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The Name Plate

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“You’ve got mail.”

Veronica looked up. When she saw the small package, she looked away. “You can throw it out.”

Weevil took a step inside, closing the door of Mars Investigations behind him, confused. “You want me to throw out a package you haven’t even opened?” He brought it upwards, at eye level, as if to really make sure.

“I know what it is. I – I don’t want it.”

“Who sent you this?”

“I ordered it. I forgot to cancel the order. It – it slipped my mind. Didn’t seem quite as important, somehow, when I was planning my husband’s funeral.” She sighed and sat down, taking her head between her hands. “Sorry. It’s nothing. You can… you can open it, or whatever. You can even keep it for all I care. But I – I don’t want to see it,” she whispered, like any other way of saying it would send her on the other side of the barrier of tears she was fighting.

Weevil looked a bit puzzled, but he didn’t want to throw away something Veronica might eventually want, so he carefully opened the package to check what was inside as Veronica looked down at her desk, rearranging papers. He knew her eyes weren’t seeing anything, her mind was focused on him, on this stupid package. Carefully, he slid out the content. In his open palm sat a long, thin, metallic rectangle. A name plate, he realized, like the one on Veronica’s desk, like the one on her father’s desk.

But this one was slightly different. He almost read aloud, but caught himself in time. Veronica Mars Echolls, P.I., the plate read. His heart tightened for her. When he trailed his gaze back to the woman he was there to visit, she was looking at him already.

“It’s stupid, huh?” she said with a small laugh. The laugh was so fake, so forced, and everything she was talking about was so far from stupid. She cleared her throat when he didn’t answer immediately. “I… I ordered it like two hours before we got married. I was all done getting ready and I had time to kill and I don’t know what even came over me. I thought it would be nice. You know, I’ll always be a Mars, but… but Logan was my family, you know, legally, now. I thought he’d like it. He’d be embarrassed, but secretly pleased. I wasn’t going to tell him, just… see if he’d notice the next time he was in my office.” Despite everything, she had a small smile, so fond, lost in some other day, some other life, it seemed. She shook her head, once, and her smile disappeared. “Then before the sun even set that day, he was dead. This plate is… weeks too late. Not that he’d have seen my office even if that damn package had arrived instantly.”

“I’m sorry, V. I really am.”

She shrugged with forced nonchalance. “I’m ready to join your ‘no longer married’ club if that’s a thing. When do we meet? Wednesdays?”

In a second, her half playful, half hurting face was completely wiped of the playfulness, as soon as the words were out of her mouth.

“What, you got something Wednesdays already?” Weevil asked, a weak attempt at humour.

“No, it’s… it’s nothing. God, you don’t even like Logan, this is ridiculous. I’m sorry.”

He hurried to the chair on the other side of her desk. “Hey, I got nothing against Logan. Not anymore, anyway. And even if I did, who cares? You’re hurtin’, V. Give it to me.”

She nodded, still not entirely there. “It was… at Hearst. A long time ago. We weren’t even together at that point. I’d talked with Parker about him, and told him about it, and he’d said something dumb like he thought his fan club only met on Wednesdays. I don’t know why I even remember that.”

“Because you love him.”

“Yeah, I… yeah.”

She looked at her hands, lost in thought again. Weevil wanted to stay there, make sure she was doing okay, but he felt like he was intruding somehow, intruding on her grief. Veronica never shared that much. It felt like a truly personal moment, one she normally wouldn’t have let anyone hear or witness.

“I just came by to see you, say I’m sorry. He was a good guy. Really.”

“Thanks. And thanks for,” she cleared her throat, shifted in her seat, “uh, that thing where you drove off the Mexican cartel murderers. Appreciated that.”

Weevil snorted. “Hey, you and me, we get each other out of tight spots, right? That’s what we do.”

She smiled, shyly, like she thought she was smiling inwardly. “That’s what we do,” she repeated. And just like that, he felt like they were back. Not fully back, because their lives were completely fucked over, but there was some part of that friendship back. That part where they both knew the other was probably doing some illegal shit on the side, but was ultimately a good person, and they’d keep each other out of trouble, keep each other safe.

“I’m sorry. For being a total bitch. You know, about… well, everything.”

He wasn’t waiting for the apology anymore, not really. It was Veronica Mars. He didn’t expect it. Just like she’d given up on expecting him to stay on the legal side of everything. But it was a welcome surprise.

He stood up suddenly, clutching the plaque still in his hand. “I’ll go throw that out, then.”

“No, wait. You know what, I’ll… I’ll keep it. I did fill out the paperwork, so… That’s my name. Wanna do the honours?” she asked with a weak smile, looking up at Weevil’s standing figure and gesturing at the name plate on her desk.

“You sure?” he asked. She nodded and he slid the new name plate in the old one’s place. “Where do I put this one?” He held up the simple Veronica Mars, P.I. plate that had sat on her desk for the past few years.

She extended her hand, and placed the cold metallic rectangle in one of her drawers when he dropped it in her outstretched hand.

“You don’t have to answer, but… how did that happen?” Weevil asked, pointing vaguely at the shiny new name plate, noticing as Veronica twirled a wedding ring on her finger. There had always been a part of him that kind of knew Veronica and Logan were forever, even back in high school. There was something in their stupid deep affection for one another that was puzzling, even when they were supposedly enemies. He never fully understood what the heck it was until he’d met Jade, and then… well.

Logan and Veronica had this kind of eternal entanglement or something, but they seemed to be almost as lost as he was, just kind of assuming it would always be like this, the two of them, but not making the big exuberant gestures to show it to everyone, like a wedding. High school Logan Echolls would have flaunted his girl everywhere, that much Weevil was sure. But adult Logan was different. He didn’t really know adult Logan. But there was something different in him, good different. Him and Veronica were low-key, almost, and he’d never seen any ostentatious engagement ring on his friend’s finger when they’d paid each other not-so-friendly visits in the weeks leading up to the final bomb and, apparently, the Mars-Echolls wedding.

Veronica seemed to mull over the question. “You want the long or short version?”

Normally, he’d say short, because, give him a break, a whole story about Logan Echolls? But then it was Veronica, one of his oldest friends (in their own weird, twisted way), and someone who’d lost her husband in a truly awful, despicable, tragic way, recently. So he said, “Long.” She didn’t seem surprised, like she’d followed his train of thought.

“You know we’ve been back together – again – basically since I came back to Neptune. And then that was that for a while, taking it a bit at a time, not really saying any of our plans of, well, forever. Because that’s scary. And when you say it, I don’t know, it hurts more when it doesn’t happen. That’s what I was telling myself. Or not telling myself. But it was somewhere in the back of my mind.” He nodded and she took a deep breath. “And one day, he came back from deployment and proposed. I freaked out, said no, and ran out.” Answering the question Weevil didn’t ask, she continued. “That was just before the first bomb. And then it was a bit of… back and forth or whatever. Then that night when you showed up… I seriously thought I was going to die. Me, and my dad, we were going to die. And I kept thinking how I wished I’d told Logan so many things. That I wished he knew, you know? Knew how much it meant to me. Being with him. And I didn’t want to die while he was out in the Persian Gulf or wherever, still hanging on a proposal. Thinking I didn’t love him enough or… or I don’t know. And I wished I’d married him before I died. Then he’d be in my obituary. It’s so stupid, I know. But, like, I’d be gone, but I’d still be connected to him in all those documents that don’t matter. Because, alive, everyone knew we were a team. But if I was dead, there was no way for me to say, no no I love him, this isn’t one-sided or whatever else anyone could think. Not just too broken to be with anyone else, like that dumbass Murderhead said. I didn’t want to die the woman who turned down his proposal. And then that night, I… I came home and he was there. He was back from deployment. And I told him I’d marry him. And I did. I married him a few days later, on a small alcove outside with some dude we’d never met, who pronounced us man and wife. And there was Wallace and my dad, and it was just us. And I married him. I married Logan.”

Her lip had started trembling, her eyes clouding. “Am I still married to him?” she asked in a small voice, and it was so unlike her, that fear, that vulnerability, that uncertainty, the childlike question.

It didn’t matter, it really didn’t. But he answered anyway, because it was obvious the question had been gnawing at her. “Yeah. You are. You love him and you want to be married to him. And wherever he is, he wants to be married with you. And you legally said so, both of you. So, yeah. You’re married to that pain in the ass.”

She laughed, sniffling a tiny bit. “I’m married to that pain in the ass.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s ironic, isn’t it? I married him because I didn’t want to die without being his wife. Do you know he never even called me his wife, said those words? He didn’t get the chance. I got one Mrs. Echolls, in the car, when he squeezed my hand at the red light. And that’s it. Then he was dead on our wedding day, because some guy wanted to kill me and I never move the damn car for street cleaning and he did it. I would have noticed that his bag was there, Penn’s. I would have, if I hadn’t been thinking of getting married. I’m the one who took weeks to figure out I wanted to marry him. I’m the one who picked the wedding date, the night before. If I hadn’t… if I wasn’t so full of wedding nerves that day, I would have seen it.”

“You can’t say that for sure.”

She shrugged.

“No, V, seriously, you can’t keep beating yourself up. It’s not your fault, there’s nothing you could have done.”

She shrugged again. “We’ll never know. Because Logan’s gone. And I don’t get a redo of that day. Isn’t it funny?”

“What’s funny?” Weevil didn’t think there was anything funny about that whole situation, or any part of the story.

“Half of me thinks Logan wouldn’t have died if it weren’t for the wedding. And the other half is just… ridiculously happy to have married him. It’s cussing – fucking weird how unstable I am. How little sense anything that’s in my head makes.”

“Veronica –”

“My dad doesn’t find it funny either. Not even a little bit, not even when I point out that my whole job is based on making smart little links in my head and yet my head can’t make up its mind on whether I should have gotten married to the man I love. The fucking love of my life.” She said the last part with bitterness. Like she was mad at something, at someone. At everyone. “It’s too late anyway, isn’t it? For all of it. To accept his proposal earlier. To pick a different date. To check my fucking backseat. To get a ticket instead of a husband blown to smithereens. To talk about the time difference in Arizona later, so that he’d have time to move the car before the bomb goes off. It’s all too late. Hey, you know what else is funny?”

Weevil doubted it would be funny at all, but he let her go ahead.

“I keep referring to Logan as my husband. To everyone, all the time. It’s so unlike me. He wouldn’t even believe it if I told him. And I can’t!” she said, and for a second Weevil wondered if she was going mad, the way her eyes were slightly too wide, her tone too sardonic. “My husband this, my husband that. My husband. And exactly like he never got to call me his wife out loud, he never heard me call him my husband. Never. Not even once. The only person he ever heard call him my husband is the officiant. Kind of. In that offhand way, ‘I pronounce you husband and wife’. Not even, hey is Veronica Mars’ husband there? Yeah that’s me. Nope. Nothing. He died, freshly married, thinking we’d call each other that for the rest of our lives. But he never called me his wife and he never will. Not even once. Not on the phone with some hotel employee to make reservations for the honeymoon, ‘for me and my wife’. Not to the school principal when our kid gets in trouble, ‘my wife can’t be there’. Not to introduce himself to someone I know, “hi, I’m Veronica’s husband’. Not to me. And all the times I’ll refer to him as my husband will be to talk about my dead husband, lost in a freak explosion. The first time someone called me his wife outside of the wedding itself was to ask me to identify his body, what was left. ‘Are you Mr. Echolls’ wife?’ And I was, and I am, and it was him, but I already knew that. I knew it when I heard the explosion, when I was thrown on the bed. When I screamed and nobody answered. He was gone, because Logan would have answered me.”

She was shaken by a sudden sob. And Weevil knew it was true. Logan could have been completely wrecked, advised not to even talk, and he would have screamed to reassure Veronica, even if it wouldn’t truly reassure her and he knew it. Because Logan Echolls was stupid in love with Veronica Mars, always had been, always would be, and everyone knew it.

And he was gone, but it was still a fact everyone believed in.