Characters/Pairing: Logan, Veronica, Wallace, Troy, Cherry Winslow (OC), Annabelle Bonham (OC), Logan/Veronica
Rating: NC-17 overall; this chapter, PG
Word Count: 3,347
Summary: Veronica works on the case of the stolen diary, unaware that Logan and Wallace are independently working on it as well. Throughout the investigation, Veronica and Logan are coming to terms with their relationship.
Spoilers: References sprinkled throughout to events in seasons one and two. The only nod to season three is that she's working at the library; she definitely still has the LeBaron because I hate the Saturn. It is sooo not Veronica Mars.
Timeline: I conceived of this story before season three started and this is the way I had hoped Veronica would be with Logan, so although this story takes place around early season three, it is not canon beyond the end of season two. So, yes, Wallace's roommate does not exist in my universe.
Disclaimer: Rob Thomas, Warner Brothers, The CW, they own ... not I. This is just for fun, not profit.
Notes: (1) I would like to give huge thanks to my group of amazing betas who reread chapters multiple times and did so much to make this story a thousand times better than it would have been without their generous help. I am so very, very grateful for all you've done: Sowell, Polartruckin (Belinda), JaneDtwo and SeluciaV (Alli), you are all beyond awesome. (2) ~italics~ indicate what would be Veronica's voiceovers on the show. (3) Like Veronica Mars, I am fond of titles that are pun-laden and/or derived from pop culture sources. The story title is a take on the 1955 romantic comedy starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, To Catch a Thief. All chapter titles will be similarly pun and/or pop-culture related. If you're so inclined, guess the reference.
Previous Chapters can be found here.
Chapter 3: Discomfort and Troy
~So how does one prove that a cheerleader's BFF is actually a two-faced, lying tramp who stole her boyfriend, her diary and her little dog too?~ Veronica wondered as she headed toward the tramp herself, Annabelle Bonham. Pausing for a moment, she allowed the girl some leeway. ~To be charitable ... even Cherry admitted that Pepper the Pomeranian liked everyone better than her.~ With a shake of her head, Veronica assessed Cherry's former best friend and decided that Annabelle didn't look like much of a tramp at all. Bathed in the sunlight with her golden waves gleaming, Annabelle was a bright and beautiful figure, her joyous laughter singing in the air. ~My, when exactly do the cherubs with harps show up?~
Then Veronica spied a certain someone among Annabelle's admirers and realized that an angel of the fallen variety had appeared already. One Troy Vandegraff. Cherry may have pegged Annabelle as the guilty party, but once Troy's name came up, Veronica's spidey sense had begun to tingle. Perhaps Annabelle had taken the diary; but Troy very likely got the ball rolling, somehow, some way.
"Well, well, if it isn't my good buddy," Veronica greeted Troy with a smack on the arm and a false smile of cheer. His spots may have faded, but Veronica believed that it was the rare beast that changed patterns completely. And Troy was as common as they came. "I didn't know that you decided to come to Hearst after all; your orientation experience certainly wasn't the most welcoming." She offered a bright smile.
The entire group turned to face Veronica, and Troy grinned. "Veronica Mars." He looked her up and down, taking in the chaste pale blue sweater/skirt set she wore with a raised brow. "I had heard that you were here, but I haven't seen you either. A shame we have no classes together, huh?"
"Heartbreaking," Veronica responded dryly before turning to face the tramp herself. "And you must be Annabelle Bonham, head cheerleader."
"Yes," she smiled and it was a lovely smile, full of warmth. "Veronica Mars? Do I know you?" She looked perplexed for a moment and shrugged off her curiosity when Veronica shook her head. "Oh, well, you're interested in cheerleading?" Veronica’s response was interrupted by a sharp bark of laughter. Annabelle turned sharply to look at her boyfriend. "Troy?"
"Yes, Veronica, you certainly look limber and flexible enough to take on the challenge of cheerleading." His smile remained in place, his eyes twinkling in that oh so charming way that Veronica remembered. "After all, flexible in the mind and heart oughta translate to the body, and Veronica Mars is all about flexibility, right?"
~Yup, same ole leopard.~
In response, Veronica simply rolled her eyes and tilted her head slightly as she gazed at him like a cockroach not worthy of consideration. "It's so nice to know that your change of character last year truly was -- as I suspected -- a momentary lapse of the real you." With a shake of her head, she returned her attention back to Annabelle. "I am interested in cheerleading, but not how you're thinking; I'm actually doing an article for the school newspaper. And you being the head cheerleader makes you the girl I need to see." She smiled brightly.
Drawing Veronica closer, Annabelle moved both of them away from the students hanging around her. Naturally, Troy joined them. "Ooh, you work for the paper?" Pulling back slightly, she looked Veronica up and down and tried once more. "Wait, are you sure you don't cheer? You look so ... well, you look like you'd fit right in."
~I guess the pastel set did the trick of creating the peppy-girl bond,~ Veronica thought wryly. ~Good thing I didn't have to break out an old pep cheer from the days of yore. Still, it wouldn't hurt to name-drop a 'talent' or two.~
"No, I don't, but I was in the pep squad in high school," she offered proudly.
Annabelle smiled brightly at that news. ~And score one for the Physical Education credit requirement.~
"Oh yeah, Veronica Mars was all about pep and cheer until she found her true path," Troy shot and Annabelle sent a silent reprimand his way, but Veronica shook her head as if marveling at the twists and turns of life herself.
"What can I say? I took a journalism course junior year and found my calling." Veronica's smile was no doubt so sincere that if she looked into a mirror, she would believe herself.
Troy let out another bark of laughter, this one disguised as a cough. "So, you're here interviewing for a cheerleading story?" He smiled ... charmingly. Of course. "No undercover duty, investigating the dark side of pom-poms?"
Veronica noted that the twinkle was gone. And so was her interest in anything Troy Vandegraff-related for the moment. She ignored him and kept her focus on Annabelle. "I don't actually work for the paper; it's more of a submission: "Lending Cheer: The Spirit Behind the Game." She grinned and crossed her fingers hopefully. Annabelle returned the gesture.
"Well, good luck and I would be happy to be ... your subject," she laughed. "I guess that's what you'd call it, right?"
Nodding, Veronica sent a glance Troy's way and then back towards Annabelle expectantly. "So, how do you and Troy know one another? I've known him since high school," she offered. Then before Annabelle could ask and Troy could poison the well, Veronica quickly tagged on their dating history: "We went out for a few weeks, but it was just a bit of fun." She turned to face Troy with a bright smile on her face, "Right, Troy?"
His mouth tightened just a tad, before widening into the Troy Vandegraff classic. "Oh absolutely. Annabelle and I on the other hand," he reached over and wrapped an arm around her waist, "We've got the real thing."
~I wonder if he told Cherry the same thing. To use the girl's very own, Troy-induced phrase: Rat bastard.~
"What about you? Still waiting for that special boy? Or, I know ... I seem to recall gossip about yearning for the one that got away. Have you finally moved on from the Kane heir?" He asked with a teasing bite.
Veronica paused for a moment, thrown by the comment. ~Looks like the Trampy McBitch reputation wasn't the only rumor he'd listened to.~ It had been so long since she'd thought of Duncan like that ... it seemed a lifetime ago. With a light laugh, she shook her head. "Oh no, I've moved on." A remembrance of how she'd spent last night brought a quick blush to her face. "Definitely moved on."
"Oh, my GOD! Veronica Mars! You're -- oh, I'm sorry." Annabelle covered her mouth quickly, her face a becoming shade of pink. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I just realized where I know you from. You're Logan Echolls' girlfriend. I've seen you two around campus." Her smile widened. "It must be so exciting --" she began, but Veronica shook her head, cutting her off before she could ask what it was like dating the son of Aaron Echolls, movie star and murdering psychopath extraordinaire.
"Yeah, no, not really. We're low-key. No excitement. No Hollywood. Nothing epic here. Just going to college, living ordinary lives."
Annabelle surprisingly took the hint and her mouth closed with a pop. So not the case with Troy. ~Oh boy, here we go.~ Veronica thought with an inner sigh.
"Logan Echolls!? You and Logan!? Did the Apocalypse happen and everyone forget to tell me? I read about his dad going psycho, but clearly missed the more interesting gossip. I thought you two hated one another!" He exclaimed, looking at Veronica in shock. And then just as quickly his expression changed, a considering glint in his eye. "Of course, you did always have a thing for bad boys, huh, Veronica?"
Ignoring Annabelle's interested expression, Veronica tightened her lips, but when she looked at Troy, she smiled sweetly. "Oh, Troy, Logan could teach you a thing or twenty about just how
bad a boy can be." And then returning her attention to Annabelle, she simply ignored the curious gleam in the cheerleader's eyes. Pulling out a card with her name and number written on it, she was all business. "If you could just give me a call when you're up to sitting down for the interview, I'd really appreciate it."
With a smile, Annabelle took the card. "Oh, absolutely. And I'm sure we'll have a blast." She took Veronica's arm and began walking her away from Troy and their friends. "Hey, maybe, Logan can be there. I'd love to meet him." Stepping back, she winked and turned away without waiting for a response.
Veronica stood there for a moment, looking after her with one thought jumping to the forefront of her mind. Troy and Logan might have been similar sharks once, but no longer. ~Logan is a whole different kettle of seafood now. Hmm, I wonder how the bestest boyfriend ever would feel about being bait?~
Shrugging, Veronica turned in the other direction, wondering if the direct approach would do the trick. Pulling out her cell, she decided there was no time like the present. Dialing Logan, she stood still while she waited for him to pick up.
"This is Logan with today's inspirational greeting: It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover. Marge Piercy. Leave a message."
She rolled her eyes even as an undeniable shiver raced through her body, his voice evoking a vivid flashback to the night before. "Hey, it's me. Give me a call if you get this before we see each other." Without realizing it, Veronica tilted her head slightly, "I wanna ask you a favor." Working at her bottom lip with a gentle nibble, she hesitated and then added softly, "Mission accomplished ... today's inspirational greeting is giving me delicious flashbacks to last night. When I get my hands on you --"
"-- They say there's a fine line between love and hate," the voice of one Troy Vandegraff came up behind her.
"Gotta go." She snapped the phone shut and turned to face him, a wintry smile already pasted on her face.
"Of course, I suppose in your case it was more like a fine line between hate and love." Troy had his own smile in place, much more pleasant, but just as false. "So nice to hear that you and the beau are getting on so famously."
Dropping even a pretense at cheer, Veronica rolled her eyes and cut to the chase. "What do you want, Troy?"
Rubbing his chin, he ignored her question and continued on with his own train of thought. "Really ... Logan? I just can't quite wrap my brain around that."
"If that's all ..." Veronica trailed off and made to leave.
"You know, I remember my first day at Neptune High like it was yesterday." Pausing, Veronica waited to hear what he would say. She knew what was coming, but was unable to deny her curiosity. Most of what Logan had pulled after Lilly's death had been rumor and suggestion, as well as her own suspicions, never proven. Sure his actions were thrown in her face with a taunting glee, but how much of her reputation -- fabricated stories and lovers -- was of Logan's doing? Here was a witness just dying to spill some dirt.
~And if the dirt is past-tense on my boyfriend, that's exactly what it is: Past-tense. Nothing to do with today.~ She crossed her arms akimbo, her head cocked while she stared at him. "Do go on."
"I saw a cute blonde sitting all by her lonesome at a table," Troy continued, a grin flashing at Veronica's interest. "And someone, I don't quite recall who, told me the little hottie was none other than the girl who personally introduced a Roman orgy to Neptune High at a big bash the year before." His eyes widened and he snapped his fingers suddenly. "I know!" he cried out with feigned realization, "why it was Logan Echolls. The same guy who laughed about puncturing your tire, what a drunken slut your mother was and an incompetent imbecile your father was. The very same guy you were just having phone sex with."
Swallowing, Veronica felt a prick at the back of her eyes. ~Okay, so maybe I should have drowned my curiosity and killed it dead instead of indulging just this once.~ Throwing a sweet smile on her face, she hid the sting his words caused as best she could. "A lot can happen in two years." A lot has happened and Logan would never hurt me like that again.~ Sudden recall of an insult or two from senior year post-break-up flashed through her mind, but she banished them quickly. ~He's a different person now.~
"Hmm," Troy continued, "but I thought that if someone did you wrong, they were history. Once Veronica Mars makes up her mind, that's it, case closed. Isn't that the way it goes? I pulled one little stunt and I'm still persona non grata. Logan Echolls makes your life a living hell for over a year and now you're leaving him sweet nothings via cell? Tsk, tsk, Veronica, whatever happened to that well-honed sense of vengeance?"
Shaking her head, Veronica finally allowed her irritation to fully show. Her voice was as tight as her expression. "My relationship with Logan, past and present, is none of your business."
And on the heels of that statement, as if he'd been waiting for it, Troy jumped right in without pause. "Fair enough. But whatever you have planned for Annabelle is. So, hmm, let me guess: You think she's taping and stealing a rival school's cheers?"
Innocent confusion coloring her face, Veronica relaxed her form and once more drew on a pleasant smile. "I told her; you were right there. I'm submitting an article to the college newspaper for consideration. I have my photography, but I figured showing myself as a double-threat would really get my foot in the door. I chose the spirit and sport of cheerleading because nothing says team player like glorifying the home team, and Annabelle Bonham is the head cheerleader ..." she trailed off and capped off her little spiel with a perky shrug of her shoulders.
"Because Veronica Mars is all about the team?" He tapped his chin as if considering the idea and then with a decisive shake of his head, continued in a sing-song voice. "I don't believe you."
Without batting an eyelash, Veronica shot right back at him. "And I don't care." She paused, her eyes bright. "So I guess we're at an impasse." Once again, she turned to leave, but Troy fell in step behind her. ~Hmm, and now I wish I'd taken up Logan's offer on how to effectively deliver an exit line with style and bite. Bummer.~ Veronica stopped suddenly and Troy came up short behind her. She spun to face him. "Yes?"
For the first time since seeing him among the admirers surrounding Annabelle, his face was devoid of smiles and false emotion. He looked sincere and dead serious. "Veronica, I know
you don't believe me and I I don't care --"
Tired of this conversation, and tired of his oily smarm tainting the air and bringing up bad memories, Veronica dropped even the pretense of friendliness. "Troy, what happened to turning over a new leaf?" And her voice had a bite to it, unencumbered by role-playing sweetness. "Last year, you said you'd changed. You were a better person and maybe I didn't quite believe you but I helped you, believing at least in your innocence. And I thought maybe, just maybe your resolve had stuck. But here you are, still plying the charm to hide your inner snake. And you question me?"
With a bark of joyless laughter, Troy met her gaze head-on. "I did; I have --" breaking off midsentence, he met her gaze. "Hey, last time I checked, Logan Echolls was the world's biggest jackass, but look at what the love of a good woman did for him?" He smiled winningly and Veronica bit down another retort in defense that Logan was nothing like Troy. ~After all, I don't want him to think the lady doth protest too much.~
"Well, you know what they say, Troy? Love is blind." Veronica bit out and then blinked quickly as the thought jumped to the forefront of her mind that the same cliché might very well apply to she and Logan. Masking the sudden anxiety that filled her, she raised an eyebrow and held herself tight.
As if she hadn't spoken, Troy continued, clearly still trying to convince her that she was wrong about him. "I'm not who I was two years ago, but, hey, I know that you know what they say: A leopard doesn't change spots, right, Veronica?" He shrugged. "Maybe that applies to more than just the men in your life. I mean, you come a' calling out of the blue, dressed like that," he gestured to her demure sweater set, "full of saccharine smiles and pep, talking about cheerleading. Cheerleading, Veronica?" He laughed and shook his head. "I know something is up. Look, I don't deny that I was totally looking out for myself in high school, but now ..." Troy trailed off and looked away for a moment. Veronica followed his gaze and saw that it was locked onto Annabelle, standing with her friends again. Shifting slightly, Veronica couldn't deny the softness that she saw come over his face.
She let out a heavy sigh, about to turn around and walk away, but Troy quickly turned back to face her, continuing where he'd left off. "Now I'm looking out for Annabelle. You know, Veronica. You know personally how much rumor and innuendo can damage a person. Whatever you think you know she's done, you're wrong. She's innocent. She's a good person. Don't hurt her, Veronica." Intensity filled his gaze. "Don't. Hurt. Her."
~ I almost believe him~, Veronica thought with a touch of shock, and then right on the heels of it, she shook her head quickly. ~He is good,~ she reminded herself. ~God, he is good.~ Pasting a frosty smile on her face once more, she tilted her head to the side and squinted at him slightly, "or else?"
Troy smiled a deprecating one and spread his arms wide, acknowledging that indeed he was still the bad guy in her eyes. "Okay, Veronica, you win. I may be a kinder, gentler Troy Vandegraff, but I can still bite. A leopard doesn't change spots, right?" He offered a wink and a smile. "Just remember that."
With a final look, ~and the final word~, Troy walked away, leaving Veronica suddenly chilled in the warm air. But it wasn't Troy that made her shiver. Him, she could handle; it was more what he had said about Logan and that parting shot that she couldn't quite shake.
~What Logan did to me three years ago ... I don't think about. We're good now, and I know why he latched onto his anger and tried to hurt me. Troy doesn't get that, doesn't get that he wasn't always the world's biggest jackass. And he certainly doesn't get us. Logan punished me because he believed the worst of me and I'm no different. We're the same; opposite sides of the same coin. Sure we never ... We don't talk; instead we act and leave painful memories alone.~ Letting out a weary sigh, Veronica shoved her bag firmly onto her shoulder and started walking away, but her thoughts followed her. ~I guess those memories were just lying there undisturbed and bundled up tight, waiting for some rat to sink his teeth in and shake them loose.~
Shaking her head, Veronica let out a deep exhalation of breath. She didn't think about the past because the past was dead and buried ... like her best friend, her dreams of a perfect family, a perfect love. And if it surfaced in the form of ex-boyfriends, Veronica just did what she did best: She pulled out the shovel and started digging a new hole.
To Be Continued ...