Actions

Work Header

into the stubborn deep

Work Text:

like to meet a human who makes it all seem clear
to work out all these cycles and why I'm standing here

-

After you're awake, the first person to visit you is a family lawyer, or maybe he said he was your family lawyer, you're not sure.

This means something, too. Everything means something. When Trina, your sister comes to visit - your sister's name is Trina, you have that as a memo in your cellphone - she says the reason the lawyer came first is because they had to judge you mentally competent.

"To press charges," she explains. "On the lowlife that did this."

You get a feeling, all of a sudden. It could be called a premonition except it's more like a memory, without sound or pictures or focus. You get the feeling that you wanted this to happen.

"Anyway, he'll get whoever that did this, little brother. They'll be convicted of attempted murder."

Your back twinges again at the word 'murder'. What happens is the nape of your neck starts prickling, right at the top of your spine. You want to ask about that, but instead you say, "where's our mom and dad?"

Trina's face falls, and she perches on the end of the bed, pats your knee. "Your mom killed herself a while ago, Logan. I'm sorry."

Right now, you don't even remember what your mom looked like. That's what you're sorry about. "Where's dad?" you say.

Trina's answer is to put a dvd in. You're tired, and your head hurts, has hurt pretty much constantly since you woke up. The doctors have been offering you medication, but some pit deep in your stomach refuses. It's not so bad. Trina lays down next to you on the bed and watches some cartoon movie while you doze off. At least someone is visiting. Trina comes every day for a week, and it takes you a week to realize that not once does she let you watch live television.

-

You wake up, and for a second you don't remember your name again. Logan. Logan. Your name is Logan.

It might as well be Billy; until your sister comes in with a huge bunch of flowers, smiling wide and wearing sun glasses. "Hey Logan," she says.

You like your sister visiting because she's always cheerful, always sunny. You like her until you realise the other people in your world (which means the two nurses assigned to you and the doctor) don't - that has to mean something, and you realise what it is when she brings a publicist around.

She still smiles, but not as wide when you tell her no.

-

The lawyer always comes after breakfast, to 'discuss' things. "you just let me know when you're ready, when you remember who did this. They'll pay, I promise, Logan."

You say, "I don't remember any of it," and lay back on the pillows. The lawyer visiting tires you out, and the nurses don't let him stay long. They think asking you about the attack when you keep saying you don't know anything is cruel, like it's too soon for you to remember anything at all, even false pity like theirs. It's not exactly true that you don't remember a thing. You remember being kicked in the head by someone in steel toed boots. You remember the boots, but not their face. It's only ten seconds of your life.

The doctors always come to visit after lunch. Apparently, you're rich, because your hospital bills are no object and you have a private room. Finally, you ask the resident assigned to your floor about it.

"Your family was very rich," he tells you, and averts his eyes.

-

You remember boots, you remember handing in a calculus test, and some girl that isn't your sister. You still haven't seen anyone but the lawyer, the doctors, a neurologist, a few dedicated but quiet nurses, and Trina. You didn't ask questions in the beginning because it was a little much, and you barely felt up to pissing by yourself. But now you remember enough to know where the gaps in your memory are.

You twinge at the word 'murder', at the television even when it's off. You see someone across the street taking a picture with a telephoto lens, and instinctively know that he's photographing you. It's time to ask.

"Tell me what Trina's so afraid I'll find out," you say to your lawyer.

The lawyer is impeccably dressed. "Okay."

-

It's a lot to handle, and when you ask Trina about it she starts crying, saying it's not possible, saying things you know you should react to but don't know how. All she can say is, "I know daddy didn't do it." You pat her head, and feel the base of your neck twinge while she curses the family responsible.

"She's obsessed, she's always been obsessed, with Duncan and now this--"

The lawyer just told you your oh-so-famous father had been arrested for murder two weeks ago. The lawyer doesn't give you details, but you know it was more than that, your stomach and back both twinge, painfully. That also means something. Something big.

"Trina," you say, "can I be alone for a while?"

She gets up. "I'm here for you," she says. "Whatever you need."

"Don't I have any friends?" you ask her. It's been over two weeks and just her; you remember long blond hair on your pillow, you remember a crowded table at school. "Don't I have a girlfriend who wants to see me? Someone?"

Trina wipes her eyes. "We specified family only," she tells you. "It's for the best," she says, "Trust me," and suddenly you really don't.

-

The doctor argues, but finally you say, "am I committed here against my will? Am I not healthy enough to walk to the cafeteria by myself? I didn't specify family only, you sure didn't. I don't have a guardian," because that was something the family lawyer was very clear on: as of now, you were no longer under the legal guardianship of anyone. He'd set it up in order to put through motions about the attack, but it's done now and they can't say no to you. "I want to know what's going on," you tell the doctor.

He finally nods, and reluctantly gives you the names of the people who've tried to get in to see you, before and after you woke up. He helpfully points out the six reporters, and you carefully scratch their names out with a pen.

"Can I have a phone book?" you say, and look up the friends who cared enough to try and visit. The Kanes are unlisted, so you'll have to call the listing for Mars. Something in your gut twists, a little, while you dial, but it's not like when Trina avoids your questions. It's a different unnameable feeling. You don't remember this girl at all.

A man picks up after three rings. "Mars Investigations."

"Is Veronica Mars there?"

The voice offers to take a message, and you decline. How can you explain that you've woken up from a coma and don't remember why you want to see her, and don't remember why you never want to see her, so can you please just get Veronica to call so she can fill in some blanks? You don't know why Veronica would be one of two people to try to see you while you were in a coma in the first place. Maybe she's your girlfriend, but the reaction of the voice on the other end of the line makes you think she isn't.

The voice says finally, "I'm glad you're all right."

You can't help it; "you know who I am?"

"I do," the voice says. "How are you feeling?"

Whoever this is they know you're in the hospital and apparently they know more about you and Veronica than you do. If you were hoping for a simple girlfriend who was desperate to see you, just begging herself that you were okay, you were wrong; something in you never expected that, though. You say to whoever this is, "I really can't remember much. Of anything."

There's quiet for a moment, and then the voice says, "I guess I should give you her cel number." He rattles off some numbers that you write down, barely legible. The gouge in your arm - someone thought windshield glass - still twinges like mad, a different twinge than your stomach and your neck. It hurts, like little pin-pricks in the nerve endings. It hurts a lot. The voice pauses, and the knot in your stomach gets tighter as your arm eases up. "Be careful with her," the voice says, and hangs up.

-

A girl knocks on your open hospital room door, and a blond head peeks around the doorframe. You sit up in bed, paste a smile on that doesn't show your hesitation, and say, "hi."

"Hi," she replies, softly.

When it doesn't look like anything else is going to come from her end, you glance around, mute the dvd player. "Do I know you?" you ask. Her face was pretty before, now it looks blank. Suddenly you know she's crestfallen. this means something, everything means something, and you can read people's body language without knowing why or how, and you usually don't know what it is you've said to trigger the reaction. "That doesn't mean anything," you add, "I just don't really remember much of anything, so."

She takes a step into the room. There's a box in one hand, and her other arm is wrapped tight around herself. This girl is afraid, you realize. "Can I come in?" she asks you.

"Do you see anyone else being all that entertaining?" You try another smile. "Please come in." You throw off the blankets as she moves a few more paces closer to the bed, and puts her wrapped box onto the table beside it. Suddenly, you realise - you don't remember, but you realise - this is Veronica. "Veronica?" you ask her.

"That's me," she says. "Hi, Logan."

"So we do know each other." This is the girl that tried every day for a week to see you when you were asleep, and the one they caught attempting to sneak into the ward after hours. She doesn't look like the type; is she your type at all? you don't know why she's here, and so you ask her, "why are you here?"

Her face takes on another crestfallen, hard shell, mask, and she starts, "you called, I can--"

"No," you interrupt. It's so tiring, having to explain to everyone that, really, you don't remember jack-squat, so please start at the beginning and take it slow. "I didn't mean - I don't remember. Anything. So are you here because you were worried?" You cross your legs. "I guess we're friends, but I don't know why or how and it seems," and here you smile again; nothing is simple-- "that it's not as simple as Trina made it sound."

She chews on her lip. "What did Trina say?"

When she found out you'd called Veronica, among other things, to not under any circumstances let her visit; but Trina brought a publicist with her who wanted to take pictures of you in bed, so you've kind of stopped listening to her. "She said you were trouble. In so many words."

"So why'd you call?"

Trina also said that the Mars family was responsible for getting your father arrested. This is the kind of thing that should make a person angry, but something in that deep pit of your stomach that can read Veronica right now also gave you the feeling that you were kind of grateful about it. You tell her, "I want to know what happened, and not just Trina's version. And you and Duncan Kane were the only people to try and visit me."

She looks around the room, and finally grabs the chair in the corner. She pulls it up to your bedside, so the two of you are on equal levels. Actually, she's still shorter than you, but you feel a little more at ease, with her sitting. It looks less likely she's going to bolt, too. "I'm going to sit," she tells you, "because this might be a longer conversation than you realise."

"Why?"

Veronica smiles, but it's nothing friendly, nothing sweet like her face should suggest. She's pretty, and delicate, but her eyes are anything but. "You want to know what happened?"

"I want to know everything, anything." You sigh, kick the blankets again. You turn the television off, don't care where the dvd is paused because you've already seen it, you've already seen all of them. It's time to get knowledge of the outside world, not Jackie Chan's comeback. "But I don't even know what to ask."

Veronica chews on her lip again. "I brought rum balls," she finally tells you. "You maybe would have preferred a bottle of rum, but they probably would have confiscated it."

"I like to drink a bit much, huh?"

She sighs. "Nothing is easy, is it." She nods; "a little too much." You digest that, and she adds, "these are pretty weak. I put in extra vanilla."

As she opens the box, you try to force your brain to remember what it is about you that she's afraid of, or what it is about her that makes your stomach knot up. Nothing's there, she's a complete stranger to you except in the way you see her shoulders bunch up and want to put an arm around them. "We're friends?" you ask.

"Interesting question," she replies. "Duncan's your best friend," she tells you.

"He's unlisted," you offer up. She hands you a rumball.

"His family is - they're rich," she says. Duncan's family twinges the back of your neck, makes the hair stand on end. "He's been your best friend for ages. We're - I don't really know if we're friends."

"Why wouldn't we be?" you ask. "You brought me baked goods in the hospital. Clearly there's something there."

There's always something there, there's always something just under the layer of your consciousness that's blocking out all these memories that you *need*. You need them to function, and instead have to put up with third parties filling in the gaps. Veronica rubs her cheek. "The last time we spoke wasn't - the status of our relationship was." She stops. "I accused you of something and we broke up."

You frown; your stomach and your neck still don't signal anything, and they're the only things you have to go by. Clearly you cared about Veronica, because you still do, instinctively. Clearly she feels that you shouldn't. You say. "so we were together, though."

"For a while," she says, and looks at you. "It's a little more--"

"Complicated," you finish for her, and roll your eyes. "Look, I get that there's a huge history you haven't fully explained, and the way you're acting it seems as if you're waiting for me to scream at you or something, but - I can't remember. I don't remember. So can we please just start fresh for now?" You shift on the bed, as she watches you. "Maybe I'm supposed to hate you or something? But I don't, and you were one of two people who cared that I got hurt."

"Of course I cared," she murmurs, "but it was sort of my fault."

You eat a rumball - they're really good. She obviously has hidden talents. "Do you want to be friends, Veronica?" you ask her. "Because I do. You came to see me."

She looks at you for a long moment. "I'd like that," she tells you. "But you have to know some things first."

You pop another rumball in your mouth, and say, "I'm counting on you to tell me. okay?"

-

The first time the boy named Duncan Kane comes to visit you, it's clear he kind of hates you.

"Hi," you say. The doctors have even let you get dressed, you're free to wander all around unchecked. Personally you think they're keeping you at the hospital partly for the revenue and partly because the attending, at least, senses you don't have anywhere else to go. That's almost pathetic enough you want to go home, but things are easier in the hospital, and you still have headaches nearly every single day. They still tell you to take the painkillers, but not as much as Trina, so you suffer the hospital food willingly.

"Hey, man," Duncan says, and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "How's your head?"

Duncan is more at ease than Veronica, and you knock on your skull a couple of times, grins for good measure. "Pretty thick," you say. "Nothing too squashed."

The two of you talk about trivial things, the flavor of jello the cafeteria is serving, the cute nurse walking by. Finally, you feel a headache coming on, right behind your left eye, and press your palm into the side of your head to try and make it stop. It's not a normal headache; that is to say, it's not a headache that comes from having your brain kicked repeatedly by someone. It's not the headache you have continually, this is a headache probably from sleeping funny. "hey," Duncan says, "You okay?"

"Just a headache, yeah," you reply. "It's nothing."

"Do you want me to get--" he starts to say, but you put a hand up; the nurse will just tell you to take a codeine pill or something, and your stomach still clenches up, talking about drugs. There are a couple of rumballs left, and you pull the box out for Duncan. He takes one, pops it in his mouth. He finishes the whole thing before he says, "so Veronica's already come to visit, I see."

"What?"

Duncan is still standing, and he crosses his arms. His stance reminds you of Veronica, but where she was afraid, he's trying not to be angry. Sometimes you really want people to just be able to read your mind, because trying to *explain* this big blank hole in your head is exhausting. "She made the same rum balls for my parents for Christmas, that year we all went up to the mountains--" and then Duncan stops. "I guess, you don't remember."

You lean back on the bed, weary. You say, "correct, my friend. I have been robbed of my entire life before waking up in this hospital gown," and then you say, "but it's not such a bad thing. So where'd we go?"

Duncan tells you the story, and you listen, and try to make your brain work like it used to, or something like it used to. Suddenly, you remember a tiny detail. You remember you and Duncan, and Veronica and another blond girl. The blond girl is sitting in your lap in front of the fire and feeding you pieces of apple while Duncan and Veronica cuddle on the couch. The girl with long blond hair, you know with certainty, her name is Lilly. "I remember that evening," you say suddenly. Duncan stops, and looks at you. You tell him, "we couldn't build a fire in the fireplace because it was too hot, even up in the mountains, right? so we put on the A/C."

"Veronica started it finally, because the rest of us sucked, and she spent a year in Girl Guides," Duncan tells you. You don't remember that part, but you remember that you and Lilly went to bed together.

-

"I need to ask you something, Duncan," you say finally. Your headache, the one behind your left eye, is slipping into a normal headache, into one that makes your vision a little off and your patience thin.

Duncan is sitting in the same chair Veronica was yesterday. Both of you have smiled a bunch, and he's been regaling you of stories of your wilder days, stories where the names and horrible things you did aren't edited, aren't softened. You demanded that; you have to know what it is you're sorry for in order to figure out what to do next. It turns out he's a pretty good friend, because he doesn't shy away from telling you that some girl named Caitlin cheated on you with the member of the motorcycle gang, and that you didn't care about losing her but you did care that all the other guys made fun of you.

"I was kind of a bastard to her, huh?" you ask Duncan.

He shrugs, answers, "well, she was never up to your calibre of intellect. And don't take that as a compliment, you haven't met Caitlin."

"Dumb as rocks, huh?" you say. "Was she hot?"

"And the old Logan Echolls returns at last," Duncan says with triumph.

You start to disagree, defend yourself against whatever slight is intentioned - you can feel that he's insulting you even as you don't know *why* - but you realize he's not saying it with any malice intended, either. You rub your head. "I have to ask you," you start. "Why are you so angry?"

"What?" He's startled; he's surprised, but lurking under all of that, he's a little bit guilty, too. "I'm not."

"You are, man," you say, and shift on the bed. When you first woke up, like, that day, and the doctors told you that you might never remember anything of who you once were, you decided to start being honest with people about how much you don't remember. That vow of absolute truth faded as Trina brought the publicity agent around, but you try to stick to it when you can. You tell Duncan, "you're angry at me for something, and I don't know what, since you also were one of two people to come and visit me while I was unconscious."

"Veronica came to see you too?" he says. He looks at his hands - *oh*, you think - and then at you again. "I didn't know that."

"She was listed in the phone book, that's why I called her. She gave me your number," you say. "But she wouldn't say anything except that we were best friends, and that my father's in jail for murder." This is not, evidently, your strong suit, honest words. It all seemed so simple when you thought about it, but putting it into practise was being difficult. This time, your palms tingle, your wrists. You're nervous. You add, "if you were angry about that you would have said something when you first walked in, so out with it."

"It's nothing," Duncan insists. He looks out the window, out the half-closed blinds. "I should get going," he says to you, and leaves. You let him, because you don't know whether you feel more loyalty to him or Veronica; you don't know whether you should mourn her fear or his anger more. You don't know any of this because you can't remember what put those feelings there in the first place, and you don't remember what your feelings were. The doctors tell you that those memories might never surface again, but right now, you wish even a piece of them would.

-

Veronica comes to visit you late one night, a cut above her eye and obviously in pain on her left shoulder. You're concerned, and confused. "What's wrong?" you ask.

She brushes it off, and gives you the sugarplum cake she made you. Each day, she brings you some new kind of baking, and sometimes it's not very good but it's really a lot better than hospital food, so you eat all of it except the piece you always save for Duncan. They don't ever come in for visits together, and you want to ask why but know you shouldn't.

"Come on, Veronica," you say. "What happened? are you okay?"

"It's nothing," she says. "There was - it was a bail jumper, in a bar on the highway. I got him, no biggie."

Last time she came she explained to you what her dad did for a living, and now while he was in the hospital what she did for a living in order to make sure they didn't lose their apartment and their hot water and their car, singular. "Did someone look at your arm, your head?" you ask.

"Last night," she says, and finally sits down on the foot of the bed. "Just bruised."

You leave it alone - she's a smart girl, if they told her she was fine then she was. "So what did the bail jumper do?"

"Assault," she tells you. "He's being questioned for second degree murder," she tells you.

You get a little jolt of electricity in the pit of your stomach as she tells you about tracking him down, and then finally drugging his drink to put him in the trunk. She doesn't tell you why she didn't just dump him in the back seat. The little jolt in your stomach doesn't go away, and you examine it - it's different than the wary feeling when Trina comes in, it's different than the goosebumps that you've started to get when Duncan mention Lilly.

You finally realize that you're afraid, in your gut, of losing Veronica, and suddenly you can remember why you hate her - you remember staring at some sheriff as you're in an interrogation room, and him telling you that she turned you in. You can remember why you hate her, and now you're even more afraid of losing her.

She pauses in her story of bikers that sang karaoke, and raises an eyebrow. "I can tell the one about the guy who tried to swim in a fountain naked, that I picked up last week, if it's more to your liking."

"Sorry," you say, and blink. She's not close enough to touch, but you'd like to - you'd like to touch her hand, briefly. The two of you haven't touched since you woke up. "I just, I remembered something just now."

"What was it?"

Her voice is small and soft and concerned. You don't want her bolting, because there's no way you'd be able to track her down. You reach over, and put a hand over hers on the bedspread lightly. "I just remembered the sheriff's office, when he arrested me."

It's no good; she stands up, wraps hands around herself. "What about it?"

"I was on the phone to you," you say. "And, and then he told me, and I can remember thinking just, that I won't cry in front of the sheriff. I won't. That's all I can remember thinking until I got outside the building."

"Logan--"

You don't know what to say to her. You don't know what to say - sorry I remembered the part where you betrayed me, sorry I don't remember the girl you did it for, you should be sorry for me being in a coma, sorry I can't remember enough to properly hate or love you? You stare at her, and she turns around to leave.

"Veronica." She waits. You get up, not without difficulty - the ribs are still stiff, even if you don't want to admit it - and go to her. You wrap a hand around hers, and feel her stiffen instantly. It's not anger, you know her well enough to know that, it's fear. Veronica is afraid of you.

Eventually she lets you pull her back to the bed, where you both sit. She takes a breath, and pulls her mask back up, starts telling the story of the guy she caught dancing naked in the fountain. You don't let go of her hand.

-

You see Veronica peek around the doorway as Duncan polishes off the last donut. "Sorry," she says, "I'll just get a coffee or something--" and then she's gone, and you sigh at the way Duncan freezes and puts the donut down.

"Come on, man," you say. "Just go talk to her already."

"Since when are you an expert on--" Duncan starts, and then freezes again. You know he was about to start teasing you about being an expert on Veronica, and then clammed up because; he mutters, "sorry."

"What?" You sigh, irritated at his tiptoeing around the issue this time. "Just because I don't remember what's wrong doesn't mean I'm such a big bonehead I can't see it."

Duncan doesn't answer, and doesn't answer, and you sigh again. "What?" he asks.

you stand up, to go find Veronica. "You're just so pretty when you're lying," you tell him, and he's quiet long enough for you to escape. Veronica always gets coffee from the same hospital machine, and you think it's because she's secretly superstitious. You could ask her, but it's one of the stupid things you want to relearn on your own. You also don't want to find out that, before, you didn't know it.

-

You find her staring at the coffee machine, chewing her lip. She rummages around in her bag for a coat hanger, and then pokes the coin slot a few times. You would ask why she carries around a coat hanger, but when the spout starts pouring sluggish coffee into a small paper cup, you don't. You do wonder who taught her how to rip off vending machines.

She sees you, then, and picks up her coffee. "Where's Duncan?"

"In my room," you say. "I think he's trying to find a back door out of the ward."

"No luck, partner," she cracks, and sits down on the nearest waiting room chair. "Take it from me, there is no back way into - or out of - this ward. I've looked."

You sit down beside her. "So, maybe this isn't my business, but why won't you talk to Duncan?" In amongst a lot of recent soul-searching, you've discovered about yourself that you are blunt to a fault. At first, listening to Duncan's stories, you thought maybe it was just a tactic, just some way you behaved, but even now with the slate clean you still can't help but say what you're thinking.

Veronica says, "Maybe I should just write a list of things that need to be revealed to you in order to have a conversation with me."

-

The next time she comes in, she hands you a piece of printed paper, and stands in the doorway. You glance at it, and realize she's taken the time to number each revelation, cataloging each and every one based on how important it seemed to you the first time around, when she thinks you found them out, and who else they affected.

In the group therepy sessions the doctors make you attend - mostly to find something for you to do - there are other head trauma cases working to regain their lives and memories. The therapists tell you all to write lists of things you have to remember, until life falls back into order. One particularly asinine doctor calls them 'cheat-sheets', and always says something positive and inane whenever she mentions them: never think a thing is too little to remember. If your little sister's favorite ice cream is chocolate, then write that down. If you like the movie Bambi, write that down.

You tried to start one, thinking maybe remembering those seconds that have accumulated post-trauma might help you somehow. You look at the list, and look at Veronica. You know your cheat-sheets don't mean shit.

"I've gotta meet with Cliff in an hour, so I have to go," she says, and swallows.

You look down at the piece of paper in your hand as she leaves. Item one on the list is "your girlfriend Lilly Kane was murdered almost two years ago." Item two is "your father fucked then killed her."

-

The one good thing about having a life-threatening head wound is that when you're surly and quiet for a day, the nurses and doctors treating you don't assume that it's because you're a teenager or because you're somehow moody or overly-emotional. When you've been kicked in the head that many times it's okay if you just want a day to yourself to watch HBO on dvd.

Duncan comes to see you at lunch the next day. He leans against the doorframe, staring at you laying in the hospital bed, eating Doritos from the vending machine. Apparently the doctors don't really care what your diet is anymore, which is the thing more than anything that makes you think you're only there out of pity. When Duncan doesn't move into the room, you mute the television and say, "What?"

He grins, sardonically, shakes his head. "Dude," he tells you, "maybe it's time to go out into the world, you know?" He waits; you leave him on the hook. No one's getting off easy today, you figure. Finally he says, "Veronica called me."

That's a sharp stab in your diaphragm; jealousy. It's an emotion you don't really remember, but it comes as naturally as breathing. "She did, did she?" you ask.

Duncan moves towards you, hands in his pockets. "Yeah," he says, "she told me what, well, what she told you."

"Oh," and you swallow.

"Listen," Duncan tells you, "I've been seeing someone. Talking to someone. About all of this." You wait - he adds, "she said I can blame you for things you don't remember? but not without telling you."

"Oh," you say. "that's really not rocket science, Duncan."

He laughs. "I know. But there you go. So, I sorta blame you for Lilly's death, I think. I blame you for Veronica being in trouble, nearly dying. I blame you for taking Veronica, just because I pulled away from her."

"Yeah?"

Duncan shrugs. "Yeah."

Your stomach is calm, and you don't have any goosebumps. You remember, suddenly, holding Duncan over a toilet the first time he threw up from drinking, and you realize that if the two of you had lost your friendship, it was most definitely your fault for being the asshole. You sigh, turn off the television, and swing your legs over the side of the bed. "I bet your psychologist," you say to him, "would tell me that I was lucky. Starting with a blank slate."

"really?"

You pull your shoes on; pick up the list Veronica made you from where it was sitting on the table. On it is the line 'your father used to hit you, beat you, even as a child. In order to cope with it, you became vicious and struck back. that eventually turned to striking first. Since you couldn't defend yourself physically, you taunted everyone and everything, especially your father, to prove you could'. You don't remember it, except him punching you in the face at one point, and whipping you with a belt because you wouldn't apologize. You should feel anger, hatred, because apparently you used to hate him, but all you feel is intense pity. What a pathetic man, having to prove himself through hurting a little boy. The psychologist would probably tell you that it's because you don't associate that little boy with you.

"It's because," you tell Duncan, "I don't remember the awful things that happened just as much as I don't remember the good things. So maybe I can actually learn to be a nicer person." You think you'd like to be a nicer person; you're certain you want to be someone other than an Echolls.

-

Veronica comes back and agrees go to outside with you. Even if the new Logan Echolls is almost as stubborn as the old one, you still can't quite face the great unknown without someone else there. Your memories still only amount to roughly two weeks of life. But you grab the release forms; it's now or never.

The nurse helps you put away all your things in a brand new suitcase. You had someone deliver it to you, ordered it with a nice shiny platinum card that apparently hadn't been cancelled yet. You wonder how much mileage you can get out of it before the bank freezes your father's - before the bank freezes Aaron Echolls' accounts.

"All ready?" the nurse says, and you nod.

Veronica's waiting down the hall. Duncan offered, but you think that for all the reporters outside, you'd like to show a consolidated front. When Duncan pointed out the fact that he and Veronica had equal reasons to hate you as far as the press were concerned, you promised him that you'd let the press get pictures of the two of you in a grocery store tomorrow.

Veronica doesn't ask if you're ready. She does say, "you have everything?"

You shrug. "Whatever. I'll buy more."

She rolls her eyes, and hands you a tin. Off your look, she says, "relax. They're oat bars."

"Oat bars."

"They're good." You look at her. "I swear." When you don't say anything, she moves to take the tin back, saying, "fine, I'll give them to Duncan," and you reply,

"no, I want them." She grins.

You know full well how you're being manipulated; by now, it's obvious how she gets what she wants. You wonder if it was as obvious to the old you, but feel like it's probably not something you can really ask. You don't care. You have to give up certain things about the old you, accept that they're gone and not coming back. So does everyone else.

"Shall we?" she says, and you nod, follow her out the glass doors into a bright light that isn't southern California's sunshine, but rather a storm of photographer's flashbulbs. unfortunately, somewhere deep down, you do remember this.