Hearts of Lions and Metal Men

Regardless of when this is published, it is meant to be read last, as it kind of explains everything and ties all the weird little questions you may have regarding my VMverse together. I promised it would all make sense, so here it is.

That said, I also plan on writing a couple chapters from Alicia, Wallace, Mac, and maybe even Dick's POVs. But Veronica, Logan, and Lamb's are really the essential ones for understanding what's going on. Also, read them in that order.

"A Sound Like Angels Falling" "Hold Me Together As I Fly Apart" "Picking Up Her Pieces" and "Hearts of Lions and Metal Men"

90909

You think about pulling Keith off of Woody Goodman's plane, in that last second before it is too late (and only later do you find out that 'too late' didn't just mean for your photo op). But, in a rare moment of bravery, and decency, you decide to cut the man some slack. He'd worked hard, and he deserved this, right? Besides, it's not like the Fitzpatricks could really get angry at you for letting the man have a fucking photo op, right? They were explicit in their instructions, and letting Keith Mars have a shining moment because you were too damned lazy to run all the way to the hanger to stop the plane? Wasn't on the long list. Though you suspected it might make it there after this little debacle.

How wrong you were floors you.

Who would have thought that the first time in years that you actually kept yourself from being an asshole to someone in the Mars family was the one time you should have stuck with the same old-same old?

The moment you get the call about the fiery ball in the sky, your only thought is to find Veronica before anyone else can tell her what's happened.

This isn't news she should get from a stranger. Not that you're much better in her book, but at least you know to be gentle.

Because really, this isn't news she should be getting at all.

But the time for you to correct that little error has come and gone, leaving you to choke on it's dust.

Halfway to the Neptune Grande, you get the call about Cassidy Casablancas taking up his final calling as a gruesome hood ornament on some unsuspecting person's car (later you find out it was Madison Sinclair, and feel a rush of sick satisfaction), and you can't for the life of you figure out how the two incidents are connected, but somehow, you know it's too late to save Veronica from hearing bad news from a stranger.

This makes you drive faster.

90909

As a child, your life was anything but charmed. Your mother was a tiny slip of a woman, married to a violent, scary man. He loved you though, and this kind of made it worse. He loved you, doted on you, played with your emotions, all while backhanding your mother for creating your sister instead of another boy.

When Amanda was born, you got to name her. At the time, your little four year old self thought it was the coolest thing in the whole world. When you got older, you figured out it was because your father didn't want a girl and therefore didn't care what she was called (he had his own names for her anyway) and your mother was too depressed by this point to really care either.

But you loved Amanda. She had soft blond hair and big blue eyes, and as she grew, the ringlets turned golden and the eyes hazel, and she could steal your breath with one simple look. She was the first girl who had you wrapped, and you would have done anything to protect her.

Your father hid what he did to her well. You never would know how long he'd been going into her room at night for something other than to chase monsters from beneath the bed, but you suspect it started around the time she turned five, and your mother killed herself. After that, your father saw Mandi as a replacement of sorts, and though you couldn't quite put your finger on it, there was something you hated about the way he talked to her. Gradually, you started coming between them, saving her from him, keeping her from the worst of his rages, making sure she knew she was loved. Because seriously, you would have done anything to protect her.

You were at school when your father pushed her down the stairs.

You were at school, and then you, at fifteen years old, came home to find the body of your eleven year old sister sprawled out by the banister.

You didn't see your father again until the trial, when he yelled at you for betraying him, and yelled at the judge that he was the victim here, and yelled at the sky for taking his baby away from him.

You knew he didn't mean Mandi, he meant you, and your betrayal, and this knowledge made the bile rise in your throat.

You made it a point never to visit the man in prison, and when he died, you let his body go unclaimed.

90909

When you reach the Neptune Grande, and race from your car over to the tiny blond pixie with glazed eyes, you are completely and utterly appalled to see that she's being read her rights. Once you regain your ability to speak, you inform the woman that she'd better remember to clear it with you before trying to arrest anyone else tonight if she wants to keep her job.

Then you uncuff Veronica, and gently chafe her wrists, as you take in her appearance. She's pale and can barely keep her bloodshot eyes open. You're certain she's not really even sure it's you touching her, since, if memory serves, she'd probably tear you a new one if she did.

But you don't really care about what she should think of you right now.

Because, clearly, she knows about her father, and this means Cassidy Casablancas had something to do with the plane crash, and probably something to do with the bus crash, since that's the latest thing Keith had to investigate because you were still waiting for the go-ahead from the Fitzpatricks.

You decide then and there that you're not going to be under their thumb anymore, not where Veronica is concerned. You don't care what they threaten you with; you'll keep her hidden under lock and key if you have too, but you've done more than enough to hurt her already, and you're not going to keep it up.

You don't want to hurt her any more tonight; you want to send her home with that Echolls kid (who, despite your initial misgivings, has turned out to be nothing but perfect for her). Then you want to call the man you're paying hundreds of dollars a week to, and figure out why the hell he wasn't with her.

But you can't. First, you know that you have to question her about what happened, then you have to send her clothes to forensics and probably her to the hospital, if the way she's flinching away from your soft touch on her arms is any indication, and you really just wish, more than anything, that you could bundle her up in your arms and take her home and put her to bed, but you just don't have that right anymore, so you do the next best thing. When she refuses to let go of Logan when you need to question her, you let him come into the room as well.

The way she sits, curled up in his arms, she looks like the small child she was when you first met her, and this makes your heart break (because then she reminds you of another little blond girl, and you almost can't stop the tears).

90909

When you moved to Neptune, Keith Mars was sheriff and he took you under his wing, let you into his home, his family. He was the father yours never was. You loved the Mars household. Little Veronica, the sheriff's six year old daughter, quickly took to you, and you found yourself holding her in your lap and reading her bedtime stories, like you'd done for your own little sister, years before (before your father had stolen Mandi's innocence and then stolen her life). The house always smelled like fresh bread, and you quickly learned this was because it was the only thing Veronica could make. You taught her to bake cakes and pies and ziti, but her bread always remained your favorite. It smelled like home.

For a couple years, you were Veronica's confidante and friend, until she started growing and maturing in ways you weren't allowed to think about (and honestly, as sexy as she was, this wasn't hard; the wide eyed innocence and the golden hair reminded you too much of your own little sister). Then, in the way that little girls have, she kissed you on the cheek and told you that she couldn't be your best friend anymore, because she was a girl, and you were a boy, and girls and boys weren't allowed to be just friends.

Then Lilly Kane replaced you in her life. That chick was always taking something from you. Not that you disliked the girl, not by a long shot, but she really was trouble with a capital 'T' (and later you'd find out that rhymes with 'C' and that stands for Cassidy fucking Casablancas). You didn't hate her. But you resented her just a little, because you'd spent so long as Keith's golden boy and Veronica's best friend that you'd kind of forgotten to get any real friends your own damn age to play with, and when Lilly stole Veronica away from you, she essentially left you alone. But you knew it wasn't intentional, so you overlooked it, and smiled and waved at the giggling girls when they came to see Keith after school, and you refused to let yourself be mad at an 11 year old for stealing you only friend, because that just made you pathetic.

You grew closer to Sachs, and to Keith, but never really to anyone else.

And then you lost Keith too, also because of Lilly Kane.

But the fact that you completely and utterly lost Veronica Mars?

That was all you.

Well, you and Liam Fitzpatrick.

You'd never hated a man more than you hated him the day Veronica came crying to your office, claiming rape.

Because his edict meant that you couldn't risk doing anything about it. Veronica deserved justice, she deserved a friend who wouldn't turn their back on her, she deserved a sheriff who wouldn't laugh in her face for being raped. She deserved you doing your goddamned fucking job, but you couldn't, because she was just a little girl, and Liam had made it very clear what exactly would happen to her if you helped her family in any way. And the end result would be much worse for the little blond angel than your betrayal was.

It still burned in your gut to turn her away. You managed to keep it together though, just barely.

Until you walked into the lobby and saw the look Inga gave you.

Then you spent an hour draped over the toilet, heaving your guts out.

You were beyond relieved when she started fighting back.

90909

Once you finally finished getting Logan's statement (because Veronica didn't want to talk at first, just sat silently in Logan's arms, still in shock), everyone was exhausted. Especially Veronica. When she finally started responding to your questions, it was in one word sentences that quickly became mere shakes of her head as she sank lower in Logan's lap and began to drift off, unable to keep her eyes opened.

"Take her home, Logan," you tell him with a sigh. "I'll check back in tomorrow."

As soon as they were gone, you took out your phone. Learning from Veronica that Aaron Echolls was staying in the Grande made it easier for you to understand Clarence's absence in Veronica's time of need; he'd probably been keeping an eye on Aaron, but the man still had a shitload to answer for.

90909

The day you first figured out just how serious Liam Fitzpatrick was about hurting you and Veronica if you disobeyed his orders was the day Jake Kane paid you a visit.

Or, more accurately, the day his bodyguard paid you a visit.

Jake Kane, at the time, thought Veronica Mars to be his bastard child, and that his wife may decide to take drastic measures against the girl.

He wanted your help watching Veronica, because he didn't know how to watch his wife without her finding out. The only reason he came to you with this was to warn you not to take any claims the girl might have about a scaring black man following her to heart.

This gave you an idea. Clarence would be tailing Veronica anyway… so you offered him a thousand a week to keep her safe from anyone related to the Fitzpatricks. After he talked it over with Jake, who agreed, he accepted.

In the back of your mind, you knew there had to be more motive behind their easy acquiesce, but you chose not to dwell on it.

It never once occurred to you that they suspected Liam of having something to do with Lilly's death. Nor did it ever occur to you that perhaps Celeste was involved with the Fitzpatricks.

90909

The next morning dawned brightly, a painful contrast to your feelings towards what you had to do today. Clarence hadn't answered his phone last night, and though you were sure it was nothing, you couldn't help but worry. Anything concerning Veronica would worry you right now.

Two hours later, you were on your way to the station, speeding like you never had before, because the call came in that Aaron Echolls was dead.

And the person he'd been with? Kendall Casablancas. You had it on good authority that she was working for the Fitzpatricks, though something told you that she wasn't the one who killed Aaron. She never seemed smart enough to you. Which could mean that she was just too smart to get caught, but Clarence being in the same hotel as the man who murdered his boss' daughter the same night said man gets murdered himself? Yeah, Keith is the one who taught you not to believe in coincidences.

So really, the only thing to do was to figure out just exactly why and how the Casablancas family managed to be at the root of the latest Neptune drama.

90909

Your second year as a deputy, you meet a man who you have to jail for attacking the man who defiled his baby sister. You've never hated yourself more than you did at that moment.

The thing is, they are devoutly Muslim, as is the man his sister had fallen in love with. And now, according to Muslim law, the man cannot marry the girl because she's unclean.

"Do you know what it sounds like when dreams die, Deputy Lamb?" the brother asks you.

You don't remember your answer, but some years later, you'll remember this night, and wish you'd told the man that it sounded a lot like a crashing plane or the click of send.

90909

Eventually, you manage to piece together that while Clarence probably killed Aaron Echolls, it wasn't Jake or Celeste that hired him to do it. You chose to assume that the reason lies in his threatening posture when he confronted Veronica on the elevator. He had it coming.

You don't have time to worry about suicides anyway, and with the help of the medical examiner, and permission (actually he begged you) from Logan, Aaron Echolls becomes the first person in the world to commit suicide by shooting himself in the back of the head (of course, your report says something different).

You'd rather focus your energy on getting everyone who poses a threat to Veronica behind bars.

90909

When Veronica was twelve years old, you met Liam Fitzpatrick for the first time.

He was a rude, vile man, and you never wanted to be on the same planet, much less the same room, as him ever again.

You and Keith were on a stakeout, and you can't even remember what the goal or the target were, but you do remember hearing the gunshot, and you remember the gruesome scene inside the warehouse.

Most of all, you remember listening when Keith told you not to shoot.

This is the night that throws into sharp relief all the things you've ever done wrong. This is the night that trumps all your other mistakes.

This is the night you will remember with sickening clarity when, three years later, Liam Fitzpatrick makes it clear that you are not to help anyone in the Mars family under any circumstances.

This is the night that you forever remember as the one thing you'd be willing to go to jail for.

It is the night you stopped regretting the lives you'd taken, and started regretting the ones you hadn't.

90909

Not long after the incident at the Grande, Jake and Celeste Kane officially move out of the country and take Clarence with them. Now it's up to you to protect Veronica.

But you haven't seen her since that night, and there's no possible reason you could give for visiting her. You know she's been at her apartment with Logan Echolls, and you know, based on what you see while "casually driving by" her apartment, that she refuses to see anyone else. Wallace and Alicia and Mac and her family all try to visit and leave again only minutes later, looking sad and worried.

You finally give up pretense and just sit outside of the Sunset Cliffs complex all day, and some nights.

Finally, one morning, Wallace catches out there, and tells you to just go the fuck away, because you could have prevented all this, you should have prevented all this, and you didn't.

And again, the second time in three years that you decide to admit that the people you pretend to hate may be right, and you listen because you're not an asshole anymore? Is the second time you should have just ignored them and continued being an ass.

Because the next morning finds Logan Echolls and Wallace and Alicia in your office, ordering you to open a missing persons file for Veronica. Apparently she ran away before dawn, and you weren't there to see it – prevent it.

You almost bite your tongue when you see the look on the Fennel boy's face, but your track record for having your kindness blow up in your face pretty much sucks, and there's too much on the line now for you to bet on chance.

So as you breeze past the boy, you mumble "Bet I could have stopped her if I'd been there, Fennel."

God dammit if you hadn't forgotten what it felt like to have one of your jibes hurt somebody. The look on his face twists your gut, and it reads like white dresses and teary eyes and "I need to report a crime".

After this is over, you're getting a new damn job.