Title: Ghosts and Monsters
Author: chichuri
Pairing/Character: Cassidy, Logan, Veronica

Word Count: 1492
Rating: R
Summary: Cassidy has a chat with Logan about Veronica

Spoilers: 2.22

Warnings: Adult language, allusions to rape and molestation

Disclaimer: Characters not mine, of course.

Author's Note: I'm not entirely sure where this came from, although I suspect sleep deprivation played a large part in it.

Ghosts and Monsters

"She was broken when I found her, y'know. Tasted of salt and lime."

The dead boy leans against the door, arms folded across his chest, shadowed eyes focused on something far away. The bright colors he wears, garish against his pale skin, glow in the dimly lit suite. Each time Cassidy appears he is dressed in orange, white and blue, courtesy of a baseball uniform that should have long been outgrown. Logan supposes it's better than seeing his former friend bloodied and broken from his plunge off the Neptune Grand. Of course, the uniform reminds him of the struggle that no one had noticed a small boy enduring, but then that might be the point. This Cassidy, be he vengeful ghost or figment of a guilty conscience, is not above such pointed reminders.

"What haunts you more, Logan?" Cassidy asks idly, glancing towards the couch. "That you set her up for it, or that no one was there to help her through it?"

Logan closes his eyes and settles deeper into the leather, head bowed and hands deep in the long sleeves of his shirt. He tries not to remember that December evening. He tries not to remember the strung out flashes of vicious merriment and righteous entitlement that opened the door to far worse abuse than he would have wished on anyone, no matter how he thought he hated them. Even more, he tries not to remember the thousand little points at which he could have changed the eventual outcome.

He's never succeeded at not remembering, but he still tries.

"I mean, everything that happened to her?" Cassidy's voice becomes thoughtful. "Well, it was hardly the first time that someone at an 09er party . . . took advantage of the situation." Logan opens his eyes to Cassidy's little smirk and studies him. The dead boy is only one example of a friend he had never really known. Once Logan had bothered to really look at his fellow scions of the overprivileged, he could too easily imagine more that a few of them, whether in the depths of intoxication or not, assuming a 'yes' in a less than sensible partner. He had felt sick when he realized he could even picture some taking measures to ensure that their partners were submissive.

Potential nausea is one of many reasons that Logan had distanced himself from most of his 'friends' in the last year.

"Really, even if Lilly had been alive and here, all it would take is a little time alone . . . then whoops, no underwear!" Cassidy gives a sly grin and winks. "Yeah, you and Lilly and Duncan all watched out for her . . . but can you really say that she was never alone? That no one could have gotten that close?"

Looking back, Logan sweats as he realizes how lucky it was that both the girls hadn't been taken advantage of in a dark corner at one or another of the raucous parties he and his cronies had insisted on throwing. Duncan usually didn't drink to extremes, but couldn't look after both girls all the time. And once Logan had drunk and drugged himself into insensibility he had been worthless for protecting them. No matter how powerful their parents and friends, there was always someone who didn't give a shit about possible consequences. He doesn't want to think how many other girls might not have had even that small shield.

Something about the ironic glint in Cassidy's eye reminds Logan that Veronica wasn't the only person who had been left unwatched and alone. Logan pictures that frail boy in a baseball uniform staring forlornly after his big brother and his big brother's friends. No one had protected him, and in the end a monster hiding in the trappings of a Little League coach had taken advantage.

He thinks there's something in the water, or maybe carried on the ocean breeze. There are far too many monsters in Neptune, ready to prey on the innocent.

"But the aftermath . . . " Cassidy continues on relentlessly. "Think of what she went through, all alone. No one to talk to . . . no one to comfort her . . . even you noticed the changes in her. You had to have known someone had taken your broken bits and crushed them further. You had to have known that something provided that final straw. That the last of her resistance cracked before she finally stepped up and remade herself."

Logan doesn't bother hiding the flinch as he retreats backwards. He pulls his knees to his chest and digs his fingers into the soft leather beneath his hands. Veronica has never talked about the aftermath, not the first time, not this time. All he had known two and a half years ago was that she had stopped taking the hits and started lobbing them back. Some part of his brain had registered the party as a turning point, but he had never let himself consider what it might mean. Not until that night she had stood up to him, damp and defiant, throwing accusations of drugs and rape in his face.

He had never like felt more of a fuckup in his life as when the magnitude of the fallout from his assholic behavior had become clear.

Logan will never know the final event that pushed Cassidy to shift from the soft, shy boy to the merciless killer. It might have been the pressure of Marcos and Peter threatening to expose his shame, but Logan believes the true breaking point was much earlier. He wonders if it was a slow deterioration or if he should have spotted a sharp line of demarcation between the before and the after. Others might claim that no child could have been able to hide the signs, but he knows better. However, the reason he knows better is the very reason that he of all people should have been able to tell. Maybe if someone had noticed and Cassidy had been able to share his pain, the boy wouldn't have been impelled to take such drastic measures to hide it.

Could all of them have been any more fucking blind?

"I have to congratulate you on breaking her first, though." Cassidy pushes off the door and stands straight, watching Logan intently. "It was a wonderful job. Turning that bright, trusting, beautiful girl into the defensive outsider?" The dead boy's mocking claps of the appreciation echo through the room. "I may have delivered the finishing touches to her creation, but the bulk of the work? That was all you." He shakes his head ruefully as he leans in closer and whispers, "Fucking up the two of us? That took years of defective parenting plus the addition of outside resources. Her? We stripped her down to bare bones in months."

Logan meets Cassidy's gaze squarely. He's already acknowledged what a sadistic bastard he had been--hell, he'd known exactly how merciless he was being at the time. His lashing out in pain and anger and everything that had followed from those actions had helped reshape Veronica Mars, and he accepts this burden on his soul. Like Cassidy, like Logan himself, she had recreated herself in response to the tortures inflicted by others.

"It's interesting, though." Cassidy pauses, looking at the floor for a moment before again meeting Logan's eyes. "You have the murderous father, but I end up killing all those people. Her? Her father was sheriff, so you'd think that whole law thing was ingrained. But look at all the shit she's pulled in the name of her so-called justice. That night on the roof? Without you, she would have pulled the trigger. And guilt? Probably not. A little at first, maybe, but she'd shrug it off like she shrugs off everything else."

"She's not a killer," Logan says flatly, leaning forward and speaking to the ghost for the first time this evening.

"She's a very . . . 'end justifies the means' type girl. You may have broken her, but you? You have the compassion. She goes to whatever lengths she needs to satisfy herself. You may lash out in rage, but she takes out her opponents in cold calculation. Really, I think in that she's more like me."

"She's nothing like you," Logan snarls as he shoots to his feet. His hands clench into fists as he looms over the smaller boy.

"Logan, you know better," Cassidy chides affectionately. "We always carry pieces of our creators. We can't escape it."

"We can. We do."

"Sometimes we can overcome it. But it's always there, waiting to crawl out and shape the next one down the line."

"Cassidy--"

"We're all broken, Logan," the dead boy says softly as he fades from sight. "We'll never become who we should have been. But sometimes, if we're lucky, we can take those pieces and forge something better."