To say that Logan is surprised when Duncan finds him would be an understatement. He hasn't seen Duncan since… well, it's been a while, and for Duncan to actively seek him out is more than a little surprising. Especially since Logan is still tentatively dating Veronica and Duncan is not.
"You wanna get out of here?" he asks casually.
Logan tries not to double-take as he turns back to Duncan. "Out of here?"
"Yeah, it's kind of crazy—you want out?"
"More than you'll ever know."
"So then let's go," he insists, as if it's that easy. As if they've been talking at all lately.
But it seems that it is that easy because after a quick stop off at his house and another at Duncan's Logan finds himself piled into Duncan's SUV on the highway out of Neptune.
"Where we going?"
Duncan shrugs, "I don't know, man. Where you wanna go?"
"Anywhere but here."
"That's such a girl's answer," Duncan laughs and Logan can't remember the last time they were able to joke like that. It makes him ache a little and that makes him feel even more like a girl so maybe Duncan's not so far off.
It's fifteen minutes down the highway before Logan's cell rings and he inwardly curses, knowing who it's going to be before he even answers. Flipping the phone from his pocket quickly he hits 'answer' and brings the receiver to his ear before Duncan can do more than give him a sideways glance between traffic.
"Hey," he greets with his voice a little tight at the awkwardness of the situation.
"Hi," a soft voice replies down the line. Veronica.
"How was work?" he asks, hoping she's not going to be pissed at him for ditching.
He can hear the shrug in her voice, "It was okay. I thought you were going to pick me up, I had to call my dad."
"Sorry, I'm… with Duncan right now."
Her voice clears with realization, "Oh. Sorry. I'll let you go, I just wanted to check we're still on for tomorrow—movie we won't watch and entirely too much Italian food?"
Forgetting that he's trying to stay neutral for Duncan's sake, Logan lets a soft smile slip across his face as he teases, "There's never such a thing as too much Italian when you're eating." It instantly gives up the game and Logan notes out of the corner of his eye that Duncan's features have set into a grimace.
"You're just jealous," she retaliates.
"Oh yeah. Okay, babe, gotta go. Tomorrow, I'll be there 'round seven."
He hangs up, slipping the cell back into his pocket without looking across at Duncan. The silence fills the SUV for several minutes before Duncan finally ventures, "That was Veronica?"
"Yeah," Logan admits sheepishly, still reluctant to look at Duncan properly. He doesn't know why, he shouldn't feel ashamed about dating Veronica again—he sure as hell didn't the first time. But it's Duncan, and he hates hurting Duncan, and as much as he's not ever going to be willing to give up Veronica for a friendship, Logan hates that it's difficult.
"So you guys are still dating?" he tries for nonchalance and fails spectacularly, his knuckles blanching against the steering wheel.
Logan can't stand the pretending between them now, "You knew that, dude."
Duncan nods a little in placating acceptance before he surprises Logan by looking up from the road, his face mostly neutral as he asks, "How is she?"
He tries to wipe the surprise off his face, but it's difficult because Logan hadn't really expected Duncan to try like this. To actually make efforts to accept his relationship with Veronica rather than just ignore it. He had been aiming for some happy avoidance long enough to play video games or get wrecked maybe, this is so much better.
"She's okay. Still a bit shaken up 'bout the whole thing, y'know?"
"Yeah," Duncan agrees. "It's a lot."
Logan nods. "Yeah. She seems cool though."
The silence floats between them for a while and at least this time it's slightly less awkward than before. Eventually Logan digs up the courage (not Dutch for once) to offer, "Y'know you should ask her yourself."
"Veronica. You should come over sometime, man. The house is empty."
Duncan cracks a grin, almost laughing and Logan's caught off guard again. A slow smile spreading across his face in response as Duncan asks, "They left you in your house alone?"
"Dude, I'm emancipated."
He looks over, kind of excited as he replies, "Me too!"
"Dude, no way."
"My mom and dad went up to Napa. Unless I want to switch schools in the fall I had to be so I could stay down here."
"You still at Kane HQ?"
"Nah, they didn't want to keep the staff so I'm at the Neptune Grand."
"You're living in a hotel?"
Duncan wiggles his eyebrows in response, "Presidential suite."
"How Eloise of you," Logan laughs and it feels good to laugh with Duncan.
"I won't even ask how you know enough to make that reference."
"And I won't ask why you got it."
"Fair enough," Duncan agrees.
"So a hotel, man, how's that working out for you? Gotta be sweet with the elevators and the room service."
"Room service is cool, but there are always people in changing my towels," Duncan recalls. "I have no idea how they expect me to use five towels everyday but whatever."
"Do you still get a mint on your pillow if you're long term?" Logan ponders.
"Sure. I fall asleep on the damn thing six nights out of seven."
Logan can't help the cackle of laughter that bubbles up from his chest. "Dude! You always were a little slow."
"Says the guy charged with murder."
Suddenly the atmosphere shifts, Logan's tone sobering as he reminds, "Formerly charged with murder, they were all dropped."
Duncan acknowledges, "I know, sorry."
"Hey, man, don't be. It's not like you made the call or anything."
"Did they ever find the guy?"
"Nah, hopefully they won't."
"You scared of what he has to say?"
"Dude, I didn't do it. It's not my proudest moment but I was out. Like six guys were whaling on me, how the hell do you stab someone like that?"
Duncan just shrugs, "I don't know."
"Exactly," Logan agrees, pleased with the response.
The first stop they make is at a rickety old gas station just after the fifth turn off. Logan has no idea why Duncan thought this would be a good place to stop, the thing's pretty much dilapidated, but he needs to piss and he has to admit that he's getting hungry too.
"I'll meet you inside," he nods to Duncan who just waves him off, continuing to pump his own gas.
After facing the horrors of the filthy public bathroom Logan pushes through the swing door, spinning the bathroom key on one of his fingers before giving it up to the fifteen year old stuck behind the counter. He thinks he vaguely recognizes the guy and he has no idea why considering how far out of Neptune they are—surely no acne-ridden punk is that desperate for a job? Logan wouldn't know, he's never had acne… or a job.
Duncan wanders in as he's perusing the chip aisle, trying to decide which flavor will adequately satisfy his hunger pangs. Without paying any attention to the packets Duncan plucks a bag of salt and vinegar off the shelf and shoves it into Logan's chest.
"You know you're going to get them anyway," he explains.
Logan wants to argue but he shrugs, it's true, salt and vinegar is the best. Like everything else in life it has just enough flavor and that edge of pain if you eat too much. Maybe he is a little masochist… and he spent all this time trying to not become a cliché. Oh well.
Duncan has a basket and he's shoving soda and gum into it, picking up a packet of twizzlers and some plain chips. Logan chucks a bag of peanuts into the hoard and then moves to the creaking coffee machine to try and recover some of the energy he had when they started out on this quest to nowhere.
The machine will only give them black, no sugar because the other knobs are broken. He curses under his breath and Duncan shakes his head at Logan across the lino, indicating some Gatorade that he's apparently decided is vital to his existence if the amount going into his basket is anything to go by.
With his tepid, stodgy coffee and whatever candy comes off the shelf first Logan heads to the counter and dumps the pile next to Duncan's basket where it all—including gas—gets shoved on Duncan's Visa.
The guy behind the counter looks at Logan as if he's a mooch, as he rips open a bag of chips before the payment's even gone through, but Logan figures he'll just pick up the next tab. And knowing them it'll be a bar tab and it won't be cheap—Duncan owes him a few chips or two. Or maybe not since his dad killed Duncan's sister, but whatever, that's not exactly Logan's fault.
Duncan leaves some change in a plastic cup that's being used as a tip jar, even though he paid by card and Logan rolls his eyes at the other boy, grabbing one of the groaning plastic bags full of junk food. Duncan follows him out with the other, trying to search for his Gatorade, put his wallet away and find his car keys all while walking—it seems to be eluding him and Logan waits by the car, foot tapping impatiently. The coffee is going to do nothing for his patience considering it's about ninety percent pure caffeine, no milk dilution.
Finally Duncan gets his ass in gear and unlocks the door, Logan mentally jumping up and down in joy at the sound of the electronic beep signaling the doors opening. He pulls out the door to the backseat with a quick flick of his wrist, dumping his bag on the floor and reaching out to take Duncan's which he eventually throws to join the other one—after Duncan's grabbed another bottle of Gatorade from the bottom of course.
Once they're back on the highway Logan finally settles into his seat and takes a sip of the awful coffee concoction. It scalds his tongue, motherfucker.
Duncan watches as Logan swears into his own hand, trying to calm the pain on his tongue somehow. It takes Logan about two seconds to whiz down the electric window and lob the paper cup out onto the road, cursing all the while.
"Well you sure showed it," Duncan tries very, very hard to keep the smile off his face.
"Burnt my tongue," Logan slurs slightly against the numbness invading his mouth.
Duncan can't help the laugh this time, "I got that."
"I think my tongue's going to fall off," Logan whines in pain.
"The girls will be heartbroken."
Logan throws himself back into his seat with a loud thump against the leather. "Shut up, man! It hurts!"
"Have soda," Duncan offers, trying to work a bottle of his Gatorade out of his door's side pocket. Eventually he gets it loose and shakes the bottle near Logan, keeping his eyes on the road the whole time.
"It's blue," Logan protests.
"But it's good."
Duncan grins, "Like you haven't had worse in your mouth."
"Seriously, man, will you quit it?" Logan leans across the back of the car, searching desperately for a bottle of water. Anything not neon.
"You can never be allowed to forget Caitlyn Ford."
"Man, admit it, my taste's improving."
Logan realizes that he really needs to start thinking before he speaks. Duncan doesn't seem too rattled though, just giving Logan the hint of a pained smile as he nods in agreement, "Yeah, you got me there."
"Hey, man, you feel like stopping in a while?"
"You got somewhere in mind?" Duncan asks and Logan just smiles.
"Wooo!" Logan calls as he throws the shot glass back on the bar. He looks around him, noting that the bar is definitely what you would call seedy. But he's kinda buzzed and Duncan looks ready to be following in his footsteps, downing his own shot a half-second after Logan.
The other patrons aren't paying them much attention and the bartender doesn't seem to care that they're both underage so long as they pay cash. It's looking to be the start of a beautiful evening, Logan thinks.
He leans across the bar a little drunkenly, curling the fingers of one hand towards him to gesture the bartender over. He's a middle-aged balding guy with a filthy white rag thrown over one shoulder, Logan wants to laugh at the cliché but he figures that laughing at the guy might piss him off and that might lead to him stopping the drinks—Logan really doesn't want the drinks to stop.
"My good man," he laughs. "Two more for the road."
"You're not exactly Sinatra, kid."
Logan just shrugs, waving another fifty in the guy's face, it seems to placate him. Duncan is giggling, still shaking his head to try and get rid of the after burn from the last tequila. The guy, whose name could be Fred or Bob, slides two shots toward Logan before taking the money. Before he can get back with Logan's change some random across the room looks over, he's check-shirted and drunk, a trucker probably. He has the requisite trucker friends at least.
The guy hollers over to them, "Hey you!"
Logan stiffens and Duncan looks up in bewilderment, looking like he's trying to figure out who they could know this far from Neptune.
"You! You're that Echolls kid, right?" So maybe he's just hollering at Logan. Duncan doesn't relax as he grips his glass tighter, scared. Logan just swallows tightly, trying not to look over at the guy, trying not to let him bother him. He's just some drunken hick, nothing worth his time.
Logan figures it's probably a good time for his inbuilt from birth snobbery to kick in. He grits his teeth and throws back the shot to calm his nerves.
The guys stands and starts towards them, even the bartender looks worried now—not to mention more than a little pissed off that Logan is in his bar causing trouble. "You! Kid! Think you're too good to talk to little old us?"
Logan looks to Duncan whose eyes are trying to convey a message. Logan thinks that it's probably along the lines of 'please don't get us arrested, please don't get us arrested'.
The guy is right behind them now though and Duncan is the one gesturing for more drinks while Logan holds himself tight, trying to remember all the reasons that going to jail for nailing this guy in the jaw would be a bad, bad thing. Trying to think of all the ways Veronica would kick his ass for it, especially if they revoked his emancipation and he got shipped off to some state home. But then again, it's the middle of nowhere; this guy is probably wanted for some crime or another… does it even count if they're this far from Neptune? Logan doesn't know and the next words out of the guy's mouth settle the matter.
"You think you're too good with your scum for parents? Your dad rape anymore little girls while your mom's floating around out there? Huh? Maybe you could kill him."
And without even noticing Logan is on his feet and his fist is smashing against the guy's nose. The dude is about twice Logan's size and he has friends but rationality has never been something that Logan was good at. Duncan is shouting at his friend to back down, telling him to calm down and apologies but the bigger guy has just punched Logan in the stomach and appears to be trying to get him into a headlock.
Logan's scared, he is, but it doesn't seem to matter, he's much too drunk to really care. Duncan screams at the bartender to call 911 but by the time the police or the sheriff or whoever the fuck actually looks after this dirt hole in the desert gets there Logan's looking to be pulp on the floor.
It's when Fred or Bob's shotgun gets pointed at the scrabble that everything stops. The guy backs up, wiping at his bloody nose with his hands raised.
"I don't want no trouble," Fred or Bob says.
The trucker guy just nods, rounding up his friends with a flick of the wrist and heading the hell out of there to their trucks outside.
Logan doesn't fare so well, stumbling to the ground when there's no one to support him. Duncan runs to his side but the voice of Fred or Bob penetrates his drunken haze.
"Don't move, kid. I'll call an ambulance."
Fuck!!, is all that Logan can think as he lies there and Duncan sits on the floor next to his with a glass of water.
"Are you okay, man? Logan?"
Logan groans and Duncan's eyes are suspiciously red, he might be sniffling. Logan thinks that it's probably just his vision though because Duncan didn't even get a hit in, there's no way anyone hurt him bad enough to make him cry.
"You got to stop doing this, you're going to get yourself killed."
"Like you've been around to see anything I've been doing," Logan mumbles around a split, swollen lip.
"I hear things…" Duncan tries to justify.
Logan's not impressed as his head lolls back against the cold ground. "Yeah, maybe they'd be more accurate if you heard them from me."
"I'm sorry, man."
Logan tries to nod in response, but that's the last thing he hears as black rushes in at the side of his vision.
"…probably a concussion…"
Logan can hear voices but he keeps his eyes closed, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation. The voices are muffled though, quiet and far away, and soon he heard the unmistakable sound of a door clicking closed seconds before a soft hand slips in under his own.
Logan really sucks at feigning sleep because a second later Veronica's voice is calling, "Logan?"
He sighs, giving up and opening his eyes. "Hey."
"So, looks like you're going to miss that movie."
"Yeah," he slurs through the painkillers they're pumping into him. "Sorry."
She shrugs, not letting go of his hand. "We wouldn't have watched it anyway."
"So, I'm forgiven?" he asks with a hint of a smile.
"Sure," Veronica replies, but her stance tightens. She's full of apprehension and Logan just knows that she has something more to say. It just doesn't seem like something he's going to want to hear.
He tries not to let his voice break, "What is it, Veronica?"
"I…" she swallows, procrastinating. A deep breath and she continues, "I think we should take some time—"
"Take some time to do what?"
"Some time off," she tries to clarify.
His eyes close and although he doesn't have the strength to pull his hand from hers, Logan lets his head sink into the hard, hospital pillow—emotional distance creeping between them.
"From 'us', right?" he ventures, his voice thick and awkward.
"You're not getting any better…" Veronica's voice wavers like it hurts her.
"I'm not sick," he cuts off.
"Okay. But I care about you, Logan, and I don't want to watch this."
"If you cared so much you might stick around."
"Maybe, but maybe I don't want to watch you kill yourself, okay? Sometimes you just have to … make difficult decisions."
"Well, I'm glad that I came out on top of this one. A girlfriend who cares enough to leave me, that'll be right up there with the mom who cared enough to kill herself and the dad who fucked my girlfriend on tape."
She tries to protest, "Logan—"
"Could you just leave, please?"
"I don't want—"
"Yeah well, what you want doesn't really matter now so just go before I'm forced to actually sit up and call for a nurse. Thanks," he finishes caustically.
"I'm sorry, Logan."
"Yeah, everybody is."
He closes his eyes again. The door closes and then Veronica's gone and Logan thinks that maybe he's just pushed away something that could have been really, really great when he should have been begging her back. The sigh he takes is shuddering and it has nothing to do with the pain in his ribs.
Logan's eyes snap open at the sound of the door and before he can stop himself the words are out of his mouth, "Veronica, I didn't mea—"
But it's Duncan standing at the end of his bed and Logan kind of wants to kick himself. Or at the very least extract the foot from his mouth.
"I thought…" Duncan starts.
Logan cuts him off, "I'm fine."
Duncan nods at the other boy, moving to take the seat next to the bed that Veronica has just vacated. Unlike Veronica though he doesn't try and take Logan's hand or break up with him. He just sits, watching carefully.
"So, Veronica was here…" he acknowledges. "She looked pretty upset when I passed her in the hall."
Logan's lips press together hard, as he tries to stop the pressure building up inside his throat. "We broke up."
"I'm sorry, man."
"No, you're not," Logan fights quickly.
Duncan looks taken aback for a second before he continues, more firmly this time, "Yeah, I am. You're my best friend, just because I'm an idiot doesn't mean I like when this stuff happens to you."
"Right," Logan accepts quietly.
"Do you think you guy'll get back together?"
"What's with all the girl talk, man? She just left me, so, could we not?" he asks, breath in short pants and chest tight.
"Yeah, I just…"
Duncan nods, moving forward very slightly before finally making a decision and sitting on the edge of Logan's bed. "It's okay."
Logan doesn't respond, just lets his eyes drift closed and sinks into the mattress, trying to forget about the pain thrumming through him. It's a moment before either of them says anything and Duncan is the first one to break the silence, lifting a small plastic bag—that he had apparently brought into the room with him—onto the bed.
"So, I brought you snacks. The food always sucks here," he explains.
"Dude, don't I know it," Logan tries to smile despite the horrible implication of the amount of time he's spent in hospital.
"Salt and vinegar," Duncan declares proudly, pulling the pack of chips back as Logan reaches from them. "Maybe you should wait till your lip heals."
"Yeah, sure mom, hand them over!"
Duncan lifts the bag out of Logan's reach as the other boy punches his arm. "Hey, don't manhandle me you cripple."
Logan rolls his eyes, waiting for Duncan to give him the packet, "You're so going to pay for that once they let me out of this thing," he threatens emptily.
After a final moment of lording it over Logan Duncan finally opens and hands over the bag of chips, waiting for the inevitable complaints from Logan that 'it stings!' They never come though as the other boy munches his way happily through the snack.
Duncan looks tense as silence drags through the room and Logan's suddenly reminded of his recent encounter with Veronica and he wonders what the hell Duncan's about to tell him. He's pregnant and he wants an abortion? Logan's just not the man for him anymore? It might as well be, Logan tells himself, because he's already had his heart stomped on by one Veronica Mars—whatever Duncan has to say will be easy to take in comparison.
"Just spit it out, man."
"I was thinking maybe you could come stay with me for a while once you get out of here…"
"Huh?" Logan doesn't know what he was expecting but it wasn't an invitation for tea and a sleepover.
"The hotel gets pretty boring, especially with no one to play video games with. The suite, it has two bedrooms… it's not like you have to though…" Duncan trails off, looking at the bed beneath him with embarrassment.
"No, man, it sounds cool."
"Cool, well," Duncan gestures to the door, "I've got to go, but I'll be back later. I'll bring the Xbox."
"Awesome, you know I'm going to totally kick your ass."
"Well, after you got a firsthand demonstration," Duncan teases, gesturing to Logan's injuries.
"Making fun of the invalid, not funny."
"And I kind of thought it was."
"Whatever, dude. Go! Be gone." Logan shoos him.
And as Duncan exits the room with a quick wave Logan thinks that even though he's just lost Veronica—and man that hurts like a bitch, a small blonde bitch jumping up and down on his heart no less—maybe he's gained a Duncan. And maybe, he thinks, things are still going to be okay in the long run. Maybe.