Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own


Chapter 18 – But You Knew He Was a Jackass All Along


A/N – Sorry for the long delay. I started out much less inspired to write this chapter, because I knew I wanted to keep Logan and Veronica apart for the rest of day 5. Knowing my readers want to see Logan and Veronica together, I may have tried to overcompensate with the scenes I included, and they may be complete and utter crap. Or maybe you'll find something you like in it? All I know is that by the time I pasted the scenes from OneNote into Word, I was surprised to find that they came to 17K words of non-L/V scenes. See what I mean about overcompensating? So then, I considered splitting it into two shorter chapters, but you all would rather have one long mostly L/V-less chapter than two shorter ones, right? Never fear, day six will be more fun, and day seven will be even more fun.

A/N2 – Let's talk Duncan real quick. You don't like him. I don't even like him. Except, I kind of do. Never as a love interest for Veronica - they were nauseating together. But, I loved his bromance with Logan. You can't tell me you didn't let out a collective 'Awwww' when they reconciled by the bar in An Echolls Family Christmas. They were kind of adorable together. At least in S1. I remember reading somewhere – can't remember if it was an official analysis or a fan's opinion – that Duncan purposely had very little character development. The entire S1 was spent fleshing out Logan's character, adding more and more layers until he could practically leap off the screen, he was so real. Duncan, on the other hand, was underdeveloped. He was held off to the side as our red herring. Clue after clue led back to Duncan, and if the writers were to start giving him character development or layers, the viewers wouldn't have believed him capable of killing his own sister.

Now, as much as I hated Duncan in S2, for abandoning Logan when he needed him the most (and the daily stalking visits to Java the Hut while L/V were together), I thought S1 Duncan was kind of fascinating. Not so much TD's performance – he seemed to excel at brooding and flying off the handle, but not much in between. More so, the 'bones' of the character are fascinating to me – he's very tragic, very noir, and I love getting into his head and trying to figure out what makes him tick. Since this story takes place pretty early in season one, he is pretty much a blank slate still. Hopefully, you all will give him a chance in this story, and I will try my best to make him something more than the blank piece of cardboard we saw on our screens. Think of him as almost a new character, maybe? So…ramble over. On to the story.


Veronica - Day Five - Dallas, Texas - Horizon Medical Clinic


Veronica and Duncan followed Logan to the back of the Horizon clinic, where he knocked on the door four times, paused, and knocked twice more.

"Ahhh...the secret knock," Veronica whispered. "I see we're being covert."

"A concept you're familiar with," Logan said pointedly, without looking at her.

A striking brunette in a diaphanous peach blouse and black dress pants opened the door. She was tall, curvy, and tan, with arresting green eyes and long, sleek ponytail. She glanced around surreptitiously, before ushering them through a hallway and into a small examination room.

"Have a seat. I'm going to put all three of you in here for now, so nobody sees you." She drawled, flashing Logan a grin with dimples deep enough to swim in. Veronica's eyes narrowed.

To the left of the doorway, two charcoal colored chairs lined the wall next to a pale gray laminate desktop. Veronica sat in the second cushioned chair and berated herself for feeling disappointed when, instead of taking the empty seat next to her, Logan hopped up on the paper-covered examination table against the opposite wall. It was for the best. The less proximity to Logan, the less risk of becoming spontaneously attached at the mouths again.

Duncan hesitated for a moment, looking between the examination table and the vacant chair, and then chose the seat to Veronica's right, sitting stiffly at the edge.

Is he so uncomfortable around me because we used to date, or is there another reason?

"I won't pretend that I don't know who you are," the brunette said, closing the door behind her. "But your secret is safe with me." She made the zipper motion across her lips, while Veronica tried not to gag. "I'm Carolann, the receptionist here." She gave Duncan a firm handshake, then Veronica, before crossing to shake Logan's hand. The third handshake lingered longer than necessary, and Veronica watched a knowing smile slide across Logan's face.

"I can take your vitals while we wait, Duncan," Carolann said, turning back around. "Dr. Loomis didn't want any of the nurses to see you, and I need the practice, anyway."

Duncan stood and obediently allowed Carolann to measure his height and weight, his temperature and blood pressure.

Veronica's eyes roamed the small space. The usual health posters covered the walls: the reproductive system, birth control options, first aid, and circulation system. To the left of Veronica's chair the desktop attached to the corner, its' surface littered with manila folders, a clipboard, glass jars containing cotton balls and tongue depressors, and a stethoscope. A wall-mounted magazine holder hung near the door.

"I'll be back in a bit." Carolann flashed Logan another dimpled smile before exiting the room.

"Dude!" Duncan said, once the door closed behind her. "Did you see…?"

Logan's grin was cocky. "Yeah, I saw it."

"I don't get it," Duncan laughed. "You're not that great looking."

"I'm afraid America disagrees with you, man. They like me. They really like me."

Veronica rolled her eyes, but nobody noticed. Logan hadn't even glanced her way during the exchange.

Dr. Tony bustled into room minutes later, wearing glasses that only made him more attractive. He stared down at the clipboard in his hands for a moment before glancing up.

"Tony Loomis." He reached out to shake Duncan's hand. "You wouldn't remember me, but you were here for overnight."

"Duncan Kane, nice to meet you."

"Hello, Veronica," Tony said, his eyes roaming over her, and lingering on her legs.

"Hi," she answered, her guard coming up.

So, Logan was right after all.

She glanced over at the know-it-all, expecting him to be in a huff over the Tony's ogling, but he appeared bored and detached.

Tony's face displayed the disappointment Veronica kept hidden from her own. Of course, their minor rivalry had never been about her, only two alpha males having a pissing contest, and Logan didn't want to play anymore.

"Well, we should get this started." Tony peeked out into the hallway. "Come with me, Duncan," he said, finding the coast clear.

The door closed behind them with an audible click.

Veronica could think of a million places she would rather be right now other than the oppressive atmosphere of this room. Back in Neptune, perhaps, scrubbing the word 'slut' off her locker. Anything would be preferable to this tension.

To pass the time, she examined the birth control poster, while Logan seemed to be fascinated with the muscular and skeletal system posters.

And I'm fascinated with his muscular system.

Maybe a good argument was what they needed.

"Logan—"

He held up a hand to silence her. "Not now, Veronica," he said in a monotone.

"Fine!" she snapped, standing and stomping the three steps to the hanging magazine rack.

Let's see. Cosmopolitan, Cosmopolitan, and…Cosmopolitan.

Reaching for the most recent issue, Veronica dropped into her chair with a loud exhale. She angrily flipped through the first 45 pages of advertisements, without actually processing anything.

The click of the doorknob alerted her to Carolann's return.

"Finally," she said. "The office is empty, and I want to hear all about your adventures."

"Adventures?" Veronica said. "We drive really fast, and a lot of people want to beat us up. That's about it."

"Aww, I think you're selling yourself short," Carolann glanced around the room. "So Duncan's already in with Tony? That was quick."

Logan smiled at her, turning on the charm. "Yeah, although I'm probably the one who needs medical attention. Duncan slept like a baby for days. I've been beaten up repeatedly by meth heads and biker gangs. You should check me for cracked ribs." He motioned as if to take off his shirt.

"Oh, you are a smooth one," Carolann grinned at him. "Unfortunately, I can't help you there. I'm not a nurse. Yet."

"Well...you told Duncan you needed practice…" Logan offered, all but batting his lashes at her.

Veronica clenched her hands together to keep herself from lobbing the nearby clipboard at his head.

Carolann's demeanor altered, perhaps realizing Logan and Veronica weren't as coupled-up as America presumed.

"So…you and Veronica…?" Carolann asked, looking back and forth between them.

Veronica opened her mouth, but couldn't find any words.

Logan had no such problem. "Nope," he said, and the way he popped the 'p' stung - like a slap to Veronica's face.

"Oh…" Carolann almost blushed. "Well then…I don't suppose…"

"What?"

"...Um…Would you consider getting something to eat with me later?" she asked Logan. Veronica inferred from her shy tone that she was not in the habit of asking guys out.

"Yeah. Sure. Why not?" Logan responded.

"Um…Logan?" Veronica interrupted, her voice practically dripping with venom. "Do you really think it's a good idea to be going on a date while we're running from the law?"

Logan's eyes locked onto hers in challenge. "Are you asking me not to go, Veronica?"

"No, of course not. If you want to make a stupid mistake, who am I to stop you?"

"Didn't think so," Logan said, and his hard eyes told her she had just failed a test.

"Don't worry," Carolann said, apparently not picking-up on the undercurrents. "We won't stray too far. We can even go someplace with dim lighting."

"I'll bet. You do realize we're leaving the state the day after tomorrow, right? And Logan's coming too." Veronica asked. "At least, I assume he is. This can't possibly go anywhere. Plus, he's underage."

"It's just dinner, Veronica," Carolann laughed. "And I'm only eighteen, myself. I promise, I'll get him back to you in one piece."

"Actually, three pieces works much better for me," Veronica muttered.

Carolann arranged to pick Logan up later at the motel, and then slipped out of the room.

Veronica accidentally ripped two pages while flipping through the magazine, and had to force herself to take a deep breath and relax. Logan could not be allowed to know he'd gotten to her.

Has he become even better looking in the last half hour?

Okay. She needed to get her mind off the stupid boy. She committed to reading the next article she came across, regardless of its content. With luck, it would be an engaging story about powerful women changing the world.

Flip...Versace ad...Flip...Calvin Klein ad...Flip...Givenchy perfume ad...Flip…Oh hell…

Veronica snuck a glance at Logan. He couldn't possibly see through the magazine, right? She angled her body to prevent him from sneaking up and peek over her shoulder - as if he would even be inclined to - and set to reading: 'Twenty ways to turn him to Jello using only your mouth.

This should be...um...enlightening.

She felt her face heating at some of the racier suggestions. Who was she kidding? This was an instructional article for oral sex, it was all racy.

Were she to believe this story, the ubiquitous 'he' would become a quivering gelatinous desert served in hospitals if she ran her tongue there and there and there.

Lilly had often tortured Veronica with discussions of oral sex, but she had never mentioned there being an art to the process.


"It's not as gross as you'd think, Veronica," Lilly had said. "Especially with Logan. I actually love blowing Logan."

"I so don't want to hear this!" Veronica protested.

"No, I'm serious," Lilly had laughed, counting out her arguments on her fingers. "One, he's super clean. To the point where I think he gets that thing dry-cleaned after every use. Two, he will agree to anything - absolutely anything - when you're down on your knees in front of him. Three, his orgasm face. Veronica, you have never seen anything hotter. He's fucking gorgeous when he comes. And trust me, that's rare for a guy. Four, and most importantly, when he reciprocates - and he almost always reciprocates - you just lay back and thank God and the Universe that you were ever born."

"That is so gross!" Veronica had responded, covering her face in embarrassment.

"That's only because you're so sexually repressed, Veronica. You know…" she said, thoughtfully, "Logan could so help you out with that."

"Oh. My. God. Lilly. I do NOT need your boyfriend to 'cure' me of my so-called repression."

"Ex-boyfriend," Lilly corrected. "We're over for good. And it doesn't look like my brother is making any progress there. Trust me, Logan would be happy to help. I can teach you exactly how to seduce him. Start with kissing the very top of his jaw, right under his ear—"

"LILLY!"

"Fine, Veronica. I'll drop it." Lilly's tinkling laugh had echoed across the pool area. "For now."


Veronica wondered now - not for the first time - if Lilly had known all along of her secret feelings for Logan. She had tried her hardest to hide them, but Lilly had always been good at ferreting out the truth.

Now, as Veronica continued reading the article, her cheeks burned even hotter, when she realized she'd cast Logan as her scene partner in her mental rehearsals.

Why was she even reading this? She was not planning to have sex with anybody. There were no anatomical pictures, and she had no idea what this magical vein you were supposed to lavish with attention even looked like. She wondered if Logan would be willing to whip it out for strictly academic purposes. Highly doubtful, with the mood he was in.

I don't need to know this information. I've already killed the possibility of being with Logan, and after those kisses today...he's probably ruined me for any other guy.

She slammed the magazine closed in frustration, and the white address label at the bottom caught her attention: Carolann Williams.

Of course! Carolann probably knows all about turning men to jello with her mouth.

For the briefest moment, Veronica considered memorizing Carolann's address for revenging purposes.

Revenge for what? Stealing 'my man'? Logan doesn't belong to me. I made sure of that.

She angrily crammed the magazine back into the empty slot, accidentally dislodging the rack from the hardware, but catching it before it hit the floor. Seething, she fumbled, trying to fit the screw heads into the tiny holes.

A pair of hands reached around her grasping the magazine rack. Startled, she stepped back in surprise, coming up against Logan's chest. Almost instantly, his warmth engulfed her and his scent captivated her. She wanted to melt into him - started allowing herself to - when he calmly reattached the rack to the wall on his first try and stepped away, causing Veronica to stumble back a step.

Stupid Veronica!

"Thanks," she mumbled.

Logan shrugged already ignoring her and angling his body away.

Has his nose always been that perfect?

Had it been only this morning when Veronica had sat on Logan's lap, while he'd picked flowers for her? She could not believe things had gotten this bad so fast.

She dropped heavily back into her chair, and closed her eyes. Emotionally drained, she didn't even try to fight away the images rushing forward to play on the movie screen of her mind. The way Logan had looked at her right before he'd kissed her…his mouth against her throat…the warmth of his hands through her thin shorts, as he'd slid them over her butt…the feel of them as they ran along her bare legs…his hardness against her center, first as he'd pressed her to the wall, and then in the backseat of Peggy's truck...that shivery feeling…the kisses…OHMIGOD, the kisses…

Her eyes flew open at the sound of the doorknob turning, catching Logan staring at her with an intensity that nearly took her breath away, before he quickly flicked his eyes away, going blank.

Duncan shuffled into the room. "Hey," he offered them a small smile. "Clean bill of health."

"Great to hear," Logan said.

"He couldn't write me any scrips though,"

"How badly do you need them?" Veronica asked.

Duncan considered, "I think I'm ready to give up the pills now. It's already been over a week. Dr. Tony said there may be some side effects from going cold turkey, though, so if you see me hallucinating…," he laughed anxiously.

"Sure, we'll just strait-jacket you, and pretend nothing's wrong." Logan said. "You ready to go?"

"Yeah, we'd better hurry off," Veronica sniped. "Logan has to get ready for his date,"

"Seriously?" Duncan asked.

Logan shrugged and grinned, and Duncan gave him a high-five. "Echolls magic strikes again."

If Veronica had possessed laser beam eyes in that moment, she would have lit both of their pants on fire.


Veronica – Day Five – Dallas, Texas – Lakeview Court Motel – Motel Office


Veronica fumed as she paced back and forth in Peggy's kitchen waiting for delivery from the local Italian restaurant. "And then? Then he called up his scumbag friend in Neptune and put money on himself in the pool!"

"What pool?" Peggy asked.

"The 'who gets Veronica' pool. I'm not even sure if it's about sex or actually dating me, but there is a Duncan -vs. - Logan pool back at school, and Logan is so convinced he's going to win, that he bet ten thousand dollars. After I told him it could never happen again."

Veronica pouted when Peggy's eyes crinkled in amusement. "You know Peggy, I'm beginning to think that you like Logan more than me."

Peggy laughed heartily. "Let's just say I get Logan. I have his number. He reminds me of Tony in some ways. Would you like to sit?"

"I'm too keyed up to sit. What could he possibly be thinking? This isn't some stupid teen movie where the jerk makes a bet about the shy girl before discovering her true inner beauty and falling in love with her." Despite her earlier refusal, Veronica slid into the chair to Peggy's left.

"Of course not." Peggy rose and walked to the freezer, returning a moment later with two pints of Ben & Jerry's and two spoons. Her caftan this evening was black with leopard print trim, and her hair was pinned up in a chignon.

"It's not like he even needs the money," Veronica said, examining Peggy's offerings and choosing the Chunky Monkey. "Thanks!"

She paused from her rant for a moment to observe the official lid-removal ritual - that magical moment of suction you have to release before uncovering the treasures inside a pint of ice cream.

"He just wanted to be a jackass and hurt me," she continued around a mouthful of bananas and chocolate.

"Honey, he wasn't trying to hurt you," Peggy said, her chair scraping the floor as she resumed sitting next to Veronica.

"Then what do you think he was doing?"

"I think he was throwing down a gauntlet."

"Why?"

"He was daring you to be able to resist him. That must have been one hell of a kiss,"

Veronica groaned. "You have no idea, Peggy. It was..."

"That good?"

"Better. I cannot even put into words what it was like. It was like every molecule in my body was silently screaming: 'FINALLY!'"

"So what are you doing here with me? Go talk to him. Better yet, kiss him some more."

Veronica grunted. "He's on a date."

"A date?" Peggy choked. "You guys were gone for what? An hour and a half? And in that time he managed to kiss you senseless, and make a date with another girl."

"Yep! That's Logan for ya. Any warm body will do."

"So that's the real reason you're so upset right now."

"He's not my boyfriend. He can date whomever he chooses," Veronica had to force herself not to speak through clenched teeth.

Peggy's expression was thoughtful. "Veronica, I'm not going to offer you any advice, because I know you're a stubborn girl, and you won't take it."

Veronica offered a small apologetic smile.

"What I can do," Peggy continued. "Is give you a glimpse into the male mind. I feel distinctly qualified having three older brothers, a late husband and a son, all of whom were incredibly good-looking, and knew it."

"Like Logan…" Veronica sighed.

"Yes, like Logan," Peggy agreed. "Although Logan has grown up in the public eye, so he probably attracts even more women."

"Like flies to honey."

"So I imagine he takes it for granted?" Peggy asked. "That there will always be another girl to step in and fill the vacuum?"

"Is this supposed to be you making me feel better?" Veronica asked. "Cause it's kind of not working."

Peggy chuckled. "What I'm saying is...for a boy who could literally choose from hundreds of girls—"

"Probably thousands now, after all of this media coverage," Veronica said.

"Okay, for a boy who could choose from thousands of girls, you, my dear, are the one he's willing to take a beating for. You are the one he was willing to leave it all behind for."

"That was all for Duncan,"

"Do you honestly believe that?"

Veronica looked down at the table. "No. Sometimes I think it is about me. But if he cared so much about me, why is he out with another girl?"

"Your rejection hurt him, Veronica."

"So he needs to comfort himself on top of another girl?"

"In a nutshell, yes." Peggy answered. "What do women do when they've been hurt?"

"Work 14 hour days?"

"I said women, Veronica, not machines," Peggy laughed. "Look down,"

Veronica caught her drift. "We eat chocolate and ice cream."

"Exactly, women drown their sorrows with food. Men do it with sex."

"But that's stupid. Am I supposed to just accept it as inevitable? 'Boys will be boys' and all that, with a wink and a nudge?"

"Of course it's stupid. I'm not condoning their behavior, but it is what it is. What can you do about it?"

"Shake my fists at the heavens and rail over the injustice of it all?" Veronica asked with a raised eyebrow and an accompanying fist shake.

Peggy snorted. "Let me know how that works for you."

"But random sex can't possibly fix anything," Veronica said.

"Nope. No more than ice cream."

"But it's all so…meaningless."

"I never said it was right. It's just…their brains are wired differently than ours."

"But what about love?"

"That's the difference between men and women. It's a real shame, but from a young age, society teaches girls that sex is something that only takes place within a loving committed relationship. We even find ourselves trying to create love where there is none, to justify our decisions to satisfy our sexual urges."

"Unless you're Lilly Kane,"

"Right, she sounds like an exception to the rule. Boys, however, feel no such need to justify their urges. To them, sex can be recreational. Even therapeutic."

"Which just proves what I said before," Veronica said. "Any warm body will do."

"You're right and you're wrong. Yes, a man can find sexual release with any warm body, but…whether you're a man or a woman, sex is always going to be more pleasurable and intense with somebody with whom you have an emotional connection – it adds in an extra dimension."

"So I can comfort myself with the idea that at least Logan is having lousy sex tonight?"

"I wouldn't be so quick to assume that Logan is having sex."

"Why else would he agree to go out with some girl he'd only known for a few minutes and will never see again after tomorrow."

"You hurt him when you rejected him," Peggy said.

"I didn't mean to,"

"We never do," Peggy smiled gently. "But right now, this other girl is probably fawning all over him."

"They always do,"

"She's probably telling him how wonderful and perfect he is. All of the things he'd much rather hear from you."

"Trust me. Logan doesn't want me fawning over him. He detests phoniness"

"Veronica, men are insecure. Even Logan. Especially Logan. For all of his swagger, I don't think he's nearly as confident as he pretends to be,"

"No," Veronica said, quietly. "He's surprisingly sensitive sometimes."

"You know," Peggy started, her face clouding over as if something were bothering her. "I've had a couple opportunities to chat privately with Logan over the past two days, and there's something dark going on with that one."

"Dark how?" Veronica asked. Was Peggy implying that Logan was about to turn evil again?

Peggy's face showed signs of an internal debate. She seemed to be weighing carefully whether to risk bringing something up. "What do you know about Logan's home life?"

"Um…A-List father, B-List mother and a C-List sister. His mom can be pretty self-involved, but she loves him. He tolerates his sister, and seems to have a love/hate relationship with his dad. Why?"

"It's just a sense of...do you think there could be some…emotional… abuse going on there?"

"Emotional abuse?" Veronica repeated, stunned. "Um…wow. Not from Lynn. She always seemed to dote on Logan – at least when she noticed he was around. Maybe a bit of neglect there. From Aaron? Yeah, I'd say it's highly probable. He's always made my skin crawl, for some reason."

"I suspected as much."

"You got that out of two or three conversations with him?" Veronica asked.

"When you've counseled as many teenagers as I have, you get a feel for this kind of thing. I get the sense from Logan that he's never felt like anything other than a disappointment."

"He's mentioned that before."

"It didn't feel like typical teen angst to me. It felt like deeply ingrained rhetoric. And stubborn boys like Logan tend to self-fulfill those prophesies."

"What do you mean?"

"I imagine he acts out. A lot. If he's going to be a constant disappointment, he's going to be the ultimate disappointment."

"That sounds a lot like Logan," Veronica said.

"It's also a defense mechanism."

"How so?"

"Well, many abused kids – the more introverted ones – have horrible self-esteem. They feel that they have some fatal flaw that makes them unworthy of love and basic human kindness. Then there are the extroverted types like Logan. As long as they're acting out and getting in trouble – As long as they're 'earning' their punishments – they never have to closely examine those feelings of inadequacy. Mom made me kneel on rice for three hours because I got a 'D' on my report card and deserved it. Dad blackened my eye because I left my bike in the driveway and it flattened his tires. They do it because they love me. Those types tend to escalate with the rebellious acts, in fear that the day may come when they won't be able to point to their own behavior to excuse that of their parents."

Veronica took a moment to digest this information. If she were to believe the rumors, Logan had spent the previous year committing some extreme escalation.

"I imagine that's a small part of what he's doing right now with the date thing." Peggy said gently. "Of course, you would never emotionally abuse him."

"Never!" Veronica insisted.

"But now, following his usual patterns, he can point to the fact that he screwed up his chances of being with you, and avoid his subconscious telling him he's unlovable and unworthy."

Veronica rubbed at her forehead in frustration. "Logan is lovable," she said, her voice barely audible. "Almost too lovable, I think. I would never treat him that way."

Peggy covered one of Veronica's hands with her own. "Does he know any other way to be treated?"

At Veronica's questioning glance, she elaborated. "What was his relationship with Lilly like?"

Veronica froze, a look of panic coming over her face.

"It's okay, hon. You don't have to talk about it," Peggy reassured her.

Veronica allowed the silence to linger while she conducted an internal post-mortem on Logan and Lilly's relationship. Finally she spoke.

"Lilly emotionally abused him," she whispered, and it almost killed her to say it. To think of her beloved Lilly in the same light as the creepy Aaron Echolls was nauseating. "I don't think she meant to. She really loved him. I know she loved him. The thing is, Lilly didn't believe in monogamy. Logan did. Lilly tried to manage his expectations, constantly telling him that they weren't a forever thing. Logan would just try harder. As if he could get her to change her mind if he just loved her hard enough. She would cheat on him constantly, and then blame it on his smothering love. She'd break up with him, and he would sleep with anything with a pulse. Then she'd reel him back in again. She couldn't love him the way he needed, but nobody else could have him either."

"That sounds like emotional abuse," Peggy said gently.

Having started to rant, Veronica found herself unable to stop. "Everything he did annoyed her. I don't even understand why she was with him. He was too hyper. He fiddled with things too much. He smothered her with the affectionate kisses. The hugs. The touches. He was too jealous. Too dramatic."

"How did that make you feel?" Peggy asked.

"It pissed me off, to be honest." Veronica snapped, shocking herself with her own honesty. "I never witnessed this insane jealousy she spoke of. And I thought the dramatics and the twisting and twirling and spinning were endearing, not annoying."

Peggy gave her a knowing smile.

"In fact, lately, since we started this fake fiancé thing, I've been on the other end of those affectionate kisses and hugs and touches. And they're not smothering, they're heavenly. They're like a magic balm for whatever ails you. My best friend was a damn fool who wouldn't know a good thing if you smacked her in the face with it."

Peggy raised an eyebrow ironically, and Veronica realized what she had just said.

"But it's different now," she rushed in to amend. "He's not the same person he used to be. I'm not the same person I used to be. I can't trust him not to hurt me again."

"I think that's what he needs most from you."

"My trust?"

"Yes. To the boy who only knows how to be a disappointment."

"How do you give your trust to somebody who hasn't earned it?" Veronica asked.

"That's not how trust works, Veronica. Nobody can earn your trust. Name the people you trust."

"My dad," Veronica answered without hesitation.

Peggy waited.

"That was it," Veronica said. "Just my dad."

"That's no way to live, Veronica," Peggy said, sadly. "How did your dad earn your trust?"

"I don't know," Veronica said. "I've just always trusted him. He's always been there for me."

"How about your mom? Or Lilly? Or even Duncan and Logan before everything changed. Did you trust all of them?"

"Yes, all of them."

"And how did they earn your trust back then? Did you test them? Did you give them a trust final exam?"

"Of course not," Veronica snickered. "I just trusted them. And then every single one of them let me down in some way."

"That's tragic, but do you see what I'm getting at? There is no 'earning' trust. There is no measurement, or multiple-choice quiz to let you know when somebody is worthy of your trust. You need to give it away on faith and then hope that the person will live up to your belief in them."

"What if I don't have any faith in my faith?" Veronica joked, but not really. "It's been shattered too many times."

"Baby steps, Veronica," Peggy smiled. She covered Veronica's hand with her own again, and Veronica realized that she had stopped flinching when Peggy touched her.

"I think I might trust you, Peggy," Veronica laughed nervously.

"See what I mean? You have no empirical evidence to support that I'm trustworthy. You're going on faith."

"I guess I am," Veronica smiled softly. "And I want to have faith in Logan."

"I'll share you a phenomenon I've observed. When you put your faith in people who have no faith in themselves, those are the ones who will move heaven and earth to be worthy of your trust. I've seen it in so many relationships. Boss/Employee. Parent/Child. Husband/Wife. Self-fulfilling prophecies can work in a positive manner as well."

"Like Duncan," Veronica said, pieces clicking into place. "Duncan has always had faith in Logan."

"And there's nothing Logan wouldn't do for Duncan, right?"

"Exactly," Veronica answered. "You're right. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy."

"You need to tread very carefully around that relationship," Peggy said. "They need each other as much as they need you."

"I know," Veronica admitted. "Even more so."

"The trust needs to go three ways. If you and Logan do decide to pursue a romantic relationship, you'll need to include Duncan. Sneaking around would be a very bad idea."

"Hold up!" Veronica laughed. "It was one kiss! Okay, maybe more like a dozen, but all at once. Duncan does not need to know about that."

"Do you honestly think this is going to end with just one kiss?" Peggy asked.

"Oh stop it." Veronica grumbled. "What were we talking about before we went down this tangent. I believe you were telling me about the male mind."

"The male mind, huh? Well…Men really only require one thing to make them happy."

"Sex?"

Peggy laughed. "Okay, two things."

"Sex and beer?"

"Sex and validation." Peggy corrected. "They need to know that you think they're handsome, and smart, and strong and brave. Most of all, they need to know that you appreciate them. Praise them for the little things, and they'll keep wanting to do more things for you. You could literally lead them around by the nose."

"I would never—"

"Of course you wouldn't, Veronica. With great power, comes great responsibility." Peggy grinned.

"All of this ego stroking sounds pretty one-sided," Veronica said.

"But it's not. When a guy cares for a girl, he wants to take care of her and protect her. They're genetically programmed to protect."

"I don't need anybody to take care of me or protect me."

"I disagree with you there. You would never have gotten away from either of those Fitzpatricks without Logan, but even if your life was more…uneventful, his desire to keep you safe would be coming from a place of sincerity, whether you felt it was warranted or not. Think of it this way. Showing your appreciation? Such a high payout for such a small cost."

"Do you really think men are that needy?" Veronica asked. "That we need to praise their every move like puppies being house-trained?"

"When you walked in here tonight, what was the first thing you said?" Peggy asked.

"Um…Logan Echolls is a blight upon the face of humanity?"

"That was the second thing." Peggy chuckled, "The first thing you said was that my hair looked pretty."

"Oh, well it does. It's very elegant."

"Thank you. See, it comes natural to us to praise other women."

"Sure, for the most part," Veronica said.

"As women, we don't hesitate to call men out for being knuckleheads, right?"

"Right…"

"Then why do we find it so hard to praise them when they exhibit desired behavior?"

Veronica reflected on that for a moment. "You've got me there," she finally answered.

"Men experience a lot more pressure than we do. Self-inflicted pressure of course, but pressure nonetheless." Peggy said.

"What kind of pressure?"

"Nonstop pressure to perform. To be the best – toughest, strongest, most successful, most dominant. Fathers instill it in their sons practically from birth. So when they find a girl who sincerely accepts them exactly as they are without being obsequious, they'll do just about anything to keep her."

"So you're saying things would be better between us – Logan and I – if I verbalized how much I appreciate him?"

"As long as it's done with complete sincerity, yes. I think you're right. Logan would probably smell phoniness from a mile away."

"So, for example, when he brings me coffee, perfectly made, without me having to ask…?"

"Sincerely show him your gratitude."

"And when he runs around cleaning up after us like a housewife with OCD?"

"You get the picture…" Peggy smiled.

Veronica nodded, a soft smile taking shape on her face, but then disappearing as suddenly as it started.

"But how do I get past tonight. Him being with another girl?"

"I'm afraid that you're going to have to get over it," Peggy answered gently. "You told me yourself that you offered him no reason to even hope that he might have a shot with you."

"I'm just confused. I told him I couldn't lose him. I don't know how we could make things work romantically without risking our relationship."

"Honey, you have the right to take as much time as you need to figure things out in your head,"

"I know."

"You don't, however, have the right to expect Logan to wait around for you to get your head together."

Veronica nodded, sadly.

"Unless…"

"Unless what?" Veronica asked, willing to grasp at straws.

"Unless you ask him to wait for you. I bet you he would agree if you explained your concerns to him."

"But that wouldn't be fair," Veronica protested. "What if I can't ever get past the fact that he picked Lilly over me?"

"Why is that such a problem for you? It was years ago. People grow and change."

"I guess I'm afraid I would always feel like the back-up plan. The runner-up. I'd always wonder in the back of my mind if he would rather be with her."

"But he's had other girlfriends. Do you feel like the runner-up to them?"

"No. He's had closure with all of them. If he wanted to be with them right now, he would be."

"But Lilly died, so he could never have that type of closure,"

"Exactly,"

"I can understand where that might be a sticking point for you," Peggy said. "You're going to have to weigh the risks."

"What risks?"

"What's scarier to you? Giving your heart to somebody who may still be in love with his dead ex-girlfriend, or watching him move on with somebody else who doesn't have the same hang-ups. He won't wait around forever, Veronica."

Veronica looked down and realized she'd emptied the ice cream carton. She glanced at Peggy in embarrassment.

"It's fine. I knew you needed ice cream the moment I saw you this evening."

The bell on the door of the motel office interrupted their conversation. Veronica handed Peggy a twenty, and she disappeared from the kitchen. A moment later, she returned with two boxes and the tantalizing aroma of Italian food.

"You've given me a lot to think about, Peggy." Veronica said, standing and taking the steaming hot boxes from her. "I'd better get back to the room to make sure the ex-boyfriend hasn't tranced out staring at the wall."

"Don't wait up for Logan, Veronica."

"What? Why?"

"Whatever does or does not happen on his date, you really don't need to know. You'll only be torturing yourself. Just remember, when he leaves here, he's leaving with you."

"Fine. No obsessing over Logan having sex with Carolann. Got it."

"Wait, did you just say Carolann?" Peggy asked.

"Yeah, I suppose you know her?"

"Yes, she's my God Daughter. You have nothing to fear, Veronica. Carolann can be a little star-struck at times, but she has a great head on her shoulders. She would never sleep with anybody who would be out of her life the next day. Trust me,"

For the first time all night, Veronica felt as if she could breathe. "Thank you, for that," she told Peggy.

"I'm glad I could reassure you this time. But that doesn't mean the next girl won't sleep with him. You need to think long and hard about whether you're going to allow that to happen."

"So I assume it's safe to say you're Team Logan?" Veronica asked wryly.

"Like I already told you, when I see you two together, I see a love story about to happen. But Duncan is a nice boy as well. I hope he finds somebody who can make him happy."

Veronica nodded, "Me too."

"Does the idea of Duncan moving on bother you?"

Veronica thought about it for a moment. "Not in a jealousy sort of way. Only because I still don't know why I wasn't enough for him, so I would probably constantly wonder what she had that I was missing."

"You know what I'm going to say," Peggy said.

"I know…ask him. Eventually. When the time is right and he needs something from me."

Peggy nodded. "Communication is the key to everything. With both of those boys. Tell Duncan to feel free to stop by in the morning for a real breakfast."

"Will do. See ya later. Thanks for the ice cream. And the wisdom."

"Anytime, honey," Peggy smiled, warmly.


Veronica – Day Five – Dallas, Texas – Lakeview Court Motel – Room 118


She knew Logan was gone before she turned the doorknob. She'd always had an...awareness...of him, for lack of a better word, and she was pretty sure it went both ways. Even in the largest of crowds, she could pick him out within seconds, often able to feel his eyes upon her.

"Hey," Duncan glanced up from his laptop as she opened the door. "You just missed Logan. He headed out a few minutes ago."

"Oh." Veronica realized she was scowling, but didn't care enough to pretend otherwise. "As you ordered," she said, wrinkling her nose in distaste and handing Duncan one of the boxes and a packet of silverware, "Pasta Primavera."

"You seem annoyed. Are you afraid Logan might get us caught?"

"It's a distinct possibility," she answered, although she trusted Logan to be smart enough to lay low. He'd learned a lot about subterfuge since this ordeal had started. "Hey. Tell me you're not online,"

"No...Just playing solitaire. Forty Thieves," Duncan answered, closing his laptop and opening his box of takeout.

"Okay. We can't risk being traced," Veronica said. "If you need to go online, use my computer."

"Yup, Logan gave me the same warning."

He did? Of course he did.

Veronica's lasagna was absolute perfection. Peggy was proving to be remarkably helpful with her restaurant recommendations.

"Would you like my garlic bread?" Duncan asked.

"Are you kidding me?" Veronica laughed, snatching the foil-wrapped packet out of his hands. "Who turns down garlic bread?"

"Well...you know, all the butter...and cheese," Duncan shrugged.

Veronica shook her head, and went back to work on her lasagna. Despite the quality of her food, Veronica found herself unable to eat more than four or five bites, and she blamed Logan and his stupid date.

Miserable, she stashed her leftovers in the mini fridge under the coffee bar.

"I'm going to sign online for a bit," Veronica said, shooting off a quick text to Weevil with the code words, before reaching for her laptop and logging on to her VPN.

Only one email waited in her inbox, but she had to grin and open it immediately with a sender named PapaBear04.


Supafly,

A certain gumshoe contacted me today and hooked me up with the 411 on how to contact you on the D.L. I have to admit to being pretty stoked to be able to get in touch with you again, but just to be safe, I'm not going to use any real names.

Girl, when your video came on the news last night, I was so relieved to know for sure you're still alive and doing well.

This entire town has done lost its mind. News vans are parked everywhere waiting for even a hint of a story. The 09er Mom Brigade is picketing outside of The River Stix every day. Visiting fashion designers, interview girls you wouldn't be caught dead speaking to. Oh, and they're opening two new Starbucks stores.

But if the town is insane, school is certifiable.

Let us start with the pool. The 09ers set up this ridiculous pool over which boy you're going to hook up with, and these crazy rich kids are betting thousands. Yes, you heard that right. THOUSANDS! Obviously, The Prince is in the lead, but since you put out the video, some people are switching to Team Psychotic Jackass (henceforth to be known as PJ).

Clearly, you would never hook up with the guy who bashed in your headlights, right? Right? Reassure me here, girl. I'll have money riding on Prince Charming once I get paid on Friday.

People tell me I don't understand your history with PJ, and even that short guy in leather (AKA Mr. Duct Tape) – who was actually present during the headlight bashing – seems to think you and PJ are a sure thing.

If the idea of you and the Jackass ever coupling wasn't surreal enough, I took over your case for you, and helped that miniature copy of PJ locate his papa, who - get this - is now a mama. Yep, she's been visiting his place of employment for over a year as a woman, and he never had a clue. He took the news pretty hard at first, but seems to be coming around. He's a nice kid, and I've taken him a bit under my wing. He's Team PJ - says because you'll dump him more quickly than the Prince, and come home, and then he'll have another shot with you. Secretly, I think it's because the Jackass is his style icon.

Finally, the winner of the 'You never saw this coming' award: everywhere I turn, I think I'm seeing you. The girls are all dressing like you now, they all had their hair cut like yours, and Ms. Pirate Points herself, is leading the pack. That was not a typo. The Wicked Witch of SoCal has become a Supafly clone, as are the Gossip Queen, and Pinky McVespa. They're all pretending to be good friends with you, and even Yours Truly is suddenly popular. The jocks seem to like having me around, and I may be misreading things, but I think several candidates are auditioning for the role of Mama Bear. Any thoughts/opinions on Snow White's understudy? How about the one The Prince left behind?

Speaking of ones left behind, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your own Romeo has been taking comfort in Pinky's anorexic arms. Guess PJ saw that one coming. Somehow, I don't think you'll be too broken up about that. You did, stop him from kissing you, after all. Your Spidey-senses must have been telling you something.

I've been sick with worry about you, girl, so I'm relieved that those boys have got your back. Still shaking my head over you and PJ being friends. You had better keep him in line, like I know you can. Is there anything I can do personally to help bring you home? Should I be out there picketing The River Stix with Celeste and the Socialites? Should I start a petition? For anything? Write a letter to the editor of the paper? Give me instructions, and I'll follow them.

Stay safe, stay smart, and stay sane.

The world would be a cruel place, if I never got to see you again.

Papa Bear

P.S. Watch for me on the news tonight. That reporter came back for another reaction interview.


The feelings Wallace's email elicited were bittersweet.

Despite knowing she should hate them, a hundred times over the past year, Veronica had imagined having her boys back - on her own terms.

Moments when Duncan hadn't looked right through her. Moments when she'd caught Logan with his mask down, staring at her as if he'd missed her as much as she missed him.

Those were the moments when Veronica had ached for them. To have them back in her life - Duncan to support her, and Logan to challenge her and make her laugh.

But in her daydreams, she'd never had to leave behind her one true friend in order to regain the two wishy-washy ones. And did she actually even have them back? Things were tense with Duncan, and tense didn't even begin to describe what was happening with Logan. God, she missed loyal, uncomplicated, Wallace.

"Who would be considered Meg Manning's understudy?" she asked Duncan.

He glanced up from his veggie pasta. "Um...I think Kimmy, why?"

"My friend Wallace emailed me, and apparently, he's become quite popular with the ladies. He's trying to pick between her and..." Veronica trailed off.

"Her and who?"

"Um...Shelly Pomroy," Veronica answered guiltily.

"Oh...He should probably go with Shelly. She's a nice girl. Kimmy gives off that creepy fatal attraction kind of vibe," he resumed eating.

Veronica's eyes narrowed dangerously. "You don't have a problem with that?"

"No. Why would I?" Duncan asked.

"Right. Silly me. I forgot. Girlfriends are disposable."

Duncan winced, realizing his mistake too late. "I didn't mean it like that."

Veronica held up a hand to cut him off. "Save it," she said.

She began typing her response.


Papa Bear,

Your email was a ray of sunshine in an emotionally exhausting day. I can't remember the last time I smiled so big. The day Liam Fitzpatrick is safely behind bars will be the day I can finally come back home. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make that happen any sooner. Stay away from the Fitzpatricks. Very far away.

You will be happy to learn the past two days were relatively uneventful - at least danger-wise. Oh...except for a run-in with a certain former biker who steals credit cards and Vespa riding girlfriends. Things turned a bit violent for a moment, when he had his boys grab and beat-up the Jackass, but my friendship with Mr. Duct Tape got us out of that one.

We've become close with a motel owner, with a heart of gold. I'll be truly heartbroken to say goodbye to her, as she already feels more like a mother to me than my own mom does. Or even like my own personal Yoda. I keep waiting for her next words to be: 'Force, you must use'. Maybe connections like these last a lifetime, though. Much like you and I.

You absolutely must attach photographic evidence of my clones in your next email - especially Ms. Pirate Points. I think that would just about make my life complete.

Prince Charming endorses his leftovers for the role of Mama Bear, but warns that The Understudy might be a bit...um...cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Do not - I repeat, DO NOT - bet any money on Prince Charming. It's not going to happen. Ever.

What I'm about to admit is confidential, embarrassing, and can never ever be repeated. I'm ONLY telling you because I don't want to you to lose your money.

I've kinda sorta gone to the dark side and embraced evil. Literally. And oh, what an embrace it was.

As of this morning's steamy and extensive lip-lock, Supafly is Team Not-Exactly-Psychotic Jackass.

Hey! STOP SILENTLY YELLING AT ME!

Don't ask me how it happened. I wasn't looking for this. I'm still trying my hardest to resist his pull, but yesterday, he mentioned the words 'Collision Course', and they struck a chord with me. Maybe we've been headed in this direction since the moment we met.

I'm not saying I believe in fate. We create our own fate. But I think that perhaps fate and inevitability are two very different things.

Of course, I would never admit any of this to him. I'm not sure why I'm even admitting this to you, except that my Yoda adores the Jackass, and keeps counseling me to give him a chance. Maybe I need a little Papa Bear devil on my other shoulder to counteract her angel.

I look forward to (okay...dread) your take on this matter. I anticipate the word 'bleach' will be used.

Miss ya Papa Bear,

Supafly

P.S. Delete your browser cookies and clear your cache before logging off.


A quick check of the tracking software showed Veronica that Liam Fitzpatrick's vehicle was still parked in Irving, Texas near a strip of business class motels. Good. As she shut down her laptop, the burner cell rang.

"Hello?" Veronica answered.

"Yo, Blondie, it's me." Weevil's voice came over the line.

"Hey...Weevil," she sighed.

"Uh oh, I don't like the sound of that."

"I kind of have bad news for you. It appears Thumper actually is feeding information to Fitzpatrick. Liam headed straight to Irving after you set up Thumper, and he's still hovering in the area."

"Oh hell," Weevil moaned, and Veronica wondered what he was doing in that moment.

"What do bald people do when they're anxious?" she asked.

"Excuse me?"

"Well, a less...um...folically-challenged person would run their hands through their hair after receiving news like that."

"You mean Richie Rich would run his hands through his hair."

"Never mind, it doesn't matter. So anyway, I know it's bad timing, but can I ask you a favor?" Veronica asked.

"Has bad timing ever stopped you before?"

"Can you hold off on retaliating against Thumper? As soon as he knows his cover is blown, we'll lose our only ace in the hole."

"You're asking a lot girlie," Weevil growled.

"I know. I'll owe you big time."

"Right…" Weevil said. "And you'll pay up from across the country I suppose."

"I can be very resourceful," Veronica said.

"Don't I know it. Fine…I'll keep Thumper around. For now."

"Thank you." Veronica sighed in relief. "Did your cousin Ricardo tell you about Chardo?"

"What about Chardo now?" Weevil growled.

"I had a run-in with him. He wanted to snatch me to get a reward, but Logan jumped out of the truck and got between us."

Weevil chuckled. "I bet that went over real well."

"I'm glad you think it's funny," Veronica said. "He had his boys grab Logan and beat on him."

"Couldn't happen to a nicer rich boy," Weevil said.

"Hey, Logan was trying to protect me. And Chardo was still trying to fight for Caitlin Ford."

"That skank? You know, she's moved on to your boy toy?"

"I've heard. She's welcome to him,"

"That's the spirit. Plus, it's more um…lucrative…for me, if you aim your affection in a different direction."

Veronica groaned. She was so sick of this stupid pool, but if anybody were to profit off of her, it could at least be Wallace and Weevil.

"I'll have a little chat with Chardo," Weevil continued. "You won't have to worry about him ever again."

"Good, thanks a lot Weevil, and thanks again for holding off on the Thumper thing."

"Yeah yeah…talk to you later. Oh, and V? I twist my earring."

"Huh?"

"Instead of running my hands through my hair. Sometimes, I rub my head, too."

"Bye Weevil," Veronica laughed and hung up the phone.


Duncan - Day Five - Dallas, Texas - Lakeview Court Motel - Room 118


While Veronica talked on the phone, Duncan finished his dinner and cleaned up, guilty that the takeout container would be sitting in a landfill for the next hundred years. He always tried to avoid using styrofoam, but these were extreme times.

He didn't want to interrupt her conversation, so he left the TV off - instead, flopping back on his bed to stare at the ceiling and rubbing at his chin. He'd been surprised to find a beard on his face when he'd caught his first glimpse of himself in the mirror this morning, but he kind of liked the way he looked, and thought he would keep it around for a while.

It was unreal to wake-up with a five-day growth. Just yesterday - or what had felt like yesterday, he had been smooth-cheeked and sheltered. Sure, his life hadn't been perfect, but he'd had goals. Important ones, such as surviving school each day, passing English, avoiding Veronica, and preventing Logan from crossing the point of no return. His greatest challenge had been keeping his eyes off Veronica in Journalism, where the fluorescent lighting fell upon her at the perfect angle to make her hair glow like a halo.

So what if it had been a joyless existence. It had been safe and predictable. Ever the dutiful son, he followed the plan his parents laid out for him. Straight A's. Academic accolades. The perfect extra-curriculars for his résumé. Dating the daughter of the Ambassador to Belgium.

But somewhere inside, the quiet desperation had been steadily growing louder. Why else had he stopped taking the meds?

Why were his Science and Art classes the high points of his day? Why was Government class the low point? Not promising for a future politician.

And why now, after losing four days and waking up as a killer - what should essentially be hitting rock bottom - was his blood practically singing with the idea of new possibilities?

Had the comfort and security been a curse all along disguised as a blessing?

Veronica said her goodbyes, hung up the phone and plugged it into the charger. She crossed to the mini-fridge grabbing a can of Skist. "You want anything to drink?" she called to Duncan, idly plucking a small blue flower from a clear plastic Solo cup, bringing it to her nose, and breathing in its scent with her eyes closed.

"Sure, I'll take one of those drinks I picked up at 7-eleven," He watched her return the flower to its cup and then reach into the fridge.

As if it were toxic, Veronica held the bottle of spinach juice away from her body - by the pads of her index finger and thumb.

"It's not going to bite you," Duncan snickered, sitting up and taking the drink. "Thanks."

"Sure." She took a seat on her own bed, and seemed at a loss for what to do with herself.

"So...this is awkward," he said with an anxious laugh.

Veronica glanced up, "Just a bit," she agreed, her manner distant and aloof.

"Who would've ever thought we'd need Logan of all people between us as a buffer?"

Her eyes narrowed. "I don't need Logan. For a buffer or anything else."

"My mistake."

Duncan wondered once again what Logan had said earlier to tick her off, but he didn't ask. The last thing he needed was to get in the middle of their tiff. They would probably make up in the morning. With circumstances this dire, neither could afford the luxury of grudges anymore, and if they even tried to keep it up, he might have to knock a couple heads together. Figuratively, of course.

More than once that day, he had wondered if perhaps Logan was falling for Veronica again, but his date with Dr. Tony's beautiful receptionist laid that concern to rest.

The room became silent, broken only by the ssssss sound of Veronica opening her soda. As each minute ticked by, Duncan's discomfort grew, until finally, he had to speak. "So...I suppose we should just have it out now."

For the first time since Duncan had awoken, Veronica looked at him with interest. "You want to have it out with me?"

"Honestly? I figured I would just sit here and try to look meek, while you have it out with me. I'm prepared to be schooled." He flashed a nervous smile.

Her words took on that clipped tone, he'd become used to hearing in Journalism. "So you get to be the nice, reasonable guy, and I get to be the bitch?"

"Trust me, Veronica. At the best I come off as a coward, at the worst...?" He shuddered.

At the worst, I'm a sick fuck who got hammered and had sex with his own sister.

"You really want to have it out?"

"There is nothing I want less, but I'm guessing it's necessary if we're going to move on."

"Define move on," Veronica asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.

"I'm not talking about getting back together," he reassured. "That ship has sailed. For good."

Wow! Relief Veronica? Glad to know the idea of never being with me again is such a cause for celebration to you.

"What I meant was, you and I, able to be in the same room together without all of this awkwardness," Duncan said.

"Oh," Veronica said, more appeased.

"So...um...can we get the yelling part over with first, so I can have something to look forward to?"

"You think I can just yell on command?"

"Just throw it at me. What do you hate me for the most?" he asked, bracing himself.

"You really want to do this?"

"Yes."

Veronica swung her legs over the side of her bed and sat up to face him. "Okay, I hate you for not being man enough to break up with me to my face."

Duncan was caught off-guard. He had been sure she would open with their one night stand at Shelly's party. "Fair enough, I'm sorry."

"Ohhh, you're sorry," Veronica said, voice dripping in sarcasm. "That makes it all better,"

He kept his voice level as he answered. "I have no excuse, and I'm trying not to be defensive."

"How about you tell me your thought process?"

"My thought process? When it happened? I was thinking that I couldn't bear to see you hurting."

"Why did you care? You were done with me. I was dismissed. Who cares if it hurt me?"

Of course, she would view it in black and white. He had to keep in mind that she didn't know the entire story. How he'd agonized over losing her, to the point of waking up in restraints at the hospital that one night.

"It wasn't like that, Veronica," he answered, trying to communicate his sincerity with his eyes. "I never stopped caring about you. The last thing I ever want is to see you hurting."

"Why did you break up with me, Duncan?"

Here it comes.

Ignoring his first instinct - the desire to flee - he swallowed, and steeled himself. "I apologize in advance, but that's the one topic that's off-limits. I won't talk about it?"

Veronica jumped up from her bed, suddenly furious. "Why not? Don't you think I deserve to know the truth? Don't you think I deserve closure?"

Duncan was taken aback by her rage. His Veronica had always been sweet and even-tempered. He didn't know this girl, so quick to anger. Eyes as hard as blue steel. He and Veronica used to be so much alike. Now she reminded him of Logan more and more all the time. They both shared a sort of...ruthlessness.

He remembered several conversations over the previous months, where Logan had recounted some of Veronica's more colorful revenge tactics, a note of almost...pride?... in his voice. This girl was Logan's creature, not his.

"Trust me, Veronica," he said leaning forward to look straight into her eyes. "You. Don't. Want. that kind of closure. It ruined my life. I don't want it to ruin yours too."

"Um...hello? Have you seen my life for the past year?"

"I tried not to." he answered, determined to be truthful, but aware he might be perceived as an asshole.

"Wait...Logan came up with a theory after your dad's press conference. He thinks that Jake forced you to break up with me."

Duncan's stomach rolled. Logan's perceptiveness was frightening sometimes.

He supposed he could at least give her that much. "Close," he said, not meeting her eyes now. "It was my mother, although my dad supported her."

"So your mom tells you to break up with me, and you just agreed to it?"

"No." He sighed, and resisted the urge to bite his fingernails. "Other than Lilly's death, it was the worst night of my life. I fought and argued and begged and pleaded until I realized they were right. I really didn't have a choice."

"Awww. Did they threaten the trust fund?"

"Damn it, Veronica!" he snapped. "You know me better than that."

He felt guilty for raising his voice, but if anybody knew how little the money meant to him, it was Veronica.

"Oh, then it was the politics. Can't get into the White House, with Ms. White Trash at your side, huh?"

"I never wanted to get to the White House without you by my side. It wasn't until I was with you that I even wanted to make something of myself."

"Right...I was a regular old inspiration, huh? Okay, so Celeste demanded you break up with me, and your response was to say nothing at all? Let me figure it out on my own?"

"Again, I have no defense." He said, betraying his nerves by rubbing his hands down his pant legs. "I felt like my life had been destroyed by my parents. I didn't want to destroy yours too."

"Because of this mysterious reason for breaking up with me."

"Yes. Listen, I know you think that I made that choice because it was easier, but I truly believed I was doing the right thing for you. I still do."

"You still do?" Her voice was icy.

"I still do," he repeated. "Some secrets need to stay buried. For everybody's sake,"

"So you couldn't have just given me the old 'It's not you, it's me' line?"

"I wasn't going to lie to you and it hurt too much to talk to you. "

"Well, we can't have you hurting, now can we?" Veronica asked, bitterly. "Who cared how much I hurt?"

"It wasn't supposed to be that way. Lilly was supposed to be there for you. Logan was supposed to be there for you. I never could have predicted..."

"That she would die and he would turn on me?"

"...Yeah." he exhaled.

"Logan drew battle lines and you picked a side."

"Veronica…" he sighed. "I really loved you, but Logan has been there for me since I was five."

"I know," she said, calming.

"None of the other kids at school would even talk to me - other than to pick on me - until Logan took me under his wing."

"Why is it so easy for me to picture you as a five year old, but not Logan?"

"Um...he was pretty ornery back then. He scowled a lot. And tried to look tough."

Veronica began softening right before his eyes. Becoming the girl he used to know- a ghost of a smile forming on her lips. Not wanting to spoil the moment, he continued.

"He stood about…" He held out a hand to around the three and a half foot mark. "...this high. His hair stuck up the same way it still does, but without all the junk in it,"

Now Veronica was smiling for real. She closed her eyes, and he could tell she was creating an image in her head.

"Even back in Kindergarten the girls giggled when he walked past, and he would snarl at them, which only made them giggle more."

Veronica bit her lip, trying to suppress a giggle herself.

"He refused to wear his uniform correctly, so a good five times every day, Mrs. Hathaway would have to retie his necktie, and he'd peel it off the moment she turned her back.

On the first day of school, he caught me sucking my thumb at naptime, and shook his head at me sternly until I stopped, but he never told a soul about it. The second week of school, he pushed down a second-grader who was bullying me, and we've been friends ever since."

"So basically, he hasn't changed a bit?"

"Well, he was a bit shorter then." Duncan laughed, before growing serious. "But my point is, he's always been there for me. I would have literally no friends if it weren't for Logan."

"That's not true," Veronica protested.

"Actually it is. I'm socially awkward and there aren't too many people who seem worth the effort of putting myself out there for."

"And I thought I was a cynic," Veronica said.

"But I'm not a cynic, really. I love humanity as a whole, and would dedicate my life to improving living conditions. It's just the individual humans who don't much do it for me."

"I can relate. In a way." Veronica said.

"People surround me because Logan, and previously Lilly, were sitting next to me. I go to parties when he convinces me to. Sure, some people like me more than Logan. Over the years, they've realized that he can be a major jerk, and I'm relatively inoffensive. But other than at school, do you ever see me spending time with these people?"

"Now that you mention it, no," Veronica said. "At least not since Lilly…"

He silenced for several beats. "I really did believe when I ended things with you, that Lilly and Logan would help you pick up the pieces. And then after she died...I was barely...functional"

"None of us were."

"Yeah, but I was really bad. If it weren't for Logan… I owe him everything. He was the only thing keeping me upright."

"Logan? How?" Veronica asked curiously. "I didn't know he was capable of goodness during that time period."

"For that first month or so after she died, he stopped by every morning and bullied me until I'd get out of bed and take a shower. "

"Logan bullying? What a surprise."

"At school, he made sure I ended up in my classes when I couldn't even remember my schedule. He made me eat. He said I was his project. Focusing on keeping me going, kept him from going insane."

"You were only one of his projects. I was his other, more twisted, project."

"You should have seen him after Lilly died." Duncan shuddered. "To the rest of the world, Logan was functional. But his eyes, Veronica. They were...wrong. Always darting around, as if looking for danger everywhere. Assessing everybody as if they were suspects. And burning. They burned with hate."

"I remember," she answered drily.

"But those were the good days. On the bad days, you would find him on the beach, drunk out of his mind. Completely broken. I was afraid he was going to wind up dead. And on those days, I would have taken the hate in a heartbeat."

"That's because you were never on the other end of it. Why are you even telling me this stuff, Duncan? Logan wouldn't want me to know he'd ever had a weak moment."

He couldn't hide the guilt in his eyes. "Because you should have been there, and I knew it. I knew that you could get through to him. You were the only one who could have helped him."

"Sorry, but I was a bit too busy back then cleaning off my windshield and changing flat tires, to console the person responsible." As quickly as she'd appeared, his Veronica was gone again, replaced by the new, bitter version.

Not noticing the warning signs, he continued. "I should have insisted. Made him see reason."

"Are you hearing me, Duncan? So far, you've told me how hard Lilly's death was on you and on Logan. Have you ever once considered what it was like for me?"

"Veronica…"

"I didn't only lose my lifelong best friend. I lost you, and Logan, and even my mom, all at the same time. And you're whining about how I could have been there to help Logan?"

"I didn't mean—"

"Logan had a choice, Duncan, and he chose to leave me in the dust. You chose to leave me in the dust. I didn't get a choice. You all abandoned me at once."

"I'm so sorry."

"And if that wasn't bad enough…? I could have dealt with the abandonment, and the loneliness. But the torment? And the torture?"

"I understand."

"NO, you understand nothing. You had Logan. He had you. You both had all of your other friends. I had nobody. I grieved alone."

Duncan looked at the floor, knowing that nothing he said in this moment would help.

"Did you ever think of that?"

"I thought about it all the time," he admitted. "I tried to discuss it with Logan, but he was too far gone by then."

"And God forbid you exert yourself in any way, or experience a moment of discomfort."

And that was it in a nutshell, wasn't it? He didn't exert himself. He never had. He had thought once he'd become the leader Jake always wanted him to be, he would have the opportunity to make great sweeping changes in the world. But if he couldn't be moved to exert himself enough to stick up for one miserable lonely girl who he'd loved more than almost anyone else on earth, how could he believe he'd ever exert himself for change?

He was being too simplistic, though. He had spent a year kissing and making out with his own sister. He'd had a drunken one-night-stand with her. Sticking up for her meant acknowledging her existence, and acknowledging meant remembering his sins.

"You're right. To be honest, it was a relief that Logan wanted no part of you. That way I didn't have to face you"

Or the shame and guilt.

"And you were right, earlier. You are a coward," Veronica said, turning away and effectively dismissing him.

I deserve that.

"I know," he said standing and moving over to sit at the foot of her bed, begging her with his eyes to continue this discussion. "I have been a coward, but I'm asking you to forgive me anyway."

Veronica stared at him for several seconds with the same affection she would show to a cockroach, and then sighed. "I guess I don't have a choice, if we're supposed to survive together."

"I don't want your forgiveness out of obligation."

"I don't see where you have a lot of options."

"I'll find a way to earn your forgiveness," Duncan said.

"Funny, Logan said those exact words just days ago."

"And you forgave him."

"After today, I'm reconsidering that forgiveness," Veronica mumbled.

"Seriously? Why is it so much easier to forgive Logan than me? Everything he did was to cause you pain. Everything I did was to avoid causing you pain."

Her lips twisted into a bitter little smirk. "Ehh...you know how it goes," she shrugged. History loves the anti-hero, but reviles the coward."

Duncan stared at her in disbelief for a moment. Did she really just say that? "Logan? An anti-hero?"

"What else would you call him? He has no morals. He's not afraid to get dirty, or to be an asshole. But...he is the bravest person I have ever met, and if he cares about you, he'll go to the ends of the earth for you. He'll suffer any amount of physical pain to keep you safe."

"Well when you put it that way…" Duncan laughed, grudgingly. "You may have a point, but do me a favor. Let's keep that observation to ourselves. His head is already big enough."

"Oh my God," Veronica laughed in agreement. "Can you imagine? He would probably want to get an 'I'm the anti-hero' tee shirt.

They laughed together for a moment, the tension broken now.

"So, are we okay now?" Duncan asked.

"Yeah…" Veronica gave a small smile. "I think we'll be okay."


[C-NOW logo cuts to the official media photo of the Neptune Three]

"What's up with that?" Duncan pointed at the T.V.

"That, is our official media photo," Veronica explained with a pained sigh, air quoting the word 'official'.

"Logan carrying you like a bride is our official photo?"

"I suppose I should warn you," Veronica said. "The American public doesn't seem to mind the fact that we killed a man. They do, however, have strong opinions about who I should be dating."

"Who has time for dating when they're on the run?" Duncan snorted.

Their eyes met and they spoke as one. "Logan."

"So, I'm guessing from the photo that bachelor number one is the favorite?"

"America loves a jackass."


[Media photo cuts to studio shot of anchor]

Anchor: Next up, we go to Ann Marler in Neptune, California who spent today gathering reactions from those close to the investigation or the Neptune Three.

Marler: Thanks Rebecca. I received another video statement today. This time from Duncan Kane, but we'll get to that in a bit. First up, I caught up with Sheriff Lamb this morning for his take on yesterday's video statement.

[Cuts to footage of Don Lamb behind his desk]

Lamb:(Looks up from a file on his desk) You again. (smirks) Is this a stalking thing? If you want a date, you can just ask me.

Marler: (Ignoring his innuendo) Sheriff Lamb, did you have an opportunity to watch the Mars/Echolls video statement?

Lamb: Yes, I watched it on the news last night.

Marler: And what steps are you taking to put Liam Fitzpatrick behind bars?

Lamb: Listen, my hands are tied. What those videos show is Criminal Threatening, which is a misdemeanor in most states. I mean Logan or Veronica could press assault charges against him, but they would have to come back to Neptune to do so. Even then, Liam could counter that he was the one disabled and tied to a bathroom fixture.

Marler: What about the car chase? Liam Fitzpatrick put not only those teenager's lives in danger, but also everybody else's on that freeway.

Lamb: Unfortunately, we can't place Liam in that vehicle. Our techs tried to enhance the video image, but the windows were tinted.

Marler: But Liam was last seen in the location where the vehicle was stolen. Our witness told us that Liam's car was missing, and he had the motive to chase Logan and Veronica.

Lamb: No evidence ties Liam to that vehicle. Nobody witnessed the theft, and it was wiped of prints when it was found.

Marler: So Liam Fitzpatrick is going to get away with stalking, terrorizing, and attempted murder?

Lamb: There is no evidence of attempted murder, and if the kids would like to pursue stalking charges, they will need to get a restraining order against Liam.

Lamb: Listen, we could have protected these kids, had they remained in Neptune. They made their choice. I couldn't protect them if I wanted to now. I have no idea where they are. Now please leave, I have more pressing crimes to solve.

Marler:(standing and making her face blank) Thank you for your time, Sheriff Lamb.


"Is he serious?" Duncan asked.

"Unfortunately, he is. I looked up the law before we even made the video. It wasn't really about getting Lamb's support."


[Cut to video showing Keith Mars stepping out of the building housing Mars Investigations]

Marler:(approaching) Mr. Mars, do you have a second?

Keith: (glancing up warily) Ms. Marler. How can I help you?

Marler: Can you tell me your thoughts on your daughter's video statement?

Keith:(wry smile) She's something else, isn't she? She sent that video directly to you?

Marler: Yes. She must have seen my previous interview with you. Why do you believe Veronica made this statement? Did she believe it would lead to Liam Fitzpatrick's arrest?

Keith: No, Veronica knows better than that. Sheriff Lamb is not going to arrest a Fitzpatrick unless his hands are absolutely tied. I imagine she did it to win support in the court of public sentiment. Nobody can argue now that those kids didn't flee in fear for their lives.

Marler: What was going through your head when you saw Liam Fitzpatrick threatening your daughter?

Keith: What do you think? I'm a father. I felt nausea. Terror. Rage. Had I been in that room, I may have tried to hurt him.

Marler: And what were you thinking when you saw the car chase?

Keith: Again, terror. I couldn't breathe seeing my little girl being chased at high speeds. At the same time, I felt thankful that I taught Veronica everything I learned in my Evasive Driving workshop, and immense pride that she was able to remain cool, and protect herself and her friends on the road.

Marler: Speaking of friends, has your opinion of Logan Echolls changed at all?

Keith:(thinking) Yes, actually it has. After seeing his dynamic with my daughter, and his reaction to Liam's threats to her, I'm beginning to believe her safety is his top concern. Of course he's still is a smart aleck that has no respect for authority, but I'm happy that they have their friendship back. Logan Echolls is a kid that you want to have in your corner.

Marler: What about Duncan Kane?

Keith: I believe they said he was on an errand? No, my opinion of him has not changed, and no, he's not somebody that you want to have in your corner.

Marler: Is your opinion of him based on the rumored feud between the Mars and Kane family?

Keith: No, there is no Mars/Kane feud. My opinion of Duncan is based on my daughter crying her eyes out in private, because he broke her heart and never even told her why.


"Ouch," Duncan said.

"I didn't cry that much," Veronica protested, embarrassed.


Marler: Thanks for sparing the time to speak with me, Mr. Mars.

Keith: Well, my daughter seems to like you. As long as you continue to treat my daughter's story with respect…

Marler: You can be assured that I will.


[Cut to shot of Neptune High where a large group of students stands just off school premises facing the camera. Most are from the first interview, but there are a few additions.]

Marler: I'm back at Neptune High School to speak with some of the Neptune Three's classmates. (turning to the group) What was your reaction to the Logan and Veronica video statement?

Casey Gant: I think Liam Fitzpatrick is a psychopath, and needs to be taken off the streets. Logan and Veronica are in real danger.

Dick Casablancas: No way, man. Logan can take that punk.

Casey Gant:(impatiently) We're not talking about a fair fight here, Dick. We're talking about attempted murder. Liam Fitzpatrick is not going to drop his guns for a round of gentlemanly fisticuffs.

Wallace Fennell: I agree. Homeboy is psychotic!

Dick Casablancas: Logan could beat him in a fair fight, though.

Wallace Fennell: If by fair, you mean, Fitzpatrick puts down the crack pipe, sure.

Felix Toombs: No way, man. I know somebody who knows Liam pretty well. It's meth, not crack. And Echolls has always been a [bleep bleep].

Dick Casablancas: He was a real [bleep bleep] that night he laid you out for touching Veronica.

Felix Toombs: Man! That was a sucker punch! I didn't even know he was there until he hit me.

Luke Smith: Why aren't we talking about that car chase? I've never seen a girl drive that way, before. That was hot!

Casey Gant:(nodding) Yeah…

Cassidy Casablancas: Totally.

(Felix and Troy Vandergraff nod in agreement)

Dick Casablancas: Yeah, I'd do her…

Madison Sinclair: Dick!

Dick Casablancas: Oh, I meant hypothetically or something. Sorry Logan.

(Troy elbows him)

Dick Casablancas: Oh, I meant… sorry Troy. Even though Logan totally stole her from you.


"Why does everybody think you're with Logan?"

"I don't know, the media photo, maybe? Rumors? Innuendos?"


Troy Vandergraff: Veronica, if you're watching, I really miss you, and I wish you could come home. I still owe you a yacht ride.

(Next to Troy, a newly short-haired Caitlin Ford grasps his arm and begins acting territorial.)


"Seriously?" Veronica asked. "I don't even like Caitlin, but to say that right in front of her? Has he always been that shady?"

"I never thought he was, but Logan had a problem with him."


Marler: Why do you believe that Logan stole Veronica?

Dick Casablancas: Didn't you watch the video? I haven't seen Logan that [bleep]-whipped since he was with Lilly Kane. Hell, even with Lilly, he would put up a fight. With Veronica, he's all like 'yes dear', 'how high, dear'. She made him lift up his shirt and show his bruises on TV, for God's sake. Way to emasculate him, Ronnie.


"Was that emasculating him?" Veronica asked Duncan.

"Ehhh...little bit," he said, thumb and index finger a centimeter apart.

"Why wouldn't he tell me that?"

"Because he's whipped?" Duncan joked, shrugging.

Veronica sighed, and turned back to the TV.


Felix Toombs: Are we talking about the same guy? He emasculates himself just fine.

Dick Casablancas: I'll emasculate you after—

Casey Gant:(cutting Dick off) Let it go, man.

Marler: I notice that several of you have been influenced by Veronica's style.

Madison Sinclair:(stepping forward with new blonder flippy hair, wearing leather boots and a denim mini) Well, I always did think Veronica had a unique style – at least after Lilly died – and you know, they say she's a fashion icon now.

Caitlin Ford: Romeo Scavo himself was here in town asking about Veronica. He's designing an entire line around her for Macy's.

Meg Manning:(still long haired and dressed like herself rolling her eyes) One meeting with a famous designer and you two both miraculously forget all of the times you bashed Veronica's style.

Marler: And how do you feel about Veronica's style?

Meg Manning: Veronica is beautiful the way she is, and I've always loved her style. But, she is 100% an individual. She would absolutely hate being copied this way.

Wallace Fennell: Especially by these two. (he points at Madison and Caitlin)

Meg Manning: (nodding, and smiling at Wallace) Especially.


Veronica turned to Duncan. "Did you just see that?"

"See what?"

"Sparks between Wallace and Meg? Never mind, you never see anything,"

"Hey! I saw sparks between Logan and Carolann," Duncan said.

Veronica glared, but Duncan didn't notice.

"Meg is still dating Cole."

"Does that seem like a long-term thing?"

"Ehh...he whines a lot about never seeing second base, so I doubt it.

"Hmmm…" Veronica said. "She would make a perfect Mama Bear."


Marler:(to Felix) So let's go back to an earlier comment. You and Logan fought over Veronica?

Felix Toombs: Like I said, it was a sucker punch. It was back a few months before Lilly Kane died. At a bonfire party on the beach.

Marler: Why did he punch you?

Felix Toombs: (looking away guiltily) I tried to…dance with Veronica.

Dick Casablancas: Dude, you were humping her leg like a mongrel dog.

Casey Gant: Thanks for the reminder. Logan still owes me for denting the hood of my Porsche to get to him.

Marler: So is Logan in the habit of fighting over Veronica?

Dick Casablancas: I wouldn't say habit. Just Felix and that dude from Pan High. It's not like he would have to if Duncan would have ever lifted a finger.


"What is this, pick on Duncan day?" Duncan pouted.

"According to Lilly, every day was pick on Duncan day." Veronica smirked.


Meg Manning: Duncan is a gentle soul. He's not the type to instigate a fight.

Felix Toombs: Yeah, he really gently stabbed that Fitzpatrick.

Marler: So Logan thinks he's protect—

Dick Casablancas:(cutting her off) Oh, there was that one night at my party when Logan and Duncan almost got into a fight over her.

Casey Gant: They weren't going to fight. Logan was drunk and didn't want to give Duncan his car keys. I was standing right there, and even I don't know how it became about Veronica. Short story, Logan stormed off and Duncan went after him.

Luke: They were cool the next time we saw them.

Dick Casablancas: Yeah, now that I think about it, Duncan ended things with Veronica not long after that. Wonder if Logan was hitting that earlier than we thought.


"What?" Veronica asked.

"There was no fight," Duncan answered, avoiding her eyes. "I was trying to take Logan's keys."

"Like Casey said, how did it become about me?"

"I don't even remember. Dick is full of crap. Logan had nothing to do with our breakup."

"Oh,"

"Unless Logan was 'hitting that'," he joked, and Veronica picked up the empty plastic spinach juice bottle from the nightstand and threw it at him. He batted it away with a laugh.

"Ass," she said, right as Wallace said:


Wallace: You really are an ass, aren't you? No, Veronica and Logan have never been an item. Then or now.

Dick Casablancas: Don't be so sure about now, kid. I happen—

(Cassidy nudges Dick and he shuts up.)

Marler: I would like to thank you all for speaking to me again.

Dick Casablancas: I'll speak to you anytime you would like. (waggling eyebrows) How about we speak…privately…later?

Marler:(battling for professionalism) Rebecca, back to you.


[Cut to split screen – anchor in studio and Ann Marler at another location]

Marler: Lynn Echolls was unavailable for comment, but her people promised that she would get back to me. Aaron Echolls is still out of the country, and, as expected, the Kanes refuse to speak to the press.

Anchor: Was Sheriff Lamb telling you the truth about his hands being tied?

Marler: Yes, I did some research after speaking to the sheriff, and unfortunately, what he said was true. As of now, they can only bring in Liam Fitzpatrick for a misdemeanor, unless something can link him to the stolen Mustang. Let's hope that they can get more evidence on him, before this ends in tragedy.

Anchor: Now I understand you received another video statement. This time from Duncan Kane?

Marler: Yes, after my follow up interviews with the people of Neptune, I came back to my room to find another email with a video attachment.

Anchor: Were you able to learn anything from it?

Marler: Only that he's in the same motel, but in a different bed, than the Logan/Veronica statement. It could be a different motel in the same motel chain, but with the limited glimpses we've had of the décor, it doesn't seem to match up with any of the big motel chains. We're guessing that they are at, or were at, a privately owned motel somewhere in Texas.

Anchor: Let's roll the tape.


[Cut to shot of Duncan sitting on his bed. He wears a blue V-neck sweater layered over a white tee shirt]

Duncan:(looking incredibly shy) Hi. My name is Duncan Kane. I wasn't around to participate in the first video statement, so I wanted to tell my side of the story.

Duncan: On the day that Veronica was almost raped, I was playing soccer at the community park. Logan came to pick me up, since my car was in the shop. As we were pulling away, Logan caught a glimpse of something in his mirror, and stopped the car and jumped out. I waited for a moment, and then went after him.

Duncan: (breathes deeply) As I approached the gate, I saw Ciaran Fitzpatrick with his hand on Veronica's throat attempting to rape her. That's the last thing I remember. It was as if an inky fog entered my vision before everything went black.

Duncan: The next thing I remember. (Looks offscreen at Veronica for guidance) uh…I was in the shower, and the water was rinsing blood off me. Once I was clean, Logan and Veronica explained what happened earlier. I realized that I'd had another epileptic episode.

Duncan:When we found out from one of Veronica's investigative contacts how dangerous Liam Fitzpatrick was and how close he was with his brother Ciaran, we made a decision as a group to go on the run.

Duncan:(another deep breath) I realize my family thinks that Logan and Veronica kidnapped me. Nothing could be further from the truth. We went to my home to pack, and I saw my parents pulling into the driveway. I love my family very much, but I just wasn't in the right state of mind to deal with them at that time, so I ignored them. I never thought that my failure to respond to them would lead to those unfounded allegations.

Duncan: I guess that's all I really needed to say. Everything else was mentioned by Logan and Veronica in their statement. Mom and Dad, I love you very much, and I am so so sorry. I know you had plans for my career, and now I've gone and ruined everything. (wry grin) Maybe you should try adoption?


[Scene cuts to anchor]

Anchor: Thanks, Ann. That's it for today's Neptune Three coverage, but we'll keep you up to date on any new developments.


Logan – Day Five – Dallas, Texas – Lakeview Court Motel - Parking Lot


Logan felt a growing anxiety as Carolann pulled to the back of the motel parking lot. They'd had a great dinner, which he had managed to stretch out as long as possible with conversation.

Typically, the end of a date was his favorite part of the night. He usually spent this time evaluating how he could most easily separate the girl from her pants. But tonight was different.

This was a first for him. He'd never had to explain to a girl before why he didn't want to have sex with her. She would probably become upset, and wonder what was wrong with her, when the truth was, she was nearly perfect.

Carolann was gorgeous, stacked, smart, a good conversationalist, and nice. Any guy would be lucky to have her. The problem was, she was tall instead of short. She was brunette instead of blonde. She had beautiful green eyes instead of blue. She was too pleasant instead of snarky. She wasn't that pesky bane of his existence.

He nearly groaned at the realization. He didn't need Veronica in his head like this. If he were smart, he would work up some enthusiasm, book another room from Peggy, or even pick the lock on one of the empty rooms, and have sex with this beautiful girl.

Nope. His dick did not even twitch at the idea. Freaking Veronica Mars had neutered him.

He wondered if Carolann would settle for a quick makeout session in the car instead, and let him off the hook.

He had not been able to get the kiss with Veronica out of his head the entire evening. He remembered when they were much younger. He had often thought about kissing Veronica, but had always convinced himself that his kind of intensity would entirely overwhelm her. She was naïve and innocent, but he must have confused that with passionless. He should have known better.

It was obvious that Veronica had never been kissed like that before – Logan wasn't surprised, considering only Duncan had been there first – but she had been far from overwhelmed. She'd been enthusiastic, and after she'd caught on, she had matched him in passion and intensity.

Who was he kidding? He had never kissed like that before, either. Afraid that it would be his only shot with her, he had poured all of his heart into the kiss as well as his passion. That definitely wasn't how he usually worked – not even with Lilly, who had liked things fast and feverish. Veronica was the first, and the funny thing was, she had reciprocated. Any doubts he may have felt before as to whether she had feelings for him, temporarily vanished when he'd felt her pouring her heart right back into the kiss.

He'd felt emotionally stripped afterwards, perhaps even vulnerable. And for her to then turn around and pretend it had meant nothing…? He knew it had meant something to her.

He probably should not have acted so coldly to her afterwards, but she'd hurt him. Even now, acknowledging he was slightly in the wrong, he knew he would keep up the act a little longer. Let her put in some effort to fix things this time. She was the delusional one, after all.

He had been planning to worm his way under her skin and into her heart before ever attempting to take it to a physical place. Now everything was ruined and he would probably have to start all over again.

And all of that was not even considering the Duncan implications. What kind of guy kisses his best friend's ex? What kind of guy intends to keep kissing his best friend's ex, because Logan was in no way ready to admit defeat. Duncan was going to flip when he found out.

Carolann made a small 'clearing-the-throat' sound, and Logan realized they were already parked outside of his room. Probably had been for a minute.

"So…we're here," she said, with a nervous catch in her voice.

Oh hell. Alright. A quick make-out. Let's get this over with.

He shifted his body, and leaned across the seat to kiss Carolann. Surprisingly, at the last minute, she put up a hand and pushed him away.

"I'm not going to kiss you, Logan," she said.

Surprise flickered across his face. "You're not? I thought we had a nice time."

Now she's rejecting me too? Am I wearing some kind of sign?

"We did have a nice time. You're a fascinating person, and you're super-hot, but the girl you really want to kiss is in that room." Carolann pointed at the room.

"Who, Veronica? We're not together."

"Maybe not, but you want to be," Carolann said.

"But—"

"Logan, you spent the entire evening talking about how amazing she is. How she fought that Liam guy at your side. How she drove like a badass. How tough she is, and how strong she is. How smart she is. You're obviously crazy about her."

Logan opened his mouth to protest, but then let it out with a sigh. "She doesn't feel the same way. She totally rejected me."

"So you went out with me to make her jealous?"

"No! That's not the way I saw it," Logan sighed. "I wanted something different than jealousy. I wanted her to see that other girls think I'm good enough."

"Did Veronica tell you that you weren't good enough?"

"No, but I've always felt that way when it comes to her."

"So you were trying to prove to yourself and Veronica that you were good enough?"

Logan laughed. "When you put it that way, it sounds a bit ridiculous."

Carolann smiled. "Logan, get out of this car and go work on making this up to your girl."

"She'd probably taser you if she heard you call her that," Logan warned with a grin.

"Let her try," Carolann said. "I'd tell her to get her head out of her ass and realize what a catch she has in you."

"Come on in. You can tell her tonight," Logan said, impulsively leaning over and planting a kiss on her cheek.

"Get out of here," she laughed, pushing him away.

A heavy wave of disappointment fell over Logan after he'd opened the door to their room. The light over Duncan's bed was on, but Veronica's light was off, and she was already in bed with her eyes closed. He supposed it didn't matter. They couldn't exactly have a conversation in front of the Donut.

Duncan looked up from his travel book. "Hey,"

"Hey," Logan answered. "Why's she sleeping? She usually stays up much later."

"I don't know, but you dodged a bullet. She was in a pretty bad mood earlier."

Bad mood, huh? Could she possibly be jealous? Just a little?

"Is she usually that cranky?" Duncan asked.

"No," Logan said thoughtfully. "Believe it or not, she's usually a lot of fun."

"Oh. Then it must just be me. We kind of had it out."

Logan turned around on his way to the bathroom.

"You had it out with her? What the hell is wrong with you? Do you not realize she was almost raped?"

"Right...Having it out with her is your special thing. Actually, she went off on me, but I kind of encouraged her to."

"And why would you do that?"

"Guilt? Regret? How could I not? Things needed to be said."

"Why?"

"Because separately, we'll all fail. Strengthening our relationship is the most important thing if we're going to survive, and that kind of resentment could sink us."

"So you decided to face things head on? How very…un-Duncan-like of you," Logan said, heading into the bathroom.

As he brushed his teeth and got ready for bed, Logan thought about what Duncan had just said. The relationship between the three of them was the most important thing. Wasn't that what Veronica had been getting at earlier when she'd pushed him away? Maybe it hadn't been a rejection, per se. He would have to find some way to convince her that they could be together without jeopardizing the group relationship.

Right…because Duncan will just pat us on the back and tell us he's happy for us.

Out in the room, Logan undressed down to his boxers and tee shirt and slipped into bed with Veronica. She lay on her side facing the door to the room, so he lay on his opposite side facing Duncan.

"So?" Duncan asked. "You get lucky?"

"With Carolann? Nah. Didn't even try."

"Okay, who are you, and where'd you put Logan?"

Logan laughed. "I know, right? Carolann was pretty much…perfect. I'm just a little stressed out, I guess."

"It was Veronica, huh?" Duncan asked.

Logan almost choked. "What about Veronica?"

"Well, she was so annoyed with you for taking a risk and going on that date. I could see why you wouldn't want to stay out any later than necessary."

"Yeah…" Logan said. "Something like that. She can be pretty scary for such a little thing. Listen, I'm exhausted, man. Talk to you in the morning."

"Night," Duncan said. Minutes later, he turned off the other light.


Veronica – Day Five – Dallas, Texas – Lakeview Court Motel – Room 118


She had known ten minutes after crawling under the covers that she wouldn't be able to fall asleep. She was too keyed-up, her mind too occupied by a certain psychotic jackass. However, the conversation with Duncan, while cathartic, had also been draining, and she'd had enough for one night, so she pretended at sleep.

She pretended even after HE came back. She'd listened to Duncan's explanation of their night, and damn, if he didn't have a point. When had Mr. Avoidance become Mr. Live-Together-or-Die-Alone?

She'd worried that Logan might climb in bed with Duncan instead, due to their fight, and was overjoyed when she'd felt her own bed dip down, then disappointed, when he'd remained completely on his side of the imaginary center line.

She'd listened to their whispered conversation about the perfect Carolann, her heart unclenching when Logan admitted to not having sex with her.

She waited until she heard soft snores coming from Duncan's side of the room.

She knew it was wrong. She'd pushed him away, and she had no business leading him on, but she needed him. She would never be able to fall asleep until she was touching him. Plus, there was no way he could possibly know she was actually awake, right?

Making her movements jerky as if she were sleeping, she flopped over to her left side and reached out a hand for him. She purposely fumbled at his waist before using it to pull herself tightly against his back.

With her face pressed to the back of his shoulder, she finally relaxed. The effect this boy had upon her physiology was almost criminal.

Logan's hand moved to rest on top of her's where it lay gently on his stomach, and she nearly purred. So he wasn't really as angry with her as he would like her to believe.

A good two minutes passed before Logan let out a tragic sigh, and rolled over onto his back.

Veronica felt the faintest whisper of his lips upon hers, before he slid an arm under her neck and guided her head to its usual resting place against his heart.

"You'll be the death of me, Veronica Mars," he whispered into her hair, before pressing another kiss onto the top of her head.

Likewise, Logan Echolls. But you know what they say: what a way to go!