Title: Eclipse (Part 3 of 3)
Author: Lizzy
Pairing/Character: Duncan, L/V, D/V
Word Count: 3891 (10,618 altogether)
Rating: PG13+ (language)
Spoilers/Warnings: Warning for language. Post-finale. Spoils the murderer. (no premiere spoilers and effectively AU by now)
Summary: Things in parentheses should (not) be ignored. Or, the (crazy) things people do for love.
Disclaimer: Transitional lyrics from "The Trick is to Keep Breathing" by Garbage. And, of course, characters belong to the wonderful Rob Thomas, without whom there would (sadly) be no Veronica Mars.
Notes: Many thanks to Susie, Liz, and Tiff for beta help.

PART THREE – Acceptance

\\ fight against the tide \\

"Duncan Elijah Kane, could you please explain to me why Marjorie just called to say that she is 'putting the finishing touches' on a prom dress for Veronica Mars?"

Duncan stifles a groan, as he looks up from his physics textbook to face his mother who had entered his room (as usual) without notice.

"A Kane can hardly be seen in public with a woman whose dress is of less than the finest quality, Mother," he replies, evading the topic of Veronica for the moment.

"Honestly, Duncan. She's not good enough for you – the fact that she didn't have an acceptable dress should be proof enough for that."

"Or, it might be evidence that perhaps she's had her mind on the injuries her father sustained while capturing the man who killed Lilly."

"While I do appreciate Keith Mars's persistence in uncovering the true culprit, that doesn't make his daughter acceptable for you. Duncan, be sensible about this – she doesn't know the first thing about how to function at social events."

"You kept us apart for months with your claim that she was my sister," Duncan retorts, his temper rising. "I love her. She makes me happy. I won't give her up simply because she reminds you of the fact that no matter what you say or do, Dad doesn't love you most."

With that, Duncan snaps his textbook shut and reaches for his keys. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to pick up my girlfriend for dinner."

He brushes past his mother, who is standing in the doorway with her mouth agape. He knows that that entire scene goes against everything he was taught growing up. He disrespected an adult (more specifically, his mother) and refused to even consider her point of view.

And, to be perfectly honest, it had felt great. Now he can see why Lilly (God, he missed her) had always acted so rebelliously. Not that he plans to make a habit of this behavior (he is still dependable Duncan, after all), but it feels good to stand up to his mother.

He doesn't have the time to fully examine the source of his eruption, however. He has a beautiful girl waiting for him to take her the final dress fitting before they share a romantic meal at a beachside bistro.

\\ maybe you'll get what you want this time around \\

"Eggroll?" he offers the next day at lunch.

Veronica shakes her head and grabs some more fried rice. "You like them more than I do anyhow."

He smiles (because she remembered) and spears the last eggroll with his fork. "So the limo is going to meet us at your place, Wallace, at six o'clock. Does that work for everyone?"

"Wait," Nadine interjects, appearing to be very confused. "If you're arranging for the limo and everything, why aren't we all meeting up at your place?"

After an awkward pause, Veronica speaks up. "His mom isn't my biggest fan," she comments with a smirk.

"Besides, Wallace's mom and Veronica's dad are pretty close," he adds hastily, wanting to change the subject from his mom's expressive disapproval. (not that he really cared what she thought anyhow) However, his words elicit an involuntary groan from Wallace.

"Sorry," Wallace mumbles, by way of apology. "I just … saying that they're 'close' … " he trails off with a shudder that causes Veronica to groan in turn.

"Come on, Wallace. Do we need to go over the rules about parental PDA references again?"

"I'm sorry! Just, with how Duncan phrased it, I couldn't help myself!"

Duncan glances across the table to see Nadine looking at the pair in confusion. Clearly, she knows little about Wallace other than his basketball superstar status (which is probably all that really matters to her).

For a Prom date, that's fine, but Duncan is proud to say that he knows Veronica much better than just the superficial things. He knows that her life has changed (unquestionably) since the last time they dated before (Lilly), but he's also sure that she's still the girl he loved before (and loves now) underneath the angry, scorned façade she tries to present to the world.

He knows that the parental dating … thing isn't easy for Wallace or Veronica (to say the least). But should they ever need to move from best friends to step-siblings, it wouldn't be an overly impossible transition. Hell, Wallace is already acting like an overprotective big brother, telling him in no uncertain terms that regardless of his high rung of on the 09'er ladder, if he hurt Veronica, Wallace and Mr. Mars would hurt him twice as badly in return.

"Anyhow, I figured I'd make dinner reservations at Maggiato's for six-thirty," Duncan says, moving the conversation back to his initial topic. He looks around the table, sees three heads nodding in agreement, and makes a confirming checkmark on his notepad.

"Then, for post-Prom, there are a few parties going on, and I figured we could stop by some of those before ending up at the Neptune Grand for the night."

"Um, Duncan?" Veronica begins softly, "my dad loves you, but … "

While he knows that nothing would probably happen between them (their one-night together notwithstanding, she's still very uncomfortable about the concept of sex), he understands her father's reservations.

"Okay then, no hotel for us. We'll just head to Logan's party last, and if we need to crash, he's got more than enough bedrooms."

"Uh … " Wallace interjects this time, his gaze directed pointedly at a suddenly very pale Veronica.

How could he have forgotten that Logan was more to her than just his best friend? He was, after all, also her ex-boyfriend. It had been clear enough on their first (second-chance) date that things hadn't ended well between them. He didn't know (or want) details. It just would take some time to accept the fact that his best friend and girlfriend wouldn't be spending much time together.

"No, we can go for a bit, if you want," Veronica offers. "No reason why I should ruin the fun for everyone."

"Nah, we just won't go. There'll be so many people there, he won't even notice if we're not there."

Just then, a sound of raucous laughter erupts from an 09'er-filled table across the quad.

"Excuse me," Veronica says suddenly, standing up from the table.

He moves to follow her (like a good boyfriend should), but Wallace stills him with a hand on his shoulder. "I've got it, man. But thanks, for all the Prom stuff.

"Yeah, no problem."

He knows that Wallace is thanking him for more than just arranging everything. Really, it was for not pushing the Logan issue.

A part of him resents the fact that Wallace clearly knows more about his girlfriend than he does. Then again, Logan knows things about him (joint experiences of juvenile stupidity, moments of insecurity) that he's never shared with Veronica.

And judging from how quickly Wallace rushed to stop him from following Veronica, he can't help but wonder if he even wants to know.

\\ can't bear to face the truth \\

"Dude, you missed a hell of a party on Saturday," Logan says one weekday afternoon, as he jabs intently at the PS2 controller in his hands. "And now you're dead. Again. Man, you suck at this game."

"Yeah, it's been awhile since I played."

"That much is obvious," his friend snarks with a smirk.

"I'm sorry about the party, man. You know I'm back with Veronica. And I don't know what happened between you two, but she didn't feel comfortable coming over here."

"I saw you two together at Prom," he notes, taking a long swig from his flask with an unidentifiable look in his eyes. "She looked beautiful."

"Yeah, she did," Duncan agrees, thinking back to when he first saw her that night. Her gown was a pale pink material (although he already knew that from his family's seamstress), and Wallace's mother had done a wonderful job with her hair and makeup. Her hair was styled in curling waves that cascaded past her shoulders. She had been beautiful. (and had evoked memories of happier times)

"I wish we could have made it to your party – one of the things I miss, now that we're back together, is our foursome. Don't get me wrong – I love the fact that we're back together again. Things are more or less how they used to be. But one of the few changes in Veronica since Lilly died is the fact that she just isn't comfortable spending time with you." Duncan knows that Veronica's unease around Logan goes deeper than that, but he sees no point in making it clear just how little Veronica wants to have to do with his best friend.

"She 'isn't comfortable'?" Logan laughs bitterly. "More like she hates me, dude."

"Look, I don't know what happened between you two," Duncan begins uncomfortable, not really sure he wants to be having this conversation with Logan. "But I'm sure she doesn't hate you. You've been her friend for years. It's just that the wounds from your break-up are still fresh."

"I was her friend for years," he concedes, "until I went all jackass on her after Lilly died. Why shouldn't she hate me?"

"Logan –" Duncan begins, but his friend cuts him off.

"No, I was an absolute asshole towards the end there. Most mornings I half-expect to wake looking into the sights of her dad's shot gun, or to be greeted by the PCH'ers when I get to school, so I can be taped to the flagpole."

"It can't be that bad," Duncan tries. "Veronica doesn't hate anyone."

"You have met Veronica, right?" Logansnarks. "You just said that she hasn't changed much since Lilly died. Honestly, if you believe that, you don't know her at all. Before Lilly died, Veronica was naïve and innocent. Then, I fed her to the wolves because I was mad, because I wanted to shift the blame from myself to her –"

"But you didn't kill her," Duncan interrupts, wanting desperately to change the subject. (to anything other than how much Logan knows about his girlfriend) "It's not your fault."

Logan, however, would have none of that. "If it weren't for me, Lilly'd never have met my wonderfully libidinous and violent father." He pauses to take another gulp from his flash. "Point is, Veronica isn't the innocent and naïve girl you once dated. We've stolen that from her, and because of what I did to her, she's running scared. I hurt her, and I regret that every day, but I can't stand by and watch as another person I love is destroyed."

"You – you love her?" Duncan asks in surprise. Honestly, he should have realized that fact. He'd attributed Logan's change in personality after his dad's arrest to just that – his feelings of unbelief and betrayal associated with the revelations regarding Aaron Echolls and Lillian Kane.

He (obviously) hadn't even considered the Veronica-factor.

"Look, man, I'm not going to get in your way. She's happy with you – and safer than she was with me. Shit, look what happened to her a few weeks ago." He pauses again, a brooding look on his expressive features. "Just don't think of her as the same Veronica that you dated before. She understands the harsh reality of life now and has experienced a lot of it first hand, so her naïveté is gone. She's not the innocent she once was too. I mean, she has had sex, and –"

"She told you about that?" Duncan questions, blushing.

Logan nods. "Don't worry though, she accused me first."

"Still – she doesn't remember any of that," Duncan argues. "It doesn't mean that she's not innocent, if she doesn't have the memories."

Logan's uncharacteristic silence pulls Duncan's gaze away from the plasma TV. He sees the guilty expression on his best friend's face and realizes something that he had never wanted to know. (Sex. Logan-Veronica sex. No. No. No. No. No.)

"You didn't." It's more a statement of denial than an argument of fact. And he realizes just how out of touch he's been with the woman he claims to love.

"I loved her, do still love her," Loganoffers as means of explanation. "Look, man, I never meant for you to find out about this – especially not like this. I just – I want you to realize that she's not the girl she was before. She's grown up, changed – just like you have. If I can't have her, I want her to be happy. And she's happy with you, I know it. It's just – you need to know that she isn't the simple little girl she once was."

By this point, Duncan is reeling from everything that Logan's told him in the past ten minutes. (sex!) He'd been so sure that he knew Veronica, understood Veronica, and now he needs to face the revelation that maybe he doesn't know her at all.

\\ now everything's about to fall apart \\

"What are you doing next weekend?" Duncan asks, as he sits down at lunch with his freshly delivered pizza.

"Well, a few days ago, I met these really cute college frat boys – " Veronica begins, a teasing smile on her face. Then, suddenly, her smile droops and she cuts herself off. "Nothing, really. Why?"

Duncan's thrown off-guard by her sudden change in disposition. Veronica's more sarcastic side is one other thing about her that is new, a part of her that's developed in the past months. He likes that side of her well-enough, he supposes, but sometimes she says the silliest things. For instance, why should she want to hang out with college frat boys in the first place?

"I was talking with my parents," he begins, his eyes vacillating between his girlfriend and the crowd that surrounds them, as he tries to discreetly determine what caused her to cut off her (sarcastic) response.

Then he sees what she probably saw (or something similar, anyhow). Logan (fucking Logan) has his arm around Serena, Hayley on his lap, and Rana leaning over one shoulder. (fucking stupid asshole)

Maybe (just maybe) Veronica was only upset by the fact that the guy she slept with (shit, fuck, no, he didn't want to think about that) was all over not one but three easy 09'er girls. It's just further evidence that she made a mistake (please, yes, maybe) in sleeping with him in the first place.

"I was talking to my parents," he repeats, trying desperately to clear his mind. (thoughts of Logan-Veronica sex running through his head) "They suggested that maybe we head up to the lake cabin one weekend, just to get away from Neptune and everything. Do you think your dad would mind?"

"Yeah," Veronica replies automatically, her attention not focused on him. (focusing on fucking stupid jackass Logan)

"I mean, what?" she asks, after a moment, tearing her eyes away from her ex-boyfriend (ex-lover) to focus on him, a (fake) smile on her features.

"I was thinking that maybe, next weekend, we could head up to my parents' lake house, just to spend some time together. Celebrate finals being over, the beginning of summer, and just … us, I guess," he repeats, adding details in for clarification.

Her smile doesn't falter (not that it was sincere to begin with), as she nods in response. "I think I'd like that, Duncan."

Somehow he doubts that (because his name isn't Logan fucking Echolls), and he wonders how he can possibly know (ever, again) if she's telling him the truth. (or is she just saying what she thinks he wants to hear?)

He wants her (he loves her), and she'll love him (with time) again.

But Duncan doesn't know how much longer he can stand this (gnawing, biting) pain that's tearing at his insides each time he sees his girlfriend look at him. (will she ever love him like that?)

Well, fuck.

\\ i say never trust anyone \\

After sharing a picnic lunch on the beach under the brightly shining stars, Veronica and Duncan are relaxing on top of a blanket he'd brought for the occasion. Cuddling with the woman he loves on the beach is (or at least should be) the perfect end to their romantic evening, but the silence only makes the voices in Duncan's head speak up louder than before.

He wonders how she can possibly date him when she probably (almost definitely) still has feelings for Logan. (maybe she even loves him) He thinks he knows Veronica Mars well enough to know that she wouldn't sleep with someone without having some sort of deep feelings for him. (unless she's changed more than he can even begin to imagine over the past twenty months)

Is he just second-best? The guy that'll love her when the man that has her heart won't have her?

When he asked her to dinner a few weeks back, he'd wanted to reclaim what they once shared, and he had thought Veronica had felt the same way. Maybe she does (maybe), but he doesn't know what to think of her decision to date him without resolving her feelings for Logan.

Then again, he's hardly one to talk. He hadn't ever resolved his feelings for her (thanks for that, Mom), and he'd still tried to date Meg a few months ago. He knows that he hurt Meg when he broke up with her, and the fact that he's back together with Veronica now probably isn't helping things either.

He didn't want to hurt her (she doesn't deserve that), but he went after her because dating Veronica was not an option. (sleeping with one's thought-to-be-sister was more than enough already) Was it true that Veronica was simply with him because Logan was no longer an option?

"I love you," he whispers softly into her ear, as she drowsily snuggles further into his embrace.

"Love you too, Logan," she murmurs unconsciously in return, causing his heart to break. (was that a knife in his back or a spear through his heart?)

Veronica still loves him (fucking Logan), but she's dating him because Logan pushed her away. (fucking coward)

As Duncan looks up at the stars shining brightly in the night sky, he wonders what he should do.

Does he even belong with Veronica anymore? He's confident in the fact that Veronica will fall back in love with him, over time. Time heals all wounds (or so they say), and it would then (logically) remove her aforementioned feelings for Logan as well.

But if she can't be honest with him about her feelings for Logan, what does that say about her? About him? And (most importantly) about them?

\\ i won't be the one who's going to let you down \\

"Do you know why I asked you out, a few weeks ago?" Duncan asks Veronica over a week later, seemingly out of the blue, after picking her up for their trip to the lake house.

"Because you love me?" she guesses, a playful smile on her face.

"That obvious, am I?" he queries. "No, seriously, that was a part of it, but, really, I just felt that we had left a lot of things unresolved … last time. I mean, I loved you – do still love you, and the fact that we could finally be together again, it made me want to get everything back to how it used to be."

"I want that too," she agrees, softly.

"But, sometimes, I wonder if things can ever get back to how they used to be," he continues, turning the steering wheel to the left.

"What – what do you mean?" she wonders hesitantly.

"I mean, Lilly's gone – she won't ever be coming back. So, already, it'll be impossible to get things back to how they used to be. I miss my sister – so much it hurts, sometimes – but I have to accept that some things just can't get back to how they once were."

He steals a glance over at Veronica and is pleased to see that (for once) he's said something that she wasn't expecting.

"Also, you – you've changed. You're not the same Veronica that you were before, when we dated last time. And I'm not the person I was then either."

"Are – are you breaking up with me?" Her words are broken, her voice trembling, and Duncan wonders why she's getting so emotional. (he knows that it's Logan she really wants)

He shifts his vehicle into park, and turns to look at (still-technically) his girlfriend

"I don't know exactly how things ended between you and Logan, but I know that he still loves you – and I'm willing to bet that you have feelings for him too.

"Duncan – " Veronica begins, but he cuts her off, not wanting to hear any of her apologies.

"If you can sit there, in front of me, in front of him and his house, and tell me that you don't have any romantic feelings for him, I'll get back on the road, and we can spend a wonderful weekend at the lake. But if you do still love him or … whatever, you should get out of this car and go talk to him, before I change my mind."

She remains motionless for a (too-long) moment, before she reaches to unbuckle her seatbelt. Then she looks over at him, her warring emotions plain on her face.

"Thanks," she says finally, kissing him on the cheek. "You didn't have to tell me that, Duncan. You're a good friend – to both of us."

(fucking) Friendship. (fucking) Fantastic.

She unbuckles her seatbelt and eases out of the SUV, carrying her duffel bag in one hand. Duncan watches her walk (slowly, carefully, hesitantly) through the open gate and to Logan's front door. She rings the bell and looks around, as if she's planning out escape routes, should the need arise.

Then he opens the door, and his surprise at having her standing there is apparent. He reaches out one hand (cautiously), as if he's afraid that she's only a mirage that will disappear before his very eyes.

But she's real, and she's there (with him), and he's pulling her closer, wrapping her up in a tight hug, as if he'll never be able to let her go again.

Duncan knows instinctively that (in the end) his friends will be okay. They'll have their issues (like anyone), but he knows that neither will give up on the other so easily again. (for once, their stubbornness isn't such a bad thing) They've faced harder problems in the past, but now that they know what it feels like to lose the one they love, they won't be giving up without a fight.

\\ takes a little time in making up her mind \\

And so Duncan drives, the windows in his SUV open wide, allowing the warm summer breeze to circulate around him.

He pulls to a stop in front of a medium-sized mansion in the 90909 zip code and hopes that he'll be as lucky as Logan and Veronica were.

Breathing deeply, he makes his way towards the front door and presses the doorbell.

"Hello, Mrs. Manning. Is Meg available?"

\\ the trick is to keep breathing \\


Thanks so much to everyone for their patience! I know I've been slow about getting this last part posted, but I haven't had the time to update two fanfic sites at once until now. I've got a number of other new fics posted up tonight (some L/V, some other characters and pairings), and otherwise, I always post to my fanfic journal when I write any new pieces. (the link is in my profile)

I've been "working" on an epilogue for this piece for awhile now, but it's rather stalled, sad to say. However, if it does ever get itself written, I'll be sure to post that up here ASAP.

Thanks so much for reading, and special thanks to those who have commented so far. (reminding me that I still hadn't posted the 3rd part!) Feedback and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated:-)