Echoes of Epic

Logan dies and leaves Veronica alone.

Bold: Logan's thoughts from his place in the after-death, while he watches Veronica grieve.

Italics: things from the past

Normal: present day Veronica

The yelling never really stops, just gets quieter some days. They are locked in a constant battle-dance that they both know neither of them will win (for there can be no winner in games of death and war). So they are always fighting (or making up), and this is nothing new. But somehow it got out of hand, and she is shaking now, under his anger, and when he finally notices, he wants to kick himself, because they have been together for so long and gotten through so much, but somewhere along the way he'd forgotten just how powerful his words could be, and just how broken she already was.

And it doesn't surprise him to realize that he doesn't need fists to turn into his father.

She is beautiful when she wakes. You have been dead for ten hours, but she has not been told yet, and looking down on her, you wish it could be like this, forever, her caught somewhere between bliss and daylight. Real enough to taste but still wrapped in cotton-candied dreams.

He leaves her and does something with his life for the first time in 20 years, signing up for a war across oceans in a foreign land (and he wonders if it will be so different from the war at home and in his heart… at least now there is no pretense of knowing what he's fighting for). He does it without a second thought, and he can't know that this is something he will never live to regret (but regret it he does, living or not).

Maybe it's all her fault, and maybe it's not, she doesn't really know, but she's been alone in the house for seven long (impossibly short) months when she gets the call. Words like 'roadside bomb' and 'internal hemorrhage' fill her ears but her mind is still stuck on 'dead' as she hangs up the phone without waiting for the person on the other end to say goodbye.

Logan is dead and Veronica finds herself alone. Somehow through all the grief and heartache, she registers that she is unsurprised. Logan was like cinnamon and cyanide, hot and angry, but sweet, yet somehow bitter all at the same time. And perhaps she always knew that this was how it would end. Maybe, somehow, in the back of her twisted mind, she always knew it would come down to coffins for broken boy soldiers.

There was another time (and another coffin) when they weren't quite made for each other. Her first love had ripped her heart out and run with it, and his had ripped his out over and over, then hidden it and died before she could tell anyone where it was. Then they held onto each other desperately, clinging after months of hate and anger and death and questions without answers. Each knew that this was not what they'd wanted, not the person they'd been made for, but it was the closest damn thing either of them would get. Perhaps they'd win this time, because neither was expecting the other to be their soul mate. But nothing had ever come easily for either of them, and so they did not win, and, as if to add insult to injury, fate showed them that they were, in fact, soul mates, as well. They'd already lost each other in so many different ways before this final blow was dealt.

She is numb, now. She kills for the first time a month after she gets the news, and she thinks she should be sick to her stomach, but she isn't. She doesn't know if she's alive, or even human anymore. After that first time, she has to kill three more, and it never gets any easier because it was never hard in the first place. This doesn't bother her as much as it should, and she shrugs off her father's concerned glances and her best friend's comforting words and tells them that she's fine.

Fine has no meaning in her world any longer (and hasn't for an impossibly long time), but she thinks that perhaps, if it did, it is exactly what she would be, so maybe this isn't a total lie.

Despite her smile and assurances that she is fine, you know she is stuck somewhere between grief and vengeance, lost in another time, before she stopped regretting the lives she had ruined and started regretting the ones she hadn't. Back when promises meant something, war was just a card game (or the schoolyard was still their battlefield), and trust was something she hadn't yet forgotten how to give.

As he slams the door, she finds herself wondering when things had gotten this bad, and why she'd let it get this far. And when it would finally end (Or had it always been like this from the beginning, sharp angles wrapped in soft cotton sheaths to obscure how much the words and glances could hurt?).

Her dreams are something of an enigma. They are knives wrapped in soft leather, a sick kind of punishment and relief rolled into one. Astoundingly, it isn't just his face that she sees at night. There are many faces she can't remember in the light of day, but haunted her dreams in the dark. Faces of sisters and mothers and innocent children and brothers and fathers who left with guns in their hands and death in their eyes and never came back. Their eyes were already full of the ghosts of people they had yet to kill.

You wish you could simply pull her into your arms and hold her until the pain died down, and her sobbing stopped, but when it was your fault that she was sobbing in the first place, you lost that privilege. This wasn't a fairytale and it wasn't a dream, and it wasn't one of your father's fucking movies (thank God), and real life didn't work that way (this wasn't even real life anymore, not for you anyway, and that was the problem, wasn't it?).

Some mornings she wakes up screaming, mouth wide in terror and eyes hollow. Other mornings she wakes up more gradually, thinking she can almost feel his arms around her. Then the screaming doesn't start until she turns languidly to face him, only to find that she is alone. Completely, utterly, irrevocably alone. And the nightmares leave her tripping in a haze of fear and pain and longing, crying for mercy from a God she no longer believes in (and perhaps she never did). But the worst mornings are the quiet ones, when she dreams sweet dreams of holding him and kissing him and chasing him through the sprinklers. Because then she has to wake up to the unforgiving reality that he's so impossibly gone, and it's like losing him all over again. And she finds herself bartering with the rosary she'd found in his dresser, begging an invisible God to give her just one more day, one more hour, one more moment. But it never works; she opens her eyes and he's still gone and she's still alone (because maybe neither of them really ever believed enough).

You pull her into your arms (as much as a ghost can), and it feels so right that you have to wonder why it couldn't always be this way. But you know in your heart that it just can't. Even this isn't real, and you're both already floating amidst the rubble of fine lines, promises, and other broken things (bodies, bloated and bloodied). Some things, it seems, were never yours to save. You couldn't save Lilly from your father, and you couldn't save Veronica from Duncan or Lilly or Cassidy or yourself. And now that all her monsters are dead, you can't even save her from herself either (you realize long after she does that she is the only monster left in this storybook).

You would give up your last world, this one, and the next to change that little fact. Though you think this isn't much of a bargaining chip. Your last life was something from a bad nightmare film, and this one shows no signs of being any better. You suspect that if there is indeed something beyond this, it won't be much better.

She stops caring about herself then, and runs headlong into danger (those who love her wish they could say this was a new thing). In the hazy days that fill the two months after his passing, she is shot three times, raped twice, nearly drowned, tasered seven times, and dragged behind a moving vehicle.

At one time, he was her savior (because they never believed in God, remember?).

In your heaven(hell) you go off on her then, yelling at her for never accepting help and running headlong into danger, without regard for her own well-being. But she isn't listening (and probably wouldn't be even if she could hear you). You know this. Her mind is a lifetime away, in a place where you were honey-sweet on her lips and promised her forever. You sigh, thinking that perhaps you no longer have the right to care about her safety. Maybe you never did.

She does not move on, does not get better. Each healing scar hurts her more than she'd care to admit, though only because they are reminders of days she nearly succeeded in making it three steps closer to him.

You weep over the imagined (but all too real) grave of a blonde-haired blue-eyed little girl with a sweet smile ringed in strawberry jam. It is a mere echo of a girl you never really met, but you miss her anyway, and what she could have become, if circumstances had been different.

And maybe if he would just hold her, pull her into his arms like he used to – when her nights were plagued by smoldering buses on the wrong sides of cliffs and best friends with bloody hair and burning freezers and rooftops and fathers that did not come back – maybe then she'd be okay. But now was not the time for maybe, and watching her break apart hurt too much for him to bet against chance, so he slammed the door behind him as he left her for the final time.

It is a bitter irony and a sweet comfort that it is her dreams that now haunt you at night (and oh, if only they would haunt you instead of her for eternity… there would be no sweeter Hell than this).

She goes out in a haze of blood and gunshots and rage (much like he did) and somehow, all her friends are surprised. She has been careening towards this ending for months, but it still hits them like a bomb (and boy does he know what that feels like… in more ways than one).

When the last bullet flies, and the men and women (and one broken little girl masquerading as someone much older) are all dead, the room is silent save for the echoes of something like a legend (and the bittersweet spice of cinnamon wrapped cyanide).

"I thought our story was epic, y'know?"

"Epic how?"

"Spanning years and continents, ruined lives and bloodshed. Epic."

"C'mon, ruined lives, bloodshed? Do you really think a relationship should be that hard?"

"Well no one writes songs about the ones that come easy."

They each go out in individual blazes of glory and echoes of epic.