Twisted Pleasure

Rating: PG-13 for adult situations and one hardcore curse.

Spoilers: Heavy – but vague – references to 202: Driver Ed.

Disclaimer: So not mine.

Veronica winced when that infernal bell ringed behind her.

"Well, if it isn't Goth Barbie," the clerk announced. He was wearing a backward baseball cap this time, and he leaned over the counter onto his elbows to give her a once-over.

Veronica gave him a smile that she hoped would come across as self-deprecating. "It's me," she sighed. "How's business?"

"Just great." He smirked and pointed to a sign next to the register. It read: "Ed's Last Meal: Slushie And Peanuts. Now Only $2.50. Don't Let Life Pass You By." The clerk asked, "Back for the Bus Driver Special?"

"No, thanks." She patted her stomach with a half-smile. "Just ate. If you'll excuse me." Walking quickly, she worked her way to that forbidden aisle in the back of the store.

En route to the Neptune Grande, she had heard her father's voice in the back of her head. "Always take backup, sweetie," it taunted, and Veronica shuddered at the creepiness of it all. Nevertheless, she then pulled with a heavy heart into that loathsome convenience store parking lot, leaving yet another black stain on her misanthropic reputation.

And now she was standing here, soothed by the hypnotic strains of the Weird Al Yankovic's "Another One Rides the Bus," as that gallery of sin stared back at her. "Warming Sensation." "XXL." "Extended Pleasure." "Piña Colada Flavored." Veronica felt her face contort into an expression of utmost disgust.

Closing her eyes, she grabbed the nearest one, too stiff now to even look at which she had chosen.

"So…condoms, huh?" the clerk asked, skillfully raising one eyebrow, when Veronica carefully placed the box on the counter. "I thought 'Mint Tingle' was so non-macabre, but whatever."

Veronica tried in vain to hide her wince. "I try to avoid the not-so-fresh feeling, okay?"

The clerk shrugged. "Hey, a woman's body's her own fucking business. That'll be $9.56." He hitched his thumb at the Slushie machine again. "Sure you don't want a Last Supper? I'll give you the sex-and-death discount."

"No, that's really okay." She smiled, and it was almost genuine. "But thanks."

"Ah, I see. Getting your fill a little later?"

The smile disappeared, and she felt a frightening tingle of regret. "Just trying to not let life pass me by."

She set a ten dollar bill on the counter. The clerk opened the drawer on the dingy register, and as he fished out her change, he said, "Yeah, good philosophy. Something we can all learn from poor Eddie over there, you know?"

"Yeah, I know." Veronica took her change and her purchase and strode out the door. The clerk called, "Have a nice day!" but the bell and the music drowned him out.