Pairing/Character: Logan, Veronica, Duncan

Word Count: 3010

Rating: R for minor adult language

Summary: Pre-series. Logan is less than thrilled with spending time in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Spoilers: all of Season 1 to be safe

Disclaimer: Characters not mine.

Author's Note: Written for the LiveJournal vmlyricfic Dizzy Veronica challenge. My first ever attempt at a challenge fic.

Escaping the Inevitable

For pampered students accustomed to the little-changing seasons of balmy Neptune, California, the frigid chill of an unseasonably cold March morning in Washington, DC was cause for wails about torture. For Logan Echolls, it was one more thing to ignore, just like he'd been ignoring everything but his own inner turmoil for the last three days.

Being forced into this trip during spring break sucked.

Every year, students in the eighth grade at Neptune Middle School were given the opportunity to buy into a guided tour of Washington, DC. The wealthy parents of Neptune bragged about letting their darling children partake of such normal school activities and mingle with the lower classes. They ignored the fact that the accommodations they required for their progeny pushed the cost of the trip well past affordable for the offspring of those of less fortunate circumstances. The progeny themselves were usually not consulted, and often were less than thrilled about giving up their spring break for supposed intellectual pursuits.

Logan's father had been eager to project the image of 'normal family' and thought that offering his son to a school trip would nicely support the illusion. Logan himself, while not eager for the learning experience, had given in with minimal fuss. Duncan and Veronica were going, and there were things worse than hanging out with his friends in the nation's capital. Logan knew far too many of those things intimately. Leaving Lilly for a week had been worth escaping his father for the same amount of time.

That was before Lilly decided that Logan's jealousy issues were cramping her style, especially when she wanted her first high school spring break to be 'fabulous'. Fabulous, it seemed, required her to be available to whatever guy she deemed worthy of her attention, not saddled with an immature boy a year younger than she.

The chaperones walked their charges briskly along the National Mall towards a building that looked like a series of black and white boxes. The large white boxes each had a long slit near the top that were suspiciously reminiscent of the 'eyes' of robots from an old sci-fi series; he half expected to see a red glow deep within the slit, and hear a metallic voice intoning "By your command". These were interspaced with smaller boxes made entirely of dark windows. Veronica babbled on about significant architecture, cubes, atriums, and other minutia about the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the contents therein. Her delighted monologue provided further proof as to the multitudes of guidebooks she had devoured and internalized in preparation for the trip, as if he needed the corroboration. He'd been looking forward to seeing the city through the lens of her upbeat enthusiasm, but now, as he trailed into the museum after Duncan, Veronica, and thirty of their raucous classmates, he just wanted to find a quiet place to lick his wounds.

Security was even tighter than at the San Diego International Airport the previous day. Logan reluctantly emptied his pockets into a blue tub for perusal by X-ray and stepped through the metal detector while a grim-faced security guard looked on. He flashed the man a smile that bared too many teeth; the man just nodded in response, bored. Logan thought it was fortunate he had taken Veronica's advice and left his pocketknife at home, given the number of times he'd been scanned for any weapon larger than a paperclip in the last two days. As amusing as making a scene might have been, the resulting reports to his father about his inappropriate behavior would merit certain reprisals he would rather avoid.

The rest of the group had congregated in an open area overhung by artifacts of man's desire to escape the confines of the ground and circled by artifacts of man's yearning to break past the bonds of Earth's gravity well. Some of his peers, even as jaded as they were, appeared intrigued even as they tried to keep their cool. Veronica, as usual not giving a crap about what anyone else thought, turned in a circle and craned her neck, stunned and awed as she tried to take in everything at once. She didn't let it slow her down, though, and started in on the cultural significance of both the planes and the spacecraft. The docent the school had commandeered to educate them through the museum looked impressed and intimidated. Logan would bet his Xbox that his friend knew more than the ratty brunette who was supposed to herd them through the exhibits.

This trip could have been so fucking fun. Watching Veronica carefully correct the so-called authorities at each stop should have been hilarious, but he didn't have the energy to "MiSTy" the scene.

Logan tuned out the docent and the chaperones, all droning on about what would be expected on this tour, and wandered around. He ignored the planes suspended two stories overhead and instead focused on the remnants of a once-thriving space program. A space program that was, he decided, fascinated with conical shapes, each carefully identified by a descriptive placard. The Apollo Command Module, the Gemini space capsule, and the Mercury space capsule were all conical. Even the rockets were vaguely conical, and the Viking Lander had conical bits. There was probably a reason for the prevalence of that particular shape, but he had no clue what it was.

He ran his hand over the clear case that protected the orangey-brown Apollo 11 Command Module from punks like him who insisted on touching it, then rapped the surface lightly. Probably plastic, or plexiglas, or some strange material of that family. Nothing that could be shattered by someone trying to make trouble. Not that he wanted to make trouble. He just wanted to be left alone.

When he looked up he realized his tour group had moved down the long hall, leaving him behind. None of them had noticed he was gone. Even Duncan and Veronica were too enraptured by the museum to care that their friend hadn't obediently trailed after them.

Huh. He desired, and he received. If only the rest of his life worked that way.

Determined to avoid educational misery and forced socialization for as long as possible he turned in the opposite direction, walking into the sunlight pouring through the windows and skylights. The obnoxiously bright morning light reflected off of historical artifacts and display cases and lightened the red carpet to orange-red. Scaffolding to support objects hung overhead and the relics of the past themselves broke patches of sunlight into strange geometric shapes and cast bizarre shadows that stretched larger than the objects themselves. He didn't look behind to see what misshapen form his own shadow-self took.

He blinked a moment at the strange contraption at the end of the hall, shining orange mylar topped with matte black and balanced on four spindly legs like some huge deformed bug. Mannequins covered in spacesuits, vague memories of science classes, the placard he had read earlier, and a big sign proclaiming 'Exploring the Moon' helped him identify it as the Lunar module. Briefly he considered pausing to examine the lander, but, upon determining the corridor was exposed to anyone that might try to track him down, he rejected the idea.

Not that anyone was going to be searching for him, of course. Nobody gave a fuck where he was, as long as he didn't embarrass or otherwise inconvenience them. His father had made that abundantly clear, time and time again. Lilly had simply shoved the point home.

He moved upwards, taking the staircase to the second level two steps at a time, looking for a place where he wouldn't be readily visible. The central corridor of the museum was open to the skylights, and anyone who looked up would see him in the exposed hallways. Exhibits on the second floor were in rooms off those hallways; there, casual observers would not spot him. The only question was which room would be best for his purposes. He spun in place, trying to spot a likely target. A sign proclaiming "Apollo to the Moon" caught his eye, and this time he gave in to his curiosity.

His path into the exhibition hall took him past a massive object three times his height. He glanced down at the placard. The silvery hollow cone was the Saturn V F-1 Engine, five of which were found at the base of the largest booster rocket built by the United States. The engines had been used to toss the Apollo spacecraft beyond the grip of gravity and into the weightlessness of space. He stared up at the engines, then down at the diagram of the entire rocket, trying to imagine something the length of a football field blasting into the sky.

He abandoned his visualizations and circled the rest of the exhibit, bits and pieces of the past deemed too valuable to further generations to throw in the trash as they deserved, but that were instead memorialized for all to see. He was reminded of movie memorabilia, where the smallest, most insignificant scrap from one of his father's movies became a priceless artifact because of some mythical association. Thousands of adoring fans, all wanting to touch something greater than themselves and oblivious to the poison his father spread, snapped up the crap like candy.

Logan wondered if the men enshrined in this room, adulated for daring to travel through the void of space to a lifeless rock, had similar flaws, shrouded from the public eye.

He finally stopped his restless pacing at a mockup of the moon. The backdrop was a life-sized photograph of the lunar landscape, the foreground a spacesuit-clad mannequin posed next to an American flag. He rested his head against the cool plexiglas and stared into the faceplate of the spacesuit, watching the gold distortion of his own image and imagining himself behind the helmet. Enveloped in the complete sensory isolation required to shield the fragile human body from hard vacuum, floating in the weightlessness of space, staring down at the slowly turning Earth, isolated from everyone he knew, knowing the slightest wrong move could bring his death.

It took very little imagination to put himself inside that suit. He'd been wrapped in its earthbound incarnation for years, disconnected from everyone by his father's hidden rage.

He always assumed the role of careless gaiety to hide the pain underneath, always waited for that next blow to fall, and always tried to forget the reality of his life. He never quite succeeded at the last, but he had become the undisputed master of the first two. He could see no end to the cycle. In his head he could picture the future: the years turned, over and over, stretching out in front of him in a never-ending spiral. He grew older, but was always isolated, always alone. Always hoping to let someone past the mask that consumed him, and never able to keep them from leaving once they realized the weak, scarred boy that shivered underneath.

Lilly, Duncan, Veronica, they didn't know the truth and they never could. They liked the boy he presented to them but they would never stay with the boy he actually was. Hell, Lilly had already left, and she knew more of his secrets than anyone. He would hold on as hard as he could, grasping at the little he was allowed to have, but he finally understood the inevitability of it all.

He should have expected that Lilly would desert him. The bliss she wrapped him in could never last. Neither could his friendships. Just like daddy dearest always threatened, one by one his friends would abandon him, leaving him to deal, alone, with his father and the gilded shitstorm that was his life. No one could protect him. No one could help him. No one could understand him.

No one could love him.

His father was fucking right. Until now, he'd just been too damned blind to see it.

He started as a small hand closed around his arm, spinning him out the strangling darkness of his thoughts. "Logan? You all right?"

"Aren't you supposed to be off terrorizing the poor defenseless docent with your encyclopedias of worthless knowledge?" he snarled without turning around, unable to face the pity that would be reflected in her eyes.

"Aren't you supposed to be with us, heckling from the peanut gallery?" Veronica shot back, unperturbed by his tone. "The terrorizing? So not as fun without both halves of the properly appreciative audience."

He finally looked down at the tiny girl, less than five feet of grit and innocence, blue eyes filled not with pity, but with calm determination. He glanced past her to Duncan. His best friend had let Veronica take point and hovered uncertainly in the doorway, providing silent support but clearly unsure how to handle his morose friend.

These were still Logan's friends, and he would protect them any way he could. He refused to drag them down into the pit of his misery. "Go away," he sighed. "I'm not gonna be any fun today."

"You're our friend. We're not returning you just 'cause you're unhappy Lilly cast you to the wind," Veronica said flippantly.

"And here I was sure you'd take Lilly's side, with your whole BFF mojo going on," Logan mocked, turning back to the display case and watching her reflection, a transparent distortion of the girl who had sought him out.

"Lilly's being a bitch," Veronica returned flatly. "And Logan, you're my friend too, and don't you ever forget it. You hurt, I hurt. So does Duncan; he's just doing that supportive but uncomfortable talking about it thing that you guys seem to do." She glanced back at Duncan, amused, and then turned her attention back to Logan. Grabbing his shoulder she forced him to turn around, staring him squarely in the eyes as she fiercely said, "We wouldn't be friends if we abandoned you just 'cause things got hard. Can the concept penetrate that thick skull of yours, or do I need to find smaller words to spell it out?"

"Why the fuck are you bothering?" He leaned back against the plexiglas and buried his hands in his hair, refusing to meet her eyes. He didn't bother to hide the bitter hopelessness that overwhelmed him. "Just . . . go, both of you," he growled harshly, giving into the inevitable and trying to drive his friends away before they left on their own. "Enjoy the museum, enjoy your life, and don't bother coming back."

Veronica stiffened and glared, but instead of leaving she closed the distance between them, stepping close enough that he could feel the heat of her body. "Okay, so the concept has obviously not yet sunk in. Have you been listening to me at all, or has the massive amounts of alcohol you inhale like water finally pickled your brain?" She shoved Logan in the chest, hard, eyes flashing blue sparks and commanding his attention. "There's this little thing called 'friendship', Logan, that means we actually give a fuck what happens to you, unlike the rest of the brain-dead sycophants you pal around with. And by 'give a fuck', I mean we notice when you're walking around in a wounded daze, trying your damnedest not to let anyone see you're actually hurting and not just being an asshole. And that means we aren't just going to ignore your pain and let you and your drama-queen crap push us away when we want to help. Are you understanding what I'm saying, or do I have to give you a refresher course in the English language to finally get my point across?"

Logan stared down at Veronica in shock. She was usually placating and non-confrontational, a useful survival strategy with friends as volatile as Lilly and himself. This Veronica, however, was anything but. A tiny avenging angel stood before him, wielding only the sword of her words for defense and standing fearless against the worst the world--or her friends--could throw at her. He suddenly understood what drew Lilly to Veronica, why his ex-girlfriend tenaciously held on to the small blonde when the bitch carelessly discarded so much else in her life. Logan realized he wasn't alone in keeping his true self buried, muffled by the expectations of those around him. Veronica shielded herself behind her facade as completely as he hid behind his own, and yet she emerged to give him hell when she saw him falter.

Veronica hadn't run when he lashed out, despite his invitation to do so. She saw his pain, and instead of leaving she had stayed. She had even deserted a tour she had been talking about for weeks to track him down when she saw he was gone. And most of all, she believed he was worthy of her help.

"I understand," he rasped, his eyes steady on hers. And for once he did, more clearly than he ever had before. Her implacable conviction in the truth of her words made him believe them, too. This Veronica, one he had never seen in her entirety, would not be denied. She was a better friend than he deserved. Someday she might smarten up and leave, but Logan resolved to hold on to her and her certainty as long as he could.

A flicker of hope woke within him. Hope that maybe he was wrong, that he wasn't alone, that he wasn't destined to be abandoned by all those he cared for. That maybe, someday, he would find someone that didn't want to throw him away.

He didn't know how much time passed before he finally broke the silence. "Don't you have a museum to show us?" Logan asked, his voice rough with the emotions he carefully held in check.

Veronica tilted her head, eyes too perceptive for a true innocent studying him intently. After a long moment, she gave a small nod and grinned up at him, linking her arm with his. "I though you would never ask."

Challenge requirements:

Object: an astronaut suit

Lyric: "the years turned over" from Black Balloon

Final Author's Note: The Smithsonian Air and Space museum has a great website with either online tours or summaries of most of their current exhibitions as well as some past ones. While trying to write this, I proved that the site could provide hours upon hours of distraction. Any errors in the presentation of material were, of course, my own.