Final AN: "The Road Home" is the end of the road for this story. I've tried not to wax poetic in Author's Notes too much throughout this story. I inserted enough of myself into the story itself. Surely, readers didn't want any more of me? Well, since this is the end, I wanted to just include a few words about my motivation.
But first, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to write this story and that I have readers who both appreciate and anticipate it as much as I did. Isn't that what all of us writers want? To produce something; to tell a story that others will find gratifying, informative and/or enjoyable? Well, all of you have far exceeded my expectations.
Thank you for reading and (hopefully) enjoying my version of "what should've been" between Logan and Veronica. There are so many different versions of their story to be told. I chose to focus on just a small snapshot of the relational story. I only wanted to right that particular wrong as I saw it in the series finale. I am nothing if not a sucker for happy endings. Life has enough "reality," doesn't it? I really don't want that too much in my entertainment. So, I felt compelled to give Veronica and Logan the happy ending I believed they deserved after growing up and working through their issues.
But, other stories of their adventures, mysteries, auxiliary and supporting characters and even other relational stories are amazing and a welcome addition to our VM fanfic universe. I appreciate all of the authors out there who have both entertained and inspired me along the way. Thank you for your contributions. I hope you will all - and new writers, too - continue to tell your stories as only you can.
Those who have read, reviewed, favorited, followed and just encouraged me through kind words, reviews, messages or really even just "lurking" in the shadows, silently reading and enjoying this fic have blessed me so much. Knowing that you would read the words I wrote and mark this story as one of your favorites or ask to be alerted when a new chapter came out was motivation like no other. Thank you for investing your time and energy with me and this story.
Ah, Steenbeans ... what can I say? I started this story at your urging. I was an impressed fan, brand new to fanfiction, enamored with your talent and encouraged by your kind words. I finish this having gained a friend and an even greater appreciation for your talent and the time and energy it takes to produce the stories you do. I'm so grateful for your Beta skills, time, talent, encouragement and inspiration. But most of all, I'm grateful to call you my friend. I'm thinking of Dr. Seuss again: "Oh, the places you will go!" I can't wait to see your dreams realized and am honored that I get a glimpse into them. Thank you for being a part of mine in this.
I would also be remiss if I failed to mention two people who are important to me on so many levels. I find myself writing with you in mind now. Sandy and Bill, thank you for being excited about my writing ... about so many things in my life. Your presence in my life is a precious gift. You remind me that light can best be seen in the midst of darkness. Even still, here's hoping we're only surrounded by light from now on. I love you.
So, just in case anyone is still reading after this very long note ... here's the epilogue of Choices.
Choices: How to Make a Life - Epilogue - The Road Home
"Honey, I'm home."
Backup trotted to the door in response to her standard greeting.
After a minute or two of baby talk and intense ear scratching, Veronica threw her bag down by the bar and kicked off her heels. She practically moaned in pleasure after taking one step without the typical pain in her feet from her uniform footwear.
The things I do for professionalism, she mused. Well, professionalism and smokin' hot shoes I can't resist. When did I become such a girl?
Her small laugh continued as she unbuttoned her jacket and picked up the TV remote.
Sorting through some mail, she cued up a recorded show from the DVR. She'd been waiting all day to see this.
"So, Logan Echolls," the perfectly polished host of the local morning show asked with a flirtatious smile. "We all want to know. What have you been up to lately?"
"Well, Becky ..."
Veronica laughed at the slight mocking tone he used, hoping that she was the only one to pick up on it. But, she was pretty sure most everyone would recognize his sarcasm. Logan was rarely subtle.
"As I'm pretty sure it states on that card you're holding, I'm here to talk about my foundation and The Green Room Project."
Oh Logan, just hold it together a little longer. This segment can't be more than two minutes, Veronica reasoned.
She watched the rest of his interview, thankful that the anchor hadn't asked about Logan's past and that he hadn't lost it when she tried to delve into his personal life.
"My personal life is just that - personal," he explained condescendingly as if he were speaking to a small child. "The work I do with the Green Room, however ..."
"And what a wonderful project it is, Logan," the newscaster interrupted with a dismissive tone. "I know so many of our viewers will be thrilled to see that you're doing such important work considering your troubled past. Thanks for joining us. Coming up next ..."
Veronica watched Logan's face turn to granite in the brief moment the camera flashed back to him as the segment closed.
Well, that could've gone better, Veronica thought. But then again, it could've been much worse. So, I'm counting that one as a win. She knew Logan might need some convincing, though.
There had been one shining moment during the interview:
"So, how did you stumble into this, Logan?" Bimbo reporter girl purred. "It doesn't seem like the path you were on when you were younger?"
"I hate her," Veronica said to herself. She worried that Logan might lose it again, but he didn't miss a beat.
"Someone very important to me said it best. The Green Room has helped me have a starring role in my own life. Nothing else had ever done that for me," he explained with a thoughtful smile. "And, the irony is that this was the first thing I ever really did that wasn't about me. I think that's what giving back is all about. Wouldn't you agree, Becky?"
This interview had been important. One of the three major fundraisers they do each year was just around the corner and they needed all the publicity and awareness they could get. Veronica knew he hated this part of his business. But, the work he did required constant philanthropic support which meant media exposure and fundraising benefits had become a somewhat regular part of his life; albeit, a part he accepted reluctantly.
Shaking her head, Veronica grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, untucked her shirt from her skirt, picked up her discarded jacket and shoes and headed to the bedroom.
He'd be easy to find. He always was these days. And, he needed her. So, she donned her running clothes, with a bikini underneath, took a drink from her water bottle and walked out the patio doors from the bedroom.
The sight of the beach - their beach - at this time of day always took her breath away; particularly when she could spot one familiar dot gliding across the waves. He seemed so peaceful surfing. The only other time that even came close was when he slept. She watched him navigate the surf expertly as she walked closer to the water.
Thinking she would have time for a quick run, Veronica bent down to double tie her laces when she spotted Logan waving. The run can wait. She changed course and started removing her shoes and clothes to wade out to him in her bikini.
"Uh-oh, my favorite bikini." He joked, hanging his head dramatically as she got closer. "It must've really been bad."
"Can't a girl dress to impress her fella?" she joked back batting her eyes before dipping under water to wet her hair.
"Hey, I didn't say I objected to the bikini, just sayin' that I knew why you were wearing it."
"Ah," she said as she reached him floating on his board. "Well, Mr. Echolls, I don't think it was that bad at all. That one quote hit the ball out of the park. Seriously."
He smiled knowingly. "I know it sucked. I let her get to me." He reached down to kiss her lips softly.
"No, it wasn't ..."
"Yeah, it was. Besides, I already got an earful from Kate this afternoon."
Logan's publicist, Kate, had become another necessary evil in his life. He'd tried going it on his own for the first few years, but was constantly blindsided by interviews and media events that were intended to focus on the Green Room and helping at risk kids, but all too often ended up targeting the tainted Echolls legacy and sensational Hollywood gossip.
He had given it up all together until his board of directors convinced him that his beloved foundation would not survive, even if he funded it himself, without the support of the public and benefactors that could only be harnessed through fundraising and media exposure. Logan had disagreed, convinced he could fund the Green Room Project himself, but a day-long session with his accountants revealed that he could only do so for a few years before his own resources would no longer be enough.
They'd opened up dozens of new slots for teens, hired new instructors, provided equipment free of charge and he had just hired a small staff to assist him. It wasn't a money-making venture. It was a money-taking enterprise. But, one that he had never been more sure of.
Kate had taken the pressure off. She'd laid the ground rules for each interview and even attended the first dozen or so to ensure the news organizations complied. Things weren't always smooth, but they were much better.
Logan's perpetual case of self-loathing and personal sabotage was much better now, too. He had flourished under sincere praise and expressed belief in him. A contented smile formed on her face as she thought of the role her father played in encouraging him. Logan had also needed a purpose. He'd found it in the Green Room and ... well, in their relationship.
This made her smile again.
"O.k., what is there to smile about in all this?" He asked splashing her lightly.
"I'm smiling because ..." She paused briefly and looped her arms around his calf, pulling him off his board to join her in the water. "I love you."
He smiled back and leaned in to kiss her gently as they bobbed with the waves. "Hmmm ... that is a good reason to smile."
She knew hearing those words still caught him off guard even though it had been five years since she had given her heart to him fully, with no strings, on his boat as they sailed to Catalina.
She wasn't casual with her "I love yous." He was much more comfortable expressing that sentiment to her as a regular part of their life together. Veronica saved up the words and imparted them as precious gifts when she thought he or they most needed to receive them. It wasn't out of fear that she held them back now, but more out of reverence. She knew what they had and how hard they had fought to have it. Theirs was not a common relationship. She never wanted to treat it as typical.
Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars were anything but ordinary. They were rock solid now, forging a life together. But, even as assured as she was in their love and commitment, she never wanted to take them for granted. Seeing too many failed love affairs, as well as promises and commitments broken, taught her that life and love were precious; not necessarily fragile, as she had thought immediately after they committed to each other five years ago, but precious nonetheless.
The memory of their Catalina trip flooded her mind again as she woke Monday morning. We're really together. She had repeated that statement often over the last 24 hours to remind her that it was real. It was difficult to remember a time when she hadn't loved Logan. It was so freeing to be able to fully admit that now. No more running.
They had interacted easily after returning from their trip. So far, they'd faced no obstacles to their new relationship, not even from her father.
"You two heading out?" Keith barely looked up from his newspaper as they walked from her bedroom to the front door.
"Yep," she responded as she flipped through her bag looking for her keys. "We're off for a night of raucous behavior and general debauchery. You know, the usual."
He nodded absently, not giving her the reaction she had desired. "'Kay, Kiddo. Be safe." Keith looked up then to smile at her boyfriend. "Logan, try not to let her corrupt you."
Veronica's mouth hung open as Logan laughed and led her outside.
"Well that dynamic has certainly changed," Veronica fumed as she got into the passenger seat of his Rover.
"What can I say? Parents love me," Logan answered sarcastically as he started the engine.
"Yeah. Since when?"
The party was in full swing as they walked in hand-in-hand. No one was surprised when they showed up together to Mac and Parker's "Back to School" extravaganza.
"Logan. Veronica." Mac paused and looked down at their joined hands as she greeted them. "Oh good Lord. Finally!" And that was that. They were officially "out." And, Logan couldn't have been happier. Veronica, however, still wrestled with a few remaining demons.
A few hours into the party Veronica managed to sneak away to be alone on the apartment balcony.
She wasn't a bit surprised that Logan found her within minutes of her retreat outside.
"There you are. I wondered where you'd wandered off to." His strong arms encircled her waist. He rubbed his thumbs gently across her stomach. She continued staring out over the balcony overlooking the crowded apartment complex parking lot.
"Enjoying the view?" he joked.
"I think we're at maximum capacity in there," she explained, pointing back toward the apartment. "I'm waiting for the fire marshall to show up and haul everyone out of here."
Logan nodded behind her. She was trying to cover with humor. He knew it. She knew he knew it. I guess not everything has changed.
He had asked her to move in with him before they'd even made it back from Catalina. They could find a house on the beach, he'd said. It sounded perfect. And, it scared her to death. She told him it was too soon. They'd just gotten together. He laughed and told her they'd known each other for most of their entire lives and had been together even when they weren't officially together.
He wasn't taking "no" for an answer and it was freaking her out. And, this had only been going on for a day. She knew he wouldn't really push her to move in with him, but he wouldn't back down from their level of commitment, and he wouldn't accept half-truths and non-answers this time around. Not that she wanted to give him those, it's just that everything was happening so fast.
"Everything is happening so fast, Logan." Her voice sounded small, almost frail.
"Hmmm? Yeah, I guess that's one way of looking at it." His voice was much stronger and more sure. "The way I see it is that we've spent years working toward this. It took time; a lot of time." He didn't even attempt to pretend not to know what she was referring to. He turned her toward him in his arms and smiled down at her as he touched his forehead to hers. "But it was so worth it."
She closed her eyes slowly and took a deep breath. "I'm just ... I just need to slow things down. Maybe ..."
"No." His arms tightened around her.
"No?" She felt angry at his sudden authoritative attitude. Good. Anger is good.
"I said, 'No,' Veronica. I'm not letting you do this. I love you too much. And, you love me. Whatever this ..." He waved one arm around beside her. "is, we'll deal with it. I get it. All of our issues won't just disappear overnight. But, the difference is, we're gonna deal with them together."
"So, you just get to decide then, is that what you're saying?" Her eyes narrowed as she honed in on her chance to provoke an argument and get some distance from him.
"No, we get to decide. And, we decided that what we want is each other. I'll fight for us, Veronica; even if I have to fight some of your demons. What I need to know is whether you will fight for us, too. Will you fight through this panic that has you? Will you fight for us?"
There had been several other panic moments for her throughout the last few years. But just like the first one, Logan held her. Strong arms that once would've felt confining or even menacing, became comforting and reassuring. He would whisper words of love and support; words she never thought she needed, but now knew she couldn't live without. He had become her rock.
She still marveled at how much he'd grown up. He continued to be fun and playful, but the careless, irresponsible and selfish days of his youth seemed to be just distant and unpleasant memories now. He said he grew up for her. She knew that wasn't the whole story, but even still, his devotion that had once been smothering had become exactly what she needed and wanted.
She had become the consistent comfort and strength he needed, too. And she seemed to have an internal monitor that cued her in to exactly when it was that he needed her the most; like now.
"So, I was thinking." She schooled her features into her best mock serious expression. "How about we blow off all that stuff we're supposed to do tonight, order in and watch movies with no redeeming value whatsoever?"
He smiled her favorite, sultry smile and rubbed her nose with his. "Hmmm. Sounds like an excellent plan, Agent Mars." He turned toward his board to climb back on. "This pity thing is working out well for me."
She scoffed and splashed him with a handful of water. "Pity? Hardly, Echolls. It'll take a lot more than some bimbo reporter mildly challenging you to make me pity you."
He laughed and settled back on his board before pulling her on with him. They paddled back to shore together.
"Logan," Veronica called from the living room. "Logan!" She paused the movie and left the living room to find him.
She found him shifting through papers by the dining room table. She noticed his smile as she walked closer.
"Hey, I thought we were watching a very lame movie," Veronica teased as she wrapped her arms around his waist and peered around him to figure out what he was doing. "It took me half an hour to get psyched to watch "Talladega Nights." You don't want me coming to my senses and finding a movie that's actually good, do you?"
Logan placed a hand over hers on his stomach and squeezed lightly. "No," he laughed. "We are. I just ..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," she teased.
Ever since the dining room table had become "wedding central," Veronica had found him like this more times than she could count. The first time she discovered him staring at wedding invitation proofs, she could've sworn his eyes were full of unshed tears. He, of course, denied it, but she knew the truth. He'd just smiled, kissed her and told her that he was happy; happier than he ever thought he could be or had a right to be. Hearing him say things like that always reminded her of the day he proposed and how she found the strength and courage to say, "yes."
Veronica plopped down on the blanket after throwing the ball for Backup.
"You're staring again," she said to Logan without looking directly at him.
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, Logan, you are. What's up with you these days?"
He pulled a knee up to his chest and leaned over it as he chewed casually on the straw he held onto long after dumping his soda from their takeout dinner. Another telltale sign of his nervousness. She was pretty sure she knew them all by now.
"Nothing. I just ... I ..." His momentary serious mood turned playful again. "Can't I look at you without you thinking something's going on?" The too-innocent smile and refusal to meet her gaze told her all she needed to know.
"No, you can't. Spill it Echolls. Don't make me go all FBI on you."
He laughed, grabbing her around the waist and dragging her underneath him. "You know I like it when you go all FBI on me, Mars."
They stared at each other for a few moments before she sat up on her elbows. "Seriously, Logan, what's going on with you?"
"Nothing," he insisted. "Really, Veronica. I just ... I don't know ... I just like being here ... with you."
"Yes, I know. I do, too," she said with a smirk. "That's probably why we come here at least once a week."
Logan sat up suddenly, pulling Veronica up with him. "O.k. There actually is something I wanna talk with you about."
She looked up at him expectantly as his gaze moves to the water. The waves crashing on the shore always calmed him. He'd been distracted lately. She thought he'd met another teen whose story hit too close to home. That had happened several times, threatening to send him into a spiral of nightmares, depression and all the destructive coping mechanisms that go with them. But, he'd managed to keep his head above those murky waters for more than five years now.
Rather than drunken binges, casual hookups and pushing away the positive relationships and things in his life, Logan turned to Veronica, therapy, surfing, runs on the beach and quiet times of introspection. Her inherent need to know ate at her incessantly during those times, but she knew he would come to her when he was ready.
He returned his eyes to hers and smiled softly. "With my history of grand gestures, I know you'll be surprised that I haven't found one that works for this, Veronica."
He laughed as her face morphed into the confused mask he loved so much. "What's going on, Logan?" she asked with the tiniest bit of annoyance in her tone.
"Veronica Mars," he almost whispered as he moved to sit directly in front of her. "I can't remember a time when you haven't been in my life. I think I've loved you since I had any real idea of what that word truly meant."
She smiled softly and kissed his lips when he paused.
"I can't even imagine what my life would've been if you hadn't let me back into your life; first as your friend and then as ... well, what we are now. You've been it for me, Veronica, for so long. And I know there will never be anyone else for me but you."
Veronica's hands started to shake gently as she sensed the significance of his impromptu declarations. He's not ... Is he?
He rubbed the back of his neck nervously as he continued. "The grandiose Echolls part of me wanted to rent out some fancy restaurant or find some other over-the-top way to do this, but every time we've come here for the last few weeks, it just feels so right. It should be here, on our beach."
He nodded emphatically as if settling some dispute in his mind. "Isn't that how it should be when I tell you that you're everything to me? Isn't that how it should be when I explain that I never thought I would even have a chance at the kind of happiness you've given me? Now that I've experienced it, I can't go back. I just can't." He looked into her eyes with a somber expression. "I only want to go forward; with you."
He grasped her hands into one of his and squeezed lightly.
"Veronica, you don't just make me want to be a better person, you help me find the way to do it." He inhaled deeply and refocused. "You've given me a desire to live and make a difference. You make me believe that someone like me ... someone who ..." He looked down and shook his head gently before returning a fierce gaze to hers. "Someone like me, who has been through ... and done ... well ... I wasn't supposed to get the 'happily ever after,' but with you ..."
"Logan, what ..."
He moved a finger gently over her lips to silence her. "I want to spend my life with you. I love you, Veronica." He squinted his eyes a bit and smiled softly. "Marry me?"
A small gasp escaped her lips at the same moment she caught the reflection off a ring in his free hand. Her mouth hung open as she tried to recover from the shock of his impassioned speech.
"Wait. Before you answer, I wanted to ..." His words broke off as he released her hands to dig through his duffle bag. "Remember this?" He held up the photo of them at this same beach that her father had taken and planted for them all those years ago. She had found out after confronting Keith about his subterfuge that he'd also left a photo for Logan.
"Do you remember what we talked about that day?"
"Of course I do, Logan. It was a good day. But ..."
"No, I'm not just talking about what you shared about being more open to marriage and family. I'm also talking about what I shared. I told you that you'd already made my dreams come true. I meant it."
"That's sweet, but we ..."
"No, please just let me finish."
She sighed in exasperation, but let him continue.
"Just being with you; just sharing life with you is more than I could've ever hoped for. But, the fact that you let me love you and that you love me in return is ... well ..." He smiled and shook his head. "I know this next step is scary for you. But, I'm asking you to take it with me; just like we've done with each new step for the last five years. I don't have to be married to you to know that you're the one for me, but I want it with every fiber of my being."
He paused briefly, seeming to gather more of his thoughts. "We have every reason to be cynical about this. We've seen the worst of people and relationships." Logan's hands gripped her shoulders and pulled her closer.
"I'm not trying to pretend that we're anything close to normal." He chuckled softly and kissed her forehead. "That's not why I want to do this with you. I want to marry you because I can't stand the idea of my life not being completely mixed up in yours. I want it all, and I want that with you. And, honestly, I don't want them ..." He paused for a moment.
She knew who he meant by "them" - Aaron, Cassidy, Mercer and the whole other slew of villains and even friends and lovers who had hurt them so much through the years.
He took a deep breath. "I don't want them stealing anything else from us."
She nodded slowly and looked out over the ocean.
"Your therapist helped you with that little speech, didn't she?" she teased.
He smiled and pulled her even closer. "Maybe." He grew serious again. "Tell me what you want, Ronnie." Another deep breath. "Do you want to marry me?"
She knew he needed this. He needed permanency. He needed someone to stay. No one ever had before her. The chaotic swirl of emotions and fears she expected to rush through her mind never materialized. Instead, Veronica realized that the idea of her life joined with his in this way wasn't so scary anymore. It was the natural progression. It was what she wanted. She loved him so much. Veronica Mars-Echolls. Hmmm ...
"I believe it's customary for a gentleman caller to first approach his intended's patriarchal figure, now isn't Mr. Echolls?" she drawled with her best southern accent.
He laughed softly. "Oh, Miss Mars, you don't think I would give you such an easy out, now do you?" He cupped her chin and shook it playfully. "Daddy Mars and I worked out the whole dowry situation ages ago. I just need your answer and then the 10 goats will be on their way."
"10? Seriously? Is that all? I'm worth ..."
Logan cut off her mock indignation and sarcastic retort with a passionate kiss. He moved his lips to her ear and whispered. "Is that a 'yes?'"
"Well, for only 10 goats ..."
"Veronica!" He grabbed her tightly. "You're killing me here."
She laughed and laced her arms around his neck, leaning her forehead against his. "Yes," she whispered.
He was up in a flash, pulling her up and off her feet and spinning her around and around. "Oh crap." He stopped suddenly and dropped back to the blanket. "The ring."
He pulled her back down to the blanket, felt around until he found it and then sat up on his knees. Holding the ring at the tip of the ring finger on her left hand, he leaned in closer and spoke seriously. "Veronica, I love you. Always." He slid the ring on her finger and kissed her again.
She looked down at the ring and gasped. The bezel set, antique platinum ring with a one carat, round diamond on a wide band took her breath away. "Logan, it's ... it's just ..."
She couldn't finish her sentence out loud, but inside her heart and mind could only form one word. Perfect. He knew her so well. The inset, flush setting was perfect for her line of work. The size was enough to satisfy his need to spoil her, but small enough to not offend her sensibilities. The platinum band made her think of her locket. Oh, Logan. Everything about it spelled out understated beauty, strength and class. It was her.
She looked back at him and smiled as tears threatened to fall from her eyes. "Logan." She spoke softly so he had to lean in. "Really? Only 10 goats?"
And now, her fierce, yet wildly romantic fiancé stood holding back tears as he perused their reception seating chart. Seriously?
Veronica rubbed his back gently, leaned up to kiss his cheek and then sat down at the table to tackle the remaining wedding plans.
Neither of them wanted a large, lavish affair. But they also didn't want to slink off into the night and elope. Well, o.k., Logan didn't want that. She sometimes still did. But, she agreed with his points on the subject. They'd fought so hard for their love and life. They had wanted to celebrate it, but on their terms and no one else's. Thus, their quaint, beachside ceremony was born.
It still amazed her that a small wedding including only their closest family and friends could require so much planning. She smiled as she looked at the table listing where her closest friends and family would be. Her father and Alicia had married two years ago so now Wallace wasn't just the best friend a girl could ask for, he was truly her brother; and her man of honor. He hadn't been thrilled about the last title, but he had been thrilled that she said, "yes," to Logan's proposal, so he agreed.
All the details were coming together. Logan had already moved into the beach house - their house - to help get things situated so it would be ready for them as soon as they returned from their honeymoon.
No one who knew them would ever call them traditional, but even still, Veronica hadn't moved in with him. With the wedding so close she wanted to spend as much time as she could with her Dad. And for some reason it just felt right to wait to call the beach house "theirs" until after the wedding. She still kept swimsuits, running clothes and her favorite movie-watching loungewear there, though. A girl's gotta be prepared.
She laughed as she saw the frown on Logan's face and the table seating occupying his attention. "You can't seriously still have issues with him, Logan." She pinched his side playfully.
"I will always have issues with him. I told you that." His tone was teasing, but she heard the undercurrent of truth in his statement. She had hoped that Logan and Agent Wentz would one day be friends, but so far that hope had not materialized.
"So, it's official then, you're really doing this FBI thing?" Logan smiled genuinely at her across their table in the Hearst food court.
"That's what the letter says," she joked. She knew he was conflicted. His plans were in Neptune. Between his surf shop and the Green Room Project, he had built something he'd never had before - a stable life. But they both knew that if the official offer came in from the FBI, her life would no longer be in Neptune. She'd either be on the east coast in the D.C. office or, with a lot of luck and influence from her mentor, she'd be stationed at the LA field office. Either way, she was leaving Neptune. They wouldn't know for sure until she graduated from the academy.
"I'm sure you're buddy is thrilled about your acceptance."
Veronica dropped the letter on the table and let out a loud, exasperated sigh. "Why is this such a problem for you, Logan? You can't possibly think that there's anything going on between Howie and me?" She grabbed his hand as she spoke. Her touch always calmed him.
He smiled sheepishly. "I don't. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm sure the old guy's thought of it, but I know you would never ..."
"Then what is it?" Her tone was a little snappish. His new nickname for Wentz annoyed her, mostly because she was worried it might rub off and she'd find herself calling him the "old guy" to his face. Yeah, that wouldn't be good.
He sighed and looked away momentarily. "I've thought about that, you know."
She knew he had. The new Logan was much more introspective than the wildly impetuous Logan of the past.
"I think it's because ..." He paused and lowered his head as if he were embarrassed to continue.
"Logan, it's o.k. Just tell me."
"I've had to work so hard for your respect, you know." He held up a hand to stop her as she started to interrupt. "Not that I didn't deserve to have to do that. I know I blew it; big time. But this guy who you've only known a few years has your unwavering loyalty and respect."
She was speechless. Wow. She had never seen the situation from that perspective.
"So," Logan continued. "I guess I am jealous, but just maybe not for the reason you were thinking."
She just stared at him, dumbfounded. He started laughing then. "Well, and maybe for the reason you were thinking, too."
That memory made her smile softly. It seemed like so long ago. Within a few months of graduating from college, she'd gone to the FBI Academy and of course, graduated at the top of her class. Her friend and mentor had in fact pulled a few strings and she found out the week before her academy graduation that she would be assigned to the west coast.
She'd been thrilled and Logan was the second person she called, after her Dad.
Logan's reaction wasn't exactly what she'd expected. He had definitely been relieved and very excited that they wouldn't have to undergo a cross-country relationship. But within the first ten minutes of their conversation, his fears came out.
"So, I'm just curious, where will the old guy work?" This nickname for Wentz had stuck for a while. The derogatory monickers typically changed regularly, but Logan was particularly fond of this one.
She smiled. "He primarily works out of DC. You know that."
"Yeah, I remember. Good, I'm glad. I just thought that since he helped you get this assignment, maybe ..."
"You've got to be kidding me." Veronica's voice rose louder and her tone was no longer teasing. "That's it, Logan. This has to stop."
They'd ended up arguing for the next few minutes and she had eventually hung up on him, refusing to take his calls for the rest of the evening. They'd made up the next day, but the whole situation had left a bad taste in both of their mouths.
So, even though two and a half years had passed since then, Logan's distrust and dislike for her friend and mentor hadn't exactly evaporated. But, it was a little better and she decided that they would all just have to be adults about it at their wedding.
It would help if Wentz wouldn't antagonize Logan. He took no small amount of pleasure in irritating her fiancé by hugging her, bringing up private jokes and constantly talking about their shared work on cases when they were all together. He said it was good for him to stay on his toes and realize he constantly had to woo her.
After mocking him for using the word, "woo," Veronica had explained that with Logan's history, this was not wise or kind. Wentz still refused to let up and found the whole situation amusing.
But, as much as he liked to torment Logan, his joy and excitement for her when she became engaged was very genuine.
She'd hoped to reach him before the wedding invitation did. She had wanted him to hear it from her first. But, as he answered the phone, it was obvious he'd already gotten the word.
"So, it looks like our little girl's really growing up." His tone was light and happy.
"Very funny," Veronica said with a small laugh. "How are you?"
"I'm good, but not as good as you and Logan, I think."
Veronica smiled. Not for the first time, she marveled that her mentor, who was as intense and adept at discussing tactical FBI operations and complex psychological profiles as she had ever seen, was also always willing to discuss her personal life and choices.
"So you got your invitation," she said as more of a statement than a question. "Will you guys be able to make it?"
"We wouldn't miss it, Kiddo. Maggie is out buying your wedding gift as we speak."
Genuine laughter filled her voice now. "Kiddo? Seriously? My Dad calls me that. How long do I have to ..."
"Hey, I knew you back when, Agent Mars. You'll always be 'Kiddo' to me."
They caught up on each other's lives and laughed at recent antics from mutual friends. He couldn't resist making threats to torment her fiancé at the wedding, but she refused to give him the indignation he wanted.
As their conversation wound down, Veronica heard the creaking of his office chair and pictured the scene in her mind. She had spent some time in his home office with him during her many Wentz family dinners.
She assumed he was holding the invitation and moving toward his chaotic and completely covered bulletin board. "These are the true successes from my career," he had always told her. The oversized board held news clippings, photos and other memorabilia from junior agents and others he had taken a personal interest in throughout the years.
He already had a "Veronica Mars" collection. She'd seen it. She pictured him now searching for the perfect spot on the bulletin board, finding space beside a news clipping about a grizzly serial rape case solved by a college student in a small California town.
Moving aside her graduate school commencement invitation to add the proof of her latest monumental decision, from memory, she knew he would push the thumb tack through the new memento with some force. It was only then that she heard her friend and mentor barely whisper. "You're gonna be o.k. now, Veronica. You're gonna be o.k."
She hated that she didn't get to work with Agent Wentz as much as she would have liked. He worked out of the DC office and she would always choose the west coast. Veronica moved from the LA office to the regional headquarters in San Diego 18 months ago. This was better for her professionally, and of course, personally, since she was now able to live in the same community as almost all the important people in her life.
Logan's career continued to thrive, as well. His book was due out next Spring. "Black and Blue Makes Green" is something she never thought he would want or have the courage to write. But, once again, he surprised her.
The book was born from the urging of his therapist to be more open and honest about the brutality he suffered coupled with the protest from one of the teens in the Green Room project calling him a hypocrite. That incident had really rocked him. Logan had always encouraged the teens to deal with what they're going through, but he'd never openly admitted that his father had abused him for years, all while his mother looked on from her pit of addiction.
He still struggled with actually publishing it. But, he had finally signed the contract a few months ago. Publishers lined up from New York to LA to publish what they hoped would be a scintillating tale of Hollywood gossip and intrigue.
In truth, the book wasn't anything like what they'd expected. It was both shocking in its explicit description of who Aaron and Lynn Echolls really were, and heartbreakingly beautiful in the expression of who their battered and troubled son grew up to become. His story told about unbearable cruelty and a tortured youth that eventually led to the birth of the Green Room Project.
Reading his first draft brought Veronica to tears; and, not just a few easily swept away tear drops. She cried gut-wrenching sobs over what he'd experienced and overcome to be the man she loved so desperately. So few people have ever seen that Logan; her Logan. His parents certainly never saw it. Even Lilly never saw it.
Lilly. Veronica thought a lot about her old best friend these days. Life had certainly not turned out the way she and Lilly had imagined all those years ago. They used to lay by the pool at the Kane estate and plan out every detail from college to their weddings and future careers. Nothing had turned out the way they thought it would, at all.
She lost Lilly to senseless violence, and then her Mom to alcoholism and betrayal. She and her father became the town pariahs. She lost Duncan and a slew of other friends along the way. She also lost her innocence. But, she found true friendship in the form of Wallace and Mac. She discovered what she was born to do - profile, track down and expose the most vile criminals with her cunning, smarts, wit and charm. Her master's degree in Criminal Psychology didn't hurt either. She and her father formed an inseparable bond that has brought her more joy and stability than she'd ever thought possible.
And, she fell in love with the wild and crazy boy from her youth; no, not the one she thought she'd end up with, the one she was supposed to end up with. She would give anything to have Lilly back and to undo some of the hardship she, her father and Logan had experienced. But, I would never give up what I have with Logan. Never.
Logan always told her that she'd saved him. He reminded her of what she'd done for him during his fruitless search for his mother back in high school and countless other times. But, she knew that really, their friendship and love had saved her in more ways than she could ever explain. So in a way, they had saved each other; and in turn, themselves.
Snapping out of her memories and introspection, Veronica knew just what they needed. The wedding planning was practically complete and this time next week, they would be married and honeymooning at some exotic locale that Logan refused to reveal to her. All that was left to do now was to live their life.
"Come on, Mr. Sensitivity," Veronica teased as she got out of her chair and grabbed Logan's arm. "How about I spoon your brains out while we watch this cinematic masterpiece?"
Logan looked down at her and smiled. He brushed his knuckles against her cheek and whispered, "I love you, Veronica Mars." His lips touched hers gently. "Always have. Always will."
"Yeah, I know. I love you, too." She kissed him again sweetly before grabbing his hand to lead him into the living room. "Now move it, Echolls. I have a Will Ferrell movie to mock."
Happily ever after and white picket fences ... not really what Veronica dreamed of anymore; not since ... well, a long time ago. But, life was good now. Normalcy felt good to two screwed up kids from Neptune. Despite the chaos, tragedy and hard times of their youth, she and Logan had found their way in their world. Together.
Veronica's job gave her just enough of an adrenaline rush to keep her on her toes, without going back to the dark side. She shuddered at the thought of what her life could've been had she not made some tough life choices back in college.
Veronica snuggled into Logan on the couch and let Will Ferrell's obnoxious fake southern accent fade into the background.
"You ready?" Keith whispered with a smile. "You look beautiful, by the way."
He looked back into the living room, ensuring the coast was still clear for her to walk through unseen. Her wedding had garnered quite a bit of media attention lately and she wouldn't have been surprised to see a sneaky photographer marching right through their living room with unabashed boldness.
Veronica took a deep breath and looked back at herself in the full-length mirror next to Logan's ... no, now their dresser. She smiled softly at her Dad's reflection watching her with misty eyes.
"Can you believe this?"
Her voice sounded small to her own ears, but her father didn't seem to notice. He just smiled brightly, unconcerned.
"Yeah. Yeah, I can."
He walked into the room and joined her in front of the mirror. "He's the one, Veronica."
She nodded slowly and Keith chuckled as he continued. "Much to your old man's frustration at times, he's always been the one."
She smoothed down the non-existent wrinkles in the front of her "casual, yet formal" dress, as Mac called it, and turned toward Keith. "Ready," she said with a nod of certainty.
He took her arm and led her toward the door.
He looked like she'd just screamed "Fire" in a crowded movie theater. She laughed at his startled expression.
"No," she said over a soft chuckle. "I'm not getting cold feet."
He smiled with what she was certain was absolute relief.
"I just wanted you to know how much ..." Her voice trailed off and she bent her head, hiding more tears.
"Veronica." He placed both hands on the sides of her face, gently lifting it up so they were almost eye-level.
"My smart, beautiful, fierce, FBI profiler, action-figure, badass daughter." They both laughed at his characterization of her. The list had sure gotten long over the years, she mused.
"I know." He nodded his head fiercely. "After all these years, I hope that you know ..."
Veronica reached up and placed her finger on her father's lips.
"Yeah, Dad, I know, too." She leaned her forehead against his and fought back the tears that threatened to spill out, yet again, of her perfectly made-up eyes. Thank God for waterproof mascara, she thought for the 10th time that day.
"Well, then ..." He took her arm again and faced the door. "Are we gonna do this thing? I think there's a crowd ... oh, and a very anxious groom, waiting for you."
She smiled at the thought of Logan waiting for her by the water. He probably thinks I'm gonna bail, she laughed.
Reading her mind again, Keith smiled. "I think he does. He asked me at least three times if you were still up here getting ready."
Veronica smirked and stood up a bit straighter. Suddenly, she was flooded with peace and certainty. This was right. They were right. This day was perfect; well, as perfect as it gets for Veronica and Logan.
It didn't matter that her drunk and wayward mother wasn't there. It didn't matter that Logan had to chase paparazzi and threaten a few neighbors to ensure their privacy. None of that mattered.
"Come on, Dad," Veronica said softly as she laced her arm through his. She didn't try to stop the tears this time. "You've always walked beside me on my adventures. How about we tackle one more?"
He patted her arm and looked forward. Even though Keith didn't look at her she saw him wipe his tears discreetly.
"Sure thing, Kiddo. Let's go."
They walked out the french doors and onto their patio. Veronica felt the butterflies start up again when she heard the soft gasps and murmurs as the music changed and her guests saw her for the first time.
She sensed her old nemesis, panic, seeping into her bones and looked down at the sand as they reached the beach.
Breathe in, breathe out. You can do this, Veronica.
She lifted her head up and the world stopped spinning around her. All she could see were Logan's eyes, holding hers; promising love, fidelity, commitment and ... forever. Eyes that showed so much strength, tenderness, desire and yes, relief.
Before she could help herself, Veronica laughed. Logan smiled hugely and shrugged his shoulders. Ever the entertainer, he swiped his hand across his forehead and let out an audible sound of relief. The small crowd laughed and smiled at their exchange.
Close friends and family in attendance knew of their long and storied relationship. The term "runaway bride" had even come up at the rehearsal dinner. Several attendees had voiced the same concerns that they now saw Logan had shared until he saw her step onto the beach in her wedding dress.
Keith paused with Veronica at the head of the aisle and gazed down at her. "So, I guess this it." He was trying for carefree and light-hearted, but she knew this was truly breaking his heart.
Hugging him gently, she whispered in his ear. "I love you, Dad."
Biting back a small sob, she continued with a louder, stronger voice. "And, I will always be your Veronica."
Keith nodded, squeezed her gently and took her arm again. As they made their way down the aisle, inching closer to Logan, Veronica felt the peace and certainty return.
She tore her gaze from Logan's just long enough to soak in all the decorations, guests, groomsmen and bridal attendants surrounding her and laughed again.
So much for not being traditional, she chided inwardly. Honestly, though, their small, beachside ceremony was completely lovely; everything she'd hoped it would be.
Logan's soft voice brought her focus back to him. "Hey." He greeted her with a warm smile and teary eyes. "I'm glad you made it."
"You were worried?" she joked, knowing he really had been. They continued looking at each other, everyone else forgotten.
"I hate to break this up," Keith interrupted. "But, there are some people here ..." he gestured behind them. "Who came to see the wedding of the century." He smiled and leaned in to the couple. "Cliff has twenty on this not happening and you know how I hate to lose ..."
She cut him off, rolling her eyes and shaking her head with a smirk.
"What do you say, Veronica," Logan asked as he reached for her. "You wanna finally do this?"
Veronica hugged her Dad again then turned toward Logan with a strong smile. "Yeah, I really do." And, she really did; to her dismay, if she were being completely honest. And, since her sophomore year in college, she had worked on being completely honest.
Later that night Veronica realized she didn't really remember most of the words they spoke or the things the reverend said to them during the ceremony. For some reason, she didn't focus on that. She just stared at Logan, lost in his eyes; lost in memories and lost in the enormity of the choice they were making together. He, of course, remembered every word and sentiment they shared and gave her grief about her lack of focus.
Days, weeks, months and even years later during uncharacteristically sentimental moments, Veronica told him that she didn't have to know the words their mouths spoke that day. Their eyes and hearts said it all. And, they still did.
I love you.
It has always been you.
It will always be you. Only you.
I choose you. I choose us.
They chose well.
Who would've thought? Choices, they really do make a life.