Twelve, the epilogue
It had been a long year for Buffy Summers and Veronica Mars. For Veronica, it began with a bus crash. For Buffy, with the arrival of Faith--the latest slayer--and the sudden return of Angel from Hell. But it was May now, and they'd survived.
Buffy, Willow and Oz were sitting in the bleachers with Keith as Neptune High's graduating class of 2006 received their diplomas. While Xander was on a road trip of personal discovery, and Angel and Cordelia were pursuing their destinies in Los Angeles.
Willow cheered as Mac's name was called, as Buffy talked to Keith:
"This is way less 'life and death' than our graduation." She exhaled, willing the memories to be gone. "By the way, thanks for taking my mom in, Mr. Mars."
"Was more than happy to." He smiled at her. "What exactly happened?"
"The Mayor turned into a giant snake, ate the principal, and we blew up the school with him inside." Buffy nonchalantly explained.
Blink. "You know, for my senior prank, we just let a potbellied pig loose." He told her, and then Veronica's name was called.
Their conversation was put on hold for insane amounts of clapping, hollering, and whistling. When they sat back down, it continued.
"I actually think Neptune's mayor might be worse." Buffy still couldn't believe it. "He really molested some of those kids on the bus?"
Happy, pleasant, "Aw shucks!" Woody Goodman, owner of burger joints and the Neptune Sharks baseball team, had become mayor in the election. But through the Marses investigation into the bus crash, after exploring many leads and avenues, they exposed him as a child molester, who'd for years taken sexual advantage of the boys on the little league teams he'd coached.
And it was his sponsored field trip to Sharks Field that put the bus full of kids which crashed, on the road in the first place.
"The audio file Veronica downloaded from Woody's computer proves it; they talk about confronting him. So not only did he molest them, but he also most likely arranged the crash so they couldn't tell anyone. Innocent men rarely flee town on their private planes." Keith said. "Plus, Woody was treated for Chlamydia. And when I checked his medical records against the kids'?"
"They were treated, too." Buffy filled in the blank. "That's..." She couldn't even come up with the word.
"That's why I'm leaving right from here, and tracking him down. I have a good idea where he went."
"I hope you catch him."
They looked back at the ceremony just in time to see Weevil being arrested by Lamb. Weevil had discovered that a traitorous PCHer named Thumper was the one who killed Felix, for a family of drug dealers known as the Fitzpatricks. He set Thumper up for a fall, and was now taking the heat for it. Lamb, being the jack ass he was, probably enjoyed hauling Weevil off to jail before the kid could graduate. Buffy and Veronica both watched, feeling so bad for him.
Keith spoke again. "Oh, um, I got two, plane tickets for New York. Hotel reservations, too--it's Veronica's graduation gift. I was gonna make a father/daughter trip out of it, but...I think you could use a vacation more than I could. Why don't you go in my place? I'm old--I'd only slow her down."
Buffy's eyebrows went up. "Seriously?"
"Yes, I'm seriously old. The baldness is a dead giveaway." He wisecracked. "Take her, have a good time. Be eighteen. But, responsibly."
After the ceremony, Keith gave them the tickets in the parking lot then went to bust the bad guy. Willow and Oz got a ride from Mac to the Neptune Grand, where the post-graduation party was, but Buffy and Veronica? They were still sitting at the school, inside Veronica's car.
Alicia had come up to them saying that Wallace had flown off to Paris to find his girlfriend. Veronica called that girlfriend and took care of it, then told a quizzical Buffy it would take too long to explain. She seemed to accept this.
Keith and Alicia had broken up earlier in the year. It was over a whole mess involving Wallace's biological father--who she didn't tell her son or Keith about--coming into town. Every time Veronica had to see Mrs. Fennel, it was a little strained.
So Buffy moved on to good news. "Willow and I got into Hearst."
Veronica squealed in shocked happiness. "Are you kidding? What about--?"
"Faith's holding down the fort." Buffy answered the question she stopped short. "She's gonna stay with my mom. I mean, I'll still visit on holidays like every other, normal college student, and help with apocalypses and all, but...m'gonna be local now. I'm Council-less...I can do whatever I want."
Faith and Buffy had had a rocky friendship that almost became an avalanche, when Faith had mistakenly killed a human being on patrol. A team from the Council wanted to deal with her in not the most delicate of ways, but thanks to Veronica's advice actually, Buffy had had a hired P.I. watching them.
Therefore, she knew what they were up to. After stepping in, she convinced her sister slayer that she wouldn't have to deal alone. Then they started their friendship fresh. Veronica had met Faith since, and her eyes were drawn to two breasts that made hers extremely envious.
"And Oz?" She asked now, wondering what Willow's boyfriend was going to do.
"Goes where Willow goes."
Veronica hugged her with abandon. "That is so what I needed to hear right now. I didn't think anything was gonna cheer me up, but, turns out I was wrong. Which is nice, because when I'm right usually? Nothing positive ever really results."
Buffy frowned. "I can't believe the trial went like it did."
Thanks to his smarmy lawyer, Aaron Echolls was acquitted on all charges. Lilly's murderer walked out of the courthouse a free man. It was sickening.
"Wanna know the other high point?" Veronica questioned rhetorically and sarcastically. "When that...sleazy, jack-ass," Meaning the lawyer, "announced to the whole courtroom--which contained my father, don't forget--that I'd had Chlamydia. And do I get how that happened? No." Shook her head. She'd only found out when she went for the checkup for college. Wouldn't have known otherwise. "I know I didn't get it from you, and you didn't get it from me because...why didn't you get it from me?"
"The 'slayer' thing. Our bodies fight off just about..." Buffy trailed off, something registering. She paled. "Veronica?"
"You didn't sleep with Woody Goodman, did you?" She asked hollowly.
Veronica stared at her like she had multiple heads. "Nooo...I think I'd remember if I..." Then she paled, too. "Oh god. One of the boys he molested..."
"...raped you at Shelly's party." Buffy didn't want to say those words, but there they were. "Duncan must've come in after."
Veronica started her car. "There's one kid on Woody's little league team with Peter Ferrer and Marcos Oliveres," Two kids that were on the bus, "I haven't identified yet. But I know where to look." She reversed. "Then I can go throw up. All over again."
They'd gone to Woody's burger joint, and checked the team photo on the wall. In the caption, where it said "Not Pictured"? Cassidy Casablancas' name was there. His story last year was that he'd been in a room with her during Shelly's party, but left without doing anything. That was obviously a lie. Not only did she know he was her rapist, but she now knew he had motive to crash the bus.
On that audio file she'd gotten from Woody's computer, Marcos and Peter were talking to someone who didn't want them to confront Woody. But that someone had edited themselves out. Cassidy was a person who wouldn't want Woody outted, because that would make his life harder than it was already. He was emasculated by everyone who knew him, especially by his older brother.
They all called him "Beaver," for crying out loud.
Now on their way to the Neptune Grand, Veronica thought back to not long after the crash. A dead man had washed up on the beach, her name written on his palm. He used to be a stunt coordinator--whose specialty was rigging vehicles to crash and/or explode--but in his final years? He'd been a mechanic to the rich. That included Cassidy's father.
Veronica called one of Cassidy's few friends to make sure, and she was right. Meant Cassidy had access to knowledge of how to make and rig all kinds of explosives. Even the kind you'd only need a remote trigger to activate, like a cell phone.
He, his brother, and other 09ers followed behind the bus in a limo back from Sharks Field, where Cassidy could've easily dialed the code in, and crashed the bus at the exact right moment to make it go off the cliff. Then when the coordinator figured out what Veronica was now, Cassidy killed him too, and wrote her name on his hand so the police focused on her.
The pieces all fell into place so fast, it was almost too much. But they had to hurry. Cassidy was at the Neptune Grand. With Mac. He'd gotten a room.
"But I thought he dumped her?" Buffy asked as they ran into the lobby where the party was in full swing.
"They got back together." Veronica was trying Mac on her cell for the eighth time. "Why isn't she answering?" She was starting to panic.
"Why isn't who answering?" Willow asked, having seen them come in, so she walked over.
"Willow!" Veronica was very happy to see her just then. "Where's Mac?"
"Um, she went with Cassidy." The redhead blushed. "I think they're gonna..."
Veronica cursed under her breath, and marched over to the reception desk.
Logan came over to Buffy and Willow, noticing Veronica's agitated state. "What's goin' on?"
His concern was genuine. He'd come back from the brink this year, and learned he wasn't the lost cause he'd thought he was. So thankfully, his self-destructive behavior was on the wane. It was just a shame that he had to break an innocent girl's heart to turn himself around. But she hadn't been quite as innocent as Willow.
"Yeah," Willow said, "why's she so upset about Mac and Cassidy?"
"Because he could be..." Buffy saw Dick approaching and stopped explaining. She went over to the desk with Veronica. "What'd she say?"
"'Do Not Disturb.' Calling's blocked, and she wouldn't give up the room number." Veronica didn't know what to do. She started to write a text message.
"Wait!" Buffy objected. "What if he reads it?"
"Time's pretty much running out. If it hasn't already." Veronica told her, desperately. "Do I have another choice?" She sent it.
Buffy thought. If she "intimidated" the receptionist, security would come, and ruin any chance they had of helping Mac. If she said it was urgent because someone was about to be murdered, the receptionist would think she was disturbed or drunk and call security. Seconds were precious, and they were slipping.
A minute later, Veronica got a response: "Meet me on the roof. Now."
She knew the text message was fishy. She suspected Cassidy, as did Buffy. But here was the thing about Veronica: she needed to confront him. Confront her rapist, confront the murderer, and get him to confess. It was worth the risk to her life, which most wouldn't understand, and even Buffy only partially did.
She and Veronica had done what they said they were going to do. Phone calls and visits. She'd listened to the survivor's guilt (her girlfriend was supposed to be on the bus, but it seemed like fate kept her off), listened to her say early on that she thought she'd been the reason for the crash, and held her when she got the chance, telling her it wasn't her fault.
Buffy kept her focused, told her to keep digging, to keep looking for other explanations. It was only through Buffy spurring her on that Veronica didn't collapse and let pessimism overtake her. She didn't know what she would've done without her girlfriend, and now she'd solved the case.
Of course she was going to take the opportunity to personally nail the person responsible for killing eight people and one, unborn child. Meg Manning, her friend and Duncan's estranged girlfriend, had been pregnant and on that bus. Duncan hadn't known he was a father. In the resulting depression, he'd almost killed himself. After he failed, he dropped off the face of the earth. No one knew where he was.
He was much better at running away than Buffy, who currently insisted on going to the roof as well. Veronica acquiesced, but made her promise to stay out of sight unless it was absolutely necessary that she not be.
On the roof, Cassidy confirmed everything. Even added that he'd also put a bomb on Woody's plane. Cassidy had heard from Corny at the party, before he took Mac up to the room, that Keith had caught Woody and was taking him back to Neptune. Aboard that rigged plane. He gave Veronica a chance to call her father before he blew it up. Wracked with tears, Veronica got no answer.
Buffy tried to sneak up on him, to do something, but he heard her. "I know what you are," He'd said, "but if you come any closer, I will blow her brains out. Not even you're fast enough to stop a bullet." He remarked. "And this," He pushed the "Send" button on his phone, "is already done."
The three of them watched Woody's plane blow up over Neptune. And Veronica completely broke--he'd just killed her father.
The slayer felt a rage and hatred more intense than she'd had for any demon, even the Master, and he had killed her. While Cassidy was distracted by the beauty of his handiwork, Buffy charged him and tackled him to the ground. He lost the gun, and she easily overpowered him. He looked up at her, wanting her to end his life. And she wanted to oblige. So much.
"Buffy, get off of him." Veronica had said. She'd composed herself enough to grab the gun.
Guess where it was pointed?
"Veronica, no. Bad. Think." Buffy said, forgetting Cassidy and approaching her. "Please."
"You were going to!" Veronica exclaimed. "He raped me! He killed all those people on the bus! He killed my father!"
"I know. But we should let a judge. He isn't Aaron Echolls. No one'll give a damn what his name is; they'll only care about what he did." Buffy reached her hand out, and guided the barrel down.
While she held her sobbing girlfriend, Cassidy had moved to the edge of the roof. "Beaver--!"
"My name is *Cassidy*!" He wailed pitifully. "But it's like you said...no one gave a damn." Then he jumped.
Mac was alive. She wasn't okay mentally or emotionally, but she was alive. Cassidy had answered Veronica's text message with her phone while she was in the shower. They'd tried to have sex, he tried to be a man, but he couldn't perform. Before going up to the roof with a gun and her cell phone, he took Mac's clothes and the sheets, and dumped them. When Veronica found her, Mac was curled up in a naked ball beside the bed. She asked, crying, "He took everything...why would he do that?"
Veronica had had no answers to give.
Back at the apartment later, the girlfriends sat curled up together in numb silence. They didn't even react when the news said Aaron Echolls was found shot execution-style in his hotel suite. They thought of Keith, and cried. And somewhere along the way, Veronica thought about Buffy. How much it meant that she was here now, how much she cared, and how Buffy brought out the best in her personality.
She thought about their proms, and how thrilled she was for Buffy when the slayer's peers gave her a "Class Protector Award," followed by an ovation. Veronica had hugged her in the hallway while she cried, being overwhelmed by it all. She thought about the trip to Sunnydale for Buffy's birthday, going on patrol, and the intense fear she felt when a vampire nearly killed her girlfriend.
Veronica had staked her first and only demon that night, saving Buffy's life. That was when she knew if Buffy ever died, there'd be no way she could deal with it. She'd gotten tough once and made it through, but then Buffy showed up and got her to let down her walls. A second test of her resolve would make the walls unbreakable.
Or shatter her. To feel dependent on someone to that extent, to feel dependent at all, frightened the hell out of Veronica Mars. But the benefits of what they had, were still more powerful than the scariness of the "what ifs." She, well...
"I love you."
Just said it, because it felt like it needed to be.
"I love you too." Buffy responded in kind.
In an ideal world, those sentiments would've been expressed under happier circumstances, but this world wasn't ideal. They meant it, though; that was the important thing. They thought when they finally got there and couldn't avoid saying it, they'd doom themselves. Because if you admitted to loving someone, you were only going to get burned eventually somehow...that's just the way it was.
But they were only words. Whether the girls acknowledged it or not, they'd been in love for a lot longer than tonight. With the words out there though, at least they fell asleep on the couch feeling a little less empty.
Couple hours later, the front door opened, waking them. It was Keith--couldn't believe their eyes. Lamb had apparently called and gotten him pulled off the plane at the last minute, because he didn't want his old boss greeting the media at landing, and looking like the hero again. So Lamb's ego had saved Keith's life.
There was some kind of ironic twist to be found, but who cared? Veronica hadn't lost her dad. That was what she clung to.
A weekend and a day passed, and then Veronica and Buffy--in high, carefree, Hearst-bound spirits--were on their way to New York. For a whole week. Yes, they did leave their hotel room. They had the pictures to prove it.
You were blind if you couldn't see "The Look" in every, single one.