ELSEWHEN

Maybe, there was once an elsewhere. An elsewhen. He doesn't remember very well now.

He hadn't remembered Lilly, how she died. He should have remembered – he should have relived every single moment of that day; when he was told the truth, the last thing he said to her, how she looked when she was splattered across the pavement. But he couldn't. Then it was three days later; the house was full of her chalk outline and police taking photos. His mother was in tears; they went to the funeral, and still Duncan couldn't manage to meet poor Veronica's eyes.

He is sleeping, slowly returning to consciousness.

Veronica. He vomited into his trash can when Celeste told him the truth. Lilly asked him again and again and again what had happened; why he had hurt her best friend so badly; until Duncan screamed and told her. He didn't talk to his father for weeks (then Lilly was dead and nothing else mattered). Veronica looked so crushed, in that moment when he turned away.

Now, his head is spinning. Where is he?

Lilly had wanted to tell her, saying; "She deserves to know the truth, Duncan." But Duncan couldn't do that. He knew Veronica, how sweet and innocent and naive she was. He couldn't turn their memories against her. He couldn't crush her faith in her mother. He just couldn't. So he begged Lilly not to tell, she didn't, and that what that.

He grasps at the comforter and blinks a few times. It isn't his bed. He struggles to remember – Shelley. She had a party.

Lilly had died then and Veronica had looked to him for... something. Comfort. Salvation. It had only gotten worse after Keith Mars went after his father (and part of Duncan desperately wanted it to be true) and the 09ers went after Veronica. Duncan was the one who loved her once (he still loved her, but he couldn't say that), shouldn't he be the one to protect her? But he didn't. He was broken and practically catatonic; he couldn't even look at her without seeing everything he once knew turned to ash.

He didn't bother saving Logan either.

He opens his eyes – he can barely manage it, but he needs to figure out where he is – and sees a figure next to him. Small, blond, beautiful. She wears a white party dress and sleeps peacefully. Veronica.

He had been at her house, one time. Her parents were out, and they had gotten to making out in her room. She was giggling against his lips; the sound was practically angelic to him. He had realized his hand was slowly worming its way up her shirt, but she hadn't minded. She moved closer and somehow landed on his lap.

"Veronica," he heard the voice of Mrs. Mars – Lianne, he always calls her now – far panicked than he had ever seen before. Both he and Veronica blushed like crazy, and she quickly set about removing herself from his lap. Lianne looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Awkward, Duncan thought.

"I need your help downstairs," Lianne mumbled. Veronica nodded, and for a split second, Duncan swore he could see a tear in the mother's eyes.

Duncan gets out of the bed, still not entirely steady on his feet. He had... with Veronica. With his sister. And he can barely even remember; what could have happened to make him forget the truth? He can't remember words; just the vague image of her form under his.

"Hey baby," he had said, running his hand over her porcelain skin. She was tired, drunk, but welcoming. She smiled at him the soft way she had before Lilly, before everything.

"You're here," she tells him. Yes. Yes he is.

"I miss you," she continues. He agrees.

They fall to the bed.

He slides into his clothes, nauseous. No going back now. He had slept with her. This wasn't how it should be; this was disgusting. And somehow, some part of him didn't regret it.

"Okay, breaking that unspoken 'no sappiness' vow," Logan said to him at lunch one day. "Veronica. You keep staring. You still love her, man."

Duncan had shuddered and broken his gaze from his ex-girlfriend – sister. "No. I don't."

"Okay," Logan blinked."Why not?"

Duncan looked down. "It's complicated," he said unhelpfully. "Can we not have this conversation?"

That night, Lilly had talked to him and said the same things. "Veronica's noticed you staring, you know."

He hadn't responded.

"You still love her, don't you Donut?" she asked.

"No!" he snapped at her. "I don't. I can't."

"Then what are you going to do, DK? 'Cause it's pretty obvious you do. It's not your fault, after all. Mommie and Daddy Dearest dump this on you now? They were lucky you didn't go off yourself."

He stormed out then, planning not to talk for a Lilly for a while. It worked better than he expected. The next day, she died.

He wants to get out quickly, but he's moving cautiously so he doesn't wake her. He can't be there for the morning after; the time where she will not know the truth. He had started on the road to hell last night, and if he doesn't go now he'll never stop. Maybe he still can't stop, but he won't be able to bring himself to leave her a second time if he sees her awake.

He swallowed the lump in his throat; tamed the lions in his stomach. He was approaching Veronica; he could do this. Pull her aside, say they needed to talk. A normal breakup speech; hopefully less clichéd than "It's not you, it's me," (it was her, him, neither of them; it was absolutely fucking everything, the oxygen they breathed). A clean break them; a clear demarcation line of "it's over."

She looked at him sweetly; with naive, innocent eyes. He couldn't help it. He looked down and kept walking.

His shirt is still unbuttoned when he runs out of the room to throw up. He looks down and sees that his puke his landed on another stain; someone else threw up here. Not that it matters; why does he care?

He thinks. He never wanted to be this guy; the guy who fucks a girl other than his date. The guy who abandons the girl the morning after. It's not fair to him, to her, to anyone. He wants to stay; he wants to believe that the world won't end if he doesn't run away, now.

Shelley was sucking at the skin of his neck, but he didn't feel it. His eyes were transfixed to the girl in a white party dress; what was she doing there? Duncan bit back a laugh as he realized it was all just a cruel joke played by a sociopathic God; one who delighted in giving him everything only to rip it away as quickly and as painfully as he could.

Veronica didn't look at him for more than a second; her eyes filled with steely determination. She was better than them, the people who laughed at and judged her; she was better than him. The naivety was quite clearly gone, but he could see the last scraps of innocence. He envied her.

Shelley pulled back petulantly, and just then Duncan realized he hadn't been paying attention to her. It was her party, after all. "What is it, Duncan?" she asked, and Duncan shook his head. He was almost as good a liar as his father, by now.

"Nothing."

"Were you just staring at Mars?" she continued, sounding offended. She would hate the thought of being compared – unfavorably – to Veronica; the school pariah. Duncan felt a vague urge to hit her – just an urge; he wouldn't hit a girl – but that was buried under his queasy stomach. He could imagine his mother asking his father the same question.

"No."

Almost as good a liar.

He leaves hoping he won't be seen; that no-one will ever speak of it again. It is done and buried between him and Veronica, even if his memory is fuzzy. He regrets that he has to leave. No matter what he does here, he'll be killing another part of that innocent Veronica. The one he started killing when he looked down and swerved to avoid her.

But if he stays, he'll have to tell her the truth and he knows that will devastate her. Kill any last vestiges of hope and faith (not charity, because he knows nothing will ever stop his Veronica from that). So he makes a choice, and lets Lianne stay an idol. He saves what little of the innocent Veronica he can.

He didn't explain to anyone, bar Lilly (and then she was dead). They didn't see the innocent Duncan die.