A week had passed since the sheriff's election. Keith Mars had officially removed "acting" from his title, but he found that he might be passing the acting sheriff title to Vinnie Van Lowe, if the evidence tampering charges stuck. It seemed that Sheriff Mars' saving grace in the election was that not enough people read the paper in the morning.
Veronica was hoping that this fact would be different today. Today she wanted every student at Hearst, every person in Neptune to read the Hearst Free Press. Nish had let Veronica know that her story about the Castle would be published in the issue, and Veronica wanted it read and seen by as many people as possible. Nish had informed her that the names of all current Hearst students, as well as notable people in society would be named in the article, and a complete list was going to be made available on the Free Press website. After Veronica had given Jake Kane back his hard drive, she realised that she had given her only copy of the Castle roster to Nish. She had berated herself over that fact, but figured she could get it back off the website later. Thus Veronica was looking forward to properly reading the list for herself.
Veronica grabbed a paper from the dispenser, and sat down in the cafeteria with her breakfast. Front page news, as it should be, she thought. Chewing her fruit and yogurt parfait, Veronica choked as she came to one of the names on the list of Pledges '07. Hacking and coughing Veronica felt a hand smacking her on the back.
"Chew, then swallow," said Wallace as he sat down next to her. Piz took a seat on her right. Both guys had a breakfast tray in hand. "Whatcha readin'?" asked Wallace, leaning towards her to catch a glimpse of the headline. Surprise hit his face. "This was you, wasn't it" he said to Veronica.
"Story by Nish Sweeney, special to the Hearst Free Press," Veronica read off the by-line.
"You know what I mean Veronica," said Wallace, "Nish wrote it, but you're her source, aren't you?" Veronica shrugged.
"What do you think Piz?" she asked, turning to him, and holding up the paper so he could read the headline. Surprise came over Piz's face too.
"Do I think you're her source?" asked Piz "I dunno I doubt it."
"No, not just about that," said Veronica, "about the whole thing, about the article. What do you make of it?"
"Nothing," said Piz, "it's probably a lot of bull. I don't think a group like the Castle would leave a roster lying around for someone like Nish to find."
"Oh I don't know," said Veronica, "I found this part pretty believable." She pointed to the page. "This Years Pledges of 2007" she read "Ryan Porter"
"-the 2400 kid" interrupted Wallace.
"Appollo Bukenya" continued Veronica
"We all know he's going places" added Wallace. Veronica stopped and looked up as she heard a chair scraping. Mac was sitting down.
"Hey Mac, you read the paper yet?" Veronica asked.
"As a matter of fact I have," said Mac. "Very scholarly of me wouldn't you say."
"Very," agreed Veronica "but Wallace and Piz aren't as academically minded. I'm just reading them the Castle's pledges of 2007."
"Good read," said Mac "Do get on with it, I wouldn't want to get in the way of Wallace and Piz's enlightenment."
"Right, so number 3, Daniel Hitchens" read Veronica
"Ah, he's in a few of my computer science classes." Mac said. "Guy's smart, second in the class, after yours truly."
"Simon Stahn" continued Veronica "plays the violin, he's already a member of the Los Angels Symphony Orchestra. I took his picture once for the Free Press. He's a prodigy I hear. Number 5, Dustin Bassett."
"Him, I know" said Wallace "Track athlete, runs sprints."
"And number 6" read Veronica "Stosch Piznarski. Him I know."
"As do I" chimed in Mac.
"What!?" said Wallace. All heads turned to face Piz.
"You see, it's all bull," said Piz, his voice calm, and very nonchalant.
"That's what I thought when I read it too honey," said Veronica, her voice sounded sweet. Wallace gave her a look of confusion, but Veronica continued "Pure bull," she said, as she leaned in to kiss Piz. As she kissed him she undid the top button of his polo shirt. "Oh, baby what's this mark?" asked Veronica, her hand touching the nape of Piz's neck, where two dots about half an inch apart were visible on his skin.
"I dunno," said Piz "there's a lot of marks on me. You're ex made sure of that."
"But a mark like that" Veronica continued in the sugary sweet voice, "looks exactly like a mark like-"
"This" said Wallace, pulling his sweatshirt away from his neck, and pointing to his identical burns.
"You pledged the Castle after what they did to us," Veronica said, anger rising in her voice.
"Look, the Castle will take you places," said Piz, the anger in his voice matching Veronica's. "It gives you connections that you could never dream of. So when they made me an offer, how could I refuse that? I want to go places, do big things, and these guys will let me do that. Tell me that you wouldn't have taken advantage of a situation like that, if one was presented to you," he said directly to Veronica, then added, "to any of you."
"I know I wouldn't," Veronica crossly replied, thinking of Professor Landry, and when he first offered to submit her application to the FBI internship program.
"Neither would I," said Wallace, "I walked away from the Castle after what they did to you two."
"Mac?" asked Piz, turning to her.
"No way," said Mac looking disgusted.
"Wait, what do you mean an offer?" asked Wallace. "They just up and told me I was in."
"Well you had a secret that they could learn to bind you to them," said Piz, " I didn't have a deep dirty secret, so I needed to create one to be accepted."
"What did you do Piz?" Veronica asked, her voice sounded sick as she thought back to all of the awful things that she had heard the Castle members divulge on the videos. How, oh how, had she not noticed Piz's name on that list when she'd had it in her possession? Piz laughed.
"That is a secret I share only with my brothers."
"Well I think you're going to make an exception," said Wallace. He stood up threateningly. Piz leaned back in his chair. He mouthed the word "brothers" to Wallace, before animatedly scanning the cafeteria with his eyes.
"There's no need Wallace," said Mac. "I knew that once Veronica read the news about Piz she'd ask me to do this anyways, so I beat her to the punch." Turning to Veronica, Mac said, "We viewed Jake Kane's hard drive on the super computer right?"
"You what?" asked Wallace
"Shh" said Veronica, holding up a finger.
"So," continued Mac, "the contents of it were temporarily stored there. So I hacked the super computer, and viewed the files."
"You what?" this time it was Piz.
"Yeah let's see Daniel Hitchens do that," said Mac to Piz. "Anyways, I downloaded Piz's video to my black berry. Anyone care for a viewing?" Veronica and Wallace gathered behind Mac's chair.
"You're bluffing," said Piz. "There's no way you cracked Jake Kane's hard drive. The guy is a computer visionary."
"Maybe you should let chick's into your Castle after all," said Mac, pressing play. An image of Piz, naked except for his underwear appeared onscreen. He had the collar around his neck. "I queued it to the part you'll be interested in," said Mac.
"Tell us about the video number one." A voice was saying. Piz was staring directly at the camera as he began to talk.
"I planted a camera on the wall above my room mates bed, aimed it at my bed. I put a mike under my headboard. Then I invited Veronica over for a study session after talking all day about how much I was going to miss her this summer. That way she was feeling sorry for me. I turned the camera on just before she came into the room. Then we fooled around." As Piz said this he didn't seem to show any emotion. Not proud of himself, but not disgusted either. He was simply stating fact for the voice.
"Fooling around in a sexual manner?" the voice asked.
"But you didn't have sex?" the voice continued.
"No I didn't think it was necessary for the video"
"Continue," instructed the voice. "What did you do after she left?"
"I queued the footage for the guy who had approached me. Then I dropped it off where we'd arranged."
"Is that all number one?"
"Yes" A scream rang out in the background.
"Holy shit, that's me" said Wallace "that's me screaming, that was my voice. You bastard"
"Try again number one, what else did you do after she left?" For the first time, Piz, looked away from the camera, it seemed he was finally embarrassed about something because he looked towards the floor.
"I masturbated" Piz said to the floor.
"Did your girlfriend know about the camera?"
"No" said Piz, then he yelped in pain as the collar went off. "She didn't! She didn't know anything about the camera or my pledging or anything. I swear!"
"I know," said the voice, "One of your brothers lied."
"God I hope that was my lie," said Wallace as Mac turned off the screen. The three looked up, surprised to see Piz still sitting there. Veronica felt sick to her stomach, watching him sitting there, feeling invincible thanks to his new brothers.
"Why number one?" asked Wallace.
"My uncle is the CEO of Stanley Electronics. I'm his one and only nephew, he's also a Castle member."
"Only five." Veronica said, laughing quietly to herself.
"What?" asked Piz.
"Logan was disappointed he only gave you five stitches." Piz's hand went to his face.
"So what? Logan will pay for this."
"Yeah, but for only five," said Veronica letting go of the back of Mac's chair, and facing Piz head on. He still wore that fucking smirk. Veronica raised her hand, and slapped him. As hard as she could. She slapped the smirk right off his face. She slapped the stitches wide open. Wider than before, so that a gash reappeared on his face.
"Maybe that'll give you more than five," yelled Veronica. 'You disgust me you pig. I hope I never see you again." Piz looked dumstruck.
"Veronica" he said, sounding confused. Veronica closed her eyes.
"Wait, you didn't honestly think that when she found out about this that you two would stay together?" Mac said.
"And you had to know she'd find out," added Wallace. "This is Veronica Mars we're talking about here." Piz ignored them.
"Veronica please, I'm sorry. But I did it to go after my dreams. I needed to get into the Castle. My uncle would have disowned me if I didn't join. How can you not understand that?" Veronica's eyes were still closed, her expression looked like she wanted to be sick.
"I never want to see you again." Veronica repeated.
"Please" said Piz.
"She said she never wants to see you again," said Wallace, his voice full of hatred and disgust. "I don't give a fuck about your brothers. You're gonna walk across this cafeteria now, or I'm gonna throw you across it." Piz looked close to tears as he stood up. "And your stuff better be out of that room when we get up there," Wallace added. "You can stay with one of your god damned brothers." Piz extended his hand out, as if to touch Veronica. "Do it, and lose that hand," said Wallace. "I'm not gonna tell you to get the fuck outta here again." Tears had begun to leak through Veronica's closed eyelids. She squeezed them shut tighter. Mac put an arm around her, and Wallace placed a hand protectively on her shoulder.
'I never want to see your fucking face ever again," Veronica choked out. Mac turned and took Veronica into a hug. Wallace looked ready to kill Piz, and Piz, looking completely dejected, walked away. Veronica was fully crying now, Mac rubbed her back.
"It's ok," she said softly.
"He's gone," added Wallace, sitting down beside her. Only then did Veronica open her eyes. She wiped her face, and the three of them sat silently for almost 15 minutes. Mac and Wallace, both perfectly fine with giving Veronica silent moral support while she tried to process what had just happened, and compose herself. Finally, Veronica broke the quiet.
"How could I have been so fucking stupid?" she blurted angrily.
"This is so not your fault," said Wallace firmly. "Don't you dare think that."
"I thought Piz was a good guy. We all did," said Mac.
"No, I know it's not my fault," Veronica said, "but that camera, you could barely see Wallace's bed in the shot. Why would it have been for him? And the sound, I should have realised that there was a mike close by. And why would they have put a mike there? I'm such a fucking idiot."
"Stop saying that," said Mac. "Maybe one of us should have thought of it. You shouldn't have to do everything Veronica. You were way too involved in this one to have been thinking completely straight. Maybe after some time you'd have realised on your own, but you should have been able to count on your friends this time, and we let you down."
"No," Veronica said smiling softly, "no you didn't. You played that beautifully this morning Mac, and Wallace, you went into the Castle for me." She looked from one friend to the other.
"And Logan kicked the shit outta Piz, which, I'm kind of jealous he got to do instead of me," Wallace added. Veronica smiled.
"And Logan kicked the shit out of Piz," she repeated. Then she frowned. "But the principle is still the same. He jumped to conclusions. He happened to jump the right one this time, but he can't punch first and ask questions later."
"Or maybe he's a better judge of character than we are," suggested Mac. Veronica snorted.
"I don't think so," she said.
"What, maybe he is," defended Mac, "and maybe you should stop ignoring the fact that he's obviously still in love with you."
"I wasn't," said Veronica.
"Or that you're still in love with him," Mac added quickly. Veronica started to dispute this statement but the looks from Wallace and Mac silenced her, as she realised arguing this point would be useless.
"We make each other miserable," Veronica said instead.
"No," said Wallace, "the only time you are ever truly happy is when you're with him."
"You just hold the bar too high for him," added Mac. "No guy could ever meet the expectations you have of Logan, and I think he knows that, but he tries anyways because he loves you so much."
"And it's only Logan that you have these standards for," continued Wallace.
"Duncan did some pretty messed up shit to you, and you forgave him," Mac added. "But you love Logan so much that you're afraid he'll leave you like everyone else you loved that much-"
"You're mom, Lilly, Duncan," Wallace cut in.
"So you keep the bar so high, so that you have an excuse to leave him first," Mac finished. Veronica was quiet for a minute, and Mac and Wallace were afraid she'd become angry with them for analysing her like that, but she surprised them.
"Jesus guys, what's with the tag-team routine. Have you two rehearsed that speech?"
"No" they said together, causing all three of them to laugh.
"No," Wallace finally managed, "it's just been so obvious to your friends for so long that we didn't need to practice."
"You couldn't have found a better time to dump this on me? I've had kind of a shit morning." Veronica said half-laughing, half-serious.
"It just seemed like the time," said Mac, "and you brought it up in the first place."
"Yeah," Veronica sighed, "so what are you two saying that I should do?"
"You need to trust him more. Stop trying to catch him in a lie. Stop looking for reasons to get mad at him."
"Look, trust just doesn't come easy for me."
"You think it comes easy for Logan?" Mac interjected. "He's had just as many fucked up things happen to him as you. Maybe more. His dad abused him. But he still trusts you with his life." Veronica closed her eyes and murmured something.
"Sorry?" said Wallace.
"They don't write songs about the ones that come easy," Veronica repeated.
"Look we're not saying that you have to do anything right away," Wallace said.
"In fact, you shouldn't," added Mac, "you've had a pretty fucked up morning. Just while you're sorting through all of this in your head, now you have that there as a factor. The Logan factor"
"Shit, I have class in like 10 minutes," Veronica said noticing the clock over Wallace's shoulder. She put her head in her hands "Fuck it, I'll never be able to pay attention. Mac could I…"
"Mi casa es su casa," Mac said, "stay as long as you need to."
Veronica hung out in Mac's room all day. She cried for a while. Yelled at the ceiling for a while. And then sat down to try and sort everything out in her head. Mac stopped by with some food for her around one, but otherwise left Veronica alone with her thoughts. Veronica's only other distraction came in the form of Parker.
Parker stopped in to pick up some books from her room, to find Veronica, red eyed and puffy faced, on Mac's bed.
"What? Did you and Piz have a fight about royalties from your porno?" Veronica felt anger rise.
"The royalties are all his. He filmed it, he posted it. That whole video is the real fucking Piz, showing himself for the bastard he is."
"Piz posted the video? But that doesn't sense. He wouldn't. Piz is a-"
"Good guy? Yeah, I thought so too."
"So Logan was right."
"Look Parker, I don't know anything about Logan," Veronica started.
"Bull shit. You know him better than he knows himself. Better than I ever did, or could. Even when we were together, it was always you Veronica."
"Parker I never-"
"No, I know you didn't try to drag him along. But it's always been so obvious with the two of you." Parker sighed. She leaned against the wall. "Look Veronica I meant it when I said I didn't care anymore. I'm done caring about Logan because I can be. You can't be done caring about him. You know you can't. Do what's right. As far as I'm concerned, if you could stay friends with me while I dated your ex, I can do the same for you."
"Parker that's really sweet, but I don't know…"
"Sure you do Veronica. Deep down. You know. You know the truth about you and Logan." Parker pushed off from the wall. "I gotta go. I'll see you around."
Veronica spent the remainder of the day adding what Parker had said into her equation. She spent the night at Mac's, and drove home the next morning. No classes that day for her, so she spent it in a daze. Going through the routine motions of her life. A week passed. Veronica ate, slept, showered and went to class. She lived life as usual, but on autopilot.
The charges against her father were dropped. Jake Kane, it seemed, had a sudden change of heart. He recovered his hard drive, and asked that the case be dropped. With no evidence from any case being in question, Keith Mars was free to carry on as sheriff.
Piz did as he had been told. When Wallace had gotten back to his room after his morning class, all of Piz's stuff was gone. He only left a letter addressed to Veronica. Veronica, in turn, instructed Wallace to throw it out, which he did gladly, and neither Veronica, Wallace or Mac had seen Piz since breakfast that morning.
Now Veronica was home, sitting at her desk, analysing everything for the hundredth time, when it hit her. She got a look of such determination blazing in her eyes. She got up, and walked from her room, to the front door.
"Where you goin' honey?" her dad asked looking up from the TV.
"Oh really, I hadn't surmised that yet. When should I expect you back?"
"You probably shouldn't," said Veronica, "not tonight," she added as she walked out the door.
And when Logan opened his door to find Veronica standing there, she still had that same look of determination burning in her eyes.
"Veronica?" he said stepping back to let her into the room.
"You were right," she blurted, walking past him as he shut the door.
"About Piz. It was him, he filmed us together so that he could join the fucking Castle."
"Fuck," said Logan under his breath.
"And the worst part is that I believed him. He told me he didn't do it, and I trusted him. Me. who can't trust anyone and their god damned grandmother, and I trusted that scum while he was lying to my face. WHY! She was yelling now, and the tears were beginning to roll. "Why did I trust that piece of shit, when I can't trust you; the one guy who is always there. Who always loves me, and I trust that lying son of a bitch. Why?"
"I don't know Veronica," Logan spoke softly, causing a strong contrast between her yelling and his calm. "I wish I did." He was sitting on the couch. Veronica was crying so hard, that she had started to shake. Logan took her hand and pulled her gently to the couch beside him. He pulled her close and held her as she shook. He stroked her hair and made calm shhing sounds until her crying stopped.
"It's not right," she said finally. "Piz was just some guy, and Logan you're the guy. My guy. I love you so much that it scares me, because when you leave me, I'll die inside. So I make it impossible. I ruin things.
"What do you mean when I leave you?" asked Logan. Veronica murmured into his chest,
"Everyone leaves me."
"Veronica, you have some of the most devoted friends in the world. Mac, Wallace, and Weavil would all jump in front of a bus if you asked them to. And your dad, he's risked his job and his life for you. And me," Veronica looked up at Logan, "there is nothing in the world that I wouldn't do for you. Except leave you." Veronica smiled and laid her head back on Logan's chest.
"Then could you do something for me?" asked Veronica "Could you forgive me?"
"For how horrible I treated you."
"No, Logan, I was awful. I did some really shitty things."
"So did I"
"Yeah, but you apologized, always. And me, I was always so righteous. I'm the one apologizing now."
"I forgive you," Logan said, his voice pure and sincere. Veronica's smile blossomed.
"Could you do one more thing for me?" Veronica asked.
"What's that?" asked Logan
"Kiss me." Logan's hand gently touched her face. He pulled her towards him and kissed her. Deep and passionate. He leaned back to rest against the arm of the couch, while she moved towards him, to sit in his lap. They broke the kiss after a minute of two. Veronica closed her eyes and rested her head on Logan's chest. Logan wrapped his arms around her, and they lay in silence for almost ten minutes before Logan realised she'd fallen asleep.
Logan carried her into his bedroom and placed her on the bed. He changed from his jeans and crawled in next to her. Veronica woke up just enough to say that she didn't want to sleep in her clothes. She started to get up but Logan told her to go back to sleep. He pulled off her jeans, then her t-shirt and bra and handed her one of his own, larger t-shirts.
It was a tribute to how tired she was for her to let Logan help her like this, but she'd done nothing but think about her life and their life together for a week straight. For it all to come together at the end was exhilarating but also exhausting. That, or maybe it would be in these small gestures that Veronica would begin to show Logan her trust, she thought to herself. Logan climbed in next to her and pulled a blanket over the two of them. Veronica rested her head on his chest and fell asleep. Instantly. When she opened her eyes again, it was morning. Her head was still on Logan's chest. She rolled over to look at him, placing her head back on his chest. Logan's eyes were open. He'd been watching her sleep.
"Hey," she said sleepily.
"Hey yourself," Logan replied. Veronica breathed in deeply. She could smell Logan. She thought about how much she had missed that.
"I love you," she said quietly.
"I love too babe," Logan answered. Veronica rolled off his chest and placed her head on the pillow beside him. She turned to face him.
"So, you remember when I came here to tell you how badly you'd hurt Piz?" Logan looked confused, but answered,
"I said five stitches, and you said only five?"
"Ah yes," said Logan, smiling now, remembering his handiwork.
"When we broke up, I slapped the stitches." She said, a smile coming to her face, remembering her own haniwork. "The stitches split open and that gash split down his face. I think it'll be a few more than five this time," she said smiling. Logan kissed her smiling lips and said,
"That's my girl."