A/N: This is post Season one finale. Yet another future fic… And I don't own anything except the character of James Lundey and the lint that's in my pockets… Song lyrics for 'There Is' by Box Car Racer... and italics indicate either a flashback or a thought... yeah I think that's all for now... On with the story.

Chapter One: There Is

Veronica lay on the lawn of her dorm, appreciating the last few rays of sunshine of the day. She loved this place but missed the all year long warmth of California. Although she did learn to appreciate snow and all the joys of winter, sometimes she dreaded getting up in the morning and facing the cold weather. Her father would always joke saying he didn't know how she could take having a snowman for a roommate. She'd laugh but deep down, she knew what he really meant was that he didn't understand why she felt she had to go study so far away and that he missed her.

"But taxes are lower in Canada and school if way cheaper." she had explained when she had announced she had enrolled at University of British Columbia.

He had looked at her and nodded his understanding. He didn't push the questioning any further but knew what her running away was about.

"I don't understand why you want to throw all of this away!" Duncan yelled at her. "What we have is good! It's great! Why do you want to end this? We're meant for each other Veronica."
"Duncan, it's not working. You know that deep down, I know you do. I'm not the same girl I was when we started going out and you're not the same guy; you're a wanted for kidnapping your own daughter for God's sake! We're slowly tearing each other apart. I don't want this to be a bitter memory." she tried explaining.
"For who? Because this right now is turning things to a bitter memory for me. And I'm pretty sure things are already in the "bitter memory" category for Logan." his eyes widened all of the sudden. "You're getting back together with him!" he asked, infuriated all of the sudden.
"What! No! This has nothing to do with Logan. This is me seeing things for what they are; not working. Come on Duncan, you've got to see it."

But he had just walked away. The next day, she sent her application to UBC and got her response two months later. She didn't tell anyone except her dad, Wallace and his mom; her family. On the day of her move, she loaded all her things in her beat up LeBaron and turned to say goodbye.

"I'll write and call everyday." she promised her dad from the comfort of his chest.
"Don't forget to go to class, too." he joked pulling back. "I love you kiddo."
"Love you too dad." she smiled and let him kiss her forehead.
"Take care Veronica." Alicia hugged her stepdaughter. "Drive safely and please call us when you get there."
"I will. And you my brotha– " she threw herself at Wallace's neck. "Watch out for these crazy kids." she indicated their parents.
"Yeah. I'll call you to share the pain of the searing memories. I won't let my eyes be the only ones burning." he hugged her too.

"Earth to Mars…" a voice called from far away. Or maybe close by…
"Hey you." she smiled, turning her head to the newcomer.
"I went to see you at your room but Betty told me you were out here." he kissed her softly on the lips and lay beside her on the grass. "Whatcha doing?"
"Thinking about back home." she smiled "I haven't been down there in months."
"Yeah, me neither. Too bad my 'down there' is fifty thousand miles further than your 'down there'." he smiled.
"Sorry, I know you haven't seen your family in two years." she smiled at him. "But James, you ARE the one who decided to leave Australia to study here."
"And Veronica, you WERE the one who decided to leave Neptune to study here." he replied on the same tone. "We should go."
"Class doesn't start for another hour." she argued.
"Not class, Neptune. We've got a couple of weeks off coming up. Why don't you call back home and tell them you'll be spending said time off over there. I'm sure your dad would be happy about it."
"Would you come with me?" she asked apprehensively.
"Of course, that was the big idea." he smiled and kissed her. "I'll finally get to see the inside of the infamous Mars Investigations' office. And I really want to meet your family too."
"Did I ever tell you you're the perfect boyfriend?" she smiled and kissed him back. "Most guys would rather be fed to a bunch of hungry hippos than meet a girl's family. Especially this girl's family.
"Hungry hippos?"
"Hungry-hungry hippos." he seemed at a lost. "It's a board game?" he shook his head. "Never mind, you Aussies are too cookie to understand."

"Wallace? It's Mom." he had indeed recognized him mom's voice.
"Hey Mom, what's up? How's everybody doing?" he asked.
"Good, Keith's swamped at work and I've been doing a lot of overtime but we're fine. I was calling to tell you Veronica called a couple of minutes ago. She's got a couple of weeks off from school and she told us she'd be coming to visit. I thought you might want to know." he could hear the smile in his mother's voice.
"Yeah, thanks Mom. I'm glad you called. So when is she coming in?"
"Some time on Saturday. She said they'd be driving down and it's about 20 hours."
"Oh I didn't tell you? She's bringing her boyfriend with her. You know the one, James?"
"Yeah, yeah I know James."

"Veronica?" Wallace stepped inside his now-step-sister's dorm room, looking around for said now-relative. "V?"
"Stop it!" he heard Veronica's panicked voice. "James! Stop it!"
"Why the fuck do you have his coat here!" Wallace heard a man's voice coming from behind Veronica's bedroom door.
"He leant it to me after our study group. It was chilly outside and since he was getting in his car, he offered it to me so I wouldn't get cold walking back here!"
"Oh, study group, how convenient!"
"James!" something was heard hitting the bedroom wall as Veronica yelped. "Stop it!"

After another few items were heard chattering on the wall, Wallace got scared for Veronica so he boldly stepped in her bedroom.

"Hey!" he screamed at the other guy. "What the fuck man!"
"Who the fuck are you!" the angered man asked, taking a menacing step towards Wallace.
"James, this is Wallace, my stepbrother. I told you he was coming over for the weekend, remember?" Veronica said as she stepped between the two of them.

'James' seemed to calm down and nodded curtly at Wallace. Then without a word or a glance towards Veronica, he walked out and slammed the dorm room's door. Veronica gave Wallace a don't-ask-I-won't-lie look and they just went on talking about their parents like nothing had happened.

"Wallace?" his mom pulled him out of his thoughts. "We're having a barbecue on Sunday. You should definitively come."
"Like I needed an invitation." he smiled. "Ok, so I'll see you for sure on Sunday. Tell that crazy girl to call me as soon as she gets home, no matter what time it is."
"Will do. I love you."
"Love you too."

"Is it just me or are you really nervous?" James asked as he got back in the car.

It was the second day of their drive down to Neptune and they had just checked out of the motel they had stayed in the previous night. She smiled at her boyfriend and shook her head no. Looking outside to the scenery, she could feel her stomach churn and felt like she might be sick. She knew James saw right through her but didn't feel like explaining why she was so stressed about going back to Neptune. Because this would in fact be the return of the prodigal daughter, after five years of absence.

"So who's this guy that's got you all worked up?" James voice came out of nowhere. She looked at him bewilderedly. "What?" he laughed nervously. "Is it really a guy that's got you so stressed out?"
"No, silly, the only guy I get worked up over is you, you know that." she smiled reassuringly.
"Ok. But you'd tell me if something was bothering you, right?" he asked.

She she nodded and looked out the window again. She realized they had been driving for hours and she'd been silent all that time. No wonder James was nervous. She turned on the radio and tried finding a suitable station. Finally, she stopped as a familiar melody came out of the speakers. At first she didn't recognize it but when the signing started, she took in a deep breath.

This vacation's useless
These white pills aren't kind
I've given a lot of thought on this 13-hour drive
I miss the grinding concrete where we sat past 8 or 9
And slowly finished laughing in the glow of our headlights

Quickly, she turned off the radio and started looking back out the window. She could feel James' worried stare but couldn't face him right now. Soon, she started recognizing the scenery and road signs. Eventually, the stress got replaced by excitement as she realized she'd soon see her family again and Veronica admitted to herself that she missed them enormously. She also missed Neptune of all things and the weather and the air and the trees. Since when do you get nostalgic about this place? she asked herself.

"Dad?" she called as the car stopped. She knew her father would hear her even though he was in the house and she was outside, she was ready to bed he'd been staring outside the window for the past hour, ever since Veronica had called to say they had entered Balboa County.
"Veronica!" he ran out, down the three steps and across the lawn. "Oh I missed you!" he let out as his arms closed around her frail body.
"I missed you too Daddy." she hugged him tightly. Tears stung her eyes but she didn't care.

Finally he pulled back and studied her face. Keith thought she had lost some weight if that was possible and the dark circle under her eyes couldn't be masked to his fatherly eyes even by makeup.

"You look good." he still concluded. She smiled and he knew she knew he wasn't being truthful.
"Veronica, it's so good to see you!" Alicia came up behind Keith and hugged her stepdaughter. "It's been a long day with those two." she indicated her dad and Daryll, Wallace's little brother coming out of the house.
"Veronica, Veronica, Veron-" Daryll was interrupted as he tripped over his untied laces and fell flat on his face.
"Daryll! Are you okay?" Veronica asked, running to her stepbrother.
"Yeah, I'll be fine." his ego seemed to be the worst off in his fall.
"Your lip, it's bleeding." Veronica noticed.

Then several things happened at the same time. Mr. Mars' cell went off; he got a lead about a bail jumper that had to be followed immediately. So Alicia volunteered to drive him (his car was in the shop) and then, everybody noticed Daryll's lip wouldn't stop bleeding and Veronica volunteered herself and James to drive in to the hospital to get stitched.

"Sorry, you didn't have to come, I could have driven him." Veronica apologized to James.

They were finally out of the hospital after waiting two and a half hours to see a doctor and for Daryll to get four stitches. But seeing as it was now well passed eleven and that the now pre-teen had been given pain medication (apparently a cut lip hurts a lot…), he was fast asleep in James' arms.

"It's okay, I like this little family drama." he smiled at Veronica. "Besides, what would I have done all alone in your family's house or worse, alone with your step mom whom I know nothing about?"

As James was putting Daryll on the back seat and trying to fasten his seatbelt without waking him, Veronica sat in the driver's seat and smiled to herself. Now that James was Daryll's hero (they had bonded in the emergency waiting room), the ice was officially broken between her boyfriend and her family. Driving back home, she couldn't help but feel like an enormous weight had lifted from her shoulders. Now Mars, why were you so worked up over this trip back home again? she asked herself.

"Uh, Veronica, you better pull over…" James voice interrupted her thoughts.
"W-what?" that's when she noticed the blue and red lights flashing in her rear-view mirror. "Oh, you got to be kidding…" she hadn't been in Neptune more than a couple of hours and already she was getting into trouble.

Calmly, she started pulling out her driver's licence from her purse as James handed her the registration. When she saw out of the corner of her eye the officer nearing, she rolled down her window.

"What seems to be the prob-" she stopped in shock.
"Well-well, if it isn't Veronica Mars. Welcome back…"

A/N: ok, so that's chapter one... now please review and I'll give you a psychic cookie ;;