There were two things about the upcoming situation that Veronica hated. One, she'd be missing an opportunity to confront the ex-friend cheerleader trying to glare holes into her head. Two, she'd be in the same limo in close vicinity to her ex-boyfriend. So, which was the greater evil? The ex-friend or the ex-boyfriend?
That answer was easy enough to decide. "Alright, Duncan, I can't take this anymore. I'm going to try and talk to Meg one more time. You ride in the limo cause I think it's going to be easier if we're not together."
Duncan sighed, taking hold of both Veronica's shoulders, eyes locking to make sure his point got across. "You don't owe her anything," He assured her. "You didn't do anything to her." Secretly he saw this as an opportunity to talk to Logan as well. If they were normal guys the situation would probably be handled quickly, but between guys like Duncan and Logan… well it was going to be about as easy as the conversation Veronica was going to have with Meg.
"You are so not a girl," Veronica responded, shaking her head as Duncan chuckled. He knew the battle was lost before it even began. Passing behind them was Terrance Cook. Veronica took the opportunity to praise him on her Dad's behalf.
"Alright class, time to go," The teacher called, waving one hand at them in a bored manner. She was already halfway out the door, her purse a little more stuffed with hidden leftovers than when they'd entered. Ms. Dumass wasn't exactly setting up a reputation worthy of teacher of the year. Then again, who could be excited about this job? We went through journalism teachers like Hogwarts did Defense Against the Dark Arts. Yikes.
"Yo, D, limo is here!" Dick called, running past the two of them with all the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.
Duncan glanced to Veronica for one last confirmation before following Dick, leaving Veronica to trail behind the other bus goers. She felt his eyes on her before he even said a word.
"Don't want to spend quality time with yours truly?" Logan said with a signature smirk, eyes glittering with mischief.
She sighed, "How long are you going to keep this up?"
He pretended to think it over for a moment as they stepped through the doors leading out of the stadium. "Let's see… when I get over the fact you threw my heart to your dog… oh wait that was your Dad who threw me against the wall."
"Grow up Logan, get over it," Veronica could hear herself getting more angry than she should have. "You were the one out of control."
"And you were the only one who could keep me under control," He bitterly retorted.
She paused in her step causing him to look back at her. Glaring up at him Veronica replied, "Logan, I couldn't keep you under control. You shouldn't need me to be in control. That's no way to live, completely dependent on someone else to make you strong enough to be a better person. You want to stop fighting with the PCHers, want to be under control- then take control. Do it for yourself, not me, not anyone else. All this is your own self destruction; I just couldn't stand by and watch it all happen so I could stand by your grave and wonder why I just stood by. You're wallowing in this pain and putting on some big bad boy show expecting that sleeping around or trying to live crazily is going to fix you somehow when its only breaking you more." She stopped, breathing heavy as she realized she was talking too much. This wasn't her place to say anymore, they were broken up after all.
He wasn't expecting this. Witty banter, sour remarks, a heated look or two, but a lecture of this level wasn't one she gave out often. This had to be her own personal mantra, one she was handing over to him. Logan wouldn't realize this until later, all alone in the dead of night trying to hold onto his sanity, but he would realize it. The hit would be hard; it would knock him off his feet, and no one would be there to catch him.
"Well, thanks Dr. Phil, I'll keep that in mind," but the fight was gone from his voice. He was stunned as he shuffled away, sliding into the limo with dazed eyes.
"Veronica!" Ms. Dumass tapped her foot impatiently from the bus doorway. Veronica took one last glance at the sleek black limo before hopping onto the bus to play seat hop with Meg.
Veronica watched the bus roll away with sagging shoulders. Her talk with Weevil was less than uplifting but this, this took the cake. Of course Ms. Dumass wouldn't notice a student missing from a class she barely knew, and no one on there was going to point out a missing Mars. Pulling out her cell phone Veronica happily started to press the speed dial for Wallace.
The phone started ringing just as someone bumped Veronica from behind. She stumbled forward, her phone slipping from her hands right under the wheel of a speeding car. There was a clack, a crack, and something akin to a crunch before the uncaring driver had gone off leaving her phone in complete ruins. Picking up the pieces resulted in several cars honking at her to get out of their way and finally in Veronica leaving the last bits. The incomplete shell in her hands wasn't going to be calling anyone.
"Hey, Veronica! Is that you?"
One of the last people Veronica suspected to see, Rain, aka Debbie Meyer, Moon Calf Member and runaway. "Hey… Rain… what are you doing here?"
The girl rolled her eyes happily, motioning to the back of the car. "The bad weather coming has the cows in a ruckus. Sadly that means no milk and the chickens haven't been doing too great either. So, Josh sent me in Holly's car to pick up some supplies. I had to stop for some gas and saw you. Do you need a ride?"
"Err… yeah, but not in the direction you're heading." Veronica glanced around, looking for a payphone. The only ones she could spot would probably take a lot of disinfectant for her to ever touch them, if they even worked.
"It's been so long since you've been to Moon Calf; the others miss you and Casey. Why don't you come join us for dinner and you can use the phone? I see yours isn't exactly in best shape…"
Well… it wasn't a horrible offer. She did like the people at Moon Calf, despite them probably having mixed feelings about her now. Oh well, it couldn't hurt. She'd call her Dad there and everything would be fine. Hopefully they'd have signal up there.
Veronica slid into the passenger seat, smiling at Rain as they merged into the traffic heading for Moon Calf. "This is pretty far away from Moon Calf."
"True, but this place down the road has the best organic stuff you'll ever find. It's totally real too, so we don't have to worry and Josh doesn't interrogate us to make sure we're sure it all natural before we actually get to use the stuff."
That made sense to Veronica. She could see them worrying over that kind of thing. The milk and eggs in the back attested to the fact. "Thanks for the ride," Veronica said after they'd been driving for a while. The scenery was starting to change and the silence thanks to the broken car radio was deafening.
"Oh! No problem, sorry I was just thinking." Her eyes drifted up to the sky. "It looks pretty bad, huh?"
Veronica hadn't even been looking at the sky, gazing at the trees the entire time. Now she could see that the previously blue sky had turned a dark and dangerous gray, the area around them especially dark. "Is it safe out here in that kind of storm?"
Like a light switch they were suddenly inside a torrential downpour. Rain was obviously not comfortable with this weather as her hands turned rigid on the steering wheel and her whole spine went ramrod straight. "Um… I don't know… we're still really far from the Collective… I think… I don't know…"
"You don't know?"
"We might have taken a wrong turn… I think the road to the Collective was two more up…"
Veronica could feel her own panic rising but squashed it down. She couldn't freak out in front of Rain. "Okay, slow down and let's think about this. Are you saying we're just heading into nowhere right now?"
"I think there's some camping grounds way up next to a lake somewhere, but other than that… This is my first time driving alone from the Collective since I got there! And I've only ridden the route like… twice."
Now Veronica was getting angry. "This is the second time you've drove back home? You didn't remember which street to take?"
"Neither did you! You've driven there about as many times as I have Veronica!" Rain shouted, the car suddenly speeding up.
Hands up in surrender, Veronica lowered her voice before speaking again. "Rain, slow down a bit, the road is going to be slick since it's probably covered in dust and dirt. The rain just started, that'll make it even more dangerous." They were in trouble if Rain didn't slow down. This speed, plus the worsening conditions and the inexperience of the driver was making Veronica greatly wish she hadn't missed the bus.
"So what do you suggest we do?" Rain's voice shook her eyes slightly watery.
"I think…" She thought it over to make sure she had the right words. "You should pull over and I'll take the wheel. We need to head back towards town."
"I…I…" Rain slowly eased off the gas, her shaking arms nearly veering them into the other lane. In the distance Veronica thought she could see another car coming as she raced around the car to the driver's side. Rain had yet to move. Veronica tapped repeatedly on the window until Rain finally jumped and eased out of the car. "You're sure?"
"Yes, now get in the other side before we're even more soaked. Veronica slid in, shutting her door as she watched the coming headlights. They were coming fast and Rain was just making her way around the car. A horn blasted, the light suddenly veering, coming at an angle instead of straight. Veronica's eyes went wide, barely having time to process what was happening before the logging truck slammed into them. Rain's scream from in front of the car was lost in the sound of crushing metal, breaking glass and Veronica's own screams.
Why did I have to miss the bus, Veronica thought before everything went dark.
All Logan could hear was a loud bang, an explosion maybe. The limo lurched forward as the driver pounded on the breaks. All eyes turned towards the front, watching the bus speed towards the edge of the cliff. A few of the girls screamed as the yellow coffin went sailing through the concrete barrier right into the rocky waters below. The limo rolled to a stop, but Logan was out long before then.
He stumbled to a stop at the broken barrier, looking over the drop as the bus sank beneath the water. His legs caved beneath him, body falling to his knees. He couldn't process this. It wasn't possible. Veronica was on that bus. Veronica was in that water. Veronica was dead, like Lilly and his mother dead. Dead without return, with last words said unknowingly…
What had he last said to her? His mind raced back, guilt crushing his body so he could hardly breathe. "Thanks Dr. Phil, I'll keep that in mind." No, no that couldn't be it… but it was, that was all he'd said to her.
"No… no, no, no, no NO!" Logan leaned forward, gripping his head in his hands, rocking back and forth. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Duncan, staring down at the water with jaw hanging open in disbelief. The Kane fell backwards, putting out his hands to keep himself upright. The only two women he'd loved minus Lilly and his mother were dead, Lilly was dead, he hated his mother, he hated it all. It was so unfair. His eyes drifted over to meet Logan's, trying to see into the blurry tears that concealed Logan's brown eyes.
Duncan curled into himself, his face going blank. His state became catatonic as sirens blared, teenagers screamed. Logan tried to block out all the sound, but all he could hear was the screaming cries. The shouts to love ones lost from all hope. He vaguely felt his body being pulled up before angrily swatting the arms away.
"Don't touch me!" Logan yelled, angry that he was crying, angry that everyone he loved was dead.
"Don't make me hit you Echolls!" Weevil's voice pounded in Logan's head but his words didn't reach. "Move man! Unless you want your face plastered over the news- gets your ass moving!"
Logan stumbled forward as Weevil pushed him. He only just started to register the flashing lights, the new voices added to the crying. News reporters fought to get views around the police and medical personnel. A storm was rolling their way in the sky, the rain already pouring in the distance.
Logan kept looking around until he spotted Duncan dragged over to an ambulance, an EMT taking his vitals. Duncan didn't look up when Logan tried to catch his attention, his expression still as catatonic as it had been previously.
His ears kept registering more and more sounds Logan didn't want to hear the more aware he became. Parents, screaming and crying, were trying to reach the edge of the cliff to search for their children. All the kids from the limo hung in a hesitant group, some crying others annoyed or just pale with shock. A flash of blonde being loaded into an ambulance caught his eye. Logan nearly lunged in that direction until he caught sight of the blood stained shirts color, purple. It was Meg, not Veronica. Veronica was still in the ocean, dead, but Meg was being loaded into an ambulance, alive. What had Meg done that Veronica hadn't?
Weevil grabbed Logan's arm, pulling him from the open area. Dragging Logan in between two ambulances he pushed Logan into the wall of one eyeing him nervously. "Look, don't think this means things are okay between us, I just need to know something and I didn't want to ask in front of those vultures alright?"
All Logan could do was laugh darkly before the sound strangled in his throat nearly chocking him. "Let me guess," He coughed, "You want to know if Veronica was on that bus?"
Weevil said nothing, but the question was still there. Logan didn't answer, not verbally. His face said it all, body crumbling down to the ground once more. Weevil rocked back on his heels before turning and leaving, kicking up gravel with his heavy stomps as he went. Logan stayed where he was, curled up against an ambulance until an EMT spotted him and checked him out. After examining him he was loaded with Duncan into an ambulance, headed to the hospital to be treated for shock, or so they told him. Maybe they just had enough mercy to get the two famous teens out of camera view. Maybe Logan and Duncan had finally been visibly broken by Veronica Mars and she wasn't even there to revel in her success.
Days passed, that turned to weeks, and that week became a month and then two. Funerals were held, one by one with school finally getting off for an entire week to allow time for funeral attendance by the student body. The 09er's spent the time relaxing. Everyone else, and a few privileged that actually cared, attended the funerals. It was the last one that hit home though. The Mars family was a household name after Lilly Kane. Everyone was once a close friend and ally of Sherriff Mars was in attendance along with several of his cases who'd met the blonde PI to be and become fond of her. But the real attendance came from those she helped herself. Cases of all ages came to pay their last respects, even enemies were unable to stop from coming to say goodbye. She was, after all, Veronica Mars. Everyone loved her or hated her, unless they were lucky enough to have never gotten in her way, or unlucky enough.
Alicia could barely keep Keith standing, Wallace and Mac both doing their best to help as they tried to keep themselves together as well. Duncan stood on the sidelines, flanked by his parents, unable to get any closer by the roots his feet had planted into the ground. But Logan, Logan was right there beside Wallace and Mac and Keith and Alicia and empty casket. That was the hardest part, they had no idea what had happened to her body. The casket was filled with a few items, things to represent Veronica, things of hers, or things they'd put in themselves for her.
The questions surrounding how her body had managed to be the only one unable to locate was inconceivable. She had to be alive. But Veronica never showed. They waited, Keith waited, Logan waited, Wallace and Mac waited. Duncan waited outside the ICU ward. But they had to accept it. If Veronica was alive she would have shown up, would have called. They couldn't wait forever. She was gone.
The news of the crash consumed the entire town of Neptune and that of country for that matter, for the entire span. There was no end to the stories. The news spread like wildfire, six people dead, and one survivor. Neptune had become a parent's worst nightmare. Who wanted to send their kid somewhere where the deaths of teenagers made national news?
Of course, all this media coverage over the bus crash left no room for a small hospital to get out news of a comatose teenager whose identity was unknown. The news of two teenagers getting into a horrific car accident ending in a death, a lot of fire, and a second teen in a coma, was nothing compared to the fiery over the cliff deaths of six on the same day in the same hour span.
The doctor's fidgeted over the broken girl's body. They had no one to contact, no way of telling her age, no way of telling who she was. Their tries for "If you know this person" stories on the news were ignored, after all, this was Neptune. In Neptune, unless you're a 09er, you get swept under the rug when there's a bigger story.
Logan lounged back on his couch, eyes staring blankly at the television. There was nothing he wanted to watch on, nothing he could focus on. The news played to deaf ears. All he could think about was what Veronica told him. The last thing she'd told him was to get in control. He needed to learn to live for himself. He needed to find a way to repair himself. But how? She'd never told him how, only what he needed to do to feel better again.
The thing was, Logan couldn't remember the last time he'd felt better about himself except when with her. She'd pulled him out of the grave he was digging himself. Veronica had made him the better person that his family and Lilly had pushed away. They'd made him tough, Veronica had made him strong. And he liked to think he'd been good for her to. At least he was there to protect her from herself, the same way she did for him. But now, now he couldn't do that. He'd failed to do that. There was only one way to repay her. Logan was going to be the person she had wanted him to be, and he was going to do it for himself, just like she wanted, because she was no longer there.
With that decided his eyes caught on the screen, staring at the same report as always, the one that cut him to the core.
"It's been over two months now since the Neptune High School bus crash that took the lives of six teenagers." The reporter said, glancing back at the memorial covered in flowers and photographs. "Family members and loved ones come to pay their respects still. The most prominent of all is that of Veronica Mars, the best friend of Lilly Kane who was murdered a year and a half ago. Veronica is known not only for helping solve her best friend's murder along with her father, former Sherriff, Keith Mars, but also for her investigative skills throughout Neptune. She was a loyal friend, a witty opponent, and a genius crime solving mind. Her body has still not been found. Authorities say they have given up hope of finding one. Her family and friends grieve their loss. The only survivor of the crash, Meg Manning, has yet to awaken from a coma. Doctors have yet to tell us when they think she may awaken. As the only survivor she is the only one who can confirm if Miss Mars was ever on the bus at all. And if she wasn't, then where is she now?"
Long before the reporter stopped talking a blonde girl was screaming in a hospital bed. Her throat burned, pain shooting through her body as she tried to get her vocal cords to produce sound. And a sound they made- pained and tortured and maybe the last sound she'd ever make from the damaged cords. Doctors rushed in, working quickly to sedate her before she could hurt herself anymore. They turned off the TV, setting in extra painkillers.
The doctors scrambled over the data, examined and reexamined. They hadn't a clue what had triggered the coma patient to wake up. "Call the Sherriff's department," The head doctor said, "I'm tired of the dead getting more attention than the living. I want to know who this girl is. Don't let them ignore us this time, no matter what Sherriff Lamb says."