Summary: What if Keith had died in the middle of the first season? Would that leave Veronica all alone? LoVe.
Warnings: A choicy word here or there, nothing major. Oh, apart of the death of a main character of course, but only right in the beginning.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Veronica Mars. Just burrowing them for my own little pleasure.
Author's Note: This is yet another AU that kicks off sometime after 'An Echolls Family Christmas'.
Chapter 1: Getting The News
If someone who'd have told me this morning that I'd end up falling asleep in Logan Echolls' arms, I would have smiled brightly and started to carefully back away, my hand slipping into my bag for my tazer. As soon as I would have been safely away from the clearly mad person, I'd have yanked out my cell phone and placed a call to the nice men in white to come this instantly and get this lunatic off the streets. Really. No kidding here. I mean, Logan and I can't even be in the same radius of ten yards without us being at each other throats. That's how it is between archenemies and there's no doubt whatsoever about us being that.
But I see that I'm moving a bit fast, so perhaps I better start at the beginning. First of all though I should probably explain where we are here, because if you don't understand where I come from, you won't understand who I am.
Okay, so this is Neptune, a rather small little town in California, perhaps two hours away from LA. I go to Neptune High, also known as a circle of hell, where you'll find two types of people: One, you have the ones who are someone, or rather said whose parents are someone in this world and therefore, they have all the money in the world behind them. And yes, the bunch is as snobbish as it sounds like. Then you have the people whose parents are working for the billionaires and as you naturally don't get much of an allowance and your chance of getting into a good college depends on a scholarship and what little else you'll earn until then, even you work for them already.
Middleclass? Non-existent in Neptune.
So of course, there's this always ragging war between the have and not haves here in Neptune and most starkly observable right here in Neptune High.
Me? I'm definitely part of the not-haves, just that my after school job is slightly different than most others of my classmates. I work for a P.I. Actually, I work for my dad, but he is the P.I. and he very grudgingly lets me takes pictures for his cases once in a while, giving me a relief from my desk duty. What he doesn't know, or at least silently tolerates while acting like he doesn't know is that I take on some of the smaller cases when he's too busy. I do want to go to Stanford, you know, so the more money I earn, the better and you can earn better with a little P.I. work than with a job as a waitress. Plus, lately, I've gotten quite a reputation to solve little mysteries for my school mates – if they have enough cash, which is almost never an issue.
Yep, I'm quite the busy bee.
Ah, here we are: Neptune High lunch area. Perfect demonstration object of class separation. The tables down on the ground in the windy part of the yard, a lot of them in the bright sun? Those are for the unfortunate kids not born in the distinct 90909 post zip code where all the rich and famous live. Also fondly known as the 09ers. The tables on the higher grounds, closer to the buildings and with lots of shadow provided? Yep, that's where the 09ers usually have their lunch.
Now see that table between the rich and poor, with a lonely girl sitting at it?
That's me. And no, I don't sit there because I'm the only one representing the non existent middleclass. I sit there because I'm that girl who everyone hates, with no friends but a reputation that would make Mata Hari blush. Okay, okay, I do overdo it here a bit, perhaps.
Fact is that since beginning of this school year things look a lot better. For one, usually, I'm not eating alone anymore, because, get that, I actually do have a friend again. That hadn't been my goal when I cut down Wallace Fennel from the flagpole, where the PCHer, the local motor bike gang, had tagged him to in revenge for him having a part in getting two of their members arrested. My goal had been to get through yet another year of high school without much trouble and that included not daring to trust someone. Wallace thought so differently and before I knew it, I had a friend again.
And you know what?
It feels damn good.
Unfortunately though, Wallace isn't at school today as he had gotten a bad case of flue. Two days now without my very own BFF and already I feel myself giving in a little into self-pity. Perhaps it's the season, not long after Christmas and New Year, your typically depressing, sunny January. Or perhaps it was that a foolish part of myself had hoped that perhaps, things would be a bit different after the holidays.
I don't know why, but I did.
Of course though, nothing had changed. I'm still the girl that almost everyone hates, mostly though by one Logan Echolls. But as he is something like the unofficial king of the 09ers, all the others follow his example and right now that is to hate and ignore me, unless you can make a good dig against me. Okay, so yeah, Logan actually had yet to make a nasty comment my way since the three days he's back at school, but he still doesn't act as if I actually exist.
It used to be different, you know? There was a time where I and Logan had been friends. I used to sit there, at the prestigious 09er tables. Not because I had the necessary cash to be allowed past the velvet rope of course. The only reason I got a green card was that my best friend happened to be Lilly Kane, daughter of software mogul Jake Kane. Her brother, Duncan Kane, was my boyfriend for a while, that also helped a lot for them tolerating me. And then there was Logan Echolls, Lilly's on and off again boyfriend since junior high, Duncan's best friend since kindergarten. No wonder we got to be friends as well, right? And we were real friends, not some obligatory friends because we both were associated with the Kanes.
But that time is long past. First, Duncan broke up with me without no reason, at least not one he ever told me. And shortly after that, Lilly had been found murdered by her pool. At that time, my dad was the sheriff, so he got to investigate her murder. He had the nerve to suspect Jake Kane of murdering her. Within seven weeks, my dad was run out of the sheriff's department. My mom wanted to move away, not able to live with the loss of prestige and all the nasty comments being thrown our way after that. But Dad wanted to stay here and so did I. We Mars' are not in the habit of running away, even if gets tough. And tough it was. Mom split a couple of weeks later, abandoned us. Perhaps not quite on her own free will, but still, she left us. And as I had decided to stand by my father, I got shunned. Logan, furious with me, launched the word and the attack and within weeks not even the lowest scum at school would risk to be seen with me in fear of drawing the hate his way.
At first I tried to act as if I didn't care about that. Sure, I cried a lot. At that time I hadn't learned yet to build up a wall around myself in order to protect me so it never had taken Logan or one of his 09er buddies long to render me to tears. But still, I tried to live as nothing had changed. So one day I went to a 09er party. Bad idea. Someone handed me a drink, you know, your basic rum-coke with roofie and the next thing I know is that I wake up with my underwear on the floor and hurting
Nice way to loose your virginity, don't you think so too?
I never found out who did it. And I never told my dad. He didn't need to know about it, it wasn't as if he could have done anything. Probably, he would just have blamed himself. But there are only two people to blame: me, for being so stupid to go to Shelley Pomroy's party in the first place and then being even more stupid to drink a drink I didn't know from where it had come – and the bastard that had done that to me. At least, I hope it's only one bastard.
Rumor has it that I did most of the guys present at that party. And since then I managed to do the football, the baseball, the lacrosse and the swimming team I believe. Boy, it's a wonder I can still walk at all.
But it sure taught me to really not care about my so called ex friends anymore. So I embraced my outcast being, cut my hair and grew sarcastic and witty. Now, when Logan or one of his buddies sent a nasty remark my way, I gave it back with the same biting viciousness. Someone wanted to screw with me? Not anymore. First he had to get past my tazer. Someone pulled a prank on me? I pranked back, revenge suddenly a big word in my vocabulary.
And I build up that protective wall so they can't hurt me anymore.
I may have let Wallace in. And there's even some sort of weird friendship going on with Weevil, leader of the PCHers. Yeah, I know. Bad guy. But really, he isn't so bad – for a biker. And yeah, I admit it, there are Meg and Mac, one a former 09er friend, the other a new friend and computer freak. But the wall is still in its place and I have no intentions to let it crumble down. I know I can't afford to.
I know Logan.
As long as he hates me, I'm just not safe.
And the hate may have cooled down over the past few months – but it is still there.
Or that's at least what I've thought.
With a sigh, I pushed my tray away, not really feeling adventurous enough to risk eating the brown something, supposedly to be risotto with chicken. And once again I glanced over to the 09er tables.
Briefly, my eyes met with a pair of brown eyes and hurriedly, I looked away again. The least I could need was for Logan to start his rumors about me stalking Duncan again. Funny thing was that I even had looked at Duncan. Though I did wonder if his parents ever mentioned to him just why Jake had lost it at the Echolls' Christmas party and therefore had left early, dragging his wife behind her. As he acted civilly towards me I guess they didn't. Big surprise. No, I actually had looked at Logan, trying to gauge how he was feeling.
We're enemies now, but still… we were friends once and I've seen the shock on his face when that lunatic stalker had stabbed his father, right in front of his eyes and the eyes of at least a dozen party guests. If my dad hadn't intervened, his father would probably be dead now and not recovering well and, according to the tabloids, already back at home.
Of course the whole thing had been a blast for the tabloids. Not a day had gone by since then where there hadn't come out a new article about Aaron Echolls' apparently many affairs, which one of them having led to the attempt on his life, in his own home, on his own fucking Christmas party. It was disgusting even if it was sadly only common for movie actors and their families to find themselves and their tragedies exploited by the press.
I remembered though just how much Logan hated that part of his life. Many times I had listened to his rant about the paparazzi camped out in front of his home and even more times I witnessed him having his sick jokes with them. And sometimes, I've seen him loose his cool around them and make a scene – which of course had only made a bigger tabloid the next day.
So I could only imagine how he felt right now, especially as his school mates, at least the non 09ers, were only too happy to make their biting comments of their own, drawing pleasure in the fact that for once, Logan was at the other end of being made fun of. I hadn't jumped on that wagon, despite our history. It just wasn't right and I didn't found it in myself to hurt him like that, well aware that he hadn't had any qualms to make digs at my mother leaving and being an alcoholic on top of that time and time again.
But that's the difference between us. He's a jackass. While I just have the reputation to be a bitch.
If anyone would have ask me why exactly I kept looking over at Logan, I'd have told him that I just wanted to see if he'd recovered enough for me to go to him and demand the money I've won at the poker night that fateful evening. After all, I didn't want to seem heartless and only after money. And actually, it wasn't that untrue. I did want that money, I had won it fair and square after all. But it wasn't just that.
What else it was, I rather did not want to dwell about though.
Suddenly, I grew aware that the crowd around me had quieted down considerably. Curious, I looked up. It didn't take long to find the reason for the sudden refocus in the lunch area. There was vice principal Clemmons, followed by Sheriff Don Lamb. Yep, that would explain it. Though we've grown used to random locker searches, the school's rather useless attempt to fight against the augmenting consume of drugs by underage kids, we do not see Clemmons and the sheriff in the lunch break often. Especially not if Lamb even brought two more of his deputies with him.
Arching an eyebrow, I watched them walking over the school yard, thinking about why Lamb could be here with that much reinforcement. I hadn't heard anything at all and I tend to learn of planned visits of the school by the sheriff's department ahead of most everyone else, even Clemmons. It has its uses to be the daughter of the ex-sheriff and now local P.I.
They came closer and suddenly, I felt unease settling down in my stomach. It looked as if they were heading towards me. Frowning, I met Lamb's eyes, full of determination but also – reluctance? It's no secret that the sheriff and I don't have the best of relationships. I think he's an idiot and I do blame him for my dad getting fired. I'm pretty sure he leaked the video of Lilly's crime scene that appeared in the net six weeks after her murder and for which Dad took the fall and had to go. And there's the thing of him laughing at me when I've come in to report the rape, his only advise for me to 'go see the wizard'. Yeah, yeah I think it's safe to say that I hate him. Which meant that I used every opportunity to ridicule him and show that he's an incompetent fool. Not a very hard job, believe me. So yeah, of course he hates me back. And each time he thinks he has something against me, he's gleeful like a little boy before Christmas.
Certainly not reluctant.
The uneasy feeling growing in my stomach, I looked at his deputies. There was Sack, who avoided looking at me, solemn face in place. But it was only until I looked at the second deputy and recognized him that my heart stopped and I suddenly knew why they were here.
Sam Hunter. My dad's partner for eight years before dad became the sheriff. Then his right hand, second in command. Now damned to desk duty and archive filing because Lamb didn't trust him to be his man. Which was probably his only smart conclusion ever. Sam had and always would stand by my father.
And I knew.
And God, I wished I didn't. I didn't want to hear it. Didn't want it to be true. But I was a cop's daughter and so I knew that there was no escape. I needed to hear it, needed to let them tell me exactly what had happened for my world to shatter to a billion little shards again. Only worse this time.
I gulped and tried to speak. Failing, I shook my head and tried again. "Which one?" I simply asked.
I saw that Clemmons looked from me to the sheriff, frowning. I bet Lamb hadn't told him just why he so urgently needed to see me that there was no time for another student to come fetch me and bring me to Clemmons' office. This was just like him, to come give me such news in front of the whole school.
Neither of them answered though, so, grinding my teeth, I forced myself to glare up at Lamb. "Which one?" I repeated, tensely.
"Ronica," Sam said softly at that moment, stepping forward. One look into his face and I had my answer.
I closed my eyes, unable to see his pain and his regret any longer. Deep down I had known that it had to be my dad, I just had hoped... Otherwise, Dad would have been here now. But he wasn't. And he would never be again.
A sob broke out of me but I held a tight grip on myself. I wouldn't loose it, not here, not in front of the whole school, not in front of Lamb. I'd rather die to give Lamb that satisfaction.
"How?" I instead demanded to know.
"Ronica, kitten, you really…"
My head snapped up to stare intently at Lamb. "How," I repeated, interrupting Sam's attempts to console me. I couldn't afford that, not now, perhaps never. If he so much as touched me, I knew I wouldn't be able to hold the breakdown off any longer. And I couldn't. Not here. Not with all these people hating me watching me.
Perhaps Lamb suddenly realized just what he had done by insisting on giving me such news in public, but his expression suddenly softened, grew gentle. I couldn't support it. I needed him to stay the ass he is. I needed to hate him and be able to concentrate on my hate for him. "How," I repeated for a third time and dimly, I was aware that my voice had risen.
"He was shot," Lamb finally told me straight out.
I could hear gasps from around me, even one from Clemmons I think. My fingernails dug deeply into my palms, so hard I was fisting my hands. They draw blood, but I didn't notice, didn't care. My breath was coming quicker now and I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it back much longer. That I needed to get out of here and if it was only around the corner. But first there was still something I needed to know.
There was again a slight pause, but this time, I just glared at Lamb. With a sigh, he shook his head. "Right in front of his office," he answered reluctantly.
I stored that information away for later, but it wasn't what I wanted to know. "No. Where?" I asked again, shaking my head once before fixing my eyes back onto Lamb.
"Ronica, no, don't do this to yourself," Sam protested, stepping even closer towards me.
Quickly I got up, putting some distance between me and Sam and faced Lamb once again. "Where?"
Damn it, had I really to repeat every question twice or even more times?
Lamb hesitated only a moment, before he shrugged, ignoring the glares he got from his deputies. "Into his back from across the street," he finally answered me. And then more gently. "He died on the spot."
So Dad never had a chance.
I chocked and I knew my time was up. I couldn't hold it back any longer. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw Sam stepping towards me, saw in his eyes that he wanted to take me into his arms. No.
No, no, no, no!
I loved Sam, but that was the least I could need now. His arms feeling so much like my dad's but not anything like him at the same time. I couldn't. So I kept shaking my head, backing away from Sam, from Lamb, from Sacks who still couldn't look at me and from Clemmons and his pitiful, solemn but also angry face. My vision blurred and I had every intention to turn and bail out of there the fast I could. Away, just away. But of course, life once again didn't go how I wanted it to. Instead, I suddenly stumbled. No idea over what. I didn't even try to catch the fall. For all I cared I could hit my head and die, if I was lucky enough.
But someone caught me. And when I tried to push away from the arms that had caught me, I found myself unable to as the same arms now hugged me, drawing me against a strong chest. A chest and arms that carried a familiarity I recognized immediately, despite not having felt it in over a year and not expecting to ever feel it again.
I did the only thing I could do at that time. I lashed out at him, trying to free myself. But his arms wouldn't bulge, not letting go of me. So I started to hammer my fists against his chest as sobs started to break out of me. He let me, didn't wince one, his arms only holding me closer, tighter.
He said nothing, at least not to me. He did have something to say to Lamb though, and everyone else who was watching the real life drama unfold right in front of their eyes.
And a moment later, his voice hard and angry like I've only heard it once, after Lilly's death, spoke again. "Go! You've done enough, now get the fuck away from her. Everyone. Get. Lost."
I didn't see if his barking order was being followed. By that time, the truth and reality of what had happened hit me full frontal.
My dad was gone. My dad was dead. Killed, cowardly from behind.
With that heartbroken whisper, I stopped fighting against Logan. I gave up, crumpled down. Suddenly, I was holding on to him for dear life. And his arms continued to hold me as I fell apart in his arms.
I don't remember much of the rest of that day. At some point I was aware that Logan was driving me away from school. The next moment I know, Back-Up is whining, pressing his body against me as I bury my head into his neck, crying uncontrollably.
Mostly, I remember Logan. That he has been there, never leaving me alone. Holding me. His hands stroking over my back, my hair, my arms. His voice whispering the same soft words time and time again to me. And finally, me giving in to the exhaustion and letting sleep take over while I'm lying in Logan's arms, on his bed, and once again, his soft words washed over me for a last time, following me into my sleep.
"You're not alone."
(Author's Note: Well, if you want me to. I know it's basically a bad idea to begin yet another story... and I fought off this particular bunny for half a year now. But after finally seeing 'Not Pictured' I was assaulted yet again with this bunny, worse than before (not to forget thanks to a certain noticable pushing of one certain Flynn as well). I'm not a strong person, not there, so I succumbed today and wrote it down. Hope you'll like it. It will get more cheerful with time, don't worry. For now though it needs to be sad and I do hope that you could enjoy it anyway.)