Title:"Angry no more"
Summary: Set at the very end of the episode "One Angry Veronica"
Called to jury duty over Christmas break, Veronica must sit on a difficult, polarizing case against a pair of affluent 09'er defendants accused of assaulting a young Hispanic woman.
Meanwhile, when the Aaron Echolls/Lilly Kane sex tapes go missing from the police station evidence room, Mayor Woody Goodman turns to Keith to investigate their disappearance.
After successfully resolving both of their "cases" of the week, Veronica has time to brood over the absence of Wallace from her life, as both she and her dad try to make it through New Year's.
Author's note: I wrote this story after watching this episode of one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Also, I don't think the relationship between Veronica and Wallace is explored enough. This is my humble attempt to correct that little oversight. I hope that you enjoy it.
Who says Cornish game hens don't make for a festive holiday meal? And, whod'a thunk it in the first place? Me, that's who. Veronica Mars, tough talkin' teenager, amateur private eye, and recent successful jury foreperson, was completely laid low by the sight of these cute birds at the store while shopping for something special to cook for my dad and me on New Year's Eve. Since I doubted very much whether my overprotective father would agree to taking me bar-hopping to celebrate the start of another year as a sort of father-daughter bonding ritual, I decided to make us something special and new by hitting the local Neptune supermarket after leaving the courthouse. And, once I found my hens, well … I was lost forever.
Of course, once he got home, father dearest just had to mock my choice of meat for dinner (and people wonder where I get my sparkling wit!), before tearing into more than one of the sweet little birds I'd bought and lovingly cooked (for the first time, mind you!).
And even though our conversation was lively and filled with laughter, there was an undertone of… I don't know… 'unsettledness' in the air. It had been a hard year for both of us, both taking hits in the heart in some of the most painful ways anyone can imagine.
And, of course, barely surviving almost being murdered together was just the icing on the proverbial cake.
My strong, cynical former cop/private eye/dad, who never - as a rule - placed much stock in holidays (besides my birthday, that is), was worried about me, I could tell. And his concern seemed to grow right around the time my best friend, Wallace Frennel, left town, and basically dropped out of contact with me after sharing some not-so-pleasant feelings with his supposed BFF. About not understanding what he was going through with his dad's sudden appearance in his life, and about not being as supportive of him as I should have been.
Guilty on all counts, Your Honor.
Closing my eyes and sighing with the weight of my heavy thoughts, I paused, straightened in my chair, and gave up trying to quiet my troubled soul…finally allowing the bad emotions, held back in my typical tough Veronica Mars fashion, to flow unchecked. I can still remember the look of hurt in his eyes the last time I saw him before he stormed away. From his Mom and family. From school. Even from Neptune.
I felt my dad's eyes on me, the sudden loneliness of not having my best friend here with me, not being OK with him, tightening my throat. My eyes still closed, I felt his hand on my arm from across the table as he leaned closer to me.
"Why don't you grab the rest of the ice cream and head on over to the couch, honey, while I clean up in here?" he whispered, his voice full of worry. He'd been asking me every day whether I'd heard from Wallace and, seeing how much harder it was becoming for me to answer no, stopped asking as often as he had before. I suspect he'd also begun, without telling me, to check on Wallace's whereabouts out of worry – both for Wallace, and for me. My overprotective, loving dad – who'd turn over every rock on the planet if necessary if that's what stood between me and being happy – knew, probably better than I did, how much Wallace's friendship meant to me. Of course, he wouldn't have let things get as bad as they'd gotten between Wallace and I before he left. Some detective I am. Some friend.
I slowly opened my eyes, not wanting to let the tears I knew were close in coming to start, and quickly nodded to him as I got up from the table and turned away to head for the freezer and the pint of Chunky Monkey he'd gotten for me earlier in the week, when the jury summons for me had come in the mail. I grabbed it and a spoon, and brushed past him, heading for the couch and the remote to see what was on TV. As I passed him, he reached out and quickly brushed his fingers through my hair – a gesture that always calmed and relaxed me. I glanced back at him over my shoulder, giving him a smile in gratitude, and threw myself on the couch. After a little while, Dad joined me once he'd finished cleaning up the kitchen and putting the leftovers away. I'd found an old detective movie on a 'classics' channel after finishing the rest of the ice cream, and sat up when he plopped down on the couch next to me. I'd gotten very comfortable with a pillow under my head, which dad now placed in his lap while guiding my head back down onto it.
I glanced up at him to see one of his fatherly grins on his face, and I returned it. Back when Mom was still around, I'd often gone to sleep in just this way many times growing up, Dad carrying me to bed after falling asleep cuddled up in either of their laps. It had been quite a while since the last time, in the days and nights after Mom had left for good. It had been hard for me to get to sleep sometimes, and Dad, on top of everything else happening in our lives at the time with him working so much, Mom gone, his struggles at the sheriff's office, and my grief over losing Lily after her murder, always made sure he was close by during my bouts of insomnia.
Would have definitely lost my mind during those days if it weren't for him, that's for sure. That's not to say I'm exactly sane now. I mean, who in her right mind would ignore her best friend's problems and basically take him for granted when he really needed a friend?
I felt his fingers slowly stroke my hair again, as he did earlier in the kitchen, and I involuntarily sighed as I tried to continue watching the program on the TV. If I were a cat, I suppose I would have been purring loudly by then. My troubled heart and stressed-out body slowly started to finally relax, and I let go of my guilt-ridden thoughts, fighting to stay awake to find out if the person in the who-done-it on TV actually did it or not. Sometime during the evening, I heard my dad's stomach grumble and chuckled, moving away from the ticklish fingers I sensed coming my way in retribution.
"Still hungry, dad – the game birds weren't filling enough?" I asked him after I was reasonably sure I had nothing more to fear from his tickling hands.
"Apparently not, sweetie," he said. I kinda skipped lunch today, now that I think of it."
"Dad…" I began to chastise him. He had a bad habit of getting so wrapped up in whatever he happened to be doing during meal times, that he sometimes forgot to stop to eat. I had to constantly stay on him to not forget to eat – quite ironic, since I was reasonably sure it should actually be the other way around between us.
"I know, I know … got tied up doing – something – that I can't quite remember right now …"
"Hmm," I pretended to seriously consider, "poor eating habits and bad memory – not a good sign, pops."
"Let's not get into a discussion about people's habits, young lady – Miss 'ice cream at 10:30PM!'"
"You SAID I could have it, or don't you remember that, either!" I protested with a smile.
"Whatever - just sit up for a minute, smarty pants – I'm going to order a pizza. You want in?"
I groaned in protest, because I'd gotten so comfortable…and didn't want to move an inch.
"Nah, but I may nibble a little if it's OK with you," I told him, finally and reluctantly sitting up so that he could move to the phone in the kitchen.
"So long as your idea of 'nibbling' doesn't involve the whole freakin' thing, that's OK with me," he told me with a wink as he dialed the local pizza joint.
"Hardy har-har …" I answered sleepily, yawning a little. He glanced over at me from across the room.
"Honey, why don't you go on to bed – you've had a long week." he asked me, coming back to the couch.
"It's OK, Dad. I really want to watch the ending of this show, anyway." I sat up again and handed him the pillow, a pleading look on my face. He chuckled, took it and settled it and me in his lap again, and we continued to watch TV while waiting for the pizza.
Another reason, good enough for me, was checking my email and once again not hearing from Wallace, and then trying to sleep with that on my mind. But I didn't tell Dad about that. He'd want to talk about it-and I didn't.
After another half hour or so, with another hour to go before the New Year, I could tell my dad was losing the battle between sleep and staying awake. A couple of times, I snuck glances up at him to see him holding his head in his palm, his eyes closing more and more. I felt so bad for him, because I knew he was trying to stay up to keep me company and watch the new year arrive together. He looked so cute, and tired, though, that I didn't have the heart to let him stay up when I was apparently more awake than him. I nudged his thigh with my hand.
"Dad?" He grumbled something unintelligible, and I tried again, a little louder. Backup looked up at us from the floor. "Sorry, boy," I told him. He placed his head back down on his paws, and I turned back to Dad.
"Why don't you go to bed? You're tired."
He grunted, forcing his eyes open to look down at me. "It's New Year's…and the pizza's coming…"
"I'll get it, and put it in the fridge for you. And, chances are the new year will be as crappy as this one, anyway. Go and get some sleep," I told him, getting up so that he'd be able to move, shooing him towards his room. He nodded once, got up, and turned back to me.
"How about you – are you OK? I'm worried about you …"
"I know, dad. But I'll be fine. Really. I'll wait for the pizza, have a slice while the show ends, and then I'll hit the sack myself. Promise." He studied me for a moment, searching my eyes. I guess he was satisfied with what he saw there, because he smiled, nodded, and yawned mightily in one fell swoop – quite an achievement for someone out on his feet.
"Okay, sweetie – money for the pizza's on the TV, and don't forget to lock up after they've come." He leaned down to kiss me on the top of my head, and I reached up to cup his cheek in my palm for a moment, smiling up at him. He really is the best dad a girl could have.
"You got it, pops. Now, off to bed with you, and no dawdling!" He laughed, reaching down to ruffle my hair before turning to the rear of the apartment where our rooms were.
"Got a resolution for you, Veronica," I heard him say as he moved away down the hall.
"And what, pray tell, would that be?" I heard the teasing tone in his sleepy voice, and grinned in anticipation.
"That you'll try not to be so cynical in the New Year," he said over his shoulder, as the pillow I'd suddenly launched at his head reached him in the short hallway – causing him to turn and grin as he tossed it back to me.
"Have you even met your own daughter?" I asked him in my most sarcastic voice as he blew a kiss at me before closing his bedroom door, chuckling.
I watched his closed door for another moment, missing his presence already – partly because I could again feel the guilt and loneliness swell up towards the surface of my consciousness. I settled the pillow back under my head and settled back down on the couch, trying to regain some of the peace I'd enjoyed earlier. I shouldn't have tried to be so tough around Dad; maybe he would have stayed up with me a little longer. But, that would have been selfish of me, keeping him up just because I didn't want to face any more demons tonight. And, the new, improved, sensitive Veronica Mars wouldn't do such a thing.
See, Wallace … I've learned my lesson. Please come back, so that I can prove it to you. Prove how better a friend I can be.
If you give me another chance.
I've been standing here in the parking lot of the Mars' apartment building for about fifteen minutes now, trying to decide whether I should go up and knock on their door, or wait until I feel stronger about this. I got back to Neptune a few hours ago, the bus from Chicago taking me away from new pain and hurt I'd run into there, and back to the old pains and hurt here that I'd ran from. Mom wouldn't let me out of her arms for about fifteen minutes when I knocked on her/my door to her/my house after catching a cab from the station, my duffle bag still in my hand. My shirt was still drying from all the tears she cried while holding me. I left a few on her blouse myself, I guess, to be honest about it. Better not tell V that – she'd never let me live it down.
Probably lecture me about sidekicks having to control their emotions more, or some such crap.
Why am I back here? Well, the nickel answer is that my mom turned out to be right about the man who is my father on a lot of things. Things I didn't want to hear from her before, but things that I now knew to be true. I resented her, before. Not for the things she said. It was the things she didn't tell me – the lies.
I hate lies.
That's one of the reasons Veronica and I got along so well—that girl's all about truth and justice. Anyway Mom apologized, though, for lying to me. And I apologized for not telling her before I left to let her know where I was going, or how I was once we'd gotten to Chicago. She knew where I'd gone, of course – that didn't have to be said out loud. She also knew that I had to see for myself, learn the things she'd told me were true for myself. She understood that part of me.
Not like Veronica.
Before I left, during our last few conversations…whenever I tried to talk to her about my father, and the things I was feeling, she'd either change the subject, or tell me I should just stay away from someone who'd abandoned me when I was a child. I saw her own issues with her mom in the words she'd used with me, which made me even angrier with her. For someone so smart, she was acting very dumb – when she decided to pay attention and really listen to me, that is.
It made me question the whole idea of our being friends, making it easier to decide to leave so that I could find my own answers. If I couldn't get the truth from my mom, or any attention from my 'best' friend, then I was on my own.
Or so I thought.
From the second I got in the car with my father for the drive to Chicago, my stomach knotted every time I thought about Veronica, and how I'd left things with her. I knew she'd be hurt, upset and frantic at me for just disappearing like that … and not bothering to return any of the tons of emails she sent to me while I was in Chicago didn't help, either. I just… I couldn't talk to her, or Mom, about anything – knowing it would make hurt them more. And a part of me was glad for that. A selfish part of me, wanting to return some of the hurt I'd gotten from them.
I couldn't get away from thinking about her, and Mom, all the time I spent in Chicago. My father tried all sorts of things to distract me – showing me the Windy City, going to a few sports things … introducing me to a few of his friends and coworkers as 'my son", with his arm around my shoulder (like he'd earned the right to do that!), but nothing really worked. From the first minute I'd met Veronica Mars, I somehow knew she'd be an important part of my life. Rescuing me from school bullies was a great start, I grant you, but there was – is – more between us. Despite being from two very different lives, we just 'clicked' from the start. Fell into patterns of friendship like we'd been in them for years.
It's just too hard to walk away from all that, everything we've done and gone through together. She hurt me - it's true. And in leaving, I probably hurt her just as much. The question now is, can we get back to where we were before?
And--would she even want to?
That's what I was trying to figure out. A voice was telling me, though, that I wouldn't find out lurking out here like some stalker at 11:30 on the last day of the year, in someone's parking lot looking up at her windows.
Really hate those stupid voices.
Well, if she didn't want to be friends anymore, best to find out now and deal with it. I shrugged, set my shoulders under my light jacket, and slowly started walking towards her door.
"One half hour to go till the ball comes down on a new year," I thought to myself, as the program credits started to roll. All throughout the show, I kept having this imaginary dialogue with Wallace about the characters, storyline, costumes … everything. We'd discovered early in our friendship a mutual love for old, classic detective movies like "The Maltese Falcon" (Wallace Insisted that Bogart was a real wimp in that one, and kept me in stitches one night watching it on TV in my room as he "home-boyed" the dialogue for me. By the end of the movie, I was laughing so hard…tears were flowing down my face).
Wallace bunked out on my bedroom floor for the first time that night, much to my dad's consternation the next morning. But, he likes Wallace so much that he cut me a little slack—and Wallace has been over many times since.
Mostly on our couch.
"Great," I whispered to myself, stretched out on the couch still waiting for the pizza to arrive. "Now I'm talking with people who aren't even here in the room. My future 'cat-lady' years can't be far off! And now I'm talking to myself on top of it all!" I buried my head in the pillow and groaned, almost missing the soft, hesitant knock at the door.
"Well," I told myself, not caring if I were still talking to myself out loud anymore, "maybe I can find some of my lost marbles by having a healthy conversation with the pizza delivery guy." I got up, stretched out some kinks in my back and shoulders, and padded over to the door…Backup at my heels. He didn't bark as usual when strangers came to the door, but I didn't realize the significance of that until I'd after I'd reached the door.
I opened it, and my breath caught in my throat.
Wallace stood there, and we looked at each other for what felt like five minutes – although it was probably more like five seconds. He looked … uncertain. Glad to see me, I could also tell, from his eyes and smile. But, wary…for some reason.
I wasn't really caring at that moment, because by then I'd regained control of my body, and had flung myself at him, wrapping him in a tight hug … my arms encircling his neck. I felt his strong arms around me, and I buried my face against his neck, whispering his name.
His arms tightened around me, and I thought I felt him struggle to speak. Coulda been because of the bear hug I had him in, but I wasn't letting go – no way, not for a few minutes, at least. If he was still conscious at that point, we would talk. Till then, I wasn't letting go of him.
Keeping one arm around me, I felt his other hand move up to my hair, gently stroking it almost like my dad did earlier. My friend was 'talking' to me again, and with that one gesture, the dam on my emotions finally broke. Before I realized it, I was crying like a child against him—hoping he'd forgiven me.
"Wallace…I'm so sorry…," I managed to choke out between sobs. Good guy that he is, he never loosened his hold on me. If anything, he managed to pull me closer.
The sudden goose bumps I felt had nothing to do with the cool air of the night, but led him to pull his jacket from between us and wrap it around me as far as it would reach, with me still in his arms.
"Shhh… me, too, Veronica. I'm sorry for leaving like I did—"
"I understand – I mean, I know why you left," I whispered in a watery voice. "You had to find answers for yourself, and I wasn't helping any."
He pulled slightly away from me, just enough so that we could see each other's faces. My tears still falling, I slowly raised my eyes to his. The uncertainty I thought I'd seen earlier was gone from his brown eyes, and he studied my face for a moment.
"You do understand, don't you?" he quietly asked.
I slowly nodded, tilting my head in order to try to move some hair, wet from my tears, away from my face. "I didn't at first, but that's only because I wasn't listening to you, and was a very bad friend."
There was a sound behind us, and we both turned to see my dad open the door to his room and look out, his eyebrows rising as he caught sight of Wallace. I smiled at him, and he returned it – then pointed to Wallace, who returned the gesture before returning his hand to my back. My dad nodded once, and then slowly closed his door again. Wallace and I traded grins. We just stood there, neither one still willing to leave the hug, and after a moment, he spoke again.
"Maybe … we can both forgive each other and … start again?" There was a…tenderness in his voice and eyes that I hadn't seen or heard in a long time, and that I'd missed so much.
"That would be good," I told him, before smiling and returning my head to his shoulder. He started slowly moving his hands up and down my back, and I sighed happily against him.
"Can I come in for a while?" he asked.
"Of course – are you hungry? I have some pizza coming …" I told him, reluctantly leaving the warmth of his arms. He grinned, nodding as he guided me back into the apartment, closing the door behind us with his foot.
"So … did you and your dad celebrate the ball dropping?" he asked me as we walked over to the couch and sat down together. He draped an arm across the back of the couch, and I leaned against him as I pulled my legs underneath me. I giggled a little at the choice of words in his question.
"Wallace … that doesn't exactly sound "PC" – have you brought back some Chitown talk wit' ya?" He laughed, and my heart flipped to see his eyes glowing at me.
"Naw, girl … you know we kick it like that in Neptune!" I laughed again and tried to wipe my still-wet eyes. I shivered as he raised a thumb to my cheek, brushing away most of the tears still slowly flowing from my eyes. Why I was still crying, I have no earthly notion – but if it meant being comforted by my best friend, then I wasn't above being a girly-girl for the cause.
"You're still crying, marshmallow girl." I gave him an elbow in his ribs, and another smile.
"Yeah, well… dad turned down my request to carry a night stick again, so…" That's me, using my trademark humor to deflect stuff. Wallace wasn't distracted, though. He's as single-minded as I am sometimes, I'd forgotten.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. I looked at him, and shook my head.
"No. Don't be. You're back where you belong, and that's making me all weepy. Have you been home yet?"
"Yeah. First stop, actually. Mom wet my shirt for 15 minutes, we talked a little, and then I came over here."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Wallace, maybe she needed to have you there tonight. You could have come by tomorrow morning." He smiled a little smile that made me raise my already floating eyebrows.
As happy as I was that he came to see me, there were other people in his life that cared about him.
"Mom wanted me to come over here, 'V'. I thought about doing exactly what you said, but she hoped you'd want to see me tonight."
"Hoped?" I asked him, puzzled.
"Well …actually, that was more me than her. I, um…wasn't sure whether you'd--" He didn't finish, and looked down at his sneakers, placed next to my slippers beside the couch.
Oh, I thought to myself, quietly watching him. So that was the uncertainty I'd seen earlier in his eyes. He hadn't been sure if I'd want to see him after he got back. I laid a hand on his chest, getting his attention.
"Wallace … I'm so glad I was your second stop – tonight." I held his eyes as I spoke, hoping he'd see the sincerity in my eyes.
"Thanks, Veronica". I nodded, replacing my hand with my head on his chest.
"Want to watch some TV with me?"
"Love to." I felt his chin make contact with the top of my head, and I smiled, snuggling even closer to him.
We stayed up for the next two hours, occasionally talking and eating pizza, just reconnecting…until the last of the fireworks outside signaling the arrival of a new year finally faded away to silence.
Still curled up against him, I reached for the remote, turning off the TV. "If you want, you can stay over, Wallace. It's 2AM. Why don't you call your mom?"
"She knows where I am, 'V'", he told me. "And I would love to stay, if your dad won't mind." I shook my head.
"You know he won't, Wallace. Now, you have a choice – the couch, or you can just bunk out on my floor. And we can all have breakfast together in the morning—later, that is."
He grinned down at me…his eyes sparkling with what I was sure would be some kind of zinger.
"Come on, 'V' – won't even offer a brotha' some room in that warm bed you got?" I reached up to shove his head playfully, both of us laughing.
"Now, that – my dad would mind. And, remember – he carries a weapon. Now, shut up and pick before I sic Backup on ya."
"Cruel, Mars … very cruel. Guess I'd best stay out here, then, and watch the fronts of the Mars plantation for you white folk." That last part was said in the middle of a gigantic yawn–what was it, anyway, with guys and their ability to speak while yawning?
"Oh, shut up!" I told him, chuckling as I got up and went to my room to get him extra pillows and a blanket from the hall closet. By the time I'd returned to the living room, he'd placed his cell phone, wallet, and keys on the coffee table, and was double-checking the locks on the front door. I fondly watched him as he finished his inspection, then returned to the couch … letting me spread the blanket over him like a little boy with a grin. I decided not to say anything, except with a roll of my eyes.
When he was settled, I turned off the lamps…leaving the room in darkness except for the white light of the moon through the drapes on the living room windows. I reached down to pick up my slippers, and leaned over to drop a kiss on Wallace's cheek as I turned to head back to my room.
"'Night, Wallace – welcome back, and happy New Year." I whispered to him in the darkness.
"Sweet dreams, Veronica. See you in the morning." I heard him whisper back with what felt like a smile on his face. I stood there for another moment, watching him settle on the couch, and then turned to go to my room with Backup padding along beside me…my own smile lightening my heart.
My cheek tingled from the kiss Veronica had just given me on her way to her room, and I lay there studying the shadows on the ceiling…thinking that the rebuilding of our friendship has gone pretty well. She hadn't been far from me since I'd arrived earlier, and I had to admit—it felt good in a lot of ways. I think she'd missed me as much as I'd missed her. A part of me was afraid that she wouldn't—that she'd just continue on without me. But then I remembered her emails…the pithy comments, small details, and commentary of what was happening back here, mixed in with her asking me over and over to talk to her, just talk to her--every one ending with "Love—Veronica."
I could still smell the strawberry shampoo she uses on my shirt where her head had rested earlier…and I could still feel the warmth and strength of her arms around my neck when we'd hugged. I let myself drift off, wondering what the next year had in store for she and I.
I'd gone away to try to find some answers about my life, and as it turns out--there were more waiting for me, back here in Neptune.