Title: The View from the Cheap Seats
Pairing/Character: Veronica, Logan (platonic)
Word Count: 4,350
Summary: The five stages of grief.
Spoilers: through "Ruskie Business"
Notes: I should clarify the pairing. While this isn't specifically a Veronica/Logan 'ship story, I do think it portrays their relationship in a mostly positive light. It's how I see their dynamic at this point in time, so please don't let the "platonic" label turn you off if you're into V/L fic. ;)
The View from the Cheap Seats
He comes to school every day, but he almost seems to be sleepwalking through his classes. It's kind of a surprise, since he'd always been the type to face embarrassment with a big "Fuck you!" to the world. Even more surprising is the near-bursting file folder she finds on her doorstep Thursday night.
She catches up to him at the side of the pool. He should be long gone by now, but everything about him feels slower now, more lethargic.
"What's this?" she demands, her voice a little harder than she wants it to be.
He turns around. In the bluish light reflecting off the pool, his left eye is rimmed in silver and what might be cracked makeup. She starts to ask if he's okay, but he cuts her off. Of course.
"It's all the e-mails and notes Lilly ever gave me. They're probably worthless, but maybe you can find something in them."
Sure, it's a cliché, but she actually feels her heart sliding up her throat. "How did you –?"
"I just know."
He starts to walk away, and she knows she won't get anything else out of him. Still, she is Veronica, after all. "Why are you doing this?"
"I need the karma points."
"Since when have you cared about karma?" she demands.
"Since when have you cared what I care about?" Touche.
Instead of marching off in a huff, he sits down on a deck chair. She pulls another over to join him. They sit in silence for a long time, which is a very strange thing to be doing with him. Even when they're fighting like cats and dogs, they've always had tons to say to each other.
She's never been comfortable with silence. "How did you know I was looking into Lilly's death?"
Logan shrugs. "Remember when you were driving me back from L.A., and you stopped for gas? I went through your things in the backseat." At least he has the balls to look a little guilty.
She should haul off and slap him, or else just rip him a new one with her voice. Can't really fault him, though. God knows she would've done the same thing.
"So why'd you bring me this folder?" It's heavy in her hands, full of memories and regrets, even if they're not her own.
A sigh and another shrug. "Figured the girl detective could look for some clues or whatever."
Good point. "Thanks."
Then he finally looks at her. "Why are you even doing this? Abel Koontz is on death row."
"He didn't kill her." Her voice gets a little too loud for the eerie poolside silence, so she checks herself. "I can't explain how I know. I just do."
Logan jumps to his feet. "Why can't you just let things go?"
Okay, she's trying to be all sympathetic and easy with him, but this is getting to be too much. "You're one to be talking."
Logan winces, and his hand curls into a fist. God, does he now think he has to solve things with violence? Did his parents teach him that? She wants to ask him about it, to get him to tell her all about, well, that, but it'd just open up a whole world of trouble. She's not ready for that. They're not.
"And if you find out who killed her, is that going to make everything right again?"
She doesn't have an answer for that.
He rolls his eyes and groans, just like the Logan she remembers. Even so, she thinks maybe she's gotten through to him. Before he can storm off again, she calls out, "Don't tell anyone, okay? I'm serious. Don't."
And then he melts into the parking lot's darkness, like another of all her ghosts.
The "C" glaring back at her on today's AP English assignment reminds her that she should probably, like, study or something. Pesky high school. After dinner on Friday – yeah, she's a party animal, alright – Veronica curls up on the sofa and hauls out the books. Milton is beyond boring, though, so she lets her mind wander to all the other, far more interesting things she could be doing. She should really look into turning the investigation work into an independent study project.
Just when she's finally figuring out a thesis for her thematic study assignment, the phone rings. Of course. Caller ID reads "Sheriff". That can't be good.
But then there's Leo saying something, and she has to turn down the TV to hear him better; he does get a bit mumbly sometimes.
"Your friend Logan was just brought into the station. Maybe you should come on down."
She sits up straight, nearly throwing out her back in the process. "I'll be there in a few."
Logan. Sheriff's department. That definitely can't be good.
Twenty minutes later, she's striding into the lobby, all badass-y as she can manage. Leo looks up and grins, then he kisses his finger. PDAs in front of cops are always a bad idea, but she hasn't yet figured out what to make of his air-kissing habit. So she just gives him a sorta-smile in return.
"Where is he?"
Leo points to the interrogation room. "He should be in the holding cell, but the duty officer stuck him in there."
Veronica knows full well that if any other kid had been brought in, they'd be behind bars right now. But none of the rich kids here spend any time in the clink. Another reason to hate this town. Of course, neither of them says that aloud. They know better.
Instead, she asks, "Is he lawyered up?"
Leo shakes his head, but he looks like he'd much rather be doing something far more pleasant with her. Maybe later. More important things to deal with now. So she gives him her flirtiest smile and says, "I'll take care of it. Just keep everyone else out until I say so, okay?"
"Have fun," he says with a wink.
"Oh, you know I will." She's significantly less chipper.
The room is as cold and drab and privacy-mirrored as always. She takes the seat opposite Logan, who's crouched over with white knuckles covering his face.
"Well, this is a surprise."
He doesn't reply.
Another try, and then she'll cut her losses and leave. "What's the situation?"
"Driving... under... the... influence." Words drawn out like sour taffy. Logan finally looks up, and she can see he's well and truly wasted. But instead of being all hyper like usual, he's just ... morose. Lovely.
"How long before your lawyer gets here?"
"I didn't call him. No way in hell can my dad know about this. Anyway, he's in Toronto shooting 'Hair-Trigger 2: The Conditioning', or whatever crap they're inflicting upon digital video this week."
He's right, though. She has a pretty good idea of what'll happen when Aaron Echolls finds out about a DUI arrest. Unleash badness all over the world, then the publicist will wrap it up in shiny paper from some boutique.
"Look, I can get you out of here if you'll just cooperate, okay?"
The only thing keeping her from slapping him is the fact that someone might be watching behind the one-way mirror; that, and some bizarre thread of sympathy still left inside her. So she pulls out her cellphone and dials a familiar number.
"Veronica," Cliff answers in that mocking tone of his. "What trouble have you gotten yourself into this time?"
"You know me – always walkin' on the wild side," she banters back, trying on the charm even though her mind is far from it. "Seriously, though, I'm at the sheriff's department. A friend of mine got picked up for DUI, and he needs some help getting out."
As expected, he groans. "It's Friday night. I've got better things to –"
"His name is Logan Echolls."
Ah, yes. For all his self-deprecating comments about his mad law skills, Cliff's smarter than he lets on. "I've got a car payment due next week. I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
She hangs up and looks back at Logan. "It's gonna cost you."
He doesn't even blink as he pulls a wad of cash out of his wallet. She really kind of hates him for that.
Everything's quiet for a few minutes. She hears laughter on the other side of the door, and Logan's foot taps some beat she doesn't recognize. She wonders if he's been cloned or something, because this morose person opposite her is nothing like the Logan she's known and loathed for so long. More than anything, it just makes her sad.
They're not about to have some big heart-to-heart talk here in the interrogation room, so she might as well interrogate him. "What happened tonight, anyway?"
"A wild night of reckless debauchery," he sneers.
"Yeah, right. Try again, idiot."
"And why the hell should I tell you anything?"
She's damn near shouting at this point. "Because I'm the one who's saving your sorry ass, Logan."
"Fine, whatever." He does soften, though. Just a little. "I was on my way to Dick Casablancas's big birthday blowout tonight. Decided to start the celebration a little early."
"So you were drinking -- alone -- and then you got in a car? Gee, I always knew you were a moron. I just never realized you were so monumentally stupid."
His face lights up in a macabre smile, and he waves his fingers in the air. "Welcome to my life, babe."
She's smart, though, and something occurs to her. "Which officer stopped you?"
"Said his name was Cardenas."
Aha. "Did he do a breathalyzer on you, or just haul you in here?" Dad used to say that Deputy Cardenas had a nasty habit of shooting first and asking questions later, so to speak.
"What, you're imagining me walking in a straight line with my finger on my nose?" He mimics the action, all insouciant and looking far more clever than she knows he really is.
"I'm serious, Logan. Technically, he can pick you up on suspicion of intoxication, but if he didn't have enough grounds, that just might be enough to get you off. Well, that and a threat of a huge lawsuit. Cliff will sort it out for you."
The snotty look dissolves. "You really think I can get out of here without Dad finding out?" And, as assy as he'd been acting, now he just looks like a scared kid.
She softens a little, too. "Yeah, I do. It's worth a shot, right?"
There's nothing left for her to do. Cliff can handle the fallout. So she stands up and mutters, "You're welcome," voice dripping sarcasm.
That gets his attention. And when he whispers, "Thank you," she almost believes him.
Veronica pauses at the door, then turns back to look at Logan. "Lilly's dead. Your mother's dead. Are you trying to get yourself killed, too?"
The silence in the room screams and thrashes like a living thing. She knows she's hit him where it hurts, and she'd feel guilty if she weren't so very, very tired of it all.
Veronica sighs and walks out of the room, not waiting for an answer she knows will never come.
What does the former outcast do when she's suddenly not quite so cast-out anymore? Party, of course.
Wallace is the one that dragged her to it, strangely enough. Beach shindig for the basketball jocks, celebrating Neptune High's first and – so far – only win of the season. He's working the crowd like magic, thanks to scoring one of the few baskets last night. Score one for the team, and suddenly you're not the school doof. Well, for everyone except for her. Nobody exactly does a "Yay, Veronica's here!" cheer when they drive up, but they're not making "Begone, witch!" signs with their fingers. Guess that's an improvement.
It's weird to see Wallace like this, all laughter and boasts. Veronica's not jealous or anything. Just surprised. She mostly watches from the proverbial sidelines, nursing a beer and biding her time until she can leave without him ragging on her for being such a stick-in-the-mud. The beer leaves her feeling maudlin and introspective. She used to get off on parties like this. Now they feel like a completely different world, as if she's watching them on television instead of right in the middle of things. And she realizes that even if she were to get her old social status back, she'd never want it again. Not after everything that's happened.
Just as she makes up her mind to head home whether Wallace likes it or not, she glances over and spots Logan getting out of his car. He laughs and yells something to a group of guys, practically bouncing over toward them in his haste to grab a beer.
All she can do is groan. So much for thinking he'd learned a lesson from his little DUI scare. But then she's figured out by now that nobody ever learns lessons, not really. They just pretend that they have.
When she reaches her car, she looks for Wallace, but he's in the middle of some crowd. She'll just call him later. Then she notices Logan looking at her. Just looking – no smile, no glare – like he'd done before. Typical. She almost prefers the old asshole version; at least then she knew where things stood.
But then he raises his hand to wave at her, and his lips curl up in an almost-smile that might just be gratitude. No words, of course, but it's still unexpected.
She waves back, and then she drives away, not bothering to figure it all out.
Boy reporter and girl photographer on their way to interview sources for an expose on Neptune's after-school job market. The perfect recipe for a 1940s screwball comedy – if it'd been anyone but her and Logan. As they pull into the parking lot of the Neptune Cineplex, the radio starts blaring another of Lilly's favorite songs. God, what is it with the DJs choosing their playlists according to which moments would prove most awkward for her? As if this whole roadtrip weren't already a world of weird.
Logan immediately turns it off.
"Mom used to come here to see movies," he blurts out. "She loved to sit in the back and snark with me about all the starlets. Said she wouldn't dare do that in L.A., but nobody in Neptune cared. That's why she loved living here."
Once again, Veronica's at a loss for words. She hates how he makes her feel that way. But he's got a nostalgic look on his face, and he doesn't seem like he's on the verge of chewing her out, so she might as well go with it.
"My mom loves this place, too. All she had to do was smile, and they'd give her free popcorn."
He pulls into a parking space and turns off the car. "Does it ever get any easier?"
"No." She doesn't hesitate. "I mean, I can't really say because my mother's not dead, but she's still gone."
She wants to ask how his father's dealing with it, but she knows that's a bad idea. So she simply says, "It'll take a long time, but things will get easier."
He shrugs and gets out of the car. Grabbing her camera, she follows.
When they get to the box office, he suddenly turns to glare at her. "For the record, I don't have a deathwish, Veronica Mars."
Then he's bounding inside and walking over to the shift manager, who she recognizes from sixth period Spanish class.
Veronica hangs back to take photos. She doesn't need to listen – the interview will probably be the same as the other three today. So she watches Logan instead, and how it's like he's become a different person in 6.7 seconds flat. Shouldn't be a surprise, though – he is, after all, the child of two actors.
Once the interview's over, he walks back over to her, hands in his pockets. "Wanna catch a movie? Miami Dreams starts in ten minutes."
Logan's probably the only person who still has the power to shock her. But he looks sincere, and though she really should be getting home, she kinda wants to stay.
"Isn't that Connor Larkin's new movie?"
He grins. "Yeah, I've heard it's awful."
Veronica pretends to size him up, and then she breaks out into laughter. "I'll get the popcorn."
Just like that, it's as if the past year hasn't mattered, and she remembers why they used to be friends a long time ago.
END, "The View from the Cheap Seats".