Somebody is shaking Veronica, trying to wake her.
The clean scent of ocean with a hint of mint triggers her memory - hours by the pool drinking lemonade, beach picnics, triple-scoop ice cream cones, watching videos (four crammed on a couch made for three), and dark air-conditioned movie theaters.
"Veronica, you need to wake up." Logan's voice.
Why? We aren't friends.
Hands on her shoulder. Shaking.
"Veronica, you need to Wake. The. Fuck. Up."
She ignores him, cataloging her injuries - her head, her scalp, her neck, her breasts, her back, her stomach, but notthere .
Thank God, not there!
He's shaking her shoulder. "Veronica, now!"
She reluctantly opens her eyes at the urgency in his voice.
"Thank God!" Logan blows out a relieved breath. He kneels over her, face ashen and his eyes seriously. freaked. out.
Veronica reaches to cover herself but Logan has already fixed her skirt. She does the best she can to pull the two sides of her blouse together.
"Did he…?" Veronica begins, finding it painful to speak through her bruised vocal chords.
This is Logan. Mask up. Face of stone. Don't show fear. Never let him see you cry.
He shakes his head and Veronica exhales.
She closes her eyes again. If she could just go back to sleep...
"Sit up," Logan commands.
He slides his arm under her neck and lifts her to a sitting position.
She wishes he hadn't.
She really wishes he hadn't.
In fact, there has never been anything she's wished more, because the sight in front of her is too horrific to compute.
An expanding pool of blood surrounds Ciaran Fitzpatrick, who's posed unnaturally, abdomen hacked and slashed, insides now on the outside.
Duncan Kane sits against the fence, covered in blood, eyes vacant, rocking back and forth. Ciaran's knife lays beside him like an afterthought.
Veronica covers her mouth, gagging.
"Don't look." Logan says, dark brown eyes concerned as he shifts to block her view.
"What did you do?" She rasps.
"Veronica!" Logan throws his hands up. "Duncan is clearly covered in blood, and I'm the bad guy?" His eyes lift to the heavens. "Why would I expect anything different?"
"Sorry. Habit." Veronica shakes her head, closing her eyes, and leaning her head back against the building. "911?"
"No. He's beyond help. We're getting out of here."
"Mmmm," she mumbles, eyelids drooping closed.
"Veronica, you need to look me in the eyes so that I know you're paying attention."
Veronica complies because his eyes were probably the safest thing to focus on right now. Brown. Bottomless. Safe.
"We need to get Duncan, and get the fuck out of here. Do you understand?"
"He's in some kind of trance."
She nods again.
"Are you going to stand up now?"
She shakes her head.
Logan sighs and stands up, moving to Duncan's side, and allowing Veronica full view of the bloody thing . "Duncan, I need you to stand up, OK?" he says in the gentle voice you use with a child.
He takes Duncan's arm, lifts and pulls him to a standing position, and leads him to the gate.
"Logan?" Her voice borders on panic.
Dial it back now, Veronica. Mask up.
Logan stops, looking back over his shoulder. "I'll come back for you in a second."
So reassuring. Pretending he cares. What a joke!
"The backpack. Drug deal gone bad." She points.
Logan nods, reaching for Ciaran's backpack, which by some miracle has eluded the path of the spreading pool of blood.
Veronica leans her head back on the maintenance building and closes her eyes. Must block out the gruesome sight before her.
Lilly! We need you so much right now. What have we gotten ourselves into?
Hugging herself, Veronica admits that Duncan's way out is looking more inviting. How nice would it be to just 'check-out' ? Take the exit ramp?
Fat chance! Veronica Mars is made of stronger stuff. She won't - can't - go down without a fight.
Only a minute passes before Logan returns, but it feels like hours.
"Veronica, wake up." Logan crouches beside her.
"Awake," she mumbles, opening her eyes.
"Stand up, so we can get out of here."
Veronica grabs her messenger bag and makes a feeble effort to rise. Logan lets out an impatient breath, and pulls her up.
She hisses, doubling-over.
"Veronica, I know you're in pain, but we don't have time to spare right now," Logan says, insistent.
Veronica nods and tries to straighten up, only to have her abdominal muscles protest again. She gasps as a spasm of fire rips through her belly.
Logan sighs, leans over and lifts her up into his arms like some macabre bridegroom carrying her over a bloody threshold.
"Logan!" she protests, clinging to his neck for support.
"Trust me, I don't like you much either, but we need to get out of here," he says.
"Okay." Exhausted, Veronica's head drops to Logan's shoulder, her nose brushing against his neck. She closes her eyes. "…It hurts"
Logan pauses. Perhaps responding to her vulnerability, his voice softens. "Veronica."
She opens her eyes to meet his.
"Listen, I know exactly how badly it hurts. As soon as I can, I'm going to give you something for the pain. But right now, I need to get you far away from the scene of the crime. OK?"
Veronica nods and buries her face back into Logan's neck.
Neurons transmit, synapses fire, and somewhere in the deepest part of Veronica's subconscious, a long dormant neural pathway – the one that always associated Logan's scent with safety – twitches, shudders, shakes off its cobwebs, and blazes back to life.
Logan pulls the gate closed behind them, threading the broken padlock through the holes.
Veronica lifts her head. "Wait. My underwear!
"But they're DNA evidence that can connect me to the scene. And the knife has Duncan's fingerprints. We need to go back."
"Veronica..." His tone signals more bad news to come. "The drug deal angle isn't going to work out."
"Look up." He nods his head at a medium-sized tree to their left.
She squints her eyes and, there, hidden among the leaves, the blinking red light of a security camera. Aimed right at the building. "Oh hell. No point in going back now."
Logan carries her to his truck and fumbles with the door. He seems to be trying to be as gentle, but she still winces when he sets her down on the passenger seat.
In the back seat, Duncan's wrapped up like a burrito in an extra-extra large beach towel. He still rocks, eyes vacant.
She's used to him looking right through her, but this is something different entirely. The lights are out. He's left the building.
Logan climbs in, and starts the vehicle. "We are SO fucked."
"Where're we going?" Veronica asks.
"My house for now. The parents are out of town."
She should protest, but she can't think of a single reason why at the moment. "Okay."
He puts the vehicle in Drive and doesn't speak again.
Sleep creeps back in, has almost taken her under when she senses movement and opens her eyes.
They're in Logan's driveway - the turnoff by the pool house - and he's rooting through the backpack.
"Here, take this." He holds out a tiny pill. "It will help with the pain."
"I'm not touching that crap."
"Okay." Logan pockets the pill. "Thought it would make you feel better. You know, Oxy is only a regular painkiller when you swallow them. Junkies crush them, and then snort or shoot 'em up to bypass the time-release factor."
"Since when have you been the Oxycontin expert?"
"My mom gets them prescribed for me," Logan says. "They help. A lot."
"Why would your mom knowingly…never mind. I don't want to know. Fine. Gimme."
Logan drops the tiny pill on Veronica's palm. She dry-swallows, and leans back in her seat, closing her eyes.
They sit quietly for a moment, before Logan speaks again. "Duncan won't survive for five minutes in prison."
"There's positive thinking for ya."
"He's soft, Veronica."
She nods, acknowledging his point.
Logan blows out a breath and runs his hand over his face. "I think I need to get him out of here, and I'm going to need you to tell me how to do it."
"You mean take him on the run?" She turns, eyeing Duncan dubiously. "He's catatonic, Logan. He needs medical attention."
"He won't stay like this forever, and he's barely survived this past year." He gestures at the back seat. "I mean, look at him. Can you imagine him in prison? He's not strong like you and I are. They'd probably shiv him in the shower the first week. I'm assuming the prisons are already overrun with Fitzpatricks?"
"Courtesy of my father." She holds up a hand, cutting him off before he can run with that. "But he wouldn't go to prison for this. He obviously did it in defense of me. Any lawyer could get him off."
"Not exactly," Logan mutters.
"What do you mean?"
"I had you. You were no longer in any danger."
"So you think he'll just snap out this trance on his own?" Veronica makes a matching hand gesture.
"Remember the funeral? The Kanes wouldn't let me anywhere near him, but I'm pretty sure he was in a state similar to this. Then, a week later, he was in school, and, although he wasn't exactly back to himself, he wasn't...this."
Veronica nods slowly, remembering.
"You sure you want to do this, Logan? Life on the run isn't glamorous. No parties. No adoring minions."
"He's my best friend, and he's suffered enough."
She examines Duncan for a long moment, and turns back to Logan. "Okay." She begins digging into her bag.
Logan, expecting an argument, stares at Veronica in surprise.
"What? I think you're right. Duncan won't survive prison."
"And hell has officially frozen over," Logan says, with a sardonic tilt of the lips. "You're not going to yell at me to call the police?"
"I would, but we're talking about Sheriff Lamb, whom I suspect is in the Fitzpatrick's pocket."
Veronica locates her cell and dials a number.
"Weevil? Hey. Serious emergency, here. Can you meet me at Logan's? Yes, Logan Echolls. No, he hasn't done anything to me. He didn't lay a hand on me! I'll explain in person, but this is absolutely urgent. Okay, tell nobody. See you then."
She disconnects and returns the phone to her bag.
"Are you completely insane?" Logan asks, voice rising. "Did you forget the part where Weevil hates my guts? The fifteen-on-four fiasco last week at the beach? He'll go straight to the cops!"
"Weevil may hate you, but he hates the Fitzpatricks twice as much. You've just done him a favor."
Logan looks at her skeptically. "It's too late to take back now, but if your friend gets Duncan sent to prison, it's on you."
He's in a...location. He supposes he can be certain that he's indoors, because every time he moves, a spotlight follows him. Beyond the yellow circle of light, blackness stretches in every direction. Only blackness. Whenever he stops moving, a marble bench appears next to him.
He stops now , sits on the bench, closes his eyes, and stretches languidly. It's surprisingly comfortable for stone. He has nowhere special to be right now, but he may be having memory issues, because he doesn't know how he got here. Doesn't really care, either. This is...pleasant.
He opens his eyes. Logan stands in his circle of light - taller, healthier, and more capable.
"Duncan. Come on. I can't let you do this."
"Do what? I'm only resting."
"You're falling behind. Checking out. Here, take my hand. I'll help you keep going."
"Why should I keep going? What's the point with Lilly gone?"
"Because the world needs you, Duncan Kane. You have great things in store for you."
"Do you actually believe that Logan, or are you just parroting my parents' words?"
"I need you to believe that. Come on Duncan. Let's keep going."
Duncan stares at the offered hand for a second. Who's he kidding? He would follow Logan anywhere.
He takes it, allows himself to be pulled off the bench, and walks at Logan's side.
"How do you survive? You loved her almost as much as I did. Why aren't you paralyzed like I am?"
"I have my rage. It keeps me going."
The words are suspiciously similar to his own analysis.
A second spotlight appears in the distance illuminating Veronica Mars.
"Do you see that?" Duncan turns, but Logan's gone.
He looms over Veronica. They're arguing fiercely, faces twisted into sneers. He gesticulates wildly, and she pokes a threatening finger in his face. This girl – the one gutsy enough to stand up to Logan – is a stranger to Duncan. She's not his Veronica.
If he walks faster, maybe Duncan can combine this spotlight with theirs, and the three of them can be together again, but he can't seem to close - or even lessen - the distance. Finally, exhausted, he stops, waits for his bench to appear, and then collapses, covering his face with his hands.
"Get up." Logan is once again at his side.
"You left me for her." Duncan accuses.
"I can't help it. It's the rage beast inside of me. I need to let it out. But I'm here now. I can help you move forward."
"Why her, Logan? You could rage against anybody else: Madison Sinclair, Caitlin Ford, Sean Freidrich. They're all odious human beings. Why does it have to be Veronica?"
"None of them matter to me. None of them are worthy of climbing out of bed for in the morning."
"And Veronica is?"
"Only Veronica. And you."
She has a new visitor in her spotlight. He looks familiar, but Duncan can't place him.
" Who's that?" He points.
" One of the Fitzpatricks. He was a seventh-year senior last year."
When Fitzpatrick puts his hand around Veronica's neck, Duncan rises from his bench.
" GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!"
They can't hear him. He begins walking. Jogging. Running. Sprinting. He can't close the distance.
The harder Fitzpatrick squeezes Veronica's neck, the more he bleeds. When Veronica falls to the ground unconscious, Fitzpatrick falls beside her, his abdomen a mass of slashes.
Duncan turns to Logan, "Can you reach her again? Can you help her?"
" Thanks. Tell her I lov-"
Logan turns back to him. "She's not who you think she is. She's not the same girl."
Echolls' Pool House
With a father like Aaron, Logan should be used to the sight of blood by now, but he has to swallow back his revulsion as he helps an unresponsive Duncan from the back seat.
With slow, hesitant steps, Veronica follows them into the pool house bathroom. She catches sight of her reflection in the mirror and cringes.
Poor girl. Logan plucks a plush green wash cloth from the linen closet and hands it to her, then fusses with the shower knobs until the temperature is just right.
When he turns back around, she's washing away the blood from under her nose and the mascara tracks on her cheeks. Other than a few scratches, her face seems unscathed, but her movements and posture tell a different story. If Fitzpatrick hits anything like dad does, in 24 hours, she'll have bruises on top of her bruises.
His fists clench. What kind of monster could hurt somebody that small?
Logan keeps these thoughts to himself. Knowing Veronica, even a hint of pity, and she'd probably punch him in the nose - which might be amusing on any other day, but today they have bigger issues.
He goes to work unwinding the beach towel from Duncan. He appraises the mess, and then taking a deep breath for resolve, tries to remove Duncan's shirt.
Duncan doesn't cooperate.
He glances back at Veronica. "A little help here?"
She's not in a cooperating mood either. Possibly because both of her hands are otherwise occupied holding her blouse together.
With a long-suffering sigh, he unbuttons his own shirt, sliding it from his shoulders.
The widening of her eyes is almost comical, and maybe this situation requires a little sarcasm. To normalize the dynamic. "I know I'm pretty, Veronica, but this is hardly the time to be ogling me." He gives her a weak smirk and holds the shirt out.
We can do this. Pretend it's perfectly normal to be cleaning blood and chunky stuff off your best friend.
She stares at his button-down as if expecting it to transform into a poisonous viper.
"Put it on. At least for now," he commands. "You need both hands to help me with Duncan."
She regards him with suspicion, but accepts the shirt. "What's the catch?"
"Do you really think I'd trick you at a time like this? With Duncan standing here like Prom Queen Carrie?"
"Fine. For now," she says after an uncomfortable silence.
Logan turns his back, allowing her privacy to switch shirts.
A moment later, she inhales sharply.
"D'you get hit in the stomach?"
"Yeah, a few times."
"That sucks. You never realize how you use your abdominal muscles for almost everything, until they're fucked up."
"You should know. As many fights as you get into."
"Right...fights," he answers in a bland tone.
She steps closer. "What do you need from me?"
His shirt reaches to her knees, longer than her denim skirt, and for just a second, his imagination transports him to a sexual afterglow. Her throwing on the nearest article of clothing in order to go get snacks. Normal thought for a teenage boy, but hardly appropriate for the situation. He squelches them down with a quickness. "Let's try to get this shirt off him with as little mess as possible."
Veronica looks deeply into the vacant blue eyes, commanding, "Duncan, arms up."
Logan doesn't expect it to work, but sure enough, moments later, both arms lift. They don't shoot up, but instead rise slowly, lazily, and with no effort in keeping the elbows locked.
He inspects Duncan for any signs of life, giving a head-shake to the negative.
Together, they peel the blood-saturated jersey from Duncan's skin and carefully lift it over his head. Gore covers his torso as well, and Veronica turns away, covering her mouth.
Logan sets the shirt down in the sink and sits on the edge of the toilet. He gestures to Duncan's shorts. "Be my guest."
"I'll pass." She says, still looking everywhere but at her ex.
"His One True Love wouldn't hesitate to bathe him."
"And that's exactly why you should do the honors," she responds.
Good one. He smirks, but it fades as he turns back to Duncan. "Please?"
"Not a chance."
He blows out a gust of air, and reaches for Duncan's waistband with two fingers.
"At that pace, you'll have him in the shower sometime...next week."
"Funny, Mars." Logan says, biting the bullet, and tugging Duncan's shorts down in one motion.
Veronica slowly lowers herself to the floor. She lifts Duncan's left foot, carefully removing his shoes, socks and shorts, and repeats the process with the other foot.
She glances up with a ' now what? ' expression.
"I refuse to strip off my best friend's underwear," Logan says.
"Leave them on him." Veronica says.
Logan offers her his hand, but she doesn't notice as she struggles to rise. She gasps in severe pain, and clutches at Duncan to steady herself. Instead, he tips forward, smashing right into Logan.
He manages to steady Duncan on his feet, and then glances down at his blood-covered chest and khakis.
His stomach recoils and he runs to the toilet, dropping to his knees and heaving.
Several miserable seconds elapse, and then Veronica's small hand touches his shoulder.
She rubs his back soothingly - as she's done on so many drunken nights when Lilly abandoned him to the porcelain god.
Reassured that he's not going to vomit after all, Logan tilts his head, glancing up at Veronica curiously.
"Oh…" She snatches back her hand. "I forgot—"
Several snide comments are on the tip of his tongue, but for once, he refrains from unleashing. Duncan is the most important thing right now. Plus, if the expression on Veronica's face is any indicator, she's already berating herself for offering him comfort.
Ah...Little Ronnie Mother Hen is still in there hiding behind that bitchy facade.
Her discomfort is understandable. Despite his attempts to the contrary, he's never truly hated her either.
It's ironic though. The person who is supposed to love him most, uses his back for target-practice - thank God those latest welts have faded - and the one who has every reason to despise him, rubs his back to comfort him.
Talk about mixed messages.
He flashes her a Mona Lisa smile, and turns back to Duncan. "Alright, DK. We're going to put you in the shower now to get all of that nasty Fitzpatrick off of you, Okay?"
Logan guides him inside the shower stall. From the open doorway, he grabs the removable shower head and concentrates the stream of water on Duncan's bloody chest.
Veronica moves to stand next to him. "His forehead, his left ear, the back of his neck." She points and Logan aims the shower nozzle accordingly. Duncan exhibits no reaction, whatsoever.
A stubborn patch of blood won't come off with water alone. Veronica squirts a quarter-sized dollop of shower gel onto a white shower pouf, bringing it first to her nose to smell. The tiniest of smiles forms on her lips.
"You like that?" Logan asks, cocking his head. "I use it every day."
"I know," she says, and then frowns at him. "Don't be flattered. It's human nature to sniff first. Everyone does."
Veronica continues. "It does feel wrong to make Duncan smell like you."
Logan wrinkles his nose. "Why? 'Fraid you won't like him anymore if he smells like Eau de Jackass?"
She rolls her eyes. "I always thought both of you smelled like your personalities - completely and distinctly different. And let's be clear, I'm talking about the time period in which your personality could be described in words other than 'demonic'. But I could always tell you two apart with my eyes closed."
"Hmmm...Not sure why you would need to tell us apart the dark. Duncan's the one you were making out with."
He smirks at her discomfort. "So which one of us smells better?"
"None of your business."
"Well, if it were Duncan, you'd just come out and say it, so it must be me."
"I guess your ego and your ability to jump to conclusions haven't suffered."
Veronica reaches in to the shower and scrubs at the stubborn bloodstain on Duncan's chest.
"Out Out Damn Spot," Logan intones in a Shakespearian accent.
She gapes at him.
"Way too soon." She turns back to Duncan, scrubbing extra hard. Seconds later, a snort of laughter escapes her.
"Too soon." She repeats, letting out another giggle.
"Admit it, Mars." Logan says, chasing her bubbles with spray. "You've always fantasized about soaping-up DK in the shower."
"Well then I guess you and I actually do have something in common, Logan." She smirks at him.
He twists his wrist as if to turn the shower head towards her.
"Do it, and you will suffer in ways that you can't even imagine."
"Trust me, I can imagine." Logan concentrates the stream of water on Duncan's bloody boxers until the water runs clear, and then turns off the shower. He pulls Duncan out, wraps a towel around his waist, and leads him to the foot of the pool house bed.
"Sit, Duncan." Veronica instructs, several seconds later, Duncan complies without a flicker of reaction in his eyes.
"Wow. You're like the Donut Whisperer." Logan says. "Okay, Wait here with him, while I shower." Dipping down, he catches her eye, and waggles his eyebrows. "Unless you fantasize about soaping me up as well...?"
He immediately wants to punch himself in the face. Why would he hit on her at all , let alone after what she'd experienced this afternoon?
She takes it in stride, though, making an exaggerated gagging sound and shoving him towards the bathroom.
"I'll get Duncan some clothes once I'm out of the shower." Logan calls out, as he turns the shower back on. He ducks back into to the bathroom doorway a second later. "Try not to get into too much trouble in the next ten minutes."
"Can't make any promises, Logan."
He smirks and closes the bathroom door.