Title: "Five People Who Didn't Save Veronica Mars"
Author: monimala
Fandom: VM/various
Rating/Classification: language, AU, gen, crossover, angst.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.
Summary: 1375 words. Just what it sounds like. These are five people who didn't save Veronica in 2.22, "Not Pictured." It helps to have read Through the Sodium Glow but you don't have to.

She stares at him, just him, while the sound of shots and confessions fade. Not at the body crumpled on the ground between them. But it's not ground, is it? It's roof. The very opposite. If he tips his head back, he can see stars and the last bits of the plane still hanging in the sky.

"Keith's fine," he repeats, just in case she didn't register that part of what he was shouting after he burst through the access door. "Keith wasn't on it. I couldn't have your dad taking all the glory, right? I took him off the escort detail at the last second."

The tip of his gun is still warm from the firing but he shoves it back into his holster anyway. He steps up to the Casablancas kid, gets down to the business of checking the clammy throat for pulses, radioing back-up and telling them to bring the meatwagon and not the life squad. That is, unless -- "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

She finally moves. The tiniest shake of head. No. And then she nods and his gut burns and he wants to choke down an entire box of Rolaids. Yes.

"H-he raped me."

He has never heard that in Veronica Mars' voice. That little pause. That hitch of breath. That split second of absolute vulnerability. Not even *that* morning, but mostly because he wasn't listening. He was making grocery lists in his head, with post-scripts to bypass the mascara aisle.

He stays crouched on the concrete, three fingers steadying him, next to a cooling corpse that used to be a fucked-up teenager who caused a bus crash.

And he wishes he'd shot the kid three more times.

The sirens echo up from the street. She hugs herself, tight, and he knows that's better, that's safer. He doesn't have the right.

"I hate you, you know."

"I know."

"This...this doesn't...change..."

"I know."

He does it anyway. He stands up, feels his knees creak with regret, and pulls her into his arms. Her face is wet against his collar and it stings like powder burns.

***

When the giant blue box lands on Beaver, Veronica wonders if she's actually dreaming. If this is some twisted variation on The Wizard of Oz and she's going to inherit his shoes and go visit the Emerald City (Sheriff Lamb will finally get his fondest wish).

But it's not Dorothy's house. It's a blue box, marked "Police." And it's not Beaver's feet that stick out from beneath it but the hand holding the gun. Broken, white, glove-like, like a chauffeur's or a traffic cop's.

She hallucinated this thing once. Outside the Hut after a marathon work-study session. The man who comes out of it, too.

"You again?" he scoffs, peering around the door at the hand and the gun. "Funny that. I meant to land next to him, not *on* him."

"Pity!" says the girl emerges after him, sarcastically. "It got the job done, didn't it?"

Veronica has imagined her before, too. She asked for extra foam on her cafe mocha and her smile was contagious. Even now, it's contagious. She should be crying, screaming, anything but laughing with hysterical relief.

"Well. Come on, then." The Doctor waits until she's done losing it before he holds out his hand. It's not broken, not white. It's firm and strong and she takes it. "Fancy a lift?"

"Uh...sure." She's still gasping for breath. For reason. To connect the dots between Beaver-bus crash-rape and this.

Rose takes her other hand and they lead her into a place that needs no yellow brick roads. A place that's bright and clean and safe. "Where to?"

Veronica clicks her heels together and murmurs, "There's no place like home."

***

He has a job to do, one that won't take particularly long, and requires little to no effort on his part.

He is, after all, a consummate professional.

But as he winds up the cable he used to climb up to the roof and maps out the route to the Echolls suite one more time in his mind, he hears a woman cry out. It's an ugly sound, a pained sound. He's learned a dozen different pitches and tones that are associated with agony. He knows them all by heart.

Clarence goes off schedule for just a few precious minutes. Long enough to note that it's Veronica Mars who screamed and that she's no longer perilously close to falling from the top of the Neptune Grand.

He loves the muted thwap-thwap of the silencer.

And, every once in a while, he loves being a hero.

***

"Chere, you best move 'way from dat gun, n'est ce pas?" he suggests, mildly, as it begins to glow red.

The petite looks at him like he's crazy. Pretty much like every woman he knows looks at him, oui? So he closes the distance between them quickly, reflexes still honed even though he hasn't seen the inside of the Danger Room in years. He grabs her by the elbow and yanks her halfway across the roof...just before the little shit who tried to kill her meets le bon Dieu with a whole lotta fanfare.

The weight of the jewels from the hotel safe is almost as delicious as the weight of the girl beneath him. She's a tiny thing, an angry thing, because she pushes at his chest with perfect human hands and demands he "get off!" and "let me go!"

He's never been one to refuse a pretty lady. So, he springs up, brushing gravel and bits of teenager from the folds of his duster.

She's up and around a little slower. Her legs shake, but he's proud of her for making it all on her own. "D-did I miss the Justice League moving to Neptune?" she asks him, glancing back at where her would-be killer...would be.

He laughs, kissing his bare fingertips, and the gloved ones too, and blowing to her on the wind. "You didn't miss much at all, Chere. Much less this..."

"Hey, hey, wait...!" She's still watching him when he makes his way to the edge of the roof and hops off.

And she's glowing, too.

Pretty much like every woman he knows, oui?

***

The couch is lumpy, hard, and desperately in need of exile to the curb for trash day. And his arms are beginning to hurt. But he doesn't care. He cradles her against his chest like the pieta his abuela has hanging in the hallway next to his father's picture. He wonders if that's how she held Papi when he died...like the Virgin mother, like every mother who loses a son too early.

There are deep blue circles under Veronica's eyes. Her eyelashes are black smudges against them and he suddenly remembers how she made fun of his own. Maybelline. right? "Shit," he whispers, flexing his fingers beneath her. "V, what the fuck, huh?"

This is not how he planned to spend his night. He'd planned to spend it on a bunk in jail, thinking up a dozen choice insults to throw at Lamb's head. No, no, that's not true. He'd planned to spend it drinking watered-down sangria and giving Ophelia and Tonio piggyback rides as his grandmother found just the right frame for his diploma.

But this girl...this crazy-ass girl...she has a way of changing plans, of changing everything. Just by breathing. By standing there as he pries a gun out of her hand.

It's in her freezer right now. Tucked between some vegetables and a Sara Lee pound cake. Tomorrow, he's going to toss it off the Coronado bridge...and he knows it's too much to hope that somebody does the same thing to Beaver Casablancas.

It kills him when Veronica cries out in her sleep. She says, "Daddy!" and sounds like she's just a kid, just a scared little kid.

He lies and whispers, "I'm here," and tries not to think about how screwed up that sounds.

He tries not to think at all.

So he prays instead.

He asks his father to take care of hers...and God to take care of them both.

--end--

May 19, 2006.

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