The morning the article appeared in the paper Veronica turned on her phone to find two voice mails. The first was from Piz: "Hey Veronica… It's me. It's Piz. Um, I saw the article about your dad in the paper. Kinda sucks, huh?" Pause. "Um… If you wanna meet for lunch later, lemme know." Pause again. "I'm thinking about you. Bye."
Sweet Piz… of course he'd called. He was so concerned about her all the time and he cared so genuinely. He was a true "good guy," the kind of guy the term was invented for, the kind of guy you could bring home to dad. The kind of guy most girls thought didn't exist.
The second message was from Logan. "Hey Veronica. It's me. I know you said it would take a while but I saw that thing about your dad. I can truly say I know how it feels. But I kind of hated my dad and you… Well, anyway, you know how to find me."
Yep, it was still too soon. She was still mad; but of course, he'd had the nerve to call. That boy was incorrigible. Still, he'd made her smile. He did know what it felt like to have your father be in trouble with the law. Logan always seemed to know what she needed to hear, even if she didn't. Logan knew her too well.
She didn't call either of them back.
Veronica dealt with this the way she dealt with everything—by pretending it didn't exist until she could find a way to fix it. She knew she'd run into one of them before too long but she was good at avoidance. At least, she thought she was until she made it onto campus and Piz was loping toward her before she could even think. He appeared, and then his arm was around her, and he was steering her toward class. "I called you. Did you get…?"
"Yeah, Piz I got your message. I just…" She stopped walking and looked up at him, "I've got a test I need to do some serious cramming for." She was sure to keep her voice light, conversational, easy. "I'll meet you for lunch, though." She got up on her toes and gave him a quick peck, "See you in a bit."
She adjusted her bag and took off, all before Piz could even say "good luck." Situation successfully avoided. Score one for Veronica. Now if she could just avoid… "Logan! Man! That was a crazy party last night, huh?" She glanced up, hating that she assumed it was him every time she heard the name. There he was, casually leaning against a wall in a way that was so nonchalant, so Logan. He had seen her, and she saw that he'd chosen to stay there leaning against the corner of the humanities building. That didn't stop him, however, from giving her the quickest of glances, almost imperceptible that said everything she needed in that moment: I'm right here. She found that she was smiling once again. She also realized she was standing still, and consciously began walking again. There was cramming to do.
Lunch with Piz. Somehow, she wasn't looking forward to it as much as she thought she should have been. Granted she had a few things on her mind, and her test had been a bit more complex than anticipated, but still. A girl should be excited to meet her boyfriend for lunch.
She spotted him right away, and he shot her a smile—a true, genuine, I'm-glad-to-see-you smile. The complete and total authenticity of it made something inside Veronica ache, mostly because she knew she did not feel the same way about him. Her smiles were planned and practiced, perfected after Lilly died and her mom left.
He was sitting with Parker, who saw Veronica and immediately and got up to go, practically running off. "Hey Veronica," he greeted her.
"Hey Piznarski. What's the word?" She swung her massive bag on the chair between them, pulling another over for herself.
"Well, according to Wallace's 'Word of the Day' calendar, it's maelstrom."
How perfectly apt. She smiled, "Parker took off pretty quick." Veronica knew she was doing it—asking a question without really asking it.
"Yeah, she just didn't want to eat alone I guess and she saw me sitting here, waiting so she came over. From what I gather, you're not her favorite person right now."
"Adorable AND smart, ladies and gentlemen! He's a keeper! Let's get some food—I'm starved. I'm thinking fries and manicotti—a nice, well-balanced meal." She began to get up when Piz reached for her hand and guided her back to her seat.
"Veronica, what's going on with you two?"
"Can we not talk about this, Piz? I'm hungry."
Piz couldn't decide what was worse—keeping the blonde from her lunch or not finishing the conversation he was trying to have. Realizing that food could only help his cause, he let her go buy her lunch. When she got back, he tried to pick up where they'd left off.
"So Parker seemed pretty upset," Piz was so transparent. Time to grab the bull by the balls, so to speak.
"She and Logan broke up and I think she's just upset, that's all. Logan tends to have that effect on people. He…" He what? Was the most frustrating, short-tempered, strangely noble, and oddly tender person she knew? He wasn't like Piz at all, but he somehow made Piz seem… less. "He screwed it up again."
"They've broken up before?" He wanted more but didn't know how to ask her.
"No I just meant… Logan is a hard person to deal with. He can sometimes be a bit, I guess, hard to handle. He's not great at relationships." She grabbed her drink and took a sip from the straw, then glanced at him, "Trust me."
Veronica thought the conversation was over, and concentrated on her food for a few minutes. She listened to Piz go on about everything from his upcoming internship to a new band he'd heard the night before, to the conversation he'd had with his parents about them coming out for the summer. Veronica knew when to nod, and say, "uh huh" and she performed her duties with perfection. When Piz got to making plans, however, Veronica had to jump in.
"Whoa, Piznarski! Hold on. I kind of wanted to lay low this weekend. What with that whole Dad's-in-trouble-with-the-law thing. I just need some time to… figure it out, I guess."
"So double feature Friday and pizza at your place? Let's get crazy and have root beer floats, too."
"I don't think so, Piz." She smiled at him and grabbed his hand. She read the look on his face perfectly. "Look. I like you a lot, you're a great guy, but this is how I deal with things. I pull away and plan my attack and then go for broke. I'm in the pull away phase right now. I just need some time and space. Just a little, to think." She dropped his hand and his eyes and continued to eat, "No big deal."
She looked up at him and smiled. He looked… crestfallen. There was no other word to describe it. Piz looked crestfallen. "Piz, it's not you. It's nothing you did. I appreciated your call." She grabbed his bicep and held it, gazing at him and smiling. "I just need…This is how I am, Piz. I get revenge and I fix things that are broken, and I need time to think."
"'I need time.' 'It's not me it's you.' This is sounding pretty suspicious here, Veronica. I mean, enough girls have broken up with me. I get it." He didn't look at her at all. Then, almost imperceptibly, he said, "I saw you look at him."
She knew everything had changed. "What? Look at who, Piz?"
"Logan. I saw you two looking at each other, after he went all Rocky on that guy who taped us. I didn't want to believe it, but I saw." He was quiet, and then sadness came into his voice, "You've never looked at me like that."
"Piz, I didn't…"
"It's okay Veronica. I get it. I'm second best." He smiled at her, but it did not reach his eyes. "I mean, I fell in love with you when you were in love with Logan because you were… you were perfect then. You almost… It's like you vibrated or something. And you're still like that whenever he's around. But not when I am."
She hadn't realized anyone else could tell. She looked away from him because it was her way. He continued, "You kick ass, Veronica, and you're beautiful and smart and amazing. But you can be better, and you are better, when he's around. It's okay."
She didn't know what to say. It was true. All of it, every word. No matter how much she wanted it to be otherwise, no matter how much she wanted to love Piz, she knew she never could, she'd tried, really tried, and she couldn't. At least, not the way she loved Logan. Years, continents, ruined lives; it was him. She blinked back tears that were forming uncharacteristically in her eyes. For the first time in a long time, she was hurting someone who didn't deserve it. "This sucks."
"Come on, Veronica. It's not like I'm not used to it. Have you met me?" He smiled again and held her hand for a moment, squeezed. He was adorable, she'd give him that; and he was good. Too good for her, certainly; too whole, too put together. Too… unbroken. "I'm not the guy who gets the girl. I'm that guy's quirky and awkward but sometimes adorable friend. Although in this case, the 'friend' part isn't really there but…"
He was trying to be funny, to lighten the load Veronica bore for all of this. It did hurt her, doing this to him. It's not as if she felt nothing. She just… sort of always knew this was inevitable. "You will be Piz, but the girl just isn't me. I'd like it to be though, believe me."
"Yeah, that would've been cool." Veronica ate for a few moments and they were quiet, making occasional small talk. Eventually, Veronica got up and threw away what was left of her lunch. When she got back to the table, she grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder, putting her hands in her pockets. Piz seemed to be fascinated by his straw. "Just to get this straight," He began, "We just broke up, right?"
"I think so." It had never been so simple before.
"And without even goodbye sex. Shame." He glanced up at her at that moment, they locked eyes and she saw that he would be okay. He stood up, engulfed her in a hug and kissed her forehead. He seemed fixated on something behind her and to her right but she didn't look. This last moment had to be right.
"Piz, I'm really sorry. I wanted to be a girl who could love you."
"There's nothing to be sorry for, Veronica 'cause for a few beautiful moments, I had this amazing superwoman for a girlfriend and now I don't. It's that simple."
"I heard Parker's single these days…" She gave him a playful punch on the arm, but noticed he was still looking at the same spot—behind her and to the right. She realized that she knew who would be there when she turned her head. The light mood suddenly felt wrong and Veronica was overwhelmed with the desire to be sincere. "You're a good guy Piz. I'm sorry. For everything." She got up on her toes and kissed his cheek. "Really."
"I'm just sorry I let myself pretend so long. Go," he nodded in the direction he'd been gazing, "Vibrate again. See you around, Veronica Mars."
She smiled at him and watched as he walked away. She made herself count to ten before turning to face the person she knew was there, the person who had been there almost always. The person who would be there, against her protestations and best efforts to the contrary, until he stopped breathing.
"Veronica," he breathed. Saying her name was the closest Logan had ever come to praying. "Hey, did you get my message?"
"Logan, Piz and I just…"
"Followed in Parker and my footsteps? I figured. He looked like someone punched him in the stomach. And I should know."
"That's not funny, Logan. I'm still not ready, it hasn't been enough time." She wouldn't look at him; if she did it would begin their old dance again. He wasn't having it.
"Veronica, look at me. I know this thing with your dad means you're plotting some revenge or working on some plan to make life okay again. I know you. Look at me, Veronica." She still refused, understanding that he knew her well enough to know that if she looked at him, they would be back together in seconds. It was both comforting and frustrating to know another person so completely that it was almost hard to tell where you stopped and they began. He put his hand under her chin and tilted it up, creating eye contact and shattering her resolve. "Hey," he smiled, "You know where to find me when it's all over; when you're ready." His hand left her chin and pushed a rogue piece of her hair back into its place. She found herself closing her eyes at the small caress realizing that Piz was right again—his touch made her vibrate. She dropped her bag and lunged for him grabbing his head with both hands. She found his surprised lips and forced hers against them, until suddenly they were working together, two smiles pressed together tightly.
She pulled away first, shocked at what she'd done. She looked sheepishly up at him; he looked down at her; and everything was more okay and less awful. She smiled and felt herself falling back into the routine of epic love—caring so much it was frightening, fighting because of fear, making up because there was nothing else to do and being more alive than you have ever been. "This doesn't mean I'm ready."
He smiled too, "I know."
And he always would.