invida_fic: (sherlock)
[personal profile] invida_fic
Title: A Damsel in Distrust (3/?)
Author: invida
Rating: PG-13 for the swears
Fandoms: BBC 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: Veronica Mars meets Sherlock Holmes. How well did you think it would go?
Acknowledgements: Thanks to [ profile] aud_woman_in for the beta, encouragement, and a willing ear. Thanks to [ profile] maybe_amanda for encouraging me to continue and then giving me the idea for an actual plot. Thanks to DC for the challenge.

"Veronica Mars."

"Jake Kane."

John stood beside Veronica and wondered if this was a tradition in the States, to say each other's full names by way of greeting – or threat, as it seemed to be in this case. All the Americans he'd met in the last two days had done it.

He tried to think of other Americans he knew. The Yank soldiers he'd worked with in Afghanistan were all about surnames and rank. But army life was a totally different world. He was beginning to think that the one Veronica lived in was too.

For a full minute those were the only words said when John and Veronica were ushered into the enormous, austere office. Kane Software's London location was located in the upper floors of a trendy glass office tower. These newer buildings provided a tremendous view of the city. But despite making these buildings geometrical wonders, they were impersonal and faceless on the inside. Trading glass for concrete just let the people inside know what they were missing.

Even so, this high up, how could they even tell what they were missing? Viewing London from above didn't tell you anything about London other than what it looked like from outside. No, if you wanted to know London, really know it, you needed to be in London, on the ground, where pomp, pretension, and economy lived in the same street; where you were confronted with history and modernity, with a constant griminess, and a press of humanity all at once. Down there, that's where the real London happened. Up here was for people who wanted to have the luxury of saying they were here but not have to deal with the real messiness of being in the city. See but not touch or hear or smell.

Jake Kane's office was shinier, but just as impersonal as the rest of this floor, with a sterile white and grey colour scheme. Glass and metal everywhere. If you tried to look too deeply at anything in the room, you were met with a reflection of yourself. It was all designed to unnerve.

Jake didn't stand when they'd entered the room. He just sat behind the wide glass desk and stared at Veronica impassively. Clarence remained in the room behind them, keeping watch in a stance that John immediately recognized as military issue. That explained a lot.

It was Jake who gave a cocky laugh and broke their bizarre staring contest.

"You haven't changed a bit," he said with an almost maniacal grin.

Veronica shrugged. "Wish I could say the same."

John took in the man behind the desk and wondered how he'd changed to Veronica. He looked just like the pictures he'd seen in the papers and magazines. His brown hair was flecked with grey and getting a little long for a man his age. He had a grizzled but trimmed beard. He wore a loose-fitting suit, and a dress shirt done up to his neck, but no tie. John could tell by his shoulders that Jake was probably a tall man even if he didn't get up, probably even taller than Sherlock, which was how he found himself judging heights now. It was the utter disdain in Jake's eyes as he watched Veronica that gave John a clue as to what Veronica must have been hinting at. And yet John could also see apprehension and discontent.

"Come to bring back my property?" Jake asked. "Again, I might add."

"I didn't take anything."

"Oh, you weren't found with anything. I'll give you that. That doesn't mean you didn't take anything."

"And where would I put whatever this anything is?" Veronica asked with her arms outstretched. "I was searched at Scotland Yard. I haven't been in the city long enough to find anywhere to hide anything." Her arms flopped back to her sides with a slap.

"And yet, here you are, with a new friend who you spent the night with, no less."

"Pardon me?" John stepped forward, fists clenched. Jake slid his gaze over to John, but before John could take another step forward, Clarence was in front of him.

"Clarence tells me you're a former army doctor, did a tour in Afghanistan, and now you write a blog about solving crimes. We particularly enjoyed the story called The Great Game. A criminal mastermind. Imagine!" Jake laughed with bizarre delight.

John looked up at Clarence. "Stalking, headlocks, internet searches…Where do you find the time?"

"I make the time," Clarence rumbled.

Jake turned back to Veronica. "A step down for you, isn't he, Veronica? I mean, he's not exactly a millionaire's son now, is he? Lord knows you've run through your gamut of those."

"You expect me to just stand here and let him insult her like that?" John asked Clarence.

"Yes. And if you can't, then you and I are going to have a conversation outside. I told you he didn't want to see her."

Jake smirked at the exchange between Clarence and John. "I'll grant you this, Veronica, he's loyal. You know, people can say what they like about you being your father's daughter, but you are more like your mother than you'll ever know."

Veronica's jaw clenched and John could almost hear her molars grinding before she said, "Well, you'd be the expert on that, wouldn't you?"

Veronica had given him some background on Jake before they arrived at Kane Software – the death of his daughter, the cover-up of her murder, his ruthlessness as a CEO. She hadn't told him much more than an exhaustive Google search could have unearthed. But obviously there was more to their history than she'd let on. She'd never mentioned anything about her mother.

Jake's grin widened, knowing he'd hit his mark. "Wanna know where she is? Is that why you're here? Is that what you wanna make a deal about?"

Veronica closed her eyes, regaining her composure. She exhaled loudly and when she opened her eyes again, her face was a mask of affability. "The day my mother cares about where I am, I'll consider making the effort."

There was just the tiniest fraction of disappointment in Jake's eyes before he wisely changed the subject. "Then why are you here? What could I possibly have that you haven't already taken?"

Anyone within a hundred mile radius could tell that question was laden with quite possibly a billion layers.


"Again, you've already taken it. That's why I called the police."

"And like I keep saying, it wasn't me."

John cleared his throat. "As much as I would love to take this scenic roundabout again, maybe you could clarify what it is you think Veronica's taken." When Veronica swung her head around to glare at John, he quickly added, "Which she clearly hasn't."

"My intellectual property."

"What, you don't keep a copy?" John asked with an incredulous laugh.

Jake looked at John with barely disguised irritation. "You don't make copies of trade-secrets. You give people access to them. And you make sure those people would rather die than reveal them."

Veronica pointed to herself. "And yet, you think I've been able to access them."

"Someone did and suddenly you're in town. I don't believe in coincidences. Besides, it's not like you haven't hacked my systems before."

"As flattered as I am that you're not underestimating me for once, I had help that time."

"Looks like you've got help this time, too." Jake gestured towards John.

With a withering glance, Veronica said, "How do you think a charming doctor I met yesterday helped me hack into the world-renowned Kane Software's trade-secrets vault two days ago?" John beamed at the flattering remark she'd paid him and then realized she'd also kind of said he was useless. Of course, if it had been Sherlock, the sentiment would've come out much worse.

"We all know you're a resourceful young woman," Clarence said. "The particular network where these trade-secrets were kept is only accessible by a select number of employees, all of whom have been vetted through rigorous background checks. All of whom have been debriefed and have alibis at the time of the theft."

"Whose credentials were used to access the network?" John asked.

"Mr. Kane's," Clarence answered.

"And I take it the most obvious conclusion isn't the correct one?" John asked.

It took Jake a beat to realize the implication. "Why the hell would I steal my own property?"

Veronica, frowning, put a finger to her lips as if in deep concentration. "Gee, if it looks like a set-up and smells like a set-up…"

Jake shook his head. "Never mind what I said earlier. You are just like your father."

Veronica grinned widely and insincerely. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"It'll be the last thing you take from me," Jake muttered.

"Are they always like this?" John asked Clarence.

"No, when she was younger, she had a healthy respect for her elders."

Jake smiled. "That's right. Veronica especially liked me. She once told me I was a 'cool dad'."

Veronica rolled her eyes. "Guess what I say now. Can we get back on track?"

John took that as a cue to make things clearer, at least for himself. "How d'you mean theft? They took a copy of it? So what?"

"If they take a copy and it gets anywhere near the public domain, then it's not a secret any more, is it?" Clarence said impatiently. "Besides, they didn't just take a copy. They took their copy, sent it through some elaborate routing process that we are still trying to sort out. Then they burned everything on the network. Now do you see why it's so important we get it back?"

"Christ. Yeah." Whoever this was meant business.

Veronica asked, "Why do you still think it was me? I mean, it was your credentials that were used. It's got to be someone close to you."

"What was taken is everything I've been working on for the last six months. It's going to revolutionize the security industry. You're telling me you wouldn't want that?"

Veronica shook her head with a laugh. "Okay, I have no clue what you're talking about. I have no interest in Kane Software and what it does. Never cared. If I stumbled on your so-called trade-secrets, I wouldn't even know what they were, let alone what they'd be worth to anybody. That's not what I'm here for."

"Then enlighten me, what are you here for? You can't have come to London just out of the blue."

Veronica nodded. "You're right. I'm here because of you. And the only reason you know I'm here is because I made sure you and Clarence knew I was here. Like I said, you have information I want and I'm willing to make a deal to get it."

Jake spread his arms wide. "Make your offer."

"I'll find who took your trade-secrets in exchange for the whereabouts of Gory Sorokin."

Jake's arms dropped and his eyes widened in surprise as he sat back, taking a moment to recover. "What makes you think I know where he is?" he asked.

"The Castle. You know where everybody in the Castle is. And you have influence over them all."

Veronica had also told John a bit about the Castle after she'd threatened Clarence Wiedman with it the day before. It was a secret society at her university, which sounded more ominous than the Masons. To initiate new pledges they would force them to tell their worst, and likely, criminal secrets about themselves on camera, which would ensure their loyalty. Jake was one of its highest-ranking members.

Jake shook his head. "Then you know why I can't give you that information. After you nearly destroyed us, we have to keep what little we have and that's our allegiance to one another."

Veronica shrugged. "Then you have to decide, don't you? What's more important? Your company's livelihood or your loyalty to a mob prince who would probably sell you out in a second if he was given the same choice."

"What do you want with him?"

"He took something of mine and disappeared with it. I want it back."

John frowned. He realized that Veronica hadn't mentioned the name of the person she was looking for yet. But obviously this Gory person wasn't the friend she was trying to find. What did Gory take that had anything to do with her friend? And why hadn't she just told Jake about the friend? At some point, he was going to have to insist on the whole story.

Jake chuckled. "I guess you know how it feels now." John wondered if he knew how ridiculous he looked – a middle-aged man, head of a multinational company, mocking a young woman. Even if they had a bitter past, he was acting like a prat.

Veronica crossed her arms and glared at Jake. "Do you really want to stack up what I've lost against what you've lost? Because I will always come out ahead in that contest."

She and Jake were having another staring contest, when Clarence interrupted. "So why can't you find him yourself? You're a private detective, after all."

Veronica broke her gaze from Jake and turned to Clarence. "I tracked him to London. Then I lost him. You know who his connections are. I'm assuming he's in the 'Old Country'." She used finger quotes and emphasized her terminology with a silly faux Eastern European accent. "It'll take me forever to infiltrate their organization and get what I want. I don't have that kind of time. I'm assuming The Castle can get past those connections."

Clarence didn't acknowledge her statement, but asked, "And how do you propose to find the real thief? We've already got top security consultants in the country looking into it. You're here on your own, with dubious backup at best." Clarence gave a nod towards John, who rolled his eyes in response.

"Please." Veronica snorted. "I've done your dirty work before, Clarence. Twice, and without even trying."

Jake leaned forward and spoke up. "And if I agree to this deal —"

Clarence stepped forward, interrupting. "Sir! That's not advisable —"

Jake held up a hand to silence him. "If I agree to your deal and tell you how to find him, what assurances do I have that Sorokin never finds out who your source was?"

"You have my word."

Jake sat back, shaking his head. "Not good enough."

Veronica blew out a frustrated breath. "You'll get what you want and I'll get what I want. I won't do anything to jeopardize that."

"It's that important to you then? What Gory took?"

Veronica stepped up, planted her hands on the desk, and leaned forward, studying Jake for a moment before she answered. "Yes."

Jake stared back at her, as if gauging her sincerity. Without taking his eyes off her, he said, "Give her what she needs to find the asshole who took my property."

"And then you'll tell me how to get to Gory Sorokin?" Veronica asked, confirming their agreement.

Jake just nodded, then turned his back to them, staring at the view out the window as Clarence showed them out.


Clarence ushered them down a hallway. Tinted windows lined one side of the hall while empty boardrooms lined the other. Veronica had been prattling on to the bodyguard about some rubbish from their past, obviously trying to get under his skin, when Clarence pushed open an external door that led out to a terrace. He grabbed John by the upper arm and shoved him outside.

"What the hell — ?" John started in surprise and anger.

"Hey!" Veronica yelled.

"You wait here," Clarence said, pointing at John with one hand while holding the equally surprised Veronica back from the door with his other.

"Why?!" John said. "Your boss just told you to give us the details we need!"

Clarence held the balcony door close to him so that John could not find an opening back through the entrance. "No, he said I have to give it to Ms. Mars. You weren't part of the deal. There's sensitive proprietary material everywhere in this office and I can't keep my eye on both of you."

"And you can keep your eye on me out here?" He could see through the glass that Veronica had stopped struggling with Clarence and stood there looking resigned.

Clarence pointed up to a camera above the door. "I'll come back for you when we are finished. And you can't get back in without security access." Then Clarence raised his voice, directing his next sentences past John. "And don't think about sneaking in behind anybody. Our employees know better than to just let anyone in the building!"

From behind him, he heard a murmur of consent. John turned to find a handful of people, milling about, all with cigarettes dangling from their lips or fingers. Fantastic. Not only was he just humiliated in front of strangers, but he was also going to get a lungful of second-hand smoke for his efforts as well.

The door shut before John could turn back and give Clarence more of a piece of his mind. Veronica shrugged helplessly at John through the window before she followed Clarence down the hall and out of sight.

"Bugger," John muttered.

Well, he was stuck, he thought with a sigh. He might as well enjoy the view. He moved to the edge of the terrace where he hoped the breeze would keep the smoke from getting into his clothes or hair.

John leaned against the railing. What would Sherlock do in this situation? Besides inhale deeply, that is. Well, he'd take one look at the view, declare it dull, then turn around and deduce anyone in sight. Might as well practice, John thought.

He began to take in the details of the smokers, when the door opened and a new batch of smokers filed onto the terrace. He turned his deductive attentions to the newcomers.

Twenty-five, left-handed, ironic T-shirt, probably lives in Shoreditch, thinks he's really a musician, but is here to pay the bills. Next, bottle-blonde, five foot - two inches, married, about six months pregnant — God, really? The doctor in him was dying to lecture her. Moving on… Oh, bloody hell. No.

John caught Sherlock's eye. Sherlock turned to make a dash for the door but the large bloke who had filed out behind him was in his way and he had to dodge to avoid running into him. While he apologized to the big man, John was able to catch up. He was in front of Sherlock in an instant.

Sherlock sighed deeply before he said, "Help you?"

John looked him up and down with a bemused expression. If he'd seen Sherlock leaving the flat this morning, he would have guessed he was going to a fancy dress party.

"Cadge a smoke off ya, mate?" John asked with a smug grin.

Sherlock started to shake his head innocently, but then quickly assessed that he was caught. Why the hell else would he be out in a smoking area? He closed his eyes, let out another put-upon sigh, then reached into his pocket and fished out a cigarette pack, tapped one out for John.

"So you found the hiding place then? Where the cigarettes were?" John asked quietly, so that others wouldn't hear, and took the offered cigarette.

"'Course. A doddle." Sherlock muttered with a shrug as he moved toward the railing. John followed.

"And you needed cigarettes because…?"

"Had to fit in here. Nothing else for it." Sherlock waved towards the other smokers. "Besides, it's amazing what you learn during a smoking break."

John understood the implication right away. He was distracting Sherlock from detective work. Well, he could bloody well take another break later. Right now John wanted explanations.

Sherlock lit his own cigarette, then held the lighter out to John, sheltering it from the wind with his other hand. John frowned at the little flame, then at Sherlock.

"You're going to have to fit in, too, you know," Sherlock explained. "You did just ask for a cigarette. It would look terribly suspicious if you didn't at least light it."

Right. John looked down at the cigarette he'd been fiddling with in his fingers. Oh God. He should've known Sherlock would get the last laugh. He held the cigarette up to his mouth and let Sherlock light it.

John took a puff, as he'd seen other smokers do. He grimaced and sputtered as he exhaled.

Sherlock shook his head. "Don't inhale it again. You just have to fool the camera. Hold it over the railing and put it to your mouth once in a while. Tap it to knock the ash off the end before it gets too long," he said with the cigarette to his mouth, muffling their discussion. They both turned and leaned on the railing. By now the other smokers had formed their own cliques, leaving them to their conversation.

After a moment of stolen glances around the smoking area, Sherlock spoke in a low voice. "This'll have to be short. Camera's got a view of the whole terrace. If security's watching, they've already seen you approach me. We can't look like we're talking any more than casually."

"So what's all this then?" John asked. "I leave you to your own devices for a day, and you put on your least posh clothes and go out and get a proper job? If I go on holiday will you be married, have 2.5 children and have moved to St. Albans by the time I get back?"

"Oh, shut up. You know what this is."

"Sure I do. You're following us around 'cos you're jealous. Or you're showing off that you could get into Kane Software on your own."

"Neither. As usual, you are letting your feelings cloud your judgment," Sherlock said before taking a drag.

John rolled his eyes. "Right. Robot. Forgot. Well, regardless, dazzle me then. How'd you get into Kane Software?"

"How do you think I got in?" Why would he ever be straightforward when Sherlock could make it into a lesson? John was never sure if it was really to teach him anything other than he'd never get one over on Sherlock.

"They needed a consulting detective?" John asked, tapping his cigarette.

"No. They needed a security consultant. Got the consulting company they're using to hire me and plant me here. Impressed them with a couple of deductions and I was in. Didn't take much convincing, really."

"Hope you didn't use your own name. They've already looked me up. Won't take them a jot to know you and I are linked."

"Obviously I didn't."

John glanced up and looked at Sherlock's badge. 'S. Anderson'. Nicely done.

"And what have you learned so far?"

"Nothing yet. Induction all morning. Haven't been able to get away yet. Should be able to sneak off after this break though. You?"

"Trade-secrets. Gonna revolutionise security software. That's what was stolen. Veronica's off getting the details from the head of security right now."

"Of course!" Sherlock hit the railing with his fist.

"Of course, what?"

Sherlock chuckled. "You really don't see what this is all about?"

John simply shook his head. They didn't have time for the guessing and getting it wrong game. Their cigarettes were quickly running out.

"Kane Software, a worldwide software corporation, is robbed? And right after who turned up on our doorstep, asking us to decipher what she thought was pilfered code?"

"The Woman?" John asked, frowning. He knew better than to use Irene Adler's name with Sherlock. "You think this is her?" John knew very well it couldn't be her, what with her being dead and all, but he was positive that Sherlock still didn't know that.

"No!" Sherlock gritted out. "Think harder! Who was behind her?"

"Him?!" John asked incredulously. He realized he'd said it too loudly when heads turned. He lowered his voice again. "You think he's working this?"

"Obviously. Why else would I be here?"

"Dunno. Perhaps to help the girl staying with us who's in trouble?"

"You clearly have a handle on that. So I can devote my time to the real matter."

John narrowed his eyes at Sherlock. "The real matter?! The real matter here is that even if this is him then he's setting Veronica up. And she needs help. That should be the only matter."

"And I told you that she's manipulating you. Here you are, defending her again. You're out here, where you're learning the very important art of pretending to smoke, while she's in there, up to God knows what!"

John took a moment to realize what he was implying. "You don't honestly think she is working with Moriarty, do you?"

At the mention of his name, Sherlock shot John a look of 'shut up'. "He didn't get what he wanted through The Woman and her MOD client. Obviously, he's desperate for this code they wanted me to decipher. So he's trying another tactic. Straight to the source."

He was making too many leaps for John. "But you said you believed Veronica. That she didn't do it. That she's looking for her friend." Doubt tugged at him. After her exchange with Jake Kane, he wasn't sure at all what Veronica was looking for and it gave Sherlock's theory more credence.

Sherlock blinked. "I did, didn't I? Well, either I was wrong then or I'm wrong now. Either way, we have something else to go on now. But more importantly, my cigarette is done." Sherlock stubbed out his butt.

Before Sherlock could walk away John asked, "What am I to do then?"

Sherlock shrugged. "Prove me right or wrong. If nothing else, you're aware now that more's going on than we know, so be observant." He turned on his heel to leave the terrace, but then turned back and held up the cigarette butt to John. "Doesn't count, right? Shouldn't count if it was part of the disguise, yeah?"

"Whatever," John muttered. Normally he would have relished Sherlock squirming, but he couldn't hide his disappointment with the pieces of the puzzle that Sherlock had revealed.

He watched as Sherlock went to the door, which opened just before he got to it. Out stepped Clarence Wiedman with Veronica in tow. Clarence ignored Sherlock as though he were just another worker. Hiding in plain sight, Sherlock called it. It still impressed the hell out of John whenever he saw it in action.

As Clarence crooked a finger at John, signalling for him to rejoin them, neither Sherlock nor Veronica showed any surprise at seeing the other and passed each other without acknowledgement. John was amazed at Veronica's acting ability. What a match she was for Sherlock. And that thought dejected him all the more so he pushed it away. He consoled himself knowing that Sherlock would never see it, and Veronica would probably kill him first.

Veronica didn't seem to notice John's mood, and simply smiled at him, like there was no one else in the world she'd rather see at that moment. Damn. He was going to have a rough time staying observant if she kept that up.

John followed them back into the building. Veronica held back to walk along side him. As soon as Clarence back was to them, Veronica whispered, "So what did he find out?"

John sighed. Of course she knew what Sherlock was doing. And why wouldn't she? She was clever. She'd have to be to stay ahead of them if she really was playing the game Sherlock suspected. Wouldn't that be what he would say right now? Well, maybe now was the time to put some of Sherlock's lectures to use. Give nothing away and then there isn't anything to hold against you later.

He steeled his nerve and he simply shook his head. It could mean anything – don't know, not now, or just nothing. She could take that however she wanted.

But he felt his resolve start to crack when her hand slipped into the crook of his arm, letting him take the lead.

"Too bad for him."

Part 4
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