DISCLAIMER: Veronica Mars and its characters are the property of Rob Thomas and UPN. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Picks up after 2.22 Not Pictured.

Go Easy
By gilligankane


It's Veronica who comes back for her, like some lost knight with shining eyes and shaking hands, pulling her body, wrapped in the scratchy Grand comforter, off the floor.

It's Veronica, with tear-stained cheeks and trembling shoulders, who comes back for her.

She doesn't ask where Cassidy is; something she sees in Veronica's eyes before all she sees is the fabric of Veronica's jacket tells her that the answer is bad, that the answer will hurt to say out loud, so she holds the question in the back of her throat, swallowing it down as she gasps for air against Veronica's body.

She asks where her clothes are instead, and Logan quietly excuses himself, taking the bellhop with him, leaving Mac in the suddenly intense quiet; the echo of Veronica's shouts – "Mac! Mac!" – finally gone from the room.

"He's gone," Veronica finally whispers in a hoarse, scratchy voice. "He's never coming back."

Mac nods like she understands – even if she doesn't, not at all – and let's Veronica pull her back in, because maybe Veronica needs a physical anchor more than she does.

It's when she inhales that her nostrils burn with the faint smell sulfur: something she's smelled before on Cassidy that lingers in Veronica's coat and her hair and the crook of her neck where Mac buries her head. She puts Cassidy and Veronica together and comes up with gunpowder and doesn't want to ask.

Veronica's body shudders again, shaking Mac's entire frame with the movement, and she doesn't understand anything that's going on, but Veronica's arms round her grip a little harder and Mac hugs back, trying to say thank you and I'm sorry without words.

It's Veronica who comes back for her, like some goddess in the night with sparkling eyes and summer-warm hands, pulling her mind, wrapped up in her computer, off the dark side of the line.

"You've been cooped up in here for ages," Veronica whines, sitting in Mac's computer chair, legs pulled up and folded beneath her, spinning in circles so fast that Mac can hear the plastic of the stand cracking with each complete turn. "Let's go out. Let's do something crazy."

Mac looks up from her computer, back propped against the headboard. "Your dad told you you're not allowed on whatever case he's working on."

Veronica rolls her eyes. "He thinks he doesn't want me involved. But when Bond and Q are on the case-"

"I can't," Mac says quietly.

Veronica's smirk fades into a blank expression and Mac decides that Veronica's blank stare is worse than Veronica's frown, because there's just the tiniest hint of pity at the edges of Veronica's eyes that makes Mac blush and duck her head down.

"He can't get to you anymore, Mac. You know that, right?"

Mac swallows heavily and nods.

"I mean, you know that, right?"

Mac nods again, but it's a little shakier and a little slower and Veronica's sharp eyes see it, because she's crossing the room and sitting on the edge of the bed near Mac, her hand hovering like she's going to reach out and touch Mac.

She holds her breath, but the touch never comes, so she exhales slowly and looks up, catching Veronica's eye.

"I won't let him get you," Veronica says so quietly Mac has to strain to hear it. "I promised you."

"It's just, sometimes, I close my eyes and-"

"He doesn't matter." Veronica's voice is so firm, so decisive, that when Mac looks away and looks back at Veronica, she actually believes it: Cassidy is gone and he doesn't matter.

Except, he isn't and he does, because when she closes her eyes, there he is, and when she lies in bed at night, there are his hands, tracing invisible lines on her body that she can't wash away, no matter how much soap she uses.

She knows Veronica has those lines too; knows that Veronica had more than lines and she wonders if Veronica washed them away, or if they faded all on their own.

"I promised you," Veronica says again, quietly, before she clears her throat and stands up, blinking hard to clear her eyes. She holds out a hand and Mac looks at it, wondering if she's supposed to take it, but Veronica lets out an exaggerated sigh and grabs Mac's wrist, pulling her off the bed.

Her laptop falls off to the side; it'll probably overheat and burn a hole through her comforter, but Veronica hasn't let go yet, so Mac tugs her arm until Veronica's grip loosens, and she lets her hand slide until she can feel Veronica's fingers wrapped around her own and she smiles hesitantly as they move through the house, wincing when the sun hits them in the front yard and she squeezes Veronica's hand tighter, trying to say thank you and I'm sorry without words.

It's Veronica who comes back for her, like some little kid on a playground with wide eyes and steady hands, pulling her lost excitement, wrapped in her brand new comforter, off the floor.

"There's a party," she announces loudly, smirking when even Parker flinches. "We're going."

It's a bad idea, because the campus is being haunted by a boy with one thing on his mind, and because Mac doesn't handle alcohol well, but Veronica looks like she finally got that pony she always wanted, so she can't say no.

She probably wouldn't have said no anyway; Veronica wouldn't have given her the chance.

It's not until her third beer that she starts getting nostalgic and mentions Cassidy, and Veronica – on her fourth beer – starts getting mouthy.

"He can't find you here, you know."

Mac nods sadly and pouts when another boy asks Veronica to dance. Veronica waves him off and turns back to Mac, her cup sliding violently, room-warmed beer sloshing over the side. Veronica frowns at it and Mac tries not to laugh, but she can feel the alcohol settling in her stomach and the giggle comes out anyway, slipping past her hand over her mouth.

"Not funny," Veronica mutter darkly, wiping her hand on her jeans. "It's not," she insists when Mac laughs again.

"I dream about him," Mac says abruptly. Veronica doesn't do anything for a moment, but then she nods.

"Me too."

"Sometimes," she continues, the words pouring out of her mouth even though she knows they shouldn't, "I wonder if it was me, you know? Could he… not because I wasn't good enough? Or was it just him?"

Veronica looks like she's thinking about it seriously, and the silence mocks Mac, asking her to fill it.

So she does. "He couldn't, you know," she prompts.

"I must have been a special girl," Veronica says bitterly. The glower flashes over Veronica's face before she seems to realize something else. "Have you," she says, trailing off, "with anyone else?"

Mac blushes and shakes her head sheepishly, taking a long gulp from her cup, so she doesn't see the determination in Veronica's eyes right before she's being pulled off the couch and dragged across the dance floor.

Her brain doesn't catch up with Veronica's feet until they're in Mac's dorm room and Veronica is kicking off her shoes and moving Mac's homework off the bed.

"What are you doing?" she asks, because even if she's had three beers, she's lucid enough to see how Veronica's eyes glint in the terrible room lighting.

"I told you," Veronica says in her no nonsense voice, "I wouldn't let him get you."

"But, but," Mac stutters. "He's not here anymore."

Veronica smiles a little lopsided and steps a little closer, tapping Mac on the side of her head, near her temple. "He's here," she says. She points to her own head. "He's here, too."

Mac wants this, whatever it is she thinks she sees in Veronica's eyes; she's wanted this since before Cassidy, since before that awkward conversation in the computer room when Veronica asked for permission to get onto Ryan's website; she's wanted this since Veronica saw her brand new Volkswagen Bug and looked at her with a level of respect and awe in her eyes.

"I promised," Veronica is saying. "I keep my promises to everyone. To Lilly and to Meg and to Duncan and to my dad-"

Mac's mouth widens reflexively. "You never keep your promises to your dad. He always tells you to stay away from his cases and you always never listen."

"He never got me a pony so we're even," Veronica says, the tips of her toes bouncing against Mac's feet.

She's about to protest that it doesn't count, because no one who wants a pony ever gets one, but her words die on her tongue, or maybe Veronica's mouth steals them when Veronica leans forward and suddenly Mac goes from wanting it to getting it.

Veronica moves with a purpose, pushing Mac back until she can feel her comforter against the back of her knees and then against her back.

Maybe this is how Veronica got rid of the lines and the smell of gunpowder and the feel of Cassidy's hands on her body, because with each press of Veronica's mouth to her lips, her shoulder, her neck, her hip, she feels another handprint fade from those same spots.

Mac arches up and when she crashes back down, she can feel something hot and wet underneath her eyes, sliding down her face and Veronica's smile drops to a concerned frown, but Mac waves her off – mostly because she can't find her voice and partly because she doesn't know what to say – and pulls on her arms instead; pulls her up until they're pushed together on the small twin bed and Mac can breathe again and she buries her face in Veronica's neck, exhaling with her arms looped lightly around Veronica's waist, trying to say I'm sorry and thank you without words.

It's Veronica who comes back for her, like some old, aggrieved wife, with knowing eyes and insistent hands, pulling her harried sanity, wrapped in Veronica's new comforter, off the floor.

Veronica stands in the doorway and sighs a few times, each sigh louder than the last until finally Mac looks up quickly before returning her attention to the book in her lap, ignoring when Veronica stomps loudly into the middle of the room and sits heavily on the bed, causing some of Mac's loose papers to slide down to the floor, scattering and fluttering.

"I needed those in order."

"You're going to drown in this stuff that has no bearing on your future life as a secret government agent. Let's go do something crazy."

Mac sighs. "Your dad told you to-"

"Stay away from his cases and help you pass this exam," Veronica parrots. She sighs and shifts on the bed, sending more papers to the floor. "But I'm bored," she whines.

"Get a hobby."

Veronica huffs and scrunches her nose. "Entertain me."

Mac points to her Economics book and looks up at Veronica. "I'm busy, with actual schoolwork," she says, glancing intentionally at Veronica's desk littered with unopened books. "Try it."

"But when I'm the hot, snarky lady friend of a secret government agent, I won't need to go to school."

"You'll need a cover," Mac says distractedly, already looking back down at her notes.

"No, I won't," Veronica argues. There's a quiet, blissful moment before Veronica opens her mouth again and says, "You need a break."

Mac's head lifts quickly. "No, I don't," she snaps, blushing instantly. She ducks her head. "Maybe I do."

Veronica grins victoriously. "See? And you doubt my genius. Now," she says, voice low. Mac tries to hide her shiver and gulps almost audibly. "Let's think of something fun to do," she continues, leaning closer to Mac. She pulls back at the last moment right before Mac let's her eyes slide closed in anticipation of a kiss. "Like crashing my dad's case. It'll take your mind off wanting to punch your Economics teacher."

Mac frowns, but starts closing her book, marking her pages. "I don't want to do that."

"Oh. I do," Veronica says unapologetically. "Come on, Q. Let's get out of here. It's starting to smell all academic-y in here and I'm allergic to that."

Mac looks at Veronica's hand and grips it, the tips of her fingers digging into the soft skin of Veronica's wrist as she hoists herself off the floor, not letting go when she's on her feet. Veronica smirks and when they're walking through the parking lot, Mac swings their hands a little between their bodies, waiting until Veronica looks over at her. Mac smiles widely and swings their hands more, trying to say I'm sorry and thank you without words.

The End

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