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I wish I was in Tijuana

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They never find Logan's body, either.

So, this is your life now, Veronica.

--

Sometimes she imagines the two of them, Logan and Lynn, huddled on the same lawn chair, drinking tequila because it's the afternoon. Some country where it's possible to get lost. Some place to disappear. They're always on the same lawn chair because they want to have permission to be gentle with another human being, they want to be close to someone. They're always drinking because even in her wildest flights of fancy she can't quite make things perfect.

In some ways, this daydream makes her feel worse. It's proof that things she believes in can still cut like the first time, when she remembers this is her life and not television, and there is no big reveal. Welcome to Neptune. they're not on the beach. they're in the ocean. They drowned.

"Veronica."

Her dad thinks she's withdrawn because of everything with Aaron. The scumbag. He'd tried to blackmail her, too, after everything; tried to give her all his money - Logan's money, now? how did the legality of a missing/presumed dead heir go? - to shut her up.

"Veronica. Hungry?"

"Sure, lay it on me."

The - there wasn't a strong enough word, an ugly enough word, to describe Aaron Echolls, and so she sticks with Aaron, uses it as the worst swearword. She tastes bile every time she thinks it, her body physically supplying the description of such a man her mind can't. Aaron tried to kill her. Aaron killed Lilly. Lilly had slept with Aaron. Veronica usually stops thinking about it right there, mostly because it means that ugly starts to color her memories of Lilly, too, and somehow that's betrayal, to judge her now she's dead. Mostly, Veronica thinks about how her dad nearly died because of Aaron, and hates him for that. That's enough to keep her going, she doesn't have to make it more complicated. It'll do for now.

"Veronica."

Her dad thinks she won't be okay until Aaron is sitting on death row, but she's at peace with him and the case. In reality, it's the place where she finds solace, where she looks to see the world is a good place. Even with all the fallout, the murder ended the way it should; Aaron Echolls will get the electric chair for murder, and if he doesn't he'll meet an untimely and unfortunate end, which her dad will investigate but not very hard.

She'd bet the house on Clarence being able to arrange that.

"What's wrong?"

Veronica jumps. "Nothing." She smiles. It doesn't work. "It's okay," she tells her dad.

Her dad is making them milkshakes with little paper umbrellas, and Veronica takes hers with a steady hand. She pictures Lynn taking one just like it, sitting in a bikini with all the boys watching, Logan sitting in the shade and smiling. A sip, and her mouth is frosty, cold.

"Don't worry, he's going to pay, Veronica."

She shrugs, looks into her glass. "I don't think I want him to die. Prison is good." She drinks; the A/C is on in their apartment - with new cases and paycheques, yes, they even have A/C now - and so she loses the picture of the beach, and thinks of the waves, instead. "Yeah. Prison is fine."

The funny thing about Logan Echolls disappearing the same night his father was arrested for murder - no one noticed where he wasn't until it was too late. Sure, his car was found parked on the bridge, but the door was closed; it gave him enough of a head start that by the time anyone looked away from Aaron long enough, Logan was gone. At this point Veronica doesn't care if Aaron lives or dies; he's lost the thing that matters to him, because even if he's still a celebrity he can't enjoy it. She figures that's payment. Everyone else lost what mattered to them.

Her dad looks at her, fondly. "I'm proud of who you are, Veronica."

Yeah. the only one.

---

Your life kind of sucks. Sure, you and Duncan are friendly, and you think he wants to go back to how things used to be. You know better, because there's no going back, not ever, there's just moving forward. Still, having Duncan around is kind of nice, plus it means life at school is easier.

--

"Hi, champ."

Duncan stands over her, a pizza in his hand. "I got Mediterranean," he says, and it's his way of apologizing for snapping at her this morning.

Veronica has his moods down pretty well - Duncan is adjusting. Duncan is coping. Duncan is trying to go back to the person he was, and he wants to take her with him. Veronica, not even when she was her happiest, not even when she knew Logan was there for her through the worst information gathering mission of her life, even then she knew she'd become a different person.

But he has pizza, and maybe the old Duncan can still be friends with the new Veronica. "Do sit. you know I never turn down free food."

"Please," and Duncan slides onto the empty bench. "You need a bit of flesh on you. You're too thin."

Veronica opens the box. "I'm petite. It's the way God made me."

Things with Duncan are extremely weird, but not *bad*. He even stands up for her, but not like--

"Did you do the calculus homework?" he asks her.

As a response, she pulls the book out. 4 hours last night outside a sleazy motel, as yet another sleaze sat and watched tv. At least some good came of it.

Duncan seems, better, these days. Duncan seems stronger. They don't talk about his epilepsy, but they do talk about whether anti-depressants are the answer. He's not taking his. Her health insurance doesn't cover them.

"Hey, Duncan!"

09ers don't change; Duncan waves them on, though. Veronica still refuses to sit with them, even when he asks her to, even when Dick isn't there. Sometimes Duncan sits with her, or sometimes Wallace. Mac sits with her. Meg and Duncan aren't together right now, so if Duncan's there, she isn't, but that leaves a lot of other times she does sit down, too.

Veronica Mars, with more than one friend. Eat that, Neptune.

"Can I ask you something?" hey says, suddenly. Veronica nods, without hearing the tone in his voice. She regrets it instantly. "Did you think he was capable of doing it?" Duncan asks, and there it is, Veronica's heart and stomach are both in her throat.

"Aaron? yes," she says, because; but Duncan won't accept the deflection.

He stares at her, hard, waiting. Veronica swallows; because even after all those lies and suspicions, no, part of her didn't think he was capable, was still able to believe he wasn't, and that was the part she'd tried to excise for so long and still can't get rid of. It still hurts like the first time someone lied to her, and how that's possible, Veronica doesn't know. Things are supposed to get easier to swallow over time, but all they've become is a harder knot in her stomach; she still swallows them and they still hurt.

She says, "I was trying to prove he didn't."

Duncan keeps eating his pizza, flat. "I believed it," he tells her. "I can't believe that I did, sometimes."

"You didn't accuse him on the dog beach the very last time you ever talked to him, though," she blurts out. It's like her mouth, her stupid mouth, is trying to betray her. Why not, everyone else has, even her suspicious nature, even her own stupid mind, even everything, even herself.

"The last thing I said to Lilly was, man. I yelled at her for something stupid about the car." Duncan rubs the back of his head. "I haven't thought about that for a long time."

Veronica feels her hands shake and the weight in her stomach get heavier. "The last thing Logan said to his mother before she died - well, not really to her. He told Aaron if he kept threatening Lynn, that he'd." Veronica chokes, a hand on her eyes, pressing, hard.

"I didn't know that."

Duncan also didn't know how hard Logan had believed his mother was still alive just like he doesn't know now that Veronica doesn't really believe Logan is dead. He never knew Logan asked her to find his mom; he didn't know why Logan had been sitting in the lobby so long. Duncan knows Logan is dead. Most of the time, Veronica wishes she could know that too. The rest of the time she's checking ebay and the search engines and the cell phone connected to Logan's credit cards with desperate hope, with certainty; Logan isn't his mother. Even when she thinks he's dead she doesn't think of him in the past tense. She hates it but it won't go away, like the damned sun in Neptune.

--

To be honest, this doesn't really feel like your life at all, not any of the incarnations of it. Your life was full of sweetness and high school and Lilly and Duncan, and then it was filled with questions and suspicions and revenge and anger. For a couple of days it was filled with different questions, hesitant and bizarre, but not gnawing ones. For a few more days, your life was nothing but answers, full of people - person - standing up to the entirety of the 09er class at a fake birthday party for you, with a couple of moments where you looked at something and believed it, face value. For two hours it was filled with terror, gut wrenching terror and fear.

Mostly now your life is just sad.

--

Wallace was the one to find Veronica in bed, after Aaron was gone and her dad was safe and she was safe and all she wanted to do was sleep forever and ever because - now what? Lilly was the piece that her belief had orbited around, and now she had nothing to put in that place. Wallace came in, and didn't even try to get those things out of her, he just made her some food and that was it, and sometimes that was enough.

"Hey. Earth to Mars."

"You know," she tells him, "I was just going to make up a drinking game where every time someone asked for my help I'd have to drink." Her breath doesn't hitch at the in-joke; game face time, last week of school, no place for that. "But I've changed my mind," she says. " 'Earth to Mars' is definitely the magic phrase."

He tells her, "you're so not passing finals then. Unless you can write them drunk."

Wallace sits with her. Duncan is at the next table, handing her geography answers as he finishes them. She tells herself it's not cheating, not really, because half the answers are wrong and so she has to correct them anyway. She also tells herself that when you're talking about catching your best friend's murderer, cold-hearted betrayal is justified.

--

Your life consists of a lot of what-ifs. What if you'd confronted Logan, what if Aaron had been convicted the first time around, what if you hadn't ever learned how to be that cold-hearted. Your life is one big what-if that you can't go back and fix. Your life is this, now; it goes forward, not back.

--

Veronica gets the mail Tuesday morning. They never found Logan's body, and her cell phone tracking his cards never rings.

The postcard says on it, "I had to find a really good one". On the front is a picture of Mexican lady in a hideous sombrero dancing with what looks like a cross between a cartoon llama and Wily Coyote.

Here's the thing - Veronica explained to Logan in great detail one time about how difficult it was to trace Central American postmarks. It's all very complicated, they use pencil sometimes, not ink, it's just a mess. The letter from Tijuana was a hoax, not his mother, but it had a pristine post mark, even listing the individual office where the letter originated. She'd explained how unusual that was to him; she'd told him it would be a piece of cake to track the letter down, but he hadn't wanted to, gave up on the postmark if it wasn't his mother, tossing the traceable envelope in the bin. That postmark was an anomaly, and so is this one; Veronica can make out town, region, postal sorting number, everything. It's as good as an address. It's like ringing the doorbell. she gets her keys.

--

This is your life now. It might mostly suck, but some of it is better.