Author's Notes: One of those fics you really have to explain the premise of. One storyline occurs in canon, one occurs in my old fanfic, "Compare and Contrast." This will probably make more sense if you've read that. The title is from a book of poems by Ted Hughes, and each section is titled by a line from one of the poems in that book. Each chapter is titled after the poem from which those sections' two lines come from.


BIRTHDAY LETTERS

1. There you met it – the mystery of hatred

It's Shelley Pomroy's end of the year party and he's considerably less drunk than everyone else here; a lot less than his brother, and Sean who is tagging a lot with them.

So he waits for Dick to do something stupid to get himself into trouble, because that is what Dick always does, and Cassidy always winds up having to bail Dick out of trouble. Always the responsible one, always the non-existent one, always left behind. It's starting to get on his nerve.

He's not exactly sure how, but eventually they stumble into the bedroom and see her. Lilly's lying on the bed, and he wants to run away. Dick and Sean disagree, however, and rush in to torment her some more.

"Well look who's here," crooned Dick, and Cassidy winced at how loud the words sounded. He suddenly felt a lot drunker. "The town whore. What's the matter Lilly? Waiting for some guy to reel in?"

Cassidy watches as Lilly pulls herself off the bedspread to look Dick in the eye, body swaying with the effort. "Mind your own business, Dick. And if I was the town whore? You could never afford me."

There is a pause in which Cassidy starts feeling sick, and eventually Lilly says that was a corny line. Cassidy's not sure if it was or not, but it doesn't really matter.

He tugs on Dick's arm because it's starting to sting, to see him talk to her like this. "Come on man, Dick, leave her alone." He always liked Lilly – even for the things she had done, for who's daughter she was, Lilly stays strong and bright and proud in his head. Maybe he was the last person left with any respect for her, he wasn't sure.

Dick laughs, caressing Lilly's cheek more gently than Cassidy would expect – the movement makes him shudder. Lilly shivers and shies away, as Dick asks, "Is that what you want, Lilly? To be alone?"

Cassidy watches as she shakes some sort of deference, saying, "Okay, way too wasted for questions like that." The words come out slurred enough for him to think it's true. He's starting to panic now.

"Come on, let's just go," he pulls Dick away from her urgently, and he doesn't even know what he's so scared of. He sees Dick cock his head like he's noticed something Cassidy hasn't, which probably means the world is ending. Then Dick tosses him to the bed by Lilly's side, and he swallows his gasp as the lump in his throat forms, and the memories he's been trying to bury for the last four years or so spring back to the surface.

"Hey, Lilly," Dick says mockingly. "Beav here seems to be looking out for you – maybe you should thank him?"

"Maybe I will," she retorts confidently, and Cassidy winces. Nobody notices.

Dick starts to pull Sean away, saying they're not needed. Sean hesitates to throw some condoms on to the bed with a hyena-like laugh, saying something about how he doesn't know where Lilly's been. She barely flinches at the insult, but he thinks of where he's 'been' and isn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

His breath comes out short, sharp, and panicking. "I should go," he says, as he stands up. She tugs him back down.

"I was going to thank you?"

His stomach flips. It's not that he doesn't want to sleep with Lilly in particular – even if she was Logan's girlfriend, she was always something sort of incredible. It wasn't even really a crush, but in Lilly Cassidy saw the complete ability to not care what other people thought. Lilly was strong and brave in a way Cassidy never knew was possible, and she never let it become her problem if someone hated her; thought her scary, broken, or dangerous. For Cassidy, someone who spent every second caring and hiding the truth, this was endlessly appealing.

But right now he can't stop thinking of the past, and he's not a hundred percent certain he wants to lose his virginity to a drunk girl who everyone hates (and he has to believe this is the first thing that would count as him losing his virginity). He thinks of what happened at Logan's party last September, and what happened there – it's twisted, to be between Lilly and Logan like that. Then he pushes the thought down, because he refuses to be so fucked up he'll think about how he fooled around with a girl's ex-boyfriend while fucking her. If he fucks her, that is.

"It's okay," Lilly says, as her hand fixes a little firmer on his, as if she's scared he might just float away. With the rate Lilly Kane has been losing things lately, Cassidy thinks it's not that paranoid.

"This is a bad idea," he weakly defends himself, and Lilly shrugs.

"I know," she says, and smiles as she presses a gentle kiss to his lips – so different to the tales of wild Lilly Kane he's heard. "It is me doing it, after all."

In that moment, he wants to give in and drown himself in her, if only for a night. He's not going to let it all be about... that anymore; he can prove he can just fuck a girl like anyone else. Lilly's practically begging him to, after all.

He hesitates for a second, her lips millimeters from his face. "You okay?" she asks, and he feels her breath condescending on his face. He forces his past down and puts it under lock and key, forcing himself to smile at her.

"Yeah," he says. He lets her kiss him, and kisses back, tasting vodka and tears and – oh God – Logan. He glues his eyes shut as they fall to the bed, trying to keep his broken mind as far away from her body as possible.

1. After your billions of years in anonymous matter

He hears the wedding march out of Dick's mouth, and his stomach turns. This can't be happening. He knows that they want to do something with Veronica unconscious, broken body, and he can't think long enough to make the details comprehensible in his head.

"Dick, you're – you're going to hurt her or something," he stutters, and Dick only looks amused.

"Oh, I'd hurt her. You... she might not even notice," Dick says, and Cassidy's stomach flips with what he's just been asked to do. He doesn't want to feel this anxious, helpless, or out of control. He masochistically puts himself down on the bed next to Veronica, examining the dream-like smile that dances on her face.

He never really knew Veronica Mars – she was sweet, and nice to him. They both got made fun of last September for getting sick and missing Logan's party; Dick spouted his off-the-wall theory that Veronica was secretly fucking Cassidy behind Duncan's back; he pretended to laugh with the rest of them, as Veronica blushed the tiniest bit in Duncan's arms. She was always so bashful.

Then things changed; the official word was Veronica Mars was a bitch and a slut and a traitor, and Cassidy never cared enough to question this. But maybe he should have, because now he's on the bed with her, and has no idea what to do.

"You need me to get you started?" Dick's words ring in his ears and Veronica's white party dress slowly starts to travel up, like the unveiling of a grand attraction. Something in Cassidy jumps and his stomach clenches as he swats Dick's hand away.

"No, I've – I've got it," and he half can't believe what he's saying. What he thinks he's about to do.

Then Dick and Sean are gone; Veronica's all alone with him. She's so fragile an innocent right now, and he can do anything to her and no-one will be any the wiser. He lets the dark part of him come to the surface. He's tired of being the victim, tired of hiding in the shadows, tired of watching everything completely unaffected by his presence. Veronica is something different. She is breakable and has been offered on a silver platter to him; why shouldn't he take it? It's been so long, so much has been ripped out of him. He gave up on any kind of righteousness years ago, and he kind of wants to see what he can make of her.

He's not going to be weak and helpless anymore, and he can just fuck her without a second thought. This isn't what's left of a million people who want to destroy him. This is his life dammit.

He undoes his belt, and reaches for the skirt of her dress. He can't think of a reason not to.