Title: A Feather's Weight

Author: Lois Fogg (utsusemia on LJ)

Pairing/Character: Logan/Veronica, a little Wallace

Word Count: 8,600

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Post 2.16 AU. How do you cope when you've done the unthinkable?

Spoilers: If you've seen through "The Rapes of Graff" you're golden.

Warnings: Sex and language

Cross-posted to Veronica Mars Fic. Most author's notes at the bottom, but I just wanted to thank everyone who responded to Basket Case. I really loved reading all your reactions. Hope you like this one, too.

----------------------

"Where's Logan?"

Veronica knows why Molly is asking her. Molly's a Fitzpatrick, after all, and no matter how badly her family has fucked her over, she'll still do their business. Which, in this case, apparently means finding Logan and beating the shit out of him. Almost always a fine idea in her book--these days, anyway.

"Any particular reason you want to know?" Veronica puts down her yogurt. Revenge is always more interesting than food.

Molly stares at her, looks nervous. "Hannah just had an abortion. Her Dad didn't know about it until it was too late."

There's a brief moment where she's so shocked she doesn't feel anything. Then the anger pours down on her like a rainstorm, and she's so drenched in it she hardly notices the hurt and shock--which is good. Anger is the best sort of armor. It's a cloak of fuck-you-Logan invulnerability. And she's sure as hell needed that lately.

"What are you planning to do to him?"

Molly laughs. "What do you care, anyway? Everyone knows you hate him."

They do? Veronica hears the dare implicit in her tone. If she doesn't give him up, Molly will think Veronica maybe doesn't hate Logan at all. Maybe she even...

"Neptune Presbyterian. The cemetery."

"Which grave?"

She doesn't ask Veronica how she knows this, but the question is in her eyes. But what can Veronica say? She keeps track of his movements with as much helpless regularity as breathing? That she isn't sure she does it because she wants to kill him or she wants to keep him safe? Well, here's your answer, folks. Cards forced right there on the table.

"His mother's."

Because he fucked Hannah and, right now, she definitely wants to kill him.

-----------------

The graveyard is quiet. No morbid fans loading her grave with photos and memorabilia and scary poetry. Maybe the frenzy has died down. Soon, no one but Logan will ever think of her and that thought makes him so sad he has to remind himself to breathe. Her headstone is in a secluded corner shaded by an ancient oak. They didn't have a body to worry about, after all, so it seemed like the perfect location. It's weird, going here to remember her, but he likes the tree and the quiet and the knowledge that she would have liked it, too.

He sometimes wonders if he should speak to her. If he should read her sappy letters he's written about how much he misses her and wishes she hadn't flung herself off of a goddamn bridge. Or maybe she wouldn't want to be reminded of it--it couldn't have been too pleasant. Maybe she'd like to know how he's feeling, how his life has been since she left.

"Dear Mother," he says this aloud because sometimes he just likes the sound of his voice when sarcasm has honed it into a finely cutting edge, "Veronica Mars has ripped my still beating heart from my chest, chewed it like a rabid dog, and very kindly returned it to me." He waits a few moments. What would his mother have done if he actually ever said something like that to her? Probably downed another gin and tonic.

"I know I should get over it," he says, quieter this time, "but it's harder than I thought it would be. She's always there."

And every time he sees her, some part of him wishes he'd just jumped off that damn bridge when he had the chance.

He doesn't hear them come up behind him.

Not, he thinks as his nose crunches and the familiar taste of blood fills his mouth, as though it would have made any difference.

-----------------

Somewhere on the walk between Chemistry and English, Veronica realizes what she's done. It's a little weird, actually, as though she's spent the last three hours in a vengeful haze that only now has rationality managed to conquer. It's his locker that does it. She looks there almost automatically, expecting to see him leaning against it, smiling that tight, almost hopeful, smile. Tilting his head and bantering with her in that absurdly sexy sotto voice that always makes her knees shake. And she realizes why he's not there.

Because the Fitzpatricks are going to kill him.

Not fake death. Not imagined, "Logan, how the fuck could you!" death, but actual cessation of vital functions. The irreversible eradication of that smile and that head tilt from the face of the goddamn planet.

A sob catches in her throat and she stops so abruptly that Wallace walks straight into her.

"Hey, Veronica, where's the stop sign?" He looks at her face and his smile fades. "Is something wrong?"

Veronica just stares at him. Her hands are shaking so badly that Wallace grabs her books before she can drop them. What was she thinking? That they were just going to rough him up a bit and turn Logan on his merry way? They are fucking killers. She knew that. They are also regressive, misogynist bastards to whom knocking up a daughter is several shades worse than old fashioned murder. And if that daughter decided to have an abortion...

She turns to Wallace. "I have to go. I don't know when I'll be back. I'll call you if something bad..." She can't finish the sentence. Wallace is still gaping at her, holding her school books, when she turns away and runs down the hall.

-----------------

The River Stix is empty except for Molly at the bar. Of course, all the men would be out beating Logan. She refuses to think any farther than that. At least they're not back yet. That might mean he's still alive.

"What are you doing here?"

Veronica smiles. "Not happy to see me? Imagine that. I want to know what they've done with Logan." There was no sign of them at the cemetery. Nothing except Logan's car in the lot and smears of blood in the grass.

"Cold feet? You were the one who told me how to find him, don't go all pussy now."

Veronica takes three steps to the bar and levels her taser on Molly's face. "This," she says very casually, "is on its highest setting. Do you know what 50,000 volts of electricity will do to your brain? Nothing good. Now let's try this again. Are your moronic, inbred family members going to kill Logan?"

Hatred fills Molly's eyes and it feels a little comforting. "What do you think?"

Veronica's hand tightens on the taser, but her next question is only slightly breathy. "Have they done it yet?"

Molly hesitates but Veronica ostentatiously fondles the switch and she shakes her head. "They're taking him somewhere else. Somewhere no one will find the body. Or hear the shot. I don't think they've gotten there yet."

"Gotten where yet?"

"I'm not sure...way up the PCH. Some hick town, few hours away. I don't know any more than that!"

Veronica swears. She's probably telling the truth, which leaves her one last chance of stopping this.

"So, you've got a cell phone in your pocket, right?" Molly nods. "I want you to use it to call your uncle. I don't care what you tell him, but make him stop."

She stares at Veronica. "And why would I do that?"

"Because I know all about you and Felix. Your uncle had him killed that night, you know. He died because of you. And since I doubt any normal emotion like guilt or decency will make you do this, let me add something else: I have medical records. You were pregnant...and now you aren't. I wonder how Uncle Liam would react if those somehow made their way to his mailbox, hmm?"

Molly's face has gone so pale it looks like wax. "Oh, god..."

Veronica wants to close her eyes in relief, but she doesn't dare. Molly's body language when she told her about Hannah made her suspect it, but she had no way to be sure.

There's a reason, Veronica thinks when Molly dials Liam's number with trembling fingers, why she's so good at poker.

-----------------

They're going to kill him. He knows that he should be more scared than he is, but every time the truck jolts over another pothole he starts to think he wouldn't mind. The Fitzpatricks beat with precision, he has to give them that. He hadn't realized what chumps the PCHers were compared to the Irish goons, but nothing gives you a better point of thuggish comparison than getting jumped by two different gangs. The PCHers, for example, only managed to crack three ribs. From the way his side feels right now, he imagines they've probably broken at least eight. His face, judging from the amount of blood he's still trickling onto the rusty truck bed, is a mess.

His right arm...well, he doesn't really want to think about it. He's sort of scared that anything can hurt that much and still leave him conscious. He remembers the crunch when Liam's steel toed boot connected with his elbow. That was bad.

When he kicked him again, in the exact same place? That was much, much worse. He gathered, in between the moments of mind-splintering pain, that this death was courtesy of Hannah's maligned honor. Something about her being pregnant, although that doesn't make a great deal of sense if his 6th grade teacher was telling the truth about human anatomy.

He laughs, and then regrets it immediately as the pain flares along his cracked ribs. Jesus, why can't they just kill him quickly and get it over with? This slow torture...even the worst of what his dad put him through didn't feel as bad as this. Physically, anyway.

To take his mind off the pain, he contemplates his imminent death. Which means that he thinks of Veronica, because of course she's the only one who matters to him, in the end. He wonders how she'll take the news, first when he disappears, and then when some unlucky hunter stumbles across his picked-over remains in some forest months later. Will she grieve for him, or just feel vaguely relieved that he's gone from her life? He's never had much luck making her happy, but he thought that maybe, at their best, they completed each other. Fuck, at least he has missed her like a limb this past school year. And every attempt he made to replace her felt cheaper and hollower than the last.

They're driving over some very country roads, now, all potholes and gravel and decades-old tarmac. Liam, who's driving, lets out a holler and increases the speed, so that they're flying over the bumps. A particularly vicious one sends Logan rolling into the side of the pickup. He hits his elbow, but he doesn't scream. He bites his tongue hard enough that fresh blood fills his mouth, but he doesn't scream.

And he imagines her, smiling down at him, stroking his cheek and crying like she doesn't know it, and though he knows it's a stupid fantasy, even that is better than no one at all. Even the memory of her smile makes life--however much of it he has left, anyway--bearable.

-----------------

"They dumped him in the woods."

Molly eyes Veronica warily when she hangs up the phone, but she's put away the taser.

"He's still alive?" She almost wants to laugh at how cool and TV professional she sounds. Well, it's either that or gibber hysterically.

Molly shrugs. "He was when they left him."

Which isn't exactly the reassuring answer she was hoping for.

"Did you find out where?"

"Some small town called Garrison. Off of some country roads. I couldn't exactly get an address."

Of course. And even if Veronica called for an ambulance, she could hardly tell them to hunt around in the local woods until they came across someone probably too beat up to move.

She picks up her bag, her chest so tight with terror and guilt it physically pains her.

"Thanks, Molly," she says.

Molly's face twists. "Yeah. I so wanted to help."

"Thanks, anyway. If you tell anyone about this..."

"I know."

Veronica tries not to run to the door, so she's just leaving when she hears Molly's voice, very quietly, say "Good luck."

-----------------

The pickup jerks to a stop. Liam is on the phone with someone--Logan has no idea who, but whatever they're saying is making Liam spitting mad. Danny Boyd pulls off the tarp that was hiding him while Liam curses loudly. Logan squints in the dying light and looks around. They're in the middle of the woods somewhere, on a dirt road. Which explains why the last few minutes of that ride were particularly agonizing.

With a wordless growl Liam hangs up the phone and stalks over to where Logan is lying, entirely helpless. He wonders if he should at least make the attempt to escape, but the thought of all that movement makes him physically ill. Better just to die. He'd made peace with the idea months ago, after all. This would just be delayed gratification.

So he smiles at Liam, and uses the only weapon he has left.

"Miss me already? And I thought you'd really had your fill back at my mother's grave. You should learn to pace yourself, Liam."

Liam's eyes narrow. He nods at Danny. "Grab him."

He is not gentle. The next few minutes are fragmented and hazy, knitted together only by the perverse fact that he has not yet managed to pass out. He's always had a high pain tolerance. Now, he really wishes he didn't. When they drop him, he's still in the forest, but even the dirt road is nowhere in sight.

"You've got some fucking luck, boy," Liam says. Logan can hardly see his face, silhouetted against the setting sun. "And unusual friends. I'd be careful the next time you think of messing with one of mine. And if you even think of talking to the fuzz...remember, I can always finish this."

He spits and it lands in the dirt by Logan's neck. He stares, considering, at Logan for a moment and then kicks him, with careful precision, in the balls.

He screams now. He fucking can't help it and he can only think of how much he wishes for a simple shot in the head.

-----------------

He's alive. This worms its way into his consciousness perhaps half an hour after Liam leaves. It's more difficult than he would have thought, to pull himself away from death, to cope with the thought of actually surviving this. But how is he going to? The answer is so immediate it's as though someone else whispered it: Veronica.

She's the only one left, after all. The only one capable enough who also might still give a damn about him. He thought he was going to die, and she was all he could think about. He suspects--is fucking terrified--that he's going to live, and she is all he can think about. Strains of Billie Holiday play in his head ("If that's not love, it'll have to do...") and he smiles, but is very careful not to laugh.

The sun is rapidly setting. He knows if he doesn't find a road before it goes, he'll never find one. He'll probably die of exposure overnight. But he's decided to live, so he tries. His phone is gone, of course. Taken from his pockets along with his wallet and car keys. So he has to walk.

The moment he attempts to sit up, he's overcome with twin agony: his ribs and his arm. His arm is worse, which is not reassuring. He cradles it against his body, trying as hard as he can not to look at its sickening angle, while he presses his back against a nearby tree. Very slowly, he pushes himself against it, using it for support while he struggles to stand up. It takes three minutes, but he manages.

He wants to rest, but the sun won't sit still for him, so he takes as deep a breath as he can manage and starts to walk. There's something strange about his left leg. He doesn't think it's broken, but it doesn't feel entirely steady when he steps on it either. Usually pain would be the best way to tell if something was wrong, but his right arm is such a gaping vortex of agony that nothing else seems to register. Like getting a bee sting when someone's cutting your head off.

He heads in the same direction he thinks he saw Liam leave, but he's not entirely sure it's the right way. When the sun has vanished and he's left with the last of its haze to navigate by, he's convinced he must be lost, because it sure as hell didn't take this long to get here. He wishes he were some Indian in a leatherstocking novel, able to follow day-old animal tracks through the forest. Hell, all he'd have to manage are two dumb Irish thugs. It's dark when he finally gets back to the dirt road. He's no leatherstocking, but he can at least figure out pickup tracks on a dirt road, so he walks in the direction of the two-lane highway.

He wants to sit down and rest, but he's decided to live, so he doesn't.

-----------------

It's dark by the time she makes it up to Garrison. She doesn't know where to begin looking, so she does what she does best: she asks questions. Or, as Logan would probably put it, she annoys people. A bunch of ancient men playing bridge on a porch finally deliver: a rusty red pickup traveled that way along the country road. When they came back, one guy adds, the tires were covered in dirt, so he figured they'd gone hunting. The turn's about ten miles up the road, he says.

She drives slowly, with her high beams up, scanning the gutters beside the road frantically. The town is high up in the mountains, and without the sun it's pretty chilly. Cold enough to be a problem if he were already injured...

Despite everything, she nearly runs him over. He's hunched in the middle of the road, his eyes closed, jaw slack. She stops and runs out of the car.

"Logan! Oh god, please don't be dead."

He raises his head when she kneels in the dirt beside him. His face is a mess--covered in blood and dirt, but she still dies a little when she sees the gentleness replace the confusion in his eyes.

"I'm sorry," he says, and the words are so unexpected it takes her a long moment to process them.

"Sorry for what?" She's shaking. Guilt has washed all the anger away, leaving her with the aching awareness of Logan and how much he needs her, even now. She wants to touch him, but doesn't dare.

He takes a breath, and then winces. She realizes it must hurt him to speak. How badly injured is he, anyway? "I tried to keep walking. Body wouldn't cooperate." He looks at her, and she tries not to wince at the honesty she sees there. That's the last thing she wants, now. "I'm glad you found me."

Jesus, she's crying and she swore she wouldn't. Logan seems concerned and that makes the tears flow even faster. Fine, just ignore them. He needs your help, not your fucked up issues.

"I'm glad I found you, too." Which is the understatement of her lifetime. Because she has to feel him, to make sure he's real and alive, she puts her hands on his shoulders. At her touch, Logan groans and his head lolls onto her shoulder, as though he's in too much pain to keep it upright.

Her fingers tingle and her stomach finds new knots.

"Logan, what did I do? Tell me where I hurt you." Panic makes her words come out in breathless stutters.

He waits nearly thirty seconds before answering. "My arm," he says finally, gathering himself together again.

"Is it broken?"

Logan gives a brief bark of laughter and then grits his teeth like he really shouldn't have. "You could say that."

Veronica takes a deep breath and releases it slowly, like you're supposed to do in meditation. Help him now, break down later. Because she knows she's going to break down--she can feel it beating against her mental walls, demanding to be let in.

"Do you think...can you walk?"

He looks at her for a moment and then smiles. "You always did love torture."

She's terrified of jarring his arm, so she moves to his left side and attempts to help brace him. Of course, he's so much taller that she isn't much help to him once he stands up. But he makes it to the car and manages to fold himself into the passenger side before collapsing against the seat. As exhausted as he is, he still cradles his right arm. Now Veronica has a clear view of it, and the angle of his elbow makes her want to run to the bushes and vomit. But of course she doesn't, because she suspects it wouldn't be reassuring.

Logan is shivering, so she turns the car on and blasts the heat. She takes a blanket from the back seat and places it over him carefully. He doesn't open his eyes when she does this, and she wonders if he's passed out. She leans closer to him. It's as though she's lost control of her body. She kisses him gently on the lips and when he responds she realizes how awake he still is. It's so sweet and gentle, but she tastes his blood on her tongue and her sudden desire frightens her.

"Logan, I didn't mean--" Not now, of all times.

He looks at her, and all words die on her lips. "But I did," he says.

-----------------

There are three things that make Logan think his life is better than it's been for a while. One, he's in Veronica's car, being covered by her blanket. Two, she cared enough to find him and she even cried over him (though he knows her well enough not to bother guessing why). Three, she kissed him. So, she regretted it afterwards. She still did it, which has to mean something. It occurs to him that the fact that this is true, even considering the fire in his ribs and the gaping black hole in his arm, means that his life must be pretty seriously shitty. Like that's news.

As soon as she starts driving, Veronica makes a call on her phone. Logan can tell its Wallace, and from Veronica's frown it seems he's not happy.

"I can't explain right now...I'm sorry, Wallace, really, but it's pretty fucked up and I need some help...Yes, I'm alright...I need directions to the nearest hospital from Garrison...No, I'm fine..." And then, in a much softer voice that reveals more than he'd dared hope, "Logan."

-----------------

She can practically hear Wallace rolling his eyes on the other end. "I knew this had to be about him," he says. "No one else makes you so desperate. What mess did he get himself into this time?"

Veronica takes a deep, steadying breath. "This time...it's not really his mess." The car jolts over a pothole and she glances over at Logan. He's biting the inside of his cheek and the muscles in his neck are prominent. She imagines how much his arm must be hurting him and it scares her. Why the hell didn't she think to bring any painkillers? Though she doubts Advil would make much of a dent in what she sees on his face.

"Veronica. Hey, are you there?"

"Yeah, sorry."

She's tried to keep her voice steady, but she should have known Wallace would see through it. "Veronica...is he okay?"

Damnit, she's crying again. "No. He's not.'

-----------------

The nearest hospital is an hour away. Of course it is, Logan thinks. The only reason you'd come to this bumfuck town is to die. Veronica drives carefully, he can tell, so he tries not to be too obvious when she does something to hurt his arm. For fuck's sake, breathing hurts his arm, so it's not like it's her fault.

Which doesn't stop her from looking guiltily at him whenever she drives over potholes. She cries occasionally, but her expression is so fierce he knows she doesn't realize it. So he doesn't say anything, no matter how much he wants to reach and touch her cheek and tell her it will be okay. Not that he has any idea it will, but it might help her to hear him say it. It's just...she's so shaken. He's never seen her this upset, not even after the Fitzpatricks nearly turned her face into a Lucky Charms ad. The thought that he has the power to do this to her is exhilarating and terrifying at once. He doesn't want her to be this upset.

But, then again, he wants her to love him. He imagines, briefly, if their situations were reversed, if he had found her in this condition. He feels sick to his stomach, so he stops. No, there's no coming back from it, is there?

"The flip side of love is torture," he says aloud, just because he likes aphorisms and that sounds nice.

Veronica's shoulders stiffen, and she doesn't ask him what he's talking about.

-----------------

It turns out what is wrong with his leg is a big, bloody gash. It's deep enough that it had to have been caused by a knife, but he doesn't remember any.

"Should've taken notes," he mutters.

Veronica glances at him, but mostly she's staring at the dark stain covering the upholstery of her car.

"Sorry about that," he says. He can see how a big blood stain on the passenger's seat would be a real bummer during stake-outs. "Didn't realize I was bleeding."

Veronica's stare is indecipherable. "You didn't realize--"

But she doesn't finish whatever it is she's going to say, because a nurse is helping him from the car onto a stretcher--and really, how cool and melodramatic is that--and wheeling him away from her.

God, her absence.

But at least that pain is familiar.

-----------------

As soon as they take him into surgery, she runs to the bathroom. She barely makes it before every last defense she has is crumbling like rotten brick and she's huddled on the floor in the last stall, crying like she might die of it. There's a physical pain in her chest and stomach, but the tears don't seem to ease it.

"What did I do?"

She repeats the words over and over, as though through their repetition she can actually gain some insight. How do you dissect a betrayal? A casual word, a moment of anger and every good thing she's ever believed about herself is proven as facile as a politician's lies. There's no excuse for her, no justification. No one else knew where he was that day. That's why Molly had to ask her.

And she told her the truth.

She could blame Logan, say he shouldn't have gotten Hannah pregnant, but that would miss the point. She was angry, and she wanted vengeance. But why? Plenty of guys date women for the wrong reasons. Plenty of women have accidental pregnancies. If it were some other guy...but it isn't. It's Logan.

Diagnostic of a betrayal:

1) Are you angry with someone out of proportion to their actions?

Check

2) If those actions included wild sex, does most of that anger stem from jealousy?

Check

3) Does the person in question tend to evoke extreme emotions from you in general?

Double check

4) Does the anger consume you to the point where actions that would previously be unthinkable seem reasonable?

Oh god...

5) After this action is finished, are you consumed with paralyzing feelings of guilt and regret?

please...

6) Do you suspect that you may be in love with this person? That you have loved him all along, despite fucking everything?

help me.

-----------------

She comes into his room late the next evening. He's surprised to see her--she's been absent for so long he had almost thought she'd run away again, back to her father and her friends, away from him, whose very presence seems to slice into her. He wouldn't have blamed her, but just the sight of her standing quietly in the doorway relieves a weight he hadn't known he carried. Her eyes are dry, but still red--from lack of sleep or crying, he can't tell--and her posture is a little too stiff, but her face and her lips are filled, unmistakably, with longing. He wants to walk over to her, but the IV is attached to the bed.

She clears her throat. "The doctor said I can take you home, now."

Those three things are still definitely good about his life. He smiles--no sarcasm, he just can't help himself, sorry--and when she sees it she actually flinches. His mother did that, sometimes. He never understood why. No matter what he does, he hurts everyone he loves.

"You don't have to," he says. "I can get a cab. I'm sure your dad wants you home."

She smiles, but it hurts her. "And scare the cabbie with your pretty face? My dad doesn't mind."

Logan touches his face and feels the day-old stubble and scabbed-over cuts. "That bad, huh?"

"You might want to cover your mirrors for the next few weeks."

Her tone is light, but she won't close the distance between them. He wishes he could touch her and the lack hurts in a place the morphine can't touch.

-----------------

The day's tally: one broken nose (easily set); one mild concussion; lacerations to the head, torso and leg in total requiring 152 stitches; twelve cracked ribs (she actually stopped the doctor when he got to this part. Logan, of course, made it a joke: "Poor Liam, he only got half." The doctor said he was lucky none of them had punctured his lungs.); and the worst for last: a completely shattered right elbow joint requiring surgically inserted metal replacements and a broken humerus requiring a metal rod. They gave her a bottle of Vicodin for the road and a prescription for more. Since Logan's clothes were covered in dirt and blood, a helpful nurse gave him an extra set of turquoise scrubs to go home in. The same helpful nurse also insisted Veronica take an extra blanket and pillows "so he'll be comfortable." She was tall and pretty and blonde and Veronica knew her jealousy was ridiculous, but she couldn't quite shake it. So Logan is hurt, exhausted and his face looks like he's had an unfortunate run-in with a metal pole--it somehow doesn't impair his good looks, which she supposes is a riddle for another time.

He gets into the car like an old man, but she's too afraid to touch him for so many reasons that she lets the nurse help him. She fusses over him and eases a pillow under his arm while Veronica stands there glowering. Maybe Logan notices, she isn't sure, but the grateful smile he gives Nurse Bimbo afterwards makes her seethe, however unreasonably. She wants those smiles, but she can't handle them either.

They've been driving for maybe ten minutes before Logan reaches over awkwardly to search through her CD collection.

"What do you want to listen to?" She doesn't mean to sound waspish, but it comes out that way.

He looks at her. "Something other than Veronica on 'off-again,' maybe."

She doesn't know how to respond to that, so she stays silent while he flips through the jewel cases. When he puts it on, she's a little surprised--she hasn't heard it in years.

"I forgot I even had this in the car," she says.

"I'm in a Lady Day sort of mood."

And she really isn't sure what to make of that.

Billie Holiday eases the silence in the car, makes the act of sitting so close to him something less than torture. She recalls her phone call to her father after she'd pulled herself from the bathroom. She could hardly keep the tremor from her voice and she knew her dad would notice anyway. He offered to come up, but she knew he had work to do and she forced herself to sound better.

He thinks she's a good person, but Veronica knows better.

"Now Billie Holiday had a bad life," Logan says, apropos of nothing.

"Is that a point of comparison?"

He gives an awkward shrug, involving just his left shoulder, and she refrains from asking who came out ahead.

A few miles later Veronica stops to get some heinously overpriced gas.

"You want anything?" she asks, just before she gets out of the car. He opens his mouth, but she interrupts him. "That doesn't involve alcohol. Doctor's orders."

His smile is coolly amused but his eyes are...anything but cool. Happy, and something more.

"Peanuts," he says, "and coffee."

"Coffee? Are you sure that's--"

"Did the doctor ever specifically mention it?"

"Well, no. But..."

"Then coffee. Too much morphine makes me fuzzy."

Kind of like too much Logan.

-----------------

An hour later it's dark again and she's speeding down the highway. Logan's face is starting to get that pinched, rigid look of determined pain suppression, and she thinks again that coffee might have been a bad idea. He needs to sleep.

"So, how long were you planning to wait?" she asks, finally.

He shifts to face her and winces. "Wait for what?"

"To ask me for the Vicodin."

"I don't need any."

"Like hell. How do you feel?"

He waits a good ten seconds and then she feels his hand, unexpectedly, rest on her shoulder. "I'll be okay, Veronica. I promise."

"You must really feel like shit," she jokes, but her hands are shaking and she pulls into the very next rest stop.

-----------------

Whatever's wrong, it's still there, hanging like a pall between them. The Vicodin can't help with that and Logan has never felt more helpless in his life. The only thing he can think to do is try to tease it out of her.

"So, how did you find me?" he asks. He is very good at acting casual when he wants to.

Veronica's face snaps to his like she has whiplash. She recovers a moment later and stares at the road. "How?" she says. "I...overheard Molly Fitzpatrick saying something about Hannah on her cell phone. Something about how they would make you pay for what you did to her. I confronted Molly, got her to talk...hunted you down."

There are volumes in the gaps. Terror and desperation and guilt, and he wonders that he could inspire any of those emotions in her.

"Hannah, huh? Now that, I believe, is what they call ironic."

She seems angry, but no surprise there. Any mention of Hannah tends to bring that out in her. He called it jealousy, but it seemed too much like wishful thinking to really believe it.

"She had an abortion, Logan. Her father found out about it and told the Fitzpatricks." Her voice is very quiet.

"Well, that explains the eighteenth century theatrics." He tries to shift to a slightly less painful position, but there doesn't seem to be one that lets him look at her at the same time. "Damn. I wonder who did it?"

Veronica's hands tighten on the steering wheel. "Logan. Don't tell me your parents forgot to give you the birds and the bees? See, when a man wants a woman very much, and doesn't really give a damn about what happens to her, he pokes his salami without a condom. Babies might ensue."

Logan can't help it--he smiles. "And everything becomes clear. You had accused me of evil, you just hadn't told me yet. No wonder I couldn't figure you out."

"What the hell?"

"Okay, let me be explicit: Hannah and I never had sex. We came close, but I stopped it the first time and her Dad stopped it the second. And if we had, I sure as hell would have used a condom. My guess? Someone hit her on the rebound at her new school."

He can almost hear Veronica processing this. He expects her to relax, but her expression is, if anything, more stricken.

"Why would she tell her dad it was you?"

He shrugs. "Maybe she didn't and he just assumed? Logical enough. But maybe she gave him my name. If she hates me, I sure as hell deserve it."

"Enough to have you killed?"

"She'd have no way of knowing that would happen. She probably figured they'd just punch me a few times in the gut." He looks down at himself and takes a moment to appreciate how very much worse it got.

"Poor Hannah," Veronica whispers, and he can't disagree.

-----------------

Can guilt actually eat you up inside? Veronica wonders if an MRI would reveal her organs slowly dissolving under these repeated onslaughts of blame. So Logan didn't get Hannah pregnant. He didn't exactly treat her like a prince either, but she already knew that. The Fitzpatricks got the wrong guy, and she gave him to them.

Her stomach hurts so much that she's grateful when traffic slows to a crawl, and then stops altogether. At least now she doesn't have to concentrate on driving.

Ahead of her, drivers have parked their cars and are sitting outside as though they've been here for a while.

"I always thought it would be cool to have a picnic on the highway," Logan says. His smile is tentative, but she doesn't return it. Just maintaining is hard enough. Veronica gets out of the car and asks a nearby person what the hold up is.

"Some major tractor trailer pile-up on the Coronado. Smashed the guard rails and everything. We're going to be here for a while."

Great. She thanks him and gets back inside the car. Without the excuse of driving it's hard not to look at Logan, but every time she does, she feels as though he's opened a fresh wound. Death by a thousand glances.

"I hope it's serious?"

She tries to match his casual tone. "Very. Death and fiery destruction on the Coronado Bridge."

"Good place for it."

Of course, there's that, also.

They stare at each other for nearly a minute--she can not look away, no matter how much she wants to--and then he gently touches her cheek with his good hand. Her face is dry, but it feels like he's catching tears.

"What's wrong, Veronica?"

And his voice is so fucking sincere that she either wants to break his nose all over again or kiss him to oblivion.

Since she can't do either, she lashes out. "Oh, I don't know, maybe I'm stuck in a car with a smart ass ex-boyfriend I'm really not very fond of."

His eyes flash, and she can see that he wants to gesture dramatically, but his body isn't really up to the task. "Nice, Veronica. I was wondering when your inner bitch would come out. Why is it you can't deal with me any other way? What do I do to you?"

You make me hate myself. You make me so desperate for wanting you I make up elaborate excuses to get away. You make me love you so much I think it might be easier being dead.

She gets out of the car and slams the door. She walks restlessly between the other parked cars, thinking of him and knowing this escape is cheap, because he can't really follow her. After two minutes, she realizes he might try anyway.

She rushes back to the car, but he's still sitting there. His cane is on his lap.

"You had two more minutes," he says.

"Jesus, Logan, do you want to hurt yourself?"

"Maybe you shouldn't always run away."

She feels a hysterical giggle pushing against her throat, but she forces it back down. She feels him staring at her and she wants to touch him so badly she aches. She reaches over to take his cane and when her fingers brush against his her body jerks.

"Veronica?"

And then she's kissing him, twining her hand in the back of his head and sliding her tongue along his like she might die without him, or drown because of him. He's surprised, she can tell, but he doesn't stop it. Maybe he's just as helpless. Frantically, she tosses the cane to the back seat and then crawls over the median to straddle him. He groans--her weight must be hurting him--but he stares at her with such matching desire all thoughts of stopping flee her head.

She pulls down his elastic pants and his penis, already rock hard, springs up to brush against his bandaged torso. He gasps while she strokes it, marveling at how thick it is, how much she wants him.

But when she yanks up her skirt, he puts his arm out to stop her.

"What are you doing?" His voice is slurry with pain and desire, and she doesn't want to know how much of each.

"I thought it was obvious."

"Veronica...we can't. Not now."

"What, you're afraid of people seeing us?"

"You know that's not it."

"Then what? You don't want me?" She leans forward to rub herself against his shaft and he actually trembles.

"Fuck, I hope that was a rhetorical question."

"Am I hurting you?"

"Yes."

"Is that why you want me to stop?"

He grimaces. "No. Veronica, I don't know why you're doing this, but it's nothing good. You're pissed at me. I don't know why, but I don't want our first time...I mean, I want to see you happy."

Guilt isn't really an emotion, is it? It's a weight that warps all the others beyond recognition. She grabs his bloody pants from the back seat and hunts through the pockets until she finds a condom.

"This," she says, pressing against him very hard, very deliberately.

"...will make me..." She rips open the package and rolls it down around him.

"...very happy." And then she slides herself down, and she's so wet she can hear it. She bites her lip and falls forward, too late remembering his arm. Even then, his muffled gasp of pain tells her he still wants her.

His lips trail against her jaw line. "Don't do this," he whispers.

"Stop me."

-----------------

When Veronica Mars wants something, she gets it. Even when it's such a bad idea he half regrets it already. He wishes he could stop her, but he wants her too much and he's hurt too badly to do anything but go along for the ride.

And what a fucking ride.

She's rocking herself back and forth against him, hard, and every time she moves forward she knocks his arm and a little more of his consciousness fragments. It's seriously kinky, but he can tell she's so far gone she doesn't even realize what she's doing.

He reaches down with his good hand and finds her clit. She gasps and moves against him even harder. The pain is making the world come out at strange, sharp angles. The sound of her breathing, high pitched, filled with desire, seems louder than it possibly could be. It fills his ears even as her face wanders out of focus. He thinks he should tell her to stop, but God he likes the feel of her clit and her hot breath on his neck and would she listen to him, anyway? They're both so close...he should be able to take a little more, right? Logan Echolls, code word 'stamina.' One particularly hard thrust and she's coming--she's crying too.

"I hate you," she whispers, in between the bitten-back moans.

He knows what she means.

"I love you too."

And then he comes and the world dissolves around him.

-----------------

He's out cold. She scrambles off of him when she realizes it, her heart pounding in horror.

"What did I do?" she whispers. Not again.

He told her she was hurting him, but she wanted him too badly to care. And now...

"Fuck, Logan, wake up!" She slaps his face gently, but he doesn't respond.

"I'm sorry," she whispers. And she hates that something that hurt him so badly he passed out was one of the most intense, pleasurable experiences of her life. She grabs a water bottle and pours a little onto his face.

To her eternal relief, this seems to work. His eyelids flutter and then he turns to look at her.

"Hello," he says.

She can actually see the pain coming back to him. His face twists and his gasp is mixed with a burst of incredulous laughter.

"That was something," he says. His left hand is clenched, his whole posture radiates pain suppressed.

Her hands are shaking when she gets the Vicodin bottle from the glove compartment.

"I think you'll be okay if you take two more." She hands him the pills and he swallows them without comment. Verbal comment, anyway. His eyes are dark and concerned. He doesn't say anything for the next ten minutes, and when he does she can tell that the pills have begun to work.

"If I ask you what's wrong, will you tell me?"

She turns to him. "What's wrong? We just had sex, and the pain made you pass out!"

"Not entirely pain. At least forty percent pleasure. Sensory overload, maybe."

She rests her head against the steering wheel. "When did I become such a horrible person? Was I always this way?"

Logan's hand on her shoulder is surprisingly firm, considering. "Veronica, what is going on? Something's been eating at you ever since you found me. Why are you torturing yourself?" He doesn't say it, but it's in his voice: it hurts him, too.

"Do you really want to know?"

"I want to help you."

She bites her lip, tastes blood. "I lied about how I found you. I didn't overhear Molly, she asked me if I knew where you were. I did. I was the only person who did, and she knew it. She told me Hannah had an abortion and I...god Logan, only you can make me so fucking angry. I thought it would," her voice breaks, "serve you right. I wasn't thinking. I should have known what they would do to you, but I wasn't thinking."

-----------------

He doesn't look at her. He can't. "They were going to kill me, you know. I knew I was going to die, so I thought of you."

She's silent for so long he can't help but sneak a glance. Tears are running in a ceaseless cataract down her face, and all he wants to do is hold her, but he doesn't.

"I stopped it, Logan," she says. "I realized what I did and I stopped it."

She's betrayed him before, and each fucking time it hurts like the first. That punch in the gut shock that anyone he loves that much could do something so terrible. Then he thinks of his parents, and it makes more sense.

"You took your fucking sweet time. What were you waiting for, them to cripple me? Would that have served me right?"

The sound that leaves her mouth isn't quite a scream, it's too quiet for that, but it's filled with so much pain and hatred he actually shivers.

"I wish I were dead," she whispers. "Dead must be so much easier."

Very carefully, he reaches over and holds her, because he would rather be betrayed into a gang beating every other week than see her in this much pain.

"If that's not love..." he whispers, but he doesn't think she hears him.

-----------------

It's nearly four in the morning when they finally make it back to Neptune. She takes him to his suite and helps him into bed. He hasn't talked to her for hours, so she's silent as she takes off his shoes and removes the sling. It's so domestic, really, the way she fluffs his pillows and elevates his arm. Almost cute, if you forget about the fact that the reason he needs her help is entirely her fault.

"You don't want me to stay, do you?" she asks, when she's done.

He avoids meeting her eyes. "You do have a habit of ruining my life."

Painful, but fair. "Okay. Good night, Logan."

She wants him to call after her, but he doesn't.

-----------------

She arranges with the concierge for someone to check in on him in the morning. He needs help, even if it's not hers. Her walk back to the car is slow--her mind is still on the top floor of the Neptune Grand, penthouse suite. He held her, but he didn't say anything. She isn't sure what that means, but she's pretty sure it isn't forgiveness.

And does she want it anyway? When you do something so terrible you have to reevaluate everything you've ever thought about yourself, do you really want forgiveness? She sits in the car for five minutes, staring at the slowly lightening sky. Her father must be worried about her. He's probably just half asleep, waiting for the door to open. She should get back, reassure him.

Her father still loves her. She's not sure if Logan does.

The ancient mariner shot an albatross, and he was cursed to wear the body around his neck. The weight of his guilt, made physical, twisted and dragged at him. But it was just an albatross, after all, not the love of his life, and she considers how much proportionately larger her burden of guilt must be.

She's putting the keys in the ignition when she sees the inconspicuous orange prescription bottle she forgot to bring up. She looks at it, and wonders if she should go back. And brave Logan's glare? She isn't sure she has the strength. She looks at the bottle again.

How many would it take? She's small...there's at least ten left. Six would probably do it, and eight to be safe. She isn't sure if she's actually considering it. She feels so distanced from her emotions it's more like an intellectual puzzle than a plan. Besides, her dad is expecting her and she doesn't want him to worry.

But who is she, really? This girl who can betray a man she loves into torture and death and then worry about her father waiting up for her? Is she someone who deserves to live?

The keys stay in the ignition, unturned.

The bottle rests curiously, hopefully in her hand.

Her cell phone starts to ring, and she doesn't need to look at the caller ID to know who it is.

END

Some author's notes:

This story is a little...weird. If you like it, it's a one shot I'm willing to consider writing a sequel for, but maybe I'm better off leaving it alone? And I'm sorry, because my sudden crazy need to write this story prevented me from writing chapter two of Bright, which honestly, I'm going to do next. For the curious, the Billie Holiday song I refer to a few times is called "Until the Real Thing Comes Along." On another note, I've got to write a fic that doesn't feature a hospital, don't I? Anyway, comments always appreciated!