invida_fic: (plotting)
[personal profile] invida_fic
Title: A Damsel in Distrust (2/?)
Author: invida
Rating: PG-13 for the swears
Fandoms: Sherlock, Veronica Mars
Timeline/spoilers: entire series of Veronica Mars, up to A Scandal in Belgravia of Sherlock
Disclaimer: I know the law, and the law would win.
Summary: the winds have blown the tiny blonde one to a whole other shore to annoy.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] aud_woman_in for the beta, encouragement, and a willing ear. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] maybe_amanda for encouraging me to continue and then giving me the idea for an actual plot. Thanks to DC for the challenge.

Previous Part


John cursed himself again for not remembering to buy earplugs as Sherlock sawed away on the violin in the room below. He was finding it impossible to read any of the webpages that Sherlock had found. He had just enough concentration to stare at the photos of Veronica on each page.

He stretched and his neck cracked. Sherlock had been exaggerating of course. Veronica hadn't nearly gotten him killed. Roughed up a bit, yes. But this was hardly anything new. He'd been roughed up on a nearly weekly basis since he'd started living with Sherlock.

With Veronica's appearance, Sherlock had been exhibiting all the petty jealousies he usually reserved for John's lady friends. It was ridiculous, of course. They'd just met after all. She just needed help. He didn't think of her that way. Yes, she was smart, exciting, beautiful – well, okay, maybe he did think of her that way a bit. But Veronica didn't exhibit any signs of reciprocating, so it was a moot point, right?

Sherlock believed Veronica's story. He’d said so. So what was his problem with her? Was it really just jealousy?

John could hardly believe Veronica's situation himself. It was a little too far-fetched to believe that a powerful man like Jake Kane would hold a grudge against a girl like her, let alone actively pursue it halfway around the world.

Veronica was trying to find her friend. That was the case she’d been working on that brought her to England. And even though Jake Kane seemed like a simple, albeit strange, software tycoon, Veronica claimed that he had private clandestine interests and that he could help her. It was all a matter of convincing him that it was in his best interest to help.

Sherlock, just to be difficult, acted like he wasn't interested in Veronica’s missing friend at all. During their interview at Lestrade’s office, Sherlock fired a number of questions at her, but they were all about Kane Software and their various dealings. John had meant to ask him why he was so interested in the company over breakfast, but their argument about John’s motivation had derailed him. And when Veronica couldn't -- or wouldn't -- give him the information he wanted, Sherlock petulantly broke off his questioning.

Veronica was undeterred though and had a plan, and Sherlock, probably because it wasn't his plan, didn't care to hear about it. He told John that he could play tour guide to Veronica, while Sherlock himself did actual detective work, and stalked out of Scotland Yard on his own.

Which is how John found himself dangling off the ground, in a stranglehold. They'd been following Jake around London. They were in an alley, and Veronica was explaining how to ‘tail a mark’, when an arm circled around his neck and yanked him back. John gagged on his surprised cry, which came out as a gurgle.

Veronica whipped around in shock, but her expression quickly turned to annoyance when she obviously recognized John's assailant. "Clarence Wiedman."

A deep voice close to John's ear said, "I believe you were told to stay away."

"Is that what those bogus charges were about?"

John flailed and sputtered, hoping to get their attention back to his neck.

"Police seem to think they're real," the man who was holding him rumbled. "Maybe I should just get them on the phone."

"No problem. In fact –" Veronica held up her phone and it clicked as she took a photo. "I happen to have Scotland Yard's Detective Inspector Lestrade in my contacts list. I'll just send him this photo of you manhandling my friend, John, here, and we'll see what he has to say."

John felt the arm around his throat relax and his feet once again touched the ground. John ducked under the arm and turned to face this Clarence Wiedman with Veronica. He was just what you'd expect a henchman to look like, right down to the trench coat and fedora.

"What do you want?" Wiedman asked.

"I want to talk to Jake."

Wiedman snorted. "That's not going to happen."

Veronica put a finger to her lips. "You know, I've still got all of the Castle's secrets."

"Hearsay, at best. You'll never make anything stick."

"Did you have to pay a lot for that lawyer's advice? Honestly, Clarence, you still underestimate me. You think I haven't been busy gathering up evidence and hard proof since our last encounter? I just want to talk to Jake. I don't want anything else."

Castle? Secrets? There was obviously a lot more going on here than just a missing friend, and this guy was more than just a bodyguard. John felt more befuddled than when Sherlock deduced someone at the speed of light.

"I think we've made it abundantly clear that Mr. Kane does not want to speak to you."

"What would the harm be in just talking to her?" John asked. He might not understand what they were talking about, but a standoff was not going to help anyone. Maybe an objective voice might make some headway.

Wiedman turned to John, his gaze as hard as granite. "Sir, how well do you know this girl?"

John stared back, showing no intimidation. "Actually, we've just met."

"Well, I actually do know her and I can tell you that she cannot be trusted. I suggest you stay away from her. She's trouble and she'll only get you into more than you bargained for. Just forget whatever she's told you and walk away right now."

This was beginning to feel like déjà vu. John wondered if maybe this guy would hit it off with Donovan. Or maybe Mycroft, for that matter.

John said, "And yet, of the two people I've met today, she's not the one that put me in a headlock. So you'll forgive me if I'm not likely to believe a word you say. And regardless of that, you didn't answer my question."

"My job is to keep people like Ms. Mars away from Mr. Kane, not to answer your questions. Especially since I have no idea who you are, and you insist on associating with Ms. Mars."

John stuck out his hand. "John Watson. Now you know who I am." Wiedman glared at him. Veronica tried to suppress her grin, and John was glad she was unsuccessful and found himself wondering how he could make her smile like that again.

Unfortunately, Wiedman snapped him back to the moment. "Ah yes, I've heard a lot about the British wit. Here's some friendly advice, Mr. Watson: It won't keep you safe. Especially if you continue to keep company with Veronica Mars."

"And let me offer you some friendly advice in return - Mr. Wiedman, I presume, since we haven't been formally introduced. You got the better of me just now. It won't happen again."

Veronica stepped between them. "And now that we've got the threats and pissing contests out of the way, can we get down to business? Tell Jake I want to make him a deal."

"What makes you think I'm going to tell him anything on your behalf?"

Veronica shook her head, chuckling. "There you go, underestimating me again. Talk to Duncan lately?"

A moment of silence passed between them, but if Wiedman was surprised, he didn't show it. "You know where he is?"

"No. But that doesn't mean we haven't communicated. Does Jake know that you've had contact with Duncan?"

John may not have known what Veronica was talking about, but he knew blackmail when he heard it. Wiedman took another stony, silent moment to contemplate Veronica's threat, then said, "I'll be in touch when I can set something up."

Wiedman walked out of the alley and disappeared into the London crowds.

"Are you okay?" Veronica asked, squeezing his arm.

He rubbed his neck. "I've been worse."

"Sorry about that. Clarence can be a little…reactionary."

"Who's Duncan?"

"Jake's prodigal son." Veronica looked out toward the street like she was trying to see where Clarence went, but he could read something in her eyes before she could look away. Regret. Or was it guilt?

"Your ex. Is he the 'friend' we're trying to find?"

"No." Veronica said emphatically. "But he is…he's still my friend. The short story is that he's got a situation and has been in hiding for over a year now."

"But you've been in contact with him," John said, remembering what she said to Wiedman.

Veronica shook her head. "Nope. Haven't heard a peep from him since the day he left."

John paused trying to piece what Veronica was saying into the bigger picture. "You were bluffing."

Veronica nodded. "I had my suspicions about Duncan and Clarence being in touch. Some circumstances could only add up that way."

The realizations were hitting John quickly now. "You knew Wiedman was following us. You set this whole thing up."

Veronica shrugged. "It worked out better than I thought it would. I thought it would take him at least another hour before he'd confront me. So that gives us some more time."

John asked, "Time for what?"

Veronica smiled widely. "I believe Sherlock said you could be my tour guide if you wanted. Care to show me some London sights?"

She practically skipped out of the alley. It was almost worth the headlock.

---------

The tunes stopped as Veronica's cell phone rang, pulling her out of her thoughts. It was a London number. Good. It meant her father wasn't checking up on her yet. She missed him but she wasn't ready for the lecture or the explanation she'd have to come up with for him.

She took the call. Wiedman's low voice was almost a whisper. "This afternoon. 1PM. Kane Software offices. Ask for me at the desk."

The call disconnected before she could reply. "Hello to you, too, Sunshine," she muttered to no one.

She realized she couldn't hear the violin or yelling any more, which made her think it might be safe to approach John and Sherlock's apartment.

She climbed the stairs. The door was open, but the living room was empty. She knew Sherlock's room was on this floor while John's was another floor up. But she didn't hear any movement. Had they gone out? Regardless, this might be her only chance to have a look around, unsupervised.

Snooping again? The voice in her head asked as she stepped into the room. Logan's voice. Her conscience was a big fan of irony.

She knew exactly when that nagging voice went from sounding like her dad to sounding like Logan, and that was right around the time Logan went missing. For the past couple of weeks she'd been playing out imaginary conversations with him in her head, knowing just how snarky all his responses would be, making her miss him all the more.

Just getting to know my hosts, she replied in her head, making her way over to the fireplace to inspect the assortment on the mantel. She imagined him leaning languidly against it as she picked up items and examined them. She wouldn't turn to look at him directly, knowing that the apparition would disappear.

Are you sure you don't mean looking for leverage? His long fingers danced across the shelf and then he held them up, inspecting them for dust.

No need. They're already helping me. They just seem, you know, interesting. Maybe I'm just interested. Jealous?

Always. He was closing the distance between them.

Something fell to the floor, jarring her from her reverie. She had picked up the decorative skull when the small, soft box had fallen. Ugh. A pack of cigarettes. She tried to figure out how it could've fallen out of – Ew. Jesus, this skull was real. She grimaced as she put it back down. She bent down to pick up the packet. Who the hell hid cigarettes in a real fucking skull?

"I'll take those."

She straightened up, surprised to find Sherlock in the room, his hand outstretched. Well, that answered that question.

She walked over and gave him the packet, taking in his appearance as she did. "You look… different," she said, frowning. "What are you supposed to be?"

"How?" he asked, sliding the cigarettes into his pants pocket.

"What?"

"You're a detective. Tell me how I look different."

This again? "How the hell am I supposed to do that? I met you yesterday."

"I didn't ask you to tell me how I normally look. I simply asked you to tell me the difference between how I looked before and how I look now. I know you're not stupid. I shouldn't have to explain semantics to you."

Veronica tamped down the urge to tell him to fuck himself and stomp off. It had taken many lessons to learn that got her nowhere. And there was no shortage of people that underestimated her. But it was rare that someone challenged her like this.

"What kind of detail do you want?"

Sherlock shrugged. "Impress me."

Again, she fought the urge to walk away. She thought back. "Yesterday, you were in a suit. I'm not familiar with men’s fashion, so I can't say what label it was."

Sherlock waved a dismissive hand. "Not important. What else?"

Here goes. She closed her eyes to help her remember. "Six feet tall. Caucasian. Slim build. Wavy, black hair, approximately two inches in length, parted on the left. Blue eyes, almost grey. No noticeable scars or marks. Black suit. Jacket -- one button, thin lapels. Pants -- tapered. Shirt -– dress, white, with black buttons. No tie. Shoes -- black leather, lace up, Oxford style. Occasionally seen wearing a coat -- black tweed, distinctive red buttonhole."

She opened her eyes again. "Impressed?"

A raised eyebrow was the only visible response he gave her. "Eidetic memory?"

“I dunno.” Veronica shrugged. "My dad was Sheriff of our town when I was growing up. He drummed into me at a pretty early age how to catalogue a suspect's features to make sure I could identify him later. Eyewitnesses are unreliable at best, he'd say, but Keith Mars' daughter would not be." Pride and regret had crept into her voice while talking about her dad. She felt a pang of homesickness.

Sherlock gave a bored sniff. "Yes, well, moving on. I'm different today because?"

"Besides how you look like you're going to a costume party dressed as a nerd?"

That got a reaction. He narrowed his eyes at her. "Why do you say it like that? The bit about the costume, that is."

"Because it looks like you're trying too hard. Nerds – real nerds – don't try to look like nerds. They just are nerds."

He held a finger up as though he'd figured out the problem with what she had said. "Ah. But you're saying that because you already know something of my personality. If you forget everything you know about me already, then what would you say?"

"Thank you?"

He rolled his eyes. "And what would you say if you were actually trying to be helpful?"

"It all depends. Are you trying to fool the average person or people like us?"

"Both," he said, clasping his hands behind his back as if to give her a better view of him and let her know that he was waiting.

She smirked, pleased that he did not refute her like she expected him to. She looked him up and down again. "You're a walking stereotype. You look like you're an extra on Big Bang Theory. So even to the average person you're going to stand out because you look too much the part. And I'm assuming you don't want to stand out."

He gave her a quick nod. "You assume correctly. Tell me what's wrong."

"Tell you, as in this is another test or tell you, you really want to know?"

"Both," he answered again.

Veronica’s eyes roved over him now, taking in all the details. She had to admit, he actually wasn’t that hard to look at if he wasn’t talking. Veronica walked around him and began to list what was wrong. "Lose the glasses. Anyone who sees you on surveillance or takes a photo of you will see right away that those aren't real lenses. The T-shirt, Doctor Who? You could get away with that in the States. Too obvious here in Jolly Ol'. A geek uses his knowledge of a fandom to show his obsession. He doesn't need to wear it on his shirt and if he does, it's subtle and obscure. The Chucks are fine. And the khakis can stay, but uncuff them."

Sherlock took the glasses off. Then he turned around and headed back to his bedroom, tossing the glasses on the cluttered kitchen table as he went.

He'd left the door open. She stood for a moment, wondering if she was supposed to follow. When she saw a number of shirts fly across the threshold of his bedroom, she thought it best she not get in his way.

Weird. Does John usually help him with this sort of thing?

He reappeared within two minutes. This time in a plain, heather grey T-shirt. He was pulling a plaid, short sleeve, button-up on over it, leaving it open. It looked like it could've come from John's wardrobe. For all she knew, it probably had.

"Anything else?" he asked, arms outstretched, inviting her to take in his appearance again.

She gave him another appraising look. "Yeah, your hair."

"What about it?"

"It's too severe. Come here."

When he didn't move, she went over to him. She raised hands toward his head, and he flinched back. She looked him in the eye. "May I?"

After a long moment of trying to gauge her intentions, he nodded. He bent forward, not taking his eyes off hers. She reached out again and when her fingers touched his hair, his eyes finally closed. She gently rifled her fingers through the combed, smoothed down locks. His hair was softer than she'd anticipated. She shook it all out and then parted it the way she'd remembered he'd had it yesterday. When her fingers slowed, his eyes opened again, staring coolly at her again. How were his eyes even paler now?

Her breath caught and she stepped back awkwardly. Unable to figure out what else to do with them, she put her hands in her jeans pockets, while he straightened up. "Better?"

Veronica nodded and swallowed. "Natural is better." Much better. If he passed her on campus like this, she wouldn’t give him a second look, she told herself. Okay, maybe a second look. But not a third. Definitely not a third.

He frowned when she said nothing more, then said, "Thank you." Then he turned and started down the stairs.

Veronica called after him at the top of the stairs. "Do I get to know what this get-up is for?"

"Work," he replied before he walked out the front door. "You may resume your rummaging. If you find any more cigarettes, please be sure to leave them where I can find them."

"Toodles," Veronica said to the closed door.

And just what the hell was that? From the corner of her eye, the Logan Apparition pushed off from the fireplace where she'd last seen him leaning and strode towards her. He'd be wired, he'd be itching for an argument.

"Something interesting," she whispered, still looking at the front door.

So what? You’re trading one hairpile for another? He would be breathing hard now, staring her down, daring her to dare him.

She turned toward the apparition, no longer concerned if he did disappear. In fact, she hoped he would. But now she refrained from speaking aloud because she was afraid of raising her voice as she would if he were really there.

Piz was not – you know – God damn it! He and I are done. And were done before you went missing. Jesus, Logan, I'm here! I'm in another country across a whole ocean, looking for you. That's got to say something far more than a momentary distraction. And when I find you, I'll tell you –

"Hullo? Is that you down there, Veronica?" John called from his room. He was starting down the stairs.

"Uh, yeah," she replied, trying to get her bearings back in reality.

He came into the living room. She was relieved that he was dressed normally and that she wouldn't have to play any guessing games with him. "Are you here alone?" he asked as he glanced about the room in confusion. "I thought I heard someone talking."

Veronica blushed. "Sherlock was here, but then went out. For work, he said."

"Oh." John said. He was noticeably miffed.

"But I actually came up here to see you."

"Oh!" John said again, brightening suddenly. "And what can I do for you?"

His enthusiasm was infectious, and she found herself returning his eager smile, faltering only momentarily when she glanced back to the now desolate fireplace.

Part 3
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