vanessagalore: (!Precipitation)
[personal profile] vanessagalore
TITLE: Paralysis (24/?)
AUTHOR: [personal profile] vanessagalore
CHARACTERS: Veronica, Logan, Keith
WORD COUNT: 3,508
RATING: PG13
SUMMARY: Sometimes it's best to just get the hell out of Dodge. Set right after 'The Bitch Is Back'.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for the whole series, especially season 3.
WARNINGS: Cursing.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. Beta'd by zaftig_darling. All remaining errors are my responsibility.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks for your patience. Sorry about the delay in updating.

1~Precipitation 2~Precarious 3~Paranoia 4~Prevarication 5~Probation 6~Predicament 7~Paradox 8~Please 9~Perilous 10~Palpitation 11~Precipice 12~Perspiration 13~Peregrination 14~Pursuit 15~Plexus 16~Pier 17~Perception 18~Phantasm 19~Phantasm 20~Pyromania 21~Prognosis 22~Paternity 23~Premeditation

Click here to read a summary of the whole story from the beginning. And for just the last time on 'Precipitation': (Highlight to read ~OR~ click here to skip directly to the new chapter)

Veronica insists on looking up information on the Sorokins, and she realizes that Gory was not afraid that the video would be sent to the authorities, but rather that his own father would discover that he'd told a family secret to a fraternity. Sleep eludes Veronica, and she stews about whether she should vote to send the video to Gory's father, finally voting to send it, making it unanimous. Logan remains convinced that their best hope for survival is to buy a sailboat and set out for the Caribbean. Veronica, still traumatized and scared by her narrow escape in Chicago, focuses on the dangers of the journey, and finally votes that she wants to stay in Chapel Hill, overruling her dad and Logan, who have both voted to go. It unnerves her that she makes both these decisions out of fear rather than rationality.



Chapter Twenty-Four: Paralysis

On the bus to work, my head sags against the window. The customary buildings along my route flash by; faces that have become familiar populate the bus. I try to see beauty in the lush greenery of Chapel Hill, but it all feels rotten and threatening. If you turned over a rock, there would be slugs and scorpions, and earthworms doing their part to decay the earth. Our life is squalid and hopeless. Fear and boredom, in equal parts. An unendurable, unending existence of lying low and just plain lying.

Because the alternative is the dark froth of the Atlantic tearing apart a wooden boat. Three bloodied survivors cling to the wreckage, battling the wind and waves until one by one they slip under the sea—a last gasp of brackish oxygen and then it's all regrets and we-should-haves.

No, I chose this verdant landscape, where vines and humus invade overnight and rains deposit a lingering, palpable humidity. And we're sheltered by all this sodden fertility, for now.

My 'no' vote was my last bit of selfishness. Old Veronica, prideful and self-absorbed, asserted herself one last time, and the men in my life acceded to me once again.

Logan had tried to hide his disappointment from me, but he was clearly depressed that we weren't going to sail off to the Caribbean. I apologized three times, until finally he turned on me and snapped, "I can't talk about it yet." We laid as far apart from each other as we could on the double bed last night. I wouldn't call it sleeping—I don't think my eyes closed for more than five minutes all night long.

This morning when I emerged from the bathroom dressed for work, wearing the three layers that add fifteen pounds to my physique, he quickly navigated away from a webpage on the computer. I tried for a light tone. "What'cha got there?"

"Nothing." He could barely look at me.

"You're not going to do something crazy, are you?"

Logan sighed. Hitting the back button, he turned the screen to me, exhibiting a plastic surgery site. "Noses, Veronica. Cheekbones and brow lifts." With old-Logan sarcasm, he added, "The possibilities are endless." I inhaled to protest, and he said, "Don't say it. It is necessary."

"I—" I...I what? I need you. I love you. I need you. Please don't do this...we'll figure something out. "We'll talk about it tonight. Let me think about the sailing thing again today."

"No, it's okay. You made your feelings perfectly clear."

Wincing, I'd been haunted by the vivid memory of his eyes, burning with lust and hopeful for the future just two days before—not these bleak eyes that won't really meet mine. I took three weary and unbearable steps forward, and my arms tentatively wrapped around him, hoping for forgiveness. Not understanding, because that would be too much to hope for. "I love you. I promise I'm listening to you. Please don't be mad at me for being—" My voice faltered and I'd shut my eyes again. "I'm sorry I'm so afraid."

A long moment of silence as he absorbed my confession, and then one hand had snaked back and caressed my hair. "I know. I'm not mad."

"I'll see you tonight."

Next stop. A grandmother gets on; a pair of rowdy teenagers get off. I've already seen this scene played out a few times. It's all about marking the days and keeping to our routine now. Don't screw up. Don't diverge from our protocol. Don't. Don't.

As I step off the bus and walk into the mall, I remind myself that I'm lucky. I get to leave the apartment and see other people, see the sky and the trees, have a little variety in my existence. At Orange Julius, the guy behind the counter nods, "S'up," just like he did yesterday and the day before. There's Barnes and Noble. Look, they've changed the featured book display. A food court—too many memories, of course, so I always walk past just a little too quickly. Brookstone and its gadgets for the man who truly has everything. I bet Logan owned most of these cool items in his old life. A Hold Everything store...storage for all the stuff you just bought at Brookstone, that you're not really going to use, and ten years from now it'll all be marked down at a garage sale, picked over and then discarded in the next day's trash.

I walk into the store and plaster on my work smile. Ashley beams at me. "Hey, Mandy. Guess what?" I shrug that I don't know, and she continues breathlessly, "Jeff transferred to the Raleigh store. Can you believe it? I'm so glad to be rid of that loser, always toking up and goofing off. I saw how he was bothering you, and I've been dreading having to deal with him. And now he's someone else's problem!"

"You knew?" All that worrying, and meanwhile Ashley had known exactly what Mr. Grabby Hands was up to.

"Of course I knew. And I really appreciate that you tried to be cool about it, tried to handle it yourself."

Ashley's a better manager than I thought. Of course, she probably should have dealt with Jeff right away, but at least she hadn't been oblivious to his shenanigans. "That's great news. Best news I've heard all day," I observe without a hint of irony. "That boy was dumber than a bucket of rocks, just wouldn't take the hint."

"Rocks? He was more like a toad, you ask me." Ashley points to the large picture window just beyond the racks of discounted slacks. "Beautiful weather today, right? I bet you it's going to be slow. A summer Sunday, with blue skies and a temperature in the low eighties—for once, people won't be hanging out in the mall for the air conditioning."

"Excellent." I'm pretty wiped out from two sleepless nights, and pretending to be nice to customers is more than I could handle. Just trying to hold onto my Southern accent feels exhausting today, and for the thousandth time I regret that I didn't just pretend to be a West Coast transplant to make my life a little easier.

"Say, do you want to get a coffee after our shift today? I feel like I barely know you. You really did handle Jeff better than I would have. What's your secret?"

I shrug again, refraining from telling Ashley that I'd employed a police hold typically used for disarming a suspect. "Coffee. Sounds great. Just you try and keep me away." But I make a mental note to pretend to get a phone call as the shift ends. The last thing I need is to have to keep track of an elaborate backstory while I'm working. Perhaps I should come up with a better character history and have Logan grill me on it.

No, scratch that. I will definitely come up with a kickass bio and Logan's going to make sure I'm perfect on it. I need to become 'Mandy', live in her skin, find out what makes her tick. Her hopes and dreams have to be my hopes and dreams.

And Veronica? Make sure to aim low.

Ashley and I make small talk as we unpack boxes of khaki slacks and cashmere sweaters. She loves to talk recipes and diets and tell stories about her super-cute schnauzer, Beanie. Fortunately, Ashley's not in the thrall of celebrity—there's not much chance that she'll see my Hearst ID photo in an update on the Logan Echolls manhunt. I contribute commentary on human interest stories from the newspaper and pithy observations on the new low-rise slacks J. Crew is promoting.

It's just barely summertime, but the fashion industry is already thinking autumn. The lightweight polyester and cotton of summer slacks and sleeveless shirts gives over to wool and flannel, long sleeves and layers. Time marches on. One day follows another, and life stretches out in front of you, mundane, lousy and crappy. Working here is hour after hour of gabardine and no-iron linen, and a sore hand from punching the price tags and theft reduction devices onto the clothes.

And underneath my placid, content disguise, I long for the sordidness of motel matches and an illicit couple framed in the crosshairs of my telephoto lens. I imagine a database reluctantly yielding its secrets and a mysterious deed down at the county courthouse intriguing me. Dad would high-five me when we finally track down an elusive bail jumper, and 'follow the money' is our cross-stitch sampler nailed to the wall. Case closed. That always felt good, slamming the file drawer shut and endorsing the check, 'Mars Investigations, LLC.'

About an hour before closing, three girls walk into the store and Ashley offers to take care of them. I nod and keep folding a stack of excursion vests, my back turned and my thoughts still morose and all-consuming. The three girls chattering up front barely register on my consciousness.

"Hey, Mandy," Ashley calls to me. She holds up a shirt. "Can you check to see if there are any size sixes in loden in the back?"

I nod, and bring the shirt up to the front. And stop short. In between two girls I've never seen before is Jane Kuhne, Wallace's on-again, off-again girlfriend, who'd gotten derailed by his obsession with Jackie. Jane, who'd gotten the friends' rate when her sister disappeared right before the wedding. Jane, who'd eaten lunch with me, who'd commiserated with me over coffee at the Hut, and who certainly isn't going to shrug and forget it when she sees someone who reminds her of that teen detective from high school in a most unlikely place.

This is what you get for griping about boredom. Safe, wonderful boredom.

Gulping down my terror, I walk up and hand the shirt to Ashley. "Here you go." I turn as quickly as I can and head for the back.

"Veronica? Veronica, is that you?"

I turn around on quivering legs, and look as puzzled as I can. "Excuse me?" I ask, my slight Southern drawl a little more exaggerated than usual.

Ashley helpfully says, "Veronica? No, that's Mandy." To me, she adds with a smile, "Thanks."

Not to be dissuaded, Jane strides over and grabs me in a hug. "It's so good to see you!"

I hold myself stiffly and shoot Ashley a 'help me' glance. "I'm sorry, I think you've mistaken me for someone else."

Jane whispers in my ear. "Are you undercover? Oh my god, Veronica."

So she hasn't heard, and clearly she hasn't been contacted by the Feds or the Neptune Sheriff's Department. I allow myself the luxury of a momentary mental snark about the quality of agents employed by the FBI before I focus on just what I've got to do here. Voice as steady as I can make it and my Southern accent just a little more pronounced than usual, I try to sell it, because everything's riding on how I play this. "Miss, I truly am sorry, but I sure don't know what y'all are talking about. I have one of those faces—people are always sayin' I'm the spitting image of somebody or other."

Believe me. Please believe me.

Jane looks puzzled. She pulls back, and I feel her assessing my weight and examining the curly auburn hair and glasses. "I, um, I guess...I'm sorry. I really thought you were somebody else."

"Happens all the time," I say smoothly, and put on my fake smile. I head for the storeroom and lean against the wall, my heart pounding and my legs barely able to keep me upright. What do I do, what do I do?

When Jane leaves here, she'll be on the phone to Wallace within thirty seconds. You'll never guess who I ran into. I'm pretty sure.... And Wallace will tell her, "Nah, wasn't Veronica. Trust me," because he's a good soldier. But then she'll start googling. Will Jane rat me out to the feds? No. I'm certain she won't.

But then Wallace will know where I am. He'll be in danger. And if the feds run his phone records, maybe they'll notice a call from North Carolina and start nosing around. Maybe they'll even decide it's worth interviewing Jane. Why the sudden call to Wallace Fennel, huh, Ms. Kuhne? You do know Fennell's under investigation as an accomplice to Veronica Mars, don't you?

Fix this. Goddammit, fix this!

Can't be fixed.

It's not 911, drop everything and run, but there's no choice. We have to leave Chapel Hill, as soon as possible. Damn, damn, damn. I look at my watch—half an hour to go on my shift. Checking quickly to see if Jane and her friends left, I walk up to the front of the store. Deciding that a normal reaction would be to comment on such a strange encounter, I say, "Hey, Ashley. That was weird, right?"

"I'll say."

"D'you think I could knock off a little early? I'm feeling a little blah. Got my period today and I've got horrible cramps," I improvise, remembering that I'd claimed to have PMS just a few days earlier when I'd been upset about talking to my dad. "I feel like I've been chewed up and spit out."

"Oh, geez, I'm sorry. I hate that. Yeah, it's cool. We got a lot done without Jeff messing everything up."

I smile, hoping that my clenched jaw isn't noticeable. "Raincheck on that cup of coffee. Thanks, Ashley."

As soon as I leave the store, I pull out the prepaid phone and try to dial my dad. My fingers are shaking and it takes two tries before I dial the correct number.

"Hey." His voice is easy and relaxed. That's not going to last.

"Hi, Dad. It's me." I don't say 'honeybun' and I picture him pressing the phone to his ear and pacing, wondering if I've screwed up the code or if things have truly gone to shit.

"What's up?"

I'm walking toward the bus stop, grasping the phone so hard my knuckles hurt. There's a stabbing pain behind my right eye, and my stomach is churning with anxiety. "Funny thing. I ran into Aunt Charlotte today." Our code for 'someone spotted me.'

"Really. How's she doing?" What's the situation?

"She says she's looking forward to the family reunion, and she's feeling good. No more sciatica." We don't need to split up. There's time to pack. Not, 'the cancer is back. It doesn't look good,' which would have meant, drop everything and go. Dad to the west, me north, and Logan south. No contact for at least a week. I feel nauseated thinking about it. Hiding in a dreary cheap motel somewhere in New Jersey, checking the casual encounters section of Craigslist for the coded message that never comes, because Logan and Dad don't make it. Or captured by Gory and vowing never to break, but I do, and then they kill me anyways.

Focus, Veronica. There's things to do. We're not splitting up. We're not.

"That's good. See you at home." The change in Dad's voice is subtle. He's just a little wary and probably already going through his mental checklist for evacuation.

"Yeah. Oh, and Dad? That thing we were talking about last night? I want to change my vote to 'yes'."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

*****

We've practiced evacuation over and over. Dad's drilled us on exactly what to do, so by the time I get home, we'll be ready to roll. After dumping the phone and taking the bus to the University of North Carolina campus—a quick ten minute ride—I grab a cab and ask for a little tour of Chapel Hill. No one appears to follow me, so I have the cab drop me off in a park about a mile from home.

Adrenaline jitters through me like a hundred cups of coffee as I switch my high-heels for the tennis shoes that are always with me these days, right next to the Walther and a bundle of emergency cash in the bottom of my backpack. I run through the woods at top speed, every shadow a Fed in a dark windbreaker, every snapped twig a cocked pistol. Emerging onto a different street, several blocks from the apartment complex, I slow to a sedate walk. I'd scouted this route on my daily runs, and the hope is that even if a car had been following me, they would have lost me in the park. It still feels like there's a target on my back, and I resolutely push away the image of Brown Suit Guy pursuing me.

Dad's gone ahead, taking the bus to the nearest student parking lot thoughtfully provided by the University of North Carolina. He'll wait until he sees someone parking for the night, and then he'll steal their car, returning as quickly as he can to pick us up. Because we don't want to alert the building owner, Dad has called his boss and, in a voice blurred by tears, announced that his mother has had a massive heart attack and the doctors are saying to come immediately. I'll do the same with Ashley tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Logan's been frantically boxing up what we'll need—the computer, printer, laminator and other peripherals that we need to make fake ID and essential papers. Clothes get shoved into garbage bags. With a couple of practice runs, we've got an organized departure down to forty-five minutes.

When I finally get home, I'm still panting from running and my neurotic imaginings. Upon hearing 'honeybun', Logan flings open the door and grabs me in a quick hug. "You really changed your mind?" I nod, and he closes his eyes and exhales. "Thank you. I swear to you—"

"I know. Let's talk about it later. We've got a lot to do."

It looks like a tornado hit the apartment, but Logan's done his job, and we're close to being ready to go. I check through the apartment and find a few personal items he's overlooked, but he did the essentials. Dad isn't back yet, so I instruct Logan to help me straighten up the apartment as much as possible. I dump the perishables from the fridge and take out the garbage. The few entertainment items that we'll be leaving behind—the Monopoly game, the hand weights, and a few paperback novels—go in the trash as well. We want the landlord to assume that we flaked out on him. It probably wouldn't be the first time that a handyman skedaddled.

Reminding Logan to check that his weapon is in his backpack, safety on, I reassure myself that mine is ready as well. I strap on the ankle holster with its diminutive weapon and then we wait.

We wait.

No Dad.

I will myself not to check the time. We sit and stare at each other, neither of us wanting to talk. After the briefest of arguments, Logan had overruled my suggestion to don a blond or black wig. With no time to dye his light brown beard and mustache, he would have had to shave. So he's sitting across the room from me, with a ball cap already on his head and sunglasses hanging from the collar of his T-shirt, and it's brutal to keep my worries to myself that he'll be recognized with this feeble disguise. His thigh jiggles nervously and he keeps scratching at nonexistent itches, and I wonder if he too is stewing about the way he looks. He'll slump down in the seat, I tell myself. It's dusk—no will see him, I tell myself.

For my part, I've put on the dark wig from my old Gamegirl outfit and I've trashed the clear glasses I've been sporting ever since Chicago. My makeup has been scrubbed off and I've donned an outfit that makes me look young again—ripped jeans and a belly shirt instead of the layers of t-shirts and leggings topped with a frilly blouse and dressy slacks. The disguise isn't much, but hopefully if Jane does go to the cops, she'll describe my appearance quite differently.

It's all we have time for. It has to be enough.

Our life has spiraled down into hyperventilation, taut muscles, and unspoken words of worry. Cars go by, and we strain our ears for the sound of a car engine slowing and stopping outside our door.

Or a siren. Or a bullhorn, and twenty assault rifles readied to take us out if we don't cooperate.

Finally I give up and check the time. An hour and forty-five minutes since I called. Five minutes for Dad to call the landlord and strap on his gun. Twenty minutes for Dad to get to campus parking. Thirty minutes to locate and steal a car. Twenty minutes to drive back here. He's a half-hour late, assuming everything went perfectly.

"He'll be here," Logan says.

"Right."


"Try not to worry."

"Right."

Continue reading...Panacea

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-06 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh jesus, the tension! Fabulous chapter. While Jane was a shock at the time, it's a great reason to get them going - I hope!! Bring Keith back safely already.

I wonder what they'd do if he just vanished - never returned. Would they leave, hang about?

What a cruel cliffhanger!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-06 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] fickledame
Sorry, it did it anon before letting me login.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-06 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] fickledame
Oh jesus, the tension! Fabulous chapter. While Jane was a shock at the time, it's a great reason to get them going - I hope!! Bring Keith back safely already.

I wonder what they'd do if he just vanished - never returned. Would they leave, hang about?

What a cruel cliffhanger!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-07 01:49 am (UTC)
celtic_flicka: UFO (UFO)
From: [personal profile] celtic_flicka
You and your cliffhangers, man. I need to know what's going to happen!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-07 06:54 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hi. I follow your story on Livejournal, and I have commented before. My username over there is infinityy. I just wanted to say, thank you for posting another chapter and keep up the good work and please don't give up on the story. :) I miss this show so much and I am dying to know what happens in your fanfiction. Thank you!!

Love

Date: 2012-11-28 02:03 am (UTC)
schuylerjo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] schuylerjo
Hi Vanessa, it's been ages but I really still love this story and the imagery in this chapter is phenomenal. I know it's hard to keep going in this fandom but I'm glad you do!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-21 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
From meld junkie


Great to see another chapter. I'm glad that things are happening again, I'm concerned about mr mars though. I liked the time in one place as it gave time for emotional issues to be addressed but glad that they are on the move again. I think you write their escapes very well

(no subject)

Date: 2013-01-22 04:32 am (UTC)
4am_secret: (buffy ☠ willow)
From: [personal profile] 4am_secret
Hello! I just devoured my way through all three seasons of Veronica Mars about a week ago for the first time ever, and I thought you should know that this is the first fic I've read for the show :) Actually, first fic I've read in any fandom for a few years - I needed more, when I finished that last episode, and I feel beyond lucky that the first story I come across perfectly nails almost exactly what I wanted to see in the aftermath.

I've yet to read any of your other writing (will be getting on that as soon as possible), but I've read through the comments enough to see that this style has been a bit of a struggle for you and is pulling you out of your comfort zone, I think? I just wanted to let you know that if it makes you feel any better, I never would have guessed. Veronica's voice is so dead on in this for me, I can hear her speaking every word (same with Keith and Logan, for that matter). I don't find the POV to be confusing at all, and the way you describe things is so natural that it has all pulled me into this story, into the settings and the tension. I love how you are explaining things that were never explained before, or weren't explained well, and how you are weaving canon into this story in ways that feel so right.

I am also loving how you've set them up in a situation that is loaded with opportunities for developing their characters and relationships so far beyond where the show was able to take us. After the third season, it's refreshing to see a Veronica that is having to deal with major consequences for her actions and how they've affected herself and everyone around her. Ahhh, there is so much more that I want to say, but it is late. I am just so looking forward to seeing more of this! Do you mind if I friend you?

More pls?

Date: 2013-06-01 04:11 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I would love to read more of this fic! Like the rest of your writing (<3 YLD! <3), it's wonderful. I've really been enjoying it. Is it possible you're posting the rest somewhere else? Please keep writing! :)

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