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She's Walking to the End of the Line

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Summary: Hoping to escape the ghosts of her high school, Veronica Mars escapes to Stanford University, becoming friends with Jessica Moore, and in turn, Sam Winchester. All is normal until one fateful night in early November when everything falls apart.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories > Crossover: Other
Television > Veronica Mars > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories
kerrykhatFR13116,4793141,17614 May 1014 May 10Yes
Disclaimer: "Veronica Mars" and all related characters are property of Rob Thomas and the CW. "Supernatural" and all related characters are property of Erik Kripke and the CW. No infringement intended.
Warnings: Character death
Spoilers: Season 3 for Veronica Mars, the pilot episode for Supernatural.
Author’s Notes: I wrote this story before Supernatural 5.20, so I'm completely ignoring it. Thank you so much to akat for being an awesome beta and burningqueen for putting up with me and helping me with this story! This story was originally written for the Supernatural Crossover Big Bang on LJ.

It is complete now, the two ends of time are neatly tied
A one-way street, she's walking to the end of the line
And there she meets the faces she keeps in her heart and mind

They say "good-bye." Tomorrow, Wendy, is going to die,
They say "good-bye." Tomorrow, Wendy, is going to die.

Tomorrow, Wendy by Concrete Blonde

September, 2006

Veronica stood in the middle of her room and surveyed the damage. Boxes were crammed into her small room, most of them in various states of being packed. She had less than one week to get fully packed and ready to go to Stanford, not to mention spending what brief time she still had in Neptune with Wallace, Mac, and Logan. Their semester at Hearst had already started, so they were trying to find times that would work with their various schedules. She also wanted to check in with Weevil and see how his parole was going, but to do that, she would need to find some free time that wasn't filled with work or packing.

Veronica frowned at the thought of Logan. They had never really discussed what would happen with them when she left for Palo Alto in the fall. She didn't know if they were going to try and make the whole long-distance thing work, or if there would be a break-up involved at some point in the near future. She hoped it was the former option, just to see if they could make it work. This summer with Logan had been wonderful, what with no murder investigation or angy PCHers to interrupt their time together. Her dad would still give Logan odd looks when he came over, but for the most part, their summer had been a peaceful one, with the lone exception of the investigation into Aaron Echolls' death the night of Cassidy's suicide.

Speaking of Dad... Checking the clock, she grabbed her bag and headed out the door. She was supposed to meet him at the office for lunch before she finished organizing a bunch of old case files, and if she didn't leave now, she was going to be late. She didn't want to think about how her dad was going to deal without her manning the front desk and helping him with some of the more tedious leg work. They didn't have the money to hire a new assistant--even with the financial aid Stanford was giving her, finances were going to be tight for the next four years--and business was starting to grow at a fairly steady rate. She just hoped that he would be able to manage until she returned for winter break to help him with all the odds and ends of running Mars Investigations. He still hadn't explained to her what had held him up back at the beginning of the summer, when she had been forced to go to New York City by herself and wait for him to arrive. She had tried pressing him, but he wouldn't give her a straight answer. Finally, she had given up in frustration. If it was really all that important that he kept it a secret, she would let it be. For now.

"There you are, sweetie," Keith Mars greeted her as she walked into the office, about ten minutes later. "I was wondering if I needed to call Backup to see if you had left the apartment."

"There was a fender bender on the way over," Veronica answered, putting her bag on her desk. "I wasn't involved," she added hastily, seeing her dad's worried look. "It was some tourist and one of the 09ers who was driving the car daddy bought bought her for graduation a little to fast."

"Just as long as it wasn't you," Keith said, closing and locking his office door. "Now, what do you say we go grab some lunch before hitting the cases?" Veronica smiled and followed her father out the door.

The day passed quickly, and Veronica was just starting to put folders away when the door opened and Logan walked inside. " Neptune's own junior private eye hard at work," he stated, standing in the entryway, a small smile on his face.

"What else am I supposed to do with all my free time?" Veronica asked. "I ran out of nail polish last week, and I just haven't had time to buy a new supply." Logan's mouth quirked at this and he walked over to give Veronica a hug and a kiss. They managed to keep it relatively chaste, given that there was a very good chance that Keith would walk in at the most inopportune moment possible and make things a whole lot more awkward.

"Come with me to my place," Logan whispered to her after he had pulled away. "I have a surprise for you there."

"Oh, a surprise!" Veronica said, a gleeful look on her face. "I love surprises!" Just then, Keith walked out of his office and shot Logan a warning look.

"Just remember that the normal parental warnings I normally insert all apply here," he said, locking his office door behind him. Veronica rolled her eyes at her father's remarks.

"Dad, I'm eighteen," she reminded him, grabbing her bag and walking to the door.

“Don’t worry, Sheriff, she’ll get back to you safe and sound, like she has this entire summer,” Logan said, his voice devoid of most of his normal sarcasm. Keith nodded but only lowered the intensity of his glare slightly. Even though they had been dating for a few months now, Keith still didn’t like Logan all that much, although he was at least civil for Veronica's sake. Logan nodded as well and walked out without one of his signature parting shots. Veronica secretly wondered if it was because he respected her father, or if Keith was one of the few people who intimidated Logan. It could be a combination of both, she reasoned as she gave her father a peck on the cheek and followed Logan outside to her car.

“So, are you going to give me any hint as to what this surprise could be?” Veronica asked, leaning against her LeBron with a wide smile on her face.

“Now why would I do that?” Logan replied, sending a glance up to the window of Mars Investigations to see if Keith was watching through the blinds. “It would ruin it for you, after all.” Veronica sighed dramatically but got in her car. “I’ll meet you in the lobby,” Logan said, giving her one last kiss before he went to his yellow XTerra.

It was a relatively fast drive over to the Neptune Grand, and Veronica soon found herself standing in front of the elevator with Logan.

“Close your eyes, he instructed, taking her hands in his. Wondering what he was up to, Veronica did what he asked, letting him lead her into the elevator and taking it up to the penthouse. Even though Logan was going to Hearst College, he still was living in the penthouse, claiming that he had no desire to give that up for on-campus housing. Veronica had teased him and called him a snob, which he shrugged off.

Walking out of the elevator, they stopped momentarily and she could hear him fumbling with the card key before it opened. They were inside with the door closed before Logan finally said, “OK, you can open your eyes now, Veronica.” She did and immediately gasped in surprise.

Wallace and Mac were standing underneath a sign that read “Good Luck Veronica,” with Wallace holding a bouquet of balloons.

“Guys,” Veronica choked out, turning to Logan trying not to cry. “You didn’t need to do this for me.” Logan squeezed her hand as Wallace and Mac came closer.

“Of course we did, Veronica,” Mac said. “It’s what friends do.” Veronica smiled at that and gave the other girl a hug. Mac was looking better than she had a few weeks ago, which made Veronica happy for her. Mac had not taken the news of Cassidy’s crimes and suicide well, spending most of the summer hiding from the rest of Neptune. Since starting Hearst, however, Mac had slowly been coming back out of her shell, finding others with whom she shared interests with.

“You know our lives are going to be a lot less exciting without you bringing trouble into them,” Wallace added, giving her his own hug, which she returned. Veronica didn’t know what she was going to do at Stanford without Mac and Wallace. They had been her anchors at Neptune High, and it scared her a bit that they would not be coming with her to Stanford.

“Besides, we wanted to send you out into the big, bad world with a bang,” Logan added, wrapping his arm around Veronica’s waist. “What do you say we celebrate? I even bought cake.” Veronica laughed and settled down on to a sofa, getting ready for a long night of spending time with the three people closest to her beside her father.

Pulling into the car wash, Veronica waited until she spotted the person she was looking for.

"Well, if it isn't blondie, checking in on the convict," Weevil commented, shoving his hands into the pockets of his coveralls. "What brings you to the wrong side of the tracks? I thought you would be too busy leaving this place in the dust to think about your old pal Weevil."

"Forget this lovely face? Never," Veronica dismissed with a wave of her hand.

"Glad to hear that," he replied, glancing around to make sure his boss wasn't watching. "So, any particular reason you're here?"

"Just wanted to see how the parole-life was treating you, that's all," Veronica answered.

"Well, aside from the boss being a bigger asshole than Lamb, not too bad," Weevil said. "I'll make do, like I always do."

"Well, if you ever need anything--advice, a new job, blackmail material--let me know," she began to say before Weevil interrupted her.

"I don't want your charity, Veronica," Weevil snapped, wiping the sweat off of his face. "I can get by on my own."

"Think of it as repayment for all those favors you've done for me in the past," Veronica shot back. "Just think about it," she added, seeing that Weevil still had a stubborn look on his face. "My cell phone number will be the same. Or, you could risk life and limb and swing by my dad's office. Your choice." She turned around and was about to get back into the car when Weevil called out:

"You take care of yourself, blondie. I don't want to hear any stories of you pulling some stupid shit out in EPA, or something like that."

Veronica spun around to face him, a big smile on her face. "You do care!" she exclaimed, putting her hand over her heart.

Weevil rolled his eyes and gestured for her to leave. Shaking her head, Veronica climbed back into her LeBaron and drove away, hoping that Weevil would take her up on her offer--at least the blackmail portion of it, anyway. She had heard about his boss' partnership with Lamb regarding parolees, and she didn't want to see Weevil get caught up in the revolving door. Plus, anything that annoyed or hindered Lamb was a good thing in her book. Smiling at the thought of Lamb's face if she did manage to get some good blackmail material, she turned on the radio to accompany her on her drive home.

“Come on, kiddo, it’s time to get up,” Keith’s voice said above Veronica’s head. She groaned, and resisted the urge to move further beneath her blankets. It was too early for any sane individual to sound that cheery and awake.

“One more minute,” she pleaded, cracking open her eyes.

“You said that five minutes ago,” Keith said with a smile. “We need to get you to rise and shine so that we can hit the road and make it to Palo Alto by tomorrow.”

“Fine,” Veronica sighed, hoping she could get some sleep in the car. She did have an almost eight hour drive ahead of her, although part of it was going to be dedicated to finishing up the required freshman reading that she had been putting off for about a month now. “I’ll get out of bed.”

Keith exited the room, and Veronica quickly dressed in the clothes she had laid out the night before. Then, she took one last look around the now barren room. All her boxes--plus the used bike she had bought for transportation purposes at Stanford--had been moved to the small U-Haul trailer the night before, and now all that was left were the things she was leaving behind.

“Veronica? Are you coming?” Keith asked from the other side of the door. “We can get food while we’re on the road.” Veronica stood still for another moment, before opening the door and leaving. It was time to leave Neptune behind and look at the path ahead of her at Stanford.

“Let’s hit the road, Dad,” she said, giving Backup one last hug. “Don’t forget about me, OK, boy?” she asked him, kissing him on the forehead. “I’ll be back before you know it.” Backup whined a little and licked Veronica’s face. “Be good for Dad, OK?” she added quietly before getting back to her feet. Keith was standing at the front door, holding it open for Veronica.

“We’ll take care of each other,” he said as they walked to the car. “Just us two bachelors, living out our days in my newly empty bachelor pad, living the life.”

“Which may or may not include watching Bogart marathons on AMC,” Veronica chimed in, buckling herself up and putting a sweatshirt against the window to lean her head against. “I’m getting the feeling you won’t be reliving your swinging single days as much as you want me to believe that.”

Keith shook his head and started the car.

“Wave goodbye to Neptune,” he said as they navigated through the quiet, early morning streets of Neptune, only stopping briefly at a Starbucks to get coffee and muffins. “You’re not going to see it again until Thanksgiving.”

"Thank God for small miracles," Veronica commented dryly. "I'm surprised Lamb's not out there on the county line to wave me a fond farewell."

They drove in silence for the first hour or so, Veronica using the time to catch up on some sleep. She had spent most of her evening with Logan, savoring each moment they had together. They had agreed that they would do their best to maintain their relationship with her at Stanford and him at Hearst. As Logan put it, there was a reason why they had invented cell phones and the Internet, after all. Veronica hadn’t been able to stay over as long as she would have liked, given her early departure time, but at least her last memories of Logan would be pleasant ones.

“Do you think you made the right choice?” Keith asked, breaking through her thoughts. “I know you’ve always dreamed of going there, but there’s a difference between dreaming and actually going there.”

Veronica didn't answer right away, studying the early morning traffic they were currently stuck in right outside of Los Angeles. “I think I did,” she finally replied. “I needed to get out of Neptune, especially after what happened around graduation with Aaron Echolls and Cassidy. I mean, I do have some good memories of Neptune, but I also have so many bad ones that I need to put some distance between them and me. I guess I’m hoping that Stanford is going to be a fresh start. Nobody is going to know who I am, or what happened with Lily, and maybe I can actually get involved in some extracurriculars other than the newspaper. I can join the Dollies!” she added in an overly exuberant voice.

“College is going to be a whole new world, sweetheart,” Keith said as they managed to make some progress—a whole six feet. “I just want to know that you’ll be happy. I know that you can take care of yourself, but it doesn’t make this old man any less worried about how you’re going to do out in Palo Alto.”

“I’ll be fine, Dad,” Veronica reassured him. “I mean, what trouble can I really get into up there? I won’t even go looking for it, I promise!”

“And yet, the trouble always seems to find you,” Keith replied dryly. “I want you to promise me that you won’t do anything dangerous. I won’t be there to back you up if you get in over your head.”

“I promise, Dad,” Veronica said, hoping that she would be able to keep her promise. She knew, however, that if her luck in college didn’t change from her high school days, it wasn’t very likely. She hoped the fact that nobody at Stanford knew her father was a private eye would help matters and keep her from being involved in too many things. She had never uninstalled the software from her computer, however, so that if something did ever come up, she would be ready.

They spent the rest of the first day of traveling trying to find ways of distracting themselves along Interstate Five. Veronica had heard horror stories before of how boring this highway was, but she had never really believed them. She knew better now, however. After leaving the Grapevine behind, the only thing to behold was mile upon endless mile of parched farmland, the only splashes of color coming from the green leaves on trees and the cars on the road beside them. Add in the excruciating heat, even in September, and the smell of cow manure. Veronica couldn’t imagine living in the middle of all of this. Give her beaches and ocean breezes any day over this.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t apply to Fresno State right now?” Keith asked during one particularly dull stretch. “To think that you would be seeing this day after day. It would either force you to study or take up drinking.”

“Instead, I get to see a bunch of houses that try to rival those 09ers,” Veronica replied dryly, remembering how Palo Alto was used as a comparison for the Neptune incorporation vote.

“Well, at least some things aren’t changing that much,” Keith answered with a grin, which Veronica returned. Hopefully, living next to obscenely rich people would be the only thing that didn't change once she moved to Palo Alto. She was more than willing to leave some of her high school tendencies behind her.

Veronica stared at the blocky, adobe colored structure. Donner House in Stern Hall was going to be her home for the next year, and she wasn't exactly sure what to make of it. The design was totally out of place with the rest of the Mission-style architecture, but she guessed that was the luck of the draw. Adjusting the box she was carrying, she pressed her key tab against the reader and entered the building, followed by her dad. The hallway was slightly ordered chaos, with boxes and suitcases sitting in the halls, accompanied by the bustle of parents trying to get their sons or daughters settled.

"What room are you in again?" Keith asked.

"135," Veronica answered, scanning the numbers to make sure they were going in the right direction. After a few more steps, they were standing in front of the slightly ajar door. There were sounds of movement inside, which could only mean one thing.

"You must be Veronica," a tall girl with curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail said, bouncing off of the bed and towards the other girl. "I'm Miriam Burns. Pleased to meet you. I hope you don't mind, but I've been here for a while for soccer, so I already took the right side of the room, but we can switch if you want that side, and I can go to the other side."

"Nice to meet you, Miriam," Veronica cut in while her new roommate drew a breath. She really hoped that Miriam wouldn't be like this all the time, although she seemed nice so far. "I'm fine with the left side of the room," she continued, putting her stuff down on the bed, followed by her father. "It looks good to me."

"Good, because I wasn't sure about that, and I didn't want to seem too forward about that," Miriam said, looking in no way like she was about to slow down any time soon. "Do you need help carrying anything in? I have nothing else to do, since practice isn't until 4, and I can help show you around campus a little before the main orientation starts if you want, before the main orientation starts. What orientation group are you in?"

"I think we can handle everything," Keith said, looking slightly amused by the whole situation. "We didn't bring that much stuff with us from Neptune, and I need to seize what few remaining father/daughter moments I can get."

Veronica shot her father a grateful look at his intervention. She had a feeling that life with Miriam would be... interesting, to say the least. She also had a feeling her and the library were going to be very, very close when it came time to do work in silence.

After several more trips back to the car to finish moving boxes and suitcases, Veronica finally had all of her stuff in her room, ready to unpack. Turning to look at her dad, she felt tears begin to prick her eyes. She knew that this moment was going to come eventually and had been mentally preparing for it the entire drive to Stanford. Now that it was here, however, she realized that part of her wasn't ready to say goodbye just yet. Looking at her dad, she realized he was going through the same thing.

"Take care of yourself, sweetie," he said, pulling her into a tight hug. "Try not to get into too much trouble. Backup's not here to help you out."

"Same goes for you too, Dad," she choked out, returning his hug. "Drive safe, OK? I'll see you at Thanksgiving." Veronica pulled away and followed her dad back outside to the car, giving him one last hug before he drove away. She watched him go, determined not to cry. She was an adult now, and that meant she needed to leave the nest at some point, although it didn't necessarily mean that she was ready for it.

"Do you want to go get lunch with me?" Miriam asked Veronica when she returned to the room. "The dining hall should be open, if you want to grab some food."

"Lead the way," Veronica said, motioning for Miriam to leave the room, hoping eating might stem the constant flow of words from Miriam's mouth. Fortunately, Donner wasn't that far away from the nearest dining hall and they were soon grabbing their respective lunches.

"I'm sorry if I'm a little chatty," Miriam apologized as they sat down with their food. "I'm just a bit of a motormouth, you know, and sometimes I can't help myself."

"Couldn't pick up on that at all," Veronica said in a mock-serious voice, examining the salad in front of her. She wasn't all that into exercising, but if she wanted to avoid the Freshman Fifteen, she might want to start getting in that habit. Her youthful metabolism couldn't last forever, unfortunately. "So what are you planning on studying?" Veronica asked, trying to start a friendly conversation. Her track record with making friends might not be so great, but college was all about starting over, right?

"Well, right now I'm thinking urban planning, but I'm also interested in archeology," Miriam answered between bites of her sandwich. "I'm kinda like a Jane of all trades when it comes to what I like, and Mom always said that I would change my mind, like, a dozen times before I settled on a major. What about you? Anything sound interesting to you?"

"Not too sure about that just yet," Veronica answered. "I think I'm going to wait and see what happens after I pick out my courses for this quarter, and I have to wait until next year anyways to officially declare my major."

They finished their lunch soon thereafter and returned to their room, Veronica still needing to unpack and set up her side of the room. She had a few hours before meeting with her orientation group, which should be plenty of time to get the essentials of her room out of their boxes and in their rightful places. Miriam kept talking, which Veronica took care of by pointedly taking out her iPod and listening to her music as loud as she could. Miriam stopped talking and soon left the room, leaving Veronica in blissful silence.

"Excuse me, but can you tell me where the Oval is?" Veronica asked a tall, blonde woman who looked like she knew where she was going. Veronica was running late, and she didn't want to risk getting lost and making herself even tardier than she already was.

"Follow me," the woman said, a bright smile on her face. "I'm heading over there myself. Are you looking for one of the orientation groups that's meeting there?" Veronica nodded, trying to keep up with the woman's longer strides. There really was a disadvantage to being short sometimes, and this certainly was one of them. "Cool. You might be in my group. I'm Jessica Moore," the woman said, introducing herself.

"Veronica Mars," she answered. "Nice to meet you. So I'm going in the right direction then?"

"Yep," Jessica answered, pointing to Hoover Tower. "The Oval is just past where we house all the resident fascists." Veronica's mouth quirked up at this.

"Here I was thinking I left all the fascists back home at high school, and it looks like they followed me here to Stanford," she sighed. "What does it take for a girl to catch a break?"

"They aren't too bad," Jessica laughed as they approached the tower. "They rarely stir from their little sanctuary. They're too scared of the students to go outside to see the changing world around them. The only one who I think ventured outside didn't even make it out of the shadow before retreating back to safety."

"They sound like such pleasant people," Veronica commented. "I hope I don't have the pleasure of meeting them any time soon." Jessica smiled at this and they continued their walk to the Oval poking fun at the residents of Hoover Tower. Soon, they heard the sounds of a large number of people talking among themselves.

"Look, even if I'm not helping with your group, hopefully I'll see you around," Jessica said as they reached the edge of the mass of freshmen. "I like your sense of humor, Veronica. Don't let this place suck it out of you." Veronica smiled and waved at the other woman before going to find her orientation group.

"Oh, magic course catalogue, spill your secrets, fill me in on your mysterious ways," Veronica muttered as she sat at a table outdoors, sipping a Diet Coke. The Stanford course catalogue lay out in front of her, along with a pad of paper with notes scribbled on it. She chewed on the end of her pen as she flipped through the pages, stopping every now and then to note a potentially interesting course down. She was meeting with her advisor in about half-an-hour, and she needed to have a few potential schedules outlined in case some courses weren't available. It was a little more intensive than she had originally anticipated, mainly because many of the classes she wanted to take were reserved for higher level students.

"Well, fancy seeing you here," came a familiar voice from behind her. Twisting around, Veronica flashed Jess an aggrieved smile. "I'm glad I got that done last quarter," Jess continued, sitting down next to Veronica and putting her bag on the table. "It's even more of a pain than housing draw, if that's supposed to be believed."

"After staring at this thing for about an hour, I think I'd have to agree with you," Veronica answered with a sigh. "Any dirty secrets you'd be willing to share as to what classes to take?"

"Well, if you want me to talk your ear off about the environmental science department, I'm your girl. Any other department, you're going to be on your own, although if you ask me next quarter, I might be able to give you some decent information on the intro to art history class," Jess replied with a self-deprecating laughing. "The only reason I'm taking it is because they're basically forcing me to in order to get the distribution credits."

"I'll keep that in mind," Veronica said. "Not really a science type of girl, although a little bird told me that a class about oil drilling was an easy A."

"Criminology?" Jess asked, looking down at the paper in front of Veronica and reading the notes jotted down on it. "Have fun with that. It's a pretty new department, but I've heard some good things about Professor Hannighan."

"And with that remark, we are out of time," Veronica said regretfully, glancing at her watch and putting the sheet of paper in the course catalogue before grabbing her belongings. "I have to go, but if I see you around, I'll let you know how it goes."

"Wait, quick question before you go: do you have a facebook?" Jess asked, getting up as well. "Because if you don't, you should totally get one. It's a great way to keep track of people."

"Not yet, but I'll be sure to add you if or when I get one," Veronica answered. She had heard about facebook from a few other students, but it wasn't big like myspace. Not yet, anyway. Still, part of her brain was already calculating the various potential uses for facebook that weren't just for keeping tabs on her oh-so-lovely Neptune High classmates

"Good luck!" Jess called out as Veronica walked away. Raising her hand in acknowledgement, Veronica felt a smile cross her face. Yeah, Jess might be older than her and Veronica really didn't know her all that well yet, but it was nice to have somebody who was willing to look out for her. Lily had done that to a certain extent with her but no one else had. Jess at the moment was definitely a different personality type than Lily, but Veronica wasn't going to look this gift horse in the mouth.

Locating building 420, Veronica took a deep breath and walked in. She had faced down Aaron Echolls, Don Lamb, and a hungry Backup. There's no way her advisor could be nearly that bad.

Veronica listened with half an ear to her fellow food service workers gossip about the latest development in the Aaron Echolls murder investigation about a week into the start of the quarter. So far, there were no significant leads, although Veronica had her suspicions as to who might have wanted the elder Echolls dead--not that she was particularly inclined to share them. After the trial and what he had put her through, Aaron deserved whatever hell he was in. She was just glad that she and Logan had witnesses to their respective whereabouts, given that Lamb probably had them at the top of the suspect list. So far, nobody had connected her to the Veronica Mars of the Echolls trial, and she wanted to keep it that way.

"...and it's been gone for two days, and I have no idea where it could be!" she heard one of her fellow employees of the non-student variety, Lisa, whisper to a fellow worker. "And if I don't find it, I'm afraid my husband will think that I pawned the ring, and things are tense enough as it is between us that I don't want another issue to come up."

"Where do you think it could be?" the man--who if Veronica remembered correctly was named Carl--asked.

"I don't know," the woman answered despondently.

Veronica watched the exchange out of the corner of her eye, feeling bad for Lisa. She had gone out of her way to be kind to all of the student workers and would occasionally save some extra food for them if there was a particularly popular dish that night.

"Excuse me, Lisa, right?" she asked before what little common sense kicked in and asked what the hell she was doing. "My name's Veronica," she continued when the startled woman nodded. "I have some experience finding lost things, and I just might be able to help you."

And there was the common sense chiming in at the back of her mind, trying to remind her that Veronica had promised herself not to get involved with any more cases while at college. You can take the girl out of the PI's office, but you can't take the PI out of the girl, Veronica thought sardonically. As much as taking cases for other students had been partly out of a need for money, she genuinely enjoyed the detective work and getting some much needed practice.

"Veronica, that's sweet of you, but I don't have anything to pay you with," Lisa said apologetically, rubbing her gloved hands together. "I'm sure I can find it on my own."

"You'll just find it faster with me around, and as for the payment... next time we have German chocolate cake on the menu, just save me a few extra slices," Veronica answered with a conspiratorial wink. Lisa looked indesicive for a moment before giving a hesitant nod. "Great! Why don't you fill me in while we take care of these dishes."

Veronica's shift ended about an hour later, and by then, she had a better idea of Lisa's situation. She and her husband were currently in a rough patch in their relationship, and Lisa had lost her engagement ring. She had lied to her husband and said that it was getting cleaned when he noticed that it was missing, but she knew she wouldn't be able to keep it up for much longer. The last time that Lisa had seen it was after taking it off and placing it in her purse before work. Lisa promised to give Veronica the list of workers who were on that shift the next day, in between thanking Veronica profusely for her help.

Shaking her hair l0ose of the hairnet, Veronica grabbed her bag and headed over to the education library. Jess had told her about it, saying that it was probably the quietest place on campus, mainly because nobody ever went in there. Given that the moment Veronica entered her room she was assaulted by her roommate's incessant chatter, having a quiet place to do work was a definite necessity.

"You look like you've got a lot in that head of yours," Jess commented as Veronica sat down at the table across from her. A thick looking book was open in front of her, and she was alternating between taking notes in the margin and typing on her laptop.

"Well, mah fathah said I did too much thinking for mah own good," Veronica said in a fake accent. "Said I'd nevah catch a husband that way."

"Cute," Jess replied, shaking her head. "Does that mean you aren't going to tell me?"

"Just some stuff involving a person from work," Veronica explained, grabbing her intro to criminology book. She hadn't told Jess too much about her life in Neptune, just the bare bones. She didn't want to scare away what was looking to be her first real friend at Stanford, even if she wasn't entirely sure how it happened. Jess had friended her on facebook, and they kept running into each other around campus. Even though Jess was a junior, she never let on that she found Veronica annoying or beneath her.

"Why did I ever decide to take this stupid art history class?" Jess groaned about an hour later, sending a death glare at her book. "All I'm doing is memorizing these damn paintings. I'm not learning anything worthwhile."

"I could be a bad person and say that it's your fault for signing up for the class in the first place, but I'm trying to be a kinder, gentler Veronica Mars," Veronica said, not looking up from her book. Aside from criminology, she was in a first year class about Californian literature--which somehow, miraculously, managed to avoid the Steinbeck cliché--, an introductory sociology class, as well as elementary Russian--hey, you never knew when a girl might need to get out of a tough spot with the Russian mob.

"You're so not helpful," Jess shot back, closing her eyes and miming banging her head on the table. "I think I'm going to call it quits for now and grab a late night snack. You want to come with?"

"I think I'll stay here for now, but thanks for offering," Veronica answered with a rueful smile. "This criminology book won't read itself, you know." Jess grinned back at Veronica before exiting the library, leaving Veronica alone. Listening to her iPod, Veronica soon lost track of the time, absorbed by her homework. It wasn't until public safety arrived that she realized it was almost midnight. Gathering her scattered belongings, Veronica walked to the bike rack, wondering where the time had gone.

Veronica was almost back to her dorm and about to cross a street when a sudden flash of headlights blinded her and she quickly stopped her bike. Blinking the spots out of her eyes and ignoring the whiplash sensation that braking so suddenly had caused, she heard the distinctive rumble of an older car engine as a sleek black shape sped by her. Veronica tried to make out some identifying details, but the car was out of her sight before she could properly focus.

"Stupid car, probably driven by the Palo Alto equivalent of an '09er," Veronica muttered under her breath as she carefully looked around to make sure there weren't any other insane drivers about to mow her down. "Daddy probably has the police department on his payroll or something like that." She continued to complain under her breath the rest of the way back to her room, although she stopped before actually entering. Miriam was a nice girl, but Veronica had no interest in staying up half the night listening to her ramble on about how drivers should be more careful of bikers and things like that.

A few weeks later, Jess found Veronica standing by the pool, camera in hand, watching the women's water polo team practice. Veronica had joined the staff of the Stanford Daily Cardinal as a photographer, mainly as a way to have something to do aside from school work. She had found Lisa's ring only a day after getting the commission (let's just say that Janie had to find another way to get her work study hours done and leave it at that), but contrary to popular belief, she actually wanted to have a life other than solving cases and hitting the books.

"I'm surprised that more horny males don't show up to watch their games," Veronica commented to Jess as the other woman sat down beside her. Veronica had most of the shots that she needed but was waiting around just in case. "Girls, swimsuits, fighting, water--what more could any college boy ask for?"

"I have absolutely no idea," Jess answered with a straight face, watching one of the girls score a goal. "You think they would be flocking to these games." They sat in silence for a few moments, before Veronica grabbed her camera and took a few more shots of the practice.

"So, is there any reason you decided to show up at my assignment?" Veronica asked as she sat back down, making sure that water didn't spray on to her camera from the pool. "Not that I don't mind the company and all."

"I need some advice," Jess confessed, watching Veronica pack up her camera and swing the bag over her shoulder.

"That's going to cost you, since the doctor has to come off an extended lunch break," Veronica answered with a smile, imagining herself with the psychologist's booth from the Peanuts comic strip.

"Very funny, Lucy," Jess shot back, immediately getting her reference. "No, I just figured since you're probably the most rational of my friends, you might be able to give me some rational advice."

"Rational advice on what, exactly?" Veronica asked, feeling a little like she was being ambushed. "Because I can't be held accountable for any advice I give in a field that I'm not familiar with."

"Well, there's this guy in my art history class," Jess began, her hands jammed in her pockets.

"Oh, this is a good start," Veronica cut in, only half-joking. The last time she had tried to play matchmaker (not counting Mac and Butters, because, well, that just deserved to be forgotten), it had ended with Meg and Duncan together and she knew how that ended.

"Quiet, froshling," Jess commanded, a slightly annoyed look on her face. "Don't interrupt your elders." Veronica rolled her eyes, but remained quiet. "So, again, there's this guy in my art history class--and yes, Veronica, before you ask, I do think he's cute--, but he's also really smart and funny; but I don't know if he's noticed me at all. It's such a large class, and there's so many other girls--and you better wipe that smirk off your face!"

"OK, Jess, I'll wipe the smirk off my face, but only after I tell you to stop acting like a freshman in high school mooning after the senior quarterback," Veronica said, the smirk never wavering. "Also, just for future knowledge, I don't really do the whole girl talk thing, and I am hands down the last person you should be asking about relationship advice. I tell no lies when I say that my history in the dating department is dubious at best."

"But you're managing to make your long-distance relationship with Logan work," Jess logically pointed out.

"I'm pleading extenuating circumstances on that one, counselor," Veronica answered, stopping in front of the Memorial Chapel where they had somehow ended up. "Try talking to him?" she suggested with a shrug. "Or maybe try to set up a study group or something like that, since I seem to recall you complaining about all the memorization you've had to do for this class."

"That could work," Jess said after a moment of thought. "I know some of the other students were thinking about starting one up."

"I'll leave you to your plotting. I need to swing by the press room and get these photos to the editor," Veronica said, giving Jess a wave goodbye, which the other woman returned. Walking away, Veronica turned Jess' problem over in her head. She knew Jess had other friends that she could ask for advice, and yet, she came to the "froshling." Veronica didn't know what was it was that made everyone seemed to turn to her for help; she was pretty sure she didn't have a big neon sign pointing at her, flashing "solver of problems here."

Hearing her phone ring, she pulled it out of her bag and smiled when she saw who was calling her.

"Hey," she answered, continuing to walk towards the press room. "Any particular reason you're calling me in the middle of the day, Logan, or is it just because you miss the melodious sound of my voice?" Logan's easy laugh rolled through the earpiece, causing her to smile to widen. When Logan laughed like that, it meant that he was in a good mood, which she always appreciated. There had been so many rough patches in their complicated relationship that anything that made him laugh like that was much appreciated.

"Can't I ever just call my girlfriend without being interrogated like the criminal element that I so clearly am?" he asked an a good-natured voice.

"Wait, I'm dating a criminal?" Veronica asked in a mock-shocked tone. "What ever will my father say?" They continued to talk about inconsequential things until Veronica had to hang up to go to her next class, but she had a nice, warm feeling inside. Things were going well for her so far, which was a nice change of pace. Sitting down at an empty seat, she surreptitiously knocked on the processed wood for some good luck. She didn't want to curse herself when everything was looking bright for her and have it all fall down around her.

"You're Veronica, right?" an unfamiliar voice asked as Veronica was filling in a worksheet for her Russian class.

Looking up--and then up a little more, because the owner was of the freakishly tall order of humanity--she met a pair of hazel eyes peeking out from a fringe of floppy brown hair. He looked familiar for some reason, but she couldn't exactly place it.

"Possibly," she answered, a little annoyed at being interrupted. "Depends on who you are, what you want, and how much are you going to pay me."

"Oh, my name is Sam. Sam Winchester," he replied, looking unsure of himself. "I'm, um, well, I'm in a class with one of your friends, and I was hoping you could give me some advice."

"Well, that narrows it down by a lot," Veronica answered, only slightly joking. She still didn't have too many close friends--Jess and two of her dormmates, Lizzie and Tanya came to mind fairly quickly--but the only one who had mentioned a guy she was interested in was Jess. "So, let me guess, you're hoping that I might be able to do a little matchmaking between you and said friend. Am I correct in this assumption?" Sam nodded hesitantly, still not looking entirely comfortable. Veronica sighed and gestured to the chair across from her. "Can you please sit? My neck is starting to hurt from looking up at you."

"Sure," Sam replied with a small smile, somehow folding his large frame into the chair. "And I was actually wondering if you could help me a little with just getting to know her."

"Well, if I'm thinking of the friend you're probably not thinking of, she likes long walks on the beach, sunsets, and kittens," Veronica answered, somewhat snarkily, wondering when she became the go-to relationship girl in Jess' life. "And if we're talking about Jess, she likes dark chocolate, horror movies, going to environmental rallies, and for some reason that escapes me but probably stems from her growing up in Seattle, walking in the rain. That help you at all?"

Seriously, what was wrong with going up to a person and talking to them. Going through intermediaries was so middle school. Or was that elementary school? She'd worry about that later. For now, she was content to pin Sam with a pointed look.

Sam didn't answer for a moment, absorbing the information that Veronica had just thrown out at him. "So, let's say I ask her to go into town with me to see 'The Grudge 2,' she might say yes?" he asked with a hopeful look on his face. He reminded her of a puppy for some reason, although it could have been a combination of the hair and the expression on his face rather than Veronica's overactive imagination.

"She just might," Veronica replied. "Now, if that's all, the relationship doctor is closed," she added, drumming her pencil pointedly against the table. Sam seemed to get the hint, and he stood up.

"Thanks for the advice, Veronica," he said earnestly, a smile on his face. "I really appreciate it."

"See if it works and thank me then," Veronica mumbled as Sam turned to walk away. Suddenly a thought hit her. "Has anybody every told you that you look like that guy from "House of Wax"?

Sam groaned and shot her an aggrieved look. "Unfortunately, yes," he answered. "My brother, after he saw that movie for some reason that escapes me, would ask me how Paris Hilton was doing." Something flashed across his face, but it was too fast for Veronica to make it out. "Look, thanks again." With that, he walked away, leaving a confused, yet amused Veronica.

Seriously, when did I become the love doctor? she wondered silently, blankly looking at the Cyrillic letters on the page. People had come to her for advice back in Neptune, but then it was advice she felt like she was more qualified to give--like how to blackmail somebody to prevent an embarrassing photo from being released, how to get surveillance in a church confessional, or things along that line.

About an hour later, Veronica was biking back to her dorm when her phone rang. Pulling over, she saw Jess' name flash on the screen.

"Hello?" she answered, almost positive she knew the reason why Jess was calling.

"He asked me out!" came the excited squeal over the phone. Veronica winced and held it away from her ear while Jess basically shouted over the phone. "I mean, it's just a movie, but he asked me out, Veronica!"

"I'm glad to hear that," Veronica replied gravely, wondering how long exactly Jess' excited streak could last. She didn't think her ears could continue to take the high pitched tone of Jess' voice for much longer. "I couldn't tell that you were even a little excited about this."

"Did you know?" Jess inquired, her voice dropping considerably, and Veronica could almost imagine her expression of innocent confusion.

"I may or may not have known, depending on the outcome of the date in question," Veronica answered, leaning on the handlebars of her bike. "I like having the option of plausible deniability, should the occasion arrive." I've spent way too much time around Cliff if I'm starting to talk like that on a regular basis, Veronica thought wryly. "So, when's the big day?"

"This Saturday," Jess bubbled excitedly. "We're going to see that new horror film. It's been so long since I've been on a date, I'm really looking forward to it."

"Well, let me know how it goes," Veronica said, shivering slightly as the wind hit her. It was mid-October now, and the weather was starting to get a bit nippy, especially for somebody born and raised in Southern California. "I'll talk to you later, OK?"

"OK, Veronica. And, if you do claim responsibility for this later, thank you so much!" With that, Jess hung up the phone, leaving Veronica smirking in amusement. She was glad that Jess was excited about her date with Sam. If anybody deserved a happily ever after, in Veronica's opinion, it was Jess. She reminded Veronica of how Meg was back in her junior year, before Duncan had entered the mix and thrown things into a loop.

At the reminder of that failed relationship and how difficult relationships were, even if the person was as nice as Jess, Veronica frowned slightly."Good luck, Jess," Veronica muttered as she sat back on her bike and began pedaling. She just hoped that Jess wouldn't need it.

October 31, 2007

"Veronica, what are you supposed to be?" Jess shouted over the blaring music. They were at one of Stanford's many Halloween parties, Jess with Sam and Veronica with her friend Alex. Jess was dressed in a sexy nurse's outfit, completely contrasting her normal state of dress--pretty much a steady stream of jeans and flannel shirts over a t-shirt of some sort. Veronica wasn't all that surprised, given how much she knew Jess loved this holiday and how it gave her a chance to step out of her comfort zone, at least for one night.

"I'm Piccasso's Blue Period," Veronica explained, twirling around to show off her costume of blue tampons attached to a blue sheet. "Get it?"

Jess shook her head in amusement and grabbed Veronica's arm. "Why am I not surprised? Come on, we've got a table," she yelled, dragging Veronica towards a corner of the room, followed by Alex, who was dressed as a pirate. "We're celebrating tonight!"

"Why are we celebrating?" Veronica yelled back, straining to hear Jess' voice over all the noise. "Did you win the lotto or something?"

"I'll tell you when Sam comes back with drinks!" Jess shouted back, perching on one of the empty stools, an ecstatic look on her face. Veronica smiled at her friend as her boyfriend of one year returned, laden with drinks. Jess shot him a smile of thanks, which he returned. Veronica rolled her eyes.

"Do you have any water to cut the cloying sweetness?" she asked, mock gagging. Jess shot Veronica a dirty look before planting a large kiss on Sam's lips. "So you never actually told me what we're celebrating," Veronica continued, taking a swig of her drink.

"Sam got a 174 on his LSAT!" Jess hollered, draping her arm around Sam's neck. "He has an interview with Stanford Law School on Monday!"

"Wow, very nice!" Alex exclaimed, lifting up his eyepatch so that he could see with both eyes. "Congrats, man. You could easily get into Yale Law with that score and your grades."

"Thanks," Sam mumbled, looking down at his hands. "I'm not too sure about how the interview will go."

"Don't be ridiculous," Jess admonished him, sending him an annoyed look. "You'll blow them out of the water and get that full ride."

"Here's to Sam!" Veronica toasted, lifting up her cup, while Sam grinned modestly. Everybody else joined in the toast and congratulated Sam on his good luck.

"Sam, where's the costume?" Veronica asked later that evening, noticing his distinct lack of dressing up. "Where's your Halloween spirit? No pun intended," she added hastily.

"I don't like Halloween," he explained sheepishly. "It wasn't something I really grew up with, and I've just never really been a fan of it."

"Was your dad some sort of fundamentalist or something?" Veronica inquired, wondering if Sam's dad was along the lines of Meg's parents. It was hard for her to imagine somebody growing up without Halloween in any other circumstance.

"Not in the way that you would really understand," Sam answered with a bitter laugh.

Veronica frowned slightly, a little disturbed by this. Sam, for the most part, was a sweet guy and utterly adored Jess, but there were times when a hardened man would show through, with a type of weariness that Veronica had only seen in older law enforcement officers who had seen one death too many. Sam didn't ever really talk about his past, other than that he was estranged from his father and brother, and Jess had never really felt the need to ask for more information. There were times, however, when Veronica was severely tempted to dig deeper and puzzle out the contradictions that were Sam Winchester.

Veronica and Alex left about an hour later, laughing loudly at a dead lawyer joke that Jess had told in Sam's presence. Sam had groaned, reminding Jess that he didn't tell hippy jokes around her.

"Those two are too damn cute for their own good," Alex commented, linking his arm with Veronica's.

"There are times when I'm afraid they would combust due to too much adorable contained in such a relatively small area," Veronica confirmed, shivering slightly in the chill night air. Even with her coat on, the damp air cut through the layers and straight to her skin. She almost pitied the countless girls on campus where were more scantily clad than she was. They were almost back at Toyon Hall when Veronica stopped suddenly, something catching her eye.

"What's the matter?" Alex asked, looking at Veronica in concern.

"Just a feeling that I've seen that car before," Veronica replied, studying the sleek black muscle car with a frown on her face. "It's not that important," she added with a shake of her head after staring at the car for another moment. "I'm probably just imagining things."

Fortunately, Veronica's roommate was still out partying when she got back to her room, giving her a bit of privacy to do some research on a case. Toward the end of the last school year, Veronica had taken her PI exam and had scored a 95, allowing her to begin the process of getting certified in the state of California. Very few people at Stanford were aware of this, but Veronica had since started to work with a local PI, taking some of the smaller cases as a way to earn some extra money. Her father had been concerned, but there was little that he could legitimately do, other than advise her to make sure her taser had full batteries and that she had an extra can of mace on her at all times. So far, none of the cases that had passed through the office were as dangerous as the ones her father had handled, but she wasn't taking anything for granted at this point.

At least we're officially a one PI family right now, she thought wryly.

Don Lamb, the ever obnoxious thorn in her side, had been murdered while chasing a fugitive in March. Her father had been appointed sheriff and had somehow managed to beat back Vinnie Van Lowe in a special election. Although Veronica--and many other Neptune citizens--were happy to see Keith back in office, part of her missed the relative freedom that they'd had when he was working as a private investigator. It was nice to take the cases that they wanted to take and be free operators. The plus side was that he was getting paid more now, which meant fewer student loans for Veronica.

Logging on to her computer, she grimaced a little when an email from Logan popped up in her inbox. As hard as they both had tried, the relationship had petered out last year, leading to an awkward breakup around spring break. They had both agreed that the relationship wasn't working for either of them, but it didn't make things any less painful. Her friends had been there for her, however, especially Wallace and Mac--who had actually threatened to hijack Logan's GPA before Veronica talked her down. There has been a significant period of silence between the two of them, but now they were tentatively trying to build a friendship out of the ruins of their relationship. The emails were awkward and stilted, but neither of them was willing to give up just yet.

Not wanting to deal with the email until she had a little more sleep, Veronica exited her account and pulled up the files that she needed.

Her latest case was pretty run of the mill--a businessman concerned that his partner was taking more than his fair share of the profits and doctoring the books to hide it--so Veronica was going over the partner's expenses to see if there was anything there that flagged any alarms. As of now, the only worrying things that Veronica could see were some investments in companies that she or her boss hadn't had a chance to look into fully, though she had a hunch that they were shell companies to hide the diverted funds.

About an hour later, she closed her laptop with a yawn. There wasn't anything else she could do tonight, not without having some more resources to look into those questionable businesses. For the most part, she didn't do her work in her room, given that she didn't have a room completely to herself, but given that Mr. Kelling wanted this done by Monday, she really had no other option, other than trekking into the office on a Saturday, which she wasn't too keen on. She had hit a wall, though, so she would have to talk to Mr. Kelling on Monday about it and they could figure out where to go from there. For now, however, all she wanted to do was sleep for about ten hours before getting started on her urban sociology paper.

The next morning, Veronica woke up to see a light on her cell phone flashing rather incessantly. Groaning, she reached for the phone and squinted in order to get the symbols into focus. She managed to make out Jess' name on the view screen, along with the ungodly hour which she had called. Hoping that the call hadn't been that urgent, Veronica called her friend back.

"Veronica, can you come over some time today?" Jess asked when she picked up the phone. She sounded agitated, which caused Veronica to frown. Had something happened in the few hours since she had last seen her friend that had upset her?

"Jess, is everything OK?" she asked cautiously, running her hand through her rumpled hair and grimacing on the time displayed on her alarm clock. Fortunately, Lizzie slept like the living dead, which made Veronica feel slightly less guilty about being on the phone this early in the morning.

"I... I don't know," Jess answered, sounding unsure, which only made Veronica even more worried about her friend. In all the time she had known Jess, she had never sounded this way. "Can you just come over whenever you can? Please?"

"Give me an hour and I'll be over," Veronica replied, thinking of what she needed to do in that time. Shower, grab books and notes, possibly food--although coffee was non-negotiable.

"I really appreciate this, Veronica," Jess thanked her. "I'll see you then, OK?"

Veronica contemplated the phone for a few more moments after hanging up. Something was going on, but for the life of her, she couldn't guess what it was. She was getting a feeling, nothing more, that a storm was about to break, but she didn't know who or what was causing it. Shrugging it off, she gathered up her towel and shower caddy and went to go get ready for the day ahead of her.

Almost exactly an hour later, Veronica was climbing the stairs to Jess and Sam's small apartment. Although the university, for the most part, discouraged couples from getting rooms together in the event of a messy breakup, Sam and Jess had somehow managed to pull it off for this year. Jess yanked the door open at Veronica's first knock, as if she had been waiting by the door for her friend to come.

"Did you get any sleep last night?" Veronica asked, stepping inside and examining her friend. She was still wearing her pajamas which consisted of a pair of running shorts and a Smurfs t-shirt, and there were dark-bags under her eyes. "Where's Sam?" she continued, realizing that she would have normally seen him by now if he were here. "Did something happen between the two of you?" She took in the messed-up room with a critical eye, noting the scattered magazines on the floor. This was out of the ordinary, and it worried her.

"I don't know," Jess answered with a sigh, collapsing into one of the chairs and burying her face in her hands.

"What happened?" Veronica questioned, sitting down next to her. Jess didn't answer for a moment, almost as if collecting her thoughts.

"There was a noise," she finally answered. "Out here in the living room, so Sam grabbed the baseball bat to see who it was. There was a short fight, and when I went out to see what was going on, it turned out it was Sam's older brother, Dean."

"Wait, Sam's brother broke in?" Veronica asked, slightly incredulously. Of all the people she would have expected, a member of Sam's wayward family was near the bottom of the list. "Was there any particular reason for his mode of entry, or was he just feeling particularly adventurous?"

"I have no idea," Jess uncharacteristically snapped. "It's hard to even believe he and Sam are related. He was just so..." she paused, trying to search for the right word. "So sleezy. I mean, he used the line, 'I love the Smurfs' on me, while Sam was standing right there."

"Sounds like a real winner," Veronica commented dryly, imagining this scene with Dean Winchester looking an awfully lot like Dick Casablancas. "You obviously chose the wrong Winchester to date. There has to be something other than a bad pick up line to have you this agitated, Jess. What else happened?"

"So, not only does he break in to our home, he then tells Sam that he needs Sam to go with him to find their father," Jess continued, lifting her face out of her hands to look at Veronica. "This of course, is after Sam tells Dean that anything Dean has to say can be said to the both of us. But Dean then tells Sam that their father was on some kind of hunting trip, and all of a sudden, Sam shuts me out and goes outside to talk with Dean. He then comes back in and tells me he's going with Dean, and that he'll be back here by Monday in time for his interview! And the look in his eyes when he said that..." Jess' voice trailed off and she looked down at her hands before looking back up to meet Veronica's eyes. "They were so distant, Veronica. It was like I didn't even know him."

Veronica didn't say anything at first, absorbing what Jess had told her. "That's... not like Sam at all," she finally commented, still turning it over in her head. It was fairly obvious to anybody with eyes to notice that Sam always got a peculiar look on his face when his family was brought up, but this was... this was definitely not what she would have seen Sam doing in a situation like this. "Did he give you anything other than he was going to find his father?"

"Are you trying to turn this into a case, Veronica?" Jess questioned, looking at Veronica with a shocked look on her face.

"Do you want me to?" Veronica shot back, crossing her arms. "You know I can, with a few key strokes, open up Sam Winchester's life like an open book. Every magazine subscription, parking ticket, financial transaction... I might even be able to figure out what's going on between him and his brother."

"No! I... I trust Sam," Jess stated, shooting up out of the chair and walking towards the window. "I know you have to work with people who don't trust each other, Veronica, but that doesn't mean that everybody's like that! I'm not going to invade his privacy when he's given me no real reason to do that. He wouldn't do that to me, so I'm not going to do that with him."

Veronica remained silent. In her opinion, the instant Sam started acting so drastically out of character was a prime moment when doing a little sleuthing was perfectly justified. But that was her opinion, however, and she didn't feel like trying and failing to get Jess to see it that way. For good or bad, if Jess was one thing, it was that she was stubborn as all hell.

"If that's what you want, Jess, so be it," Veronica conceded, getting up to stand by her friend. "I'll respect his privacy like you want, but I think, given my experiences, that when there's such a change in a person's personality, you're well within your rights to be suspicious."

"You would say that, Veronica," Jess answered with a bitter laugh. "You always see the shadows and the hidden motives in everything everybody does. I don't see the world that way, and I'm not about to."

Knowing that it would be best to drop this subject, Veronica abruptly shifted gears. "You know what I think this day calls for?" she asked. "I think we should go get a tub of Ben and Jerry's and then share it while doing homework. After that, we can go rent the sappiest chick flicks imaginable and have a girls night with Pat, Kelsey, Lizzie, and Tanya. Sound like a plan?" Veronica really didn't do girls' nights, but she knew that Jess liked them, and she was willing to waste an evening on romantic comedies and gossip if only to get her friend in a better state of mind.

"You hate girls' nights," Jess pointed out, but with a hint of a smile on her face.

"I'm thinking of it as a short-term pain in my ass for a longer-term investment of not seeing you mope around this apartment for the entire weekend," Veronica countered, returning Jess' smile. "What do you say? You, me, a tub of Chunky Monkey in the student union?"

"Change Chunky Monkey to Fossil Fuel, and you have yourself a deal," Jess answered with a wavering smile. "Give me some time to shower and change, and then I'll be good to go."

"Take your time," Veronica replied with a wave of her hand. Jess went back into her room, leaving Veronica alone in the living room. She circled the room a few times, trying to sort out her thoughts.

Her father had always told her that if she had a hunch, she should follow it and sometimes have to damn the potential consequences. She didn't know why, but she had a hunch on this, that she should look into Sam Winchester's past and see what skeletons were rattling around in his closet. But therein lay the dilemma. She didn't want to risk her friendship with Jess by searching through Sam's past when she had told Veronica not to.

"What would you do, Dad?" she whispered, sitting back down and staring at a spot on the floor. Unfortunately, the floor had no answers for her, so she was still looking blankly at it when Jess emerged from her room showered and dressed.

"You ready to roll?" she asked, twisting her long blonde hair into a bun.

"Yep, good to go," Veronica answered brightly, shoving all of her worries to a dark corner in the back of her mind. She'd think about them later--for now, all she really wanted to do was eat ice cream and procrastinate on that paper.

The next night found Veronica sitting in her car across the street from a seedy looking motel in East Palo Alto, camera in hand and cookies on the seat next to her, courtesy of Jess, who had gone on a cookie baking binge earlier that day. Veronica wasn't going to complain, however, since it meant that Veronica had something to snack on while she waited for her target to leave the motel with the woman the wife was cheating on her husband with. Glancing at the clock, Veronica silently urged the woman to hurry up her illicit tryst and get the hell out of the hotel. She wanted to get some sleep before her morning class tomorrow.

While I'm wishing for things, I can wish Mr. Kelling would give me a raise and that my dad would get me that pony I've always wanted, she thought sourly, taking a drink of coffee in between bites of cookie. She originally hadn't been scheduled to take this stakeout, but something had come up for Mr. Kelling, leaving her the only one available. The least he can do is pay me a nice fat bonus if I get the money shot.

Finally, after what felt like sitting too damn long in the chilly car, Veronica spotted movement. "Say hello to large divorce pay-out," she muttered, raising her camera and snapping a few photos of the woman passionately kissing her lover goodbye. Veronica waited until the woman was in her car and driving away before starting her engine. Teeth chattering slightly, she waited until the heat had a chance to work a little before beginning the relatively short drive home.

She had just reached Campus Drive when she noticed the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle. Pulling over, she watched with a pit in her stomach as it raced towards Mirrielees House. Taking a deep breath, she gently pressed her foot on the gas pedal and followed the fire truck. It didn't take long for her to see the fire--if she didn't know better, she would have sworn the entire building was in flames. It wasn't, but a good half of the wall blazed away, despite the firefighters' best attempts to beat back the fire.

That's where Jess and Sam's place is, she noted, the pit growing exponentially.

Stopping her car, Veronica lurched out onto the street, her eyes drawn to the flickering light the fire was giving in the dark night sky. Tearing her gaze away, she searched through the crowd with her eyes, becoming more and more frantic when she realized that neither Jess nor Sam was among those huddled in the cold night air.

"Which apartment caught on fire?" she asked one of the fellow onlookers, trying to keep the desperation out of her voice. "Which one?" she asked again, doing her best not to scream at the idiot before her.

"I-I don't know," he stammered, looking at her with fear on his face. "They didn't tell us."

Veronica turned away from him. He was useless. She needed information. She needed to know that her friends were alright. She went to the next person and the next, but neither of them had any information for her.

"Pat!" she shouted, spying one of Jess' friends who lived in the complex with them. "Pat! Do you know where Jess is?" Pat, barefoot and dressed in her pajamas, rushed over to Veronica, gripping her arm tightly.

"No, I can't find her!" Pat yelled back, an almost crazed look in her eyes. "I haven't been able to find her, and I overheard one of the firefighters say that the fire came from her and Sam's place, and I don't know and I can't find her, Veronica!" The last part came out as a sob as Pat buried her face in her hands. Veronica could only stare helplessly as the flames continued to consume the apartment building, apparently undeterred by the firefighter's best efforts. The fire danced as if it had a life of its own, determined to live as long as possible and cause whatever damage that it could.

"Get everybody back!" one of the head firefighters shouted, gesturing wildly at the crowd.

Veronica remained still, unable to move. "No," she whispered, tears starting to run down her face. "This can't be happening." This couldn't be happening, not to Jess, not to her best friend who loved walking in the rain, baking cookies for her boyfriend, or who would shout at the TV during baseball games. Not to Jess.

"Miss! We need you to get back." One of the firefighters was gripping her arm, pulling her back to safety. Veronica felt her feet move, taking the rest of her body with her. She couldn't, however, take her eyes away from the flames, those damn bright, all-consuming flames.

...University officials are still at a loss to explain what caused the sudden fire early this morning that all but gutted the Mirrielees Apartment complex on campus. There have been two confirmed deaths in the fire --junior Edward Fagan and senior Jessica Moore--as well at several students who escaped the fire with severe burns. Arson is suspected...

Veronica could distantly hear the television report drone on in the background. Veronica didn't know how, but she had somehow driven back to her dorm and returned to her room. Those ten minutes were such a blur to her, she was lucky she had arrived back here in one piece. Now, she was in her room with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, shivering uncontrollably, her thoughts on repeat: Jess was dead. Jess, the first friend she had made here at Stanford, was dead, burned almost beyond recognition in the fire that had consumed her home while she had been waiting for Sam to return. Lizzie sat next to Veronica, shooting her concerned looks every now and then, but otherwise remaining silent.

I should be used to this by now, Veronica thought bitterly, pulling the blanket a little tighter around her. Lily, Meg, the students on the bus... It was almost as if Death was stalking her, targeting those around her, but leaving her physically unscathed but mentally a wreck. If life was a person, she was its punching bag.

"I'll let your professors know that you won't be coming in today," Lizzie finally said after a lengthy pause.

"No!" Veronica protested violently, shooting to her feet. " I need to go! I need for something in my day to be normal and to make sense! I can't..." She paused, her throat tightening. "I need to get through this day, and I can't if I'm just sitting here in this room, watching that fire in my head, over and over again!" She raised her arms, just barely resisting the urge to slam her fist into the wall, although part of her welcomed the pain. She felt hollow, so damn hollow, just like she had after Lily died.

"Veronica!" Lizzie shot up and grabbed her arms. "You're in shock! You're not thinking clearly!"

"I'm thinking just fine, Lizzie!" Veronica objected, trying to get free, only to have Lizzie tighten her grip. "The more I sit here and wallow and think, the worse it's going to get! I'll just keep thinking about it, and what I could have done and going over it all the time! I need to do something. I need... I need to keep busy, and right now, school's the only thing that's going to keep me even remotely sane."

"And what happens then, Veronica?" Lizzie shouted, giving Veronica a small shake. "What happens when you can't hide behind the work and it all comes back? What are you going to do then?"

"I'll figure it out when I get there," Veronica answered, jerking out of Lizzie's grip. "But right now, I'm going to class. I'm going to go to work. I'm going to drive myself into the ground if it helps me get to sleep at night, because that's the only damn way I'll be able to sleep." She was close to tears, so close to collapsing on the ground and screaming in pain at the unfairness of it all. "Having something to do is the only way I'll be able to hold myself together, Lizzie," she added in a quiet, almost strangled voice.

Lizzie was silent for a moment before exhaling quietly. "Fine," she conceded, turning and walking to the door connecting their rooms. "But just know that others aren't going to view it the same way."

Veronica waited until Lizzie had shut the door before grabbing her shower caddy and nearly running to the bathroom. She didn't know if she was imagining this or not, but she could feel the ash from the fire in her skin, in her hair. She could still smell the smoke and hear the crackling of the wood being devoured.

Turning on the water to as hot as she could reasonably manage, she still let out a sharp gasp when it hit her skin, turning it red. It gradually became redder as she continued to scrub, futilely trying to get the smell of smoke off of her skin. Throwing the washcloth on the ground in frustration, she leaned against the wall and began to sob.

It's not fair! she thought, her shoulders shaking and tears running down her face. Why Jess? Why did it have to be Jess? The water had no answers for her.

"Miss Mars, thank you for meeting with me," the Dean said, gesturing to the chair across the desk from her. It had only been a day, and already she was being called in to talk to the higher ups.

"It's not like you left me much choice, Dean Griggs," she answered, not bothering to hide the bitterness in her voice. She didn't want to talk about what had happened to Jess. She had other things she could be doing, like staying up as late as she could to avoid the dreams she knew would inevitably come.

"I know you were close with Jessica Moore, Veronica," Dean Griggs continued, changing tactics. "I also know that when somebody close to you dies in such a violent manner, it helps to have somebody to talk to."

"Let me guess, you're advising that I go to one of the grief counselors that the university has," Veronica bit out, feeling slightly offended at the false understanding in the Dean's voice. Griggs had no idea what this was like, what kind of hell it was for her. "Where I talk about my feelings and how this all has affected me."

"I don't think you're giving our counselors a fair chance, Veronica" the Dean answered in a measured voice. Veronica rolled her eyes at this statement.

"If you've even done more than glance at my file, you should know that I have a pretty good idea what I'm in for," Veronica stated, pointing at the folder on the table. "They did no use then, and they aren't going to do any good now. I know what I need to do in order to get through this."

"And that is?"

"Doing whatever I need to do to not to dwell on it," Veronica answered tightly, meeting the Dean's eyes. "Now, if you don't mind, I have a class I need to get to." Griggs narrowed her eyes, but otherwise didn't say anything as Veronica stood up to leave.

Veronica was almost out of the door when the Dean's voice stopped her. "Bottling up your emotions isn't healthy, Veronica," Griggs stated.

"I'll take that into consideration," Veronica replied in a calmer voice than she would have expected given the circumstances. "Have a nice day." With that that, she turned around and finally fled the office and headed out towards the street. She didn't have a class right now, but she had needed a believable excuse to escape from the Dean.

As soon as she began walking down the street, everything started to become a blur, except for the lingering feeling of heat on her skin and the smell of smoke. She began walking faster, trying to escape without drawing too much attention to herself. She had somehow managed to survive her classes, but that was only by having something to focus her mind on. Now.. now she was on her own, and all she could think about was the fire and Jess' death.

Veronica reached her room without even realizing she had entered the building. Closing her eyes, she did her best to calm her breathing and fight back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her. Breathe, she reminded herself. Just keep breathing.

The shrill ring of her phone snapped her out of her reverie. Frowning, she dug through her bag and pulled it out.

"Pat?" she answered after glancing at the display.

"Have you seen Sam at all?" Pat demanded, sounding like she was doing her best to stay under control and failing. "I heard that somebody had seen him outside the building with a guy nobody recognized, but he's gone."

"Wait, gone?" Veronica repeated stupidly, her sleep-deprived and shock-addled trying to sort out what Pat had just said.

"Yes, gone, Veronica," Pat repeated impatiently. "I've tried calling his cell, but he's not picking up. He has to know that Jess is dead, right? I mean, that has to be the reason why he would just leave, especially the day of his interview. Has he called you at all?"

"No, he hasn't," Veronica answered, closing her eyes again. Frak, she swore silently, using the favorite swear word of her RA from last year. "Do you want me to look into it?" she asked in a hollow voice.

Sam. She hadn't even thought about Sam's absence at the fire. She had just assumed that he hadn't been back yet, and when he hadn't been listed as one of the two people dead, she had shoved it to the back of her mind. It was one of the many things she had on a list to worry about later--like how to tell him his girlfriend was dead. It looked like that was taken care of.

"What can you really do?" Pat asked, a little harshly, which caused Veronica to bristle at the implied accusation. "What good are his records going to do when he won't even return my calls?"

"Maybe he's trying to find a way to cope, just like the rest of are, Pat!" Veronica snapped back. "Maybe he's taking a leave of absence. Maybe he's trying to run away from it. I have no frakking idea. What I can do is dump all of his history and try and find out where he could be going. It's better than just asking around when he's obviously not here."

There was an uncomfortable pause. "Look, I was just asking if you had seen him at all," Pat finally stated. "If you want to go all Nancy Drew on him go ahead. That's your prerogative." Pat ended the call, leaving Veronica clutching the phone tightly in her hand and trying her best not to throw it at the wall in frustration and anger.

Fuck you, Pat, she thought angrily. She knew that Pat was also in shock from what had happened, but that was was just a low, unnecessary blow.

A knock on the door brought her attention back to the present. Opening the door, she stared in shock at the person standing on the other side. "Dad?" she asked in a small voice.

"Hey, sweetie," he replied, stepping inside. "I heard what happened to your friend and I came here as fast as I could." Veronica didn't say anything; she just wrapped her arms around her father. "What do you need, Veronica?" he asked gently

"Just for things to make sense again," she answered, her voice thick with unshed tears. Keith returned the hug, holding her tight. "Why did it have to be Jess?" she asked, voicing the question that had been plaguing her all day. "Why? She didn't deserve this!" Her shoulders began to shake as she started crying into her dad's shirt.

"I don't know, sweetie," he answered honestly, offering what comfort he could. "I just don't know."

She didn't know how long she stood there in her father's arms, crying her heart out, but by the time she stopped, the hole in her heart no longer felt as gaping.

The next week was so bad, it only trailed the weeks following Lily's death and when her mother had walked out on her and her father as being the worst in her life. That wasn't saying a whole lot, though, considering how traumatic both those weeks had been. The only thing that kept Veronica sane was her throwing herself into whatever work she could find, trying to find ways to occupy her mind at all times.

Sam had officially withdrawn from Stanford. This wasn't publicly announced, but Veronica had her sources inside the Registrar's Office who gave her what information she wanted in return for taking care of some potentially incriminating pictures that would have ruined her chance to compete for Miss California. Veronica was still meaning to run Sam's name through the PI database, but she needed to get everything else under control first.

Veronica and Pat had tentatively apologized to each other the next day. It was awkward and slightly forced on both sides, and Veronica had no doubt that she and Pat would be having very little to do with each other in the future. The only way that they had ever interacted with each other was through Jess, and now that the only tie between them was broken, there was little to no reason for them to remain close.

Surprisingly, the only person other than Keith who seemed to understand her need to keep busy was Mr. Kelling. The nondescript little man that she worked for, rather than suggesting that she take a leave of absence or vacation or anything like that, had quietly given her more time-consuming cases to work on with an understanding smile on his face.

"Just thought you might like to take a look at these cases," he told her when she had gone to see him about the stack of folders on her desk. "Let me know if that's too much, and we can work something out."

"Thank you, Mr. Kelling," she said earnestly, the protective numbness lessing for a moment. That was the only acknowledgment he had made of Jess' death, and she was grateful for that.

Despite how hard she was driving herself with school, work, and the Daily Cardinal, she still couldn't avoid the nightmares that haunted her every night. She was standing outside the apartments again, but this time, she could hear Jess' screams of pain and smell the charred flesh. She was trapped, powerless to help save her friend. Those nightmares always left her waking up, gasping for air and trying to fight back tears.

One week later, while at work, she pulled up the PI database that she had installed on her computer. Veronica had been putting this off, partly out of respect for Jess' memory and her wishes, but also because she was afraid of what she might find in Sam's past. Fingers shaking, she typed in "Samuel Winchester," along with his date of birth. She paused for a moment before resolutely pressing down the mouse button on her laptop. She stared at the screen while it processed her request. It was taking slightly longer than searches normally took, which both worried and puzzled her.

"Come on," she muttered, silently urging it to run faster.

Finally, the results popped up on her screen, newest to oldest. Scrolling through the list, there was nothing too eye-catching at first--just a list of expenses, subscriptions, and academic honors that Sam had accumulated while at Stanford. The only remotely interesting thing was that he stayed on campus during most breaks until his junior year, which was something that she had already known. Once she hit his high school years, however, that's when things started getting interesting.

"How the hell did you manage to graduate from high school, Sam?" she muttered, looking at the sheer amount of schools he had been enrolled in, many only for a few weeks at a time. From the looks of it, this had been going on for his entire academic career up until college. There were times when they would stay longer, but those were few and far between. His criminal record was clean, although she was tempted to run both his father and brother's names through just to see what came up. Arriving at the end of the search results, she froze.

"Local woman dies in tragic fire," was the last result, a headline from the Lawrence newspaper from many years ago. Fingers shaking, Veronica clicked on the link, pulling up the article.

"Despite the best effort of local firefighters, local woman Mary Winchester died in a tragic fire that nearly destroyed her home. Investigators are puzzled as to what started the fire, which appears to have originated in the nursery of her six-month old son. She is survived by her husband, John, as well as her two sons, Sam and Dean." The article continued on, but Veronica kept staring at the first paragraph.

This can't be a coincidence, she thought, drumming her fingers on a table. She needed to get copies of both reports, but she had a hunch that they would be almost exactly the same. Pulling up another screen, she put in a request to have the fire investigation reports sent to her as soon as possible. She also sent Sam an email with the message line of "URGENT!", hoping that he would get the hint and get back to her.

The reports didn't arrive until the next day while she was in class. Glancing around to make sure nobody was looking, she opened both of the reports and placed them side by side. They were practically identical, with one surprising feature: both fires had originated from the ceiling and had spread almost impossibly fast without the use of an accelerant.

What the hell? she thought, staring at the screen in confusion.

There was no logical explanation for how this could have happened. Even though Veronica's knowledge of how fires were started and spread was pretty nonexistent, she knew enough to realize that unless this was an especially clever arsonist with a vendetta against the Winchesters--which still could be a distant possibility--there were simply no other explanations.

This conundrum stayed in her mind throughout the day, never leaving her thoughts for more than a few seconds. No possible explanation she came up with made any sense given the facts that she had.

Later that night, Veronica was in her room, sitting on her bed, still staring at the printouts of the two reports with a red pen in her hand and no closer to figuring this mystery out.

"Veronica, are you alright?" Lizzie asked. "You've been staring at those sheets of paper all night."

"Just a puzzle that I'm having problems solving, that's all," Veronica answered absently.

"Try sleeping on it," Lizzie suggested, leaning against the doorway. "I know that always helps me when I'm having problems with something, and I know you haven't been sleeping well lately."

Veronica was about to protest when a massive yawn interrupted her. "Maybe sleep might be a good idea," she admitted, rubbing her eyes wearily.

Lizzie nodded and went back into her room, shutting the door firmly behind her.

This is weird, Veronica thought, standing in the middle of the Main Quad, right in front of the Memorial Chapel. The normally bustling center of campus was eerily empty, with the full moon bathing everything in a soft, silvery light. Also odd was the fact that the door to the Chapel was propped open, despite the fact that it was normally locked at night. Taking a deep breath, she entered the deserted building, her footsteps echoing as she approached the altar. The moonlight shone in weakly through the elaborate stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ, creating a colorful, yet ghostly atmosphere.

"It's quite different at night, Veronica, wouldn't you agree?" a familiar voice asked from behind her.

Whipping around, Veronica bit back a gasp when she saw the voice's source: sitting in the center of the chapel was Jessica, looking exactly as she had the last time Veronica saw her.

"No," Veronica whispered in shock. "You're dead."

"Good thing this is a dream then, because otherwise I think it would be a sign of the apocalypse," Jess answered, gesturing for Veronica to come closer.

"But, why?" Veronica asked, walking towards her friend without hesitation.

"Like this is the first time you've had a dead friend come to you in your dreams," Jess answered with a wave of her hand. "And don't ask me how I know that," she continued as Veronica opened her mouth. "I just do."

Veronica nodded dumbly, thinking back to her junior year when Lily would show up in her dreams from time to time, dropping cryptic riddles and fashion tips at the same time.

"it doesn't make sense," Veronica finally said, sitting down next to Jess, looking at the back of the pew in front of them. "Nothing about what happened makes any sense, Jess."

There was a lengthy pause. "It's not going to make sense for a while, Veronica," Jess finally answered. "You're going to need to keep digging if you want to find the truth."

"Thanks for the tip," Veronica replied with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Hard to get to that conclusion on my own."

"Sam's at the center of all of this," Jess continued as if she hadn't heard Veronica's interruption. "If you find Sam, if you talk to Sam, you'll learn everything that you want to know about what happened the night of the fire."

"Oh, that's so simple!" Veronica exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "Why, that's so easy, given that Sam's basically dropped off the face of the earth!"

"Well, that just means you'll need to dedicate a little more time to finding him," Jess answered with a smirk on her face. "I never said it was going to be easy. I have faith that you can do this, Veronica."

Veronica turned her head to look at her friend. "So, you're hiring me to track down your wayward boyfriend?" she asked. "I thought you didn't want me prying into his past."

"Well, considering you have the search results saved to your hard drive, I think we're a little past that," Jess said, getting to her feet. "I'll be seeing you around, Veronica. Good luck."

Veronica's eyes snapped open at the sound of her alarm blaring at her across the room. Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes wearily, trying to sort out the weird dream she just woke up from. She had been in the Chapel, Jess was there, telling her that she had to find Sam. It had been just like the dreams she used to have when she was looking into Lily's death.

Shutting off her alarm, she turned to look at the two pieces of paper that were sitting on her desk. According to her dream, Sam Winchester was at the center of all of this--of the fires, of Jess' death, of all the questions that she needed answered.

Opening up her computer, Veronica pulled up the PI database. "Alright, Sam Winchester," she muttered, entering in Dean Winchester's name and hitting "enter." "Let the games begin."

Only God says jump
Some set the time
'Cause if he ever saw her
It was through these eyes of mine!
And if he ever suffered it was me who did his crying.

Hey, hey, good-bye.

Tomorrow, Wendy by Concrete Blonde

The End

You have reached the end of "She's Walking to the End of the Line". This story is complete.

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