and afterwards

---

This is what Logan knows:

When he thinks it can't possibly get any worse than it already is, it does.

If it came down to it, he could kick Weevil's ass.

He will always love Veronica Mars, even when he really, really fucking hates her.

---

"Piz. Just the man I wanted to see. I'm sorry. For everything. I mean it."

He doesn't stay to hear if his apology is accepted, doesn't stay to hear Veronica yell at him again for being who he is, for doing what he can't help but do, doesn't stay long enough to wonder if he's the biggest fucking idiot in the face of planet. Doesn't stay because he doesn't really see the point.

Thinking on it now, he's almost sure that he never felt this way about Veronica before Lilly died. Then again, it was usually pretty hard to see anything but Lilly when she was in the room—the girl had a way of sucking up all the air so that you had to stand next to her if you wanted to breathe. And he can count on one hand the number of times that he was with Veronica without Lilly, so yeah, he's pretty sure he didn't notice her until afterwards.

He's kind of glad. Lilly—Lilly was never destined to make it past twenty. A girl like that, she burned bright and hot, used up all her fuel at the start. Veronica's not like that. She's… she's a slow burn, starts small, barely noticeable really, but once she gets you, you never forget what it felt like.

He loved Lilly for her humor and her irrepressibility and her vivacity. Veronica he loves for her laugh, for her strength, for her hidden marshmallow inside that always secretly wants to bake him cookies, even if she never does, even if instead she simply finds whatever is hurting him and pummels an apology out of it.

He's not threatened by Piz because Piz is all sugar, cotton-candy sweet and sprinkles. That's not Veronica. That's never been Veronica, not really, not even before Lilly. She always had that edge to her; it just used to be harder to see.

Lilly always saw it. Lilly saw it before anyone else did. He'd asked her, when they first got together, how she could be best friend with someone like Veronica, a goody-goody, a real Daddy's girl.

And Lilly has laughed, "You say that because you've never seen her naked."

He'd laughed too. Didn't really get it, but he laughed, and now he thinks maybe she had it right after all. Veronica, naked, stripped away of her clothes and her nice-girl front, is one-hundred-percent determination and ferocity, topped off with a nice little cherry made of sass. Just the kind of girl Lilly would have loved.

---

They'll never get married. For one thing, Logan's not really the marrying type. Hasn't met a couple yet who didn't get ruined by marriage, didn't lose everything to affairs and pre-nups and tragedy. Marriage is an invitation for disaster, dressed up to look nice for the photos.

And for another, he's never deluded himself into thinking that they were the couple that could be together forever.

---

He goes back to his hotel room. Veronica still has a key, somewhere. She chooses to forget about it, chooses to think that it somehow disappeared along with their relationship, but. He knows that she knows where it is, knows that she'll never quite forget which book she's shoved it into.

So yeah. He goes back to his hotel room and sits on his bed, face smarting, wondering if one of these days he'll come back and open the fridge and find himself facing the barrel of some mob guy's gun which will be the last thing he sees.

And okay, it would suck that his last view of earth isn't some beautiful naked woman, but. Let's be honest. He's stopped taking more than arbitrary joy in that sort of thing, anyway.

Still, he couldn't let someone say that sort of thing to Veronica, couldn't stand to watch her just take it like she wasn't the most sarcastic piece of shit he's ever met. Violence is clumsy, outdated, yeah, but just remember, once upon a time it was called chivalry. He's the son of a suicidal trophy wife and a murdered murderer, what exactly do you expect?

He's been thinking of dropping out.

---

They're together even when they aren't together, they're that couple that he always hated. They can't be together and they can't be apart, so what you get is this on-and-off love-hate thing that makes him absolutely crazy.

He wonders what it is about himself that makes it impossible for him to have a healthy, steady relationship.

Still. The facts are that Logan Echolls could not be with anyone other than Veronica Mars. No one else is strong enough, smart enough, interesting enough to make it worth the while. No one else can look at him once and automatically know everything there is to know about him. No need for anyone else, 'cept her.

And the truth is, Veronica can't be with anyone else, either. She'll try, oh, he knows she'll try. It won't end with Piz. There'll be so many more, so many more close-calls (like Duncan), so many more for-nows (like Piz), so many more spur-of-the-moments (like Leo). She's never satisfied with what she's stuck with, so Logan knows she'll always keep looking.

But she'll always come back. He'll never be able to look at anyone else again, but that's all right, because she'll never be able to look at anyone else for too long, either.

---

When he thinks back to freshman year, it's hard to believe that he once had so much. He had Lilly and he had Duncan and he had Veronica, and he had his Dad and his Mom, and he had Trina, and he had his friends, and he had the school, and he had the whole world.

Now he has Dick, and sometimes he has Veronica, and he has a hotel room that always smells of disinfectant.

Logan has always been impulsive, never could keep to a straight path, and getting the hell out of Neptune just seems like the right move. What could have made him stay in a place that hates him with people that are afraid of him in a relationship that can't get its shit together?

Well, he knows the answer to that, and she's dating Piz at the moment, and oh yeah, also hates him right now. And there's a world out there, a world that doesn't know him, a world that might give him some degree of peace.

That's what Trina says, anyway.

---

Logan is more used to losing than Veronica is. He expects it now, doesn't let himself get too attached to anything. Ronnie's never been able to do that, though she'll tell you otherwise. She always let's herself get sucked into whatever sob story she's hearing, accidentally takes her latest stray into her heart and lets it warm up there.

So Logan's going to be the one that has to end it, if he really wants to leave, and he knows that, because Veronica won't shut the door until she's sure that there's nothing on the other side.

He's stopped thinking that anything is easy.

---

"Going somewhere?"

Logan turns. Veronica's in his doorway, leaning against the doorjamb, spinning his room key around her fingers. She isn't looking at him, but he smiles anyway, because she can pretend like she got rid of it but he always knew she hadn't.

"Anywhere," he says back cheerfully, keeping space between them. He's not looking at her, either.

She takes a step inside, looking over the trashed and emptied room, looking at the made bed. He hasn't slept here in a while. Been out. Sometimes he sleeps on the floor because it's easier there, easier on the hard cold surface than the soft bed that has way too many memories of naked Veronica Mars that keep him awake.

She runs her fingers along the country. "How long will you be gone?"

Logan hesitates. "Don't know," he says at last. "I think—I mean, Neptune isn't… I don't really have a reason to stick around, V."

She nods, keeping her gaze casually on her hands on off of his face. He's glad. He isn't trying for the pity card, here.

"Is Piz okay?"

He means it. He feels genuinely bad about beating the kid up. It sucks getting punched in the face for something you didn't do.

"Yeah. He's, uh, he's back at his room. I think he was jealous that you got to beat up that asshole and he didn't. Pride, or whatever."

"Oh, yeah. I'd definitely say this has been a week that I'm going to be real proud of in the future." He rubs his jaw. "If I have any nerve endings left by the end of it, they'll be hurting for life."

She gives him a Look, her head cocked to the side and mouth turned up at one end. "I told you not to fight him," she scolds. "That was stupid, Logan."

"I know. I just look so damn good when I'm kicking ass, I can't help myself."

She laughs, but she's also sort of crying, and the next thing he knows she's yelling at him for being so stupid all the time, beating up people that are connected, seriously, is he suicidal? And no, wait, don't answer that, because he's scaring her with the way he's been acting and she doesn't know what to think about anything anymore and Goddamn it, Logan, why does it have to be this hard, with you?

"It's not just me," he defends, knowing already that he'll lose this argument. "You're not exactly Miss Simplistic, Veronica."

"Yeah, well, I don't go around beating people up just because they insult my friends!"

He doesn't even touch that one, just let's the words sink in, and Veronica loses some of her edge and starts to laugh. "Or, okay. I do. But I'm better at it than you."

"That's true. It's because you're so deceptively cute. People are afraid to hit back."

She rolls her eyes at him. "You'd hit back."

And Logan smiles at her. "Yeah," he agrees. "Yeah. I'd hit back."

---

It's why he is the only one she will never be able to let go of. Because she would hit him and kick him and push him as far away as she could, and he is the only one with the strength to push back enough to throw her off balance.

---

She puts the room key on the counter. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I'm okay."

Veronica hesitates at the door. She always hesitates at the door. "Are you—I mean, you don't have to leave. I don't…" She takes a breath. "I don't want you to leave."

Then she's gone, and he stands by himself for a moment before heaving a sigh. Putting the suitcase away.

He'll say he didn't stay for her, but they'll both know otherwise.