Disclaimer: Veronica Mars is the property of people much smarter (and probably richer) than I. Much as I hate it, Logan is, too.
Washington D.C. is probably the most important city in the United States, and it is almost certainly the most polished. After sundown, it's even more beautiful: moonlight gleaming on acres of manicured trees, glittering on the National Mall and lighting up the limestone monuments so that they seem to glow.
Veronica sees only lights streaking by like shooting stars. She looks out the window of the limousine, safely ensconced in tinted glass and dark leather, and it feels vaguely like hurtling through the universe. That doesn't seem right at all. She supposes she should feel something like Cinderella, gussied up and headed to the ball, but it was reasonably certain that Cinderella didn't know six different ways to spot a counterfeit bill on the spot, or how to survive in the desert for three weeks with nothing but a ballpoint pen, or how to get a Glock from disassembled to loaded in nine seconds.
She isn't sure what she's supposed to feel, in fact. Capable? Tougher? Validated, somehow? None of these, in particular. Finally getting her badge after three years of internships and another two of training feels more…inevitable.
Cool fingers slip between hers and then tighten. She looks over at Logan. He is looking out the window as the Capitol dome appears over the trees, lit up like a Christmas tree. Funny how quiet he is tonight. She swallows hard. She should have been back earlier. The four days had been an eternity. But silence between them, though unusual, is nice for a change, and so instead of speaking she squeezes his fingers. This is just as much for him as it is for her. Becoming an FBI agent isn't really about Veronica. Her new career is just one more step in building a life, growing old together.
Growing old together. She remembers him whispering it in a rough voice, remembers his hand gripping hers, the smell of his aftershave. She keeps that phrase buried in a corner of her mind, and sometimes when it is dark and quiet, she takes it out and turns it over and over in her hands.
Memory is tricky. It fades. It plays games with you. The FBI told her that, but she learned it from her father first. But she remembers this clearly, as if her secret way of handling it has not worn it down, but polished it: kept it fresh. I want to grow old together. Cool skin and aftershave, and his mother's ring. Here in the limousine, the diamond catches a shaft of light and glints. She looks down at her hand in her lap. Several comments crowd her mind.
Next time, why don't you just book me a ticket, because I'm coming, too.
My coffee sucked while you were gone. You know I suck at making coffee.
I couldn't sleep because your side of the bed was cold.
She leans across the seat, wetting her lips and ignoring the seat belt digging into her shoulder. "You had better not embarrass me tonight."
He shoots her a snarky grin. "Hey, wasn't I the one who grew up in polite society?"
"Oh. Right." She taps her lips with her finger. "So, the tablecloth doubles as a napkin, correct?"
"I can't take you anywhere, can I?"
"Guess not. I'll just stick to shooting people. Licensed to kill, baby." She clasps her hands together like a pistol and mimes shooting domestic terrorists out the window. Complete with sound effects.
Sometimes she wonders if the way they communicate is healthy. Everything wrapped up in rapid-fire dialogue like they're two people who have watched way too much Gilmore Girls. They've broken up before—three times? Four times? —and she wonders if maybe it could have been because they were witty instead of honest. It's weird. After not seeing her husband in four days, they're alone in the dark, secluded backseat of a limo, but instead of whispering sweet nothings into his ear, she is pointing a "gun" out the window and making "pew!pew!pew!" noises.
They stake everything on non-verbal communication. They trust their marriage to what isn't often said out loud, and she knows it isn't normal, but is it working?
Logan laughs and kisses her. She's pretty sure they're doing fine. It's just that sometimes, she wonders.
When they are driven smoothly past the wrought iron gates and ushered into the White House, Veronica is vaguely awed but reminds herself to act chill. She has to stop looking vastly impressed by high-profile places and people in her new line of business. Still, when Logan whistles low into her hear as they enter the State Dining Room, glittering with gold china and crystal goblets and candles, she agrees with a choked "Yeah."
The banquet isn't too pretentious, thank God. The usual 17-mile dining table has been exchanged for smaller round ones. The added casualness is welcome; the added intimacy increased potential awkwardness, but the couples at their table aren't too bad. Nobody famous, at least. As is customary, notable public citizens like a couple of Supreme Court justices and the president are in attendance, but they're several tables away, and being in the same room with them is adequately intimidating. There's one other inductee and his fiancée at their table, both of them on the quiet side. The fiancée has another year of training. A retired agent and his wife (who is still active) keep everyone laughing. Unofficially presiding is Vi Reeder, who Veronica worked for her last summer as an intern, and her husband. Veronica remembers that they have been married for 27 years. He's non-FBI.
Courses fly by and Veronica almost loses count. She manages to use the right cutlery at the right time, though (start at the outside, work your way in) and she doesn't feel too ignorant when she fails to recognize a dish placed before her. Logan is quick to remedy her ignorance when that happens, leaning in so that his lips brush her ear. "Boeuf bourguignon," he murmurs, and she nods carefully. She meets his gaze curiously before venturing a bite, and he gives her a half-smile.
Every so often, there are moments like this-when Veronica is reminded that Logan was raised in a different world, a world that wounded him and defined him and helped make him who he is. It's not always a pretty story but it's true. She knows about counterfeiting and handguns, and she fits one definition of "strong," but in many ways he knows more than she does, and he is stronger than she may ever quite know.
This is Veronica Mars Echolls's secret: she is fragile. Despite her fearlessness and toughness and snark, she is breakable and will shatter like glass. She has, before. Like when she found out the truth about what happened to her—what Cassidy did to her—at Shelly Pomeroy's party. The long months when Wallace had gone MIA in Africa. The first time she thought her father had died, and then the second time when she learned it was true. When he finally took out the Fitzpatricks, but not before they took him out. Boeuf bourguignon suddenly sticks in her throat.
She had shattered. And through her memories of the delirious pain and rage and even guilt, she remembers Logan picking up the shards and putting her back together: holding her tightly, not saying anything, just holding her. For months and months and months. Until she was something like herself again.
Under the cover of a white linen tablecloth, Veronica briefly squeezes his fingers and hopes he understands.
Mercifully, the constant flow of food stops after the fruit course. Dessert is promised, but those in attendance are allowed to sit back and digest for a bit while the FBI senior director mounts the stage to speak. The inductees aren't expected to line up on some stage like some sixth-grade spelling bee. Turns out that aside from the current speaker, there is no actual ceremony, which is a welcome revelation. Vi explains serenely that the FBI don't like to be ostentatious and that those hoping for plaques and ribbons would best look to joining the CIA. Veronica will be sworn in and given her accoutrements—gun and badge—later, in private.
The "ceremony" is winding down. Veronica runs through the predictable order of ceremonies in her head—a few more humorous remarks in the address (the FBI is surprisingly self-deprecating), dessert with either coffee or champagne (she's hoping for the former but betting on the latter), maybe some dancing in the East Room (wonder which is more FBI-esque, a string quartet or brass band?) and a caravan of limousines waiting to bear the guests back to their homes.
Suddenly the room breaks out in polite applause, and Veronica automatically joins in as the FBI director leaves the stage, mopping his forehead with a handkerchief. She is dimly aware of a silent waiter reaching around her to retrieve her most recent dish. Leaning towards Logan, she is poised to make a snide observation about the director, who apparently fears public speaking more than Colombian drug lord interrogation techniques (there have been stories), but another waiter's arm slips between them to pour champagne. Communications jammed. She refrains from rolling her eyes and merely taps an impatient rhythm with her foot.
Finally, The Obstruction removes himself and the words are ready to surge forward in an irritated huff, but then she is suddenly silenced by the clink of china. The bustling, gilded State Dining Room blurs and the chattering voices cease. She hears her own heartbeat in slow motion, blood rushing through her ears, hears the ragged breath she draws into her lungs. Logan is utterly still, frozen in a frightening tableau, staring at what has been placed before him. And she doesn't need his help with this one, because her stomach is already churning. She knows.
"Vanilla-poached pears," announces the waiter from far away, and Logan turns his anguished gaze to her.
Her hand finds his in a white-knuckled grip and they are rising together. Some excuse slides smoothly off her tongue and then they are all but running from the room, and the only thing keeping disaster at bay is Veronica's steely determination to get the hell out of there.
They explode into a bathroom (she doesn't know how they found it, or whether it's men's or women's, but that's hardly relevant) and Logan is stumbling into a stall and heaving. It only takes a couple more of the sick retching sounds before she hears him vomit. She kneels beside him on the cool tile floor and her hands find their way to his back, rubbing in circles, trying to give him some small scrap of comfort. Her fingers are trembling.
It takes several minutes for Logan to empty the contents of his stomach. For several minutes more, he continues to dry heave. Every sound scrapes across her raw throat and twists her stomach and even though she squeezes her eyes shut against hot, burning tears, she doesn't let go. When at last he is through, he sits back on his heels, panting, and then leans wearily against the side of the stall. Wordlessly, she stands and retrieves a paper towel, wetting it in the sink. She notices a stack of Dixie cups and fills one of those, too. When she turns, he is staring at the wall, and his eyes are dead. Cautiously, she kneels and presses the paper towel into his fingers. He wipes his mouth stiffly, automatically, and her heart breaks for him. She sets the Dixie cup down behind her and turns around just in time to catch Logan as he collapses forward.
There are no words for this.
But they don't need words, do they?
When Logan is ready, he will stand up and rinse his mouth and gargle, and she will straighten his bow tie and he'll tug on her dress until it's straight. Then they will leave the bathroom and walk out of the White House together, under the stars, and they will not speak of what has happened. She might make that comment about the FBI director she never got to, and he might jibe her about bouef bourguignon.
But for now, Veronica holds Logan tightly, and his fingertips are digging into her arms as he draws great choking breaths that aren't quite sobs. Her tailbone will begin to ache and her throat will hurt because it is so tight from unshed tears and unsaid words, but she won't let go. She will hold him until he is something like Logan again. She will just hold him. Because what is said is never as important as what isn't.
A/N: This story was, of course, inspired by episode 4 of season three, "Charlie Don't Surf," in which Logan tells his fake half brother that tragic Christmas morning story involving Aaron. Here's the story, as told by Logan: "So, it's Christmas, right? The entire family unit is around, which was rare. And I'm, I don't know, nine, and Aaron hands me a gift. But he notices the box has been rewrapped, you know, so he knows I peeked. I'm nine years old. He's re-gifting me a fruit basket. He starts shouting about how I've ruined Christmas. So, I'm eating the pears and taking my time, taking these dainty bites. The man comes unhinged. Takes these pears and just starts shoving them down my throat one after another. And then...and I'm choking, but he doesn't stop until my mom holds a cheese knife to his throat. To this day, I puke if I smell a pear." I was inspired to write a story about Veronica saving Logan, based on this memory.
Reviews are greatly appreciated!