Title: The layers of a Marshmallow

Author: Mooncat

Summary: Wallace's quest to get one Veronica Mars.

Characters/Pairing: Wallace's POV, ensemble, LoVe

Rating: K+

Warnings: Nothing above a choosy word here or there.

Spoilers: Season 1&2

Disclaimer: I do not own Veronica Mars, just burrowing the characters.

Copyright: Sarah Diaz 2006

The Layers Of A Marshmallow

Stoic, Wallace waited until the girl finished cutting him free from that damn flagpole, all the time wondering why she did it in the first place. He may have been new to this school, Neptune High, but it sure didn't take a genius to figure out that her act of kindness would probably result in her getting into trouble with the bikers who had taped him to the flagpole. Hell, for all he knew they may even hurt her for this.

Not to mention that the gawking people didn't seem to appreciate her ruining the 'fun' either, judging from the glares and not so silent whispers sent her way as the crowd started to loose up, moving. Soon, even the last of the gawkers was gone, thankfully, and it was just him and the girl.

Suddenly, he felt the tightness around his midsection loose up and he knew he was free even before the girl stepped back, flicking her pocket knife close again. Tentatively, he moved away from the flagpole, careful of the tape still tucked around very sensitive parts of his body, all the time avoiding looking at the blond girl that had helped him. God, was he glad to be black. One major advantage of belonging to a minority like being black was that when he blushed, almost no one noticed - especially not tiny white girls.

"Did they take your clothes or do you know where they are?" the girl asked, very businesslike, as if that was the most normal thing in the world.

Wallace shook his head. "I know where they are - hopefully," he muttered under his breath.

"Well then, welcome to Neptune High once again," she chirped, sending him that awfully cheerful and sarcastic smile for a second time in a row and walked away.

It took a moment for him to realize that he still needed one very important bit of information.

"Hey, what's your name?"

But either she was already too far away to hear his question (which he doubted) or she simply rather pretended not to hear it (which he thought more likely).

Either way, he still didn't know who she was.

He intended to find out though and he was fairly confident that this wouldn't be that hard to accomplish.

After all, how difficult could it be to learn the name of the girl that had cut down the new kid from the flagpole?

Veronica Mars.

Nope, it hadn't been difficult at all. He didn't even have to ask anyone. By the time he had managed to find his clothes in the (thankfully) empty trash by the locker rooms, free himself of the tape (and man, had that hurt like a bitch), dressed himself (did he mention how glad he was that the trash can had been empty and not filled with anything smelling awful?) and gotten to his second period class, the school was already buzzing with the way one Veronica Mars had bitched at Caz Trueman, scaring him and everyone else away and then had proceeded to cut down the flagpole kid (yeah, Wallace was a real big fan of that nickname).

So, now he knew her name. He still didn't know much about her, but at least he had a name to the face of his little, female, white knight in sassy armor. Of course he could have asked around to learn more about her, but that would automatically mean to draw attention to him, the flagpole kid, and Wallace was very keen to avoid that.

But when lunch break arrived and he stood in the school yard, looking around, faced with the ever present dilemma of all kids at a new school, where to sit, he was drawn to the table where the blond girl sat all alone. And before he thought too much about it he moved over to that table and sat down vis-à-vis of her, bracing himself for her sending him away. New kids weren't allowed to just sit down at a random table, at least not when there was already sitting someone there. But hey, he was Wallace Fennel, and yeah, he may be new and he may be the flagpole kid, but he was cool and this school would learn that sooner or later.

To his surprise though, the girl didn't seem to notice him. Instead, she stared off into space - or to the table behind him, he wasn't sure. When a couple of minutes passed and she still said nothing, he frowned. "You okay?" he asked.

She blinked and her eyes cleared, finally noticing him. And by the slight frown appearing between her eyes, he supposed she wasn't all that happy to see him. "What?"

"You look, I don't know, hypnotized," he told her, not impressed by the hostile vibe coming from her.

Her frown deepened. "Did I say you could sit here?" she snapped.

Okay, obviously he really wasn't welcome here. Wallace knew when to take a hint. Wordlessly, he grabbed his tablet ant stood up again.

Surprisingly though, the girl spoke up again. "Wait a minute. Of course you can sit here. Sit wherever you want."

Did he imagine that or did this sassy girl just sound a little bit timid? Whatever, he didn't need a second invitation and sat down again.

"That... that was cool, what you did. Cutting me off of that pole," he thanked her after a moment.

She shrugged. "Well..."

Wallace never knew what she was going to say as at that moment, those stupid bikers who had taped him to the pole, showed up and boy, they weren't pleased that he wasn't still where they've left him. Already, he saw himself dragged up, stripped and re-taped back to the flagpole, just this time around, it would happen in front of the whole student body.

Fucking great.

But, for the second time that day, his little, female, white knight in sassy armor rode to his rescue again, by telling the bald, bad guy to leave him alone. Instantly, Wallace seemed to be forgotten (not that he minded, nope, not at all) as the big bad wolf focused onto her, trying to scare her. She responded by cheerfully quipping back and Wallace would be damned if the biker wasn't pleasantly amused by the tiny blond girl sashaying back at him.

He guessed it would have been interesting to see how that ended but the vice principal showing up ruined that fun - or saved them, who knows.

Once they were left alone again, the girl asked him to tell her why the bikers were so mad at him and Wallace was more than willing to tell her the story. Besides, she kinda had a right to know, didn't she? When she offered him her help though, after he had finished, he was a little surprised - and more than just a bit dubious about how much of a help she could be, despite her previous actions of knighthood. But he figured he would need all the help he could get if he wanted to live a little bit longer, so he accepted her help, even if he didn't expect much to come out of it.

Boy, was he in for a surprise.

Little did he know that he had just engaged the help of Neptune High's very own modern Nancy Drew. It didn't take him long to realize that though. Watching her set up her archenemy with a planted bong in his locker which led to her getting the incriminating tapes out of the evidence room of the sheriff's department with the help of the chief of the fire department, replacing it with a very delicate video of one of the deputies with a stripper and so getting revenge on the stupid sheriff who had told him to go see the wizard, totally unfazed by having set up Wallace for possible death by the bikers, as well, pretty much made that clear. And after witnessing her not only face down the bikers but also one very angry Logan Echolls, the previously mentioned archenemy of hers, armed with a tire iron and with thugs in tow, and not even twitching an eye at that, he also got the idea how very tough this tiny girl was.

And yet... there was that moment when he had seen her at the beach, walking her dog, and then she had seemed so completely different from that tough girl he had met at school. When she had given him that tiny, hesitant wave he was sure that she actually had been more than just a little bit unsure and shy at that moment. And when she had brought him the tape, there had been that a tad bit unsure and shy vibe coming from her once again, resulting in him calling her a marshmallow.

Of course she had protested. But she had also smiled, a true, genuine and also shy smile like he hadn't seen it so far from her, lightening up her whole face and at that moment he had known that he wanted to see that smile many times more. That he wanted to be this strange girl's friend, no matter what her reputation at school was, which was very, very, very bad as he soon had learned to his surprise and shock.

So he offered her the controls to his model airplane, which was, if one knew him, a never seen occurrence so far. He loved his model airplane and no one was allowed at the controls, endangering his baby.

It was totally worth the risk though, because it was the beginning of a very interesting and rewardful friendship.

Time passed and Wallace learned more and more about his new friend. She was witty, always having a comeback ready to whatever insult or stupid comment was thrown her way. She was smart, actually one of the most intelligent people he knew and one of the bests in their year, without her having much to do for it (and yeah, that was something he didn't like that much). She was resourceful, always finding a way to get what she wanted - or get people to do what she wanted, if they wanted to or not. She was brave, never backed down, no matter what she had to face. She was tough, not letting the 09ers and Logan Echolls especially get to her, nor was she having any problems dealing with whatever lowlifes she met in the line of her P.I. work. She was loyal to the core - once she thought of anyone as a friend she would go to the end of the world and beyond for that person and anyone who dared to mess with them was in for hell. She was compassionate - once she got caught up in one of her cases she wouldn't stop until it was solved - even if it meant stepping onto a millions toes and perhaps even exploiting her friends. She was revengeful - mess with her or her friends and God may help you for she wouldn't stop until you've paid for that three times over. And when she wanted, she could be ruthless.

And boy, was she a fan of the concept of friends doing each other favors. Many times, when she asked him to get her that file, look that student up or do this strange thing, he asked himself why he let her talk him into these things. And every time he had to admit that mostly, he liked doing it. It made him a big part in her life for one, mostly it was fun for two, for three, it generally was for a good cause and fourth, it made his life a lot more interesting. So yeah, perhaps she used him here and there, but then, she always came through for him if he needed her, just like that very first day when they had met. Compared to that, what was a little favor here and there?

Yeah, Wallace got to know her real good, probably better than most. No wonder, after all he was her closest friend. And for a long while, her only friend, thanks to her status as the school's biggest whore and bitch. Something he had more and more trouble to understand. Was everyone blind to fail to notice that she hardly let any guys close to her or that he had yet to hear from one of the boys at school to actually come forward and admit that he had kissed Veronica Mars, let alone had sex with her? And how could those people talk about her like that, constantly spread lies about her, but as soon as they had a problem, they ran to her and of course she would help them. For money of course, but very often, she just helped someone for the sole reason that justice was rendered.

A marshmallow, remember?

But the longer he knew her, the more he grew aware of other things. For one, she had a serious trust issue. Okay, considering her past and her reputation, that wasn't that much surprising, but she even had a hard time trusting him, and boy, that irked him. After all, he had never given her any reason to not trust him. But at the same time, he also had a bad feeling about that, because he didn't like to think about the reasons that could have made her so mistrustful, even of her closest friend.

Furthermore, she was way too mysterious and secretive for her own good. In the beginning of their friendship, he had thought he knew what was going on in her life. After all, they spent so much time together and he helped her with almost all her cases, so how could he not know? But later, when more and more things came to light, he realized that he really knew only very little about what was all going on in her life.

The first time he noticed that he didn't know that much was perhaps one, two months after they had met, when they helped his flame to get her money back. It was the same time that there was held a memorial service for Lilly Kane.

At that service they showed a memorial video that Logan Echolls had made and Wallace had went to it, partly because he knew Veronica would go and wanted to be there for her and partly, because he was curious as hell to learn more about Veronica's former best friend.

Of course he had heard all about how Veronica Mars had once been the best friend of Lilly Kane, former reigning queen of Neptune High, as well as the girlfriend of Lilly's brother, Duncan Kane, reigning king of Neptune High. And not to forget that with this group there also came Logan Echolls, as well a reigning king of Neptune High, actually, the reigning king as Duncan Kane didn't do much with his position, and so she also had been friends with him once. Then Lilly Kane had been murdered and Keith Mars had gone after the wrong man, which had let to him now working as a P.I. and no longer being the sheriff of this charming little town without a middle class. And Veronica had stood with her dad which had let to her being ostracized from the whole school, led by one very angry Logan Echolls.

Oh, Veronica had never, ever talked with him about that but the other students at school had been quick to tell him about it once it had gotten clear that he dared to become friends with Veronica, to warn him off, more than one even telling him straight out to stay away from her. Hell, after hearing all the rumors about her, even his mother had told him to stay away from her. He hadn't listened, to neither of them and he never regretted that, but he did store away the information. It explained a few things after all.

The more he was surprised when he learned one day, shortly after the memorial service, that Veronica had actually helped Logan Echolls to put together the memorial video. He had just came into the newsroom after class to bring Veronica a file she had asked for when he had seen Logan Echolls marching over to her and dropping a tape onto her desk, with a short, tightlipped 'Thanks', before quickly leaving the room, never noticing Wallace. What shocked him the most at that little scene was that Logan had, however reluctant that thanks had come out of his mouth, sounded nothing but serious. And Veronica in turn had just nodded and wordlessly had stashed the tape into her bag. Wallace had asked her about the meaning of all that and she had shrugged, telling him that Logan had merely returned her a tape she had lent him for the memorial video and that was the end of it, apparently not noticing how amazed Wallace was at that little information.

Then, there had been the memorial video itself. From what he gathered from it, Lilly Kane seemed to have been a sexy, open, bold and perhaps a little sly girl who lived to have fun and parties. Basically, your typical white, rich, ruling high school girl. What had shocked him was to see glimpses here and there of that girl who looked so much like Veronica and at the same time, was so very different from her and he didn't mean just because of the different hair style. That girl in the video just totally lacked personality. But if there was one thing to say about the girl he knew as Veronica Mars, then that she had a personality. Perhaps not the best one in many persons' opinion, but it sure couldn't be ignored. Not that girl though. Okay, the video had been about Lilly Kane and not Veronica Mars but still... she was there, but so very much unnoticeable and colorless that he could hardly believe that she was supposed to be Veronica.

How could such a girl become the Veronica he knew? And how did she manage to get into the most elusive group of their generation in Neptune? This Lilly Kane didn't seem like the girl to even look twice at a girl like this gullible version of Veronica and the same went for Logan Echolls. Duncan Kane perhaps, yeah, but even there Wallace couldn't quite see it. If she had been rich and part of the 09ers, then yeah, perhaps, but like that...? No. So how did it come that this girl was once one of those closest to those three, powerful kids?

And suddenly, Wallace grew aware that he actually didn't know that much about Veronica's past, nor did he hear about it - neither from her, nor from others. Sure, everyone knew about her falling from grace and everyone thought to know her now - but someone had yet to tell Wallace more about the old Veronica Mars from before Lilly Kane's murder than that she had been Lilly's best friend and Duncan's girlfriend.

That this Veronica Mars was a total stranger to him.

Somehow, that thought bothered Wallace, but then, they didn't know each other that long, so it was probably bound to happen that one or two things would come to light that would surprise him. So he pushed it away.

But sometimes, he wondered.

The second time Wallace was confronted with the fact that he apparently didn't know Veronica as well as he thought was at Christmas, when she tried to find the money from the pot of a poker game Logan Echolls had hosted and that had been stolen. Surprise number one had been that she actually had never asked him for help on that case. Actually, it had been pure coincidence that he even had learned about her taking that case in the first place after word had gotten out that she was indeed questioning 09ers about the theft. Veronica herself had been unusually silent about it all, him having to practically drag answers from out of her nose.

Surprise number two had come at lunch the last day before the break for the holidays, when she had announced that she knew who had taken the money and that she had figured out how to get the money to send her father to a baseball camp as her Christmas present for him. Not explaining herself further she had gone to rough up Weevil and then had walked over to the 09er table and had sat down next to Echolls as if it was the most normal thing on Earth. But what really had surprised him was that neither Echolls nor Duncan Kane seemed to mind that much. Wallace had watched their exchange and had been baffled when at one point, he saw Echolls smirking at her. Not that that was such an uncommon thing, but when Wallace had come to Neptune High, his smirks had always been sadistic, cruel and downright hateful, when directed at Veronica. Now though it was just a smirk you'd sent someone you like, was a friend. Amused, light, bantering. Hell, for the first time Echolls had actually looked like a real human being and not just a psychotic jackass (Veronica's words, not his - he'd have rather called him a motherfucking asshole).

Surprise number three had been when he learned, again second hand, about the events at the Echolls' mansion that same night, Logan's father being stabbed by a crazed fan and ex-bed-bunny during a fancy Christmas party. He had known Veronica had been there for the poker game she had forced Logan to hold that night (another thing that had puzzled Wallace. Echolls didn't seem like the guy to be blackmailed by Veronica into doing anything). But when he heard two 09ers whose parents had been there talking about how Veronica apparently had stayed with Logan while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, he was baffled. Even more so a couple days later when he found a parking lot ticket of the hospital in her car and upon inquiring about that, she had simply shrugged, mentioning that Logan must have left it in the car when she had lent him her car to get to the hospital to which they had brought his father. He had given her a look then, but she had ignored it. But come on: Veronica never let someone borrow her car, not even him and boy, he had tried. Even more unlikely seemed the fact that Echolls had actually taken her up on the offer as he was heard ridiculing her car more than once.

Then again, his father had just been stabbed and these were extreme circumstances. Plus, according to Veronica, his car had been parked in.

Still... he wondered.

Not long after that, the whole school was shocked to see one Logan Echolls and one Veronica Mars talking with each other, several times, and neither seemed to be close to rip the other's head off. Wallace knew that she was helping him find his mother who had committed suicide. Echolls just didn't want to believe that and Veronica...

Well, there was the problem. He didn't know why Veronica even bothered with that. Sure, the guy had lost his mother and Wallace did feel bad for him, especially when he saw yet another article about it in the tabloids, day after day. Still... this was the same guy that had come after her with a crowbar. Her archenemy, the guy most responsible for the hell she was going through at school, day after day, for over a year now.

But then, one day, he rounded a corner, notionless, and stopped in shock, routed to the spot. There was Veronica, talking with Echolls, in the middle of a corridor, and it looked as if both of them were in a little, private world of their own where no one else was allowed in. Then Echolls touched her, laying a hand onto her shoulder and the way he looked at her compelled Wallace to look away - if he could have moved, which he couldn't, still way too transfixed by the sight in front of him. It was just too intimate. Not in that way intimate, but intimate. And then she smiled at Echolls and while it was a little similar to that one smile she had given Wallace, all those months back at the beach, when they had become friends once and for all, it was still something like nothing he had seen before. So warm, so comforting, so... natural. Not that she didn't smile often. Quite the contrary actually. But very rarely were her smiles real, easy - unguarded.

Echolls had walked away from her then and Veronica had entered the room where the spring dance would be held but Wallace was still rooted to the spot. It occurred to him that what he had just witnessed must have been a glimpse of the past, a time when Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars hadn't been archenemies, but friends. With a start, he realized that Echolls hadn't just gone to Veronica because of her P.I. skills - no... it looked like he actually had turned to her for help, comfort, whatever, because he had known she wouldn't turn him away, that she would listen to him and do whatever she could. And he also realized that what Veronica was doing wasn't just a job - no... what she was doing was helping a friend through a tough time. So perhaps she knew that chances that Lynn Echolls was still alive were slim but that didn't count, not for as long as her friend needed her to believe in it in order to process his mother's suicide.

This didn't bode well with what he knew about Veronica. Sure, she was totally loyal to her friends, but he had also noticed that she was quite unforgiving and from what he had heard, no one deserved her forgiveness less than Logan Echolls. And it didn't seem like Echolls to turn to her for help for that matter either. If she was unforgiving, then he was... well, Wallace couldn't find the right word, but it was a hundred fold worse. Echolls was merciless, downright vindictive.

Yet, there they were, working side by side and though that should look so wrong and impossible, all it did was that it looked natural.

And this time, Wallace did more than just wonder. This time, he decided to start a little investigation of his own: unwrap the layers of one Veronica Mars.

Sure, in the months since they had met, he had come to know her pretty well. But the more he knew her, the less he seemed to get her. She was his BFF (and no, he never had fathomed to end up with someone like her as his best friend, but hey, what was life worth without a few surprises in it?) and yet he couldn't really get her. That just wasn't right and he wanted to change that. Not just for his own curiosity, but also because he figured that the least she deserved was someone who could really understand her and who was better for that job than her best friend?

Something told him that the key to understand her laid in her past, in getting to learn more about the Veronica she had been once, that stranger to him who seemed to have died along with Lilly Kane and with her supposedly friends of that time turning their backs on her.

So yeah... everything he had heard of that girl so far had been rather boring, the usual. But... Wallace was sure that there was more behind that girl than the obvious. Somehow, his Veronica had still been born out of that girl. Besides, if that girl had been as common as it looked like, he was sure that she wouldn't have been that tight with people like Lilly Kane or Logan Echolls. Every instinct he had told him that for a guy like Echolls allowing himself to become so vulnerable in front of a girl he supposedly hated, like Wallace had just witnessed it, then there must have been a lot more to that girl than what came to the eye.

And with that, operation 'Unwrap The Marshmallow' was launched.

Easier said than done. How do you get to know a girl that no longer existed?

First, he tried it directly at the source: Asking Veronica herself. A little question here, a little comment there. No such luck though. She always changed the topic, gave a more than vague response or cracked a joke, basically everything but giving him an honest answer.

So he started to ask around. His classmates, the guys in his basketball team, anyone who he occasionally talked to.

Hey, how had been Veronica Mars before she turned to be the school's biggest slut?

Of course not exactly formulated like that, but something like that. To his frustration, but not really surprise, all he would get were blank stares, shrugs or a puzzled expression.

Was Veronica Mars ever not a slut and a bitch?

Apparently, he asked the wrong persons. Next, he tried Keith Mars, when an opportunity presented itself while Veronica had been in the shower and Wallace had waited for her, watching baseball.

"Say, Mr Mars, I sometimes wonder... how was Veronica, before?"

Keith Mars had given him a long, scrutinizing look, before shrugging and concentrating back onto the game. "She's a bit tougher and cheeky, but basically, she hasn't changed that much."

Yeah riiiiiight.

Apparently it was no use to ask the daddy either, even despite him being the bad-ass P.I. and ex-cop he was. He guessed daddy's girl stayed daddy's girl, no matter what.

A while later, when fate landed him with one Eli 'Weevil' Navarro in detention, alone, Wallace thought that perhaps, the PCHer gang leader may remember a little bit more about the old Veronica. After all, he and Veronica had some sort of weird friendship going on, him providing her back-up here and there and her usually getting him out of trouble so it could be that the biker cared more about Veronica and her past that others, couldn't it be?

Problem was that Weevil was friends with Veronica - not with Wallace. He doubted either of them had forgotten the flagpole incident. Not that Wallace was the type to hold a grudge - but come on, this was the guy who had taped him to the flagpole - naked!

"What you staring at me, boy?" Weevil growled, not looking up from whatever he was doing in his textbook. Wallace doubted it was reading physics.

Caught staring at the biker, Wallace grimaced and decided to take the bull at his horns. "I just... can I ask you a question?" he asked, deciding that it probably was better for his health and image if he was at least polite to the biker.

Weevil shrugged. "It better not be a stupid question," he simply responded, still not looking up.

Well... Wallace didn't think it was a stupid question. He thought it was a very important question. But who knew what a biker would think about it? But hey, he had come so far now, he could as well go all the way through. "How was Veronica? Before Lilly Kane died?"

There was a long silence, so long that Wallace started to ask himself if Weevil had heard him at all. Or if it really counted as a stupid question that didn't deserve an answer.

"Why'd you want to know that?" Weevil asked back eventually though.

Wallace shrugged. "Dunno... I just wonder."

"Wrong. You want to know if that girl from then would still be your friend," Weevil snorted and finally looked over to him, his eyes boring into him. "And the answer is no. She wouldn't have been."

"Why not?" Wallace wanted to know with a frown. He actually had never really thought about that. All he had wanted was to understand Veronica better. But now that Weevil had brought it up...

"'cause girls like her have noting to do with guys like you and me," Weevil told him shortly.

Wallace's frown deepened. "But she wasn't a 09er - exactly."

Weevil shook his head. "Didn't matter. She was one of them. And her friends would never have allowed her to talk with us, let alone hang out with us."

"So you say she's been a superstitious snob?" Wallace summarized after a moment.

Again, Weevil shook his head one and sighed. "No. I say that I didn't really know her back then. We never talked. And I can't say that I ever really noticed her."

"Why not?" Wallace asked quietly, hoping to not jinx whatever had made Weevil start talking.

Weevil's dark eyes looked away, taking on that expression people get when they move elsewhere, to the past. "Why not? Dunno... Everyone knew that she was Lilly Kane's best friend. Many wondered about that but that was how it was and no one was allowed to say anything. She was always in the background though. And next to Lilly, she just faded. She was simply there, but she never draw attention to herself. The good, perfect little white girl." He frowned. "She was a teacher's pet: if they needed someone to do something for them, they'd pick her and she seemed to never mind that. She's always been smart, so they often asked her to tutor others." A moment of thinking. "In junior high, she was a cheerleader. And here she had joined pep squad, but then, that was what all these girls did. She always looked good, but guys knew to stay away from her, 'cause her daddy had been the sheriff and 'cause Kane and Echolls made sure that others stayed away. Then her and Kane became an item and that was that."


"But why? Why did the Kanes and Echolls befriend her like that in the first place?" Wallace asked, still not getting that.

"How the hell should I know that? Ask them. Wouldn't expect an answer though," Weevil said with a snort and turned back to his textbook.

Clearly, this conversation was over. Frowning, Wallace stared at his own book, trying to process what Weevil had told him all. Frankly said, it hadn't told him that much more about the old Veronica, but at least Weevil had managed to tell him some things, remembered her better than the others he had asked. But everything he had told Wallace about that girl seemed to make it even less plausible that she ended up being part of the elusive circle she had been in. Or why a guy like Echolls would still turn to her for help, despite all the hate between him and Veronica now.

Weevil had mentioned something else though, something Wallace hadn't really thought about before. Veronica had been one of them, the 09ers. Which meant that she had hung around mostly with them. So perhaps, he should rather ask them.

Well, of course he wasn't as suicidal as approaching Echolls or Kane, like Weevil had suggested - but Veronica still had contact with one of the other 09ers, Meg Manning.

Now, he had just to figure out how he could get to talk to her.

Once again, fate was kind with him and helped him get a perfect opportunity to question Meg Manning when they were teamed up together to make posters and flyers for the next basketball game. So one day they met after school to get to work. About an hour into it, Wallace had found out that while the Manning girl seemed to be really nice and sweet - she was also awfully boring.

Especially as she was now going out with Duncan Kane, he couldn't help to wonder if she and the old Veronica weren't very alike. That was at least what he had heard here or there: Duncan Kane was now with Meg Manning? Wow, what a perfect fit. Much like when he and Veronica Mars had been together, before she showed her true colors of course.

Naturally, Wallace had much trouble to believe that. After all, the Veronica he knew had almost nothing in common with this girl. But then, wasn't the whole reason of his mission to unwrap the marshmallow not that he couldn't fathom how his Veronica and the old Veronica were the same girl?

At least, girls like Meg Manning had a big advantage. They could practically never say no when asked for a favor. Especially one as harmless as talking about a girl she once knew and was still friends with, right?

"Hey Meg, may I ask you something?"

She looked up from coloring one of the posters and smiled sweetly at him. "Sure, why not?"

Involuntarily, Wallace found himself smiling back. "I just wonder sometimes how Veronica has been before..." he trailed off, automatically hesitating to name the reason why Veronica changed that much. "Well, you know. And as I know you two have been friends then too I thought perhaps you could tell me a bit more about her."

Meg seemed to be a bit surprised, but otherwise not thinking much about his question, let alone mind. "Sure, what do you want to know?"

"Just... how was she, back then?" Wallace asked.

"Oh well, she was one of the sweetest girls I've ever known. Always ready to help you out, always listening when you needed someone to listen, never minding to do someone a favor." Meg smiled affectionately. "You know, actually I think she's really not that much different than before. Basically, if you get what I mean." A shadow passed over her sunny face. "What's mostly different is how most here at school think about her now. And of course she did grow a lot harder and snappier than she was before, but then, I think that's mostly just a front anyway. It works though. Most people are too afraid now to come too close to her, even though I'm not sure how good that really is." She grew sad. "I know we hurt her, the way we treated her after... And after having had a taste of it during the fiasco over that ridiculous purity test I can understand her change a lot better now, her bitterness over it. We were mean to her, really mean, so I get why she's having a hard time trusting again."

Excellent point and Wallace wasn't going to let this chance pass. "Why did you do that anyway? Just because Echolls told you to? I mean, she did nothing wrong, didn't she?"

Meg blushed a crimson red and looked down. "You need to understand something: no one could understand why Sheriff Mars suspected Jake Kane. We were already shocked enough about the murder and many of us had been angry, especially the boys, especially Logan. Somehow, we figured that Veronica should have been able to stop her father. And then she even went and openly stood with him, after all the Kanes had done for her. They needed an outlet and suddenly, they had the perfect target." She took a deep breath. "And then... If you ask me, I think many had just waited for an opportunity to go after her. Many had a grudge because she, with no money or name, was Lilly's best friend or then even Duncan's girlfriend. She never had done anything to anyone, but be closest to the three most powerful and influential of all of us. Before, no one had been allowed to say anything against her. Lilly would have castrated you and Logan would have taken care of the rest. But suddenly, Lilly was dead, Duncan had already broken up with her anyway and even Logan wasn't ready to protect her anymore. No, he actually declared Veronica to be free game and people like Dick or Maddison were only too happy to fulfill his wishes."

"And you? Were you jealous of her as well?" Wallace asked, a lot sharper than he had intended to.

She blushed some more. "No. Of course not. And I'm not exactly proud that I hadn't dared to stand with her. But sadly, siding with her would have meant to loose everything you had and Veronica too had grown hostile towards everyone as well and so..."

"You just run with the herd," Wallace brought it to a point.

"Yes," Meg admitted quietly.

He sighed. He didn't want to judge her. Actually, he wasn't sure what he would have done in her position. He liked to think that he would have stood with Veronica, no matter what, but he also knew just how hard high school could be and how hard it was sometimes to do the right thing.

"You know, what I don't quite get is how it came that she was so close friends with Lilly and co in the first place," he changed the topic - partly at least.

Meg looked back at him, surprised, before she shrugged. "I don't know. I always found her nice and sweet, but honestly, I wondered sometimes as well. Lilly was the complete opposite to her. Yet, it always had been Veronica for her for as long as I can remember. And when Logan moved here, he and Veronica hit it off from the spot on as well, though I don't know just how much that had been because of Lilly and Duncan." She shook her head. "But then, you're wrong if you think I knew Veronica really that well. We didn't exactly hang out, you know. We saw us at schools and parties, but that was about it."

Puzzled, Wallace stared at her. "Really? I thought that..."

She smiled again, but Wallace thought it was a bit strained this time. "No. No, we weren't. Lilly didn't like to share, you know? Especially not Veronica. Or Logan for that matter. The four of them were almost always together or at least in pairs, no matter when or where. The chance to catch Veronica alone was rather slim - not that I think that many actually tried." She looked away, down to the poster. "Oh gosh! Now see what I've done here!" She sighed. "I better go get some cleanser," she hurriedly said and left.

Wallace looked down and saw nothing wrong with the poster. Well, there was that tiny place where Meg had colored a little over the line, but it was nothing. Apparently, she didn't want to talk about the past anymore. But that was fine. Wallace was pretty sure he had learned all he was going to learn from Meg Manning.

He wasn't sure yet what to make of her description. At least this time he did hear a bit more about the old Veronica, how she has been. He still hadn't a real picture of her in his mind yet, but there were less puzzles missing now.

One thing bothered him though.

Lilly didn't like to share.

What the heck was that supposed to mean?

Having run out of options of people to question, Wallace tried to piece the puzzle together with what he had. Well, of course there were still Duncan Kane and Logan Echolls he could question about the old Veronica.

But really... could you see him marching up to the 09er table or even be so bold to show up at their gate and ask them to tell him a little about their old friend that they hated now? Of course they were going to say, sure, sit down, come on in, so, what do you want to know, I'd be delighted to give you all the answers you seek for.

Yeah right.

The chance of ever getting something from them was probably as big as that Corny was going to join the basketball team and win a sports stipendium, let alone passing all the drug tests.

Which was really frustrating because after the talks he had had with Weevil and Meg he was coming to believe that they were actually the only ones who really had known the old Veronica. Wallace had asked around a bit, wanting to see if anyone could remember Veronica spending a lot of time with someone else than the Kanes and Echolls. Apparently, there was no one or Veronica must have been hiding that person really well.

Somehow, after hearing all the other things about her back then, he doubted that.

So, he was out of options.

Besides... lately, Veronica had a bit overdone it with her damn favors she wanted from him. Nor did it help that she still seemed to hope that when her mother came out of rehab, her father would simply drop his mom to return to her mom. And then he had found one of the pre-stamped excused he had gotten her for Christmas, used by Logan Echolls. Sure, she had said it was for a follow-up on his mother's case... but Wallace couldn't shake the feeling that she had lied about that one, out of whatever reason that may have been. He didn't want to mistrust her on this - but she had avoided to look at him and there was the thing that she never had let someone else use those excuses. So yeah, he believed that she had lied to him and that hurt. He hadn't deserved to be lied to by her, after all the favors he had done for her, all the trouble he had faced for her.

Actually, he was this close to simply forget about his little personal mission.

But then she showed up at his doorstep (well, actually she had parked in front of his house and had sat so long out there that Mrs Kravitz from next door had phoned him to ask if she should call the police after which he had jogged outside to either get her to come in or for them to drive somewhere else) and did the last thing he had ever expected her to do.

She had dissolved into tears.

And he wasn't talking about the usually girlish tears, no, big fat crocodile tears that were forcefully wrenched out of her so her tiny body was shaking badly.

This wasn't his strong, confident Veronica that was his best friend since day one.

The next unbelievable thing was that she finally started to talk. And after hearing what she had to say he did no longer wonder about her tears. Instead, he wondered how she could ever be as cheerful and funny as she so often was.

And boy, had he really hadn't the slightest idea what was all going on in her life. He wasn't sure what shocked him more. That all this time, she had secretly searched for the murderer of her best friend? That she suspected her ex-boyfriend of having done it? That she had to live every day for over a year with the knowledge that one of the guys going to school with her had raped her, was perhaps watching her, laughing about everyone thinking of her as a slut when she couldn't be farther away from being that? To find out that it hadn't been rape but apparently consensual sex with her ex-boyfriend who actually might not just be the murderer of his own sister but also Veronica's half-brother? Or that somehow, she had ended up dating Logan Echolls out of all people who she had just accused of raping her so that relationship might well be over by now?

He didn't know. He wasn't even sure where to begin to process all he had heard. He was dazed, unsure what to say or think or do.

Once her tears had dried, she had left, claiming to have to talk with Logan - but she had left her notebook back for him to learn all about her investigation of the murder of Lilly Kane and many hours later, Wallace had come over his shock enough to go through it. It was amazing what she had all figured out on her own. And he could only imagine what it must had cost her and with just what a dedication and compassion she must have gone after this task.

For the first time ever, Wallace started to understand just how much Veronica must have loved Lilly Kane for her to search for her killer so viciously. And also just how much she must have once liked and known Logan Echolls for her to simply forget the hell he had put her through and start dating him, even dumping a good guy for him. He knew how hurt she had been to find out that Troy had turned out to be such a bastard, yet, here she was, together with Logan Echolls who she had herself described as a psychotic jackass.

And all the time, Wallace couldn't help but be a little bit hurt that she had thought she'd need to keep all of this from him. Though he had to admit that none of it all had been something that must have been easy for her to talk about, let alone approach it. At the same time though he had to also admit that ever since he had joined the basketball team, they hadn't spent that much time together. He wasn't sure if this was because of his new friends and all the practice or because of her doing all these investigations in Lilly Kane's case and of course also secretly dating Logan Echolls.

He stared at the save screen on her notebook, a picture of her and Lilly Kane, laughing into the camera. It was the first really good picture he saw of her from that time. During the memorial video there had only been glimpses of her and most pictures of her in the Mars' apartment were of her at a much younger age. The girl on the picture was still a stranger to him, with her somewhat shy smile and the long, long hair and the pink dress she was wearing - but at the same time he thought he recognized something in her eyes, some very familiar glint.

Now, he knew just why she had changed so dramatically like she had. Not just because of the murder of Lilly Kane, but also, probably mostly, because the ultimate betrayal against her, that rape. And he had been right... he didn't like the reason for her general mistrust at the world at all. He wanted to rip off Kane's head for what he had done to her. Regardless if it had been consensual or not, he should never have left her there alone - hell, he should never have slept with her, especially when he knew about the possibility of them being related.

But that glint in her eyes... Suddenly, it occurred to Wallace that perhaps, there had been more of his Veronica in that old Veronica than many suspected. Actually, hadn't Meg herself said something like that? And Keith Mars too had stated that she actually wasn't that different than before.

Damn it! He really wished he could have a talk with Kane or Echolls one of these times. But as already established, this was something very unlikely too ever happen, even if Echolls was now dating Veronica.

Too bad.

Over the next few months, there was such a chaos in Neptune and in Veronica's life especially that Wallace pretty much forgot about his own little mission. Your best friend nearly getting barbecued alive by her boyfriend's father for finding out that he had been the one who had killed Lilly Kane kind of reset your priorities. Especially when she had to deal with her father being in the hospital, her mother having bailed once again, this time stealing fifty grand as well, and her boyfriend having to face a murder trial of his own that led to a full out war between the haves and haves not in Neptune on top of that didn't help it either. As if that wasn't enough, she then found herself in a classical love triangle between Echolls, Kane and herself which ended that she broke up with Echolls and got back together with Kane. Though Wallace was pretty sure that if Echolls hadn't been on such a clear road to self-destruction, she would still be together with the jackass.

Wallace had been there after the police had led Logan away from her apartment, that horrible night, and had seen firsthand the fear and worry she was going through because of him. And he had been there right after her break-up with him, hat witnessed for the third time in only a few months how Veronica had completely lost it and given in to her pain. That night, it had became obvious to him that Veronica had really loved Logan. Otherwise, she would never have been that hurt and sad back then.

But the next day, Veronica had been cheery and purposeful, acting like nothing had happened at all. Sure, she never mentioned Logan and was quick to change the topic whenever Logan would come up, but otherwise she seemed to be your average teenage girl, peppy as hell. Normal was the keyword, the new mantra of her. And soon the picture was perfected when Duncan Kane finally got what he had been after all summer – probably since the moment Veronica had told him that they actually weren't related.

Frankly said, Wallace didn't like that girl as much as his old Veronica – nor did he care much about Kane dating her. He knew her pretty well and so he knew that her façade of happy perfectness in her now normal life was nothing than a farce. Sure, he could see where she was coming from. After the years she had had and her near death experience with Aaron Echolls it was only understandable that she was optioning for a normal life, without murders and rapes to solve and bringing herself and those close to her into so much danger. And if she had been happy, Wallace would have had no problem with that. She wasn't happy though, that much he could see. It was obvious in the way her eyes were hooded some mornings, telling him that she had yet again slept little due to her nightmares. In the way her smile would sometimes fall away from her face when she thought no one watched her, her eyes staring into the nothingness, her mind wandering away. And he could tell by the way she never seemed completely relaxed, not when with Kane and not even when she was alone with him or her father.

And yeah, he missed his Veronica. Sure, she had been downright annoying sometimes, but at least this girl had lived. He wasn't sure what Veronica was doing now, but she sure as hell didn't live. No, it looked to Wallace that she merely compromised. A thought he really hated. So he was almost glad when he was accused of taking drugs and getting thrown out of the basket ball team. At least now Veronica would no longer have an excuse to not go back to her P.I. days in order to help him clear his name, a thing he was sure she would do. She may have changed, but she hadn't changed that much. She would still come through for her friends, no matter what.

To no one's surprise she had found out the mystery about the wrongly failed drug tests in no time and Wallace had been happy and proud to see her eyes twinkling like they used to again.

Then a bus full of classmates had sailed over a clip, practically in front of Veronica's eyes and even worse, with her supposed to be on it, and again, Veronica got that haunted expression he now recognized as her way to deal with shock and pain. She had a quest again, he knew that pretty soon, when she tried to help the daughter of the bus driver to prove that the accident hadn't been her father's fault.

So yeah, she was back at her P.I. work, but not in the way he had wanted her to. Meg had been on that bus, and while she had miraculously survived, she still was laying in a coma in the hospital now and Veronica once again had to mourn a friend, even if their friendship had cooled down considerably after Kane had dumped her and not soon after had gotten back with Veronica. Of course she was going to get behind that accident or not accident, no matter what.

Then again… if Veronica had been on that bus and not having missed it by chance like she had… If he had lost her... He would probably have done the same. Not resting and letting nothing stop him until he knew what really had happened. Until someone paid for it and justice was served. After what had happened with Aaron Echolls, he had suddenly been able to understand Veronica's passion in her quest to find Lilly Kane's true killer. Nearly loosing his best friend was quite an eye-opener for him. Nearly risking loosing her in the bus accident, so soon after, only reinforced that understanding.

She still was changed though. Even with her back to solving crimes, she still tried to have a normal life, major factor in achieving that by playing the girlfriend in the perfect couple she and Kane were supposed to be.

Wallace wasn't fooled so and neither was Echolls it seemed. He was already there and haunting her with comments or challenging looks to come out of that shell she was in. And it seemed to work because boy, Echolls seemed to irritate her more than anyone else could, her eyes taking on that annoyed gleam Wallace recognized from the last year and he bet Echolls did too and that was why he would never shut up when coming within ear range of Veronica.

Sometimes, Wallace wondered if it was possible the Echolls missed the old Veronica as much as he did. A strange thought because he had been pretty sure that Echolls and him had nothing in common. Not that he knew him that well. They barely had spent time together during the time he and Veronica had dated. And then, Echolls' focus had solely been on Veronica, barely acknowledging Wallace. Kane was different. From the spot on he had made an effort to befriend Wallace as well, much to Veronica's pleasure. Wallace though wasn't that happy about it. He knew that the only reason why Kane even bothered with him was to please Veronica. It had nothing to do with him. As it was, he had preferred Echolls' open disinterest in him, at least that had been honest.

And all that time, he couldn't help but wonder just how much this new Veronica resembled the old old Veronica from before Lilly Kane's murder. Not just because of the hair she let grow out again. Also because of that somehow dull way her eyes shone now. Was that how she had been, so deliberately oblivious about certain things going on around her? So forcefully trying to be normal, like everyone else? So – mallow?

The advantage of Kane so intent on being Wallace's friend as well was that at least it finally gave him the opportunity to ask him the questions he had burned to ask Kane or Echolls for months now. So, one day, when they were waiting for Veronica who was running late, he grabbed the opportunity and picked up his quest to learn more about the old Veronica, something he still thought of as important, now more than ever. The more he knew about her, the more he could perhaps help her, be there for her.

"So… I guess Veronica's back to her old ways, isn't she?" he asked innocently, glancing at Kane to gauge his reaction.

Apparently surprised by this question, Kane looked at him. "What?"

"Veronica… people say that she's back to her old self. As I never knew her then I just wonder if that's true. So… is it true? Is this how she has been?" Wallace elaborated a little.

Kane stared at him for a moment, then shrugged. "More or less," he gave the not very helpful answer.

"How so?" Wallace wanted to know, impatient, knowing that Veronica could show up any moment now.

"I dunno… she's not as innocent as she used to be, and she has grown a bit of a temper, but she's still as sweet," Kane said, with another shrug. "Lovely, nice, passionate… well, you know how she is. So yeah, she's like then, just more matured, but then it had been two years, so that was to be expected, no?"

"Yeah," Wallace mumbled and wasn't disappointed at all that Veronica showed up at that point, cheerfully greeting them, giving Kane a kiss. Soon after they left and finally, Wallace allowed himself to snort and shake his head like he had wanted to since Kane's last words.

Big help Kane had turned out to be. Apparently, Kane had never known Veronica that much if he believed that she had hardly changed since the old days.

Or Veronica didn't let him see all of her.

Whatever it was, clearly Kane wasn't going to help him learn more about Veronica.

In the next few month, Wallace got very sidetracked. Finding out the guy you thought of as a father really wasn't your father but that the guy who was your father actually still lived but didn't really seem that great a guy, next to finding out that your girlfriend set up your best friend in a real mean way and that then your best friend just couldn't do him one little favor he asked of her for a change, namely sparing said girlfriend (well ex by then) the revenge she was set on giving her for mentioned mean set-up, kind of had that affect. His mother had been lying to him all his life, his girlfriend had betrayed him and even his best friend let him down when he really would have needed her.

So he had bailed out of town, with the only guy who never had lied to him: his father. His real father. Then again, his father had merely been around for a few days, so what did Wallace really know about that. Still, he had just wanted to get away and leaving with his father, getting to know him, starting a new life (again) in Chicago had seemed to be a good idea.

Of course it had turned out to be a very bad idea. His father really wasn't that great of a guy, even though he wasn't as bad as his mom had described him. His new 'friends' were easily found but not really that great or interesting. Okay, after having been Veronica Mars' best friend for over a year it probably was impossible for anyone to come even close to her level of interest. Still... At least his basketball career had gone well - up until the point the accident happened and he had done the wrong thing by being intimidated into keeping his mouth shut. Not that that had helped him much. All it did was them trying to frame the accident onto him, leaving him with no choice than to crawl back to Neptune, so to speak.

Though, if he wanted to be totally honest, he had been glad for an excuse to go back home. He had missed his mother and his little brother. And yeah, he had also missed Veronica. Like hell. Over the time, she had never stopped to leave him messages. On his phone, per mail... some were simple pleas for him to call or write her, especially in the beginning. Later, she had moved on to keep him informed of what was going on in Neptune - and how his mom and brother were doing. He had never answered, not once, but her messages had always been a stray of sunlight in stormy Chicago that he had treasured more than he had thought he would. He was angry with her, remember? But still, it had felt good to see how she didn't give up on him and how she constantly tried to amend things with him or simply getting him to talk to her again.

Perhaps, he did actually mean as much to her as she meant to him and that thought left a warm feeling, despite his anger at her.

And, not surprisingly, when he had gotten back and the trouble of Chicago had caught up with him, she had been the one to get him out of the trouble and clear his name once again. What did that make it now, the third time? Despite her having to deal with the fact that Meg had just died, making her the second friend she now had lost violently. Or to come to term that Meg had been pregnant, by none other than Kane and Veronica's boyfriend was now suddenly a teenage dad who wasn't allowed to see his own kid though, causing him to kidnap his own daughter and flee the country. Well, her ex-boyfriend - he thought. Wallace wasn't quite sure. He knew that officially, they had broken up. He also knew, unofficially, that she had actually helped him flee the country. So he wasn't sure where exactly they stood now, though he thought it was pretty obvious that her and Kane were finally over.

Honestly? He was surprised it had held that long. Not that he had anything personal against Kane, but that guy... he just didn't get Veronica and didn't even seem to see that she was a lot more than the just person he thought he knew and loved. He wasn't surprised at all though that her break-up with him (or not, who the hell knows) and him having to leave the country, with no means of contact for them because that would be way too dangerous and get Veronica in really bad trouble, didn't leave her as devastated as one could thing it should be, having witnessed their awful sweetness of the past months. Truth was that she did mourn a little, naturedly... but it was nothing compared with how she had been the night after her break-up with Echolls. Nothing. Then, she had been devastated... now... now it was just a regular hurtful parting of an old friend or at least that was how it seemed to Wallace.

Frankly said, while she and Kane had been awfully sweet perfection all the time, he couldn't say that she had ever seemed totally and completely relaxed or happy. Sure, one could blame that on the circumstances who were bad, admittedly, it just was...

There had been that one time, during summer, when Wallace had went over to Veronica to keep her some company while her dad still was in the hospital. But when he had gotten there someone was already keeping her company. Echolls. They were watching some action movie, Wallace didn't remember which one, and Veronica was curled up in Echolls arm, fast asleep. And there was a smile on her face, a smile matched by Echolls who was absentmindedly playing with her hair while his eyes were fixed on the pictures on the screen. The first startling thing at this picture was that Veronica was asleep in the first place and even peacefully so in the second. In those days, Wallace, who had stayed over most of the nights since that terrible night, could testify on just how badly she slept - if she found sleep at all. The second startling thing was that Echolls was there. As far as Wallace had known, he had still been in police custody. The third thing was that he was here, with Veronica practically swallowed up in him, because the last he had heard was that Veronica still wasn't sure if they were broken-up after her accusing him of murdering his ex-girlfriend and getting him arrested or if they still were together. Somehow, in the night before her cop-friend had shown up to arrest Echolls for yet another murder, they hadn't been able to discuss that little detail beside the fact that he woke up bloodied beside a corpse and her nearly being fried by Logan's father.

Seeing them on the couch like that though told Wallace that he probably should get used to have Echolls around. Hell, they had been so lost into each other that it had taken a full minute for Echolls to notice Wallace. When he had, he had stiffened visibly and the eyes that had turned to glare at him had been guarded and hostile. He hadn't said anything, but the message had come over loud and clear: Leave! Leave us alone. Wallace had turned and left, without hesitation. Clearly, he hadn't been welcome, and yeah, he had been a bit annoyed by the whole scene just then. But he had left out of two reasons: First, because Veronica had been finally asleep, apparently in a peaceful sleep and he had known just how much she had needed that - and second, because it hadn't gone by him the way Echolls had, upon noticing him, immediately drawn Veronica closer to him in such an obvious protective way that Wallace had no choice than to acknowledge the fact that Echolls wasn't going to let anything happen to her.

Point was that Wallace had never seen her this relaxed than in that moment - and a few others he witnessed in the following weeks, the few times he saw her together with Echolls - nor ever again since she had broken up with Echolls. Or perhaps a couple of weeks before that, he wasn't so sure anymore. But definitely never with Kane. Wasn't it ironic that while Veronica and Kane had looked so perfect - it had been when he had seen her and Echolls together that he had thought that they just looked right together? Especially considering that he really didn't like Echolls, even less after the way Echolls treated his best friend after their break-up.

Even more interesting was that while Veronica didn't seem to mind Kane's absence that much - she seemed to be very much annoyed to see one Logan Echolls with his new girlfriend, Hannah Griffith. Not that she ever said anything. But Wallace had eyes and he didn't miss the way her eyes narrowed whenever she saw the long haired blond girl. Or the scowl on her face when Echolls was a bit too friendly towards the other girl.

Yep, very interesting. Another interesting fact was that Wallace had really trouble to see a guy like Echolls with a girl like Hannah and he wasn't the only one. That girl, though nice, did not seem to have enough essence to catch Echolls' interest. A paradox and Wallace couldn't help but be reminded of his own little mission that had totally gone under until then. But now there was this girl, blond, sweet, innocent and well liked and Wallace wasn't blind to the parallels to another blond, sweet, generally well liked girl that captured the interest of unlikely people. Was that perhaps also the reason why Echolls fell for that girl? Because she resembled a girl he once knew and had liked? Or did Wallace interpret too much into a guy he hardly knew? And was there really any real resemblance between Hannah Griffith and the old Veronica Mars or were all the resemblances just superstitious?

He thought not, but once again, what did he really know? And unless someone invented time travel or the world turned upside down and would give Wallace an opportunity to question Echolls and him actually answering his questions instead of just laughing at them and ignoring Wallace, it looked like he never would get a chance to finish his little mission to get to know all layers of one Veronica Mars.

Time travel didn't get invented. Nor did the world turn upside down. And yet, suddenly, Wallace found himself teamed up with none other than one Logan Echolls in the world moving science project to keep an egg whole during a free fall. Perhaps it was once again fate, who knew?

But while he and Echolls worked unwillingly together in order to pass the class, Wallace found himself unable to even approach that topic. He didn't know why, it wasn't as if he was intimidated by Echolls or anything like that... it was just that Echolls had that air around him that warned him off approaching any topic Echolls didn't want to talk about and clearly, Veronica was one of them.

The more he was surprised that just when they were finished with the project and released from being forced to spend more time together, Echolls went and stated that Wallace didn't like him very much. His answer, that the last time they actually had talked (which wasn't really true as Wallace doubted that Echolls had even noticed him standing beside Veronica that time) had been when Echolls had bashed in Veronica's headlights seemed to amuse Echolls, his only comment being something about foreplay.

And that was that.

Reinforcing Wallace in the believe that even if he had asked, all he could have expected of getting out of Echolls would have been probably similar to that flippant comment and stoic further ignorance Echolls had then displayed - not that Wallace had bothered to stay around much longer and had left Echolls and his 'fluffer'.

But then Veronica got in into Stanford, as got that bitch Angie Dahl, who apparently was suddenly also ahead of Veronica in the run for the Kane's scholarships. And if Wallace managed to beat her in the contest for the egg that survived the biggest drop, then maybe, Veronica would get ahead again. So he decided to continue to work on the project and told Echolls so. The only thing that surprised Wallace was that he wasn't really surprised when Echolls' only answer had been to come by after school. Nor was he fooled later, when he questioned Echolls about his sudden interest in winning the contest and Echolls denied it to have anything to do with helping Veronica. Like said, Wallace wasn't blind and he had noticed the daggers his project partner had sent Angie and Dick Casablancas for their rude comments about a certain tiny blond girl they both knew quite well. Or the way Echolls looked at Veronica, especially in the past weeks since Hannah had left school. And how Echolls didn't seem to be that crushed about his gone girlfriend either for that matter.

It is only after being reminded by the Tinseltown Diaries show about the Echolls' family that not all was happy and glory in the world of the rich and that this boy, though undoubtedly being a jackass, had had also a shit life in the past two years and had had to go through a lot. Some people in his place would have broken down long ago, given up. Some would have made it a mission to draw as little attention to them as possible. Echolls had done neither. And perhaps, heavy, biting sarcasm was just his way to cope.

Not unlike someone else he knew.

And suddenly, with that in mind, Wallace found the nerve to finally ask Echolls the question he burned to ask him for a year now.

So the minute Echolls came back to join him, Wallace faced him, his eyes never leaving the other guy. "Tell me one thing: the old Veronica, before Lilly had been killed, how was she?"

It caught Echolls off guard, that much was obvious by the way he stared at Wallace for a moment. "What?"

Wallace waited, knowing exactly that Echolls had understood him perfectly the first time around.

Another moment passed and Echolls got over his surprise. He snorted. "What exactly makes you think that a) I am in any way to discuss Veronica at all and b) with you especially?"

Yep, that was the answer Wallace had always imagined he'd get from Echolls. But he wasn't going to back down. Not now. He'd never get a chance like this again, of that he was sure.

"I dunno... Because I, as her best friend, acknowledge here and now that out of all the people that know her, you're probably the one that knows her best and therefore can tell me the most about her, especially about her in those days?" Wallace tried, pretty sure that an ego bust would get him what he wanted.


"I let you know that contrary to common believe, flattery doesn't work always and especially not with me," Echolls though told him. "Especially as I'm fairly certain that I'm not the first one you ask about this, am I? I bet you've asked every person you could think of before coming to me."

Or perhaps not.

"But... I admit I'm curious. Why would you want to know about something like that?" Echolls asked, his eyes narrowed.

Or perhaps it did after all. If Wallace didn't bust it now. He optioned for the truth. "I just want to understand her better. And I think getting to learn more of her back then would help me do that."

"Again, I ask why?" Echolls asked, apparently not much impressed by Wallace's honesty.

Wallace clenched his jaw, telling himself to be patient. "Does it really matter that much? I just want to, okay?"

Echolls moved over to the bar and poured himself a drink, leaving Wallace to question himself if that was already the end of this conversation. Then, Echolls spoke again, his back still to Wallace. "What do you know so far?"

With a frown, Wallace tried to remember all the pieces he had found out so far. "That she had been nice, sweet and innocent, a good listener, always ready to offer her help, cheerful. That she actually wasn't so different than she is now."

At that, Logan laughed. "Oh, let me guess: that one had come from Duncan."

Wallace nodded. "And Meg. And Mr Mars."

"Figures," Echolls mumbled, taking a big gulp of his drink. He turned around to fix his eyes onto Wallace. "Looks to me like you've covered the basics. So why bothering me at all?"

Just who was interviewing whom here again?

"Because I think that's not all there is to learn about the girl she used to be," Wallace told him straight out, going right over to approach another of the things he burned to know. "Because if that's all that's to say about her she must have been really boring and I can't believe that. Because she can't have changed that much. Because neither you or a girl like Lilly Kane seemed to have been one would have ever bothered with her, especially with her not coming from the same circles as you all, let alone let her come that close to you like she had been, claim her like you seemed to have."

For a very long time after that, Echolls just looked at him. Then he straightened, emptied his glass to refill it immediately. "Claim?" he inquired, quietly.

Wallace's eyebrow rose. "When Weevil told me that she and I wouldn't have been friends, I asked why. He told me you all wouldn't have let her. And when Meg admitted that she hadn't been really that close with Veronica and I asked why also, she mentioned something about Lilly Kane not liking to share." He shrugged. "I put two and two together."

Echolls looked back at him over his shoulder but said nothing, instead he downed the new glass as well, then grabbed the bottle and moved to sit down into one of the big chairs.

Unsure if Echolls was ever going to actually say something useful or if all has already been said that was going to be said, Wallace decided to wait. At least for a while.

And his patience was rewarded.

"They're partly right when they told you she hasn't changed. Part of her hasn't. Like her curiosity. Like her need to help everyone, if they deserve it or not. Like the way she dedicates herself to a cause - or someone. Her humor. Her intelligence. Her quick tongue. God, I loved to banter with Ronnie, that was our specialty. Her love for her family, Back-Up, her friends and the way she stands behind them, beside them," Logan eventually spoke up, his voice soft. He tilted the bottle to gulp down another swallow. "But she's still not the same anymore. Because, boy, has she changed in other things." He laughed, bitterly. "For one, she used to trust everyone. And I mean everyone, no matter who they were or from where they came. In her eyes, no one could simply be bad, she always looked for the good things in a person, a thing." He looked at Wallace, challenging. "I think it's safe to say that she has changed to the opposite in that aspect, no? Today, she trusts no one anymore." His face fell and his eyes quickly looked away. "Then, I can hardly blame her for that. I guess she finally had learned her lesson." Another long gulp.

Wallace wouldn't have minded to have something else than cappuccino himself. A drink would have just been fine right about then.

"Consequently, she's not as open as she used to be, though she always had a few secrets here and there, apparently," Echolls continued after a moment, smirking. "And she could keep secrets, the important ones at least. If it was about her lying to her parents about her whereabouts, that was a different thing. Something else that is different now: she used to do whatever her parents told her to, hardly ever lying to them. Somehow I doubt that Mr Mars is aware of just what all is exactly going on in his daughter's life." Again there was a shadow over Echolls' face, but only for a moment before the smirk came through again. "And God, she was a worry-nut. Not so much that you couldn't have fun with her, far from it - just enough to keep the rest of us in check and let me tell you, to keep Lilly or even me in check was an achievement." He grinned, dirty like Wallace was accustomed to see him grin like occasionally, especially during the time Echolls had dated Veronica. But then the grin died and Echolls looked away, taking another gulp of the whiskey.

Once again, Wallace waited. He wasn't sure what exactly had compelled Echolls to spill his guts and actually really give him any answers, but now that it was happening, he sure didn't want to jinx it by saying the wrong thing - or moving, for that matter. Or going to pour himself a drink as well, no matter how much he envied Echolls the bottle in his hand. In the last few minutes he had learned more about Veronica than in all his previous talks about her combined. And something told him that Echolls wasn't finished yet, now that the damn was broken. So he waited.

An humorless laugh made him snap his eyes back to Echolls, who had sat up a little to put his elbows onto his knees, looking down at the floor. "And though I really hate to admit that, Paco was right. And so was Meg." He rose his head and glanced back at Wallace, eyes hard. "You and her, you wouldn't have been friends. Not because of her, oh, Ronnie was never refusing anyone her friendship, at least not from the spot on, but because we wouldn't have let you. You're right, they didn't know her. Not really. They never got her or why we were so keen on her hanging out with us. No one did. But I guess we also didn't let them. Because she belonged to us, foremost to Lilly, then to Duncan, but also to me. And no, neither of us liked to share, especially not Lilly, especially not Ronnie."

"Why?" Wallace all but whispered, a deep frown between his eyes.

Echolls looked down again, quickly downing another deep gulp. "'cause once you got to know her, you realized how precious Ronnie was. How unique," he said, so softly that Wallace had to strain to still understand him. "She always saw you for who you are, not for who your parents are, how much money they own or just how much influence your last name holds. The smiles she gave you, were solely for you and no one else and they were real, all of them, not one false, not one forced. You acted like a jerk and she told you so, unafraid of who you are and what you could do to her, hell, sometimes she didn't seem to even remember just where you came from. When she talked to you, it was about normal things, or crazy things, whatever, but you never had to fear that she would use you to get close to your parents or some other celebrity. She never, not once, asked me to get her an autograph, even if she knew I was going to meet someone she admired, nor would she ever ask you to buy her something else than perhaps an ice-cream or a bowl of popcorn here and there, usual things among friends and when you tried to buy her things, you'd get the third degree from her." He looked up and his eyes were burning with something Wallace couldn't quite name. Whatever it was, the intensity of it dared to even burn him across the distance between them. "You have no idea what that means for people like us, how rare such a thing is, especially from outside our 'circle'," Echolls told him, forcefully.

No. No, Wallace had no idea how that was. But looking at Echolls now, hearing him talk about it, he thought he started to at least understand it a bit.

"And though few would have given it to her, Ronnie was fiercely protective and loyal to the core. She never stood by and would let someone offend her friends or let them talk bad about them. Or let us bitch about someone without a very good reason. And though she was good-natured, she wasn't blind to the vultures and always had been the first to put a stop to it, in her own, special gentle but firm way and if it meant to drag you away before you did something you'd regret." He took a deep breath, before helping himself to another swallow of the booze. "She looked out for us, always being our little voice of reason and though we didn't always listen, we listened enough. She made sure that we didn't ditch too many classes and that Lilly would always pass her classes. Not that Lilly wasn't smart, she just didn't think good grades were that important. When we were drunk, she'd get us home, keep an eye on us. 'Course Duncan did a lot of all that as well, but not as much as her and not out of the same reasons as her. He did it because he mostly was worried about himself and the repercussions we'd have to face for this or that. Not Ronnie though. She did it because she cared. Something pretty foreign, to all of us. But we got used to it. Addicted to it. 'cause once you have it, you don't want to loose it again. Or to share it." He shook his head, his eyes coming back to her. "No, we didn't let anyone else close to her, partly in order to protect her, because no matter what, she was innocent, there's no other word for it, sometimes even bordering to naiveté, and that made it easy to hurt her, we knew that, have seen it and whatever you may believe or have heard about us, we did look out for each other, made anyone pay who dared to hurt one of us. And yeah, also because we were selfish and not ready to share her with others, in fear that it would take part of her affection away from us. It probably wouldn't have, knowing her, but we weren't going to risk it anyway."

See? Wallace had known it. In all this time, he had known that there must have been more to the old Veronica than what met the eye. And at least now he could fathom how she had come to be that tight with the Kanes and Echolls. He didn't get it all the way, not with Lilly Kane, but a lot more than before.

"You know, that's what I miss the most about her. Ronnie's way to believe and trust in you, no matter what. Her way to never categorize you. She does that now. Still not in the same way other people do, but she does it, form an opinion of someone and hold on to that, if it's accurate or not, refusing to see what goes beyond that unless you practically have to shove her face into it," Echolls voice carried through the room, his gaze once again averted, eyes still burning with that intensity though Wallace still couldn't quite name. "And I miss the silent support you always knew you had with her, even if Ronnie basically disagreed with you or even when she actually didn't know what was going on, she just knew instinctively that you needed her, sometimes to just be there, sometimes to annoy the hell out of you and she'd do it, no questions asked." He shook his head and smiled sarcastically. "Though, truth be told, there are things I definitely like about Veronica 2.0. She always was beautiful, but man, she's hot now."

Okay, this was something Wallace didn't really need to know.

"And while she always had been good at bickering, jeez, her comebacks are so much more entertaining now. Sometimes too biting, sure, but then, so are mine, so I guess we're even. And I like the bad girl in her, the one that makes her do things she'd never have dreamed of doing before. I like her attitude. I hate the bitch in her though." Shaking his head, he dipped the bottle for another swipe. After that he stared long at the bottle before shaking his head again. "Shit, why do I even talk with you?" he murmured. Another moment passed and Echolls looked back over to Wallace, mood changed. Yet again, that dirty grin appeared, dirtier than ever. "And though I've never had the pleasure to taste her lips before, I bet the old Veronica would never have kissed and made out in the backseat of cars like she does now. She was too much of a good girl back then. Nowadays though..." he leered.

Whoa, now that Wallace definitely didn't need to know. High time to slam the sluice down once again. But then... there was something else he still wanted to know, one last important thing.

"If she was that important to you and you valued her so much... then how could you ever do what you did to her?" he asked, bluntly.

Really, this was the one thing he understood even less now than before. Apparently, Echolls really had cared a great deal about her back then - but people who cared didn't go after a friend with such viciousness.

The air in the fancy hotel room changed in an instant and it all came from Echolls. What was it with this guy that his mood seemed to dominate the whole room? Hell, the whole school sometimes!

Jaw tight and his eyes cold as ice now, Echolls got up, barely sparing him one single glare. "None of your goddamn business," he hissed, his voice sharp as a razor.

Caught a little off guard by the abrupt change, Wallace frowned. But he was far from backing down. Almost two years he had waited for a chance to ask just that one question - and perhaps even to give Echolls a piece of his mind just what he thought about his war against Veronica. His eyes fixed Echolls', not quavering once. "Wrong. I'm her best friend. I'm the one who has to listen to your buddies badmouthing her, calling her names. I'm the one who has to watch her smile wavering momentarily or to see hurt flickering over her face for a second there. You may not be the leader of the witch hunt anymore, but you started it and I want to know why."

Again Wallace was hit by a glare that would have made lesser men quiver in fear. But seriously... he played basketball for his whole life and he hadn't come to be that good by being easily scared away or by backing down regularly. Sure, he seldom was out for a confrontation or even displayed much that he could very well hold his own in a fight, if necessary, but just that gave him often the never to be underestimated element of surprise.

"Once again, still none of your business. And second, wait, let me think: oh yeah: None. Of. Your. Business," Echolls told him coldly.

Okay... clearly this was getting them nowhere. A change of tactic was obviously in order. "No seriously, what was your problem? Had you trouble to keep it up and you needed an outlet for your frustration? You needed to feel strong and big, so you went after a little, harmless girl? Yeah, that must have made you feel really great. Or was the little rich white boy so bored by his fancy life that the only pleasure he could find anymore was to systematically destroy a nice, sweet girl? And for what? Because she didn't want to be your keeper anymore and be exploited by the likes of you?"

By now, the laser beams shooting out of Echolls' eyes should have at least burnt a big hole through his head and heart. Eyes narrowed to slits, Echolls prowled over to him, putting the bottle of whiskey onto the coffee table on the way and stopped with his angry face mere inches away from Wallace's. And for a tiny little moment, Wallace was seriously worried about how his face was going to look like tomorrow - and how in the hell he could ever explain that to Veronica.

But then, Echolls grinned. Maliciously - but a grin none the less. "Now look at this: Who'd have thought that Ronnie's little sidekick actually has balls? And yet you roll over and offer her your throat whenever she asks for it." He sighed mockingly sadly. "Let me ask you something: How does it feel to always play second fiddle to Veronica Mars?"

The guy was good, Wallace thought dimly while he fought against the taunt in Echolls' words. Damn good. And yeah, Wallace was bristled. Of course. But he knew that if he gave in now, this conversation would be over - he wasn't going to leave without this last answer though. So he gritted his teeth and forced himself to a smirk. "If it means that it gives me her friendship and trust? Hell, what do I care? I think we both know that I gain a lot more out of it, don't we? At least I can be certain she'll always have my back."

Every trace of taunt left Echolls' face and Wallace wasn't sure but he could swear that the other guy had just paled a little. For a moment, Echolls stared at him, then he shook his head once before turning away from him. "I wouldn't be that certain about that in your place, Fennel," he said, tonelessly. "I've been there." He looked back at Wallace and the force of the emotions in his eyes nearly slammed into Wallace. "You want to know why I did what I did? I tell you why: Because she made me believe that no matter what, I could always count onto her being there for me, to have our backs. That she would stay true to us, to the little family the four of us built. But she didn't. Lilly died and when it came to the choice between her real family and us, she chose them. Betrayed us. And that hurt as much as the death of Lilly. Not that I expect you to ever understand that. So are we finished now? You got what you wanted?" Echolls asked bitterly and turned away, snatched up the bottle and downed the rest of the liquor in it. "Don't hit the door on the way back out," Echolls added and without another glance back, he sauntered into one of the other rooms.

Quickly and quietly, Wallace grabbed his things and left. Yeah, he thought he had learned what he wanted to know. And perhaps even a bit more than what he wanted to know. Besides, yeah, now he had a much clearer idea about how Veronica had been - but would he really be able to understand her better now?

Perhaps. But only time would tell that.

In one thing Echolls had been wrong though: Wallace could understand his actions a bit better now. Not all of it and he sure was far from forgiving him. But it made more sense. Especially after his own little falling out Wallace had had with Veronica last year. If he had understood what Echolls had told him that night correctly, Veronica really had been a big part in his life once, a real and close friend Wallace suspected like Echolls had few of them. So it was no wonder that it had hurt Echolls when it had turned out that apparently, there were limits to that friendship. If that really had been the case or if Echolls blind rage had not done a lot more to their friendship was another story. It didn't explain the force of his hate, but then, Wallace had a hunch what caused that one.

Because there was another thing that had become crystal clear to Wallace during their little talk and even more so the following days when he watched Echolls watching Veronica: No matter what lay in the past between Echolls and Veronica, the past from after Lilly Kane's death but also the past from after their relationship - traces of that friendship they once had shared were still there. That was why Veronica always helped Echolls, back last year with his father's stabbing and his mother's suicide and even this year, when he needed to be cleared of the murder charge against him. And it was why Echolls couldn't do anything else but turn to her when he really needed help or just someone to come through for him. But it wasn't just their friendship that was still there, perhaps ignored by both of them most of the time, but Wallace was sure that the next time one of them really needed the other one, the other would come through for the old friend.

And it wasn't just that. A blind one could see that they still had feelings for each other. Otherwise, Veronica would never be that jealous of any girl coming too near of Echolls. Or why Echolls liked to taunt her that much. And the worry in his eyes when he took in just how much like shit Veronica looked like lately because she hardly got any sleep anymore was another big telltale. Hell, the moment these two ended up in the same vicinity, the tension between them could keep Neptune running for months.

The way Wallace saw it, it was only a matter of time before those two became an item again. If that was a good or bad thing though - that was the big question. Wallace still didn't like Echolls that much, even though that he now understood the guy a lot better - so much that he even had told Veronica to lay off him a bit. But he just didn't trust him, especially not with Veronica. He had the ability to hurt her like no one else - and judging from Echolls' reactions here and there, it was exactly the same the other way around.

But... There had also been that moment, last summer. That told him that perhaps - there was also no one who could make them as happy as the other could do it.

Time would tell.

Well, time passed and there where three things, Wallace could tell.

First, yeah, he had been right: the moment Veronica really needed someone else, more than ever before, it was, not very surprisingly, Echolls who literally saved not only her life, but probably also her sanity during the terrible hours in which Veronica had to believe that her father was dead, in the aftermath of finding out that out of all people, Cassidy 'Beaver' Casablancas, harmless little boy, never really getting noticed, was responsible for the bus crash and killing all the people in it, killing Curly Moran and, not to be forgotten, it also turned out that the little bastard had also raped Veronica on that party two years ago, though few people knew about that one.

When Wallace had heard about all that, from a teary and still somewhat shocked Veronica, all he wanted to do was to kill Beaver himself... but then, the little weasel had already killed himself, so he couldn't even have the small pleasure of punching the asshole out cold.

Second, and not very surprisingly either, Echolls and Veronica were back together now, their relationship stronger than ever before. Not that Veronica ever talked with Wallace about it, thank God, but one could sense it, see it in the way they looked at each other, leaned into each other, how even the briefest touch of them seemed to calm and relax them.

Yeah, Wallace hated to admit it, but it looked like it really was a good thing that those two had found their way back to each other. And this time around, he and Echolls spent a lot more time together with Veronica than last summer. Hell, Wallace even thought there was a very, very slight chance that he and Echolls actually would become friends one of these days.

A very, very strange thought and not just a bit disturbing.

And the third thing... Wallace's hunch had been right: In the end, getting to know the old Veronica hadn't really helped him get one Veronica Mars. But he also had come to the decision that it didn't really matter anyway. Wallace was her best friend and nothing and no one was ever going to change that. He still knew Veronica Mars better than most other people. And he may not understand all of her, but first, she was a girl and it was a wide known fact that girls and their ways just are one big mystery and second, he still understood more of her than most other people.

Veronica had many layers, but hey, she was still a marshmallow with a really soft and sweet core, and that was really all what he needed to know about her.

Besides, Wallace thought, glancing to the side at Echolls and Veronica cuddled up on the sofa, if he wasn't very wrong, there was one person who really got Veronica, knew all her layers, perhaps better than Wallace ever had a chance to get to know them. But then, Echolls knew her a lot longer and in many different ways than Wallace.

And as long as Echolls wouldn't use his profound knowledge of her to hurt her again, but solely in a good way, he and Wallace wouldn't have a problem.

Otherwise though... He was Wallace Fennel - and no one messed around with his marshmallow without paying hell for it.

The End

Author's note: Uff... Another Bunny taken care of! At least this time it was a one timer, with so sequels or anything in prospect. Hope you liked it. I had fun with it and fun to walk around in Wallace's head a bit. And now... back to my other stories.