Two months ago I said I was working on a new fic that would be up in a couple of days. Obviously I was speaking of days on Mercury. Anyway, it should run about three or four chapters, and will hopefully be posted before the movie premier.

I owe my soul and sanity to Ghostcat3000 for her thorough and gentle betaing. She's the best in town (hers and mine).

I've grown old before my time, Logan thinks lazily. It's true that spending the last week of winter break lying on his couch would not be featured on a late night tv list of "Top Ten Things Logan Echolls Does," but he has reached a state of almost hypnotized languor. It's like what he imagines experienced Zen masters can achieve, so determinedly focused on stillness that he can ignore his bodily needs. He has a bottle of Coke sitting on the coffee table, within arm's reach, but he doesn't move for it. His cell phone chimed a text ten minutes ago, but he hasn't looked.

Eventually, however, he can see the sky darkening, and can no longer ignore his hunger. He can cook well enough to feed himself now (a necessity once his relocation from the Grand to his own small house had brought an end to his ability to rely on room service) but he has a craving for Chinese, so he stands to grab his phone. The text is still indicated when he goes to call for takeout, so he checks it first. It's from Emily, a girl he met a little over a month ago, right at the beginning of break. He figures he'll look at what she has to say, call Ho Lee Chow, and reply to her while he waits. But he's driven back, wide-eyed, to the couch by what he sees on the screen.

I'M PREGNANT reads the first text, 99% IT'S YOURS

just thought you should know

emily btw

And then, inexplicably and, he imagines, nervously: bye

The last time Logan had thought about having kids was because he had absently answered Veronica's cell phone. It was sitting in the car seat next to him while she was locking up Mars Investigations, and because they had just gotten back together after her summer in Virginia, because there was all smiling and no secrets, he hadn't even thought there would be a reason for him not to pick it up. He had been sure it was Wallace, annoyed that they had not arrived with the pizzas yet.

He had immediately been on alert when the automated message informed him that it was a call from a doctor's office, but had tried to remain calm. Veronica's birthday is in the summer. She probably missed her annual physical he thought, fingers fluttering and spasming around the phone.

"We are calling to confirm a…post-procedural appointment…for…Veronica Mars…on…Tuesday September eighteenth…at…ten o'clock am. To confirm this appointment, please press 1."

Veronica had gotten in the car just then and he had handed the phone to her. "Press one to confirm your appointment," he had said flatly, not looking at her.

"You answered my phone without asking me?" she asked furiously, mashing her finger onto the button.

"I thought it was Wallace." He rounded on her, his body shifting in an aggressive arc in the too-small space of the car. "You had surgery and just forgot to mention?"

"It wasn't surgery, and it wasn't any of your business." She put her hand on the door handle, and he could see the second she remembered that her car was at home, that he was her transportation. He could see the second that she regretted trusting that they could last a whole day without a fight. He could see the second that her Veronica Mars manipulation went into play. "Look, I'm fine. It was a voluntary procedure. I'll get checked out by my gynecologist and I'll be fine."

"What kind of voluntary gynecological procedure does a healthy young person need?" he snapped. But it was a case of his mouth working faster than his brain, because as soon as the words were out, he knew. His voice hushed itself. "Veronica, did you get your tubes tied?"

"No, Logan. I had a hysteroscopic sterilization, actually. I don't want to worry about the Pill, I don't want kids, and if I ever do in the future, I kind of buy into the whole 'giving a home to a needy child' bit. You know me, doing my part to solve the overpopulation crisis." She had looked at his still stricken face. "Come on, Logan. It was just insurance."

"Right. Insurance." His voice was still dead, but he had started the car.

"Tell me a story?" Veronica said quietly after a few minutes. It was something she used to say when their misadventures with the Kane children had tipped slightly over the line and she needed light and grounding. He remembered the first time, the soft drift of her voice as they dragged Duncan and Lilly's inebriated forms through the Kane's rose bushes at three in the morning. He had grinned, then, and although he was drunk enough himself that moving his mouth had felt like a dream, made something up about a crime-fighting iguana.

"No stories this time," Logan said roughly, and shut off the engine.

He tried to put the whole thing out of his mind, had gone along when she had acted like everything was normal, but three weeks later, he and Veronica had broken up and it had slipped down the list of worries regardless.

He wants to call Dick and say, "Don't ask questions, just take me to the nearest bar and let me get so shitfaced I don't remember anything."

He wants to call Duncan and let the panic he feels out when he begs to know how to deal with being an accidental father.

He wants to call Trina and tell her that she's at this point definitely out of the will.

He wants to call Keith Mars and ask him how to be a good dad.

He wants to call Lynn and say, "Surprise, you're going to be a grandma."

He wants to call Aaron and swear that he will not be living up to his fatherly example.

He wants to call Veronica and hire her to find the way that this isn't true. He wants to call Veronica and tell her he's sorry, to wonder hesitantly if there is any way that she will ever forgive him for this. He wants to call Veronica and have her listen quietly as he talks about his fear and his doubt and his confusion and self-loathing.

In the end, his body stagnates from too much wanting and he falls asleep, still hunched over on the couch.

Lilly already knew what she was doing the first time they had sex. He, on the other hand, was fourteen and just figuring out how to maneuver with limbs suddenly grown long.

"Looks like something else is having a growth spurt," she had said wickedly one afternoon, reaching for his belt as he desperately tried to play it cool. He had hooked up with other girls before, but there was something about Lilly Kane that shook him up. Her confidence, maybe, or the way that instead of seeming delighted to be with him, she made it seem like he should be delighted that she was letting him be with her.

He hadn't been good the first time, but Lilly had patted his cheek and promised to train him up. "You're going to be spectacular," she had winked. "And I'll forbear until then."

And by a few months later, he was very very good. Good enough that Lilly had needed to catch her breath before rolling over and telling him matter of factly, "I'm pregnant."

Every muscle in his body weakened. "Shit." He had clenched the comforter tightly in his fist, squeezing his eyes shut and blowing out a breath before managing shakily, "Shit, Lilly. What do we do? Do we raise it together? My trust doesn't kick in for another few years but maybe if I ask my parents-" He had cut himself off when he realized that she was clenching her lips against laughter.

"I'd love to see their faces," she eventually got out, "But don't worry, you're a few years away from Pampers and preschools."

"Jesus Christ." He rolled off the bed and flung himself toward the liquor cabinet. He wasn't sure that he would be able to make a successful bottle-to-glass transfer, and wasn't really interested in the polite regulation of cups anyway, so he took a direct gulp, and then a few more. When the alcohol- he wasn't entirely sure what he had grabbed- started to flow through him, words returned. "What the fuck was that?"

"Just a little fun." She had come up behind him and wrapped herself around his shoulders. "Just something to shake you up." She shimmied against his back. "Don't pretend you're not getting turned on right now." And he had discovered that as good as sex was with Lilly, sex with Lilly when he was riding on an arc of relief and anger was even better.

But he had always been exceptionally careful after that. That minute of pure panic had been too much for him already.

Because "karma" is apparently from the Sanskrit for "can't believe you thought you'd ever catch a break, dickhead," Logan wakes the next morning to the cell phone in his hand vibrating and displaying Veronica's number. He is paralyzed enough that he doesn't really have to make a choice about whether or not to pick up, and the phone rolls over to voicemail. Eventually he shakes himself out of it and checks the recording. Her voice rings through clearly, busy and excited.

"Still Harriet Tubman? Guess you must have really overdosed on too much Arrested Development if you haven't changed the inspirational message. Anyway, slacker, just checking to make sure that we're still on for dinner before Mac's thing. And it's my turn to pick, so unlimited breadsticks for all!"

His fingers somehow decide that he should listen to the message two more times before he finally gathers himself and turns off the phone, holding it between his palms and resting his chin on it. He had forgotten that Mac, recently making an effort to bond with her biological family, had invited them all to game night at the Sinclair's. He had forgotten that he and Veronica were going to go together to hang out as the friends they had somehow managed to become. They've been inching toward something more, and he remembers this once again as he realizes that she could have just texted him, but had instead chosen to call, had wanted to speak with him, to hear his voice.

He wants to hear her voice, too, but he absolutely can't face a night of lying to her by pretending that everything is still normal. Still, he wants to keep their friendship intact, so he calls her back. "Don't spill it to Entertainment Tonight, but Trina's been picked up for some decidedly lewd conduct in Malibu, and in the spirit of the season of family togetherness, has called me to come bail her out." It's like he's possessed, because he can see his reflection in the window and he still looks shell-shocked, but the lie comes out smoothly, touched with the appropriate measures of humor and irritation. There's shame, bitter in his mouth, as he realizes that somehow he has managed to regain her trust enough that she does not question him, that she commiserates jokingly about his need to change plans. He calls Mac as well, making the same excuse and apologizing for leaving her with one less buffer person. He says that if he gets back to town in time, he'll try to make it.

"Well, Lauren will miss you. I'm pretty sure she's going through withdrawals after so much Logan-less time," Mac teases, and Logan groans exaggeratedly and flexes his fingers and hates himself.

He doesn't know what to do when he's done. He almost moves to get a drink, even though he has cut back drastically over the last year, to Lynn-Echolls-would-have-no-reason-to-talk-to-him-at-a-cocktail-party levels of sobriety. But then he thinks You can't drink when you're pregnant and he sits with his knuckles pressed against his teeth to keep from screaming and doesn't move for an hour. Finally he texts Emily back.

we should probably talk about this. 12 okay for you?

He wants her to say no, to respond embarrassedly that she had meant to text Lincoln, not Logan, that it was all a misunderstanding, ha ha, hope we can forget about this. But she writes back almost immediately:

same bat place.

Here's the really ironic thing: when he and Emily hooked up, or whatever, it felt good. She had come to the party with a friend who he knew because she had a sister the same age as Heather and they sometimes ran into each other when he was going to stuff her parents were too busy for. But Amber had soon gone to talk to someone else and he had been alone chatting with Emily. As the night wore on they started kissing and eventually she told him that it was time for her to go home, but that her roommate had already left town for vacation. She asked if he wanted to come with, and he said yes, so they went back to her place and slightly better than decent sex.

"You can stay, if you want," she had mumbled after, and he was tired from studying for finals and just slightly buzzed, so he did, even though the dorm beds at Hearst were far too narrow for it to be comfortable. They ate cereal together in the morning- she cross-legged on the bed and he at the desk- and talked about classes, arguing over which of them had the crazier professor: his possibly ex-KGB Stats lady, or her elderly, oversharing Lit teacher. She had walked him to the door even though it was visible from the bed.

"I guess a good time was had by all?" he had said, smiling as she added her number to his contacts.

"Definitely." She handed the phone back, kissed his cheek. "And text me if you want those notes from that Comm class. You'll see in a few weeks. Snyder talks so fast that doubling up is basically a necessity."

He had kept smiling as he walked away, had flipped his phone and caught it, and probably even whistled as he went to find his car. He supposed technically it was a walk of shame, but he hadn't felt ashamed, he had felt normal. There was no guilt, no concern for the consequences of what had happened, none of the sleazy disorientation that came from wondering who he had slept with and why, no need to finish catching his breath before steeling himself to tell a half stranger to get her things and go, or for him to sneak out in the night. He wasn't over his relationship with Veronica (he's never over his relationship with Veronica, only betwixt and between) but this somehow felt like the mature version of a hookup. It had felt functional, like he was part of the ninety-nine percent for whom one night stands were not traumatic or borderline abusive.

I might as well have put a 'kick me' sign on my back for fate to aim at, he thinks morosely, and goes to try to drown himself in the shower.

He wanted to bring coffee so that he would have something to do with his hands, but he's pretty sure that pregnant women aren't supposed to drink coffee, so he refrains, figuring that she might see it as unencouraging at best and insulting at worst, and that's not how he wants to start things off. He regrets it, though, because he's going absolutely crazy inside his skin. He remembers where Emily lives, and it just rubs it in deeper that the memories are so clear because it's further proof of how cogent he was at the time, how careful, and so how could this have happened? Thankfully, it's far enough away from anywhere that he suspects anyone from his friend group would be that he doesn't worry about his lie being exposed. Instead he spends his energy stressing over why is takes her seven full seconds to answer the door after his knock.

The February before Lilly had been killed, Lynn Echolls had organized a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. It hadn't been the most popular cause. There were, of course, liberal or pseudo-liberal members of the Neptune community, but it was always easier to get donations for causes people could agree on, like breast cancer or reseeding the green at Torrey Pines. Still, when Aaron Echolls approached people and, squeezing their hands just a touch too hard, told them jovially, "Lynn tells me that we haven't received your RSVP. Of course, we'd love to see you there," the tables filled up.

Usually he wouldn't have gotten involved, but Lynn had been particularly invested in the event. She had remained unusually clear-headed leading up to it, but Logan remembered one night when she had gone just slightly over the limit.

"It's her choice, Logan. If you're ever in that kind of situation, it's her choice. It's her body and her choice and you will support her." She had been shaking her glass in his face at that point, hard enough that a little piece of ice chipped off and hit his cheek. He had loved his mother, he really had, but at that point all he wanted to do was ditch her forced family time for some time with Lilly's new custom lingerie from Germany.

Now that he considers it, her words might not have been about the kids in the pamphlets that had been scattered around the living room. If you looked at her resume, it would be obvious that she had gone from rom-com star and action sidekick to voicing cartoon turtles and popping in as the mom on sitcoms just around the time that Logan had been born. And even though he knows that she loved him, as he waits hyperventilating slightly in front of Emily's room, he wonders if it had been her choice to have him at all.

Still her words are all he can think about as Emily opens the door, biting her lip, and he lifts his forehead from where it is resting against his crooked arm on the doorjamb. "It's your body and your choice. What do you want to do?" he blurts.

She looks tired and ridiculously terrified and he thinks thank God it's break because there's no way in hell either of us could go to class thinking about this.

They sit side by side on the bed and he thinks that she would be offended if he told her how profoundly grateful he is that she changed the sheets. He's hanging very precariously onto sanity and seeing those same turquoise stripes wouldn't be an unlikely candidate for pushing him over.

They've been sitting quietly for a while before he asks again, trying to be gentle, "What do you want to do? Because I'm with you, whatever you want."

"I don't know," she says, voice shallow. "I mean, I'm," she waves a hand around vaguely in the air, "Catholic, but, like, birth control and cheating during Lent Catholic. And having a baby right now would basically screw up my life."

He's about to say, "So we're thinking abortion? Adoption?" when she buries her face in her hands. "I mean, there's no reason to keep it, but I think I'm going to do it anyway. It just feels like…it feels like the right choice."

"Shit. Really? Shit." All of his eloquence and posturing desert him. He isn't sure how to react inside his own mind, much less toward her. Crucially, the terrible little whisper in his mind hadn't snuck out, the one that was saying that leaving the choice up to her was supposed to relieve the pressure of choosing to have an abortion, not justify keeping the baby. Trying to live up to the person he is attempting to be, he pulls himself together to add, "Are you sure?"

She shudders tearlessly, and he feels it run through him as well. "I'm going to think it over for a few days, but I'm pretty sure."

Logan thinks of the fetus evolving inside of her at this very moment and tries to think of the most neutral way to question that. "Do we have that kind of time?" he says eventually.

Emily reaches over to her nightstand. "We have a few more weeks," she says, rifling through a stack of papers. "Abortions in California can be legally obtained until the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy, although most providers consider it safer during the first twelve weeks," she reads off one of the printouts, before switching, almost obsessively, to another. "Paternity can be tested at nine weeks with a blood test that carries no risks, so I scheduled an appointment. That'll be in two weeks."

"So… so there's a reason to test paternity?"

"If I got pregnant, then it means my pill failed. In the timeframe the doctor told me, I was…with you, and then there was once with my ex." If he wasn't already feeling disastrous about this situation, the fact that she can't say the word 'sex' to him would have clinched it. She refuses to look at him, so all he could see was the way she was compulsively biting the inside of her cheek.

"Have you told him too?"

Emily gathers up all of the papers, tucking them into a red binder on her desk. For all of her straightening, they have no holes punched, so they slide and fan out of the file. "Uh, yeah. I texted him also. He won't talk about it yet, though, so I'm not going to force it until the test comes back and it becomes an issue."

Rubbing a hand across his mouth as if muffling the words will make them less true, he says, "I guess you'll need me there. To give blood or a cheek swab or whatever."

"Yes." She doesn't look like she wants it to be true any more than he does. And in that moment, looking at the pale tightness of her mouth, any doubts he had about someone playing a trick, any thoughts about his father's sex talk, which was basically a warning that the groupies out there would do anything for an Echolls baby, vanish. Either she is a better actress than anyone he has ever met, a list which includes Meryl Streep, or this is real. He does not react further, but can't tell if it's a sign of increased comfort with the idea or if he's just gradually being submerged into shock.

She crosses her arms, shifting a little. "The test is pretty simple. They'll draw your blood, draw my blood to find the baby's DNA in it, a few hundred dollars, and then they tell us if they match or not."

"I'll pay for it. Whatever you need, I'll pay for it."

"Not for this. I have the money for this. Later, if I need help, we'll talk about it, but I'll be fine for now."

Logan isn't sure how to respond to that. Part of him finds her independence endearing, finds it reassuring that she doesn't want to take his money. But he is panicked despite himself because if he is not going to be able to support her financially, it means having to support her emotionally. And he's not certain he can even do that for himself at the moment.

He flounders for another question, wishing that he had thought to write these all down, wishing he were the responsible type of person who would have bothered. "Are we…are we telling people?"

"I told my best friend," Emily says, looking down. "But she's not going to tell anyone. And I think I'm going to call my doctor from home." She laughs like a cut, tucking her arms over each other. "I still go to a pediatrician. I was supposed to get a grownup doctor, but I've been going to the same practice since I was a kid, and they just kept scheduling me appointments after I'd aged out."

So far he's been shocked and panicked and even angry enough to punch a couple of walls, but this just makes him sad. He doesn't quite know what to say. "So, you'll call me, whatever you decide about…?"

"Yeah, Logan. I'll call you." He gets up from the bed and lets himself out the door. It occurs to him as he walks away that that was the only time she has called him by his name.

He has these dreams, has had them for years, where it's just Veronica saying his name. She stands in front of him and says his name in all the tones she has for it- upset and pissed and wondering and admonishing and playful- and he wakes up gasping for no reason at all. Sometimes he goes to call her, sometimes the phone has already begun to ring, but he always hangs up.

Logan hasn't really missed the Grand since he left, but now he wishes for the extensive on-site gym. He takes long runs on the beach and around the neighborhood, but it doesn't have the same mind-freezing properties as lifting weights until his muscles give up. It gives him too much time to think when he really wants to do the opposite.

He's tremendously grateful when school starts again. He quickly adds another class to fill up his time, forcing himself to pay attention to readings he would have skimmed over in semesters past, and even investing in highlighters.

Emily catches up to him one day as he's walking to class. There isn't a lot of mystery to where he'll be; these days he moves mostly between class and home. The time that he had started spending with Veronica and Mac and the rest of their friends has declined. He's been making excuses for a week and a half, and that just makes him feel worse, as if everything is hitting at once.

He and Emily haven't talked again because she had seemed like she needed space, and he definitely needed space, even though it just allowed room for the anxiety to grow. So he's surprised when she seems to drop out of the sky in the middle of the path.

"I'm keeping it," she says, rip-the-bandaid-off quick. "The appointment for the test is next Thursday, at two." She is rubbing her hand roughly over her collarbone. If it's a tic he, not surprisingly, isn't familiar with, and the way that he can know this one secret and none of the smaller part of her makes him want to vanish . "My ex is still kind of…out of it, but if you'll give a blood sample, then we can rule you out. You can come with me, or schedule your own time to do it."

Logan has class at two on Thursdays. "I'll be there."

She gives him the address, on a tiny piece of torn paper that he tucks in his wallet because he doesn't know what else to do, and turns away, walking quickly in the opposite direction.

He goes to class and hopes that they aren't discussing anything important, because through the daze in his head he can't remember what the subject is. When the people around him get up, he goes to the registrar's office and drops his extra course. He might want the distraction, but he probably needs the extra time in his life now.

In February of his sophomore year, Logan entered a piece of writing in the Hearst arts festival. Out of character, yes, because it wasn't required, and there wasn't a prize, and college hadn't made him into the type of person who wore jackets with patches at the elbows and quoted Kerouac to seem deep. But he had just moved into his new place, and he and Veronica had stopped talking five months ago, and he hadn't just taken newspaper in high school for kicks. Dick kept pushing him to go out, and writing his story had become an easy go-to excuse for avoiding the temptation of getting hammered all the time.

It was a sad story, nostalgic and a little funny. "Characters are explored in a way uncommon for short fiction. Their emotions and their stories are laid bare for the reader to judge and understand," read the commentary that accompanied his entry. He would deny it if confronted, but he reread the review for weeks afterward, sneaking it out before he went to bed like a junkie so he could fall asleep with an idiot grin on his face.

The writing was published in a journal, but he was still invited to attend the opening of the visual art show. There was a part of him that hoped that he would be approached not with a breathless "Aren't you Aaron Echolls's son?" but by someone who would rest their hand on his arm and tell him gravely that his story had moved them. So he put on his best well, you invited me, so here I am casual-formal attire and went.

Once he arrived, though, he wished that he had read the list of contributors more carefully, because Veronica Mars was standing in a blue cocktail dress, speaking to two older women and gesturing to a photograph right behind herself. He was turning to go when a voice by his shoulder said, "You're Logan Echolls, aren't you? I read your story. And I wanted to know if you hate all women, or just the ones who might stand up for themselves."

He was trapped in conversation with a freshman ("freshperson") transfer called Enid for an hour. Irritatingly, and frighteningly, she was clearly cleverer than he was. She was also persistent, so that every time he tried to get out of the conversation by excusing himself or walking away or getting pissed at her, she just kept talking until he came back and defended himself.

Enid eventually let him go and, in the way of things, he turned around and Veronica was standing behind him. It was the first time he had even seen her in months, since their horrible fight. The details of it escaped him, but he remembered the finality of his heartbeat as the door had smacked shut behind her.

"I see things haven't changed," he said, gesturing to her face, which was registering the mix of irritation, disappointment and grudging pleasure that she seemed to sport so frequently around him.

For a second, pissed became her primary expression, but then her eyes softened and her mouth resigned. "I see things have." She crossed her arms in a way that made him wonder why she had bothered coming over to him in the first place. "I...I read your story. I thought that it was really good."

"I would have seen your pictures up close, but I got kind of waylaid by the feminine mystique back there." When she smiled, he couldn't fight the instinct to smile back. Before he could check himself, he asked, "I was going to go, but there's this new all-night bakery, and if you're not busy, maybe we could do apology cookies?" Then, subtly horrified, he backtracked. "Or something suitably not lame, but simultaneously commitment free."

"No," Veronica said quickly, and the look on her face made it clear that she have any more control over her words than he did over his. She closes her eyes for a moment, corrects the course of her words. "I mean, yes. You know I'm always down for a cookie."

They had managed to make conversation for an hour, the kind of meaningless small talk that both made Logan almost forget that she held a lot of the qualities that would qualify her as his best friend, and wish to regain that closeness. Finally Veronica put down her cookie (her fourth, and they were large) and informed him that they were just going to have to talk about it.

Logan had been relying on her typical avoidance strategies to be able to see her again without actually confronting anything. It's an unfortunate time for her to be turning over a new leaf. "I don't really need to have the why we broke up rehash, seguing into the why we broke up argument. I already have my merit badge in that, so it's time to try for the woodworking one." The nature-or-nurture theatrical part of Logan wished that they were someplace fancier, so he could signal for the check or throw money down on the table. Veronica must have seen something in his eyes or the shifting of his movement, because she rested a hand on his arm.

"Maybe we could try working on the communication badge instead?" He looked at her face, so concertedly meek, and settled in his seat again, laughing. Defensively, she added, "I was a Girl Scout."

"Of course you were. Is the communication badge a real thing?"

A reluctant smile tipped up the corners of her mouth. "Just for Boy Scouts, but my dad always kept his old shirt around. When I was little, he would make up all these stories about how he earned his all his patches. Like, he would say that he wrestled a bear for his Wilderness Survival badge." The curls of her smile froze. "But eventually I stopped believing him."

"Good." Logan was aware that his voice was too sharp and choked, but he didn't care. He didn't look at her, though, focusing instead on the crumbs scattered on their tabletop. "I wouldn't want you to go out to the woods to try for yourself." He picked at a nail, under the table where she couldn't see. "I don't mean to blame you, and I know that it's part of who you are, but the way you put yourself in danger…I don't know that I'll ever be able to handle that."

"Maybe you won't have to," and it was the hope in her voice that made him face her. "After what happened last semester, Mac and Wallace sat me down for a quality intervention. Really, you should have been. Cheese curls and everything while they told me how my behavior was hurting me and the people I care about."

"And I'm sure you eagerly hopped on that train." He tried for sarcasm, which usually came so easily, but it was touched by jealousy. He would have given anything for her to listen to him, to just take care of herself a little more, but all he remembered was her anger and rejection.

"I didn't talk to them for three weeks," Veronica said baldly. "But they were right. You were right."

Isn't that a four letter word for you? Logan forced himself to be gentle. She was apologizing, which was all he had sought for so long. But it rubbed him to forget, made him nervous to show her his softness. "What does that mean?"

"It means I'm done." She looked away, and he was glad. "Not with everything, but the really dangerous stuff, the stuff that lost my dad the election and the rest of his hair-"

"And me my sanity," Logan muttered. It is only partly involuntary, but he continued apologetically, "I mean, I know that you probably don't want to hear it from the guy who was voted "Most Likely to Commit a Felony" in our yearbook-"

"Hey, you only got that because I was already awarded Class Skank," she said, lightly joking. He grinned and relaxed a little.

"I get that what you do is important, and that it's a big part of who you are. But I can't say I won't worry less about you knowing that you're spending less of your time around people with criminal tendencies."

"Well, don't count yourself out, tiger." The uncomfortable look that came over her face, the way she couldn't seem to help playing with the wax paper from her cookie echoed the vaguely nauseous feeling in his stomach. After a minute, she looked up. "Look, I know I'm not the easiest person to be around. And you've had reasons to doubt me in the past. But if we could get to a place where we could be friends, I would…I would really like that."

The noise of the shop overwhelmed them, and he just stared for a moment. Finally he said, "You're not the only sinner here, Veronica. And if you…" He cleared his graceless throat. "If you can forget that I used to go around town writing your phone number in public bathrooms, then friendship could just be the everything old that's new again."

The smiles that came over her face was one of the shy, slow dawns that he sometimes saw behind his eyes in the second before he truly woke up. "Deal."

And somehow his prayers that they would manage to actually maintain a friendship were answered. Bad movie festivals and talking Veronica into trying rock climbing eventually became made-up game night with Wallace and Mac and Mac's new roommate Rosa (Parker had transferred to a school in Arizona to get away from everything Hearst reminded her of, and was very happy from what Logan could see on her Facebook page). Even Piz joined them once he had stopped flinching from Logan and alternating between blushing and glaring at Veronica. The glowing in Logan's chest the night everyone stayed up until dawn helping him finally put together the impossible IKEA furniture in his new place was outweighed only by the time that Wallace had mentioned that they should go to a basketball game together, so casually that it wasn't until hours later that Logan had realized that he actually had friends.