Author's Note: OK, so it seems I buried the revelation in the last chapter too deep. I think if I hadn't altered a word someone would have gotten it. Think of different ways to say 'told.' But I don't want to just give it away... so here is a hint about the hint if you want to go back and try to find it. Someone is not who they appear to be. Veronica knows who they really are, but hasn't shared with anyone else. In the last chapter Veronica (subtly) let the person in question know that she knew. And yes, I am a brat to tease it without adding much if anything to the facts.
Recap: Logan, Veronica and their friends start their senior year of high school, along with new and old friends. LoVe are going strong, but ghosts of the past are never far behind. Newly engaged Keith is running for Sheriff. Kate's nightmares lead to revelations about her past and draw Veronica more firmly into the 09ers orbit. Duncan struggled to figure out where he fit in now that his (former) best friend was dating his (ex) girlfriend. An ill advised affair with Kendall finally ends and Duncan takes steps to mending his peer relationships. Wallace likes Jackie and thinks they have moved from dating to exclusive, but the friction between Jackie and V makes things difficult. Dick's interest in Mac continues to grow, causing friction with Enbom, and making Mac face down the hard choice of moving on, going back or going it alone. After run ins with both Lizzy and Nash, Meg ends her relationship with Richie, but Nash is sending mixed signals. Veronica works with Logan's friends to pull off a surprise laden birthday weekend for him, just as the fracture in Veronica's friendship with Wallace widens. Finally Wallace opens his eyes to see Jackie a bit clearer, but their status is ambiguous at best. An explosion rocks Neptune High leaving emergency services scrambling and seven students in various states of health. The mole is revealed, Kate's fundraiser happens and Logan's surprise birthday weekend goes off without any (much) drama, despite a freshly single Enbom deciding that Mac is the one he wants even as she grows closer to Dick. A small hiccup tarnishes Keith and Alicia's pre-election trip to Chicago, but all bets are off as a field trip to Shark Stadium ends in tragedy with several lives hanging in the balance. Veronica walks away from the crash, but Meg is recovering from her injuries in the hospital, while Duncan remains in a coma. Survivor's guilt eats at V, until she turns her focus to a new investigation.
Chapter 36: Boys will be Boys
(Saturday, October 29)
Saturday morning Logan was up bright and early, shrugging on his wetsuit as his eyes scanned the horizon to gauge the surf.
Matt: Hey Logan.
Logan and his neighbor continued their preparations in silence, tugging their wetsuits into place and waxing their boards.
Matt: Don't you have some college entrance exam today?
Logan: ACTS. But not until 9.
Matt: Plenty of time then.
Logan: Not enough.
Matt: (smiling) It's never enough.
With that they jogged side by side into the water, enjoying a few hours of stress free relaxation time that also counted as exercise.
Matt followed Logan out of the water, even though he didn't have any place else to be that morning.
Matt: Crazy week.
Logan nodded, handing Matt a bottle of water from the refrigerator.
Logan: A lot of crazy weeks.
Matt: You doing alright with everything?
Logan frowned, but didn't offer a snarky response. Matt had proven to be a good neighbor and tenant and was shaping into someone that Logan thought he could trust. With everything the man had seen and knew, he hadn't gone to the press or spread rumors about Logan or his family.
Logan: Define alright.
Matt's head cocked to the side in acknowledgement.
Matt: And Veronica?
Logan: She's… Veronica. I think she's investigating the bus crash for the driver's daughter, but she hasn't mentioned it to me.
Matt: Have you asked?
Logan: We have a policy where we're not allowed to lie.
Matt: How does that work?
Logan: Sometimes it's just being creative in how you answer something, other times-
Matt: It's not asking or not telling. Do you care that she's investigating?
Logan: Depends. (Matt waited silently for Logan to continue.) Depends on if it was an accident or the bus driver was suicidal or if someone was motivated or crazy enough to try to kill a whole bus full of kids.
Matt frowned, not having considered that the crash might have been anything other than an accident.
Matt: What do the police say?
Logan: Sheriff, we have sheriff here man, and since Ronnie's dad is about to be the head honcho again, you might remember that.
Matt grinned, but didn't fail to notice that Logan didn't answer.
Matt: I'll let you get ready, but… you're dating a complicated woman. That's probably half the reason you love her. My advice, not that you're asking… (Logan waved a hand, indicating for him to continue.) My advice is to keep doing what you're doing, be there for her, but don't crowd her. People who survive traumatic incidents have a lot of emotions to work through; maybe investigating will help Veronica do just that.
Logan laughed low in his throat.
Logan: Man, you do not know Veronica. She never met a complicated emotion that she couldn't pummel into the back corner of her closet until such a point as she was ready to rationalize it to death.
Matt joined in Logan's laughter and waved as he exited through the accordion glass doors that made up Logan's west facing lower wall.
Matt: Good luck today.
Logan: (cocky) No luck needed.
Matt: We should get together for dinner sometime soon. The four of us.
Logan nodded in acknowledgement as he ascended the stairs two at a time.
Across town, Veronica and Wallace were in her Mini Cooper sitting in the drive thru at a taco shop.
Veronica: (shouting over Wallace who was driving) Um, yeah, can we get two breakfast burritos with eggs, bacon, cheese and potatoes?
Veronica was biting into her burrito before Wallace even made it to the street.
Wallace: Girl, you should see a doctor about tape worms in your stomach.
Veronica: Whatever, you're just jealous you have to watch your girly figure.
Wallace: As if.
Veronica: I rest my point, Alicia Silverstone.
Wallace: Leave me alone, I'm stressed out over this test.
Veronica: Don't be.
Wallace gave her a dirty look.
Veronica: You prepared. That's all you can do. Being stressed only makes it worse.
Wallace: Ok, who are you and what have you done with my BFF?
Veronica: Ha, ha. (She took another bite, a blissful look on her face.) You'll do fine, bro. Your SAT score from your retest is bound to be higher, and with your GPA and basketball you'll get into more than a few schools.
Wallace: But will they be schools that I want to go to that my moms will approve of?
Veronica: You're on your own with that. I have my own Yale obsessed parental unit to deal with.
Wallace: (grinning, imitating Keith) Yale, baby!
Veronica frowned as an ad came on the radio, announcing that Celeste Kane would be the guest on their morning news show.
Veronica: Hey, um, I have some errands to run later. You free to act as my chauffer?
Wallace: I'm meeting some guys from the team for pizza before the party tonight, but I'm available before that.
Veronica forced herself to not comment on his plan to attend the "Life is Short" party, which she though was in poor taste, and not to ask about what was going on with him and Jackie since Logan's birthday.
Arriving at the testing facility, Veronica looked around for Logan as she waited in the registration line, seeing lots of familiar faces from Neptune and Pan. About to pull out her phone to see if he'd texted, she felt a hand on her back. She turned around to see Logan standing behind her, looking relaxed, his hair still wet.
Veronica: Cutting it kind of close.
Logan: Right on time.
He leaned down to kiss her lightly, before handing her a stainless steel reusable travel mug.
Veronica: For me?
Logan: Who else would I be buying coffee for?
Veronica: (impish) Your other girlfriends?
Wallace scoffed, but otherwise ignored their flirting.
Logan: You know that I'm a one woman man. I only want you. You outta know that by now.
Veronica smiled and took a drink from the mug.
Veronica: (closing her eyes in enjoyment) Hmm.
Logan: That good?
Logan: Maybe you should give me a taste.
Veronica innocently held out the mug to him, but her eyes were gleaming. Logan ignored her offer and instead kissed her again, for longer this time, tasting the coffee on her lips.
Logan: (sotto voiced) You know I think I could learn to like coffee.
Veronica smiled and stepped back, hearing Wallace make gagging noises behind her.
Inside the testing room, Logan lifted the messenger bag he'd had slung over his shoulder up onto the desk and pulled out a reusable water bottle for himself and one for Wallace and Mac who was in the same test room. A few others were visible in the bag.
Wallace: What's this for?
Logan: It's for Veronica.
Wallace: (baffled) Then why didn't you give it to her?
Logan: 'Cause it's yours, but it's for Veronica.
Wallace looked baffled.
Mac: (smirking) Hydration is very important.
Veronica nodded happily.
Veronica: (to Wallace, speaking as if her words carried a lot of importance) I care about your health.
Wallace looked at the metal bottle with suspicious confusion, but shrugged it off.
Wallace: Whatever wierdos.
Veronica's smile grew until it encompassed her whole face and Logan smiled back ducking his head.
Mac: Honestly, how does anyone think you two are badass?
Mac looked at Veronica.
Veronica: My reputation speaks for itself.
At the sports park, Woody was coaching his little league team on the baseball field. On the fence behind home plate was a large banner that displayed his face and slogan: "Neptune: Cleaner, safer."
Woody gave advice to the boy at bat before walking over to the dug-out where Keith was waiting to talk to him.
Woody: Keith, good to see you, out enjoying the morning sun?
Keith: No, I'm here on business actually. (Woody's smile grew a little stiffer.) I want the Board of Supervisors to authorize special funding to raise the bus.
Woody: I don't see why that is necessary. From what I've been told the investigation is about to be closed. This is a tragic accident, and I'm so happy both our daughters got off the bus when they did.
Keith: There's no proof the driver-
Woody: Keith, buddy. We may have been a little overly cautious in asking you to investigate. It seems like your deputy, what's his name?
Keith: Rodgers, that's it, is doing a bang up job. But Keith, this is an open and shut case, and you can tie up any loose ends once we're both in office.
Keith: To find out what really happened we need the bus.
Woody: Even in a community like ours, municipal budgets are tight. Frankly put, Balboa County can't afford this expense, and even if we could allocate some emergency funding away from say… the fire department, we'd have to justify the expense, and at this point I don't think I could make that argument to the voters.
Keith: And if the cause of the crash is still undetermined after the election?
Woody: (laughing) I just don't see how that could be. (winks) But we can talk then if that is the case. Just a matter of time. This is good news, Keith, voters don't like uncertainty. Nothing can change what happened, lives were lost, but what people need from us is a clear and final answer, not drawn out investigations.
Unsatisfied with that answer, Keith frowned as he watched Woody return to coaching.
Three and a half hours after entering the testing rooms, students spilled out. Some looked weary, others anxious and some relieved. Veronica was among those who just looked tired.
After some fancy double speak that Logan let her get away with, too easily, she thought to herself, Wallace followed Veronica's directions to the convenience store they'd stopped at after leaving Shark Stadium the day of the crash.
Wallace: OK, I'll bite, why are we here? 'Cause everything they have here, I could have got you at the Sac-n-Pac. And I get an employee discount.
Veronica: (solemn) This is the last place we stopped before the bus went over the edge.
Wallace's expression grew serious and he followed Veronica into the store, shooting her a sympathetic look as she looked physically ill at the sight of multiple bus-crash souvenirs for sale.
Wallace: You OK? You need to sit down?
Veronica: (tightly controlled anger) I need to replace my taser, 'cause –
Wallace: Whoa, girl, you want info from this guy, you don't want to tase him.
Veronica: (with a dark look and tone) I do. I really, really do.
She took a deep breath and held it.
Wallace: Are you counting to ten? Does that work?
Veronica: I'm remembering why I'm a misanthrope. Now, make yourself scarce, I'm going to talk to Mr. Happy to Capitalize on the Tragedy of Others.
Approaching the counter inside the convenience store, Veronica got the attention of the store clerk, Duane, by saying she'd seen him on the news. She tried to smile and look interested, but couldn't help but let her eyes stray to his garish sweatshirt, the same one he'd worn during his interview that was also currently for sale in his front window. The sweatshirt that has a yellow school bus, topped by a halo and wings, under which was written, "We'll never forget." There were key chains and buttons for sale on the counter with the same design, along with a sign that said "We Do Not Make Change. Don't Even Ask."
The store clerk looked happy to have someone to talk to.
Duane: You saw that? I guess you did, you're here, right? And look at you, all tiny and cute except for those bruises, what happened to you honey?
Veronica shrugged innocently, immediately flinching at the burst of pain in her shoulder.
Veronica: I'm in an underground fighting club.
Duane: No shit? That's super cool. You're a tough chick, huh? Couldn't tell it by looking at you.
Veronica smiled and blinked her eyes trying to look vapid.
Duane: Let me ask you a question, did I look fat to you? 'Cause I was watching it on the news and I was like, "Damn, I look fat." Then I read something online says, like, the camera adds ten pounds. I was thinking maybe it was them, but just in case, though, started a diet regiment this morning.
Veronica decided to play the girl who was into morbid things and brought the conversation to the bus driver.
Veronica: Just thinking about him standing here is like...just so cool! I-or maybe you think that's weird, I don't know. (looking up at him through her lashes) I'm kind of into the macabre.
Duane: Yeah, you're one of those freaky sex and death type kids, aren't you? We've been getting a lot up here lately. Boss tells me to throw them out, but I'm like "No way, man." Goth money spends just as well as, uh...non-Goth money, so. But if we've been getting a lot of Munsters in here, I'd say that you're the Marilyn, hon', 'cause you're...pretty.
She simpered, but inside had to fight her abhorrence.
Veronica asked if she could buy the last meal the bus driver had. He gave it to her, informing her that a lot of people had asked for it. Veronica forced down her disgust, but took the slushy and pack of peanuts from the clerk.
VVO: Slushy and peanuts? That tells me nothing.
Veronica took note of the the "No change" sign and, sitting immediately underneath a plastic box full of plastic St. Christopher medals, on sale for twenty-five cents each as the clerk counted out her change. She picked up a medal, recalling what Duane had said on the news about Ed Doyle buying a medal then throwing it away immediately.
Veronica: (forced bright smile) And I can't leave here without one of these.
She handed over a dollar bill.
Duane: Mm, St. Chris. Hope it helps you. It didn't help him.
Veronica looked hard at the "No change" sign again. She looks up and sees the pay phone in the corner.
VVO: Ed Doyle's saint toss wasn't a sign he was turning his back on God. He just needed change for the phone, so he bought the cheapest thing he could find. But who did he call and why doesn't anyone know about it? And why use a payphone?
Climbing back into the car, Wallace sent Veronica a look.
Veronica: I guess, since I have no idea-
Wallace: You're investigating.
Veronica: (stone faced) And?
Wallace: And since I'm driving your ass around, I'm guessing that Logan doesn't know. And it should go without saying that your dad probably doesn't know.
Veronica: If it should go without saying…
Wallace: Listen. V. I got your back, I'll drive you here, there, wherever, but I'm not gonna lie to your dad. In case you forgot the man is licensed to carry a firearm, and is about to become our Sheriff.
Wallace: And I'm not going to lie to Logan either. (Veronica frowned.) You're the one who wanted me and your boy to be all buddy-buddy.
At Neptune Memorial Hospital, Logan sees that the crowd in the waiting room had thinned out considerably. He waited for the elevator, checking his phone to see if Veronica had called him back. His mom wanted to see both of them and was on her way from LA already.
The elevator doors opened to reveal Rams and Kate.
Rams: Hey man.
Kate: Logan… (Kate sighed as she stepped forward to hug him tightly.) You...
Logan: (patting her back awkwardly while looking over her shoulder at Rams) Uh, hey Kate.
Rams grinned at him.
Kate: It was all over the news, even on the east coast. (drawing back) What you did… Veronica must be so…
Logan: Mad? Happy? Sad? Angry?
Logan: You saw Meg?
Kate: Yeah, she… (swallowing hard) she looks great.
Logan reached out to squeeze Kate's arm, remembering how hard she'd been hit by Lily's death, his realization followed by a quick stab of guilt. Kate and Lily had been friends, but Lily had been Veronica's best friend, practically her only friend, and when Lily had died, Logan had made sure Veronica had to suffer through it alone.
Logan: She's going to be OK.
Kate: (fighting back her emotions) I know. And Veronica?
Logan: Bruised but still kicking.
Kate: I bet.
She looked at Logan again and stepped forward to hug him once more. This time Logan was more at ease with it, since he knew where Kate was coming from and hugged her back firmly.
Kate: You're a good guy.
The three teens smiled as if they were all in on the inside joke.
Rams: Should I be jealous?
Kate: You should, just on principal.
Rams arched one eyebrow at Logan then grinned.
Rams: Nah, I think I've got you on lockdown pretty well, and God knows Logan has his hands full with Veronica.
Logan didn't comment, hearing them argue light heartedly as they walked down the hall.
Kate: Who has who on lockdown?
As the doors closed, Logan glimpsed a familiar but somewhat unexpected face: Jason Nash.
Upstairs in the private ward, Logan looked in Duncan's room to see Celeste sitting silently, her eyes locked on her phone. Moving to Meg's room he found her grandpa sitting with her, watching TV.
Meg's Grandpa: Logan. Come in.
Logan: I don't want to interrupt.
Meg: (trying to joke) Interrupt what?
Logan glances at the screen to see that it was tuned to a golf tournament. Her grandpa smiled and handed Meg the remote before standing up slowly.
Meg's Grandpa: If you'll be here for a minute, I'll go stretch these old bones.
Meg: You're not that old Grandpa and I don't need someone with me all the time, you can go-
Meg's Grandpa: I'm not going anywhere, Margaret.
Logan arched one eyebrow and Meg made a face.
Logan: I'll be happy to keep Margaret company while you take a break.
Meg's Grandpa: Thank you, son.
Logan nodded, but Meg saw the momentary freezing of his expression. Recovering quickly he flopped down in the chair her grandfather had vacated, hooking his leg over the arm.
Logan: So when are you blowing this joint?
Meg: No idea. They refuse to tell me when I can go home, or even what they're looking for as far as healing to let me go home.
Logan: I'll find out.
Meg smiled and shook her head.
Meg: Just that easy.
Logan smiled and they fell into easy conversation until her grandfather returned a half hour later, standing outside the room talking to Jake who had shown up.
Logan: You need anything? Some movies, books, magazines?
Meg: Veronica's bringing my laptop today. They have wifi and I have Netflix so I should be set.
Logan: (standing up to leave) Uh, I saw Nash downstairs, the new guy?
Meg: (blushing lightly.) Oh?
Logan: Yeah. Want me to add him to the list or…
Meg: (quickly) Yeah. (pausing) I mean, sure, if he's still around.
Logan narrowed his eyes on her and Meg did her best to look unaffected.
Logan: (cautiously) You and Veronica both looked into him, right?
Meg: No… oh you mean to see if he was the one selling tabloid stories about you? Yeah.
Logan: (doubtful) And he checked out?
Meg: That's what Veronica said. I could never get much out of him.
Meg: Leave him alone, Logan.
Logan: You like him?
Meg: (blush deepening) I might.
Logan: Then I'll put him on notice.
Meg: On notice? What does that mean?
Logan: Exactly what you think it means.
Meg: (groaning) Logan…
Logan: (gleeful) It can be my new hobby.
Logan saluted her and walked away, ignoring her protest.
Seeing that Celeste had left (probably once Jake arrived) Logan slipped into Duncan's room, standing next to his fallen friend, unsure if Duncan could hear him or even where the longtime friends stood with each other.
Logan: Hey man. Lots going on. We took the ACTs today, but you still have time to take them in the spring. Party tonight at Dick's house, should be pretty entertaining. Dick is totally into Mac, who you might remember broke up with Enbom not long ago, it's a real mess. Dick's tongue hanging out of his mouth as he trails after her, Mac looking pretty much like she has no idea about any of it, and Enbom watching from a moody distance. He broke up with Alexis. If you wake up soon, you could get in on that if you wanted. She's good to look at but not much else is going on there… but I'm sure she'd love to help you get back into the swing of things.
Logan paused rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.
Logan: Meg is recovering. She's next door. She and Veronica went over the cliff, but we got to them in time. I really need to thank you, man. I don't know what I would have done if Veronica… Just… Thanks, DK. I owe you one.
Logan pulled up a chair to sit down, keeping up his one sided conversation.
Logan: So, what else has been going on? Jimmy Daye is cheating on Liz again, this time with that red headed sophomore…
Logan's phone rang and he recognized the number as the one from the county jail where Aaron was being held until his trial since he'd broken his house arrest by coming to Logan's and starting a fight. Logan frowned, but hit ignore easily, returning to his story about a freshman who had gotten an atomic wedgie in the hall earlier that week.
Neptune's sheriff's station. Veronica smiled wanly at Deputy Sacks who was manning the front desk.
Deputy Sacks: Veronica.
Veronica: Hi Sacks. I think… I came in because I might have remembered something…
She broke off her sentence to rub her forehead.
Deputy Sacks: You feeling OK?
Veronica: A headache.
She swayed a bit.
Deputy Sacks: Maybe you should sit down.
Veronica: My head is just pounding. Maybe somewhere quiet?
He ushered her into an interrogation room, and Veronica slumped into the chair.
Deputy Sacks: I can get you some water.
Veronica: No, I think, maybe this is low blood sugar, I haven't eaten since breakfast. Maybe a soda?
Deputy Sacks: The machine is broken.
Veronica looked up at him, giving him her most pathetic look, before taking off her sweatshirt, making sure her bruised arm and shoulder were on full display and moving very slowly as if every inch was painful.
Deputy Sacks: Yeah, I'll get you a soda across the street.
Sacks left and as soon as he did she pulled out a notebook and picked up the phone.
VVO: Few people have quick access to pay-phone records. On the short list, law enforcement.
Veronica: Hi, this is Deputy Ann Shaughnessy from the Neptune County Sheriff's Department. I need a number and an address for a call placed last Wednesday between 4:15 and 4:30 PM from this phone number: 619-987-1254.
Several minutes later Veronica was entering the number into her new phone (courtesy of Mac). Hearing footsteps outside she quickly hung up just as Rodgers opened to door, looking at her with concerned eyes that made her feel guilty.
Rogers: Sacks said you might have remembered something?
He entered the room, shutting the door behind him and handing her the soda.
Rogers: You look terrible kid.
Veronica: Thanks. (lightly) I tried using concealer, but…
Rogers: (smiling faintly)Yeah. So, whatcha got?
Veronica: It's more what I don't remember.
Veronica: I don't remember the bus driver acting at all shady or depressed.
Rogers: How do you think a depressed person looks?
Veronica: I don't know.
Rogers: Exactly. People with chemical depression can put up a good front. We never really know what's going on in someone else's head.
He frowned, his gaze narrowing on her.
Rogers: Is this really why you came in today?
Veronica: I met his daughter…
Rogers: Jessie, yeah. I feel bad for her too, the whole family, but we have to follow the evidence. You know that.
Veronica: I know, but… just, be sure.
Rogers: If you know something Veronica, something concrete…
She looked down, then lifted her head to meet his eyes.
Veronica: I don't. Not yet.
Rodgers sighed deeply, sounding tired.
Rogers: Once you're ready to share you know where to find me.
Veronica nodded and stood up to leave, but his voice stopped her.
Rogers: And, kiddo? One time offer, you can tell me whatever it is you're doing, whatever it is you know and I won't tell your dad where I got it from if I don't have to.
Veronica: I appreciate the offer, Deputy.
Rogers: Just doing my job, ma'am.
Veronica: You'll make a good Sherriff one of these days, Rodgers.
Rogers: From your mouth to God's ears. (He cleared his throat.) Speaking of my job… tell your friends that we're going to have a road checkpoint on Hillside Drive tonight. Anyone behind the wheel should be stone cold sober.
Veronica smiled and walked closer to Rodgers, pressing a kiss to his temple.
Veronica: I'll spread the word.
Logan was sitting at his desk upstairs in the office nook typing on his laptop when his phone rang.
Logan: Hey I called you earlier.
Veronica: I know, I'm calling you back. What's up?
Logan hesitated deciding on whether to ask where she'd been or not.
Logan: You at the hospital?
Veronica: No. I'm going later.
VVO: This whole not lying to each other thing is tricky.
Logan's jaw tightened, but he decided to let it go for the moment. The first few days after the accident Veronica had been full of guilt and debilitated by what ifs, since she'd met the bus driver's daughter she'd started to act more like herself, and while Logan was still on the fence about how he felt about her investigating serious crimes, he knew she got a sense of strength and achievement from it, and since there had been no hint of the bus crash being anything other than an accident or tragic decision of a disturbed man, Logan wasn't going to pick a fight over her looking into it.
Logan: My mom is on her way from LA. She wants to take us both out to eat. I can come pick you up.
Veronica: No, I can come to you.
Logan: You're driving?
Veronica: I drove to Wallace's this morning to pick him up. Nothing long distance, but I think for short trips I'm OK. My shoulder and elbow are both a lot less sore today.
Logan: But with the meds…
Veronica: I'm driving.
Logan: OK. (pause) She should be here in about 20 minutes.
Veronica: I'm on my way now.
Veronica sat on Logan's couch, leaning back against the pillows with a sigh. Logan was outside saying goodbye to his mother and Veronica was exhausted after a long day. She closed her eyes and was half asleep when Logan came back inside.
Logan: You look tired. Long day?
Veronica watched him with cautions eyes.
Veronica: Yeah. You could say that.
Earlier that afternoon. Veronica had left the sheriff station armed with a name. Heading straight to the Doyle home, a rundown apartment building not dissimilar to Veronica's home. Jessie had been cautious, wondering if it was good news that her dad had called someone, but Veronica couldn't answer that without knowing Ed Doyle's reason for making the call.
Veronica: It might be. Do you recognize the name Cotter? The address is from your apartment complex. Did your dad ever hang out with any of the neighbors?
Veronica: I went by there first, but no one was around. I'll stop by again later.
The doorbell rang and Jessie answered it to find Deputy Tommy Mullen, number two in the department behind Rodgers at the door with several other deputies. Jessie protested that they couldn't come in because her mother wasn't home, but they announced they had a search warrant.
Veronica: For what?
Sacks: Suicide is a crime and suicide that kills six others is murder.
Jessie paled, but still looked stubbornly resistant. Leo enters at the end of the stream of deputies, looking at Veronica in confusion.
Leo: What are you doing here?
Veronica: Jessie's a friend.
Veronica looked at Jessie with sympathy as the deputies begin searching her home, making the already cluttered and messing apartment exponentially worse.
Logan: Take a nap, no one will bother you here.
She smiled softly, patting the cushion at her side.
Logan: That may work for Backup, but…
Veronica: (looking up at him with puppy dog eyes) Please?
He shook his head but walked over to her, sitting down carefully at her side. He pushed her hair back from her temple, seeing that the dark red-purple of the bruise was starting to fade, the edges yellow with healing already.
Logan: You need another pill?
Veronica: No, I need a pillow.
He reached for a cushion (the throw pillows that Enbom's mother had insisted on including in his home decorations), but she curled her hand around his wrist.
Veronica: My human pillow.
Logan smiled at her tenderly, toeing off his shoes and lying down, letting her arrange herself next to him.
Veronica: Wake me in an hour?
Logan: Just go to sleep, Veronica, you don't have anywhere to be.
She reached for her phone to set a timer, but he stopped her, setting it out of her reach on the coffee table.
Logan: If you're not awake in two hours, I'll wake you. (She smiled in gratitude and settled back against him, letting the soothing familiarity of his heat, scent and heartbeat lull her to sleep.) Should be time to feed you again by then anyway.
She didn't reply, but he felt the smile curve her lips upward before her body softened against his and her breathing evened out.
Logan: (softly) You always forget to eat when you're investigating something.
Two hours later, Logan heated up one of Mrs. Navarro's premade meals and served up a plate for himself and Veronica. Logan watched her eat slowly, but was satisfied as she made her way through all the food.
Logan: What to watch a movie tonight? Take it easy?
Veronica: (surprised by the offer) I thought there was a party?
Logan: (uncomfortable) Yeah, but I don't have to-
Veronica: (interrupting) You know I was willing to give Dick the benefit of the doubt, but…
Logan: I'm not going to defend my friends. Is it insensitive? Maybe. But we're teenagers, Veronica, any reason to party-
Veronica: Eight dead, two still in the hospital, that's a reason to party?
Logan didn't reply.
Veronica deflated a bit, knowing that Logan's friends were going to party no matter what, and that he had a right to have fun even if she thought naming a party, even tangentially, about the bus crash was distasteful.
Veronica: You should go.
He shot her a look full of mistrust.
Veronica: Just because I… Look, I'm not up to a party, but you should go, have fun. I'm just… did you know that people are selling bus crash souvenirs? It's… disgusting.
Logan frowned, but slid off his chair to move closer to her, hugging her.
At the hospital, Veronica hesitated as she stepped off the elevator seeing Jake talking to a doctor outside Duncan's door. Walking past him quietly, she overheard enough to know that Duncan still had significant swelling inside his head, putting pressure on his brain.
In Meg's room, Veronica handed off a carry on suitcase to her friend, filled with things to make Meg's hospital stay more comfortable, including her laptop. The two friends talk quietly for awhile until Meg yawns.
Veronica lets their conversation slow to a crawl and Meg nodded off. Veronica looked at Meg, cataloguing her injuries, including a broken arm and tons of bruises. But the worst of it couldn't be seen, Meg had taken a beating as she fell down the cliff resulting in internal injuries that had required surgery to repair. Thankfully with laparoscopic technology, her arm would take the longest to heal.
A nurse entered and checked Meg's IV and vitals. When he finished, he flashed a smile at Veronica.
Nurse: Hey I've seen you here a few times now.
Nurse: I was thinking, maybe we could go out. I get off in a half hour.
Veronica looked back at him blandly.
Veronica: No thanks.
Nurse: (not discouraged) There's a restaurant right across the street, we'll go, have a meal, get to know each other.
Veronica: (flatly) I said no.
Nurse: Don't be like that, I'm just asking for a few hours of your time so we can get to know each other getter.
Veronica: And I told you no.
Nurse: Why is that? You got a boyfriend?
Veronica glared at the nurse and stood up, feeling her temper rise.
Veronica: (heated) What does it matter if I have a boyfriend? I said no. It doesn't matter if I have a boyfriend or not. I don't need a reason to refuse you. You asked, I said no, that should be the end of the story.
Nurse: You don't have to be a bitch about it.
Veronica: What's your name?
Nurse: What does that matter, we're not going out, I don't date man-haters like you.
Veronica: (sweetly) You're right, I don't need your name, I can give a pretty accurate description of you to your supervisor that should help them identify you when I make my complaint.
Nurse: For what? Paying you a compliment?
Veronica: You think that you asking me out while you're supposed to be taking care of my friend's health is a compliment? That you persisting after I said no should flatter me? That your refusal to accept me saying no – without the benefit of a reason like another man having a prior claim on me- should make me feel good?
He stepped towards her, but Veronica held her ground reaching out for Meg's hand, which he noticed.
Nurse: Wait, are you a lesbian?
Veronica: Why? Would that make you feel better? Would you accept a meg as a reason for my 'no'? Or would you only respect it if it were a man?
Another nurse entered the room, looking at the situation with confusion. Her patient was quietly asleep, while her young visitor looked angry enough to spit. Her eyes went to her co-worker with realization.
2nd Nurse: Is there a problem in here?
Veronica: Yes. I want to speak to your supervisor. And I want him out of here, now.
Veronica's strident voice drew another nurse into the room and Jake followed.
Jake: Veronica? What's wrong?
Veronica: I want him out of here. Now.
Nurse: I don't work for you-
Jake: (to the nurse) You're leaving.
Fifteen minutes later Veronica had written out her complaint and handed it off to the hospital COO who had been called down to handle the situation personally as soon as Jake Kane's name was mentioned.
Calmer, but still energized, Veronica decided to visit Duncan for a few minutes. Standing at his side, she had nothing to say. She didn't want him to die, didn't want him even to be hurt, but her goodwill towards him didn't extend much farther than that.
Exiting, she found Jake waiting for her.
Jake: He won't be working in this floor anymore, and could lose his job.
Jake: You're alone today?
Veronica: Yeah, Logan came earlier.
Jake: She's been awake more and more. The doctors say that if she was still in ICU she would be released to a regular room tonight or tomorrow.
Jake: That's good. She's recovering quickly.
Veronica: I'm glad I had her moved here. She needs peace and quiet to heal and I'm sure Duncan will be happy to have her close by once he wakes up.
Veronica: (unsure) Yeah. Uh, how is he? Any change?
Jake: No. But we're still hopeful.
Elsewhere Dick and Mac were having dinner at a sit down Mexican food restaurant.
Dick: I never thought of bringing you to a place like this.
Mac: Not fancy enough?
Dick: No, I mean it's a regular restaurant.
Mac leaned in and Dick mirrored her action.
Mac: (quietly) I'll tell you a secret… most restaurants have vegetarian options.
Dick smirked and darted forward to kiss her quickly, causing a look of confusion to cross Mac's face.
Dick: I'll let you in on a secret. (Mac arched one eyebrow.) Kissing you… is something I plan to do more of.
Dick: Is it?
Mac: Yeah, otherwise I wouldn't let you keep doing it.
Dick: Good. (Dick grinned, relaxing.) That's good. I wasn't sure.
Mac: Of me?
Dick: That you were into this too.
Mac: Really? 'Cause we've been on a few dates now. I think that is a fair indicator that we're dating.
Dick's glee faded.
Dick: Right. Well, good. Glad we had this talk.
His words were positive but Mac could tell he wasn't happy. Dick wasn't the type to shield his emotions, at least not from her.
Mac: Dick? Something wrong?
Dick: No. Well, yeah. I kinda thought we could be more than dating.
Mac: You're asking me about sex while we're having dinner?
Dick: Sex? No, I mean relationship. I want us to be a thing.
Mac: A thing?
Dick: A couple, a pair, a duo, together, excluding others, not dating.
Mac: Oh. I…
Dick: You're not there. (He read the cautious hesitation in her expression.) I can wait.
Mac: Dick, I-
Dick: It's cool. I'll prove myself to you.
Mac: This isn't about-
Dick: Resistance is futile.
Resistance is not futile. It's voltage divided by current.
Dick: Whatever you say. Just know, I'm not giving up on you.
Mac: I'd be disappointed if you did.
Leaving the hospital, Veronica just wanted to go home or to call Logan and tell him she'd changed her mind and that they could get a movie and have a quiet night in, but what she really wanted was answers. Changing direction she headed back towards Jessie's apartment complex. Knocking on the Cotter's door, Veronica hit another dead end when Jeff Cotter answered the door but denied knowing Ed Doyle beyond knowing he had lived in the building and had been the driver of the bus that was all over the news.
Veronica informed him that Ed placed a call to his home about 15 minutes before he drove off the cliff, but Jeff just shook his head.
Jeff Cotter: Yeah, I was in New York on Wednesday, I just got back this weekend. Hey Carla, sweetheart, come here.
Cotter is joined at the door by his wife, a pretty blonde, not old, but not quite young.
Jeff Cotter: She's saying that-that the bus driver guy, the guy from the accident, he called here last week.
Carla Cotter: Who?
Veronica: Ed Doyle. Were you home last week between four and five p.m.?
Carla Cotter: Yes. (her eyes shift from Veronica to her husband and back again rapidly) But I-I don't know what you're talking about. Wait, I did get a wrong number last week, it, uh, might have been-
Veronica's cell phone starts to ring. She grapples for it and looks to see who it is.
Veronica: Thank you. Sorry to bother you.
Jeff Cotter: No problem.
Jeff Cotter shuts the door as Veronica takes the call.
Veronica: Jessie, what's up?
JESSIE: [offscreen, upset] You can stop whatever you're doing.
JESSIE: My...father killed himself. The sheriff deputies found his suicide note… Saved on his computer.
Veronica: I'll be right over.
Author's Note: I wanted to get farther in this chapter, to the end of the night, but it's grown into a monster… In this chapter I played with some hot topics of how men in our society treat women and how they perceive them. From the male nurse not taking no gracefully, to Dick's interactions with Mac, and Mac getting asked out by another boy, and Logan and Dick's casual use of the word 'territory' when it came to Mac…
On a different topic… The last chapter didn't get as many reviews as most of the others… I know there's been a longer break between chapters that could be affecting it, but, I'll be really honest, my motivation to keep writing this story comes in large part from the response I get to the story, and while lots of people like or favorite it, the real reward comes from getting reviews.
Take that how you will, but the honest truth is that I've been writing these guys for five years now and as much as I love them it's a bit of a grind to churn out the chapters. The fact is that I know what happens, it's been in my head (and my omnipresent timeline) for years. I don't need to write it for me. I know what happens. I'm really doing it for all of you.
I'm not saying I'm going to stop writing, but if you guys are less interested, and less reviews does tell me exactly that, I'm more likely to allow myself to do other things that I enjoy instead of writing this story. It will probably still get finished, one way or another, but we could all be old and grey by then. This isn't meant to be blackmail, or a request for y'all to feed my ego, but after reading something on tumblr from another fanfic author, I realized how much of a grind it really is, and how hard it is to put in hours of work on this on top of the rest of the stuff I do in my real life, and if there is little (and dwindling) reward for it… well, you know.
I'm really grateful for all the support I've gotten throughout these stories, I think there is one reviewer who's been reviewing since the first chapter of STH was posted, I feel like I share this with all of you, like it's not just mine, but the reality is I spend hours writing each chapter and laying out the story, and it takes you less than an hour to read it, and you may or may not review. Most people don't. About 3% do. So, if you are still interested and you want to know how this ends before you send your kids to school (preschool or college), let me know. I don't expect people to review every chapter, but if something draws you back to this story (5 years later) let me know.
Here's an analogy of how it feels sometimes: say you really like to cook, and you invite people over, and they come, lots of them, every time, but 97% of them leave without a word, while some say thanks or ask you when the next meal is, and only a few ask you for a recipe or how you made something and tell you what they liked about the meal. Would you be happy with that result? Cause, hey, they showed up to eat, they must like it. Ok, enough on that.
Now, since it has been awhile, I'm off to reread the last 10 chapters or so, because I can't quite remember when or how Mac told Dick she only wanted to date him, which I did again in this chapter, cause I'd written it before it dawned on me that I had already done it, and then I didn't want to take it out.