Life Goes On
Chapter 12: The Chemicals Between Us
Disclaimer: No ownage here. Some borrowage, though.
Author's Note: Yeah, I don't know what the hell this is. Hopefully you like it?
"So, the muscle has a name. Lance Prattman. He's been picked up a few times with what could have been nasty assault charges had the victims not decided to drop all legal action right before it made it to trial each time. With not a single credit card to his name or any kind of financial trail, the man obviously operates on a jobs-for-cash basis. The good news is he has no known associates. He apparently works alone, and it's just for the money. Meaning, there's no loyalty to navigate through, no thuggish friends to work around. I've got a plan to 'persuade' him to leave you alone, in a way that just might put the fear of God into the jilted wife who hired him."
Madison gave a slight, stiff nod to let Veronica know she understood. Veronica seemed to have reviewed the situation thoroughly, and appeared confident that this thing could be over soon. Madison was relieved, for more reasons than just her safety. Taking a sweeping and derisive glance at the bare walls and cluttered desk of the Mars Investigations office, she was reminded why she'd always disliked Veronica so much:
Veronica had much less than she did. And Veronica didn't care.
She didn't like Veronica, and she'd be very glad to no longer need the smaller girl's assistance.
From very early on, Madison had learned to appraise those around her and find her rank by comparison. Once she knew where she fit, it was easy to steer her way through any situation because it became the simple practice of playing nice with those who had more and taking great pleasure in looking down on those who had less.
When she met Lilly Kane, she knew immediately she was outranked, so Lilly's constant quest for attention and incessant demands for drama were to be expected. The poor, goody-to-shoes by her side, however, was not. She couldn't treat Veronica like the low-class sheriff's daughter that she was…Lilly would not have allowed it. So, Madison resented the disruption to her shallow but oddly-comforting view of the world.
Duncan Kane picking Veronica over his more appropriate, socially acceptable 09er options hadn't helped anything either.
Then everything changed, in a fiery blur of violence and death and police reports and sides being chosen. And when the smoke cleared, Madison was at least grateful to see that Veronica Mars was finally where she belonged…at the bottom of the social ladder, and utterly alone.
But sadly, that didn't last. Madison's bitterness returned and deepened as Logan and Duncan changed their minds back again and began fighting each other for the poor girl's attention and affection. Suddenly the entire school began saying the name "Veronica Mars" with awe and wonder, fear and respect. And Madison suspected that what Veronica had might very well be better than being popular.
Even after graduation, when the class of 2006 thankfully went their separate ways, the nuisance of Veronica's very existence found ways to slip into Madison's life and ruin the things she was supposed to have. That night with Logan in Aspen should have been legendary. As Dick's best friend, and Lilly Kane's boyfriend, it was a well known fact that few men were as, uh, capable as Logan Echolls. But instead of the gorgeous sex-god she'd been lusting after for years, what she'd spent the night with was a mopey shell, barely coherent and sobbing Veronica's name long after the deed was done, as he wrestled through a fitful, drunken sleep.
So yes, Madison Sinclair was jealous. Very jealous, in fact, of Veronica Mars. And it was quite painful for her to feel such envy when it should have been the other way around. She wanted out of the Mars Office as soon as possible, and out of Veronica's life just as fast. She wanted to be away from the nagging feeling that maybe she wasn't as great as she always thought she was, always said she was. She wanted so badly to not be here, sitting across from the young detective, that she didn't notice the deep, black-purple circles under Veronica's eyes, nor the way the detective's voice scratched and broke from the exhaustion of crying through the night before.
Madison didn't notice that for the first time ever, Veronica Mars was worse off than she was. Madison was, unsurprisingly, too self-involved to take delight in seeing Veronica Mars totally heart broken.
Veronica stood very still, staring absently into the polished maze of wood grain that made up the door to room 607. It shone a little in the subdued lighting of the hotel hallway, and she lost herself in a mixture of thought and her own partial reflection.
She felt like it took her years, rather than hours, to desperately assemble the clues she was pretty sure her father had purposefully left for her and discover exactly where she could find Logan, before he was really gone. But now that she was outside the door, certain he was on the other side, she was at a total loss.
How could you make someone stay when he didn't want to?
Even more than she was afraid that she wouldn't be enough to keep him here, she was also terrified that she'd walk in that room and somehow the fight Logan always managed to bring out in her would erupt, explode, and rather than telling him she missed him or needed him or anything relevant at all, she'd let the anger step in again and say awful things she didn't really mean… and he would leave never hearing what she came to say.
When it came to Logan, she'd known she wasn't indestructible long before she ever got the bullet in her arm. He could make her feel anything, and everything, with just a smirk. And that power alone could tear her apart.
As she stared, and stalled, she went back over the conversation she'd had with Wallace and Mac the night before, praying for it to make her brave.
While it still hurt to think that the people she trusted most in the world had hid something so vital from her, she understood now where they were coming from and though she didn't like it, thought she just might have done the same thing in their shoes.
As she had actually lied to them all at one point or another in the name of their own protection.
So, she couldn't really blame Wallace for wanting to help her father.
And, she couldn't really blame her father for wanting to help Logan.
It just sucked that what they'd been asked for was the exact opposite of what she needed.
It was with no resistance this time that she had curled into Wallace's side on her living room couch, with Mac's feet resting across both of their laps, and told them that no matter what he wanted, she wasn't going to let Logan leave without facing her. She'd sounded so confident then, so full of solid conviction. She admitted that she now saw what Logan was to her, and that she couldn't not fight for him. She had been brutally forced to let go of so many people in her life, her fingers pried from Lilly, her mother, even Duncan and Meg, against her will. She was not prepared to start doing it by choice.
She stood outside Logan's door and remembered her best friends' encouraging responses. The tight hug of Wallace's that she had let herself melt into and the hand squeeze Mac gave her that she had just known translated in normal-girl-talk to something mushy and poignant. She let her friends remind her that she wasn't just ice and stone and power…she could break, in so many ways. She had broken already, countless times. She did feel, much more than vengeance and anger.
Mac had assured her that she deserved to be fixed. Wallace had insisted that she deserved to be happy.
She smiled a tiny bit remembering how adamant they were.
She was finally finding her confidence again, at least enough to lift her hand to the door and knock, when abruptly the door swung open revealing a surprised and sleepy looking Logan.
Logan had been planning to make his way to the lobby for additional delivery menus; he had long since tired of the Regent's room service as it paled in comparison to the Grand's. He had been planning to order and eat as quickly as possible and then go back to bed, to make up for all the nights he hadn't slept at all.
He had not planned on opening that door and seeing her face.
Or on hearing her surprised whisper of his name…said with a longing he'd never truly believed she could feel for him.
"Veronica? What are you doing he-, How did you find me?"
He stared at her as she continued to just look back at him, quirking one eyebrow slightly at his last question. Right. He should know by now exactly how Veronica had found him. She could find anyone…if she wanted to.
Swallowing down all the excess emotions from the mere sight of her that he didn't know what to do with, he settled on curiosity as it seemed relatively safe. "Seriously, what are you doing here?" He asked this in a colder tone than he'd intended, but as he stepped back to allow her entrance to the room, he hoped that softened his question a little.
"I, uh," her voice came out weaker than either of them were used to and she cleared her throat for a minute before continuing, "I'm here to talk to you. I know you are planning on leaving, and I don't think you should go."
Logan made a noise of frustrated disbelief. He'd been so close to making it out of here without having to have this conversation. But no, he never could catch a break.
"You don't think I should go? Why not?"
"Well, school for one."
"They have schools outside of Southern California, Veronica. Lots of them. Some really good ones, even."
He could tell she was annoyed that he'd shot down her excuse so quickly, but he also could see she wasn't done yet.
"And then there's Dick."
"What about Dick?"
"He literally has no one but you, Logan. And you wouldn't want to see him slip back into that worthless mess he was just a few months ago."
Logan rolled his eyes at her attempt at a guilt trip. She barely tolerated Dick most of the time, and it was a weak argument even if she really cared. "I'll check in on Dick…and it's not like he can't afford a plane ticket once in a while."
"What about your business with Mac?"
"It's a website." Logan smirked at her, but without any true amusement. "Totally fitting that we use email."
Logan rushed to cut her off. Exasperated, he demanded that she get to the point. "What's the real reason, Veronica? I know you know I know that none of this has anything to do with why you are here. Hell, it hasn't much to do with anything at all."
"Logan, I-" Veronica shook her head slightly, then gulped as she looked down and away from him.
He stared at her, and waited patiently in the quiet.
She wondered how long they'd been standing there, him looking at her, her looking away, when suddenly his voice filled the emptiness. "Veronica."
Her eyes came back to his, but she stayed silent.
He said her name again, softer this time. So soft that it reminded her of the quiet times, when he'd held her in the dark, and they'd talked in whispers for no other reason than to protect those private moments. The times when all they knew was each other and that they were for once totally safe from the hellish lives they'd both been living. The times she was so certain they could protect each other from anything.
She closed her eyes at the sound of it, simultaneously relishing the way it felt to her ears, to her heart, and yet terrified he might never say her name like that again.
"Logan, you shouldn't leave because I want you to stay."
She watched his face with intense interest and careful scrutiny, trying to crack open the code of the tiny pull at his lips and the narrowing of his eyes, the way his breathing changed and a flush hit his cheeks.
He didn't say anything for a painfully long second, as the unwelcome sting of new almost-tears distorted her vision of his handsome face and she felt more powerless than she ever had before.
His face scrunched into a grimace, one she'd witnessed more times than anyone as young as him should ever have had to make it. He seemed to swallow down his thoughts, his reactions, as if what he was feeling and thinking might literally kill him on their way out. He turned away from her and pulled with frustrated fists at his hair. It was a gesture so achingly familiar to her that it seemed like her own. She wondered if that could mean anything else but that he belonged to her.
He then made a noise in response like a wounded animal. Angry and hurting and sad and desperate. He apparently couldn't hold it all in anymore, and it sounded like agony to her ears. "Veronica, I can't be… here." He looked over, wincing at the sight of her it seemed, before turning away again, putting more space between them. "I can't be…around you. Not after what happened. It's just changed everything. The way I understand things now, I see so clearly how wrong I was to drag it all out like this."
Veronica heard him, even over the growing clang of devastation in her ears. She felt her world crumble; shake down into little parts, tiny pieces, that seemed too small to ever be put back together.
Was he saying what she thought? She was scared to know, but she had to ask, even as she prepared for another death at the hands of curiosity. "Drag what out?"
"This! Us." He gestured between them wildly, as if she didn't get the message. From the look on his face it seemed like the worst thing in the world for him to say these things to her, but that didn't keep him from saying them.
Astonished, she looked down over her body, amazed that she could be hurting like this and yet there was not a drop of blood to be found. Had he really decided that it had all been a waste, just when she was realizing it was everything? Had he decided, in just the last few days, that she wasn't worth what he'd just been through? Had the 'I love you's she heard before the ambulance came been nothing but lies?
No, no, no, no, no. Veronica's head flooded with defiance. This couldn't be happening. And she was about to saying something to that effect, when Logan continued.
"I always thought eventually it'd all work out. I don't know how I managed to still believe it, but I did. I thought sooner or later, when whatever cruel, sadistic god might be out there decided that we'd suffered enough, we'd be allowed our happily ever after. Together. And that when the time came, I'd deserve you and everything would just be right." He took a breath like he only had a limited supply. "But, there you were. In my arms, bleeding. And my heart, my soul, just ripped apart to see you like that. And then I remembered where the gun was pointed, who that bullet had been meant for. And then I remembered all the awful words we'd shared before we'd even gotten to the club that night, the terrible way I talked to you. I thought of all the vicious things I've ever said to you. All the horrible, horrible things I've done to you." She could seem him reliving it all again, and she wanted to reach out and assure him that it was the past, that it was behind them, but the dread of where this all was going kept her planted and silent and still. "That's when things just clicked, you know. I'll never get to be happy, Veronica. Because I don't deserve it."
"Logan, no-" Her voice came out strong and her head was shaking, rapidly, trying desperately to let him know how wrong he was. On that, on so many things. But he brushed her disagreement away with a flick of his hand, pushing forward with a voice of heartbreaking certainty.
"I will never deserve you. And I think, 'til that night, I could have stayed anyway, even knowing that. Stayed and waited, until you'd take me back. But, even though I'm selfish, there is something I can't bear even more than my own pain…and that's yours. I can't stay, and risk hurting you anymore."
His voice had been so low, the fullness of his sincerity drenching his words in a deep and hypnotic timbre. As he finished with regret and shame pooling together with the tears in his eyes, Veronica was paralyzed, in a trance, thoroughly stunned at how he could say it all, believe it all, when so much of it wasn't true. She gaped at him, mouth slightly open in exhausted shock, her quick and capable mind running over the main points again until she found herself scoffing out loud at his lunacy.
Like an electrical jolt, a bolt of lightening, humorless laughter broke free, the sound much larger than her, filling the room. She registered him notice and flinch as everything about her face, her stance, her energy, shifted, but she had too many other thoughts and observations pushing to the forefront of her mind.
The incredulous sound of her laughter stopped, and she stepped towards him in a rage. She'd been weakened, desperate, for days. So much so that she barely recognized herself. But she understood now, just how literally she needed Logan. He made her strong. In his absence she'd withered, but here in his presence, she felt powerful again. And now she was going to use that against him, to her advantage.
"You can't risk hurting me, so you're leaving me?! Are you stupid, Logan?" She took another step forward, looking up into his eyes as they darted around her face, taking in her fury. "You leaving would essentially crush me. Don't you see that?"
His expression stopped searching as he snapped into his own defense. Apparently she made him strong too, because there was a definite hint of annoyed bite in his response. "Don't be so melodramatic. It only fits you when you are making threats or banishing people with your self-righteousness. Romantic hyperbole has no place in your repertoire. Yeah for a time, maybe, it would hurt a little for you. But I know first hand how quickly you can move on, Veornica, especially when I'm not right there, fighting for your attention."
"If that is a Duncan jab, so help me God…"
"Oh, of course not. Because even in what may very well be our last possible conversation, the Donut is too sacred to be spoken of…especially by me."
"That's not the point and you know it. And if you are just trying to piss me off so I'll give up and leave, you really should know better."
"Know better than expecting you to run out when things get difficult or unpleasant? Yeah, what a ludicrous idea for someone who's met you. Or your mother."
It was like a slap, stinging immediately on impact and rushing through her as it appeared out of nowhere. Yet even as his words twisted their way inside her, so painfully, the jibe hitting her as excruciatingly on target as possible, she noted the realization on his face as he saw that he'd gone too far, and his instant self-flagellation was apparent through the self-loathing in his stare.
The shouting vanished as quickly as it had come, and his voice was a whisper when he spoke. "See. I hurt you. Again." He hung his head sadly. "I'm no good for you, Veronica."
Her eyes burned into him, with anger-tipped disbelief. "No good for me? God, do you know how many times you've saved me, Logan? From danger, from death? From myself?" She stepped in again as she spoke, so close to him now, praying that with proximity he'd see the truth in her words. "You loved me enough to stand between me and literal gun after metaphorical gun after literal gun. Even when I've run or pushed you away, or demanded that you leave, you've always stepped back in and saved me. You make me feel beautiful, Logan. Even when everything I see, everything I do, everything I touch, seems ugly and broken. And instead of returning the favor, I've beat you down, with my mistrust and my issues and my fear. You have so many doubts about yourself, Logan, that you shouldn't, all because I put them there. And I can't begin to apologize enough for that. I'm no good for you. But I'm the selfish one because I want you to want me anyway. And I want you to stay. Please."
Her plea hung in the air for no more than the flash of a second, before Logan had crushed his lips forcefully, desperately, so passionately, against hers.
Author's Note 2: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE review. Please?