Disclaimer in first chapter
He wakes to a world of pain and too-bright lights. For a moment, he wants to panic. Someone took him to the hospital. Now everyone is going to know. Oh God. But there are butterfly fingers on his burning back, and he recognizes the feeling of silk sheets, his mother's lingering scent. No. Just laundry detergent. The sheets are his. And the fingers…Is he dreaming?
"Lilly?" His voice isn't his own. Raspy, too weak. What's wrong with him?
"Lilly's dead, Logan." And it's like being told that the first time. Logan feels his eyes fill with tears and lowers his head back to the bed. His bed. His room. Veronica's voice. Veronica?
"What?" Stronger now, angrier. What was she doing here? What the hell was going on? He couldn't remember, or didn't want to. He knew Lilly was dead. What the hell was Veronica doing in his room, touching him? And why did he feel like he'd been skinned alive? Oh. That. More tears leaking out slowly and soaking into the sheets. He can't make them stop. He doesn't care enough to try. "He didn't kill me." He sounds dead, to himself. Defeated again. He couldn't even manage that.
"No, he didn't." She agrees. There's no anger in her voice. No forced cheeriness, either. Just calm efficiency. Very Veronica Mars. Her fingers probe a particularly sore spot and he feels wetness spreading out and hisses in pain. "Sorry." The hand pulls away, coming to rest almost immediately on another welt, almost as painful. He doesn't hiss this time. Just closes his eyes and wishes death would claim him anyway.
"Don't want your 'sorry'." He snarls, making an effort to turn. "What the hell are you doing here, you bitch?"
Hurt look in her eyes. Looks rumpled, as if she ran all the way here. Hands holding a first aid kit. Better than his own. The hurt disappears, replaced by the famed resolve he hates so much. "Turn back over. I need to clean those." She orders, nudging him slightly with one hand. Somewhere along the way, he notes, he'd lost his pants, and if the soreness and unusual draft are anything to go by, his shorts as well, but that's safely under a sheet. He doesn't want to think. He turns over, shuddering.
"No. You need help."
"Don't want your help." He mumbled into his pillow. He wants her to go away and stop being nice to him. He wants to get completely wasted. He wants to die. He doesn't want to be lying here with tears in his eyes, naked, while Veronica Mars, the girl responsible for most of the bad things in his life, cleaned his cuts. "Go the fuck away."
She doesn't even answer. Her fingers feel a bit different from Lilly's, more agile, less delicate. He doesn't protest anymore, not even when she tugs the sheet down and oh-so-carefully spreads cold cream on his ass as well. Any other day he'd either be running away or enjoying every second, making her blush in anger or embarrassment. He hasn't the energy for either.
"You need to go to the hospital." She says at least. "Some of those could get infected. And you need to be tested for a concussion."
"No hospital." He's adamant on that point, at least. Besides, he knows what a concussion feels like, and this isn't it. He'd simply blacked out for a moment when the buckle hit his head. Never happened before, but with his father, there were always first time. "No concussion." One bleary eye fixed on her, "Trust me."
"Ok." She agrees quietly. "But I'm gonna need to do some serious disinfecting back there. It's gonna hurt." She doesn't sound much like herself either, now that he's listening. She sounds almost scared.
"Already hurts." He doesn't shrug, but he wants to. It'd hurt more, so he lies still, again. He pushes deeper into the mattress with his whole body, using the pressure to block out the agony. He can't help a whimper or two escaping. Whenever he does, she stops and lets him rest for a bit, her fingers playing with his hair, carefully avoiding the bump, letting him breathe through the pain. Finally, her hands leave him completely. Strangely, it makes him feel terribly alone.
"Done." She says, fatigue in her voice. What time is it? He sighs. It still hurts worse than anything his father had ever done, but slowly cooling now. He doesn't know what to say to her. Thank her? For what? He'd rather have died.
"Why did you…" Help me? Come here? Not do anything earlier?
"I'm not sure." The honest reply jars him out of his haze of misery. Now that he takes a good look, he can see shimmering fury in her eyes, just behind the oh-so-professional look. "I wanted to show you the credit card record, 'cause you ran off too fast and didn't give me a chance to finish, and when I saw…I figured no one else would do anything. Duncan, maybe, but he's in no shape to help, like always."
She keeps surprising him, and he opens both eyes and raises his head to look at her. The question in his eyes is clearer than words- how long had she known? She shrugs a little.
"I had no idea, Logan. Really. Not until I came and- But I should;ve known. My dad had a case…" She hesitates over the word, "Domestic abuse, they called it. After they found the bong in your locker," Always careful, even now. He's still a snake, even if she remembers now he was also a friend once. "I should've put two and two together." Suddenly she blames herself for not noticing earlier, and her thoughts spill out unchecked, "Lilly and Duncan must have known. The clues were always there. The way you always slept over at Lilly's, even with Celeste frowning at you all the time. The days you ditched PhysEd for no reason. You need to-"
"Nothing." His voice is hard and rough. "Nothing at all, Veronica. Keep out of this." But she's already in it up to her neck and he knows it. No way she'll keep quiet.
"Ok." Startling him again. "You have…enough on your plate without me calling in the cops on your dad. It is your dad, isn't it?"
He lowers his head again, feeling his shoulders start to shake. "Logan…" She hesitates again. "I'm sorry. There's…if you don't want to do anything, there's nothing else I can say."
That does it. The shaking gets more pronounced, and he tries to pull his legs up before remembering he's naked and giving it up. Some things Veronica doesn't need to see, even when he doesn't really care whether he lives or dies. Her hands surround him carefully, somehow finding a position that doesn't rub against anything, and she holds him, saying nothing, long after the sobs go away at last and he settles into a restless half sleep. He's too comfortable, too worn out by that whole week, to even think that he's resting in the arms of a girl who hates him, and who he hates back. She's not the enemy now. She's a person who cares, and he can rest now.