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get out while you're young

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"PRI's going to let us go," Glass says, and wow, his life's just been one giant rollercoaster of fun and excitement lately.

He wants to blame Veronica for it, as ridiculous as that sounds. It's kind of therapeutic. He forgets his wallet- blame Veronica. He nearly gets into an accident on the East 22nd- blame Veronica. The milk is two months old- although that one actually is kind of her fault- blame Veronica. Discovery tells him that baby penguins are dying because of global warming- yep, nobody's safe from Veronica Mars's gravitational pull of doom. Maybe that's not exactly the best way to deal, but then again, he's not the one with the psych degree, so.

"But the show's going to go on, right? We're established enough to self-distribute if it comes to it?"

Glass shrugs, but there's a stiffness to his shoulders that he hadn't noticed before. He always looked so sorted, Piz hadn't really bothered beyond the surface, "that's a good sound byte. Keep it for the media."

"Heard about the distributor?" Alissa asks, the moment he steps out.

Piz nods, "I'll make the cut because I'm cute and photograph well, and you know how important that is in a radio program. You, on the other hand, need to start looking for other opportunities."

She snaps her gum at him, "I'm cute too, you just haven't noticed."

That sounds like a come on; not that he can tell the distinction between a come on and a brush off, apparently. Needed a whole primer for 'She's Just Not That Into You'.

"In this dim light, you could almost pass off, Shipp. Don't accidentally wander into the daylight, though."

"Your charming passive aggressiveness is going to get you places, Narski. Get that from your hot-shot lawyer girlfriend?"

"Ex girlfriend," he says, and tries to think of a suitable one-liner to attach to that, so it's not just pathetic, but humorously pathetic. Filled with pathos. Or something. Fails, anyway, so not like the terminology matters.

"Oh," she says. Offers no words of condolence.

"I heard girlfriend," Glass says, coming out of his office, "how went the date with the parents. Twenty eight seems like the serious business parental meet."

The only reason Piz can imagine for him asking that, remembering that, is that Glass is trying to not remember so many other things that he's grasping for straws.

"They broke up," Alissa offers, helpfully.

"Oh," Glass says, already looking over his shoulder, "sorry to hear that. She seemed like an enterprising- Goldstein, I need to speak to you- young woman. But plenty of fish in the sea as they- Goldstein."

He didn't look surprised, though, Glass, it strikes him later, alone in thei- his apartment. Even Glass who saw her once didn't look surprised about the break-up. God, maybe Piz was the stupidest person in the history of stupid people.

For a while there, in college, he kind of thought he could be Ned Nickerson, actually. Turned out he was way off mark and completely missed the Bogart-and-Bacall reference. And while he was still practicing Nickerson's lines, the Bacall part had already been cast, sealed and delivered.

There is one thing he blames himself for, though- falling in love with Veronica Mars. Falling in love with Veronica Mars knowing she wasn't in love with him. Which is the big one. So really, even if he did have have a psych degree, he doesn't see how he could have psyched it out any better than that.




-

 

 

"New girlfriend?"

The only way André's ever going to shoot is if the field is empty of all people except one person to lift him to the basket, is the expert conclusion Wallace eventually comes to, watching him. Of course he's also Coach McDonald's son, and nepotism and Neptune are alliterative for a reason.

"Sorry?" he turns around, and hell, it's that cute, substitute French teacher who doesn't remind him of any of his exes. Sure, he doesn't understand French, but he understands cute, which doesn't seem like a bad place for a beginning.

She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, and he can almost hear Veronica in monotone iiiiiiiiinterested. It's like ever since she's been back, she's again taken up the mantle of being the voice in his head. Somehow, her voiceover and running commentary on his life from inside his head- while confusing- isn't the worst. He'd missed that- missed her being that voice.

"Your new girlfriend," the sub continues, "she's pretty."

"Who-" before it strikes him, "Veronica's not my girlfriend, she's my-" he pauses for a moment and honestly, he absolutely does not mean to, it's like his brain stutters through nine years of absence before he can make it go full force through sheer force of will, "a really good friend of mine."

He thinks of saying best friend for about two secondsbut he's talking to a colleague, who may or may not be interested- Definitely interestedkeep with the magazine cues, buster, what did we learn about the downward glance, voiceover-Veronica says, which is helpful, if not always accurate- and he's twenty eight. Even kids don't say best friend anymore; he should know, he spends 24/7 with them.

Frances-no, Francesca, he's pretty sure- looks confused for a moment, "I haven't really seen her before, though? I thought she was new around town. You know her from somewhere else?"

Francesca's new too, he knows, new enough to have missed the Legend of Veronica Mars. Came when the dust had just about settled. When his involvement with The Castle had lost him both his engineering scholarship and chance at the major leagues. Probably thinks he was born into the role of J.V. coach.

It isn't fair, he knows, but he thinks Veronica should have been there. She would've found some way out- it's practically her tagline. Or she should've been there anyway, for him, because they're best friends.

"She used to live in Neptune. She was in New York before this," he says, "she's been away a while."

"Oh," she smiles, "awesome, I love New York. For how long?"

It's complicated, he wants to say, but that doesn't fit the question, "nine years."

She looks taken aback, and yeah, he knows how that sounds, "you must have- wow, you must have been friends in high school. That's...pretty amazing. I'm not in touch with any of my high school friends apart from Facebook." She laughs, slightly nervous, clearly.

High school. It seems so innocuous, said like that, they're friends from high school. Like the kind of thing they make movies about where there are the jocks and the nerds and lunchroom hierarchies and nobody- usually- gets murdered.

"I don't think we've ever been officially introduced," he says, and that's when his phone starts to ring, because, of course, "Wallace Fennel."

"Francis," she smiles, "pleased to officially meet you. Maybe we could-"

"Could you," he says, and maybe he can understand the whole Logan-and-Veronica deal, just a little. The distance, the years don't really matter, not as they normally should. The only acceptable answer to 'jump' is jumping. They're none of them normal anyway, "excuse me, for a moment."

"Oh- yeah, sure, no, go ahead, please."

"You're killing me, Mars," he grouses, at a distance, "I was just getting hit on by a very hot chick, who didn't look like she has a dark past which will eventually come back to haunt all of us."

"Think of it this way," Veronica's voice comes over the phone, "you're not getting laid tonight, but you're going to help an innocent guy out of a spot of trouble with our lovely, justice-driven, law enforcement agencies. You're practically Gandhi, Fennel."

"You just left," he raises a finger to indicate a minute and Frances-Francis- smiles and motions at him to go ahead, "how can you already have thought of another way to use me. Clemmons has me on red alert because he knows I'm your man."

She mock gasps, "whatever happened to good old-fashioned loyalty, Pythias. What's a girl gotta do to get some friendly favors around here?"

Should've stayed, huh, friend. But he doesn't say that, obviously. It was good that she left. They should have all left. He's being selfish here.

It takes him a while to notice Francis trying to catch his attention, and fuck, how could it already have been fifteen minutes.

I have a class, she mouths.

Go ahead, he mouths back.

He watches her disappear into the building, and sighs, "what do you want, Mars."

"Now that's what a girl likes to hear from her man. It's a tiny thing, I swear, no jail-time attached, I just need access to-"

He writes it down. He's going to do it anyway, in the end, he knows, so why even bother with the pretence.




-




"Why am I beginning to feel like this is now a thing? Please tell me it's not a thing."

Veronica is standing at the edge of her table, hands crossed, classic Veronica-face on like whoa, and it's strange how just that is enough to make Mac feel nineteen again. Nineteen and far too cool for a school that hates her anyway and it's either that or crying in the girl's bathroom every time Carmen Fisher insults her hair.

"It's not a thing, I swear" Mac says, guiltily, "it's totally not a thing. It couldn't be less thing if it tried. Is it giving you a thing vibe, Wallace?"

Wallace raises both his hands in front of him, just your friendly, neighborhood fly-on-the-wall here.

"It's the 09er," Veronica says, blankly, "I can understand you dragging me to the reunion- which, by the way, totally worth it just for the intimate acquaintance my fist developed with Madison Sinclair's face- but we're talking about the 09er. You know, like where the one per cent goes to feed off the money of the other ninety nine and congratulate itself on being the human-equivalent of bloodsucking leeches. Or vampires. Except vampires are now oddly in and hot and teenage girls will no longer get this metaphor, which means it'll be lost on our dear Wallace here, so, yeah, leeches sounds about right. Except leeches are useful too, so maybe this analogy should start with the 09ers."

I work for Kane Software. I get invited to socials and parties and I know networking ain't just a town in the land of computer data exchange. I sold out, V. I am the 1%. 

She doesn't say that, obviously. Instead:

"Pretty sure I met a guy there, once, who would almost have been a feminist, given a lot less privilege and sense of entitlement and a different family background, and- well, lessons on feminism and possibly a tumblr account and a different gender spectrum identity, but-"

She's not sure what she believes in anymore. Not the fight in the streets, certainly. Not much, anyway. She's willing to contribute, sure, but as long as it's from behind the safety screen of a MacBook. She's gotten used to the good life. It costs her a hundred and sixty dollars just to keep her hair that way. She doesn't say that, either.

Veronica stares at her for a long moment, then bursts out laughing, "god, you almost had me there for a moment. Your deadpan is even better than when I left."

Having Veronica back is kind of like- like entering an alternate timeline. Everything looks the same on the surface, sure, but then you hear Mad Men got cancelled after the first season, and it's like- oh.

"Yeah," Mac says, the red invite burning a hole through her purse, probably melting the new earrings she'd bought just for tonight, god, what was she thinking, "totally got you there."




-

 


"You waiting for something, honey?"

Veronica jumps, a slightly lost look on her face, like she hasn't even realized she's been staring at the clock for ten minutes straight.

"No," she says, "Yeah." A pause. "Just this Skype thing with Logan. He'd messaged earlier."

"I'll clean up," Keith says, "you go on ahead."

She holds out a hand, "wait. Stop. You just gave yourself away, impostor. Who are you and what have you done with my dad who would never take on extra dish duty so his daughter can talk to her naval officer- did that ever stop sounding bizarre to you? How long, a year? Two?- boyfriend, also popular in the Mars household as That Echolls Kid or The He Who Must Not Be Named Who Is Not Voldemort."

Keith tries to look carefully unaffected, "fathers, you know. Always looking out for their daughter's happiness."

She looks genuinely concerned now, "are you running a fever. I told you you weren't completely healed when you discharged, but nooooo, you had to do the I'm A Manly Man Routine of Manliness and put on your underwear over your clothes and run off to save Gotham City. Or maybe Townsville, you kind of look like a Bubbles to me."

"I'm fine, honey," he smiles, "you make it sound like I had a ten pointer list all ready to break you two up the minute I got out of that hospital bed."

She looks at him, knowingly, "didn't you?"

That's his daughter, "nine point," he admits, "I like the odd numbers."

She's silent for a moment, and he knows she doesn't want to ruin the tentative peace they've established, it's what keeping him quiet too, after all, "do you really hate Logan that much? He did kinda save your life, you know. Isn't that a valid get-out-of-jail-free card for a few turns?"

It's difficult to explain, he wants to say, she won't understand that he likes the kid fine enough, believes he has his heart in the right place, is even proud of him for making so much of his life- none of which is the same as liking the kid fine enough for her. Won't understand that he's seen what parents can do to a child, seen what he himself has done to his own daughter, what her mother has done to her. The daughter who is at this very moment sitting in front of him, nearly glowing at the thought of getting in the middle of the fight, getting her hands dirty in the Neptune slime, when she should be far, far away, on the next plane to New York, getting the hell out of this torn up town and making a life for herself. Won't understand that sometimes, when Logan Echolls would come bruised-knuckled to the door, he saw glimpses of his father instead.

It's not just, it's not reasonable, and he knows he's being unfair to the kid, but she's his daughter.

"You should go back to New York." It doesn't matter that he's beginning to sound like a broken record. As long as she's safe, as long as he knows she's safe and doesn't have to worry about finding out she's been shot through a glass door, straight through the stomach, or raped by some man who works the system like his plaything, he doesn't care about being that dad who doesn't understand who his daughter really is. He understands who his daughter is perfectly, that's the problem.

She sighs, nineteen year old rebellion in a twenty eight year old body, "we've been through this. I don't want to go back to New York, okay. This is where I belong."

"What are you doing here, Veronica. What is here for you?"

He has seen how this goes before. You can fight the war, but it's a rigged deck, and everyone knows, the house always wins.

She grins, and then she's all twelve year old charm in a twenty eight year old body, and he had missed her so much, he'd felt like he'd swallowed something he could never really swallow down, and the most he could hope for was to forget for just a while, "fighting the good fight."

Despite himself, Keith smiles, "did you change the name to Angel Investigations when I wasn't looking? I thought the new clientele looked a little green around the gills."

She sneaks another look at the clock, and Keith sends a mental warning to Lt. Echolls, wherever he may be stationed, to take good care of his daughter this time, or else- "I knew my DVDs were missing. Should've guessed you wanted a closer look at Boreanaz without a shirt."

"Go," he tells her, starting to clear up, "before you combust into liquid impatience and I have to clean up some more."

"Love ya, Cordy," she says, rushing towards her bedroom, and for a moment, watching her, he misses that, someone to look forward to, someone worth waiting for.

Maybe if his daughter thinks it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay.

 



-

 

 

"Dad's still worried about me," she admits.

He tries to ignore the sounds in the background; Lt. Commander Heatley's strident warnings to the new recruits, the general sound of humming, short, sharp barked orders that sometimes remind him of Aaron and make him want to disobey, be insolent, on instinct.

"He loves you," Logan says, which sounds so generic, it makes him pause for a whole second, but she'll understand, she has to. It's not generic for him. Someone loving their child enough to worry about them, that's one for the history books. Or was it mythology?

She blows out a frustrated breath and this- it's a new gesture, he can't remember it from before and it's almost sad how much he can remember; sad, as in lame, obviously, "I know that. It's just hard to keep defending that same decision over. He thinks I'm leaving something behind, he's not going to understand."

Logan almost says, then: aren't you?

He literally hadn't survived two years without her. It only got better the years after, when he'd been so exhausted, each day, from training that he couldn't think at all. And then it just became a habit, not thinking about her. And yet, all it took was one relapse, one moment of weakness, -I need your help, Veronica- and he could feel every single minute of every single month of every single year in that moment of breathless anticipation. And every single second since.

"You should've at least tried your fancy new lawyering job, before dismissing it as unworthy of your fine skill set."

"I notice you weren't so quick to defend the corporate lifestyle when it was your ass I was saving," the intonation is playful, but he can detect the sharp undertone. That's something that didn't change.

He shrugs, "my ass is finer than most."

She laughs at that, and honestly, sometimes, most times, that's all he's going for.

"He doesn't like you much, you know", she points out, "my dad, so pick the side that's waiting to tear your clothes off and have their wicked way with you again. Me."

She's different, sexually. She's willing to talk more about what she wants from him, allow him to explore; learn places that make her make sounds he didn't know about, relearn the ones he's forgotten. He doesn't know what it is, wasn't there to see it; age, or maybe just distance from everything that had happened to her. Everything that still makes him feel teenage and lost and impotent; like rage was all that would get him through the days.

Sometimes, he thinks all he's been trying to do his entire life is move on.

"I'm definitely on the side that'll give me a strip-tease," he quirks his mouth suggestively.

"God, Logan," she says, are you seriously telling me to-"

"What," he says, immediately, "no." Not after what happened with Lilly. Not after what happened with her. How could she ever-

It's only when he sees her laughing that he realizes he's been had, "simmer down, Lieutenant, we start using code to avoid talking of every traumatic thing that's ever happened at Neptune, and next you know we're speaking Sumerian."

After, when she's probably gone to sleep, and it's just breaking dawn in his part of the world, he thinks of writing a letter, once. Not an email, or a text, or a Skype invite. An actual letter. Pen the words together in a desperate, incoherent mess of nine years of loneliness and distance and tell her how insane it is that he still fucking loves her like his life depends on it. How insane it is that he never fell out, like he'd once thought he would, when she first left. Drunk himself into a stupor, called her a bitch, and gave it three months, at most.

And here he is, nine years later, still waiting to go back to her.

He won't though, obviously. Write the letter. He doesn't know what her threshold is, this time, but he sure as hell isn't going to push to find out.

 

 

-

 

 

Arturo is looking at him with a strange mixture of disdain and understanding and something else he can't identify, "thought you said you cleaned up good. Didn't do any of this no more."

"I changed my mind," Weevil takes off his helmet, "your incredible incompetency probably had something to do with it."

It felt like- a rush. A rush he hadn't realized he missed till he tasted it again. He's never done drugs, seen too many times what could happen when it all went south- which is where it usually went- but he thinks he can understand a little, now. Forgive some people whom he'd sworn he'd never forgive. Staying clean is hard, fighting against the natural, instinctive order, every screaming breath, is hard.

"Heard Veronica Mars' back in town," Arturo is still staring at him.

"Now we know you have functional hearing," he busies himself with the bike, "so get this: scram."

Arturo doesn't move, "that really all it take? One look from Veronica Mars and all the years she's been away, bygones?"

"Your vocabulary's improved," Weevil notes, "you almost sound like a literate asshole now. Your comprehension, though, I gotta say, just as bad as it ever was. Worse."

"What is is about her," Arturo isn't backing down and dammit, the trouble he wants is not from his own people, "that dame got a magical vag or some such?"

He doesn't even register he's doing it till Arturo is already pinned against the wall, his neck under Weevil's palm. He still knows all the pressure points. Learned them before he learned the state capitals. He can kill with less than a trigger.

Arturo laughs, through tearing eyes, "you her knight in shining armor, Weevs? Silent protector? She know that? Grateful for you keeping a watch over her while she bangs that millionaire Echolls chap? It's still him, isn't it? Always him. No matter how long a time. Even know that and I don't give a damn about that freak-show."

"The next time" he's gritting his teeth, "I tell you to shut up, you shut the fuck up. The next time the words shut up come out of my mouth, you're a dead man walking."

"This," Arturo manages, between wheezes, "ain't the life for you anymore. You have a wife and kid to take care of. Leave the streets for people like me who got nothing to go back to. Don't ruin your life over some chick you never got over the idea of. She's in your head, Navarro, get her out. You let her get in and you let her stay there. The girl you've saved up all these years? She don't exist anywhere but your head."

"This isn't," he says, loosens his grip a little, "about Veronica Mars."

This is about the fight, about his life, about making this town safe for his daughter, not about Veronica Mars. Not at all about Veronica Mars.

The walking away is no easier than it ever was, he can hear the other man slump to the ground as he turns away, can identify the third emotion in his eyes now; pity. "Don't we all wish it wasn't."