sort of.

So,” Claire draws out, “you and Logan, huh?”

She feels her blood run cold, a shot of ice in her veins, “what?”

Claire looks at her in mild amusement, “you guys dated?”

“Oh,” she deflates, it’s such a normal word, ‘date’, it doesn't seem to cover how thoroughly they'd ruined each other, “yeah, but that was a long time ago. It’s been over since ages.”

So apparently she’s a cheat and a liar. Just when you think you know someone. And this probably isn't even the worst thing she’s ever done.

Claire nods, “I just heard about it. Explains all the awkwardness at that double date fiasco, huh. Apparently there was an epic fight in the cafeteria and everything once. Totally missed it somehow, last year. I miss all the fun.”

She’s pouting, but there's something about the slight trembling of her lower lip that tells Veronica she was wrong. Claire isn’t Lilly. Lilly was actually what Claire tries to be. Invulnerable. She can understand that. She can understand trying. It makes her feel even guiltier.

“You know,” Claire twists her bracelet in her hand. Nerves, she categorizes, almost unconsciously, mechanically, “I was actually kind of glad when I heard. That you and Logan had dated.”

She busies herself with her Psych textbook, because she doesn't want to have this conversation. She’s not the honesty, she’s the avoiding, and she’s done a pretty damn good job of it all her life.

“Because,” Claire doesn’t seem to mind that she's the only one present in the conversation for all intents and purposes, “I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”

She opens her mouth to protest, get in a few commonplace clichés before this goes out of control, but Claire beats her to it.

“Veronica,” she says, quietly, “I’m not stupid. And I’ve seen the way he looks at you. I’ve been waiting for him to leave, marking down days, if you want the melodrama. And you don’t know how I felt when I heard you were his ex-girlfriend; because residual attraction I can handle, you know? That’s expected, it’s not dangerous, it’s normal. It was the potential future attraction that I couldn't have. Handled.”

Because people move on, Veronica thinks dully, everyone does it. But she can’t seem to. She seems to be solely defined by everything that’s happened to her; Lilly, Cassidy, Duncan, Logan, Aaron. Just the same ghosts residing in every crevice of her personality. A scratched record with her past experiences on the loop.

“But,” and, Claire sounds different, more subdued, real, “the problem is; Logan is far too easy to fall in love with. He’s beautiful, and clearly damaged, and sometimes he had that way of looking like you can fix him, and I like to fix things. And like I said, I’m not stupid. So before I do it. Go ahead and fall in love with him, I‘m going to ask you this; should I? Because if I’m setting myself up, then I’d much rather not. It’s so messy, you know.”

Claire’s looking straight at her, and she can’t avoid her steady gaze, as much as she wants to. She thinks of lying. Plastering on a bright smile and being all don’t be silly, doing that hair flip thing and linking their arms or something, in a parody of normal; but that isn’t fair. She owes Claire that much.

“I don’t know,” she says. It’s the most honest she can remember having been in a long time, “I’m sorry.”

She actually doesn’t. Know the answer to that. Doesn’t know if their frantic night was because she literally went and offered herself up to a hormonal, teenage boy, or because it was her and Logan. They hadn’t even had sex, but they’d done everything but, and she’d almost wanted to never get up. Not leave. So she’d left when he’d finally fallen asleep. It seemed the thing to do, true to character and everything. Maybe Logan had moved on, and she’d just pulled him back into the giant black hole that was their relationship.

Claire quirks her lips, “well, that’s an answer.”

She's silent for a moment, "weird thing about college though, huh, you always think you can finally be whoever you want to be, and then it's like, you realize it's hard work to be different from whom you've always been. Like maybe you have no idea who you want to be, or how to be it, or worse, maybe who you were is who you actually are," she breaks off, and laughs abruptly, "wow, that was lame. It must be the pseudo-intellectualism of this place rubbing off on me, just what I needed to brighten my day."

Veronica can tell she's a little embarrassed by the out-of-character philosophizing, and she wants to say she agrees, that she knows, understands, but that would involve admitting something, and she's not exactly sure what, not sure how defenseless the admission would leave her, so she doesn't.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Logan’s voice comes from behind, and she keeps her head down as he kisses Claire on top of her head, wrapping an arm around her shoulder, before he notices her, and his arm falls back down against his side, clenching into a fist. Claire doesn’t miss the exchange, and she feels so horrible right then, she almost can't take it.

“Hey,” he says, carelessly.

She nods once in quick acknowledgment.

“You know,” Claire’s voice breaks in, “Claire isn’t even my real name.”

She doesn't know where this is leading, but Claire is a better person than she is. She can tell that much.

“It’s Mary,” Claire continues, rolling her eyes, “you know, as in virgin Mary? Aren’t parents the sweetest, most hopeful people you ever meet? But college is the place for self-discovery, and I’m definitely more of a Marie Claire centerfold. Private joke ahoy.”

Logan laughs, strained, “seriously? And now you’re going to tell me you’re not really an All American college-goer, but an agent for the FBI or something? That’s so hot, I'd be turned on even if—”

He breaks off, abruptly, and she can feel herself blushing.

“I have to leave,” she says, quickly, “I have—”

“When don’t you have to,” Logan mutters under his breath, and she shoots him a warning glare.

“Nice running into you,” she says, nodding at Claire, but Claire is absently looking at Logan not looking at her.

That's an answer. She wishes she knew the question.

 

  

 -

  

   

She calls Mac up, the first time in a long while, and wishes so hard she wasn't away for her semester at Yale. Which makes her a terrible friend on top of everything, because it’s a scholarship to Yale, and all she can think of is how she wants Mac to be there for her primetime soap opera.

“I’m the worst person ever.”

“Not the worst person ever,” Mac says, cautiously, which makes her laugh, for real, she can't remember when that last happened, "I dated a guy making a career out of cheating, remember, so my high-ground is kind of...low there."

“I don’t know what to do,” she says, listlessly, wrapping her hand around her knees, and resting her head on top.

Mac sighs on the other end, “you’ll figure it out, that’s what you’ll do. You’re Veronica Mars, it’s practically your tagline.”

   

 

-

 

 

"Claire says she wants lemon, if you have any," his voice is sharp, cutting.

She nearly drops a hot plate, before Logan puts his hand beneath hers to steady them. Then she drops it anyway in her haste to get away from any part of his skin touching any part of hers. She can’t handle it right now.

She doesn’t know why this is still a thing; why they’re still a thing, these double dates, because everyone has to have realized by now. It’s so obvious, it makes her face heat up each time she thinks of it. Logan doesn't try to make her uncomfortable anymore, he’s just vaguely passive-aggressive when he absolutely has to talk to her, but he mostly ignores her at such times, as much as he can, which definitely makes it easier to not remember.

It's a little about his dad too, she knows. Logan's a lot of things, but he's never cheated on anyone, even though he seems the type, on the surface. Logan is not the surface. He's probably seen his mother's drunk, tear-stained face way too many times to ever take that road.

He's afraid of becoming his dad, she knows this too.

She can hear the sounds of Piz and Claire from the living room, as Logan stares out of the kitchen window, hands in his pockets, not even bothering to help her as she scoops up the rice. She catches her father watching her instead, when she looks up, his gaze traveling from her hands to the straight, rigid line of Logan’s back, and she feels exposed somehow.

Logan leaves, going back to the living room, without looking back once. Which is fine with her, it really is.

 

 

-

  

  

"What is going on between you and Logan Echolls?"

It's the bluntness that gets her, she decides later. It's not that she's just a terrible person (she is, she is, god, she is), it's that he caught her off guard and she lashed out. It's what she does.

"Nothing," she knows that she should look him in the eye, and calm her breathing, because they both know how to read the tells of someone lying to them. But she can't.

"Does nothing involve you hurting that nice boy you're dating?" he sounds almost. Almost disappointed. In her.

She laughs, not very successfully, she knows, "okay, seriously, is this The Truman Show? Have I been in a made-for-TV movie all this while without realizing it?"

"I thought I bought you up better than that, Veronica." her dad says quietly, and she can't bear the tone, the one that tells her that he thinks if her mother hadn't left, things would be different. Like Lianne Mars could have done something that he didn't, instead of just screwing them both over fifty seven ways since Tuesday.

God. Lianne. That's who she's turning into. Her mother.

And, it's just–  Logan has always been her intense high-school romance, sure. But she had, somewhere along the way, in some secret corner of her mind, convinced herself that was all he was; a high-school romance. Explosive, powerful, passionate, and bound to burn itself out eventually. And she's the kind of person who laughs at those idiots who try to take their high-school romances with them to college, into the future.

Sure, she was in love with him, but she'd fallen in love with him after having been in love with Duncan. Which meant it was possible. To love again, to move on, to keep breathing, something.

But her mother is living, wasting away proof that sometimes, the high school romance is where it ends. That even if she meets someone as beautiful, as wonderful, as loving as Keith Mars, she may still end up being the cheating wife; still desperately consumed by Logan in a dirty room at the Camelot, trying to prolong their moments just a little while longer, while her husband pays some new-age PI for the money-shot in a karmic retribution of sorts. Or maybe she'll be the one drinking too much at parties, staring much too long at him every time she crosses paths with his family in town, the worst kept secret in Neptune; like mother like daughter.

And the most awful thing is, she thinks she can almost understand Lianne in the moment. Understand that her mother probably knows that same awful feeling  that she gets in her gut at seeing Logan with someone else. Just a little bit. Hate her. Never ever, ever forgive her. But understand her that little bit just the same.

It makes her panic, the thought. It makes her lash out.

"Oh, by the way, I saw Mr. Chase at the grocery store last week. You know, Harmony Chase's husband? Nice guy, took out stuff I needed from the top shelf for me. How is Mrs. Chase? I remember you guys were  such  good friends."

Her dad reels, as if stricken, and she's gone too far. Jesus, she's finally gone too far.

"I'm sorry," she says, rushing out the words in her haste to say them, to not break this–  them– completely, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean– "

"I'm sorry too," her dad sounds tired suddenly, old, "I'm sorry I haven't been the best role model, and if I, in any way, gave you the impression that it was okay to treat people like that, then I apologize. It's not okay, Veronica. Not for you, not for me. And as someone who regularly sees the faces of the clients when they finally get the photographic evidence they'd hoped wouldn't exist, you– we– should know better."

It's not... just her mother. Maybe she's her dad, instead. Maybe it's just that sometimes good people do bad things. She'd like to believe that.

She wraps her hands around herself, remembers Logan standing outside her door, just like that, telling her to help him find his mother. Hoping. Logan has no right to hope so much, to keep hoping after everything he's gone through. No right to love as hard, as fully as he does. He should be–  self-destructive, yes–  but also broken, bitter, irrevocably damaged. But he's not. Behind all the angst and tragedy, he's not, and she can't understand that. Can't understand him.

"I don't know why it's so hard not to when it's him," she says, dully.

Her dad doesn't say anything, just kisses the top of her head, and maybe he understand. Maybe Harmony's his Logan. Maybe she understand too, this time, like she hadn't before.

"You'll figure it out, honey" her dad says, so gently, it nearly makes her cry, but she won't, she doesn't do that, "I trust you to."

 

   

-

 

 

This is how it really goes:

“I slept with Logan,” her mouth feels dry, and she feels like the most terrible person in existence. She hadn’t slept with him, exactly, but she had done everything else. It seems pointless to try and explain. She wants to add the it just happened I don’t know how II’m so sorry, I promise it’ll never

“I’m–” she don’t know how that sentence will end, but she has to say something. His face is white, and it’s making it difficult for her to breathe. Wallace is going to hate her too. She's always been the one asking in their relationship, and he keeps giving without question, and just this time he'd asked her for something, just one thing, and she'd failed him.

She can feel her eyes darting around to avoid actually looking at him, but when she gets down to it, he doesn't look particularly angry. Piz is still Piz; he still doesn't question, still doesn't ask the whys, rage at her, anything. He just looks– resigned– she realizes. It makes her insides hurt.

“Don’t,” he says, quietly, and then tries to smile at her, actually tries to smile, unfailingly polite, unfailingly Piz, even in this, “just– I can’t right now. Maybe later. Maybe we can talk later.”

He gets up from his chair, looking at the library shelves with unseeing eyes, “it’s not that I didn’t know– before – but lately it just seemed like we could, like we had–”

“I loved you,” she says, desperate almost, and she hopes to god he’s not hurting more than she is, because she can barely stand it herself, “I swear I did. And I’m sorry, I’m so, so–”

She did, probably still does. She wasn’t in love with him, but she had loved him. She's just not very good at it.

He nods, tired, “just not as much as I loved you.”

She’s reminded almost piercingly of Logan, saying the same words, leaning against his car, a lifetime ago. She’s Piz’s Lilly. She’s always, always wanted to be Lilly. But not now. Not like this. Except this isn’t just something Lilly did, because she was young, and bright and stupid; this is something that Veronica apparently does too, even though she’s not as young, not as bright, but still just as stupid.

He nods again at her expression, and she realizes she should have probably said something; not gotten lost in her thoughts, not gotten lost in Logan, yet again.

He turns around, and she watches him walk away, slowly, leaving her sitting in a corner of the huge library.

And then, she’s alone again, naturally.

 

   

-

 

   

Her eyes zero in on him almost as soon as she enters, which is quite a feat since he’s sitting on the barstool on the other end of the room. Which probably means that his gravitational pull is so strong that she’s… attuned to it. Or something. She’s thinking in poetry, and she isn’t even drunk yet.

She doesn’t even know if this... serendipitous happenstance is some stupid cosmic joke, or what, because she hasn’t planned this at all. She doesn't exactly have a plan, but it definitely involves avoiding him forever, or as long as she reasonably can without dropping out of college and leaving town.

He notices her almost immediately after, which, if she was continuing that long-drawn astrophysics metaphor, would add another line to it, but she isn’t, so.

“Of all the gin joints,” he says with a marked lack of enthusiasm, raising his glass to her in a mock toast, before turning back to his– third, she guesses, by his slightly flushed face, but lack of slurring– drink, “but this one is mine, I was here first, so mush. Go find a milkshake stand somewhere.”

“This isn’t yours,” she scoffs, “I’m the one who bought you here first.”

On a case; he’d insisted on coming, sat and drunk his one glass of something non-alcoholic slowly, eyes never leaving her as she handed over some papers she doesn’t even remember now, to a guy built like a bulldog. She’d raised her eyebrows in a sarcastic see, not that big a dealwas it gesture when it was done, and hadn’t told him that there had been a moment she’d been terrified in the middle, when the guy had checked her out slowly, making her skin crawl, and she’d been able to calm herself down only because he was there.

“Yeah, well, possession is nine-tenths the law, Veronica Mars. Does Daddy Mars know his precious baby girl is in a seedy downtown bar with her psychotic, violent ex, trying to drown her guilt in illegal beverages?”

“Oh come on, Logan,” she bats her eyelashes at him theatrically, “I think this bar is big enough for both of us,” she slides on the stool next to him, just to piss him off.

“This is the post break-up drowning of sorrows and cursing the Echolls family name ritual I suppose, another chance at twu wuv spectacularly messed up, courtesy yours truly.”

“Did you,” she looks at her hands, “did you tell Claire?”

He laughs, an ugly, unrestrained sound, “yeah, I did.”

“What did she say?” she doesn't want to know.

He opens his eyes wide, and begins in a high-pitched voice, “lover, I didn’t even realize we were supposed to be exclusive. God, you don’t need to take permission or whatever; go have fun with your blonde! Just come back when I need my bed warmed, okay?”

So Claire had chosen to lie, stick to the stereotype. Maybe it was easier for her that way. Veronica can understand that too; sticking to your stereotype. She has it down to an art form.

She notices his hard grip on the glass handle, and knows he’s thinking of Lilly, “you– cheated– on her as well, you know. You don’t exactly have a right here.”

“Yeah,” he says, bitter, “quid pro quo. It seems to happen with alarming frequency, though. Maybe I have a please cheat on me! tattoo somewhere that I can’t see. Lilly, Caitlin, you, Claire—”

“I never,” because, did he actually think that, “I never cheated on you.”

He looks at her through dull eyes, he’s already had two more glasses since she’s been here, and she has this illogical urge to tell him to stop, enough already. She bites her lip hard, instead.

“Oh come on, Veronica,” he bites out, “we’re amongst friends here. Don’t hold back your accomplishments. Like you didn’t get it on with Piz that weekend you were mad at me, and decided to play house with him.”

“Look,” she can feel the anger make its way through her system, “you can believe whatever you want to, Logan, because that’s what you always do, but I didn’t cheat on you. I would never cheat on you.”

She doesn’t know why she adds that last part in, because she had once thought she would never cheat on anyone and clearly she was wrong. But it’s something about the way he’s looking at her, just a little lost, vulnerable, almost, like he’s thought this for an entire year. Even all the time he’d loved her in. Maybe still does, if she’s being honest, which she rarely is.

“Why didn’t you ask me,” she asks, genuinely at sea, he can be so confusing, “why didn’t you ask me point blank? We were still together then. You could have. Why make it an issue now?”

He laughs, low, and shakes his head, “because I knew you’d run away if I did. Get self-righteously outraged, and walk out on me. And I was so in love with you, I never wanted to rock the boat, never wanted to break the status quo, just kept hoping you'd still love me the next day. Always eager to please, y’know, your own personal slave. I loved you more than I cared that you may have slept with someone else. Because that is who I literally was with you, a thirteen-year-old girl,” he bows down to her audience of one in an exaggerated parody, and it makes her heart ache for him, for some reason.

She doesn’t know how to respond to that, throat constricting, “well, I didn’t.”

He’s looking closely at her, and she doesn’t turn away, allows him to search her face, because he can read her tells too; and for a moment, a bright, flaring joy flashes across his face, before it lapses back into moodiness.

“Look,” he says bluntly, “As much as I’m enjoying this anachronistic history lesson, I’m just looking to get laid tonight, okay. And I think I’m halfway there with the brunette at 5 o’clock. And that’s not going to happen if you’re just sitting here, cockblocking me at every given opportunity.”

She reels back, stung, “what makes you think I’ll be cockblocking you? I don’t care how much you whore around. Jeez, get over yourself.”

He smiles, and she can tell he’s not amused, “tell me you’re joking, Ronnie. You could barely stand it when I was kissing someone I mildly cared about; you think that jealousy won’t go off the meter when you know it’s someone I actually want to fuck?”

She can’t look at him, she realizes, so she stares down at the table instead, “oh please, like you wouldn’t be so much more jealous if some guy here hit on me, or, god forbid, I hit back on someone.”

“Yes, I would,” he states, simply, and that startles her so much she looks up, and inadvertently catches his gaze, which is a bad idea, because now she can’t look away, “I will always want to punch the lights out of any other guy you ever let touch you, but I’m not the one in denial about the facts here in this situation, so you should leave.

“You know what,” she can’t deal with that, honesty, intimacy or whatever, not right now, so she won’t, “you’re welcome.”

She gets up from the stool, and walks across the tables to 5 o’clock, to where the group of girls is sitting; she’s never had that, “hey.”

The girl she’d tapped on the shoulder looks at her in mild curiosity; damn, she’s hot. Logan knows how to pick them. “Hello?”

“That guy,” she points at Logan, who’s looking at her with an inscrutable gaze, and she’s not Veronica McPredictable all the time, she doesn’t have to be. She doesn’t want to read him, she just wants to do this, and get the hell out of here, “thinks you’re very pretty, and would love it if you agreed to share a drink with him.”

The girl looks over, and then looks back at her in surprise, “Logan Echolls?”

“You know him?” she says, and duh, lots of people know him. He’s Aaron Echolls’s son. There’s a Tinseltown Diaries repeat practically every week on either Network or cable television.

“Yeah,” the girl replies, blushing slightly, “he was at my old school. He left pretty early, seventh grade or something, but I remember him.”

That is completely unexpected, “oh.”

The girl turns to look at him through lowered lashes, “he’s grown up to be rather hot, though, don’t you think? Those arms alone…” she turns to her friends, most of whom are laughing by now, sneaking glances at him. His face is still disturbingly free of any recognizable expressions, and he’s still looking at her.

“Yes,” Veronica says, through clenched teeth, “I guess so.”

“Who are you,” the girl–what is her name, anyway– asks, without any particular interest, “a friend or something?”

“Or something,” she forces out, trying to smile, “wingman for the evening etcetera, you know.”

The girl nods like that’s completely understandable, her being Logan’s wingman, trying to get him laid by this girl who actually seems really nice. And hot. And not flat. Jesus.

“Maybe I will have that drink,” the girl says, winking at her girlfriends, before walking over; the confident, poised walk is pretty much her cue to get the hell out, so she does.

She doesn't look back this time.

  

  

-

   

 

She doesn’t know how long she stands outside, leaning against the wall in this dark, deserted alley, her glass still in her hands. She should keep that inside, but she can’t go back in there. That would just be pitiful.

What she should do is go away; get in the car and just go away. Text Logan to pay for the glass or something, with a pithy one-liner about how he owes her, but she can’t seem to move.

“What was that,” he asks, flatly.

She nearly drops the glass, placing a hand across her racing heart. She hadn’t heard him come out. And the relief settling in, that somehow he’s here, and he’s alone, is shameful, “what?”

“You know what,” he continues in the same monotone, “wingman, seriously?”

He sounds almost... angry, which is ridiculous, she isn’t at fault here; she was trying to help, “look, you said– and I was just trying to–”

“Trying to what?” he’s definitely angry, the sound echoing in the alley.

Help, goddammit,” she throws her hands up in exasperation, “and it looked like it worked, so I don’t know why you’re out here bitching about it, unless you’ve become so used to fighting with me, you can’t even pick your moments anymore.”

“Oh, it worked,” he laughs, grimly, “thanks a lot, Veronica. Really.”

“What did you do?” she asks, because she can’t help it, “like, why are you alone? She was an old school friend and all. Maybe she could be your epic love, you know, fated to be.” She's being catty, she knows, but she can't even stop.

She can see him shrug, just the shadowed outlines, it’s too dark now to make out specificities, “did what you said I wanted to do. Had a drink with her.”

"Great," that's a lame response, but whatever. She tries to shove her hands in her jeans pockets, before she remembers she's wearing a skirt. She's wearing a skirt. She's dressed up for this. The universe obviously doesn't like her very much.

"So," he begins, watchful for some reason, "I should probably take her to my suite and fuck her then, huh? Considering you worked so hard at the wingmaning and everything. Wouldn't want all that noble effort wasted."

It's not that she wasn't aware that was what the whole deal had ultimately been about, but hearing him say it outright, vulgarly, nonchalantly, makes her chest feel tight.

"You probably should," she agrees, sullenly.

"I probably will," he flares up, and he just tires her out with his mercurial mood-swings and inexplicable reactions. She's done dealing with this.

“Good for you, then,” she says, faking a smile, and she can move again, so she does, shoving past him. Away.

“So is this something you can do now?” she should keep walking, but it’s something about the way he’s standing, drawn into himself, that makes her stop.

“What?”

“Is this,” he wraps his jacket tighter around himself, “something you can do now; throw girls at me for a casual fuck, and walk away? Play… wingman, or whatever the hell.”

And, just like that, she can tell what he's really asking; if she no longer cares, if she's unaffected by him. As if the fact that she's standing here, cold and alone, isn't answer enough. But it's never answer enough for Logan.

She thinks of lying, but that would be so pointless. More pointless than this whole situations, really, “no.”

She’s going to add a not yet. Salvage some dignity, here. But then he has her pressed against the dirty wall, his tongue in her mouth, his hand already reaching down between her legs, shoving her panties aside roughly, and she's so fucking glad she wore a skirt, and then she can’t say anything at all. Which is okay, she’d rather be doing this. It hasn’t been very long since the last time, but it feel like it has anyway. She distantly registers the sound of glass breaking, and knows somewhere in the fast diminishing sane part of her mind, that she's dropped hers.

His fingers stretch her out uncomfortably at first, she's not used to their length, width, any longer, and she can feel everything; the ridges in the wall hurting her back, the soreness of her thighs, pushed too far apart by his long legs in between, the wet, obscene sound, every time he pulls his fingers out, even the dirt underneath her fingernails from trying to find purchase somewhere, and shouldn't she be feeling too good to notice this stuff?

It can only really mean one thing; that they're both trying to hold onto an equation, a chemistry, that doesn't exist any longer. That sometime, in the past year, they moved on without realizing it, and this, her back literally to the wall, will be the realization. That the constant longing was just nostalgia, because they can't seem to move on, so they decided to move back, that the heat, the nearly unbearable friction last time, was because of the residual attraction, the secrecy, the strange sense of urgency the moment generated, and not them. And this is the moment, the real moment, where it's just done.

Because this, this is the one way they've always worked, the only way they've always worked, and if they don't even work this way anymore, then maybe they can't work at all, and she's been fooling herself all this while, believing that ruined lives are somehow the stepping stone to epic because a drunkenly philosophical boy told her so once.

Her heart is pounding so hard with the certainty of the oncoming realization, she almost doesn't hear his low voice over the loud sound.

"Veronica," he's saying, "hey, Veronica. Look at me."

She turns her head towards his face, eyes wide, ready to tell him that she can't, they can't, and she's parted her lips to, but then he looks straight at her, quirking his lips in the ghost of a smirk she remembers all the way back from when she was twelve, and scissors his fingers inside her, and she makes a high, breathless sound, her head falling back to bang hard against the wall, and she can see the world go white behind her eyelids, but she can't distinguish whether it's from the pain or the pleasure.

Logan.

He's twisting his fingers inside her just like that, still scissoring as he goes in deeper, his thumb rubbing circles over her clit, and somehow, a year later, he still remembers the exact spots, and she's gasping in a way that should embarrass her, and she can hear the crystals crunching beneath his shoes, and oh shit, she broke the glass, and she doesn't even know what it cost, and it's all his fault, so he should pay for it and fuck.

She breaks away, breathing erratic, ignoring his deep-throated groan of protest.

"Let's," she swallows hard, mouth dry, words soft against his lips, "let's get you laid, then.”

His forehead coming to rest against hers, as he laughs, low, deep, and she feels the vibrations of his chest under her hand, fills her with an almost painful, aching tenderness.

That’s what she’d been waiting for, she realizes dimly, as he puts his hand below her knees, and pulls her legs up to wrap around his waist, her skirt bunching at her hips, never breaking the kiss he's pulled her into again, like he can’t get enough of her, like he can never get enough of her, no matter how many times he has her; she’d been waiting for him to come out alone. Somehow, she’s always waiting for them to end up alone together.

 

  

-

 

 

It’s almost better than she remembers, which is crazy, because in her head it’s always ridiculously hot as it is. Sometimes, when they're not together, she feels she  must  have exaggerated the memories, that it's the being alone that's making her think of it as hotter, a psychological trick or something, like she  must  have been sarcastic while telling him to go pro in it, but then he's here, like this, and fuck, it's actually that good. Awkward, because she can't remember how to deal with the length of his body anymore, and she missteps a lot, but good.

He can't seem to stop touching her, re-mapping her breasts, her face, her lips, her body under his hands and mouth, and he doesn’t say anything; nothing about iloveyouveronica and ineverstoppedlovingyou and everything else she’s half been expecting, because it's Logan.

I missed you, he says, only once, his head resting at her throat, tracing the hollow of her neck with his thumb, hair damp with sweat, I missed you so fucking much.

She’s nearly tired, a lot of times, drained almost, but he always pulls her up again, under his sheets, and she can feel how much he’s missed her each time he’s inside her through the night, her body slick, sliding much too easily against his, it’s dangerous.

He tastes like the sea, like she remembers, as if that's a permanent flavor to him now, even when he's not just back from surfing; part salt water, part thirst.

They don’t say each other’s names when they come, they’ve never done that; it doesn’t come naturally to her, and he’s– restraining himself, she can tell; for whatever reason, he’s doing it. She tries, once, when she's close, because she feels like she should, because that would be the lover thing to do, awkwardly forming his syllables and concentrating on it, even when her mind can't seem to stay on anything for too long, but he clamps his hand against her mouth and tells her to stop thinking, Veronica, and she bites down hard instead.

But he still does that thing where he looks at her the entire time, and doesn’t let her look away as much as she needs to, as much as she wants to, and she comes from just his eyes on her.

She finds, somehow, this time, maybe she doesn’t exactly want to look away.

 

  

-

 

   

"I joined the Hearst Tribune."

That catches her off guard, "you...what?"

"Joined the Tribune," he repeats again, slowly, like she's hard of hearing, fingers flying across the keyboard. She tries to read, but his arm is blocking her, probably deliberately.

He's wearing reading glasses, and she doesn't even know when he got them. It's a whole year of things she doesn't know about him, and she's taken aback by how much she wants to. Know.

Or maybe it's not that surprising, she always wants to know, she's Veronica Mars. She's always Veronica Mars when she's with him, not particularly normal in any way.

"Oh." she doesn't know why it's a surprise, considering Logan's been in her newspaper class since she's had a newspaper class, so this is just natural progression, but it's still Logan, doing something that doesn't involve alcohol or surfing or whoring around, doing something he doesn't have to do. In some irrational corner of her mind she thinks something stupid like "dad would be pleased."

"I'm thinking of majoring in Journalism."

That makes her turn towards him, her bare leg brushing up against his under the sheets; a movement that stops his incessant typing for a second, just as it makes her freeze.

"Why didn't you tell me?" which, stupid, stupid, stupid, Veronica Mars because obviously he'd just say--

"I'm sorry, did I miss the part where this wasn't just a sordid tryst that makes us terribly dysfunctional people, and we got married and I'm supposed to tell you things as part of a pre-nup agreement, which you'd obviously have drawn up as a free pass to bolt anytime you feel like?"

"You don't have to be a jackass," she mutters, because he's right, "I just–  I thought we were friends, at least."

Which is again so spectacularly moronic she can't even believe she said that, especially since–

He laughs in disbelief, "whatever happened to 'we tried being friends, it didn't work, you're out of my life forever?' Such a great closing line, such a fantastic exit, and now you're telling me you didn't even mean it?"

"Yeah, well," she snaps, "this is not exactly you being out of my life, so maybe we can ignore that second part too."

"This is not a friendship." he says, flatly.

"Then what is it," she can't resist asking, because she does labels, even if he doesn't. Even if he can spend days fucking Kendall Casablancas and not have a name for it.

"I don't know," he sounds bored with the conversation, "sex. A drunken one night stand. A lay. A casual fuck. Some other colorful synonym thereof."

"Then let me at least live up to the stereotype, and complete my walk of shame," she snaps, moving away from him.

She tries to wrap the sheet around herself, but it's trapped under his laptop, "Logan."

He doesn't appear to be listening, still typing, and she wants to read, but she sure as hell's not going to ask him to let her, so that's that. And all her clothes are somewhere outside the room, strewn across various fixtures in the Grand, they'd made it to the bed pretty late in the... middle. The thought makes her flush.

"Logan," she tugs harder.

"What," he says finally, irritably, like he has a right here, the bastard. What is wrong with her. Why does she even tolerate him, let alone end up in his bed, naked?

"I need the sheet." she says, in exasperation.

"So do I," he turns back to his stupid laptop, and she resists the urge to go up to him, pick that thing, and smash it against the nearest wall. Logan doesn't have the market cornered on random acts of violence, "it's a post third-wave feminism era Mars, the golden age of equality, your modesty does not get precedence over mine."

She thinks she might have made the worst bargain in keeping her distance, in running away when he got too real; in allowing only the snarky, jackass part of him in, and telling the part that loved her, that constantly kissed her on the head or stroked her hair or held her in his arms or kissed her, spinning her around like he was just always so giddy with her, to fuck off. God, she misses that.

"You know just as well as I do," she says, as calmly as she can manage without breaking down and just screaming at him, "that there are two overlaid sheets, and you're hogging both."

How do they end up here, or somewhere close by, always? Arguing about something so stupid, even after an entire spent in each other, not more than inches apart at any time in the last few hours; it makes her want to bang her head repeatedly against the nearest wall just to get him out.

"I don't see what your problem is," he shrugs, equally calmly, "I've seen everything. Multiple times. In various positions. Your sudden attack of virtuousness is touching, but rather delayed, wouldn't you say?"

"Fine," she says, grimly, because fuck him, fucking Logan Echolls, "keep your fucking sheet. I hope you're very happy together."

She gets up, sans sheet, and for a moment she thinks she can do this, be sexually confident; Lilly would strut about like this, put on a show, it would never even cross Kendall's mind to think twice about it, Claire probably wouldn't either.

But then she remembers all the flaws on her body in magnified detail; the ugly scar on her stomach from the time Be– Cassidy turned her taser on her, the outline of the burn that Aaron left, the undeniable flatness of her chest, the fullness of her thighs, the birthmark below her right breast. It's different, exciting, when it's just his mouth and hands exploring all the crevices and dents in the shadowy blue glow, it's kind to her body, it eases it into something nearly beautiful, but this, this is her, in the direct light of the sun, warts and all. She feels exactly as she remembers feeling once before; standing at a counter with her inexpensive, modestly sexy underthings, in an attempt to be the normal girlfriend, and having Madison Sinclair knowingly inform her that Logan wasn't so big on the one-piece numbers.

She can feel his eyes on her, so she turns around, close to frozen. He's half-dressed in loose pants and he's closer than she'd realized. Somehow, he always seems to end up closer than she realizes.

His eyebrow is smooth, gaze trailing down her body, till she involuntarily covers Be–  Cassidy's scar with her hand. He's going to say something awful; she can see it in his eyes, in the obnoxious quirking of his lips. He's going to make some wise-ass remark, a crude one-liner, and it'll hit right where it hurts, because she's vulnerable right now. He's so good at that.

He sighs, instead, visibly deflating, hand coming to pinch the bridge of his nose, like he has a headache, "god, you're so fucking beautiful."

She crosses her arms over her chest, defensively, before covering the scar again, feeling herself turn red, "yeah, bet you say that to all your conquests."

"Only the beautiful ones," he whispers against her hair, pressed into her from behind, hand coming to wrap around her own hand on her stomach, fingers intertwining with hers.

"Insert naked body three sixty eight into day two hundred point five in the Echolls Suite of Seduction and voilà, yet another Kodak moment." she’s glad he can’t see her face. Not just right now.

“I like you like this,” his voice is low; for some reason he’s not taking the bait, “I like you like this very much.

She knows Logan possesses the ability to make completely innocent things sound dirty, she remembers it well enough from her gold-glazed Lilly days, her second time round with Duncan even, when he was always just there, always around. But he also somehow possesses the opposite ability. To make essentially sexual things sound non-sexual, chaste. It always manages to throw her off.

“I bet you like me even better when I–” she begins, even though she doesn’t know how this sentence ends; vulgarly, most likely.

“No,” he interrupts, “no quips, Veronica, no deflections.”

That one time she’d gone down on him and– swallowed–  her subconscious supplies when her brain stutters; it had felt like control, she knows. She isn't sure if it was supposed to feel like she was submitting to him, but it had felt like control anyway. The time she’d glanced up to see him watching her, and the look in his eyes told her she could break his heart fifty ways if she tried. Thirty seven ways if she didn't. She had to leave after that.

“We can’t keep doing this,” she says to the nothingness in front of her, his breath hot against her neck, “we’ve tried so many times, and it just doesn’t work.” Stop, Pass Go, Collect $200, and the circle begins again.

“Maybe we weren’t trying hard enough.” And there it is, that ever-present hope that Logan somehow has, that things ultimately turn out okay, even though he should know better. He’s had an abusive, murdering father, a suicidal mother, girlfriends who cheated on him, or just didn’t love him enough; goddammit, he should know better.

“Yes we were,” she says, because she had tried, she’d wanted it to work, she’d loved him. He had too. Their actual break-up was stupid, she can't even remember Madison's face clearly right now, but they’d have gotten there eventually, sometime, some way, “we tried so hard.”

“So,” he turns her around, slow, even, “let’s stop trying.”

His hand is big, she realizes suddenly, randomly, ridiculously. She's always known it, objectively, but, in the bright sunlight, splayed on her bare skin like this, it spans her entire stomach almost. The image makes heat curl low in her stomach, but also flare brightly somewhere in her chest.

"We don't even have to have sex," he says, his eyes dark, serious, "we can do the just friends thing. We can do whatever you want to do, Veronica."

"I don't want to be just friends, I want the sex," she says hastily, and the wide, cocky grin that spreads across his face makes her want to hit him, but smile back too; he always manages to incite both emotions somehow.

When he gets down on his knees, she spreads her legs, doesn’t close her eyes.

Sex with Logan is intense, fevered, and mostly too much for her to handle, it always has been. He’s always strung her too high, taken too much, made her admit more than she wants to admit to wanting. But, she’d forgotten this part; sex with Logan is also a lot of awkward maneuvering, trying to adjust the difference in height, a series of absurd, referential, breathless back-and-forths, constant attempts at one-upmanship; sex with Logan is fun

Being with Logan, it makes her feel like breaking things more often than not, but he- if she's now the kind of girl who talks in teen melodrama as a second language- knows her or whatever, damage, dysfunction and all, and it’s kind of the easiest thing in the world. 

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” he whispers mock-seriously to her hipbone, teeth scraping against skin.

The disaster is always the easiest to remember, she knows, but that was never all they were, if she's being honest. And just sometimes, she's being honest.

She strings her fingers through his hair in response. And laughs.