THE FERRY RIDE

Parker welcomes her with a broad grin, and Veronica blinks a few times. Where are they?

She soon observes they are on a river; a ferry on a river, more specifically. Parker holds out her hand. "Give me your tickets, please."

Veronica is confused how she automatically responds to place a ticket in her friend's hand. Where did she get that? Still, she climbs aboard the ferry, as Parker begins to steer away. Parker is dressed in a humorously official outfit; black suit, stiff top hat; Veronica has to smile. She finds the ferry is almost empty, but she sits next to the one person there. A beautiful blond girl about her own age; maybe a year or two younger. The girl turns her head and Veronica gasps as she recognizes her: "Meg?"

She smiles cryptically. "I feel awfully like her, but sometimes my arms bend back."

Veronica blinks and furrows her brow. "Since when do you watch Twin Peaks?" she asks. Meg laughs.

"Whenever I could get away with it," Meg answers. "My parents weren't big on me watching a show full of demons and murder and whatnot," she says casually, and Veronica flinches.

"I'm sorry," she says. Meg shakes her head.

"Okay, that bit's not your fault."

Veronica looks back to Parker, who is now steering the ferry with a reflective look on her face. It seems so unlike what Veronica would expect from her.

"Where are we going?" she asks, unsure which of her friends – dead or alive – she is directing the question to.

"Where do you think we're going?" Parker asks, wry smile playing on her features. Veronica sighs.

"I don't know, that's why I asked."

Meg has to stifle a giggle.

Parker looks to the water again, and Veronica, moving like a puppet on strings, walks to her friend's side. She stares into the water and sees them as a broken reflection; Parker hairless and tear-stained; Veronica's own face flooded with guilt.

"You thought-" Parker says, full of pain and betrayal. Veronica stings so badly she can barely think, because she did think. She thought Parker would give in up to whatever boy she liked; Mac had planted that idea in her head and Veronica didn't get it out in time. That seems fitting.

"I thought it was... just sex, it never occurred to me that it might be against your will," it's a poor excuse and she knows it.

"Thanks. Thanks for thinking I'm... the slut of the world," Parker says harshly, emphasizing her disgust. Lamb just smirks in the corner; a horrifyingly familiar expression."You let this happen!"

Veronica can imagine so many people telling her that. She tries to keep the tears back.

Veronica stares at the water as the vision fades, needing a few more seconds before she can meet Parker's eyes again. "I'm sorry," she mumbles. Parker doesn't respond.

Veronica straightens her posture, takes a deep breath, and goes back to her seat. Meg is clutching the leather she's sitting on; fidgeting and avoiding Veronica's eyes.

"So," Veronica says, uncomfortable, but not really capable of keeping quiet. "How've you been?" she asks stupidly.

"Dead," Meg says, as a matter of fact.

Veronica winces as the pain returns; the memory of the bus over a cliff. "That was obvious," Veronica says, and Meg nods. She wants to keep talking, but there's nothing to say. They look to the water by their sides; another image spills out in front of them.

"If anything happens to me... Don't let them do it. Don't let them send the baby away. And whatever you do, don't let them keep it," Meg says desperately, and Veronica clutches her shoulder.

"I promise," she says, and means it more than anything in her life. She and Meg weren't having an easy time of it before the crash, but putting Duncan and his impact aside, Meg is her friend. One of the few people who stood by Veronica the year after Lilly; the year she needed it most. Now Meg needs her and Veronica refuses to let her down.

"We did it, you know," says Veronica, a little proud of herself. "We got her away; made sure they'd never go near her. That she could have a normal life, a good life. The kind you deserved, Meg."

Meg smiles sweetly, and gently grasps Veronica's hand. "Thank you," she says, and Veronica grins.

"Tell me don't live in a soap opera," Parker says from the back of the boat, and they all laugh. Veronica feels almost comfortable.

"The wounded butterflies swallow a mouthful of ash; they taste venom like a fine wine," Meg says cryptically, and Veronica's comfort near entirely fades. She sighs and lets her head fall on Meg's shoulder.

"I miss you," she admits, and Parker makes a little whining noise.

"You're not dead, Parker, it's kind of different," Veronica says, and Parker starts to smother her laughter against her palm. Veronica sighs; confused.

Meg slides off her seat, onto her knees at the edge of the boat. She slowly grazes a finger over the water surface; Veronica thinks she sees bus debris floating there. Tears prick at her eyelids, but she doesn't let them fall.

Parker rests her paddle, and joins them at the edge. "Stolen over a fractured frame; wasted in a barren land. Bury me in a sapphire grave."

Veronica shakes her head. Why do they keep speaking so cryptically to her? "Are you quoting poetry at me? Because I'm not really a big buff there."

They smile, and Parker gives Meg an almost imperceptible nod. Soon, Veronica finds their hands are grasping her wrists and ankles; she struggles.

"Hey!" she calls out, writhing away from their hold, but it doesn't help. Soon they are tossing her into the cold river depths; murky waters showing her another vision.

"It was my big night. You know, I'm supposed to lose my virginity, and instead I... hurl on Carrie Bishop's shoes," he says, and she twists in anger for how he can feel sorry for himself; especially compared to what happened to her. "Nothing happened," he says, looking her straight in the eye.

She doesn't respond.

"I swear on my life," he says, "The last time I saw you, you were passed out on that bed," he explains, pleading with her to believe him. She looks at his wide, innocent eyes, and she does. She'll probably have to check with Carrie Bishop, but whatever he may be guilty of, she doesn't think he's the one who laid his dirty fingers on her body.

"Well," she says, trying to control the flood of emotion. "Thanks for leaving me there," she says bitterly, punching him on the arm just a fraction too hard for it to be friendly. And then she leaves. She just leaves him there; alone and unwatched.

She starts to struggle and gasp for air; desperate to get away from the sight; from him. The Cassidy-tainted water is surrounding her; choking her; rubbing up against her like poison ivy that's going to give her hives. She's needs to reach the surface; she's clawing her way up for oxygen; but she can't make it until a soft palm closes around her own.

She is dragged back on to the ferry, still hanging on Meg's arm. They lay her down on her back, on the wooden floors, and she starts to spit. She wants to extract that awful visionary river from her; expel every hint of him from her body.

Meg runs that soft hand along Veronica's face now, with a sad smile. "You let me die," she says blankly. Veronica's guilt fills her again.

"I know. I'm sorry."

Parker smiles. "We know you are," she says, before dipping her hands in the river. She cups them and fills them with water; which she hold up to Veronica's lips. Veronica doesn't want to drink, but feels unable to resist as the liquid and its image fills her.

"You got it, the GHB?" Mercer asks his henchman, panicking; trying to conceal it and play the role of jailer.

"Yeah," says Moe in a tiny, pathetic voice. His hands are shaking as he hands the drugs over to Mercer; Veronica tries to crawl away but she's too woozy for it to be effectual in any way. Mercer storms toward her and pours the vial of GHB down her throat; she chokes but he forces her not to spit it back up.

Mercer finishes of another vial, then another, then another, Veronica feels herself fading away as Moe speaks:

"You have to stop-"

"SHUT UP, PRISONER!"

"I'm sorry, but you'll make her overdose-"

"I don't care!"

On the ferry, Veronica wrenches her eyes shut and gives a dry smile. "I'm dead. They made me overdose on GHB," she says, expositing for her own benefit. She opens her eyes, and Parker nods. "Should have figured. Magic, Meg, ferry... hey," she says in confusion, looking at Parker. "You're not dead. I think."

Parker shakes her head. "No. Not dead yet; hopefully not for a very long time. Just... guilt over me, big part of how you wound up here anyway. So I had to show," she explains, and Veronica nods. Then Parker stands again, retreating to the back of the boat, and Veronica notices they are approaching an island.

"We're here," says Parker, bringing the ferry into land. Veronica sighs and sits up, comforted by Meg's shaky smile. There is a field before her; a meadow, unoriginally filled with flowers.

They stop and Veronica, foolishly, is the first one to step off the boat. The land feels solid under her feet. She turns around to see Parker and Meg join her; but they and the ferry are gone.

"Parker? Meg?" she asked, not expecting an answer. She doesn't receive one. She sighs deeply and fills with the pain of missing Meg again; acknowledges the new pain of Parker.

She treads upon the field, feeling pain for the girls she should have saved.