Chapter Four

Duncan comes home to find his girlfriend and his almost, used-to-be best friend asleep on the couch. Veronica's laptop is open on her legs, the screen black from inactivity. Logan's head rests on her shoulder, his body bent at an awkward angle – it's obvious he fell asleep first – and a manila folder lies open on the couch beside him.

Obviously they're working on his case. That doesn't mean that Duncan likes walking in on them together. After all, weren't they at each other's throats when he left?

Which is exactly why he goes back to the entryway, taking care to slam the door and make as much noise on his way back to the living room. As expected, by the time he reenters, Veronica and Logan have split apart, veering towards opposite ends of the couch.

"Duncan," Veronica says, her voice both surprised and groggy. "I thought you were supposed to be in Napa until Friday."

He shrugs. "Guess I just missed you too much." Duncan smiles, though it doesn't quite fit and presses a kiss to her temple. "What are you doing over here?"

"Just working the case," Veronica comments offhandedly. Her movements are slightly awkward as she stands, discretely closing the screen of the laptop. "Listen, Duncan, I don't know if you've heard yet. . ." Veronica pauses, and for the first time she realizes that she hasn't thought about bus crashes or death or guilt since Logan's newest (almost) idiot mission. She hasn't thought of Meg or babies or almost-but-not-quite lies that linger.

"About Meg," Duncan fills in, his voice somber. It's only then that Veronica realizes that, once again, Logan has disappeared. Lucky. "Yeah, we got the call."

"Duncan," Veronica begins slowly, acutely aware of this unstable territory. "What's going to happen to the baby?"

"Don't worry about it." Veronica opens her mouth, but Duncan interrupts. "Listen, I'm exhausted. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" Then, with a gentle kiss, he disappears into his room.

"Trouble in paradise?" Logan quips when he reemerges from the kitchen and finds Veronica staring at Duncan's closed door.

Veronica shakes her head and grabs for her laptop. "I've got to get home, Logan." She takes the folder and stuffs it into his bag. "We'll work on this more tomorrow, okay?"

"Sure," Logan mumbles, but she doesn't hear him. She's already gone.

XxX XxX

Duncan isn't in school the next day. Veronica finds a message on her voicemail after first period.

Sorry, Veronica. Had to deal with the lawyers. Let's have dinner tomorrow.

He doesn't say goodbye, and his phone snaps closed so abruptly, she can hear it in the end of his message.

When she calls him back, his phone rings endless, but he doesn't pick up. When Duncan is with the lawyers, his phone is off.

He's avoiding her.

She's angry and irritated when she leaves her message, three calls later.

Busy tomorrow with someone who answers their phone. See you when I see you.

She thinks of Meg and the baby and everything that must be on his mind and she's more irritated, more angry, but most of all, a lot more guilty.

She watches Wallace from across the quad, laughing and smiling, and she wonders how she didn't notice sooner. He's happy there, away from her and the drama and chaos that comes from knowing her.

Two years ago, he would've hated her.

A year ago, she doesn't know what she would've done without him.

She's beginning to realize that she's never known anything about real friendship.

Lilly used her; Lilly betrayed her.

She used Mac; she betrayed Meg.

She used Wallace; she was never there for Wallace.

Wallace was always there for her.

Has she ever really been someone's friend? Veronica wonders if she even knows how.

XxXXxX

Logan is already in the bathroom when she gets there, minutes after the bell rings and looking more tattered than usual.

"Do you know where Duncan is?" she asks him without preamble. "Really?"

Four months ago, he would've taunted her with those seven words, with the sick-sad truth of her relationship with Duncan. But today... well, even Logan has a limit, and he doesn't hate her enough anymore to want to see her cry. "He said something about the lawyers," Logan tells her. "But..."

"What?" she urges, too quickly. She's desperate, and he doesn't want to think about why that makes him feel like he's just taken a blow to the stomach.

"He was on the phone with his parents last night. He's louder than he realizes sometimes."

"What did he say?"

"They were just talking about the baby." She doesn't think he sees her flinch, but she's wrong. "His parents have three P.I.s watching Meg's parents. With what Duncan knows about her sister, they're hoping they can overpower his epilepsy with her parent's abuse. Not to mention the Kane fortune. It's not like Duncan would be raising that kid anyway."

Veronica doesn't realize that she's swaying until Logan's hand is on her elbow. "Are you okay?" He helps her to the counter perching her against it before he rifles through his pockets. "What have you eaten today?"

She shakes her head. "Now you sound like my father."

His eyes darken momentarily, and, when the look passes, Veronica wonders if she imagined it.

He hands her a package of a Skittles, half empty, rolled closed. "I don't feel like driving you to the hospital because you passed out and hit your head on the trash can. And you don't want me to leave you passed out on the bathroom floor."

She smiles at him, but it's weak and lopsided. "You're not that much of a bitch, Logan."

"Exactly, Veronica," he tells her. "I'm not your bitch. I'd be gone before you hit the ground." She puts a few Skittles in her mouth and shakes her head softly. "Look, you're lips aren't purple anymore."

"Don't stare at my lips, Logan." In her head, the comment is light and sarcastic, but it falls flat and awkward from her tongue.

He tries for a smile but it doesn't quite reach. With stumbling motions, he realizes that his hands are on her knees, and quickly steps back, ignoring the lingering déjà-vu from their first kiss.

The moment passes, though it feels like it takes hours.

"Do you think you can stand up again?" he asks her, his eyes on the tiles so he can pretend that he doesn't still feel her bare skin beneath his palms.

"I think I've got it." She pulls herself down, then looks around the room as if there might be more to see. "Let's get out of here," she tells him.

"Why, Veronica, how very delinquent of you!" he quips. "I didn't know you still had it in you."

"I left my laptop at home," she tells him, as if that's reason enough. "And I just... don't want to be here anymore."

"Welcome to everyone else's reality." But when she moves for the door, he's following her.

When they pass the attendance office, Veronica catches a glimpse of Duncan at the sign in board. She turns away before he catches her eye but doesn't stop moving.

When Duncan gets out of the office, he sees Veronica climbing into the passenger side of Logan's Xterra.

And when her eyes fall on him, he'd swear he saw her smile.