DISCLAIMER: Not mine - just playing with them for a bit. All hail Rob Thomas for his creation, and Jason Dohring and Kristen Bell for their portrayal

If I could capture time in my hands, if I could halt the hourglass sands, I'd put an end to all but laughter, a smile on your face is all I'm after. If I could you know I would. – "If I Could" by Charlton Hill

"I'm not leaving."

My words hang in the air, as she continues to hide inside her apartment as she's been doing for the past few minutes since I first knocked at her door.

She's avoiding me. My secret girlfriend, my quasi-girlfriend, my … whatever the hell she is to me – is definitely avoiding me. And I don't have a fucking clue as to why.

The fact that she didn't show up for our date wasn't the end of the world. I mean, yeah, to say I was disappointed is likely the understatement of the century, but things with Veronica are never simple. She could have been called away for a case, or gotten stuck in traffic, or something.

But she would have called me if it was something like that. She has to know that I would have understood if she needed to postpone our yachting adventure, that I would have been more than willing to reschedule for a different day when she was available.

More likely, I figured that she was unnerved by how fast things were moving between us. I did all I could to make things move slowly, but her relationship with Duncan doesn't even begin to compare to what we share.

And then there's the issue of Lilly – she may have died almost two years ago, but sometimes it seems like she's still between us, beside us. It's weird enough for me to be thinking of dating my ex-girlfriend's best friend, so I can imagine what it's like for Veronica to officially go on a date with her best friend's ex-boyfriend.

So I drowned my sorrows in the bottle of champagne that I'd brought for our date, planning to give her the weekend to get herself together before I talked to her today, at school.

And then she walked away from me, totally brushing me off and just moving on by. It's like what we've shared these past few weeks means nothing to her.

And that hurts.

I know how much her breakup with Duncan hurt her. He dumped her without any explanation, and it was clear that she was heartbroken by his sudden disinterest and ignorance.

And now she's doing the same goddamn thing to me.

Unlike Veronica, however, I'm going to stand outside her apartment until she gives me an answer. If things are over between us – fine. I saw this coming anyhow. A fucked up guy like me doesn't belong with a wonderful woman like her.

But I'll be damned if I'm going to let her end this without at least telling me why, without at least giving me a chance to explain myself.

The door creaks open. "It's kinda a bad time."

She leans against the door frame, consciously leaving space between us. She looks absolutely broken in her white bathrobe with her disheveled hair falling on her shoulders.

She's still beautiful.

And all I want to do is pull her into my arms and make everything better.

Not that's she'd let me, but that doesn't keep me from entertaining the thought.

What happened that could make her look so upset, so shattered? And what could it possibly have to do with us?

"So I should come back when - never? Would that work for you?" I can't help but let some of my snark sneak into my words. I don't want to hurt her, but she needs to know that I want to get to the bottom of whatever is bothering her. I want to work through this, whatever it is. I want to get back to where things were between us, back when we were happy and flirty, back when she represented everything that was good in my life.

She still is the only thing that's good in my life, but if that's going to be stolen from my grasp, I want to know why.

"What did I do, Veronica? Can you just tell me, so that I can apologize or explain?"

"Explain, okay."

She sounds so clinical, so detached. Maybe I don't want to hear this after all.

"Explain to me why you were the one with GHB the night of Shelley Pomeroy's party, when someone drugged and raped me." She pauses as I gape at her in shock, trying to process the words that I just heard. "Explanation? Apology?"

"You were raped?" I ask before I can censor my thoughts. I know that she wouldn't lie about something like that. It has to be the truth.

And, honestly, it explains a lot about the sudden changes in her since that night.

I had never connected the shift in her personality to the party at which I had made little more than a quick appearance. But shortly thereafter, the Veronica Mars I knew changed into some variation of the hardened Veronica Mars I see before me now, the Veronica Mars who won't take shit from anyone.

"Don't!" she says in response to my forgotten question, causing me to jump. She sounds pissed. At me. But why?

"Seriously," she adds after a moment. Does she think that I don't believe her, that I wouldn't believe her, that no one will believe her? I wouldn't doubt it – that's probably why well over a year has passed since the party and why she never reported the crime.

I've heard about too many women getting massacred by the public and the press when they say they were raped. She was asking for it, it was consensual, she's lying …

She might have a thicker skin than she had when Lilly was alive, but she's still vulnerable on the inside. And having me question the validity of her statement – even if it was more of a knee-jerk I don't want to believe it reaction than actual belief that it wasn't true – couldn't have helped.

"What happened to you?" I ask, quickly switching gears, trying to mimic her own investigative mode. Her attempts at clinical detachment from everything that she's said thus far is apparent – she doesn't want to confront her feelings about all of this now.

Then again, that's typical for her. She likes to build up walls around all the pain and fear that she has locked away inside and pretend that nothing affects her, that nothing hurts her.

Silly me, until recently, that's what I believed.

But seeing her visibly tense throughout our exchange thus far confirms what I've suspected for awhile.

She's a very emotional being – just like me. However, unlike me, she's better at putting on her apathetic mask and going about her everyday life. I deflect my pain and grief and fears though my generally assholish behavior. She just goes about her every day life that she couldn't care less.

But she does care – about me, about what happened to her, about all the shit that's happened since Lilly died.

"You tell me," Veronica responds bitingly. There's annoyance there. Resentment. And something else.


"Wait – wait a second. You think – "

I know that I was an asshole to her until recently, but does she really believe that I could have done that to her, to anyone? I thought she knew me better than that, that she trusted me to some extent. What the fuck is going on here?

"I was told that you were the one with the drugs," she begins, as way of explanation.

How she heard about that is something that isn't worth dwelling on at the moment. Fighting for more details about something that I know is true anyhow won't get me anywhere, and it certainly won't get me any closer to mending the quickly-expanding chasm between us.

Wait – is that why she's so pissed at me? Because I was one of the people who brought GHB to the party? Because said drugs let someone rape her?

Well, fuck.

"Yeah, I got some liquid X when I was in Tijuana with Luke and Sean. We were just going to have some fun."

I know I'm treading water here, trying to justify everything to her, to myself. I figured I would lose her because I'm a completely and total fuck-up, but I never imagined that she'd end things between us over something I did before we ever got together.

I should have known. I've already lost everything else that's good in my life. How could I have had a prayer at hanging on to Veronica?

"Fun?" Veronica questions, jumping on my previous poor word choice. "Like 'sex with unconscious people' fun?"

No, dammit, that's not what I meant.

"Fun like 'go to a rave' fun," I clarify hollowly. Really, that's what I'd wanted – to be able to have that kind of a time with my friends, without having to go to San Fran or LA. Sure, it wouldn't have been exactly like going to a rave, but I'd hoped it would have been close.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

"Oh, okay, you've convinced me. Bygones," she responds sarcastically, and I know she's right. The words I'm saying aren't going to do shit to get things back to how they were.

I want to get back what we've shared these past two weeks – I want a giddy, happy, flirty Veronica at my side. I hate the fact that she's transformed into this aloof, heartbreaking woman.

I hate the fact that something I did eighteen months ago made her like this.

"What can I do?" I ask desperately. "What can I do to make it better?"

It's not a reach to say that I'll do anything, pay anything, say anything. I'm more than willing to do whatever it takes to get that stoic expression off of her face. I want Veronica to be happy.

Preferably with me.

"I'm going to find out who did this to me, and I'm going to make them pay," she informs me, her desire for vengeance clear. Now, I can definitely help out with that. I'd beat up anyone and everyone if it would make her happy.

"Even if it was you," she finishes, verbalizing the fact that this whole experience has truly broken her. "Sorry, I have to go throw up now."

And with that she's gone, disappearing inside her apartment, with the door slamming behind her.

Great. Now not only do I know that Veronica doesn't want anything to do with me, but she also has made me her prime suspect in her rape. A rape that I was completely unaware of before now.

Well, shit.

I know I'm not good enough for her – she deserves to have a better boyfriend than a messed up guy like me. But damn me if I'll give up that easily. There has to be something I can do or say to make her realize that she can trust me again, that I'm on her side, that I would never knowingly cause her harm.

It won't be easy for me to back off completely with the romantic overtures. Can I help it if I'm wholly and completely infatuated with one Veronica Mars? To be perfectly honest, my feelings probably go beyond simple infatuation, well into lust, and possibly beyond to another L-word that I won't even entertain at the moment.

Like vocalizing that is going to make things better. If anything, it'll be the impetus to give me a well-deserved ass-kicking.

Think. What can I do? Unless I missed something about time travel when I was tardy to physics earlier this week, I can't go back and change what happened to her that night. I can't undo my sharing the drugs with all-too-eager partygoers. I can't change what happened to her.

But I can be there for her – a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen, someone at which she can direct her bottled-up anger. I'm my dad's punching bag often enough – why can't I be Veronica's as well?

I slowly open the door to her apartment, half-expecting her father to appear from the shadows with a shotgun aimed at my head. However, other than the clacking of a keyboard in the distance, the apartment is silent.

Of course. Her father doesn't know. If she'd told him, he would have made sure that he got to the bottom of this months ago, right after it first happened. And now, with Duncan missing and her dad on his trail, she can drop the charade she's been putting on for the past year.

"Go away, Logan," she orders, as I pad slowly towards her bedroom.

I'm tempted to comply - if only to keep from pissing her off further, but I know from personal experience how much everything can change by just letting everything out. After Lilly's death, I shoved all my grief and regrets inside and refused to let them surface. My mother's death only compounded the problem until I found myself breaking down in front of Veronica.

She needs to let out the volatile emotions she's been bottling up within herself, before they destroy her and all the relationships they hold dear, before they do to her what it did to me.

"I'm not leaving, Veronica," I echo, stepping through her doorway. Her room isn't neat and tidy as I expected, as her room used to be when we were younger. It's a mess, with papers and books strewn all over the floor.

"Haven't we already had this discussion?" she wonders rhetorically. "I thought I made it clear that I don't want to deal with you, Logan. I'm not here to be your entertainment for the night."

"Wha - entertainment! What the fuck are you talking about Veronica?" I fume.

"Oh, silly Veronica, thinking that the boy who's tormented her for well over a year could actually be interested in her," she bites bitterly. "Oh, stupid Veronica, thinking the boyfriend of her now-dead best friend - the same boy who blames her for her murder - would ever want anything to do with her again. Oh, slutty Veronica, going after the boy who probably orchestrated her drugging and assault to put her through hell."

"You aren't a slut, Veronica," I tell her, but my words fall on deaf ears.

"Oh, come on, Logan. I know as well as you do what you've been saying about me for the past year. I just didn't realize until recently that you actually had proof of said slutty behavior. What did you think? Was I any good?"

"You are not a slut," I insist, spinning her chair and forcing her to look me in the eyes. The pain and anger shine brightly back at me, as I wonder if this was such a good idea after all.

She doesn't respond, and I take that as my signal to press onward.

"You're a beautiful, sexy woman, yes," I tell her, tucking a stand of hair behind her ear. "But not a slut, never a slut."

I take a deep breath and step back. I'm desperate to hold her close and try to make her fears disappear for at least a moment. However, such an action might only make things worse at this point.

"I am a fucking moron for saying those things about you, and for bringing the drugs to the party."

"Next, you'll tell me that you never meant to hurt me," she interrupts.

"I don't want you to be hurting now," I clarify. "But, yes, I wanted to hurt you then. I wanted you to hurt like I was hurting."

"Like losing my boyfriend, my best friend, and my mom in the span of three months wasn't enough?" she snarks. "Now I understand why you did it, Logan. It's all making sense to me now."

"I was a fucking immature, selfish asshole then, Veronica. What I did had nothing to do with you and everything to do with me and my insecurities. You and your father were working to destroy the only 'real' family I'd known. You didn't seem to realize how much we were all hurting after Lilly died, especially when you supported your father's investigation of Lilly's dad."

"I was hurting too," she reminds me. "You weren't the only one to lose someone you loved."

"I know that now, but then ... then I didn't have a fucking clue. By that point, I thought up was down, left was right. I had no idea what the hell was happening to my life, as I watched it fall apart around me. I brought the drugs because I needed to get away from everything, to try to lose my oppressive emotions in a drugged haze. I didn't fucking know that you were going to even be there, Veronica. I never meant for this to happen to you."

I'm practically sobbing by this point, my words coming in short bursts as I just let everything out. Amazing - I came here to help her get out all the emotions she'd been bottling up, but instead I'm the one who's here, baring my soul. Only I can fuck up the best of intentions.

After getting over her initial disbelief at my confession, Veronica stands and pulls my head against her shoulder. And it's like we're back at the Sunset Regent yet again.

"I didn't come here to tell you that," I tell her, after I pull myself together. "I wanted to be here for you, to let you get everything off your chest that you've been holding inside."

"Instead you ended up telling me everything that you've been doing and thinking these past few months. I wonder if there's some way for me to use this as an interrogation method," she muses. "Kidding."

"Are you going to be okay?" I ask hesitantly, unsure if she's still pissed at me.

"You mean, am I ready to rejoin Pep Squad and go for a ride on your dad's yacht? No. Definitely, no. I need to know what happened to me. I need to get to the bottom of this."

"You don't have to do it all alone, you know." I want to be there. I want to help her. I want to be the one that she depends on.

But Veronica Mars doesn't need anyone, especially not me.

"This is something I have to do on my own," she tells me, like I expected. "But thanks."

I look her in the eyes; my hands tentatively grip her shoulders. "Are we okay?"

She looks up at me warily. "Honestly? No. I need time, Logan."

"Take all you need," I say. "You know where to find me, if you need anything."

She gives me a weak smile, one that doesn't quite reach her eyes. "I just don't know what all of this means - for me or for us. I don't know if I can trust you again - especially with my heart."

Her words echo within my head, as she says exactly what I was afraid she would say.

"I understand," I reply, as I release her from my grasp and head for the door.

Only in fairy tales does the beautiful princess end up with the screwed-up boy that doesn't deserve her.

Life isn't a fairy tale. And Veronica's no longer mine.