Title: Save A Pony, Ride A Logan
Author: Sarah :)
Pairing: Logan/Veronica
Rating: R
Spoilers: Through 2x11, Donut Run
Word Count: 4917
Summary: An old friend reaches out to mend fences between Logan and Veronica...
Disclaimer: Not mine. Duh.
Thanks: The idea for this came about while talking to herowlness. While I probably should have just left it alone, she is PERSUASIVE, and...yeah. Thanks for all of the support (or..ENABLING) and the title. I wrote this for you :). Also, big thanks go out to mutinousmuse for the incredibly helpful beta. SO MUCH LOVE.
Notes: Written for the loveathons cupid challenge. Also, this is my first VM fic EVER, and my first fic of any sort in two years, hence the awkwardness. And, yeah, this was supposed to be crack!fic (which it still is), but it turned out way, way fluffy. It's not my fault! Still, it IS full of cracktastic goodness. Whoo!

--

After three minutes of loud knocking, Logan Echolls finally came to the conclusion that, A: Veronica Mars was totally and completely avoiding him, B: Veronica Mars never wanted to see him again, or, C: Veronica Mars...wasn't home. Or, of course, the ubiquitous "D: all of the above."

A cursory glance around the parking lot yielded no sign of the familiar LeBaron. Logan sighed in relief as he looked to the left, and then to the right.

With a sharp flick of his wrist and a hard turn of the doorknob, he tripped the lock and quietly let himself into the Mars' apartment. Dating Veronica had, apparently, been good for something.

Well, maybe more than just his shiny new penchant for breaking and entering, but Logan was on a mission. The 'what-ifs' and 'might-have-beens' of the Logan and Veronica short summer of love would have to wait for another pity party.

"Veronica? Mr. Mars?" He stepped cautiously into the entryway. All he needed now was for Keith to catch him in the act. Then it wouldn't even matter than he came here to prostrate himself in front of his daughter and beg for forgiveness. The hands and knees approach would be hard if he didn't have any kneecaps...

Logan winced.

Ouch.

"Anybody here? Because I just broke the lock, and I'm walking inside right now..."

Yeah. He really hoped no one was home.

Logan barely had the door shut when a figure bounded into the room and tackled him to the ground with one hefty leap.

And a whole lot of drool.

"Uhh, hey Back-up," Logan winced as he tried to move what felt like two tons of pit bull off of him. "I missed you too, buddy. What do you say you let me up, and I'll let you slobber on me as much as you want? My treat for you not maiming me and chasing me out the door. How's that?"

The dog slowly backed up (ironic, Logan thought), and allowed Logan room to stand. He reached down and patted the dog's head, which lead to another tongue bath.

"Good boy. I always told Veronica you had all the taste in the family."

Back-up wagged his tail.

"So, while we wait for Veronica to come home, why don't we..." Logan thought for a minute. "...go through her room. Or, at least...wait there. Because it's so much more comfortable. Right, compadre?"

Back-up merely followed him down the hall.

"See, I like you. The no questions approach. I can respect that."

Logan stopped at the end of the hall, and once more reassured himself that Veronica was not going to walk in at any moment. Besides, even if she did...she had barged into his house and gone through his personal property more times than he could count. She owed him one.

Their months of separation hadn't done much to alter the timbre of Veronica's room. Evidentially, dating Duncan didn't even warrant much of a change.

Logan smirked at that. Despite Duncan's dramatic exit, it was still nice to know that, even while he and Veronica had been dating, he apparently didn't have an influence on every aspect of her life.

His fingers trailed along shelves, and he examined knick-knacks and pictures he had become increasingly familiar with over the summer. Their former gang of four at homecoming. Veronica and Lilly smiling happily. Duncan and Veronica from their saccharine period, and...

He frowned. Behind the old picture of Duncan and Veronica (Funny, wasn't it, how she hadn't replaced it with something current?), Logan saw the corner of another picture frame peeking out. He pulled it forward to find a picture of him. With Veronica, of course, but this one was recent. It had been taken shortly before the breakup, before a particularly memorable dinner date that had ended with what had promised to be a heavy makeout session in his car.

That was, until the PCHers had to try to fucking kill him and Veronica, and all the trouble began.

Logan quickly shoved the picture back out of sight and voiced his silent agreement with Veronica. He had no desire to remember that night, either. To go from there to where they were to now, both of them with their carefully constructed barriers up and their A-material reserved solely to bring one another down, that night seemed like nothing more than a particularly vivid dream.

The search around Veronica's room continued. He bypassed the dresser drawers, knowing that he really would be shot if Veronica ever found out he had been rifling through her underwear, and went straight for the closet. Her modest wardrobe hung there silently, but Logan's interest was more focused on what he could see peeking out from the far-back of the top shelf. Reaching up and taking advantage of his height (and musing on how Veronica even got it up there in the first place), he gently extracted a familiar pink storage container. The memories the piece of plastic invoked were palpable, and Logan dragged himself over to settle on the bed with his acquisition. He opened the box slowly, almost reverently, and began to examine its contents.

His mind drifted back to simpler times. Times before dead girlfriends and parents on trial. Before Shelley's year-end party and comas. Before jumping off bridges and dead bikers and surprise babies were whisked off to Mexico. Times that didn't involve shotgun blasts and broken lamps. His life had, at one point, made sense. What seemed like decades had really only been a few short years ago...

--

Three years earlier:

Keith answered the door, a wide smile on his face. "Hi, Logan. The others aren't here yet, but you can go right on up to Veronica's room."

"Thanks, Mr. Mars." Logan nodded as he entered the house. "And, hey, the hair's lookin' good today."

Keith laughed as he raked his hand over his nearly-bald head. "Yeah, yeah. Like I haven't heard that one before. Get up there before I decide to arrest you on charges of joke homicide."

Logan shot off a two-fingered salute before he raced up the stairs. "Will do, Sheriff. Will do."

As he approached Veronica's bedroom, Logan noticed the door was slightly open. Deciding to announce his presence in the only way he knew how -loudly- he threw open the door with a flourish and bowed down deeply.

"I have arrived," he belted out dramatically, as he gestured with his arm. "You may swoon at will."

Instead of swooning, Veronica looked...panicked? Logan looked up to see her frantically sweeping whatever was on top of her desk into a pink plastic container.

"Well, well, well. What have we here?" He sauntered over, trying to see what she was covering up. "Veronica Mars, hiding something from her dear, dear friend Logan?"

"Uhh, hey Logan," Veronica breathed, trying to hide her blushing face. "You're here, umm, early. Where are Lilly and Duncan?"

Logan hopped on the bed, and bounced up and down a few times before he answered. "I was already on my way over here when I got the call. It seems the Kane portion of our quartet is running late tonight, and they sent me over as a human sacrifice to appease you until they got here."

Veronica quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Or...I didn't feel like turning around and going back home, so I came anyway."

"Ahhh." Veronica nodded. "The midway dilemma. Halfway between your house and your destination, and trapped with deciding..."

"...whether to be fashionably early, or, driving all the way back so I could just turn around and come back. Yeah. I picked here. I hope you're playing the lotto today, because tonight's your lucky night."

Veronica snorted. "Yeah. Sure. Did they say why they were going to be late?"

Logan shrugged, but some of the lightness left his expression. "DK was waiting for Lilly to finish with something. Knowing that girl, she had to find a dress to match her lipstick, and then the shoes were wrong, and...well, you know how she is."

She turned around all the way in her desk chair, so she was fully facing Logan. "Yeah. So...what do you want to do until they get here?"

A shrug.

"I don't know..." Logan tapped his index finger to his chin, feigning deep thought. "Wait! I've got it!" With one quick motion, he snatched the temporarily abandoned box on the side of Veronica's desk, and upended it over the bed.

"Logan! Don't!" Veronica grimaced. "You can't see--"

"Oh. My. God." His grin stretched from ear to ear, as he rifled through the contents splayed across Veronica's bedspread. "Veronica...you do realize that you're fifteen years old, right?"

"I told you not to look, Logan," she replied with slightly watery eyes as she snatched back at what he had taken. "It's none of your business."

"But, really...My Little Ponies? Does Lilly know about this?"

Veronica paled slightly.

"You...you won't tell her, right, Logan? She thinks I got rid of these years ago."

"What does it matter? I was just kidding, Veronica. They're only toys."

She took a deep breath. "You know how it is. According to the Lilly Kane bible, the age of thirteen is...too old to be playing with toys."

"Ahh, the age when a girl becomes a woman. Good-bye toys, hello boys. So, what? Does this mean you aren't a woman after all?"

"What? No!" Veronica threw a pillow at him to mask her furious blush, then slowly sank down next to him on the bed. "I don't always...I mean, hi, I have a life. And I like boys. I mean, Duncan." She smiled softly at the mention of her boyfriend. "It's...sometimes when I'm...you know. Sad or something, bringing these out helps me feel better."

He raised his eyebrows. "You're comforted by cheap plastic animals with tattoos on their asses?"

"No. I mean, yes. I don't know." Veronica sighed, exasperated. "All I know is if I've had a bad day, messing around and combing the hair on these stupid plastic animals helps, okay? And you don't need to try to psychoanalyze me or anything. I know it's dumb." She finished replacing the toys in their box, and started to stand up.

"Veronica." Logan grabbed her wrist, and pulled her back down. "I didn't mean to make you feel...I know how it is. To have a bad day." She looked at him imploringly, but he merely frowned, not willing to share more than that. "It's okay. Your secret's safe with me." He looked around the room, clearly uncomfortable. "Are you okay and stuff?"

Veronica let out the breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. "I'm better now. Just some stupid stuff with my parents." Logan nodded, knowing all-too-well how those problems could end. "But thanks for not making fun of me. And, I mean, I'm sure you still have, like...G.I. Joes around, right? And I'm not the only freak?"

Logan narrowed his eyes. "Who told you that? Was it Duncan? Because I swear..."

"No, no!" Veronica laughed, giving him a friendly shove. "It was just a lucky guess. I'm sure you just keep them around for the kick-ass weapons, right?"

"Damn straight," Logan mumbled under his breath, crossing his arms petulantly over his chest.

"Anyway, I'll put these away. I wouldn't want Lilly and Duncan to see the show all over again."

Before Veronica could stand up, Logan snatched the box away from her and began rifling through it.

"Logan?"

"When I said that I wouldn't tell..." His face grew serious.

"Yeah?"

"Well, I lied. I mean, I won't tell...if..."

Veronica groaned and put a hand over her forehead, waiting for the other shoe to drop. "If what, Logan?"

He found what he had been looking for and pulled it triumphantly out of the box. "If you let me be Angel."

Veronica stared at him.

"What? C'mon, Veronica, you know she's my favorite. Green ponies can kick all those other pony asses. If you make me take one of those sissy yellow ones, then the whole school is going to--"

She gave him a strange look. "Lilly doesn't even know their names, Logan."

"Hey!" He cried out, defensive. "I have a sister, you know."

Veronica rolled her eyes. "Trina hates these things. Remember when she had that nightmare about the horses? And she threw all of her My Little Ponies out the next day? That was like...forever ago."

"Shut up."

"Fine." She chose another pony from the box. "You can be Angel. I'll take Bright Eyes. Blue isn't a sissy color either."

"Fine."

"Fine."

"So?" Logan looked at her impatiently.

"What?" Veronica shrugged her shoulders, lost as to what he was getting at.

"Where's my brush?"

Moments passed in silence - Veronica, not quite believing she wasn't going to be made the laughingstock of the ninth grade, and Logan, not quite believing that doing something so stupid with his girlfriend's best friend wasn't entirely a waste of his time.

And Veronica was right. The stupid things were oddly therapeutic.

"I dare you to kiss her."

"Huh?"

"The pony. I bet you won't kiss her."

Logan glared and set the mini brush he had been using to groom his plastic friend down. "Now, why would you do that?"

Veronica shrugged. "I knew you'd be too chicken. Never mind."

"Hey," Logan sputtered, not willing to admit that Veronica Mars could get the better of him. "That's not true. Just watch. I'll show you kissing that'll make your head turn."

"Well? I'm on a schedule here."

Logan scrunched up his eyes and puckered his lips. "Come on, baby, here comes Logan." With a loud smack, he planted a kiss on the pony's snout. A moment later, he added a second. "Mmm, I think she likes this, don't you?"

Veronica giggled and turned back to her own project. Logan dragged his hand across his mouth and glanced over at her.

The bright, genuine smile on Veronica's face almost meant that when Duncan showed up, over an hour late, without Lilly - "I don't know, man, she said it was urgent" - it didn't hurt Logan in the slightest.

Almost.

He and Veronica never spoke of that night, but both of them would have been lying if they said that it didn't mean something to them.

--

Logan smiled sadly as he picked up the green pony. Could things really change so much in three years?

He laughed bitterly. Lilly. Duncan. Veronica. Him.

Yeah, they could. And they had.

"You hear that, Angel? Things are all fucked up now. And, really, I'm as much to blame as anyone. Yeah, Veronica's switched into Queen Bitch mode, but if it weren't for me, she'd never have needed it in the first place."

He sighed, absently picking up a comb and running it through the pony's tangled mane.

"Really, though. Why did I even bother to come here today? I think I take the whole glutton for punishment thing way too seriously. Still..." He closed his eyes. "If Veronica rips me a new one, then at least she's talking to me, right? None of this whole avoidance crap she's been pulling on me." He laughed sardonically. "What does it say about me that I'd rather incur her wrath than have her ignore me completely? God, I'm fucked up."

Logan continued to groom the pony in silence for a few moments. When he was satisfied with his work, he brought the toy up to eye level and stared into the pony's dark plastic eyes.

"You're a good listener, Angel. If only she could have picked that up from you, I might still be in business. It's just..." He blinked back tears as his grip tightened. "I need her."

Cradling the toy in his hands, Logan didn't hear the front door open, or the footsteps coming down the hallway.

"Logan?" Veronica frowned and scanned the room. "How did you get in? And what are you doing here?"

"Veronica!" Logan scrambled to his feet, the incriminating materials still clutched tightly in his hands. "I...came here to talk to you." He looked around wildly, noting the now-sleeping canine that rested as his feet. "Back-up let me in. Opposable thumbs be damned."

"You're lucky I wasn't my Dad. He'd kill you." Veronica wearily settled herself in her desk chair. "So? You came here to talk, Logan. Start talking."

He fell back onto the bed, avidly avoiding Veronica's gaze. "I just came over here to apologize."

She blanched. Out of everything she had been expecting...well, that wasn't it.

"Huh?"

Logan shrugged his shoulders and leaned back, effecting casual.

"Look, Veronica. I didn't come here to pick a fight. I've just been thinking about how things have been lately, with your whole invisible woman routine, and I wanted to make sure...everything was okay with you."

He closed his eyes and swallowed painfully. "If I did something stupid in the last week, it really wasn't my intention, so I was kind of wondering what brought on the sudden burst of cold shoulder."

Silence descended on the pair once again as Veronica struggled to form an answer.

"I didn't want it to be like this." Her voice was quiet when she finally answered. "I still don't want it to be like this. I thought we were past sniping and hurting each other, Logan, and I just can't do it anymore. I'm tired of it."

"That's why you've been avoiding me this week?"

She nodded. "I figured if we couldn't be civil around each other, I might as well take myself out of the situation. I never mean for us to always..." Veronica trailed off. "

Logan stood up and moved towards her, pulling her up from her chair. "What are you saying, Veronica? Because I might be crazy, but it almost sounds like..." He locked eyes with hers. "You might miss me, too."

"Too? You...?"

Logan nodded.

Veronica returned his gaze and slowly brought her hand down to intertwine with his.

"Logan? What're you..." She looked down into their clasped hands and gasped.

"What the hell are you doing with this?" She broke away from him suddenly, still staring at the pony he was holding on to. "You went through my stuff?" Her face paled. "Oh, God. Did you go through my dresser?" Veronica frantically moved to the dresser, willing that she could determine whether Logan had snooped through it.

"Veronica, calm down!" Logan took a step towards her as she angrily turned on him.

"You break into my house and go through my personal things, and I'm supposed to calm down? Whatever you found doesn't mean anything, Logan. I--"

"Veronica, you're not listening to me!" he shouted above her. "I didn't go through your goddamn dresser. I just took a peek in the closet, and I recognized the bin. I just thought...old times and all." He lowered his head. "I think about that night, you know. A lot."

Realization dawned on Veronica as she took a step back towards him. "Are you okay and stuff?" she asked quietly.

"No." Logan closed the distance between them by another step. "I'm not. And you know, the weirdest thing happens when I get near one of these things." He waved the pony in front of her face.

"And what's that?"

"I feel better."

"Oh."

Logan and Veronica shared a tender look as they instinctively moved closer. Bringing the animal to his face, Logan stuck his tongue out and gave it an enthusiastic French kiss.

"Way to ruin the moment, Casanova." Veronica looked slightly off-put.

"Why, Veronica!" Logan crowed. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were jealous that I'm lavishing this poor, attention-starved pony with love. You know, it's not the first time for us, either." He stuck his tongue out, ready for another round, when Veronica's hand came between it and the toy. Eyes wide, Logan looked up and tried to read her expression.

He tossed the animal aside as he slowly inserted her index finger into his mouth and laved his tongue over it. Veronica gasped, but made no move to pull away. Logan repeated the gesture with each finger. When he pulled back, Veronica couldn't help but groan at the loss of stimulation. Then, gently, Logan's lips met hers, and both of them couldn't help but be reminded of better days. The kiss deepened, and the entangled pair unwittingly began to gravitate towards a solid surface. Veronica's back hit the wall hard, yet all she registered was Logan's lips on hers, and the insistent entrance his tongue had since made into her mouth.

"God, Veronica, I've missed this," he breathed out between kisses.

"Me too," she admitted. She moved her hands down and slipped them under his shirt, running her fingers along the contours of his chest before disposing of the offending garment.

"This is what you want?" Desperation colored his voice. Answering with actions instead of words, Veronica wrapped her arms around his neck and left a lingering kiss on his lips. Satisfied, Logan quickly removed her shirt. When she tried to reach for the button on his jeans, he grabbed her wrists and lifted her arms up, effectively pinning her to the wall. "Still my turn."

Her pants soon followed, and Logan took a deep breath at the sight of one Veronica Mars standing before him in nothing but her bra and panties. Ever the opportunist, Veronica took that moment to break from Logan's grasp and push him towards the bed. "Let's stick with the classics first, okay?" she asked, as his knees made contact with the side of the mattress.

For once, Logan didn't argue with her. Wasn't compromise beautiful?

He laid back, allowing Veronica to straddle him. She made short work of his pants, and the two of them spent a few rather surreal moments just taking in the look and feel of one another. This was a bridge they had never crossed during their short romance, and now, at this juncture, both of them were ready for the next step.

Logan deftly reversed their positions, and carefully unhooked Veronica's bra. Her panties were next, and soon, the only barrier separating them was one very thin pair of boxer shorts.

"Off," Veronica demanded, pushing at his underwear as best as she could from underneath him.

"As you wish," Logan breathed, as his boxers soon joined the rest of their clothes in a crumpled pile on the floor.

He stared down at her reverently, committing every detail of her body to memory. "You're beautiful," he whispered, as he ran his hand down the side of her face.

"You too," she replied, distracted as his hand descended to cup one of her breasts. "Oh, God..." She gasped, "Logan!" She clutched his back in ecstasy as he shifted his focus to teasing both of her nipples.

Cautiously, as if she was still going to change her mind at any moment, Logan's hands moved lower and lower until they were pressing against Veronica's thighs, nudging at her legs. Complying in an instant, Veronica opened herself up to him. Logan's fingers plunged deep inside of her, his hands everywhere and nowhere all at the same time, and Veronica was lost to the sensation. She arched into him, willing her body even closer to him, doing anything she could to prolong the moment. In a heartbeat, her world unraveled, and Logan kept up the steady pressure between her legs as spasms and moans overtook her quivering frame. Before she had a chance to recover, he was there, pressing his cock into her as he whispered declarations of love into her ear.

Sweat beaded above Logan's brow as he began to lose control of his measured thrusts. Veronica's hands were massaging him in all the right places. Combined with the way she was panting against his neck, and the way his cock felt pulsing within her, Logan didn't stand a chance. His orgasm came too quickly for his liking. Given the choice, he'd pick to stay here, like this, connected and one with Veronica, forever.

--

Upon waking up, Veronica couldn't remember feeling as happy or secure as she did wrapped in Logan's arms. She snuggled into him more, relishing the way he tightened his hold on her. As she moved her body closer to his, a sharp pain jarred her body.

"Ouch!" She yelped, jumping out of the bed. "What the hell was that?"

Logan looked at her, eyes bleary with sleep, with an uncomprehending expression on his face. "Who cares. Get back here, Veronica." He reached his arm over and tugged on her wrist. "This big bed gets lonely without you."

Veronica snorted. "Logan, my bed is twin-sized and tiny. I woke up with my ass hanging off. I'm pretty sure you're fine."

"So that's where it went," Logan mused, as Veronica crinkled her brow in confusion. "Your ass," he clarified. "I was looking for it."

"Dork," she threw out good-naturedly, as she tossed back the covers to find her unknown assailant. "There's something really hard in here..."

Logan smirked as his body was revealed to her. He playfully thrust his hips at her. "You didn't need to try to get a peek to know that. Just can't get enough of me, can you?"

She rolled her eyes as her hands continued to canvas the bed, sticking her hand under the rest of the blankets. Her knuckles grazed against something, and she shouted in triumph.

"Got it!" Veronica pulled her prize out to reveal a piece of plastic in the shape of...

"Angel? How did this..." She looked over at Logan. "Ewww. Logan! While we were having sex?"

"What?" Logan sat up and shrugged, the very picture of innocence. "I don't know how it got in here, I swear. But even if I did, does it matter? After all, she's a lady. I'm sure she doesn't watch and tell."

"You're sick, you know that, Logan? Sick." Tossing the pony aside, she crawled up the length of his body to plant a tender kiss on his lips. "Seriously, there are some major issues here."

Logan pulled Veronica down and rolled on top of her, all the while trailing kisses along her neck and shoulders. "I may be sick, but it's all yours," he intoned, deadpan, as he reached over the side of the bed and snagged the toy. With a grand flourish, he set it on the headboard. "She is partly instrumental in this torrid reunion, thank you very much. I've got to give credit where credit is due..." He continued his oral assault, and slowly worked his mouth down her body.

Veronica melted into the sensation, and twined her hands in Logan's hair before she pulled away to get a good look at the toy. "Angel!" She gasped in mock outrage. "You mean you set us up? And all this time, I thought we were friends."

"Mmmm, don't listen to her, baby," Logan mumbled into Veronica's hip. "I know that I fully appreciated the gesture. Isn't that what friends are for?"

"So," she asked breathily, "does that mean when we go to your place, I can invite G.I. Joe along for the ride?"

"Sorry, Veronica, but as you may have heard, my house--"

"Burned down, blah blah blah. And? When I was in the suite one night, I might have accidentally stumbled into your room, and might have accidentally looked under your mattress. All on accident, of course," she clarified.

Logan smirked. "At least you have the decency to blush."

"You're not mad?" Veronica questioned, as she ran her hands over the smooth planes of his back.

Shaking his head in the negative, Logan reached up to gently massage her breast. "No. I'd be a hypocrite. I came here today and did the same thing..." He gave her nipple a pinch. "I'd have to say it worked out slightly better than your recon mission, though."

Veronica sighed as her body once again began to respond to the wonder that was Logan Echolls and his magic hands. "And you wouldn't be creeped out if I sat Joe down in a front row seat to watch the action?"

Logan frowned, and stopped his ministrations. "No fucking way. G.I. Joe's a perv. He's not looking at you naked."

Veronica laughed. "Logan, listen to yourself. It's just a toy!"

"Bastard's a voyeur, Veronica. Not going to happen."

"Hypocrite much?" Veronica moved her hand over Logan's in an attempt to get him to continue the foreplay. "It's okay for my pony to enjoy our little porn show, and not Joe?" She rolled her eyes. "Besides, Logan, I hate to tell you, but G.I. Joe is totally gay."

"What?" Logan was momentarily distracted by Veronica's legs opening wider to accommodate him as he positioned himself above her. "He is not. Hello, he's a fucking animal."

"Yeah. And he and Snake Eyes just worked together, right?"

Logan's eyes grew wide. "Oh my God."

Veronica nudged him on the shoulder. "Uh, Logan? We were about to do something?" She wriggled her hips. No response.

She tried again. "That was the door! My dad's home!"

Nothing.

"Logan? Are you okay?" She ran her hand over his cheek. "If it makes you feel any better, G.I. Joe might not be trying to overcompensate for his clearly homosexual tendencies. Maybe he's just...very comfortable in his masculinity."

Logan shook his head dazedly, and placed a gentle kiss on Veronica's forehead before he slowly pushed into her.

"There's no WAY I'm letting him watch us now..."