Noir

"Tell me about that night."

When she says it, his stomach immediately leaps from his body to somewhere somewhere near Romania. "What?" he asks dumbly.

She curls in closer to his side, shivering a little. "I feel like... I should know."

"I told you," he says, a little more gruffly than he would like. She nods.

"I know. It's just... I feel like I should know. You understand that, don't you?"

He winces. "Yeah, I understand why you should know. Although I can't really tell, from your point of view, why you'd want to know. I mean..."

"I know," she says quietly. "I don't think I should try. I mean, it's done, and there's no-one to... But still, you know me. Inspector Jill always looking for another scoop."

Duncan sighs. "Veronica, I... I told you, how I found you. What we..."

"I know. But I... I need to know more. I know you helped me when the guys were... I have to know what you were thinking, what happened next, where you went, anything."

"...Why?"

She sighs deeply. "I... I need to know why it happened, I guess. It's stupid, but..."

"It's not stupid," he says firmly. He holds her closer. "After I talked to – yelled at – Logan... You sort of wandered off. I meant to go after you, check that you were okay, but I lost track and, well, that drink he gave me had an effect. I... don't really remember well. I moped a lot. I'm pretty sure Shelley was making out with me a lot."

"Oh, I really needed to hear that," Veronica says. Duncan raises his hands in surrender.

"Hey, if it's any consolation, I'm also pretty sure I puked on her after the third or fourth time. Better?"

"Much," she says brightly, then she looks broken again. "So... what was happening? What were you thinking? Feeling?"

"Feeling? Odd mix between self-loathing and self-pity. About how fucked up I was for loving you, but how it wasn't my fault and really it was unfair. And that Lilly would totally kick my ass for the whole thing, but it would be worth it because she might actually have a clue what to do."

"Lilly." Veronica's mouth forms a tight, white line. "You know, I wanted her back so many times after that night. I wanted my best friend. Someone I could bawl my eyes out to, who would just hold me and pity me and tell me how awesome I was, no matter what they did to me. Along with the way I just always wanted her back, no matter what was going on with me, because she was, after all, my best friend, and she was dead."

"They," he repeats dumbly. He knows it's stupid and selfish, and against her entire point, but the implication hits something inside him. It sounds like they're on opposite sides of the war (which frankly, they probably were back then, and how did he let that happen?). But he knows exactly how self-absorbed to feel that right now, so he shuts it down and locks it in that place at the back of his mind which he avoids like it's full of mustard gas.

"I guess everyone got that feeling, huh?" says Veronica. He shrugs.

"Of course. She was Lilly," he says, and something flickers from that aforementioned place – the flash of the Echolls' poolroom, and the sort of anger he can't even comprehend. He shakes it away. "Anyway, did you want me to...?"

"Tell me what happened next. Please," her voice sounds choked and hoarse, but he's not going to guess he knows what's best for her better than she does. He tried that once and it didn't work out so well. It more or less led to this whole terrible incident anyway.

"I... well, I'm pretty sure more stuff that I remember happened. Drugged, after all," and there's that strange anger again. "But... I found you once it had all quietened down a bit. You were just waking up."

She looks nearly about to be sick. "And?"

"You looked. Peaceful. Happy. Everything you always used to be. I hadn't seen you like that in forever – not without reason – and I kind of forgot to think that there may be less than great reasons for that."

She nods. "I probably should be annoyed with the fact you think my being happy was the best sign of how out of it I was, but given the circumstances it actually makes sense. Although I don't really think you can be blamed for it. You weren't exactly Mr. Sobriety '03."

"Yeah," he says. "Anyway, you were... happy. Naive. You forgave me for... everything... without a word. You looked like you could do what you always did – like you could make things better."

"And you just... forgot what...?"

He bites his lip uncomfortably. "Not exactly... but I didn't exactly think of it either. It was a weak moment. I just... wanted some sort of comfort so badly, and you... it seemed like enough. At that point, you were all I wanted."

"Romantic." She sighs. "I don't need detail."

"Should I be offended?"

"Not really; just, if you describe the sex it might be sexy, and given how traumatic the whole thing was that would be very confusing."

"Yeah," he says.

"And the next morning, you...?"

"I panicked. It was stupid and selfish... and I made the decision in about three seconds. I just needed to get out of there. I didn't know what would happen; I though you'd just think I was a colossal dick... which I was already sort of trying to convince you of, so..."

"That point? It was pretty much working," she says.

"I don't feel like I've given you any more information."

"I know. But I don't think that was the point," she says. "It was just so unfair."

He looks at her, waits for her to continue.

"It's just... Everyone was responsible. You, Logan, Dick, Madison, Beaver, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; everyone did it some how, and that makes it way too fucking hard to hate any of you for it. And I spent so long being so angry at this anonymous person, and imagining who he was, and now he's no-one and I just wish it would all go away."

She breathes deeply, and he strokes her hair. "Feel better now?"

"A little." She sighs. "Not really, no."

"Can't really blame you."

"Can't really blame anyone."

"Your live is a film noir; moral ambiguity is kind of obligatory."

"I'm gonna kill my dad," she grumbles. "Wait, why are we joking about this?"

"Because it's better than killing each other?"

She considers this. "Okay, fair point."

He pulls her in closer. "I'm so sorry."

"It's okay."

But she doesn't say it's not his fault.

"I'm here whenever you needed me."

"I needed you just now," she says. "But honestly, sappy and anti-feminist as it is – I don't think I ever stopped."