Merry late Christmas to the ever-patient whipper, and apologies again for my digital glitches that postponed this. (Hey! It's still Kwanzaa, right? Can we call this a Secret Kwanzaa gift? *G*)
Call It An Adventure
Pairing: Veronica/Logan, angst/comfort/friendship
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Spoilers: Through "An Echolls Family Christmas"
When Nietzsche said whatever doesn’t kill a man makes him stronger, he was displaying profound insight into the underlying tenacity of the human spirit. He was also displaying that he was a little bit of an asshole. Who in the hell actually feels good about getting the crap knocked out of himself again and again in the name of strength training?
Veronica’s pretty tired of this particular flavor of learning experience, thank you very much. As if losing Lilly wasn’t bad enough, she got to lose her mother, her boyfriend, and (far as she can tell) her virginity right around the same time. Four lousy life-altering events for the price of one; oh yes, Veronica Mars has been buying in bulk for the past year. It’s enough to make a girl want to get into her car, bid the ‘09ers fare-thee-well with the flip of a middle finger, and drive away forever.
None of which remotely explains why she’s standing in the crowded lobby of Neptune’s general hospital right now, trying to see over the heads of the cops and the paparazzi spilling out of every corner.
It’s made the national news already: Aaron Echolls is about to undergo emergency surgery for abdominal trauma. The UCLA surgical team stepped off the Echolls’ private jet ten minutes ago and are scrubbing in as the cameras roll. It’s a deep puncture wound, the buzz goes, a stabbing from some irate unnamed stalker. Attempted murder, suspect in custody, no real motive, etcetera. Sheriff Lamb is posturing in front of a group of reporters on the front steps of the building, trying to give the impression that he has a ghost of a clue about what happened. No doubt he’s carefully omitting the fact that the suspect had been tackled and subdued by one Keith Mars.
Groups of bedraggled party guests are chatting up the paparazzi; Veronica would lay odds that their sound-bites will be 50% “yes, Aaron is a very good friend and we’re all just devastated” and 50% “well, as I was saying on the set of my new movie that opens next week.…” Lynn Echolls at least has the good taste to avoid the spotlight for now, although she might also be having a little trouble playing the part of worried loving wife on-camera given that one of her husband’s ex-conquests crashed the party and stabbed the host.
All in all, it’s a pathetic, dysfunctional, self-absorbed little scene populated by pathetic, dysfunctional, self-absorbed little people – Neptune in a nutshell. But that’s not why she’s here either.
“I figured you’d be up here.”
Her voice echoes off the empty concrete; it’s hard to believe that there’s peace and quiet anywhere in the hospital tonight, but it’s almost eerily calm on the roof. One of the nicer aspects of having a mid-sized community hospital that serves the uber-wealthy is the mix of high-tech amenities – not to mention the ability to import specialists from the city on a few minutes’ notice to play with said amenities – and low-tech security measures. Aaron Echolls is in a state-of-the-art OR with a top-ranked trauma team, but all the guards are concentrated in the lobby, far from the roof with its easily-unlocked door.
There’s a small observation deck to one side, where family members and the medical teams can wait while patients are loaded onto or off of the Medivac units. It’s corralled off from the landing pad by a low railing to keep people from wandering too close to the chopper blades, and it’s there that Logan is perched when he sees her. Unfiltered surprise flickers across his face for a split second, quickly replaced by a trademark sneer.
“And my night just keeps getting better and better.”
As she assumes a similar perched position on the rails opposite him, Veronica notices the bottle in his hand. “I’m guessing that’s not iced tea?”
“Whoa, figured it out right away. And they call blondes dumb.” Logan lifts the bottle and swallows twice, grimacing. “The old man was right, the single-malt is definitely smoother going down than the double-malt.”
“You know there’s a media feeding frenzy going on down there, right? Are you sure you want to parade in front of the cameras smelling like a distillery?”
Logan gives her the look she always thinks of as vintage cocky little jackass. “Gee, y’know, Ronnie, the thing is I’m not seeing any roof paparazzi right now. I’m also not seeing how this is any of your fucking business.”
Yeah, cocky little jackass pretty much covers it, she thinks, and just why in the hell did she even bother to find him tonight? Oh, right – that which doesn’t kill her makes her do stupid masochistic shit.
“Hey, I saw the whole thing happen, remember? Call me crazy, because believe me I’m doing that myself right now, but I was actually worried about how you were holding up.”
“What, when I have all this?” Logan throws his arms open in emphasis – a little less coordinated than usual, she thinks, courtesy of the first half of that bottle in his hand. “Let me explain the movie industry to you, babe. Getting stabbed was the best thing that could’ve happened to my father. When his idiot fans read about this they’ll flock to the next Echolls picture in droves. I figure the first days’ ticket sales alone will net him a new Viper and a condo in Malibu for his next whore. Add in a little paternal guilt and I’m looking at upgrading to a 62-inch plasma screen for the bedroom.”
Veronica the unshockable realizes that her mouth has dropped open during his little speech. “You’re unbelievable, do you know that? Do you ever stop to think about other people, Logan? Your mother and Duncan are probably looking all over for you right now. Your father could die.”
“My mother was in her traditional Saturday night Valium haze before anything even happened, I told Duncan to go home, and my loving father couldn’t keep it in his pants long enough to consider how he’s affecting his family,” Logan snaps back, ticking the points off on his fingers. “It makes him a lot less sympathetic from over here.”
And she admits that this comes as a bit of a surprise to her; of all of their families, she’d always assumed the Echolls were the least fucked-up. “OK, I get it, Logan, welcome to the world of lousy parenting, I’ll be happy to be your tour-guide. But can’t you put aside the hurt-little-boy crap at least until you find out if he’s going to pull through?”
Logan shakes his head with a humorless laugh, punctuated by another swallow of scotch. “Wow, ace detective work, Veronica Mars, you obviously know every single thing about me and my spoiled little life. Now, I’m all humbled and honored by your presence and shit, but there’s really nothing to see here. My father fucked up and then he got fucked up, the lay du jour is in jail, and the case is closed. So you can go on home with Daddy now and have your little trailer-park Christmas. Bye-bye, shoo.”
And he actually flutters his damned fingers at her when he says “shoo;” it never fails to amaze her that she used to be friends with this boy. “You know what, fine, forget I was here. And incidentally, I’ll take my trailer-park life over your train-wreck any day.”
She makes it to the door before she hears “why?” in low tones.
“Why did you figure I’d be up here?”
“History, remember?” She can’t repress a faint smile at the memory as she turns back. “We came up here when Lilly fractured her wrist.”
For a moment their eyes meet, and Veronica sees a flash of someone she used to know. “That was a long time ago.”
It wasn’t, she thinks, but then again it was a different lifetime ago. “Talk about an adventure gone awry. It was vintage Lilly.”
This time Logan’s grin is without any trace of snark and there’s a fond sadness in his eyes. “I’ll never forget the look on her mother’s face in the ER. ‘Sorry to bring you down here, Mrs. Kane, but it seems your daughter was playing Lady Godiva at her boyfriend’s house and she fell off an eight-foot-high horse statue.’ Could you blame me for not wanting to spend quality time with Mama Kane?”
“God, I thought her head was going to explode when she walked into the room. She’s on the phone with Jake getting hysterical, Duncan’s trying to tell her how there’s a really good explanation for everything – and there’s Lilly in the middle of it all, laughing over what an adventure she just had and planning when she can do it again.”
Veronica doesn’t realize she’s walked back to the railing until she finds herself sitting beside Logan. She wonders if he realizes that he just slid over to make more room for her to join him.
“I think that marked the beginning of the end of my father’s craze for macho stone lawn ornaments.” Logan leans back against the railing and contemplates the sky. “You and I must’ve sat up here for three hours until the ‘rents went home.”
“Hey, I wasn’t all that comfortable around Celeste either. I got the distinct feeling she thought I was behind that little escapade and that I’d be corrupting Duncan on a stone dolphin statue any day now. The roof was a happier place.”
Logan offers her the scotch, and after a moment’s hesitation she accepts. He’s right, it does burn on the way down, but not as much as the memories of the last time they sat like this.
“We tried to flick bottle-caps into open convertibles in the parking lot, remember?”
“Remember? As I recall I had better aim than you, Echolls.”
“In your dreams, Mars. You know, I came up here a couple of times, actually. After...” His voice trails off, but she doesn’t need to ask what event he’s referring to. “I’m not even sure why I picked this place. Maybe it just reminded me of being carefree for a little while.”
Veronica ponders this as she drinks more scotch and passes the bottle back. “Yeah, I think I vaguely remember carefree. Lilly was way better at it than I was.”
“Bullshit.” Logan shakes his head adamantly. “OK, Lilly was better than anyone at it, but you did pretty well yourself back in the day. Remember the Heat Miser song?”
She hides her face in her hands with a mock-mortified groan. “Oh God, you remember my Mr. Green Christmas song and dance routine?”
“Of course! You and I were the only ones who thought Heat Miser was way cooler than Snow Miser. Or can I use a term like ‘cooler’ for Heat Miser?” Logan stares quizzically into the bottle.
“That might be the scotch talking.” Veronica picks up the bottle and places it across from them on the concrete.
“Then I guess I’d better not let it sing,” Logan quips.
Then he does just that, jumping to his feet to sing about being Mr. Heat Blister, Mr. Hundred-and-One, complete with unsteady dance moves. Veronica tells herself it’s concern that makes her jump up and join him – she wouldn’t want him to take a nose-dive off the roof after she’s sort of put herself in charge of him tonight, and so what if that involves half-hysterical laughter and a chorus or two of “I’m too much?”
They’re laughing too hard to attempt the railing again, so they’ve ended up sitting on the concrete itself, leaning into the retaining wall and each other until their giggles die down. Veronica is surprised that this can still feel so natural after so much bad blood. By the look on his face, Logan is feeling that too.
“Not that you care or anything,” he mumbles, “but I’ve missed you.”
And she should be saying a hundred different things, anything from “hey, I care” to “hey, you picked a shitty way to show this to me,” to “I’ve missed you too, you psychotic jackass,” but all she can do is put her arm around him and pull him in so he can lean on her.
“Shit. I really do need to go downstairs and see him.” Logan’s head is heavy on her shoulder as he half-yawns the words. “I need a couple minutes to sober up – will you stay up here?”
“Yeah, take all the time you need. I’ll be here.”
Veronica leans her head against his and settles back against the wall. She feels the sleep tugging at her eyelids and she briefly wonders if either one of them is going to be waking up anytime soon. She can see the headlines and the boys-room scrawls now: the girl with the rep and the boy with the smirk spend a little quality Christmas time together on the roof above a celebrity ICU, complete with alcohol to set the mood. Between worried parents, confused friends and the world at large this is a set-up for the next scandal in her life. Call it an adventure, she thinks sleepily, it’ll make you stronger.