Author's note: this chapter is angsty. i wanted to get a lot of information out in this chapter, and it all came out angsty. there's banter and a little bit of fun near the end, so hopefully you like it. and Sam and Veronica want to be BFFs. BFFs who hug all. the. time. anyway. enjoy this chapter, and I'll try to get the next update out faster :)

"Sammy!" Veronica called. Sam was standing at the bottom of the stairs leading to Neptune High's parking lot. He was blending in in jeans, a shirt, grey hoodie zipped half way up, and a back pack over one shoulder. He smiled she he saw Veronica. She went to him, smiling.

"Hey Veronica." He said, looking down at her. She laughed at their height difference.

"You know, I remember you much smaller." She said. "You weren't actually that much bigger than me."

"Yeah. I had a growth spurt." He shifted, giving the impression of being uncomfortable with his size. She laughed again and took a playful swing at him. She couldn't help it; he was like a giant playful puppy. He swayed out of her reach.

"Oh no, Veronica. Please don't hurt me." He said. "I don't think I can handle that kind of pain." She swatted at him again, and he caught her wrist, pulling her into a half hug. He squeezed her shoulder with one arm, solid but gentle, the way she remembered. She smiled up at him and returned the hug.

"So tell me what you're looking for." She said. He dropped his arm from her shoulder.

"I…can't." He said, his face getting serious. "Your dad said-"

"Veronica!" Veronica shot Sam a reproachful look and turned her head to see who called her. She saw Mac at the top of the stairs.

"Hey Maccy! What's the haps?" She asked, stepping away from Sam. She started back up the stairs, Sam a step behind her.

"The usual. Taking over the world, hatching evil plots." Mac's eyes went to Sam. "Hi. I'm Mac." She said. Veronica grinned.

"This is Sam." She said. "My cousin." Sam's eyes narrowed slightly at the lie, but he let it pass. "He's visiting for a few days. Sam, this is Mac, evil genius and tech support."

"Evil genius? You don't look sinister." He said, smiling at her. She smiled back, slightly wide eyed.

"Don't let my appearance fool you. I'm full of evil." She said.

"Yeah, she looks nice, but you should hear about the purity test." Veronica said. "She made a fortune from that."

"I saw an opportunity." Mac said, steepling her fingers under her chin. "I exploited it." She looked at Veronica. "And the 09ers totally deserved it."

"What's a purity test?" Sam asked. Veronica explained that Mac had posted a test online, one that had you answer questions about how "pure" you were. The lower the score, the less pure you were. Then Mac had charged ten dollars a pop for test results. Anyone could buy anyone else's test result, and it had created havoc at school. Someone had taken the test in Meg's name and had scored low. Meg had faced days of ridicule and her boyfriend Cole had broken up with her over it. She'd asked Veronica for help, and Veronica had cleared her name. They'd been friends then, and Veronica missed her.

"That's actually pretty genius." Sam said admiringly. A blush colored Mac's face as they walked to Neptune's outdoor cafeteria.

"Yeah. It bought me a new car, so. I enjoyed my ill-gotten gains." She answered.

"So you and Veronica are kind of like the evil masterminds of Neptune High?" He asked. Mac shook her head.

"I wouldn't say masterminds. I'd say subversive elements." Mac said. Sam nodded.

"Sticking it to the man." He said. "I like it."

"Well, not 'the man' so much as the 09ers. And sometimes Van Clemens." Mac said. Sam knew that 09ers were the kid who lived in the prestigious 90909 zip codes. Their parents were movie stars and athletes and business moguls. They had everything, and apparently they liked to keep status quo. They very rarely accepted outsiders; Veronica had gotten a pass because Lily Kane had been her best friend and Duncan had been her boyfriend. After Lily's death, Veronica had sided with her dad against the rest of the town when Keith had accused Jake Kane of murdering his own child. She'd been outcast and still hadn't really been forgiven. Even dating Logan and then Duncan hadn't cleared her.

But the rest of Neptune High, the kids of the gardeners and house cleaners and drivers of the 90909 zip, hadn't forgiven Veronica to running back to the rich kids as soon as they'd take her. In their eyes, that's what she'd done. Weevil had accused her of "giving it up" to 09er boys for popularity and acceptance. That hurt; the year before, she'd formed a friendship with Weevil, not a small feat, considering that he was the leader of the PCH gang. He didn't have friends, he had allies and enemies. But they'd become friends, and she'd trusted him on more than one occasion, and he'd come through for her. But now he wouldn't speak to her. At first it was because she'd stood by Logan throughout the trial. That seemed like a clear message: she chose the 09ers. But she really had believed that Logan hadn't killed Felix. And then the bus crash happened. Six of the seven kids on the bus were poor, one of them a PCHer. Weevil barely acknowledged her existence now, and if he did it was only to insult her.

At least she still had Mac and Wallace. Though Wallace was chasing Jackie Cook, the latest addition to the 09er crowd. Just like the 09ers, she was spoiled and bitchy and so entitled it would be funny if it wasn't so maddening. She was from New York; her mom was a model who'd had a fling with Terrence Cook , the greatest player to ever wear a Neptune Shark uniform. He was retired from baseball now, and there was talk of him being inducted to the hall of fame. Veronica had met him the day of the bus crash and he'd been nice. Obviously Jackie hadn't inherited that trait.

"Um, Earth to Mars?" Mac said. She turned to her friend; she'd been lost in thought.

"Sorry." She muttered.

"Mac was just telling me all the dirt on you." Sam said. "It's been so long since I saw you, Mac's really filling me in."

"Just a few dark secrets of your past." Mac said. "No biggie. I just told him about the time you blackmailed the governor." Mac was joking; Veronica hadn't done any such thing. She didn't know the governor, for one.

"Mac, you swore you would never tell. 'I'll take it to my grave', I believe were your words." Veronica said, trying to shake off her heavy mood.

"I'm sorry. His powers of interrogation are strong."

"These are not the secrets you are looking for." Veronica intoned to Sam. He laughed at her, his eyes sweeping the cafeteria.

"Are you guys going to eat lunch?" He asked. His eyes flicked to 09er table. Veronica glanced in that direction. Duncan's back was stiff, his shoulders set. She wondered briefly what was wrong. She saw Cassidy Casablancas glance at her and then quickly away. Does Duncan think…? She thought, glancing at Sam. She tried to see him as he'd appear to other people. Tall, insanely tall, well-toned- obviously he worked out- and good looking to a fault. His brown eyes were warm and full of amusement, his hair adorably floppy. He looked at her affectionately, watching her reactions, and making her smile. Of course to her he was practically family. But no one else would know that. Duncan certainly wouldn't. Dammit. She thought. The last thing she wanted was for Duncan to think she was dating someone else. She stood up.

"I'm… I'm not really hungry." She said. Sam watched her, his eyes suddenly very concerned. He glanced back at the 09er table, looking for signs of danger.

"Are you all right?" He asked in a low tone. She nodded.

"I'm just going to… I need something from my locker." Mac, who'd understood more of the situation than Sam did, only nodded. Sam stood up.

"I'll come with you." He said. She shook her head.

"I'll be right back. Stay here with Mac. She can tell you more of my darkest secrets." She said. His face got stubborn, but she shot him a pleasing look. He conceded with a slight nod and she walked away. She let her feet carry her to her locker, not paying attention to what she was doing. She leaned against her locker and shut her eyes, fighting the sick feeling rising in her chest. She tried to tell herself she didn't care what Duncan thought, that he'd made it clear that he didn't care about her so she didn't care about him, but it was useless. She debated going to talk to him, but rejected the idea. What could she say? It's not what you think, I know it looked like me and Sam have something going on, but you have to know I still love you? Anyway, when had she become such an emotional wreck? Why did what other people thought of her suddenly matter?

It's not "other people". It's Duncan. She thought to herself. She sighed.

"Tell me something, Veronica." Logan's voice said from very close. She opened her eyes, startled. "I mean, I've heard rumors but I didn't think it was true. But you really are heartless, aren't you?" her eyes narrowed at him and she stood up, refusing to be intimidated.

"What are you talking about, Logan?" She demanded.

"That little show you just put on for the entire school." He said. She stared at him, waiting for him to clarify. "Your new boytoy out there. Who is he?"

"None of your goddamn business." She flashed at him.

"God, Veronica, do you ever think of anyone but yourself?" He asked. His tone was harsh and she suddenly couldn't meet his eyes.

"Start making sense, Logan." She said.

"Duncan." Logan said. Veronica stared at him.

"He broke up with me. He went running to Meg as soon as-"

"She ended up in a coma?" Logan said, taking a step closer to her. He stared down at her. She dropped her eyes.

"Why do you care? You haven't spoken to him in weeks." She said.

"We're… we were friends for a long time." He said. "Just because you're mad at someone doesn't mean you stop caring about them." She looked back up at him, surprised. His eyes were liquid and there was an emotion in them she didn't want to see. "You of all people should know that." His voice was soft as he watched her reaction. She didn't know what to say. Her heart throbbed painfully as she stared at him.

"Hey, buddy? You might want to step away from her." Sam's voice was low, but there was no mistaking the threat. Logan glanced over to see Sam standing beside them, his face serious and his eyes hard.

"Or what?" Logan sneered. Sam flicked his eyes at Veronica and then back to Logan.

"Step away from her or you'll find out." Sam drawled the words a little, not taking his eyes off Logan. Logan grinned.

"Stop it." Veronica said. "Sam, this is Logan. Logan, this is Sam. My cousin." Logan turned sharply back to Veronica. He couldn't remember her ever mentioning a cousin.

"Logan?" Sam said. His eyes flicked to Veronica again and then back to Logan. "Christo." He said almost under his breath, but loud enough for Logan to hear. He watched Logan, his body tense.

"No, sasquatch, she said Logan." Logan said. "Who's Christo?" Veronica was looking at Sam, puzzled. He colored slightly.

"Nothing." He said. The tension between them was broken and Logan turned to walk away. He turned back deliberately, looking at Veronica.

"Hey, Ronnie?" He knew she hated it when he called her that. She gritted her teeth and looked at him. "Think about it, okay? You're not the only one hurting." And again, there was a flicker of emotion in his eyes that she didn't want to see. It was so much easier if she could just hate him. He walked away and turned the corner without looking back. Veronica didn't realize she'd clenched her hands into fists until Sam put a hand on her wrist. She opened her hands as the bell rang.

"are you okay?" He asked. She looked up at him. Tears were threatening to break, but she fought them back as the hallway filled with students. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard.

"Yeah, Sammy. I'll be okay." She said. After a moment she opened her eyes. "You better go." She said.

"I'm not leaving you here." He said. "Come on. I'll get you out for the afternoon."

"A jailbreak?" She said, a ghost of a smile on her lips.

"You're not the only badass in 'our' family." He said. "Just point me to the school office." She walked with him a little ways down the hall and pointed out the office to him. She saw him square his shoulders and walk into the office with authority. She grinned. He's a chameleon, she thought. A giant, floppy haired chameleon. He spoke to the reception, listened to her response, and then leaned over the counter a little. From the way the reception melted a little towards him and smiled, she knew that he was convincing her to excuse Veronica for the afternoon. He walked back out of the office as the hallways cleared. Sam went to her.

"Stop smiling. Look shocked." He murmured. She put on a shocked expression. Sam put a hand on her shoulder and nodded, his face serious.

"Okay. I got you out on a family emergency." He said. They walked past the office, Sam throwing a nod to the receptionist through the window. They went back to the parking lot. As soon as they were in Veronica's car, she laughed.

"My dad's going to kill you." She said. He shrugged, but grinned. She started the car, leaving Neptune high behind her.

They'd spent the afternoon hanging out. She'd wanted to work on the case a little but Sam had insisted that there was nothing else they could do until he heard from Dean. So they'd driven around for a while, then decided to go to the beach. Sam was fun to be around. He teased her and joked with her and talked seriously about some things. She told him she was hoping to get into Stanford. If she won the Kane scholarship- the scholarship that the Kanes had set up in Lily's name- she could afford it. He told her a little about Stanford, professors he'd had and classes he'd taken and the activities he'd participated in. He didn't talk about his friends or Jess, it was still too painful. Bu he'd talked about how Stanford had been an escape, how he'd felt free for the first time in his life.

She didn't ask what he'd escaped from.

When they left the beach, they'd headed back to the Camelot. Technically Veronica should have headed to Mars Investigations, but she didn't want to. Keith would think she was studying. It was restful to be with Sam; he didn't expect anything of her and didn't push her to talk about things she didn't want to talk about. There was one thing she had to know, though.

"Sam, what are you and Dean investigating here? What is it my dad thinks he can't handle?" She asked him. They hadn't gotten out of the car yet. He glanced at her. Keith didn't want her to know, but he thought she should. She'd known some of the kids on the bus, her friend Meg was in the hospital. It was personal.

"It's going to sound crazy." He said. "Just… bear with me." So he told her what he and Dean did. They were demon hunters. They hunted down monsters, made the world safe. They dealt with ghosts, putting them to rest. They kept people ignorant of the truth because people didn't want to know the truth, were better off not knowing. He told her he and Dean had been fighting monsters practically their whole lives. Veronica wanted ot reject the idea, call him crazy, but she remembered the day of the bus crash. She thought she'd seen Lily run around the corner of the convenience store, and she'd followed, because it was Lily. The year before, when she'd been almost distraught with grief, she'd seen Lily, but had those had been memories and dreams. The day of the bus crash was something different. Besides, Keith believed them.

"Monsters, Sam? Demons?" she said, her voice quiet.

"I know. I know how it sounds." He said. He hesitated, then went on. "My mom died when I was a baby. The police said it was a house fire, but… it was a monster. Something killed my mother. And then…" He paused again, gathering the courage to get it all out. "Then it took Jess. At Stanford." He watched her for a reaction. She turned to him, stunned.

"The fire at Stanford?" She said.

"Yeah. Jess died the same way my mom did. I saw it, Veronica. I couldn't…" He stopped. The pain in his eyes was unbearable. "I have to find it. Dad was looking for it and he disappeared. I have to find it and kill it." His words were cold and laced with pain. She put a hand on his arm. She understood completely. She'd been driven to find Lily's murderer, not believing for a moment that Able Koontz had done it.

"When you stayed with us, when we were kids…" She trailed off.

"Dad and Dean were hunting. I had to stay behind because I got hurt on the hunt before that." Sam said, his voice bitter. "I wasn't reliable."

"You were eleven." She said, her voice full of disapproval. He glanced at her. "What's wrong with your dad?" He didn't answer that. There were too many bitter and angry things he could say. Her hand fell away from his arm. Without looking, his hand found hers. He squeezed it gently, and she returned the pressure. Their eyes met and for a moment, they understood each other so completely it was like coming home. Then there was a loud rattle on the driver's side window and they let go of each other, startled.

Veronica rolled down the window and Dean's grinning face appeared.

"Hey guys." He said. "Shouldn't you be in school right now?"

"It's four o'clock, Dean." Sam said, annoyed. Dean shot him a superior look.

"Yeah. But funny thing happened." He said. "Keith called me and asked if you'd taken Veronica out of school today." Veronica and Sam exchanged a look. Dean's grin widened. "I covered your ass. I told him you needed her to help with research on the case. He said that's okay, but next time run it by him." Sam tried to look contrite, but Veronica caught his eye and they both laughed.

"Busted." She said. They moved towards their doors at the same time and got out of the car.

"Please tell me you found something out, though. Research was a bust." Dean said, his eyes flickering to Veronica.

"Yeah. The Echolls kid checked out. He's an asshole, but you know. Human." Sam said.

"Yeah, what was that?" Veronica asked, remembering the weirdness between Sam and Logan.

"Dude, you told her?" Dean asked as he opened the door to their room. "Sammy. Keith is going to literally kill you dead." He held Sam's eyes for a moment, amused. Sam shrugged.

"She has to know, Dean. She can't help if she doesn't know." Sam defended himself. Dean nodded.

"Um. She would like to know what the hell Christo is." Veronica said. Dean threw himself down on a bed while Sam sat on the edge of the other one. Veronica sat beside him., waiting.

"Too easy." Dean muttered.

"What did you want me to do, draw a devil's trap or throw holy water at him? I was supposed to be incognito." Sam said. Dean glanced briefly at Veronica and she couldn't help grinning at him. He was doing it on purpose, getting Sam all worked up just for amusement. Sam caught the look passing between them, and then shook his head. "You're such a pain in the ass, Dean." He said, but he laughed.

"Christo is the name of God in Latin. You say it around a demon, they react to it." Dean told Veronica. "So Logan checks out. The Kane girl checks out." Dean said. Veronica tensed. "We thought she might, you know, be haunting you. Or the school. Or something. But she's not." Dean said. Now Veronica shook her head.

"So that leaves us at square one." Sam said. Dean nodded, putting a hand over his eyes.

"Yeah. I don't know how you stare at a computer screen all day, Sammy. I have a headache." Dean said.

"You're supposed to take breaks." Veronica said. "So… Logan was a suspect?" Sam shrugged.

"Your dad thought he might be." He explained. Veronica nodded. Of course. Keith could easily believe that Logan was possessed. He'd never really liked Logan much.

"But. I did find sulphur near the crash site." Dean said. Sam looked at him.

"So we're still in this." Sam said. Veronica looked form one to the other Dean sat up, taking his hand away from his face.

"Sulphur?" She asked. She hated feeling like she was missing information. Dean explained that demons left sulphur traces when they possessed someone. There were definitely signs of supernatural foul play, but they had no idea which direction to go in. He asked her if she knew anyone who might be a suspect. A change in behavior, suddenly different personality. Someone acting out of character. She shrugged.

"Everyone. We're all grieving." She said. Duncan's face flashed in her head. She pushed the thought away. She didn't want Sam and Dean to think he was possessed. "It could be anyone, couldn't it?" Dean nodded.

"Okay. Enough work. I'm hungry." He said. He stood up and stretched. Veronica tried not to look, but she couldn't help it. His shirt rode up his stomach a little, revealing his abs. She tore her eyes away, only to find herself looking at his arms. Well defined muscles bulged a little as he stretched his arms. She tried not to think about touching him, running her hand up his arm to his shoulder, tried not to wonder how those muscles would feel under her hand. How warm his skin would be.

Sam leaned over and gave his brother a little shove. Dean, offended, swatted at him.

"What the hell, Sammy." He said in an injured tone.

"You know what." Sam said in a low voice. Dean glanced at Veronica, the corners of his mouth twitching. He lifted an eyebrow at her slightly and she felt herself grinning back at him again. Show off, she thought, amused. He'd known she was watching him. A little payback for yesterday when she'd shot him down. She lifted one shoulder in a shrug, conceding him a point, and he grinned at her.

"Dean." Sam said reproachfully.

"Yeah, Sammy." He answered, not even a little bit sorry. "Veronica, what's good to eat here? To order in?"

"Cho's Pizza." She answered.

"Awesome." He glanced at her. "You staying for supper? Your dad said he had something to look into tonight, probably won't be back until late." He tried to sound casual, but Keith had told him that it wasn't safe for Veronica to be alone. She'd been shot at early in the summer. She'd been with Logan in his jeep, and Logan had probably been the real target, but still. Dean wasn't about to let her go off alone. And, knowing how Keith worried, she nodded. He shot her a warm, concerned smile. She smiled back. She glanced over to see a resigned look on Sam's face, though he smiled and threw an arm around her when he saw her looking, giving her another reassuring squeeze.

I like these guys, she thought. It was surprising.

Something watched Veronica leaving The Winchesters' room at the Camelot. It was late, she'd stayed with them the whole evening. They bickered a lot, but it was affectionate bickering. They'd watched the Big Lebowski and then Dean insisted on a Swayze movie. Veronica had insisted on Dirty Dancing, Dean and Sam groaning at it but going along with it (and maybe enjoying a little more than they'd ever admit. She'd never tell anyone, but she smiled at the memory of Dean's little gasp when Johnny and Baby finally managed to do the lift- in front of a crowd, of course- at the very end. And he'd been misty-eyed when Johnny said "Nobody puts Baby in a corner"). The thing watching Veronica saw the smile and sneered. She got into her car and drove away, the thing following her taillights with its eyes until she was out of sight.

Cassidy Casablancas laughed softly in the cool night air. His eyes were completely black.