invida_fic: (bah)
[personal profile] invida_fic
Title: Damn, Damn the Circumstance (15/?)
Author: invida
Characters: Veronica, Logan, Ensemble
Word Count: 6300
Rating: R
Spoilers: knowledge up to 2x22
Timeline: goes AU from the Pomroy party, and a few liberties are taken with the timing of certain events. See Author's Notes for more details.
Disclaimer: I know the law, and the law would win.
Summary: if Logan hadn't left with the easy freshman that night.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to [ profile] aud_woman_in and [ profile] afrocurl for all the help!

Previous Parts

"Loooooooh-gan! Yoooo-hoo!" A girl's voice was calling to him. It seemed like it was miles away. But it wasn't the girl Logan wanted to hear, so he ignored it.

He was lost in a daydream, away from the charade that he'd agreed to take part in. His mind had taken him back to Veronica's bedroom, the night his car was blown up. It was his favourite place to drift off to now when things got boring or stupid. The warm comfort of being cared for and about. He'd try to remember every detail, each soft caress and whispered sweetness she used to try to calm him and lull him to sleep. And despite his wish to roll her under him and show her what would really take the edge off, her gentle touch worked and he'd slept better than he had in years. His second last thought before he'd succumbed to unconsciousness was that he was falling way too fast for this girl and his last thought was that he didn't care.

Of course, he tended to embellish this memory and his imagination would omit the fear, arguments, and tension and fill in the details of what would have happened if he'd stayed awake. It made him thankful for the cushion on his lap at this moment.

In the present time, he could hear giggling. Then fingers snapped and Duncan shouted, "Logan! Yo!"

A pretzel sailed by Logan's nose, and finally caught his attention. He looked up to see Duncan, Meg and Pam sniggering at him.

Logan picked up the wayward pretzel and whipped it back at Duncan. "What the fuck, D?"

Duncan caught it, tossed it in the air, and caught it again with his teeth. "Watch the language, man! My mom's home," he said, while munching.

Logan snorted. "Like I'm scared of Celeste."

"Well, I am. So cut it out."

"Do you always space out like that, Logan?" Pam asked intently. "The credits have been rolling for a while now."

"Nah. That's usually Duncan's thing. Right DK?" Logan smirked at Duncan who glared back. "Besides," he continued with a shrug, "a movie's not done till you find out who the gaffer was."

"Really?" Pam asked eagerly. She picked up the remote and reversed the credits then concentrated on the TV until she announced, "Stone Rancor!"

Logan tried not to roll his eyes too noticeably. He would have used a fake name too if he had to be associated with the piece of crap they had just sat through.

"What does a gaffer do anyway?"

Logan shrugged. "Gaffs, probably."

Undaunted, Pam asked, "Does your dad know a lot of gaffers?"

Logan shrugged again with a vexed sigh. Of course. They always wanted to know about Aaron, didn't they? Why was he always surprised when they inevitably asked? Girls were really all the same. And the ones that weren't...well, there was only ever one who never asked. He didn't know if it was because Veronica sensed that he didn't like talking about his dad or if it was because she just didn't care. Or maybe Lilly provided her with all the details. After all, Lilly was not immune to his parents' celebrity, especially Aaron's. Lilly had money but no star power, and that fascinated her and irritated Logan. Maybe that was the other reason Lilly delighted in it.

But whatever kept Veronica from delving into the gossip and celebrity worship, he had always been grateful for it. The loss of that kind of friend was the one and only regret he felt when he declared her his enemy. 

The girls had moved on and were now discussing the upcoming auditions for the school musical next semester.

"Oh you're totally going to get the lead, Meg," Pam gushed. "I mean, who's your competition? Kimmy? Puh-lease. She's got no originality, which is apparent from her latest haircut and when they see you there's going to be no question. You were born to play Sarah Brown."

She turned to Logan, trying to draw him back into the conversation. "You know, Logan, your parents would be perfect in a musical like Guys and Dolls, or better yet, Chicago. It would be such a career boost."

Logan laughed raucously at the thought. "Aaron thinks live theatre, especially musicals, are for pussies who aren't man enough to admit their careers are over."

Both Pam's and Meg's faces fell, oblivious to the fact that Logan's comments were about what an asshole his father was rather than making fun of them. No girl could ever believe that Aaron Echolls could be anything other than the debonair, sophisticated superstar that his agent and publicist presented to the world.

Duncan glared at him again, clearly telling him to make this right. Chastised, Logan mumbled, "My mom likes musicals though. She prefers the classics. Especially the ones with a lot of dancing."

Pam smiled at Logan's attempts, evidently believing the effort was being made for her benefit. "Your mom was so graceful when she was on screen."

Good thing you can't see her today, Logan thought, remembering her stumbling through the house, searching for the maid to refresh her bourbon.

Pam turned to Meg again. "And that's another reason you'll get the lead, Meg. You've got grace. Kimmy is just a pale shadow of you."

Meg frowned. "I thought Kimmy was your best friend."

Pam shrugged indifferently. "She's fine. But you know, just because we're friends doesn't mean I don't see her flaws."

Logan shook his head. "So good of you to flaunt them to everybody else at her expense."

Pam huffed. Logan's apathy towards her was starting to take its toll. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you liked Kimmy so much. Is she more your pace after Veronica Mars?"

"Pam!" Meg shouted, mortified.

"What?" Pam asked imperviously. "Everybody knows she's a skank. I mean, even if she didn't whore around behind Duncan's back or give it up to every guy at Shelly's party, she did throw herself at her dead best friend's boyfriend. It takes special kind of trash to do that. I'm just so glad both Duncan and Logan came to their senses and saw her for the lying filthy bitch she is. You've had your rebound, Logan, as distasteful as it was. Now you're free for a real relationship with someone more at your level."

Logan was disappointed that his wish for laser eyes was once again denied because by now, the hole he was attempting to bore through Pam's head would have made it through the other side. "Wow. You know, Duncan, I think you picked the wrong date. This one here would be Celeste's dream come true for you. She even kinda looks like her, you know, with that constant look of constip--"

Duncan stood up and clapped his hands together, gracelessly attempting to change the subject. "Hey! How about we calm down and play a board game? I'll go find one. Anyone want to help me?"

Pam stood, ignoring Logan pointedly as she followed Duncan out of the room. "Have you got Mad Gab?"

Logan waited until they were out of earshot before he threw his head back and exhaled loudly. "Thank fucking god." Maybe he could get back to his daydream now.

When he sat back up to rearrange his cushion, he found Meg shooting daggers in his direction. He'd forgotten she was still there. "What?" he asked impatiently.


"How passive aggressive of you! Is that how they teach you to solve your problems in Sunday School?"

Meg scowled resentfully.

Logan circled his finger at her. "You know, a bird's gonna shit on that lip if you keep pouting like that. So either tell me why you're acting like I just excommunicated your puppy or make yourself useful and get us some beverages."

Meg crossed her arms and arched a brow. "Let's just say that I'm not impressed. Okay?"

"Ah good." Logan gave her an exaggerated thumbs-up. "Just what I wanted today: another blonde girl disappointed in me."

Meg was exasperated. "Why are you even here? Are you planning to string Pam along like you did with Veronica?"

"First, I'm here for the same reason you are: Duncan asked me. Second, you don't know anything about Veronica and me, so don't get all sanctimonious. And third, you really wouldn't be so concerned about Pam if you knew what she's been saying behind your back."

Meg ignored his taunts. "I just thought that maybe you'd be a little more upset about breaking up with Veronica because she's been the one person who finally seemed to have a good influence on you. But clearly, you're just like every other guy out there and you're just waiting for the next girl to come along."

"And how long ago did Cole dump you again? Hmmm?" Logan looked at his watch sardonically. "At least I waited a week."

"Not that I have to defend myself to you, but I tried to get out of this by saying I wasn't allowed to go on dates alone with guys my parents didn't know. It's not my fault Pam jumped in and suggested we all go together."

"So not a fan of Nancy Reagan, huh? And I guess it doesn't hurt to stick it to Cole either."

"You didn't say no either. I mean, what difference does it make? It's just hanging out. There's no commitment. And Duncan seems like a nice guy."

Logan pointed at her. "Seems is the operative word there."

"Isn't he your best friend?"

"And I've told you before that no guys are friends when it comes to a pretty girl." He leered at her.

"You're repulsive."

Logan sighed wistfully. "So I guess that means you won't be getting me a drink." He got up and went to the kitchen. Antagonizing Meg hadn't been his intention but if it made her believe that he and Veronica were really over, then it was worth it.

Logan opened the fridge door wide and practically stepped inside. His fingers drummed the top of the door as he hunched over and let the cool air and aromas of catered leftovers hit him. It amused him to know that there was somewhere in this house that was possibly colder than Celeste.

"Duncan, sweetheart?"

Speak of the frigid devil, Logan thought.

"This is me reminding you to take your meds if you haven't already today. We don't want another incident, do we? I'm leaving them on the counter," Celeste said through the door.

It took Logan a moment to realize that Celeste was speaking to him. She wasn't paying enough attention and had mistaken him for her son. Meds? What could Duncan possibly be on?

Logan grunted in reply and that seemed to satisfy Celeste. She walked out of the kitchen calling to the maid. "Sofia! I asked you twice already to sort through the mail! It's still sitting in that unsightly pile in the kitchen."

Logan waited until he could no longer hear her berating poor Sofia before he pulled out some orange juice and closed the fridge. A collection of pill vials was lined up on the counter. It sure explained a lot of Duncan's recent bizarre behaviour, but just what the hell was wrong with him? He read the names and recognized a number of them from his mother's colourful array of pills, but Trileptal was new. As Sofia shuffled into the kitchen, Logan pocketed the Trileptal.

Logan was about to take a swig from the juice container when Sofia gave him a dirty look. He rolled his eyes, but dutifully stepped over to the cupboards and got himself a glass. "You should've just been grateful that I was trying to spare you from having more to clean."

Sofia ignored him, got a wastepaper basket and began dividing up the mail. As Logan poured, he watched her toss junk mail into the garbage. Suddenly, brightly coloured flyers were replaced with official-looking business envelopes. Suspicious, Logan rounded the counter and pulled one of the envelopes out of the trash.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Logan yelled, slamming his glass down on the counter. Juice splattered across the cabinet doors and landed in sprinkles on the rest of the mail.

Sofia replied irritably, "I sort mail! Like Miss Celeste ask!" She turned to grab a dishtowel to wipe up the mess.

"How can you throw these away?" Logan pulled more envelopes from the garbage and shoved them into the maid's face.

Sofia pushed him away. "Not me! Miss Celeste say to!"

"What's going on in here?" Duncan asked, running into the room with Meg and Pam following behind him.

Logan stalked up to him, holding up the mail he'd grabbed. "This is what you people do? You just throw her stuff away like she didn't exist?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Logan threw the small pile at Duncan, who managed to catch one. He read the address and looked up at Logan with a mixture of pity and embarrassment. "This is mail for Lilly."

"Yeah. Lilly. Remember her? Your sister? My girlfriend?"

"She was your ex. Remember?" Duncan chastised. "So what are we supposed to do with it, Logan? She's gone. It's not like she can read it."

"Fuck you, Duncan, and your fucking family! None of you ever knew how to treat her when she was alive, why the fuck should anyone expect you to know how to treat her when she's dead."

Logan scooped up all of Lilly's mail from where they'd landed on the floor and snatched the one from Duncan's hands as well. "And fuck this stupid farce of a date! You think you can get back what we had? Hate to break it to you, but you're a fucking lunatic if you think you can replace Lilly and Veronica with these second-rate copies."

He wouldn't allow the fury in Duncan's eyes or Meg's hurt expression guilt him into an apology. It was Pam's comments that enraged him as he grabbed his jacket. "Well, no wonder he couldn't make it with that manipulative whore, Veronica Mars. He's still totally hung up on Lilly."

He pushed angrily past a stunned Celeste as she came to investigate what the yelling was about. "I'll see myself out, thanks."


Logan pulled into his usual spot in the driveway. The drive home had done little to calm him. He just needed to make it to his room undetected and then he could sort out this mess. He picked up Lilly's mail and tried to stuff it into his jacket until he remembered what else was in his inside pocket -- Veronica's paternity results.

God damn it. He'd been avoiding those. He'd hounded her to get the test done so they could all break free from this suspended animation of what if. But when she'd given him the means and the permission to find out, he'd chickened out. One way or the other, it would change things. If Jake was her father, he didn't know how she'd deal with that and how it might devastate her relationship with the one adult in her life that hadn't let her down. If Jake wasn't, then it meant Duncan wasn't her brother and he'd be free -- they'd both be free -- to resume their sweet romance that was ended so abruptly. He didn't know how he'd deal with that.

He bundled all the envelopes up into a tidy pile and zipped them into his jacket. He'd deal with that in his room too, he guessed. He hopped out of his SUV, but almost got back in when he heard a voice that grated on his very last nerve.

"Hey there, Little Brother," Trina called, walking towards her own car. Logan hadn't noticed it in the driveway, too lost in his own thoughts.

"Home already from your Kill Bill knock-off?"

"It's not a knock-off. It's an homage." Trina replied, affronted.

"More like fromage. So were you killed off or did the funding fall through already?"

"You know it's an indie film."

"Yeah, that's what they call any piece of crap that can't get financing. Come running to Daddy for an advance on the allowance?"

"You really shouldn't be razzing me about my sense of entitlement when you're standing next to your brand new SUV, Logan."

"Good point. I'll go inside then and do it there."

As he attempted to walk around her, Trina grabbed his arm, stopping him. "Actually, I don't think you want to go in there." All the humour had left her voice. "The parents are having a tiff," she explained quietly. "I think Mom's in one of her moods. And Dad asked me to leave. You know it can't be good if he doesn't want me to stay." Trust Trina to rub it in whenever she could who Daddy's favourite was.

"Is Mom okay? Does she need --"

"No, I don't think it's too serious. Just the usual. You know?" Trina squeezed his arm.

He nodded. The usual was becoming all too usual. Trina patted him in the most sisterly way she could muster, which she was pretty rusty at. After all, she hadn't tried to look out for him in years. It was awkward.

Fortunately, the moment ended when his cell phone rang. He gave Trina a little wave and then answered as he headed back to his car.

"What are you doing right now?" he asked without a greeting.

"Does that mean your date's done now?" Veronica asked with amusement.

"It is if you can be at the Albacore Club within the hour. Slip five."


When Veronica finally arrived, Logan was almost twitchy. He'd been staring at Lilly's grainy photocopied picture. She'd been smiling. At least she'd had a good day that day. But that was little compensation for the new knowledge he'd obtained from the rest of the page.

He heard Veronica calling for him and popped out on deck to greet her. "Hello, Slim." He jumped down from the boat onto the dock next to Veronica, giving her a hand to help her on board.

"Slim?" she asked, giving him a quick peck before following him into the cabin. He hadn't let go of her hand once she'd given it to him.

"That's what Bogart called Bacall in To Have And Have Not. Did you know that Bogey had a yacht? He loved to sail around Catalina Island." He was babbling, trying to cover up his agitation.

"So what? Am I supposed to call you Steve now?"

"Maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Slim? You just put your lips together and...blow."

Veronica rolled her eyes. "Well, I asked for that, I guess. But I'm pretty sure that was Bacall's line."

Logan gave her an impressed look. "And how do you know so much about Bogart movies?"

Veronica shrugged. "Dad's big on his films." She took in the state of the galley. "What the hell happened in here?"

Logan looked at the table from Veronica's point of view. Ripped envelopes, fashion magazines, and scattered papers. He had to admit, it looked weird.

"How about I explain after I show you this?" He passed her the slip of paper he'd been studying. His hand was shaking.

Veronica's eyes widened in disbelief as she read it over. "This is -- this is Lilly -- she got a ticket the day she -- but this is after --" she stammered.

"Way after."

"Logan. Do you know what this means? Where did you get this?"

"At the Kanes'. They were just throwing all this away, Veronica. All of Lilly's mail. Like she didn't matter any more."

"And you just took it? They let you?"

"Not exactly." He could see the reprimand in Veronica's eyes. "What would you have done if you'd seen them tossing her stuff out?"

"Freaked." She agreed grimly. "Then I would've called you." She sat down dejectedly.

Logan sat across from her and took her hand. She was staring at the traffic ticket as he had done only minutes ago.

"Two hours later, Veronica. This means we have proof that the official time of death was wrong."

"It means we have proof that the Kanes are covering something up."

"How do you figure?"

Veronica wouldn't meet his eyes. She opened up her bag and pulled out two envelopes and passed them to him. She motioned for him to open them when he looked at her questioningly. He opened the first one addressed to someone named Cliff McCormack. Inside was a stack of papers.

"Go to the photos." Veronica instructed.

Logan flipped through the pages of reports until he came to a Post-It slapped on the front of a picture saying "Crime Scene Photos". He pulled the Post-It off and found various pictures of rooms in the Kane estate.

"Lilly's bedroom." Veronica ordered next.

Logan found the correct photo and stared at it. "What am I looking for?"

"What was found on Abel Koontz's boat?"

"Lilly's bag and shoes -- Oh shit. These shoes?" Logan pointed at the sneakers in the picture.

Veronica nodded. "It means he somehow got the shoes after she died. Or they were planted."

"But why?"

"Either he was set up or he's a patsy. He confessed, so I guess he's got some kind of deal with the Kanes."

"What kind of deal can he get? Admitting to murder means he's on death row."

"I think the bigger question is, who are they all covering for?"

Logan couldn't get his head around it. The Kanes actually conspiring to cover for Lilly's murderer was just too much. Even with their disregard for Lilly, he just couldn't picture them being so utterly heartless to allow her killer to go free, unless -- unless it was one of them. This was what Veronica was trying to get at. Not one of them had an alibi now.

The thought was too disturbing so he busied himself with the other envelope. This one was addressed to Veronica's mother. Out fell more photos. He turned them all over, surprised to find that they were all of Veronica during various aspects of her day - in the quad at school, walking to her dad's office, standing outside her apartment with a laundry basket. The last photo was of her sitting with Logan on a pool lounge. It was from New Year's Eve because he was putting his suit jacket around her shoulders. But what really chilled him were the markings on each photo all around Veronica -- gunsight crosshairs.

"Where did these come from?"

"They were waiting on the doorstep the day after my mom left. I guess it was supposed to be a message."

"You guess?! Whoever sent these was watching you. Threatening you!"

"That's not the only message. One of the photos was on the Kane Estate. That's the message. That they'll be the ones that come after me. I'm betting it was Wiedman --"

"How can you be so casual about this? Why didn't you show me these before?" he asked in disbelief. "Did you at least show your dad?"

"My mom split. They probably know that by now and think they at least achieved some kind of goal with that and have backed off. So what would be the point in telling my dad now?"

He slammed his fist down on the table making Veronica jump. "Maybe because your dad has the right to know that someone's threatening his daughter? Maybe because I fucking care about you and wanna know if you're in danger? God, Veronica! If something happened to you too -- now -- I can't --"

Unable to finish that thought with her gaping at him, he stood up and began pacing, and wondered how he'd ever be calm again. When he finally stopped, leaning against the galley counter, trying to regain some composure, he was surprised to feel her arms wrap around his middle from behind, and feel her press against his back.

"I'm sorry. I didn't think -- I didn't know -- I'm sorry."

She didn't know he cared that much or she just didn't believe it. She still didn't trust him. He wondered if he could ever make her. He put his hands over hers and clutched them to his chest. "We have to tell someone about this, Veronica. It's too dangerous now. If anyone finds out we're investigating Lilly's murder and we have all this proof, they're going to threaten you again. Or worse."

"But what about your alibi?"

She loosened her grip on him as he turned around to face her, but she still held on to him. He smoothed her hair back. "Ironically, Lilly's ticket clears me. By six that night, I was home and surprising my mom by getting back so early and annoying the housekeeper by unexpectedly having to make another dinner."

Veronica exhaled with relief until Logan said, "We should tell your dad."

She tensed again, but nodded and said, "Okay, but not just yet. Let's just get through this week. Get through exams and then we'll tell him and ask him what to do. Please."

"Fine. But after exams are done, no excuses."

"None. I promise. I'm sick of lying to him anyway."

He was sick of all the lies too. All he wanted was for something passing for normal now. He wrapped his arms around her back and held her tightly.

"So how was the rest of your date?"

He started giggling and soon they were both laughing uncontrollably.


When Logan returned home, he noted that neither Trina's and Aaron's cars were in the driveway. He knew better than to hope that his parents' argument was over. But he was feeling far too good now to give a crap about their latest drama. Making out with Veronica and eliciting promises to study with her the next day, not to mention the -- ahem -- self-directed study session he had after she left had him practically skipping into the house.

As he walked through the threshold into the living room, he heard a scream, "You SON OF A BITCH!" He ducked just in time to miss a crystal vase flying straight at his head. It hit the doorframe and shattered when it landed on the floor. Clearly, this fight had not been about just the usual. He righted himself and stared at his furious, dishevelled mother. Thick streaks of mascara ran from her red, puffy eyes down her cheeks.

Lynn gasped when she realized her mistake. "Oh Logan, honey! I'm so sorry." She ran over to him and hugged him tightly. "I thought you were --"

"Pater?" Logan supplied. Lynn dropped her arms and hung her head. He continued with a chastising sigh. "I don't know why you stay with him." God, the woman had so many reasons to leave the bastard. His body was covered in reasons.

Lynn sniffled and picked up her drink from a side table. "I stayed for you, Logan. So that you'd have a better life."

Logan stood agape at his mother. He finally shook his head sadly. "Gee, Mom, you really shouldn't have." He walked out of the room, leaving his mother crying into her tumbler.


The next morning, Logan had his books together and was down the stairs, ready to get the hell out of there. Whether his parents continued to fight or not, he still had exams to study for.

Unfortunately, he wasn't up early enough because Aaron was already in the kitchen on the phone.

"You have to stop them from airing the story, Harvey…. Well, why can't Barry get an injunction?... I don't fucking care that it's Sunday! ...Yes, I understand that they think this heads-up is a courtesy…And remember how long it took for Rob Lowe's career to bounce back from that? ...Then you know that I don't appreciate the comparison!"

Ah, bad press, the bane of his father's existence, when it wasn't Logan himself. And it was best he get out of the house before his father remembered that.

Too late. Logan was almost at the door when he caught his father's eye. Aaron put his hand over the receiver and asked, "Where are you off to, son?"

"Studying with Veronica," Logan emphasized to irritate his father. "We've got exams this week."

"Ah good. Good. When will you be back?"

"Depends. You and Mom gonna be fighting?"

Aaron winced. "It's just a disagreement. But since you're studying, you may want to stay out a little longer."

Logan saluted his father, but as he turned to leave, he heard Aaron say, "By the way, I'm due back on set, so I'll be leaving this afternoon. If I don't see you, good luck."

Logan was taken aback, but nodded and left.


Veronica was not at her desk when Logan walked into Mars Investigation. She and her father were going to catch up on filing before she started studying. Logan could hear her animated voice coming from Keith's office over a radio playing in the background. He closed the door quietly so he wouldn't interrupt them, then sat silently on the couch to wait for Veronica. Then the plan was to go back to his dad's boat for some private study time. Just what they'd be studying would be Veronica's call, but he intended to influence that decision as best he could.

He heard her say, "I'm just going to finish this one --"

Keith interrupted. "You've got exams, right? That takes priority over this. Your GPA is not slipping over my lousy filing system."

Veronica insisted. "But if I take care of this --"

Keith wouldn't hear of it. "Go on! You've done enough today, so go get studying!"

"Okay. Okay. My -- uh -- study buddy will be here soon anyway." Logan's ears pricked up at this.

"A buddy, hmmm? I haven't heard you talking about any new friends lately. Do I even want to know who this buddy might be?"

"Probably not." Veronica replied chirpily.

Keith sighed. "Veronica, you're spending an awful lot of time with Logan Echolls. Is there something you want to tell me?"

Veronica's voice squeaked when she asked, "Remember when you said that it was okay to like him that way?" He could just imagine her cute little nose wrinkling as she made finger quotes.

"Yeaaaah, I do. Back when I thought there wasn't even a remote possibility of that actually happening. Ah, those were the days."

"I guess you should have been more specific."

"Actually, I was thinking I should have been more strict. Do I really have to tell you this, Veronica? He's not exactly a father's dream for his only daughter."

"God, Dad! We're just dating, sorta."

"And that 'sorta' is exactly my problem."

"Wait. Let me guess, 'he's only after one thing'."

"Well, now that you mention it…"

"Did you ever think that maybe I'm the one who's only after one thing?"

"The next words outta your mouth better be 'his money', or so help me --"

"'Or so help me'… does that actually mean something or is that just one of those things you learn to say as an adult in a scary tone that's supposed to make children tremble?"

"It means I want you to be careful. I admit, Logan is a charming boy, but he's volatile. Look, it's not that I don't like him --"

Logan couldn't help barking out a laugh at that. Both Keith and Veronica stopped talking and popped their heads out from behind the office door. Logan waved innocently.

Veronica smiled openly at him and he suddenly didn't care what Keith thought of him. He stood as she strode over to embrace him, her arms stretched wide. Before she reached Logan, Keith cleared his throat loudly and pointedly. Veronica turned and rolled her eyes at her father, sighed with annoyance and stuck her hand out for Logan to shake instead. Once he did, Veronica looked back at Keith with a tilt of her head and asked, "Happy?"

"Getting there," Keith said, "I'll be better after Logan and I have a chat."

"Dad!" Keith ignored his daughter and motioned for Logan to come with him.

Logan gave Veronica a reassuring smirk and a shrug before he walked into the office and Keith closed the door behind them. Keith sat in his chair then pointed to the chair in front of the desk for Logan. Logan dutifully sat down and clasped his hands on his lap.


"Mr. Mars."

"I take it you know what I want to talk to you about."

Logan leaned forward conspiratorially. "Yes. And I'm glad because someone had to tell you that pleated slacks are just not flattering on your body shape."

Keith stared back impassively. "I appreciate the advice. But in light of the last time you and I talked, you might want to can the attitude and try again."

The last time they'd talked, was over the phone on New Year's Eve when Logan tried to explain to Keith why his drunken daughter didn't want to go home. Logan sat back and looked contrite. "You probably want to have the 'Concerned Dad' speech."

Keith nodded. "Considering your reputation, I'm sure you've heard this sort of thing before."

"No, actually. Lilly's parents were always more about lecturing her about being a bad influence. So this will be a refreshing first for me. But I'm sure you've given this sort of speech before."

Keith shook his head. "No, not really. I wasn't too worried about Duncan."

"And now?"

Keith thought about it for a second and admitted, "I probably wouldn't let him sit down."

Progress, Logan thought, until Keith started talking again. "But Duncan isn't here. You are. And you might think I'm just some old fart who's just doing the Concerned Dad speech because that's what dads of daughters do, but I'll tell you something, Logan, I'm not naïve and I remember everything. So I know exactly why Veronica doesn't have many friends any more. But she's decided, mostly because she's a better person than me, to give you another chance. So if you think you're going to pull a fast one, kid, it had better be so damn fast that it gets you out of this town before I find you. Because I will find you. Got that?"

Before Lilly died, Keith was an imposing figure in the town and in his friendship with Veronica. Of all their parents, the four of them knew that they had to be careful of Veronica's dad. Whenever they were going to do something questionable, it always came down to how Keith was going to react. After Keith was thrown out of office, Logan thought of him as a joke, and would never admit that he was still pretty scared of him. But here, sitting under Keith's unflinching, disapproving stare, Logan gulped audibly and nodded.

Keith grinned widely. "Okay then. Talk done. Get studying!"

Logan stumbled out of Keith's office and almost tripped over Veronica who had been trying to listen through the door.

"You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah. You know what though? Let's just study here."

"Great idea!" Keith yelled from his office.

Veronica rolled her eyes at her father's meddling, but cleared off the coffee table in the waiting area. As Logan set up his text and notebook, Keith turned up the radio in his office and closed the door, muffling the noise on either side. He guessed that was supposed to be a sign of trust, but Logan didn't take much comfort from it.

Veronica plopped her books down and Logan noticed the sophomore course schedule on top. "I thought you had all your classes sorted out for next term already."

Veronica shrugged. "My guidance counsellor says I have to make some changes. Apparently I'm too isolated and intimidating. She wants me getting more involved with school crap like I used to be. She actually suggested I re-join the pep squad."

"Huh. Ms James sure has a sinister streak. How about something less ruthless? Take 'Intro to Journalism' with me. Then you can work on the school paper."

"Ooh. Tempting," Veronica said sarcastically. "Reports on the latest 09er fashion trends, gossip columns on Neptune's elite, jock stats that only jocks care about, meaningless polls that show student apathy is at an all time high. Yeah, that's all right up my alley."

Logan listed off reasons on his fingers. "It'll look good on college applications, there's lots of out-of-class time, you'll probably get to do all the photos because you already kick ass with your camera. Oh, and did I mention that I am in the class?" 

"You did," Veronica said, smiling. "And we're supposed to be broken up, remember? But I'm guessing you've already got a cunning plan for us to get inadvertently partnered up so we can take advantage of that out-of-class time. I'll think about it." She picked up her text book and cracked it open. "But none of that's gonna happen if we don't pass chemistry first.

Once he and Veronica started studying, he was surprised by how much he actually knew and soon he was quizzing her as much as she was him. They were well into the rules for chemical nomenclature when Keith opened his door quickly.

"Logan, do you have your cell phone on?" Keith asked with concern.

"Yeah, why?" Logan frowned, pulling his phone from his pocket.

"And the ringer's on? You haven't missed any calls?" Keith asked, walking over to the coat rack and grabbing his jacket off the peg. Logan shook his head.

"Dad, what's wrong?"

"There was a news report on the radio about an incident at your house, Logan. I think you'd better get to the hospital."

Part 16
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