Devil Popping Bubblewrap, Judas in Mascara

The first time he went to her house, she looked as if she was preparing to trek to the north pole. She told him about fifty times that he had to be home by the time her parents got back, and he was almost a little affronted, as if she didn't trust him to respect her boundaries. He brought over DVDs and they watched them; he put an arm around her shoulder, but couldn't help but notice how she stiffened. He didn't bother moving to kiss her goodnight.

After a lifetime of being Logan Echolls' best friend, he immediately thought of all kinds of suspicious things. Neptune town was full of all kinds of fucked-up, immoral people who hurt others almost as much as others hurt them. He was one of them. Some how, he couldn't comprehend that Meg might be too.

Lizzie always looked like she was waging her own war; asking them all to find some way to bring her down. No-one ever could – no matter how annoying you found her, you had to admire the girl for having guts. Meg never seemed to have that, not really.

Duncan had met the Mannings – parent-teacher conferences where he they were the help; mostly providing coffees. When they saw he was alone with her, the Mannings eyed him like Judas himself. He saw the way they looked at Lizzie, when it was time to go – if he was Judas, she was the Devil itself. Meg just looked terrified of the way her parents saw he sister. Duncan didn't understand, and maybe it was selfish, but he didn't really want to.

He knew they were religious; he could only go over to her house when they had Bible group, after all. It didn't seem that important. They had Meg make an abstinence vow, as she explained hesitantly and while blushing. He told her he didn't care. In all honestly, he was a little relieved he wouldn't have to explain to her...

That one thing...

Of course, all that was kind of shot to hell that time in the spring when she showed up at his house at midnight and almost tore his clothes off, but he dealt. If we was the kind of guy who was a dick, he would have totally bragged it was because he was that irresistible.

Afterward, Meg had looked at him like he knew something she didn't – she looked at him like he was her guide, which was fucking terrifying, because he didn't know what he was doing with himself most of the time. There was a dream-like, disbelieving haze in her eyes, even worse than Veronica after...

Do not think...

It didn't seem fair, that there was something so clearly wrong under the Meg Manning everyone knew and loved. However, it probably made them well-matched – sweet people, bad things happening, stuff he didn't understand. He wondered, vaguely, if she got this feeling he always did; like soap bubble film all over her brain. He didn't think so.

He went to her house one time, was hanging out in her room – nothing more than a little light making out; she kept looking over her shoulder at the ceiling, as if terrified someone could see her – and a book fell out of the closet. He presumed it was a diary. He (slightly ungracefully) shoved it back in; never tried to open it, but when she saw him touch it, she looked like something had been wrecked. Like he had reached into her chest and squeezed one of her lungs until the air-sacks burst like bubblewrap.

She arrived at his house again one time, holding her arms close together like she feared she might collapse. Her mascara was running down her face so hard originally thought she had two black eyes. "Hey, Duncan," she said, with the tone of someone highly skilled at pretending they weren't falling apart.

"Meg? Come in," he said, ushering her in quickly. His parents weren't home, and even though they liked Meg – more than they ever liked Veronica, surprise surprise – that may have been the whole problem. Years spent with Logan taught him how little his parents could know, and how little they should know.

"Thanks," she said, stepping onto his carpet.

"Are you okay?" he asked, and stepping closer, he couldn't really tell if that running mascara was hiding bruises or not.

"Fine," she said with her broken trademark smile; the one he saw a hell of a lot more than he should have. "Mom and I had a fight. So I thought I'd come here, y'know? You're the one who led me to..."

"Meg," he said, cupping her face with his hands. "I can't... the mascara... did she...?"

"Hit me?" asked Meg, before laughing gently. "No. No Duncan, she just..." her smile fell, and she wrapped her arms around her stomach protectively. "...wasn't all that kind."

They wound up sitting on the floor, her tracing patterns in the carpet, and he couldn't help but think of Lilly. Lilly always had a warm, flippant-sounding word completely irrelevant to the topic at hand which helped a million more times than his sympathy. She always helped, even when she didn't genuinely care that much.

He did the best he could, and held her hand. It made her smile, and as they sat there, hand in hand, he couldn't help but wonder why this would be such a comfort to her.