BIRTHDAY LETTERS

11. You hid from the bone clinic whiteness

He's hanging off Logan's arm in the Hearst College outdoor area, talking about something stupid on one of the benches. They get odd looks – big surprise – but nobody says anything. He likes Hearst College, mostly because not everybody knows who he is here.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Lilly and Dick headed towards them. Dick grimaces at the sight of his little brother and his best friend, as he always does. "Ew," Dick says. "Dude, I am never going to be okay with this."

Lilly rolls her eyes. "Nobody cares, Dick. Anyway, you guys have to get to class soon, right?"

"Do I look like I'm going to go to class?" Dick asks, and the rest of them simultaneously roll their eyes.

"Yeah, go embrace the moronic frat boy stereotype. That's gonna send your credibility through the roof," Lilly says, and a hush falls over them all. Cassidy's stomach churns. He always knew it was a stupid idea for Dick to join the Pi Sig fraternity after how they had been accused last year – but Dick was Dick, and was not going to be convinced that a bad idea was bad. Cassidy knows Dick would never do something like that, despite his way of treating women that makes Cassidy sick – Dick would realize Cassidy would kill him for it, for one thing.

The moments passes and they all stand. "Anyway. That class thing," says Logan, before pressing a brief, chaste kiss to Cassidy's lips. "See you."

"Bye," he says as they all wander off. He should just go, but when he starts to walk he's not leaving campus – he doesn't actually know where he's going.

Soon he's standing in front of a girl in a blond wig, in front of her dorm room. Parker Lee. She was one of the victims of the Heart serial rapist – or rapists, like she and Lilith House are arguing. They say the whole Pi Sigma fraternity is part of it, but Dick – no. He wouldn't.

He met her once; a few weeks back when they were all protesting outside, coincidentally while he was visiting Dick. The other frat boys make cracks about lesbians and feminazis, then someone said things about how unsurprising the girls the rapist picked were, that made Cassidy feel sicker and sicker. Dick had told the guy, "Dude, shut up," and Cassidy just wanted to crawl into the shadows. He had met the eyes of the girls – particularly Parker – and they had looked at him like filth.

"Hi, Cassidy," she says, snapping him back to reality. Her eyes narrow in anger.

"You know who I am?" he asks.

She shrugs. "Yeah; Dick's brother. We've all heard enough about you," and he's not sure how much 'enough' is, but that's not the point. She pauses, clutching her arms close to her chest. "So, what is this, Cassidy? The big familial insistence that big brother would never do a thing like that; that it must all be some kind of big misunderstanding?"

He bites his lip. "Yeah, kind of. Sorry," he admits timidly, and she laughs bitterly.

"Well, I've heard it, so you can go running back to your cubbyhole now," she says, and he grimaces.

"Yeah, I wasn't expecting you to listen to me anyway. I don't even really know what I'm doing here."

"Trying to convince yourself that everything's fine is my guess," she says coolly. "This is a new scenario, isn't it? Spoiled little rich brat; you haven't had to think about this whole kind of concept – you know, the sexual violence thing – before, have you? And now you just want to cut it out and pretend you're living in the same perfect world as before. Well, guess what? So do I, but it doesn't work that way."

He digs his nails into his palm under the pressure of trying not to scream at her. "That's not exactly how I'd put it," he says, understated, and he sees in her eyes that she doesn't see the implication. "I reckon you're in a lot of pain, looking for an easy answer and casting me in whatever light will make the story fly. Believe me, I know that with the way you're feeling, you're not going to be thinking through the whole thing logically."

She shakes her head. "Don't pretend, even for a second, that you know what I'm feeling."

His jaw clenches. "Well, no, not exactly; but I've got the general gist," he blurts out before he can stop himself.

"Oh, yeah, sure. So you just read about me being rape victim of the year, and suddenly, boom; you understand the feeling."

"No, Parker. I have understood the feeling since I was eleven years old and my dad forced me to sign up for little league."

Everything goes quiet as he sees it register in her eyes, and it occurs to him that he just told this practical stranger about the whole thing. "Didn't have the greatest coach in the world," he says, and hears the waver in his own voice. He hates that. Parker just stares at him some more.

"Oh my... I didn't know," she says helplessly, and he shrugs.

"Well, we've barely met, and it's hardly something I open with," he says. "But I get the whole problem, and I know – my brother wouldn't do something like that. For one thing, he'd know I'd kill him for it."

Parker swallows. "Okay. I feel sorry for you. But this whole thing that happened to me? Is completely unrelated to your issues, and playing the sympathy card isn't going to make me trust your brother any more."

He sighs and nods. "Can't say I didn't expect that one, honestly."

Then he leaves; even steps down the hallway as Parker retreats to her room. It takes him a few moments to realize he's run into a familiar face: "Mac?"

Mac blinks a few times. "Cassidy, hey," she says, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

He shrugs. "Well, you know, I was visiting everyone on campus and... wound up here. Talked to Parker, about that thing with the Pi Sigs..." the sentence sounds incomplete, but the important details he didn't put there are obvious anyway.

He does sometimes wonder – what would have happened, if he wasn't the trainwreck he's famous for being? What if nothing had happened to him, and they had gone on that date like the normal couple he wanted to be? It's not that he doesn't love Logan – because he does – but Mac was sweet and kind and represented a kind of innocence he never knew. Maybe he could have been with her in that other world, and just exist without everyone judging his every action as to whether he's 'okay' or not.

Mac bites her lip. "Oh. Okay," she says. "Well, see you, Cassidy."

Then she paces down the corridor, and opens the door to Parker's room. Huh. Apparently, they're dorm-mates.

She closes it again, and it almost looks like she's locking him out.

11. But the jewel you lost was blue

He never expected being dead would be this... boring. There's so little to do – no-one's there, no-one talks to him, and there's no heaven or hell to go to. He just languishes around Neptune town, watching the people he left behind.

Mostly, they don't talk about him. Veronica hasn't been able to bring herself to tell anyone (except Logan, obviously) the full truth about what happened with him; about what he did to her. Mac spends a lot of the summer crying over him, and he feels guilty again – he doesn't want her to be hurt.

Dick falls apart, and it affects Cassidy more than he expected it to. Dick looks like he can't even comprehend the situation – how is it even possible for Beaver to be dead? Cassidy realizes that, despite everything, Dick always needed him more than anyone else, and now he's gone Dick simply doesn't know what to do.

Logan and Veronica get back together, without a word to that night on the roof or what Cassidy did to her. They seem happy, and it's kind of nice – he knows Logan and Veronica, so it's never going to last, but maybe a moment of happiness for them is what people deserve. They have sex for the first time, and Cassidy can tell Logan's scared of hurting her – but she doesn't seem to notice, and enjoys herself. He is struck with a huge wave of jealousy, because he tried – Mac – and he couldn't get over it. She could, despite what he did to her. He was just so pathetic that he didn't manage to break her.

He watches as Mac's roommate is dragged into her room, and that guy – Mercer, his name is – sneaks in with the illegal key. Cassidy's more curious than anything about the whole situation. Mac waits outside for Veronica, and wondering how to get those movie tickets – Veronica arrives for Mac's snark about Parker's promiscuity, and it reminds Cassidy of seeing "slut" scrawled on the windshield after Shelley's party.

Veronica goes into the room and quickly fetches the tickets, never realizing what's actually going on. It strikes Cassidy as funny that, in the last two years, she still hasn't gotten any smarter. He's everywhere at once now, and he watches as Mercer Hayes comes, Dick breaks down crying on Logan's shoulder, and Mac and Veronica arrive at the movie theater.

Parker blames Veronica after – she has a fair point. At the back of his mind, he wonders if the people on that bus blame Veronica for not figuring out the truth about him before he had the chance to kill them. It doesn't really matter, he supposes.

Eventually, Veronica confronts Parker about the whole thing. "Do you really think I came in here and thought, 'Hey, look. Parker's getting raped. Now, where are those movie tickets?'"

Parker doesn't by it. "No. You just thought the whore was getting her freak on," and Cassidy can hear everything people used to say about Veronica Mars screaming at him: whore, bitch, slut, traitor. With the way they treated her, was it any surprise where she wound up?

Veronica defends herself, and Parker shakes her head. "Don't pretend for a second that you understand how I'm feeling," she says, even though Cassidy knows Veronica does. Then Veronica says as much.

"I understand exactly what you're feeling, Parker. I have been understanding since Shelley Pomroy's party, summer 2004," and that's the wrong date, but Cassidy guesses Veronica's just not thinking. Parker looks shocked.

"I didn't... I didn't know."

"Not something I open with," Veronica says, and it strikes Cassidy as ironic how quiet she is about what he did to her – given what being quiet about it made him do. "Now that's I've got your attention, I will find out who raped you. That's job one."

Cassidy knows she will – she was stupid and slow about it, but eventually she figured him out. All that time, and in the end she beat him. And she's going to try and figure it out now, starting with the stupidity of the Pi Sigs inviting her into their midst – via his brother, because that won't make everything worse. Cassidy knows that the fraternity had nothing to do with it – not that he'd put it past Dick, because he does remember how he wound up in that room with Veronica anyway – but between Veronica's issues, and how Dick showed up at Parker's door the night before it happened, it's not going to end well.

Cassidy wonders a little, if somewhere at the back of her mind, Veronica will be able to forgive him someday.