VENUS AND MARS

3X21

Foodcourt

Piz walked into the foodcourt to find mayhem. He jumped back as food, tables, chairs and bodies skittered across the floor at his feet. His bruised face throbbed as he recognized one of the combatants as Logan. He felt a moment of empathy for the poor bastard on the floor. He knew only too well the damage those fists could inflict.

Before he had a chance to wonder what had Logan back on the warpath, he looked across the court and caught sight of Veronica.

The look on her face hit him in the guts as hard as one of Logan's fists.

What was it? Shock and horror were there but also…excitement. Then he saw her lift her eyes from the kid on the floor to Logan and he recognized pride and desire.

"Wherever you are," Logan's bloodied victim rasped, "you're dead!"

"Yeah, someday!" Logan agreed. Then he spun around and Piz saw that he was grinning. Logan met his eyes and came toward him. Piz froze.

"Hey man, just who I was lookin' for," Logan said, cheerfully. "I am truly sorry. About everything." Piz nodded dumbly and glanced at Veronica again.

He wished he hadn't. She was watching Logan stroll out of the food court and the look on her face was one he was absolutely sure he would never see directed at him.

All the pieces clicked together. He suddenly knew that the asshole on the floor was responsible for the camera in his room. Visions of kids jumping off roofs, guns being pulled on mobsters, rapists being beaten bloody in a holding cell and federal agents getting knocked on their asses filled his head for an instant and his heart dropped to the floor.

I'm can't compete with him.

He looked at Veronica, willing her to look at him with the adoration he had seen shining from her eyes when she looked at Logan.

She could barely meet his eyes at all.

Fuck.

Slowly, feeling like a condemned prisoner, he walked over to her. "Hey."

"Hey." She said, looking guilty as sin.

"I take it the mystery of the video tape is solved."

"Solved and paid for." She gathered up her tray and turned toward the exit. He followed her as she dumped her tray in the return bin and headed out into a deserted corridor.

"Veronica," he said as soon as they were alone.

"Piz?" she smiled but he wasn't fooled.

"Please tell me he doesn't fuck as well as he fights." He said. Her gaze dropped to the floor and she blushed so brightly that he could almost hear her memory ring with You should seriously consider going pro at that!

"Great. " he sighed. "So much for my self esteem. What are we doing here?"

"You mean lunch?" she tried, unsuccessfully, to look him in the eye.

"I'm only about 80% idiot, you know."

"Oh come on! I had you pegged at 75%."

"I know that what I just witnessed was…extraordinary."

"Logan Echolls beating the tar out of someone is not extraordinary. He doesn't like Mondays."

"While I'm impressed with your Boomtown Rats reference, I'm serious. I don't know another guy on earth who would do that. I could not have done that."

"That is not a bad thing."

"I feel like shit."

She put up a hand to touch him but he blocked it with his arm. "I feel like shit!" he repeated.

"Because you're not a Neanderthal, ready to go all Mike Tyson on anyone who pisses you off?"

"NO. Veronica, I've…liked you from the day we met. I knew you had a boyfriend and I asked you out anyway. I blew off Parker and God knows how many other perfectly nice, hot girls because I hoped…Wallace warned me but I didn't listen."

Flashback

It's September, the first week of school and Veronica has just gotten Piz his guitar back. He and Wallace are walking from the food court back to their room.

"So," Piz said, striving for nonchalance "That guy. Veronica's boyfriend? Are..ah….they serious?"

Wallace stopped dead in his tracks and the look of consternation on his face told Piz that Wallace knew exactly what he was up to.

"Man, don't even think about it!" Wallace said seriously. "Don't you know who he is? That's Logan Echolls." Piz shrugged and Wallace rolled his eyes. "His dad was Aaron Echolls?" he prompted.

"That movie star who was acquitted of murder last spring?" Piz was astonished.

"He's worth about two hundred million."

"So you're telling me Veronica's boyfriend is loaded? She doesn't seem like the type to put much stock in that."

"She's not and she doesn't, but don't be bird doggin' Veronica, Man."

"All's fair in love and war, right?"

"I don't want to be anywhere near you if you decide to go to war with Logan," Wallace shook his head. "People get killed that way."

"Didn't Aaron Echolls commit suicide right after he was acquitted?"

"That's the official story. He was found dead in his suite at the Neptune Grand the morning after we graduated. The same night a kid jumped off the hotel roof."

"So…what?"

"Logan Echolls lives in the Penthouse Suite of the Neptune Grand."

"What…are you trying to tell me?"

"Logan was a key witness in his dad's trial; for the prosecution. The girl Aaron was on trial for killing was Logan's first girlfriend. The only reason Logan wasn't accused of capping his Dad was that he was on the roof of the hotel with Veronica and Cassidy Casablancas. Cassidy tried to hurt Veronica. Now, both Logan and Veronica say that Cassidy jumped and I believe them but there are plenty of people in this town who think Logan threw him off the roof."

"They think he threw a kid off the hotel roof? Is he some kind of psycho?"

"A lot of people think so. I don't but I might be in the minority around here. Of course, the day I met him, he was bashing in the headlights on Veronica's car. Then Weevil showed up and made him stop…"

" Wait. What's a Weevil?"

"Weevil was the head of the PCHers. That's a local motorcycle gang. Thugs. They robbed the place I worked at and taped me to a flag pole the first week of school. That's how I met Veronica; she cut me down."

"Wait. Logan was bashing in her car and Weevil made him stop?"

"Yeah. Veronica had made friends with Weevil by then."

"Why was Logan bashing in her car?"

"Man, I don't even remember." Then Wallace laughed, remembering Logan describing it as foreplay. "They were at each other's throats all the time the first year I knew 'em. Anyway, I thought that would be the end of Veronica's trouble with Logan. Most guys would want to steer clear of Weevil and his boys. But not Logan. That guy's not afraid of anything. It was weird, though. All year long, it was hard to tell if Logan and Weevil hated each other or not. I swear, Logan's the only reason Weevil wasn't expelled. He actually was expelled but they let him come back. I'm pretty sure that was because of Logan. Even now I don't really know."

"What do you mean, even now?"

"Logan spent most of senior year wearing an ankle monitor as the prime suspect in the murder of Weevil's best friend. Veronica helped clear him."

"What are they, some kind of modern day Bonnie and Clyde?"

"Hells no! They weren't even dating then. I thought they hated each other. This much I do know; Logan beat up a federal agent when he thought Veronica was in trouble and he took on the Irish mob for her, too. And Piz? Cassidy Casablancas was one of Logan's best friends."

"The kid who jumped?"

"Yeah. All that happened before they were even together."

"Jeez. I had no idea."

"You still have no idea. I only told you all that so you'd understand how serious I am; you try to get between them, and what Logan will do to you will be nothing compared to what Veronica will do. You think she's just some cute blond but I'm telling you; Veronica Mars is the most dangerous person I've ever met."

End Flashback

Piz looked at Veronica and felt like he was seeing the real her for the first time. He sighed.

"I never got what you saw in Logan and I was happy when you broke up. If I weren't such a dope… You sat right in there and told me you knew the good stuff from the bad and you went right back to him! Shit, he apologized for this." Piz waved his hand in front of his face. "But I would've done it to me if I weren't such a pussy! Jesus, Veronica, do you have any idea how often I've wished I had the balls to do what he did to Mercer and Moe? He's fearless!"

"You sound like you admire him." Veronica could not understand boys.

"Admire him? He's my fuckin' HERO! I was on that tape, too. Guys like Gory get away with this shit because there aren't enough people who will stand up and shove it back down their throats." He pointed back toward the food court. "That was justice."

"He's going to get himself killed." She wrapped her arms around herself protectively. "Gory's not just some jerk with a camera. He's Russian mob. I told him—"

"So he knew? Of course he knew." Piz sighed. "Veronica…I don't know what he did to make you leave him but I'm pretty damn sure that guy would never hurt you deliberately."

"Oh…ah…" what had it been? Oh,yeah "he hooked up over break with the girl I hate most in the world."

"Weren't you broken up over break?"

"He knows how I feel about her. What she's responsible for. And now, it's like all I can see is them, together, on a continuous loop."

Piz stared at her a moment, wondering what kind of a girl expected her ex boyfriend to only hook up with women she would approve of. Answer; the kind who isn't really an 'ex'.

"What do you suppose he sees on a continuous loop?" Piz asked drily. He was actually pleased to see her flinch at that. The truth is that he was kind of pissed at her for all of this. "The only one he doesn't hold responsible for that is you. You, on the other hand, broke his heart and are hell bent on doing it to me. That's a lot of pain and suffering for everyone but this girl you hate. I guess that makes him a better man than either of us."

"I'm not—"she started, but Piz put up a hand to cut her off.

"Again, only 80% idiot. I saw the way you looked at him. It gave me second degree burns." She dropped her eyes and studied the floor. He waited but she wouldn't meet his stare. "I can't be the guy you punish him with, anymore."

"Are you breaking up with me?" she asked in a small voice.

"It seems like the reasonable choice when you find out your girl is in love with someone else." At that, her eyes finally met his.

"Oh, Piz I'm so sorry."

"Hey, I'm just trying to end this with as much of my dignity intact as I can."

"You are such a good guy."

"I used to think so."

To be continued...