The Color Of My Envy
by Jennifer-Oksana

my whole life revolves around
your absence until I can't remember
what I was or what I am
who I know or what I know or where I go
-Tegan & Sara "Superstar"

Learning not to care is the second hardest thing in the world. Getting inside the heads of the sheep that make up the vast majority of people and realizing that the big bad wolf of social outcastism is realer than a real, live hurting person? It's tough, and no mistake.

But the hardest thing is learning to care after you learned not to care. Because it's like trying to swim in the ocean after the riptide nearly got you; you know the danger's always there, but that danger's everywhere and the world is a lot less fun if you're not swimming.

No, I didn't say it like that; that was the wit and wisdom of Wallace during one of his 'Bring Veronica Out' benders. In front of Duncan Kane, no less, which made it extra unfortunate rather than just annoying. But that was probably why Wallace did it, and why I was currently sitting in a ski lodge in Big Bear, wondering if God liked laughing at me, or if that was just a bonus.

"This is such an 09er circle-jerk," the girl next to me noted, holding a cup of hot chocolate. "Do you think if I offer to buy a bottle or two, I can get into their party?"

Sophomores. "If the bottle says Cristal, maybe," I said dryly. "Sorry."

"It's okay," the girl said. "I don't really want into the party, it's just that everyone here is an 09er and I'm kind of bored."

"You must be new," I said without thinking. "Again, sorry. But most extracurricular social activities in Neptune are 09er-dominated."

"No problem," she said. "I'm Nicole. Transferred this semester from Malibu."

I looked at this Nicole person critically. Transferring from Malibu seemed like the perfect pretense to cozy up to the 09ers, so why was this girl hanging out in social anathema territory?

Wallace joined us, giving me a cup of hot, black coffee and lifting his cup of cocoa in Nicole's direction. "Hey, you," he said. "We have the same World History class, right?"

"Yeah," Nicole said. "Nicole Desantos."

"Wallace," he replied. "I see you've already met Veronica Mars, here. She's Neptune's answer to Nancy Drew."

"I heard more like...Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Nicole said, looking kind of coy suddenly. "Like, what you did about the purity test? That was sweet-ass."

So now she was a potential client with a crush. I lifted an eyebrow at Wallace, and then put my hands around the mug to warm them while I looked Nicole over.

"I get the feeling you're not hanging around for kicks," I said. "What do you want me to do?"

She went shy and gawky again, taking a long gulp of hot chocolate. "I need you to find someone for me," she said. "I'll pay you."

"Find someone like your long-lost sister, or find someone like stalk your crush?" I asked. This wasn't going well, and I was thinking Wallace was laughing at me. I gave him a look that begged him to stop making me look like the anti-establishment Nancy Drew, but when I got a look at Nicole, I knew it was too late.

I was heroic girl detective, and there was nothing I could do about it. "It's not someone alive, if that makes a difference," Nicole said defensively. "My grandpa died two years ago, we think, and he and my mom weren't talking because he was upset that my mom had divorced my dad, because divorce is evil or something. He went to live with my Aunt Casey for a while, we know, but then he left and my mom could use the money from my grandpa's estate...if he left us anyway, which he probably didn't, but I just want to know, you know? If there was a will or if Aunt Casey was lying or whatever."

If she was telling the truth, this was a simple case. I almost felt bad about taking her money, but the cost of this ill-advised ski trip wasn't growing on trees, either. "I'll need his name, and when and where he died. It should be pretty easy," I said. "How much were you looking to pay?"

And that's how Nicole Desantos became part of my life. Given how complicated it got, the beginning was really kind of simple; new girl in school tries to make friends the only way she knows how; girl who should know better takes her up on the offer.

Things are never that simple. Not in Neptune, and not when it's my life.


I quickly found out that Nicole's grandpa, Richard Desantos, had been an investment banker with a very fat portfolio, and Nicole's mother was his daughter-in-law, not his daughter. Nicole's dad had left to go start a bar in West Hollywood, with all that implies, and Mrs. Desantos had been left holding the bag to cover for her wayward husband. In exchange for being the target for Daddy Desantos, the Desantos had a nice little profit-sharing scheme that paid for Nicole's bills and more. There was no question about the will or the agreement; I even found out from Mr. Desantos that he loved his ex-wife, it was just that he was gay, and that Nicole had a trust-fund waiting on her twenty-fifth birthday.

"So either Mom hasn't been up front with Niccy," Wallace said, shaking his head at the case file, "Or..."

"Nicole wanted an excuse to get close to me," I said. "But I checked. There's no connection between the Desantos and the Kanes, or between Clarence Weidman and the Desantos. So if she's a Kane spy, she's the Sydney Bristow of corporate espionage."

"Is that why you asked Mac for the help?" Wallace asked casually, thinking he was so cool for knowing what was up. "Hey, I'm a trustworthy guy. People tell me things."

"Right," I said dryly. "Mac turned up zilch. Nada. Kids got on Nicole's back for having a gay dad, but nothing special. Her mom moved them to Neptune to live closer to her sister Casey; they run a tanning salon downtown. So the uber-fangirl routine doesn't make sense."

Wallace shrugged. "Unless it just means that the 09ers were their usual selves on the ski trip, and she thought you looked cool," he said. "Not everyone hates you on sight, Veronica."

"Not everyone is a rich transfer student from Malibu who doesn't need to worry about social status if she doesn't need to," I replied.

Continuing my streak of bad luck, that was when Nicole walked out of the bathroom, into the conversation, and Wallace seemed to get stuck a step behind. "You really have a total hard-on for teen queens and jockocracy, don't you?" she asked. I noticed that she'd cut her hair so that it was a lot shorter and a little bit punk. "I got over it back in Malibu. Being popular is boring. Who wants to hang with a whole army of Logan Echolls?"

The girl had a point, but she had yet to learn that invoking the name of Logan inevitably meant his presence would follow, and sure enough...there he was, but not playing Duncan's shadow for once. Not that I thought giving Weevil crap was an improvement, but Duncan, Logan, Wallace, and Nicole would have overwhelmed any aspect of tough I had left.

"Well, if it isn't Veronica Mars and her very own Eve Harrington," Logan drawled. "Proving that stalkers are most definitely out."

Weevil snorted. "I don't know if that was what you were going for, man, but we're all glad to know you're secure in your sexuality," he said. "Eve Harrington who?"

Logan smirked the smirk of the sad little man owned by a bigger, tougher one. "Hey, Eli," he said, "Your ignorance is showing."

Nicole's snort beat mine. Was it just me, or was she being just a little too much Veronica-lite? "Oh, Logan, all your base is belong to him," she said, and that was a mistake. The girl's ear for insult was a little out of date, after all, and while Logan had the retro-chic, Nicole sounded five minutes ago, which would have worked for Wallace, but not for anyone else.

"Jeez, Veronica, don't you train your padawan more carefully?" Logan asked. "An ounce of prevention..."

"Isn't worth the dual ass-kicking you're gonna get if you don't lay the hell off, Echolls," Weevil said casually, denting Logan's locker door with his elbow. "Hey, Veronica, don't you have a case to solve or something?"

He was telling me - and probably my little friend - to beat it. I was more than happy to oblige and firmly led Nicole away, Wallace following along until we sat down at one of the lunch tables and he found a seat right next to our new best friend.

"Word of advice," I said, feeling irritated. "If you want to pursue any kind of happiness at Neptune High? Get selective amnesia when it comes to Logan Echolls's existence. It's a skill you already seem to have, anyway."

"I was doing all right," said Nicole, folding her arms over her chest. "And what do you mean, skill I already seem to have?"

Okay, so I was pushing it. But I also hadn't asked for a new friend attaching herself directly to my ass. "Your mom and dad are sharing Grandpa's estate just fine," I said. "Or didn't you know who paid your bills?"

Nicole flushed, and she put her head down. "I'm sorry, Veronica," she said. "But Wallace said you didn't seem to have much time for people if they didn't have a case, and I thought maybe...look, I don't have many friends here."

"No," I said. "You don't."

Now that was my cue to push off the table and walk away, leaving Wallace to gesture helplessly, but Nicole blocked my exit and glared at me. "Oh, cut the dramatic exit crap," she said. "I might not have a lot of friends at Neptune yet, but I'm hardly Sally Self-Esteemless. I like you, Veronica, and from all reports, you're a pain in the ass to get to know. I figured I'd cut some of the red tape. Sorry if that pisses you off, but maybe you should get over your social pariah pose."

Ouch. "Thank you, sensei," I said coldly, touching my chest. "I'll ponder that."

"You're so into your own pain, Veronica," Nicole said. "I just saw a guy offer to kick Logan Echolls's ass for no reason to help you out. Wallace is your good buddy, Duncan Kane..."

"We're not going to talk about Duncan, Nicole," I said, standing up even though it put me in very personal space with my new psychoanalyst. "Because that's none of your business."

"Yeah, I get that," Nicole replied coolly. "My point is, for the poor unpopular girl everyone hates, you have a lot of friends, Veronica Mars. Maybe you should think about the appeal of anti-establishment chic."

She was the one with the cool exit this time, turning on her heel and stalking away. Plus, her outfit was far, far cooler than mine. That kind of sucked; if I was the original, I should have had better fashion sense.


"So, lose your mini-me?" Weevil asked me on the way to my car after school. "She was kind of tough. I dig that in a girl."

"If you're asking if I have her phone number, the answer is no," I said. "I'm not so much thinking Nicole and I are going to end up best buddies after all. I know you're disappointed that we don't have matching 09er friends, but such is life."

Weevil rolled his eyes. "Yo, that girl wasn't an 09er, and Logan isn't my friend," he said. "Bad reference aside, she seemed cool. Anyone who doesn't take Logan's shit is definitely up a few points in my book. What went down?"

"I called her on her stalker potential, and she went psychoanalyst on me," I said, feeling a bit sore and a lot stupid. Weevil shrugged. "We didn't gel, okay? Don't look at me like that."

"I'm not saying anything," Weevil said. "See you later, Veronica."

He took off, and I was suddenly even more pissed off. What was with everyone acting like I had to be best friends with Nicole? Just because we had things in common - and more things in common because she was pseudo-stalking me - didn't mean I had to sign up to not go to Prom with her. Besides, I was going to Prom, because being a smart-mouthed social misfit didn't mean I didn't want to boogie down to a bad band with my fellow Pirates until midnight and not get invited to any of the rocking hotel parties afterward.

"Hey, Veronica!" Wallace called. I slowed down again and waited.

"If this is about Nicole Desantos, I don't care," I told him, and Wallace rolled his eyes. "Why does everyone think she should be my best friend of all time?"

"I'm not saying a word about that," Wallace said. "I'm just here to tell you that you might have some business tomorrow. One of the aides at the office is being blackmailed by an 09er for more than he can afford and he wants you to politely but firmly persuade Logan that he's trying to get blood from a stone."

"I get to threaten Logan?" I asked, perking up. "Oh, Wallace, you didn't just scare someone up to make me feel better, did you?"

"Would I do that?" asked Wallace. "Anyway, I gotta go. My momma and I are stripping wallpaper, and if I'm not home soon, I'll be doing it all by myself."

He took off and I drove off, still annoyed that a random transfer student was suddenly my soul mate. I knew all about what new friends were about: defrauding you, using you, loving and leaving, and that was before they got close enough to hit the bone. I didn't need that, and I sure as hell didn't need a clone twisting the knife. And telling me I was anti-establishment chic. Where did she...

"WHORE!" someone screamed at me, squealing out of the Neptune parking lot in a BMW. Exactly. I knew exactly where I stood at Neptune High, and that wasn't changing anytime ever.


"A friend of yours stopped by today," Dad told me later. "I didn't know her."

Restraining orders couldn't be that hard to get. Well, maybe from Sheriff Lamb. "Was she about yay high, dark hair, big green eyes, kind of Latina-looking, cute outfit, boots?" I asked. "Goes by the name of Nicole?"

Dad looked confused and shook his head. "Said her name was Mac," he said. "And I think she had brown eyes. She sounded kind of shook up. Who's Nicole?"

"This girl I met on the ski trip," I said, picking up the phone. I was worried about Mac - ever since she'd found out she was switched at birth, there was just way, way too much drama in her life. Her parents were being uptight about college choices, her little brother was bouncing off the walls, and Mrs. Sinclair had run into her at Olive Garden and it had been a world of awkward, especially with Madison in the background. "She came on too strong. Like Single White Female."

"She threatened you?" Dad asked.

"No, she just followed me around and all the guys think I should be as bff with someone I've known three days," I said. "I think she's kind of a tagalong."

"Oh," and yet again there was the pause. The pause that said that Dad thought a female friend in my life would be a good thing, and that I shouldn't ditch someone who was pursuing my company. "Well, if this Nicole stops by, I'll tell her you're not home, okay?"

"You're the best," I said. "I need to call Mac now."

Mac sounded tired. "Hey, Veronica," she said. "Yeah, I was over earlier - it was kind of a rough night over at Casa Mackenzie. I almost said something know. And I think my dad knows I know, and so it was tense. What's up with you? I heard you made friends with that girl Niccy."

"What, does everyone keep tabs on anyone I talk to more than once?" I asked. "Sorry. It's just...I don't like her. And everyone's crazy about Nicole and Veronica's future as best friends."

"Sorry," Mac said. "She's just kind of cool. She invited me and a bunch of other non-09ers up to a party at her house. She's got a DVD of the restored Metropolis, bottles and bottles of wine that she stole from her aunt, who's like, a film professor at UCSD. I think you're probably invited, if you want to come. This Friday."

I thought about that. For about two seconds. "I think I have to wash my hair."

"Okay," said Mac, sounding a little offended. "Your loss."


And that was how Nicole Desantos became the hero of all the geeks, losers, and various social flotsam and jetsam that wandered around Neptune High. If you were on the outs with the power structure, you went to Niccy. She hooked you up. Hell, she even made friends with Caitlin Ford, and all of the sudden, Caitlin was at Nicole's Friday night wine-and-film parties, which were the underground de rigeur thing. Wallace went to a few; he raved to me about the excellent home theater at the Desantos, featuring a plasma-screen tv with the best possible sound and transfer ratio for Godzilla, King Kong, and The Wolf Man.

If I tell you I didn't care and didn't want to go, it would be clear I was lying, so I won't bother. Not that there was anything explicitly barring me from the parties - both Mac and Wallace told me I was being stupid and to come if I wanted to come. Instead I sulked and listened to what the 09ers were saying about the new countercultural power.

Mostly, I overheard Logan Echolls's one-man diatribe to a guy who mysteriously evaporated the second he caught a glimpse of me (word of that Triton photo shoot had somehow leaked, or maybe he was the Triton I never saw), but that was a reliable enough barometer of 09er opinion.

"I don't know who the little stalker thinks she is, but someday, she's going to find out...Veronica!" and he smirked. "Truly, the student has surpassed the master, huh?"

"Ooh, deep," I said. "So you don't love Niccy?"

"Niccy, is it? I just tend to find outsiders who try to play reindeer games find themselves hurt," he said. "Not that I'm against the Neptune Teen Film Society and its underage drinking."

A tip to Sheriff Lamb and a whole bunch of people who couldn't afford it would be slammed with misdemeanors, fines, and parental censure for weeks and months. That was incredibly low. "You're a jackass, Echolls," I said.

"I didn't brag about the wine I stole from UCSD," Logan said. "Besides, I don't rat people out to the cops and other sneaky shit. That's more your department, Mars."

"Ouch," I replied. "Any idea who benefits from the squealing, given that the revenge will probably be calls on the next few 09er beach parties until graduation or a school-wide grounding?"

Logan shrugged. "Plenty of people dislike your little friend," he said. "You're the detective-wannabe, not me."

"The loser community of Neptune thanks you for your help," I replied acidly, turning my back on him. "Go on about your gossip, backbiting, and other assorted bitter commentary."

I was on the phone to Mac before I was out of the building. "Veronica?" she asked. I could hear people and a movie in the background, and I didn't know how much time was left. "What is it?"

"Someone tipped the cops to underage drinking at the Neptune Teen Film Society," I said. "Warn Niccy they're going to raid her party, possibly tonight - you might have to keep the bashes dry for a few weeks. And next time, you might not want to brag about scoring that much free booze in front of jealous teenagers."

Mac paused. "Thanks, Veronica," she said. "You just saved a lot of us some serious trouble tonight."

"No problem," I said. "See you at school."

I ended the call and tried to puzzle out the comment. Tonight? What was going to go on tonight? But before I could figure it out, the phone was going off like crazy and I answered before I could let it bug me. "Hello?"

"Veronica?" Nicole asked. "This is Nicole. Mac just called me - thanks for the tip. Jesus Christ, what a bunch of fucking insecure little pricks."

"Key word being little," I said dryly. "What was going on tonight that was so special?"

"My aunt's friend had scored us three bottles of genuine absinthe," said Nicole. "We were going to watch a lot of French films and try to see if we could see through time while watching them. Then there was possibly going to be Ny-Quil chugging, even though they changed the formula."

"Classy," I said.

"The tactics of making do," Nicole replied casually, very university brat. "So really, first of all? Thanks. Second of all...nobody knew about the absinthe and the random drug abuse except the regular guest list of the parties, so I guess third of all? I have a real case for you, Veronica Mars."

I snorted. A real case - a lame case, but it would probably bring in a little extra cash while being low-effort. "You want me to find the snitch?" I guessed with an obnoxious drawl.

"Oh, God no," said Nicole. "I can find the snitch. What I want you to do is help me orchestrate an object lesson to explain to the power structure of Neptune High that I'm not putting up with a bunch of petty bullshit, and if I go down, they're all going with me. Wallace tells me you're good at it, and it's - not my strong point. So what do you say?"

"You pay me to get revenge on a bunch of people who stabbed me in the back after my best friend's brutal murder, despite me calling you a stalker," I said. "That's...really forgiving of you, Nicole."

"I wanted you to be my friend. I still wouldn't mind having you as my friend," she said casually. "I mean, I'm not in love with the whole obsession with wealth and popularity, but I found out a little more about you, and at least your pathology makes sense. Unlike Logan Echolls, who needs to just realize that he's one more bad film by his daddy away from being a complete outcast."

"Are you crushing on Logan?" I asked. "Because that's poor taste."

"Oh, no, I have no need to go down that path," Nicole said quickly, which I suspected was a front. "But he's not so much a popular kid at heart, and the sooner he gives it up, the better."


I soon discovered that while Nicole was a grand social theorist of high school, and had very obscure taste in film and wine, she didn't really understand how to plan a good smackdown. She had vague plans, but no logistics, and all dirty tricks in the name of justice needed logistical guidance and a foolproof alibi.

"You can't have anyone you don't want in trouble anywhere near those fabled bottles of absinthe," I said. "Sheriff Lamb goes out of his way to screw over the little guy."

"So we should find someone he hates more than the marginalized," she countered. "If you didn't mind being bait..."

"But what kind of bait? We're trying to bust 09ers on underage drinking, importing a contraband substance, and trespassing if we can get away with it," I said. "While Lamb does love a good witch hunt, I think the way is to make you seem a lot more naive than you actually are."

Nicole lifted an eyebrow. "A let's be friends booze barbecue on the beach?" she said. "With a preliminary Ny-Quil chug and alliance building meeting at my house beforehand? Say me, Logan Echolls, Caitlin Ford, Madison Sinclair, Wallace, Duncan Kane if I can swing it?"

"Most of them wouldn't chug, and aren't your moles," I replied. She wasn't bad, but she didn't think strategically. "Your mole, Caitlin, Duncan, a few other 09ers in need of a takedown, Mac, Wanda--"

"The narc?" asked Nicole. "She'll squeal."

"No, but everyone will think she's the snitch," I said. "I bribe or blackmail Wanda. We get your 09er patsies together with the mole. We'll have Mac wired in case of emergency, and you'll talk about how bored you are with all the nerds."

"Smaller gathering," Nicole said, tapping her fingers on the table. "Mole, Caitlin, Wanda, Mac, me. We get trashed, and the mole doesn't realize that the party is low on geeks and high on 09ers who are there - with his express invitation, because the mole and I will have talked even before the party about how to sell out the street trash - and after the 09ers are too drunk to notice, we get everyone except you and me out. You'll arrive late and uninvited and with Sheriff Lamb, because you've heard tell that Parker Nelson has been telling everyone you've got some Czech contraband in your locker and you wanted to prevent another search of your locker, hand to god."

I grimaced. "You trusted Parker? He's a troll."

"Yeah, well, he's a kissable troll," said Nicole, blushing. "We can't get Lamb, can we?"

"Sadly, no, but I know a deputy who'll be convinced I'll fight for my reputation," I said. "Anyway, won't Parker have already informed the cops that the illegal stuff is on the beach?"

Nicole grinned. "Oh, you are so much the tactical genius," she said.

It took us six hours to come up with the plan to nab a whole net of people who were generally up to no good. I asked her to keep Duncan - and Logan, in gratitude for his squealing on the snitches - out of it. Nicole had no problem with that, confirming that she had a serious crush on the evil little monkey. By the time we finished, Mac had arrived and was looking smug.

"Oh, you won't believe this," she said by way of hello. "Parker is so bad at this double agent stuff. He's trying to bring his 'friends' Jeff and Pedro to film night. Jeff and Pedro, the two biggest dealers to young Neptune. I think we can actually put those three in jail with our little stunt."

Nicole smirked. "That'll do. A bunch of freaked 09ers seeing green fairies, Parker in lock-up, and a couple of dangerous criminals off the streets," she said. "What do you think, Veronica? Will that work?"

"Thumbs up from me," I said. "Let's do this."

It did work; it worked so well that it sort of backfired. Parker got arrested, Jeff and Pedro were up on three strikes. Unfortunately, about five other 09ers, including Madison Sinclair, were taken downtown. Nicole got in some trouble, but she chalked it up to repressive police strategy and didn't seem to get in that much trouble. But the damage was done. Everyone accused the other side of being narcs so loud it made the corridors echo, and two days after the bust, a grounded Madison tried to strangle Mac in the halls. Unsurprisingly, most of the crap hit me and avoided Nicole, who despite being kind of a mercenary was more popular than ever.

"Well, shit," she said, surveying the new dent in her locker door. "That didn't exactly work."

"No. We've effectively shut off the alcohol to every Neptune party for the next six months," I said. My locker had been tagged with some new and uncreative language, so I wasn't pitying a little ding. "And closed some guest lists."

"High school is a fucking prison camp," Nicole said dramatically. "And now I'll never snag a date with Logan Echolls."

"I knew it," I said with a laugh. "All of your talk of unity, and you just wanted a little enemy booty."

Nicole shrugged. "I'm seventeen, not dead," she said. "Anyway, come to this week's screening. We're watching Heathers in honor of our shitty status quo."

"Wouldn't miss it," I said, wandering up to where Wallace was waiting. "I like Nicole and all, but please shoot me if I ever become that drama queeny and self-involved, k?"

"Will do," said Wallace, aiming an imaginary gun to my temple. "I'll tell the judge it was a mercy killing."

"You're a true friend," I said, grinning.

Wallace laughed. "You got more of them than you think, Mars," he reminded me. "It's just a case of ditching the isolation chic long enough to - ow!"

"Don't think I won't return the favor," I said. "Got it?"

It was nice to be cared about, and to care a little more than I thought I could. But while I might be a marshmallow? I'm definitely not a soft-serve ice cream cone.

Besides, I have a reputation to maintain.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix